Thursday, February 15, 2018

Action in early October 1941 at Tobruk

During the night of 2 to 3 October 1941, the 16th Brigade was involved in fighting when a patrol from the 2/Queens had contact with an enemy patrol south of the Tobruk perimeter. The enemy soldiers threw grenades and the British fired at them. The enemy soldiers withdrew faster than the British chased them. In the evening, men from the 2/Leicester took machine gun fire from Italian positions some 600 yards away. The British fired back with artillery and mortars, stopping the machine gun fire. This action occurred on the west side of Tobruk.
Australians were in action on the night of 5 to 6 October in the south. A small patrol from the 2/17th Battalion moved out some 2,400 yards to a position near an enemy minefield. They observed two groups of men being led through the minefield. A third group was following behind. They alternated crawling and then walking fast. The Australian patrol lay low to escape being seen. Then they moved close to an Italian "working party". They opened fire on the Italians with great effect. Machine guns and "light automatic weapons" opened up on them. The Australians "scattered towards the north" and finally reached their listening post through a "pipe-line ditch".
The action at this point seemed to all be at night. During the next night, up until dawn, the 2/17th Battalion could see tanks on the move. They were near the pipeline and to the west of outpost Plonk. Plonk had three observation posts, one of which was occupied. Outpost Bondi was some 3,000 yards west of Plonk. Men from the 2/Queens were at Bondi. Tanks were seen further west from Plonk. The tanks approached to a mile from the perimeter. The Australian battalion commander guessed that the tanks were operating to defend working parties.
Men at Plonk reported five tanks moving towards them at 12:25am. They saw more tanks near the pipeline. The Australians employed tank-hunting patrols armed with "68" grenades. This time, they got some hits against one of the tanks. Due to the concern about tanks, the men at Plonk were withdrawn and not replaced. The 107th RHA opened up on the tanks near Biir el Azazi at dawn. In response, enemy artillery fired on the perimeter. Divebombers hit the positions occupied by the 104th and 107th RHA. They knocked out two guns and killed three gunners.
The Australian brigade commander ordered the 2/17th to move back into Plonk. Right before it got dark, sappers moved out to lay  mines on the route the tanks had taken. An infantry patrol moved towards Plonk, hoping to move back into the post. The patrol had to take cover when tanks were seen, but after they moved off, the men moved back into Plonk. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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