Wednesday, November 30, 2005

April 1941, the British in Greece

By early April 1941, General Wilson was getting increasingly nervous about his supply lines. There was ample reason to divert troops to supply line defence, although that was very distasteful to him. An additional issue was that the britis rations were superior to local food, which attracted pilfering. On April 5th, General Wilson was finally allowed to openly command his troops, wear his uniform, and travel. The situation was that the 1st Armoured Brigade, without the 3rd RTR, was on the Axios plain. To their right was the New Zealand Division. They were in front of Katerini, but one brigade was moving towards the Olympus Pass. The 6th Australian Division was only just starting to arrive. The 16th Australian Infantry Brigade was to take over the defence of the Verria gap. The 19th Australian Brigade was moving two battalions forward Athens. The 17th Australian Brigade was still in Egypt, along with one field regiment (artillery). General Wilson felt uneasy about trying to command from Athens, so he split his headquarters, so that he had his main HQ near Elasson, 15 miles to the north of Larissa. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official history.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The 3rd RTR in early April 1941

The South African cricket player Robert Crisp was in the 3rd RTR in 1941. They were the sole cruiser tank unit (then called a battalion and later regiment) in the 1st Armoured Brigade. General Wilson had held them back, as he was reluctant to position them out on the plain, where the light tank battalions were situated. Their tanks also had very worn tracks. General Wilson decided to form a battlegroup around the 3rd RTR. He added the 64th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery (minus one battery), the 1st Australian AT Regiment (less one battery), and half of the 27th New Zealand MG Battalion. The force was commanded by Brigadier Lee, the Corps Medium Artillery commander, and was called the "Amyntaion detachment". This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, November 28, 2005

March and Early April 1941 in Greece

The deployment plan for W Force in Greece was as follows. The 1st Armoured Brigade, without its one cruiser tank regiment would be on the plain in front of the defensive position, covering the preparations for demolitions "as far forward as the river Vardar (or Axios)." The armoured brigade was to fight a delaying action, while withdrawing on the Edessa gap. General Wilson ordered the New Zealand Division as early as 11 March to occupy "a position in front of the railhead at Katerini". That would stretch the New Zealand Division across a 15 mile front, where they were supposed to prepare defences at the Olympus Pass. General Wilson had agreed to a plan by General Papagos to move the 19th Greek Division to the Eastern Macedonian Army The 6th Australian Division was to move to the left of the New Zealand Division (presumably with an outward facing view) The two divisions would then comprise General Blamey's 1st Australian Corps. The 12th Greek Division would move to the north, while the 20th Greek Division would be on the far left. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

The British plan for unit arrival in Greece in March and April 1941

The British plan was for a phased arrival of units in Greece. This was probably necessitated by the realities of transport availability. This was the order:
  1. 1st Armoured Brigade Group-Brigadier H.V.S. Charrington
  2. The New Zealand Division-Major-General Bernard Freyberg
  3. The 6th Australian Division-Major-General Sir Iven Mackay
Along with these would be interwined:
  • The Force HQ
  • HQ 1st Australian Corps-Lt-General Thomas Blamey
  • two medium regiments, Royal Artillery
  • corps, base, and line of communication troops
To follow would be the 7th Australian Division and the Polish Brigade. More than 31,000 men had been carried to Greece by the end of March 1941. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Unpleasant alternatives in Greece in on the British arrival

There were no good options for moving through mountainous Greece. There were a few one-way roads. There were a few other roads that were not suitable for bad weather and had steep descents. The rest of the paths were "bridal paths". The Greek army was horse and ox and mule-drawn, so they were able to travel, although not at a fast pace. The British army was motorized, and was tied to the few good roads. In the spring, with the rains, much of the travel would turn into mud (March and April). The powers that be in Cairo had decided that the British army would be based in the "Piraeus-Athens area". They hoped that by having intermediate bases with supplies for 90 days, that they could somewhat counter the poor transportation situation. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History. Going into Greece does not even seem like a rational decision, which of course it wasn't, as it was driven by Churchill and his willing minions. This was not a rational, calculated move. The consequences were disastrous to the position in North Africa.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Aliakmon front in 1941

