Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Operations from 10 October 1941 at Outpost Plonk

General Morshead became involved with the defense of Outpost Plonk on 10 October 1941. He was not ready to allow territory to be ceded to the enemy without a fight. General Morshead ordered the 2/17th Battalion to defend Plonk. The brigade commander told the battalion that they should hold Plonk with two sections of infantry and with an anti-tank gun section. The guns would be supplied by the 20th Anti-Tank Company. The battalion commander was free to add to the defensive force as he saw fit.
The 2/17th Battalion commander decided to send out working parties to accompany the "standing patrol", They would build additional defense with wire and mines. They would also dig gun and weapon pits. A platoon was positioned about 300 yards south to provide cover. The standing patrol had "four light machine guns and two mortars". The men arrived at outpost Plonk at 7:50pm. The enemy started firing artillery at the general area. The firing lasted "more than half an hour". They took some casualties from the artillery fire. The working parties were pulled into the position. The artillery fire did not stop, so the working parties tried to work while under fire. The explosions raised dust which reduced visibility "to five yards". By about 9:20pm, they had lost communication with the battalion. The 2/17th commander heard that tanks had been seen moving. The trucks that carried the anti-tank guns had been disabled. The command of the working parties decided to attempt to recover the anti-tank guns. Tanks were reported to be circling Plonk. A reconnaissance patrol had seen 11 large tanks and five armored infantry carriers, presumably half-tracks. The infantry were recognized as being Italian.
The trucks with anti-tank guns were recovered. One gun was disabled but was eventually repaired. The standing patrol had been forced to leave Plonk to the enemy. When the 9th Australian Division headquarters learned of the situation, they had no further orders for the 2/17th Battalion. The battalion was taking heavy artillery fire by around 3am. From then until about 7am, the battalion received about 2,000 rounds of artillery shells.
The 2/Queens also also received heavy artillery fire. They had wanted to work on a new outpost, but they were taking too much artillery fire to work. The enemy had had active tanks near the old Tugun outpost. They had departed by 5:30am. Normally, the Australians were dominant at night in "no-man's land", but that was only the case in the west side of Tobruk. Men from the 2/43rd Battalion had decimated some Italian infantry near the "White Knoll". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

No comments:

Amazon Ad