Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Events on 30 November 1941 to 1 December 1941 near Sidi Rezegh

The situation late on 30 November 1941 saw the 1st South African Brigade sitting on the escarpment where General Norrie had led them. The 6th New Zealand Brigade was all but destroyed. The Italian Ariete Armored Division was on the Trigh Capuzzo, with the 21st Armored Division behind them. The South Africans sent out a strike group towards Point 175, but they were stopped by units from the 21st Armored Division, including the 3rd Recennaissance Unit. The Australians were sitting on the ridge, with two New Zealand companies to their east, near the place where the bypass road crossed the ridge.
Eighth Army senior officers were busy during the night.. They had different amounts of information about the situation, and their personalities shaped how they responded. General Freyberg was prepared to ask his men to sacrifice themselves, as needed, for the good of the division. General Freyberg believed that his division was still obligated to hold the ground they defended. For one thing, the corridor to Tobruk depended on them. The commander of the 6th New Zealand Brigade had proposed withdrawing, but that was unacceptable to General Freyberg. General Freyberg's view was that the 1st South African Brigade and the British armor would need to participate in the battle to hold the ground they occupied. General Freyberg sent his chief artillery offcier to Tobruk to talk with General Godwin-Austen about Freyberg's view of what was needed. General Freyberg also sent two officers to talk with the South African brigade comander. "He beileved that the South Africans had been placed under his command." They were to tell him that Sidi Rezegh had been captured by the enemy. The New Zealand Division needs Sidi Rezegh recaptured prior to dawn on 1 December. The South Africans were ordered to retake Sidi Rezegh immeditately.
The New Zealand artillery commander, Brigadier Miles only reached XIII Corps headquarters after midnight. The officers sent to the South African brigade arrived at 1:40am. The South Africans were quite close to General Norrie, so when they received the message relayed from General Freyberg, the South African commander went to talk with General Norrie. They decided that capturing Point 175 was not possible prior to dawn. The attack could restart at dawin, at best.
General Godwin-Austen sent out encoded wireless message to the major unit commanders. The 7th Armoured Division needed to concentrate and focus on defeating the German armored units. If the South Africans could take Point 175 and Sidi Rezegh, then they should try to establish themselves in controll of those positions. If that failed, then the New Zealand Division needed to move "behind Ed Duda". They would also need to hold onto Belhamed. Anything else can be given up, if all elsle failed. They might have ordered the New Zealand Division to withdraw immediately, but there was not realy time for that to be a realistic possibility.
Geenral Scobie was paying xlose attention to events and plans. He was aware ofo the rishs of having 70th Division soldiers from Tobruk outside of the fortress defenses when the situaion was in doubt.  Infantry tank runners were not more than twenty by now. He was intent on holding onto Ed Duda and Belhamed. General Gott told Brigadier Gatehouse that he needed to attack the enemy tanks. They were very close to morning and the enemy forces were clearly on the move, intent on causing them trouble.
The 32nd Army Tank Brigade dealt with an enemy group between outposts Butch and Tiger. at dawn, there was heavy mist. While there still was mist, they started to receive incoming artillery fire at Belhamed. The New Zealand Division units near Belhamed were being attacked. They had support by the 1st RHA, but some British tanks were knocked out by mines and anti-tank gun fire. The New Zealanders "were without tank support and being overrun."  This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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