General Wilson arrived in Athens on 4 March 1941, but the Greek government asked him to remain in civilian clothes and not advertise his presence. This made his task as commander quite difficult. He was not able to personally reconnoiter Aliakmon. The basic position was strong, and had slopes facing the potential attack that sharply descended. There were four passes through which traffic could flow. The main difficulty was that the position could be readily turned by a force attacking through Yugoslavia from Monastir to Florina. If an attack developed from that direction, the British would have to make a difficult withdrawal under air attack. The terrain through which such a retreat would have to be made was mountainous and had little cover. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The military situation in Greece in March 1941

The Allied defence plan for Greece was to have the main front against the Italians in Albania, and then to have Lt-General Bacopoulos's force in Eastern Macedonia, and a force defending the Aliakmon position. General Wilson would command the Aliakmon force. The Greek leader, General Papagos would be in overall command. Lt-General Bacopoulos's force consisted of three divisions without any transport and some fortress troops. The weakest portion was near Salonika, which was very unfortunate. General Wilson's W force was slow to happen. His force was still incomplete at the time of the German invasion. The British deployment was covered by a weak Greek "Central Macedonian Army" commanded by General Kotulas. He had just one corps of three understrength divisions. One, the 19th Division, was nominally motorized, but was newly formed and had a mix of British and captured Italian equipment. The others, the 12th and 20th Divisions, had only two regiments with little artillery. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

The effect of the situation in the Balkans in February-May 1941

As an aside, the military and political situation in the Balkans in February through May 1941 may have affected the outcome of the war. The critical incident was the coup by the Serbians in Yugoslavia. That probably brought in a more immediate and decisive German intervention in the Balkans that delayed the attack on Russia by a month. If the Barbarrosa could have taken place a month earlier, Moscow might have been taken with incalculable affect on the outcome of the war. Seemingly small and obscure events can have great effects.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The British air effort against Italy in March 1941

The Greeks had wanted the RAF to act in close support of the Greek army, but by March 14, 1941, Air Vice-Marshal D'Albiac directed attacks against crowded Italian fields at Tirana, Valona, and Berat in Albania. The Wellingtons from No.37 Squadron operated against Italian shipping. There were supplemented by six Swordfish from No.815 Squadron FAA. On March 17, the Swordfish carried out a successful attack on Valona harbour, sinking the torpedo boat Andromeda and three merchant ships. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The effects of the Yugoslav coup in 1941

Necessarily, the coup leaders in Yugoslavia in April 1941 could not reasonable weaken their northern defences to allow them to attack the Italians in Albania. The coup was driven by the Serbian desire to resist the move towards alliance with Germany. The Croatians in the north were pro-German, but Serbia still felt a natural connection to the allies. The coup pointed out the lack of cohesion in the Yugoslav national fabric.

The Italian offensive in Albania was being pressed to succeed before the Germans intervened. The attack had started in early March. Mussolini had even come over to witness a victory. The Italians had 28 division supported by an average air strength of 26 bombers and 105 fighters. The 4th Squadra, flying from Italy had an additional 134 bombers and 54 fighters. They were faced by 14 Greek divisions which were stretched to the breaking point. Still, in 10 days or so, the Italian offensive failed. The Italians were faced in the air by a small RAF contingent consisting of one Gladiator squadron, a few Hurricanes, one Blenheim bomber squadron, some Blenheim fighters, and some Wellingtons. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

After the coup in Yugoslavia in March 1941

When Anthony Eden and the CIGS General Dill heard of the coup in Yugoslavia, they were on the island of Malta. They immediately flew to Athens, after hearing of the German ultimatum. In Greece, General Papagos wanted to immediately move towards Salonika after hearing of the Yugoslavian coup. The British opposed any moves until they better understood the intentions of the coup leaders. Because Yugoslavia was not prepared for war, cooperation was limited to staff discussions with the Allies. When the talks were held on April 3rd, the Allies were disappointed because the Yugoslav representative, General Yankovitch, only could discuss defending Salonika. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, November 21, 2005

More developments in Yugoslavia in March 1941

The British government learned on March 17, 1941, that the Yugoslav government had been asked to sign the Tripartite Pact by the German government. Anthony Eden decided to send an appeal to Prince Paul, the regent, by way of Prince Paul's friend Terence Shone, who was the British minister in Cairo. Anthony Eden appealed to Prince Paul to intervene and attack the Italians in Albania. The goal would be to knock Italy out of the Balkan war. Despite the letter to Prince Paul, the British learned on May 20th that the Yugoslav government had offered to sign the Tripartite Pact under certain conditions. This brought the situation in Yugoslavia to a breaking point, as 3 Serbian cabinet ministers resigned on March 22nd. In the end, the Yugoslav government signed the Tripartite pact in Vienna on March 25th. That led to a coup in Prince Paul's name by a groupled by General Simovitch. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Greece and Britain wanted the Yugoslavs to attack the Italian rear

