Monday, May 01, 2017

Action during the day at Tobruk on 2 May 1941

There was more action starting at 6:45am on 2 May 1941. Post R7 had recently surrendered to the Germans. Some German infantry and about 30 tanks were gathering, seemingly to attack Post R8, which was not actually in Australian control. Artillery fire was called in on the force that caused them to scatter. Much later, by 2pm, a towed flamethrower was brought up to attack Post R9. From Post R9, the flamethrower was hit and burnt by anti-tank rifle fire. Two tanks and an armored car had been with the flamethrower. Rifle fire was sufficient to cause the tanks and armored car to pull back.

During the first part of the afternoon, some enemy infantry started to menace the 2/1st Pioneers in their position in the salient. Two carriers were sent out towards the Pioneers somewhat before 5pm. They took casualties and then one carrier "broke down". The other carrier was hooked up and towed the disabled carrier to safety. After that, by 5pm, enemy artillery began shelling the 2/10th Battalion. About 5:15pm, some 500 German infantry moved forward to attack a company of the 2/10th Battalion, moving towards Bianca. About a half hour later, another infantry attack was mounted against two other 2/10th Battalion companies. Both attacks were stopped by British artillery fire and with some help from the machine gunners at Bianca. Behind the infantry, some tanks moved towards the minefield, but they also took British artillery fire.

Visibility improved by 5:30pm, and the Tobruk defenders could see some 100 vehicles and tanks on Medauuar. Some 51st Field Regiment guns were brought forward, and fired on the vehicles and tanks. They were forced back to "dead ground in some confusion". The enemy tried to assemble another attack force of tanks and infantry, but they were thwarted again by British artillery fire. During the night, post R10 was attacked, but artillery fire stopped the attackers. Tank hunters from the Pioneers hoped to destroy an enemy outpost near Bianca, but the position was too strong for the Pioneers. The Pioneers had advance3d some 600 yards and then had move back the same distance.

We can understand the intensity of the British artillery effort when we learn that in the 1st RHA, each gun had fired about 900 rounds on 2 May. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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