Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The British commanders had a very unrealistic expectation about what the planned attack might accomplish. That is, the coast road was not open and the defenses on either side of the road had not been taken. In retrospect, we cannot understand why that the forces available for the attack might have accomplished any of that. The responsibility for what happened was General Morshead and his staff's. There were four "weak battalions" in the north soon to face trouble. There was the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion, and the 2/32nd Battalion on a line that crossed the rail line. There was a gap on the left before you would see the 2/15th Battalion. The remnants of the 2/48th Battalion sat behind the 2/32nd Battalion. There was also the remaining men from the 2/24th Battalion. The first unit to receive enemy fire was the Pioneers. The Germans asked for the Pioneers to surrender, but they refused. The Pioneer company was then "encircled". The 2/48th Battalion had most of the 40th RTR arrive to support them. There were two squadrons of tanks that moved into hull-down positions. They were located north of the railway. At about 11:30am, some fifteen German medium tanks drove to the north of the road. The Germans drew enough fire that they eventually pulled back. Accompanying infantry was pushed back by artillery fire.
One company of Pioneers was being pressed and was without ammunition. They were eventually overrun and most were taken prisoner. It seems that something like three officers and 43 men may have been captured by the Germans. The Germans eventually staged an attack on the saucer by early afternoon. The German pressure had eventually forced the British to pull off the road.
Rommel had a Africa Corps battlegroup that had some 15 tanks and some self-propelled guns. They were to move to the mosque and then move across the railroad. They were to help the 125th Regiment. At first, the battle group attack seemed to be succeeding. Eventually, the British were able to stop the attack with tanks and infantry in the defense. They had stopped the attack by 7pm.
Morshead considered the situation and decided to go ahead with the plan to relieve the 26th Brigade by the 24th Brigade. He sent orders at about 7:30pm and the relief had happened by 3:30am. The enemy was too tired to interfere. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

No comments:

Amazon Ad