The sort of game that the British were playing in the Balkans in early 1941 to provide general assurances to the Yugoslav government that they would be aided if they joined the Allies. They did not want to be committed to any definite steps, which is what the Yugoslav government wanted. What they were hoping to achieve was to persuade the Yugoslavs to attack the Italian rear in Albania. They hoped that would cause an Italian collapse and would make the main Greek forces available to resist a German attack.

Anthony Eden had visited Ankara at the end of February 1941. The Turkish government seemed intent on remaining neutral and passive. General Wavell and Air Chief Marshal Longmore resisted providing any assurances to Turkey, as they seemed more of a liability than an asset (a paraphrase of the Official History). The primary reason that the British wanted a declaration of war by the Turks was to influence Yugoslavia to stay out of the Axis.

This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Negotiations in the Balkans in early 1941

The aim of British negotiators was to build a coalition in the Balkans to oppose the Germans, particularly. The Yugoslav government was being pressured by Germany to join the Axis side. The British minister in Yugoslavia thought that if the Prince Regent, Prince Paul, knew how much aid the British were supplying to Greece that he would choose to join the Allies. In response to that input from Mr. Campbell, Anthony Eden wrote a letter to Prince Paul, telling him an outline of Greek and British plans. He suggested that how well Salonika could be defended depended largely on the Yugoslavs. He invited Yugoslav officers to Athens to coordinate plans. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Back to the Balkans in early 1941

As we have already seen, Anthony Eden, Foreign Secretary, and the CIGS Sir John Dill were sent to the Middle East in February 1941. The goal was to build a counter to German aggression in the Balkans. They hoped to arrange to give support to Greece and attempt to bring Turkey and Yugoslavia into an alliance to oppose the Germans. In the event, the Greeks did agree to allowing some British troops into Greece to help defend the Aliakmon position. Lt-General Maitland Wilson was designated as the commander of troops sent. Anthony Eden put out feelers to the Yugoslav goverment, as their position could be turned by an attack through Yugoslavia. Part of the difficulty with Yugoslavia was that the Serbs were sympathetic to the Allies while the Croats were closely aligned with the Axis. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A special mission from Malta in February 1941

Space needed to be available on Malta airfields between 8 and 21 February 1941. To do that, 5 Wellingtons from No.148 Squadron were sent to Egypt. The need was to provide space for 8 Bomber Command Armstrong-Whitworth Whitleys from No.78 Squadron. These aircraft flew a mission to Southern Italy where they dropped 38 officers and men from the 11th Special Air Service Battalion. Their mission was to carry out an attack on an aqueduct. They achieve partial success, but not escaped to the submarine rendevous that had been arranged. The main benefit was the lessons learned from the operation, as well as the morale effect on the Italian populace. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

The air situation at Malta from April to June 1941

On May 1st, 1941, No.252 Squadron arrived at Malta from Gibraltar. Their equipment was 13 Beaufighters equipped for coastal operations. They were sent to provide long-range cover to the Tiger Convoy and to the Parracombe which had unfortunately been mined and sunk. The Hurricanes based in Malta were to provide cover within 40 miles of the island. The attack on Crete in May disrupted plans and the Beaufighters were sent east. They carried out one attack on Greece on May 16th from Malta and then were sent to Egypt due to the maintenance challenges on Malta. On April 27th, 6 Blenheims from No.21 Squadron arrived. Between January and June, the Swordfish were still actively operating from Malta against shipping, in conjunction with the Wellingtons of No.148 Squadron. The Swordfish had arrived on Malta as long ago as June 1940. At the end of April, the Wellingtons were withdrawn to Egypt to free up airfield space for more Blenheims. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The importance of air reconnaissance to Malta

