Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The battle of the posts at Tobruk on 1 May 1941

The German attack on Tobruk near the hill Ras el Medauuar included about four miles of perimeter. The Germans concentrated on attacking the posts along the perimeter. The posts had small numbers of infantry, two machine guns, either Bren guns or medium machine guns, an anti-tank rifle or mortar, and small arms. Tanks drove up to the posts and started firing their guns. They forced the infantry into cover and put the machine guns out of operation. Some had been blasted so that their gun emplacements were destroyed. In other cases, the infantry held out until they were out of ammunition. Five posts were captured while one held out until early afternoon. One example, post S.6 was taken after 9am, when they had 17 out of 26 men killed or wounded. Post S.4 lasted until "after 11am".

British artillery fired on the German attackers, targeting both tanks and infantry. The German aircraft had air superiority over Tobruk and attacked the artillery.

By now, General Morshead was under stress. His one reserve battalion near the attack, the 2/48th, was holding the second line of defense. General Morshead had four battalions in reserve for Tobruk and had 35 tanks. The 1st RTR ahd 17 cruiser tanks while the 7th RTR had 18 infantry tanks. The 3rd Hussars had some light tanks, not really good for hard fighting. When the attack was first noticed, the 1st RTR was ordered forward, just to the east of the attack. Some infantry tanks with light tanks supporting moved forward, but then were ordered back. The defensive minefields were also an impediment to British tank movement. The sad state of Italian infantry meant that support for the German tanks was not what it should have been. There had been about 300 German infantry that followed the tanks in the attack. The German infantry were faced with both artillery fire and medium machine gun fire. The Northumberland Fusiliers at Point 171 used their machine guns to fire on the German infantry.

By 11:30am, the German tanks had been brought to a stop. They were attacked by ten British cruiser tanks. Three German tanks, one medium tank and two light tanks, burst into flames. The British lost one tank destroyed and two others hit. The British artillery was firing on the tanks, which were forced to move behind the hill of Ras el Medauuar. The Germans laid smoke to cover their movements. This is based on the acount in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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