Thursday, May 11, 2017

After the counter-attack at Tobruk after 4 May 1941

We can only suppose that previous experiences fighting Italian troops at Tobruk had given General Morshead an unrealistic view of what his men could accomplish. The hastily prepared attack on the enemy troops by the 18th Brigade failed to recapture the lost ground due to the lack of preparation and the inadequate forces involved. The plan now was to move battalions so that the brigades had their assigned units rather than some ad hoc organization. During the night over 4 to 5 May 1941, the 2/48th Battalion was to replace the companies from the 2/10th Battalion. The 2/9th Battalion would now be part of the 20th Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Murray. They would hold an area near the Bianca position, replacing two companies, one from the 2/10th Battalion and one from the 2/1st Pioneer Battalion. The 2/10th Battalion was withdrawn from the line and moved into reserve near Pilastrino.

The rest of the 2/32nd Battalion arrived overnight on the destroyers Decoy and Defender. They had sailed from Mersa Matruh. One company from the battalion was already at Tobruk. Now, the entire battalion was present. The 2/32nd Battalion was added to the 18th Brigade under Brigadier Wooten. They were ordered to hold a position near the intersection of the Bardia and El Adem roads. The 2/9th Battalion commander realized that he could improve the defensive position by moving forward. The move was contested by machine gun fire and there were losses. A new artillery observation post was also established that was eventually called "Nixon's Post".

There was a new German attack early on 6 May 1941. At about 7:30am, there was a German attack on Post S9. Some casualties were taken, but British artillery fire stopped the attackers and they were forced to withdraw. The next move was by a force somewhat more than a company in strength. They were about 300 yards from the perimeter. Two hours of artillery fire caused the group to withdraw. After that, the Australians spent the time taking advantage of opportunities to move their line forward, even if by a few feet. Both sides engaged in these sort of operations and the strain on the men on both sides was great. Men would work all night on building defensive positions and then would not be able to sleep during the day. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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