Thursday, May 25, 2017

Taking action on the Egyptian Frontier in May 1941

We know that General Wavell had lost the confidence of the Prime Minister after the fall of Greece and the siege of Tobruk. Chuchill had the advantage of not knowing much about what was happening in Libya and the rest of North Africa. He saw General Auchinleck as positive and taking action. HE saw Wavell as not doing those things. Eventually, Churcill replaced Wavell as theater comcander with General Auchinleck. The proposed British force consisted of four columns. There was the 7th Support Group Headquarters and four troops from the 12th Battery of the 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment (Australian).

The Germans were at this same time were making plans for defenses at Gazala. General von Paulus was the driving force behind this measure. The British were encouraged by reading this intercepted message. The German forces opposing the attack included the 33rd Reconnaissance Unit, a Trento Division battalion, and a motorcycle battalion sent to Salum. The Germans made a move on 12 May, but pulled back to Salum on 13 May.

The Australians at Tobruk only received notification on 13 May in the forc of a letter. The letter arrived as there was a major relieving operation underway at Tobruk. There was action tnat involved carriers and cruiser tanks. The cruiser tanks had track defects that limited their participation. We saw action from the 3rd Armoured Brigade and artillery. Another infantry unit waited for tank support, and by doing so, lost artillery support that was timed. At 9pm, some success was achieved by killing a gun crew, attacked machine gun positions, and altogether had a successful patrol. Included in the bag was one tank destroyed. After 2am, the Germans brought forward two tanks. At about 2:30am, the Germans attacked the 18th Cavalry Regiment. The Indian regiment was able to repel the attack without losing any ground. Another attack was launched on Posts S15, S13, and S11. The towed flame-throwers were used in this attack. The attack had been contained by 3:30am.

A company in Posts S8, S9, and S10 was made by Germans. as well as Italians in Post S11. This was a case where the attackers used five tanks and more towed flame-throwers. Post S10 was taking fire from a bothersome anti-tank gun on the ridge near Post S7. There was close-in fighting. They called in fire from the 51st Field Regiment. Communications with Vincent's company were lost, an ominous sign. Usually, that meant that the unit had been overrun.

At the same time, the enemy attacked Forbe's Mound, located in the Salient. Four tanks moved forward towards the 2/9th Battalion. Two tanks were stopped by the wire, although they were subsequently towed away by the other two tanks. There was more tank activity, as further west, there were reports of five tanks looking for an opening. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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