For Malta-based strike forces to be effective, they relied upon aerial reconnaissance. In January, there were No.228 Squadron with 5 Sunderlands and No.69 Squadron with 4 Martin Marylands (at first just called "Glenn Martins"). By later in March, the situation had deteriorated to the point that the Sunderlands were too vulnerable, so they were withdrawn to Egypt. The demands for reconnaissance were more than the small number of Marylands could provide. The peak in strength was 7 aircraft, and usually there were fewer. To improve the situation, No.39 Squadron at Mersa Matruh was used to cover the southern part of the search area. By May, three more Marylands had arrived to reinforce No.69 Squadron, and some camera-equipped Hurricanes were improvised. The combination of moves enabled the air reconnaissance report more targets "than the striking force could deal with". This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Early 1941 was a good time for British naval forces operating near Malta

The first five months of 1941 were quite successful for British naval forces operating near Malta. We have already discussed the surface forces, but there were also the larger submarines which operated in deeper water and the much smaller U-class which operated in the shallows off Tunisia and Libya near Tripoli. The greatest successes of this period were the sinking of the Italian light cruiser Armando Diaz by Upright and the liner Conte Rosso by Upholder. Lt-Commander Wanklyn received the Victoria Cross for what was called "a daring attack" on the Conte Rosso. Unfortunately, two U-class submarines, the Usk and Undaunted were lost, as well. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Starting on 24 April 1941, surface forces at Malta were reinforced

The light cruiser Gloucester arrived at Malta on April 24, 1941. Further ships arrived by April 28. They included the light cruiser Dido, the fast minelayer Abdiel, and the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. The 5th Destroyer Flotilla was commanded by Lord Louis Mountbatten and consisted of his flagship, the Kelly, and Jackal, Kelvin, Jersey, Kipling, and Kashmir. The 14th Destroyer Flotilla left, escorting the fast transport Breconshire. After the Jersey was mined on May 2nd, the Gloucester , Kipling, and Kashmir were sent to Gibraltar. The Kelly, Jackal, and Kelvin sailed on May 9th to join the Tiger Convoy escort. The Tiger Convoy, as we know, was taking tanks and Hurricanes to Egypt. Upon their arrival, Churchill immediately started applying pressure for them to be used. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The British tried basing a surface raiding force at Malta

Admiral Cunningham had always hoped to base a surface raiding force at Malta, if the air defences could be improved enough to provide protection (and if the threat diminished). The 14th Destroyer Flotilla arrived at Malta on 11 April 1941. The flotilla commander was Captain Mack in the Jervis, with the Janus, Mohawk, and Nubian. The latter two were Tribal class ships while the former two were J-class. They immediately left port to see if they could attack a convoy, but they were unsuccessful. On the night of 15-16 May 1941, they found a convoy of German ships. They succeeded in destroying the entire convoy of three escorting Italian destroyers, one Italian merchant ship and four German merchant ships. One Italian destroyer, the Lampo, was later salvaged. The Mohawk was torpedoed twice, and had to be scuttled. About a week later, they missed a convoy but did sink one merchant ship. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Axis transport to North Africa from February to May 1941

The transport of the 5th Light Division to Libya started in early February. By the end of March, 15 convoys had crossed with 25,000 men, 8,500 motor vehicles, and 26,000 tons of supplies. The transport of the 15th Panzer Division had been completed by the end of May, and that freed up shipping so that Italian troops could be finally brought across to Libya. From March to May, 9 German ships were sunk and 9 were damaged during the transport operation. The trip could have been much safer if ports in Tunisia were available. Protracted negotiations with the Vichy French ensued, but fortunately for the British, they never resulted in the ports becoming available to the Germans. Since Hitler was focused on Russia, no pressure was applied to the French. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fliegerkorp X was losing effectiveness by May 1941

Fliegerkorps X, while having been effective since the unit first entered action in January 1941, General Geisler, the commander reported that the unit could not sustain the pace of operations up until the end of April 1941, as losses had reached the unacceptable point. The problem corrected itself in May, as the remaining units were rotated to either Greece, the Eastern Front, or to North Africa. The Germans essentially gave up on the effort until the end of 1941. The had loss as many as 60 aircraft per dayThat left the Italians to operate from airfields in Sicily. The potent SM79 was still a threat, particularly as a torpedo bomber. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

This continues to be a good summary of the war in North Africa in 1941

I keep running into the "Engagements 1941" page in Google searches. This is still a good one page summary of the North Africa campaign in 1941.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Malta in April and May 1941

