Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Tank fight in the afternoon of 2 April 1941
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Rommel moves forward as the British withdraw in early April 1941
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The withdrawal on 31 March to 1 April 1941
Monday, April 18, 2016
Mersa Brega falls on 31 March 1941
Thursday, April 14, 2016
The German attack on 31 March 1941
Monday, April 11, 2016
At the front in Cyrenaica on 30 March 1941
The forward units facing the Germans were all British units. The 2nd Armoured Division was finding that the Italian M13/40 tanks were unsatisfactory. After being driven for 10 or 12 miles, the engines overheated. Once they were driven and overheated, they needed time to cool. That meant that they could be driven 48 miles in a day. They had 68 tanks of all sorts that could be used, even if with problems. Not only the tank situation was an issue. They had never trained as a unit. They also lost their communications equipment, as it was all sent to Greece.
The units of the 2nd Armoured Division were in place at the front. The right was held by the 2nd Support Group, commanded by Brigadier Latham. They had eight miles of front within the Mersa Brega salt marshes. They had part of the Tower Hamlets Rifles, a company of the French Motor Battalion, and the 104th Royal Horse Artillery. There was a group on the cemetery hill. They were a company of the Tower Hamlets Rifles and two machine-gun sections. Another company of Tower Hamlets Rifles was "preparing a position in the rear". They were approximately one mile north of Agedabia.
On the left, there were about 5 miles of ground to the south from the road that could not be traveled by tanks. Behind this was the 3rd Armoured Brigade. The 3rd Hussars were forward with 26 tanks, a mix of Lt.Mk.VI and M13/40 tanks. They had an Australian anti-tank company with them. There was also the 5th RTR. They had two field artillery batteries and two light anti-aircraft guns with each of the regiments. Most of the 6th RTR was still at Beda Fomm. Armored cars from the King's Dragoon Guards were scouting in front of the tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Australian discipline on 31 March 1941
General Neame had seen General Morshead a stinging letter complaining about the lack of discipline in Australian troops. General Morshead thought that the letter had a distinct anti-Australian tone and was unfair. About 31 March 1941, General Morshead took steps to answer the letter from Neame. He was forwarding the letter to General Blamey, the head of the Australian forces (AIF). Morshead wondered why the British didn't arrest the Australians who were acting poorly. General Morshead ordered the men to place civilian towns and cities, and even camps, out-of-bounds. They reiterated plans for a system of passes to go to Benghazi or Barce on business. Post-war, General Neame had written complimentary words about the Australians serving near Benghazi.
At the same time, Rommel was concerned about the work of the 2nd Armoured Division preparing defenses that would be hard to attack if they waited for them to be completed. He decided that they had to attack with the small force that they had to prevent having to face stronger defenses. The Germans would use the 8th Machine Gun Battalion to relieve the 3rd Reconnaissance Unit for scouting. They planned to take Mersa Brega on 31 March 1941. They would take Gialo on 2 April. They planned a small airborne attack.
The main addition to the British force defending Cyrenaica was the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade, now with three battalions mounted in motor vehicles. They lacked any artillery, however. They also had "A" squadron of the Long Range Desert Group. They had reached Barce on 30 March. Other forces were added, including a machine gun company, a company of the French Motor Battalion, and one battery of anti-tank guns. The 5th RTR had also arrived, but on several dozen of the 52 cruiser tanks had reached the front. The rest had broken down on the way. The total tank strength of the 2nd Armoured Division was some 68 tanks of mixed types. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.