Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Axis forces at Tobruk in May to June 1941

The Australians, in early June 1941, after the failed attack on the enemy forces, realized that the Germans were preparing to pull back. They had an engineer battalion at work constructing a new line behind the line that they currently defended. The Australians apparently heard air compressors and jack hammers at work on the new line.

In retrospect, the Australian historian was aware of the Axis forces deployed at Tobruk. The Italian Brescia Division and the Italian 16th Artillery Regiment were deployed north of the Salient, near the Derna Road.

In the Salient, itself, there were two battalions of the 115th Motor Infantry Regiment. There was also one battalion of the 104th Motor Infantry Regiment. There wree also two desert units, a mix of various types of troops. There was also the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion. There were two German artillery Battalions. The Italians had part of the 16th Artillery Regiment in the Salient. In addition, there were two German engineer battalions.

Deployed near Fort Pilastrano and the road to El Adem was the Italian Ariete Division, the first Italian armored division. The Italian Pavia Division was in the process of relieving the Ariete Division. There was the 132nd Regiment and the 46th Artillery Regiment.

The Trento Mechanized Division was located near the Bardia Road. They had two motor infantry battalions, a motorcycle battalion, and a machine gun battalion.

There were other units at Tobruk, as well. One battalion of the 18th Anti-Aircraft Battalion was there. Perhaps they had 88mm guns. The 8th Machine Gun Battalion now had three companies. At least part of the battalion was probably in the Salient. There was also the 5th Light Division headquarters and units not already mentioned. The division was on the west side of El Adem. Part of the Ariete Division and about 80 tanks (mostly M13/40 medium tanks) were about 25 miles west of Tobruk. We can see that most of Rommel's forces were tied up defending the Salient. That kept Rommel from being able to do much on the Egyptian frontier. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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