Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Australian troop movements at Tobruk on 2 May 1941

At Bianca, a company of the 2/24th Battalion moved up with a company of the 2/10th Battalion. They eventually withdrew, however, which was probably unfortunate. The Australian historian thought that General Morshead, the division commander, would have disapproved of the move. This was all happening on 2 May 1941 at Tobruk, inside the perimeter. The companies tended to be in positions farther back than what would have been best. You had company commanders deciding to move into what seemed to be the best defensive positions. Another factor was the troops were very tired after the late night action that had been playing out since the evening of 30 April. The 2/10th Battalion commander eventually ordered his men to advance some 700 yards. As the sky got lighter, the 2/10th Battalion found that they were mostly on reverse slopes. The advance was to occupy better defensive positions than they initially had found themselves. Three companies had moved up on a hill, which explained the 700 yard forward movement. The 2/10th Battalion commander also informed his brigade commander that the remains of the 2/24th Battalion were so tired, that he wanted to withdraw them. He would choose ground to hold that he could defend with just the 2/10th Battalion.

The 2/10th Battalion was spread over a larger distance than was desirable. They were occupying important positions, even though they were below Ras Medauuar and to that extent were vulnerable. The left of the 2/10th Battalion was held by a company of the 2/1st Pioneer Battalion. A platoon from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers were eventually located at Bianca, to keep the enemy from moving in between the 2/10th Battalion and the Pioneers. The Fusiliers were actually in an exposed position, as the defensive front was not continuous. Before dawn, the Pioneers moved up to complete the new defensive line. Connecting to the Post R14, rather than R12. Australian anti-tank gunners thought that the Australian infantry should have moved forward about 1,500 yards from where they were located. One platoon of men moved forward with their guns, but within an hour had been overrun by the enemy and had been captured.

The operations on 2 May evolved into an "artillery duel". The Australian and enemy infantry worked at improving their defensive positions. The British artillery succeeded in breaking up enemy infantry advances. Carriers with spotters for the 1st RHA and the 104th RHA drove around the battlefield to find targets that were hit with artillery fire. The battlefield was eventually blanketed by a dust storm. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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