Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The 12 October 1941 raid and issues with aritillery operations

The raid on the Germans started early on 12 October 1941. Visibility had dropped dramatically due to a heavy mist. The raid had started at the first light of the day. Even though visibility was low, there was much noise created by the Australian gun tractors. They crossed an area covered by discarded tin containers. By the time the mist had cleared off, they found that the German tanks and guns were gone. Presumably, they had heard the sound of the vehicles crossing the area where the tins were scattered and left their position. There were still five German armored cars at the site, One of the cars was taken as well as four German soldiers. The ammunition and fuel storage were destroyed.
The RAF had provided air cover for the raid with 12 Hurricane fighters. They were outclassed by the German Messerschmitt fighters which shot down half of the Hurricanes. While the raiders left the battlefield, another fight occurred between Tomahawk fighters and more Messerschmitts. One German fighter strafed Colonel Eastick's vehicle. Colonel Eastick and an American observer observed a parachuting Tomahawk pilot "shot out of his harness". They retrieved the pilot's body and buried him with a Christian burial service.
Colonel Eastick, the 2/7th Field Regiment commander, his staff, and observers drove to the headquarters of the Little Brother column. They were to see an operation designed by Colonel Eastick. A target would be hit by his field guns working with Fleet Air Arm bombers. The field guns belonged to E and F troops of the 2/7th Field Regiment. They were going to strike "Point 207".  The operation would commence at "half an hour after midnight". The bombers were planned to be over the target area at this time. The field guns would  "delineate the target by predicted searching fire". The Fleet Air Arm bombers would drop their bombs, incendiary devices, and flares for a period of about 15 minutes. The guns would wait for some 15 minutes and then they would hit the target with a heavy bombardment. The operation went well, because it was planned well and there were no mishaps. The Australian gunners had some concerns that they might be hit by counter-battery fire made poossible by shooting from the same location twice. The enemy might well have located the guns by the flashes, but this did not happen. The results were observed and fires and explosions were seen, indicating that the operation had succeeded.
The 2/7th Field Regiment turned over their duties to the 1st Field Regiment. By 16 October, the regiment started their long drive to Palestine. When the regiment "reached the Wadi Nastrun", they were informed that the plan had changed and that they should drive to Cairo, to "the Royal Artillery Base Depot". At this point, they did not realize the benefits that would accrue from being at the depot, where they could complete their equipment and get valuable training. This is based on the account in Vol.III of theAustralian Official History.

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