At atttempt was made to sneak a disguised merchant ship to Malta in late April. The ship, the SS Parracombe had a cargo of supplies and 21 Hurricanes. Unfortunately, the disguise was useless, as the ship was mined and lost off of Cape Bon. In late April, some Hurricane I and II fighters were flown in by aircraft carrier. This only brought the island fighter strength up to something over 40 aircraft. The defending fighters did not do very well in the first week of May. The results were attributed to the Hurricane I and inexperienced pilots. The Official History suggests that fatigue from the intense operations could have been a bigger factor. The decision was made to send the pilots from No.261 Squadron to Egypt and to retain the pilots from No.249 Squadron, due to arrive shortly. No.185 Squadron was formed, as well. Fighter command sent out new leadership and the control communications were improved. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Air Reinforcements from March to June 1941

Air Arthur Longmore pushed to get reinforcements to Malta. He sent 6 Hurricanes to Malta on March 2nd and another 6 on March 14, 1941. By late March, the first 12 Hurricane Mk.II's arrived at Gibraltar on the Argus. They were transferred to the Ark Royal and an operation was conducted by Force H, under the command of Admiral Somerville to reinforce Malta. The forces involved were the Ark Royal, Renown, Sheffield, and the 8th Destroyer Flotilla. At 6am on April 3rd, the aircraft were launched, led by 3 Skuas. They flew 400 miles to Malta. By June, 224 fighter aircraft had flown into Malta. Most went on to Egypt, but 109 were kept on the island. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The air campaign against Malta intensified

Up until February 1941, the German attacks on Malta were in the daytime. The largest attacks included up to 60 bombers and 40 fighters. In February, tactics changed to night attacks. As many as 45 Ju-88 and He-111 bombers would independently bomb targets on the island. After 12 February, Me-109's conducted daylight attacks while the bombers kept to the night. February also saw the start of a concerted effort to mine the harbour by minelaying aircraft. The intensity had reached the point where after raids on 5 and 7 March, the Sunderlands and Wellingtons were withdrawn, as they could no longer be protected. Sending Hurricane II's to the island became an increasing priority. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Malta's air defence in mid-1940

I had hoped to find a picture of one of the Sea Gladiators that defended Malta in mid-1940, and was rewarded to find a good page about them with a picture. The Sea Gladiators only lasted a short time, but were the initial first line of defence against Italian air attack. The actual site that contains this page is called Malta GC.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fliegerkorps X from January 1941

Fliegerkorps X had made a strong effort against Malta while the aircraft carrier Illustrious was in port. After she left on January 23, 1941, the attacks were reduced in scope. Fliegerkorps X was struggling to meet its commitments. The charter of Fliegerkorp X included operating against British shipping in the central Mediterranean, to support Marshal Graziani in Libya, and to protect Axis shipping. While the strength of Fliegerkorps X grew from 243 aircraft in the middle of February 1941 to as many as 443 aircraft by late March, its losses mounted. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The air situation in Malta in January 1941

When the German attacks started in January 1941, the aircraft on the island of Malta were the following:

  • No.261 Squadron RAF-12 Hurricane Mk.I
  • No.228 Squadron RAF-5 Sunderlands
  • No.69 Squadron RAF-4 Martin Marylands
  • No.148 Squadron RAF-12 Wellingtons
  • No.830 Squadron FAA-10 Swordfish
There were only three airfields at this date. One in the south, one near the Grand Harbour, and one in the center of the island. The flying boat base was in the south, near the airfield.

Malta had the disadvantage of being only 20 minutes flying time from German bases in Sicily. The AA defence of the island relied upon "Box Barrages" sent up to disrupt the approaches to targets. He AA commander, Brigadier Sadler, had experience in defending Dover from air attack, so he was well-equipped for the job. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The ongoing situation in late April 1941 around Tobruk

The active patrolling tactics were used so successfully by the Australian defenders of Tobruk that they invoked a response. In addition to the other attacks, a company of the 2/23 Battalion made an incursion across the Derna road and took almost a 100 prisoners from the Brescia Division. The Germans responded to this success by modifying how the Axis troops were deployed and they worked to be able to transport the 15th Panzer Division to Libya sooner than had been originally planned.

