Friday, August 17, 2018

Events on 30 November 1941 near Ed Duda and Sidi Rezegh

A portion of the 2/13th Battalion (Australians) were still on "the ridge to the east". They were reinforced by two companies from the 19th New Zealand Battalion, and operated under the Australian command. The New Zealanders were in place alongside the Australians, another "ANZAC" formation.
Commanders from both sides had some fundamental misunderstandings about the current situation. What little ground had been taken by mainly German forces under Rommel's command had been recaptured by two squadrons of Matildas and two infantry companies. Rommel had already fought and defeated the armor and infantry of XXX Corps. Rommel expected that the British knew how badly they had been beaten and that the New Zealand Division would pull into Tobruk for protection. General Ritchie, 8th Army Commander, however was unaware of the real situation. He thought that the German armored forces had been so battered that they would attempt to flee to the west. Rommel also expected the main British armored force to join the battle. Because of that impression, Rommel decided to attack the New Zealand Division where they were sitting, south of Tobruk.
General Ritchie wanted the 7th Armoured Division to attack the Germans that night, but instead, they went into a protective night leaguer some distance away. They were reorganized so that they had one composite brigade composed from the remnants of the division. Rommel, on 30 November, wanted to surround the New Zealand Division, although he neglected to consider Ed Duda in his plan. Rommel was focused, instead, on retaking Sidi Rezegh. One change that Rommel made was appointing General Boettcher, the heavy artillery commander, to take command of the 21st Armored Division.
General Ritchie's orders to the 7th Armoured Division were to "harass with petty attacks" against the 15th Armored Division. He revised his orders later to be to both harass and destroy the enemy as the opportunity prsented itself. The goal being to protect the 1st South African Brigade. The South African's had their orders modified to take them towards Ed Duda, south of the airfield at Sidi Rezegh. General Norrie got involved and ordered the South Africans to move to Sciafsciuf way east of Point 175 before they got up on the escarpment. They would then be attacking Point 175 from the east.
XIII Corps plans for 30 November were similar to his previous plans. General Godwin-Austen ordered 70th Division to take some action to divert Rommel's attention from the New Zealand Division. At the same time, General Godwin-Austen asked the New Zealand Division to help 70th Division. Once the situation at Ed Duda seemed to have been stabilized, General Godwin-Austen was thnking again of a forward move to El Adem. When the New Zealand Division had connnected with the South Africans, and they were confident in their ability to hold their present position, they should push forward to the El Adem-Bir el Gubi road.
General Norrie and XXX Corps were concerned with helping the South African Brigade join with the New Zealand Division. They had hoped to have completed that movement prior to 30 November, but the enemy armored forces returning from the Egyptian frontier had mde that impossible, as the South African brigade was not in a position to deal with armored forces. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

No comments:

Amazon Ad