Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The British and Australian counter-attack on the afternoon of 1 May 1941 at Tobruk

The 2/48th Battalion had been ordered to attack the Germans that had penetrated the Tobruk perimeter. This was in the afternoon of 1 May 1941. The battalion would have tank support. The intent had been to have all the cruiser tanks from the 1str RTR, but there only the headquarters tanks and five Matilda infantry tanks from the 7th RTR. The tanks drove along the perimeter towards the Medauuar area and found Australian infantry still in possession of the nearest posts. The German force had pulled back towards Medauuar. The British tanks then drove further and found Australians still in their posts, although in some cases, men had bad wounds. After reaching post R.8, the British tanks drove further towards post R.6. again, the Australians at post R.6 still held the post. The British tanks could see four German light tanks and one German medium tank. There was a fight with the German tanks and the British commander's cruiser tank was knocked out. The crew climbed onto another tank that was still running. They drove back to post R.8. The British tanks were attacked by a larger German tank force and took more losses. Two British cruiser tanks and two infantry tanks were lost. One infantry tank had been damaged and was recovered later.

As the pioneer company from the 2/1st Pioneer Battalion arrived near posts R.8, R.9, and R.10, they found that men had moved between posts already. The men from post R.8 had pulled back to post R.10. The men from post R.9 had moved to post R.11. For now, post R.8 had been abandoned. Wounded men from Battalion 2/24th were removed. The pioneers now worked to create a switch line to create a new perimeter line to hold. At this point, the nearest German tanks moved to attack posts R.6 and R.7. R.7 was able to stay in their post, but R.6 had to surrender at 7:30pm. Post R.7 was completely cut off, but held on. The commander of the post was a corporal. By morning, the commander could see infantry massing for an attack and the post surrendered. The men were removed by the Germans and General Rommel spoke to them and wished them good luck. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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