The situation in the air was still difficult. Sir Arthur Longmore was in the Sudan, so Air Marshall Tedder (later to be famous) altered the dispositions to respond. He had ten Hurricanes on the ground at Tobruk during daylight. He withdrew the Lysanders. Only the minimum groundcrews were kept in Tobruk. The situation was intense enough that the squadrons were being written off quite rapidly. No.73 Squadron was down to 5 Hurricanes. By April 25th, No.73 Squadron was withdrawn for rest and rearming. No.274 Squadron operated from Gerawla while No.6 Squadron hung on at Tobruk, as its losses mounted. The squadrons in the desert were down to a total of 14 Hurricanes by late April.

This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, November 04, 2005

April 16, 1941 and immediately after: Rommel Attacks Tobruk

On April 16, 1941, Rommel personally led the assault on Tobruk. He attacked on the west side using the Ariete Armoured Division and the Trento Motorized Division. The Italians lacked enthusiasim for the attack, and surrendered in numbers to the Australians. A total of 26 Italians officers and 777 men surrendered. On the next morning, the Ariete resumed the attack. They were stopped with the loss of 5 tanks. General Moreshead instituted a defence based on "vigorous patrolling". An example was an attack on April 22, where one company of the 2/48th Australian Battalion, with 3 Inf.Mk.II Matildas and one troop of M Battery RHA. They captured a position, destroyed two guns, and took 370 Italian prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The initial German attacks on Tobruk

Rommel had assumed that Tobruk would be evacuated. He was surprised that the Australians were putting up a stiff resistance. The timeline was that the Germans performed a reconnaissance on April 11 and 12, 1941. This was followed by an attack from the south on April 13 and 14. Another attack was attempted from the west on April 16 and 17. All these attacks failed, so the Germans dropped back into a holding operation, while gathering strength for another attack in a few weeks. The action on April 11 and 12 was the 5th Panzer Regiment probing the 20th Australian Brigade near the road to El Adem. The attack was stopped by artillery fire. The German infantry were repelled by the Australians. The next attack was by the 5th Light Division on April 13 and 14, over the intervening night. The Germans forces were attacked from the air by No.45 and No.55 Squadrons. The actual attack was made by the 8th MG Battalion, supported by engineers against the 2/17th Australian Battalion. A posthumous Victoria Cross was awarded to Corporal Edmonston for his actions in repelling the German attack. The 5th Panzer Regiment tried to follow, with the idea of splitting, with one group to take Tobruk, while the other turned and caught the garrison in the flank, as they retreated from the attack. The Germans lost 16 of 38 tanks, as they were caught by artillery and British cruiser tanks engaging from "hull down positions". The 8th MG Battalion lost 3/4's of its strength. The garrison's losses were modest, being "26 killed, 64 wounded and two tanks and one 25-pdr gun disabled". This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The forces in Tobruk

In early to mid-April 1941, the forces in and around Tobruk included the 24th Australian Infantry Brigade (two battalions), the 18th Australian Infantry Brigade, the 20th and 26th Australian Brigades, initially outside the perimeter. They entered "on the night of 9th April". As we noted, there was the remains of the 3rd Armoured Brigade. There was no medium artillery. There was only three 25pdr regiments, two anti-tank regiments (each one less a battery), and 16 heavy AA guns and 59 light AA guns. Most were used to defend the harbour. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

This situation in the border area in April 1941

Brigadier Gott had been tasked to resist the German advance whereever he could. He had the 22nd Guards Brigade and four columns. The columns varied in strength, but usually consisted of a field artillery battery, an infantry company, and light tanks or armoured cars. The columns were positioned at Halfaya, where the 22nd Guards Brigade was in a defensive position, at Sofafi, Bug Buq, and Sidi Barrani. One company of the French motor battalion held the escarpment pass at the Halfway House. The columns were successful enough that they drew an attack by Herff Group. That forced the British to fall back on the Buq Buq-Sofafi line.

At Tobruk, they started with the Italian defences. There were double rings of defensive positions that covered a thirty mile front. The Australians worked on a defence in depth that would be hard to breach. In supportm, they had the remains of the 3rd Armoured Brigade. It had a regiment of armoured cars, two mixed regiments of light tanks and cruiser tanks, and one troop of Inf. Mk.II Matildas. The numbers were 26 cruiser tanks, 15 light tanks, and 4 infantry tanks (Matilda).

This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

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