Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Early on 4 May 1941 at Tobruk

Early on 4 May 1941 in Tobruk, one company of the 2/9th Battalion came up to Post R8. They wanted to continue the attack that had been started by a platoon commanded by Lieutenant Noyes. In the dark, they turned to the left and came upon Post R7. This area was held by Italian troops. The men attacked R7, killed most of the defenders, and took two prisoners. The loot included two 47mm anti-tank guns and "a heavy Breda machine-gun". A medium tank with two armored cars attacked R7 and forced the Australians to withdraw. The Australians had inflicted severe casualties on the Italians in this area, but the 2/9th Battalion had lost its cohesion and needed to organize the survivors. R8 was now held by 2/9th Battalion soldiers, but the rest of the battalion pulled back to Post R14. They hoped to attack posts R5 and R6 by 4:15am.

The problem with the attacks made during the night of 3 to 4 May 1941 was that units were being sent to perform operations that were beyond what was possible with their strengths. Still, the 18th Brigade battalions had achieved some positive results. They had lost ten men killed, 121 men wounded, and had 24 men missing. They had hit the enemy defenders hard and killed and wounded many men. The Australians could see ambulances retrieving dead and wounded men from the positions that had been recently assaulted. From the evening of 3 May to the evening of 4 May, we know that the German 15th Armored Division had ten men killed, 40 men wounded, and ten missing and possibly captured. The Italian Ariete Armored Division had lost 26 men killed, 65 men wounded, and 59 missing and possibly captured. The Italians that the 2/9th Battalion had fought may have been from the Ariete Division. They were in the area attacked by the 2/9th Battalion, so that is probably the case. The Germans were more likely to have been attacked by the 2/12th Battalion. The strong showing by the Australians kept Rommel from being able to strike to the east towards the Egyptian border. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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