Thursday, September 29, 2016

The breakout attempt from Mechili on 7 April 1941

The plan for the breakout from Mechili led by the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade was planned to start at 6:15am on 7 April 1941. That did not happen because the cruiser tank that was planned to lead did not arrive. The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade commander waited to see if the tank would arrive for 15 minutes, so the sky was starting to get light. A squadron from the 18th Cavalry Regiment led the breakout. Some men got down and used bayonets against the German gunners and infantry. They got back on their trucks and then drove away. They lost 17 men in the fight. The plan had been for the 2nd Armoured Division headquarters to break out with the Indian troops as well. The cruiser tank finally arrived and move through the gap. The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade headquarters also followed. The cruiser tank was knocked out and the crew was killed.

Rommel had planned to attack by around 7am. As the breakout progressed, Rommel's attack started. The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade headquarters got out, but the others following were intimidated by the German attack and stopped. They should have kept driving. The wind picked up and made visibility poor. An anti-tank gun got into action and was getting hits until it was destroyed. Brigadier Vaughan called General Gambier-Parry on the radio. He heard that the fire was making further escape with soft vehicles too difficult. Brigader Vaughan decided to go back in and get his rearguard troops out of Mechili. The second breakout was made on a broad front. The trucks drove at the enemy at full speed. The German gunners put their hands up in surrender and the Indian troops drove by them. Some vehicles got caught in a wadi and most did not get out of it. The rest drove 20 miles towards the west before they made a turn to the north. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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