Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Uncertainty rules on the night of 30 April to 1 May 1941 at Tobruk

In the eastern area positions occupied by the 24th Brigade, there had been action after 8pm. A raiding party of forty men was active. They were supported by Italian artillery. When the raiders took fire from the Australians, they "went to ground". At about 10pm, a raiding party was seen a bit north. They may have been the same group of soldiers. They were fired on by the 2/43rd Battalion and the 104th RHA. After that, the 24th Brigade saw no more action that night.

Colonel Lloyd, at the division operations center, became concerned about the lack of anti-tank protection for the 2/24th Battalion. The position had eight anti-tank guns mounted on the ground with two more on portees. Behind the second minefield, there were two more guns on the ground. Colonel Lloyd sent the 24th anti-Tank Company to the 2/24th Battalion headquarters, hoping to arrive before dawn. The 3rd Armoured Brigade was ordered to move tanks up to support the 2/24th Battalion. They would be positioned to the rear of the battalion headquarters. There was a problem with how communications were being treated. This was a serious situation involved German infantry, but some units thought that this was just another Italian raid and not very important.

Various moves were afoot to try and contact the forward 2/24th Battalion companies. A few men were sent out and carriers were sent forward. After 2am, there was increasing fog to obscure visibility. The 2/23rd Battalion had an encounter with forty German soldiers and captured 31. Division headquarters now received word of tank movements outside the perimeter near Post R.32. The 51st Field Regiment reported a German group had infiltrated and were moving eastward. With the recent developments, the 26th Brigade commander was becoming worried.

By about 5am, Germans were caught between two Australian patrols. Six wounded Germans were captured. The Germans had dropped their equipment and had retreated. Lt-Col. Spouwers, the 2/24th Battalion commander, warned Captain Bird that he should be prepared for a tank attack "at first light". By 5:45am, there was incoming artillery fire to the left of the 2/24th Battalion position. With the light came a "thick mist" that obscured visibility. A carrier had set off to the forward area, but when the mist cleared, it could be seen burning, knocked out by enemy tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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