Tuesday, April 18, 2017

30 April 1941 at Tobruk from the German perspecitive

As we mentioned, the attacking German force in the evening of 30 April 1941 was a composite force organized as battle groups (Kampfgruppe). There was the Kirchheim group, somewhat like an armored brigade group. They had the 81 tanks of the 5th Armored Regiment. They also had the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion close to full strength. The other infantry battalion, the 8th Machine Gun Battalion had been greatly reduced in the fighting on 14 April 1941. In addition, there were some engineers, anti-tank guns, and anti-aircraft guns. There was a small contingent from the 15th Armored Division. The bulk of their presence were motorized infantry, some engineers, and a small tank group. There were also Italian troops from the Ariete Armored Division and the Brescia Infantry Division.

This considerable force attacked the 2/24th Battalion, an Australian unit holding some five miles. The attack overran the company located in the center and platoons from the left and right companies. The reserve company was able to hold on to their defensive position. The German plan was to attack along each side of Medauuar and capture the hill from the back side. The Italians would then attack the flanks and extend the breach. The Germans would drive towards Bianca and take that, if possible. If it was not feasible, they would take an area to the "south-west". The German force then would attempt to hold the ground that they were able to capture.

Interestingly enough, there was not any Australian defenses at the Bianca area. Rommel had seen an old Italian map that showed a defensive position at Bianca, but if that had ever existed, by 30 April 1941, it was gone.

The attack started with artillery fire and dive bombing. Engineers then penetrated the perimeter on a small scale. There was definitely a breach made just north of Post S.3. There may have been another gap made near Post S.7. Tanks were used to pull away the wire. The tanks positioned themselves to shield the infantry from fire so that they could enter Tobruk past the perimeter. But an hour and a half were all that were needed to capture Medauuar. About six tanks were located on the fortress side of Medauuar. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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