Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Fighting at Ed Duda from 1pm on 29 November 1941

While the first attempt by the Germans to take Ed Duda failed, they came back. The 1/Essex and anti-tank guns had held. At that point, the tanks available to the 4th RTR were ordered to climb to the top of Ed Duda. There were about 8 tanks, of which some, as we have said, were used as observations points by the 1st RHA. At first, the Germans held back, and the dug in positions of the 1/Essex. Their machine guns and anti-tank guns were disabled. The German patrols were able to lift the protective mines. The time was about 4:30pm when the enemey approached from the west. As the time got later, the enemy had teh sun behind them. The British Matilda tanks came up and then started withdrawing by twos. The heavier German tanks approached, while the lighter German tanks, Pzkw II's drove up to the side, to a flanking position. They opened up with machine guns on the British. Now, there were as many as twenty German tanks lined up across the position held by the British infantry. The Matilda tanks were still close by and were in a hull-down position. Darkness fell, but the British tanks were far enough back to be out of the range of German tanks.
Colonel Burrows, the 2/13th Battalion commander, was summoned to a tank that was talking with Brigadier Willison at the 32nd Army Tank Brigade headquarters. Colonel Burrows told them that he was not prepared to attack tanks without having tanks in support. The British agreed that was the best decision. They wanted the 2/13th Battalion to launch a counter-attack at Ed Duda with two companies. They would provide a third company to protect 1st RHA guns near Belhamed. The rest of the battalion would just try to hold their present positions.
Colonel Burrows headquarters was located up on the escarpment. They were about one thousand yards to the northeast of thet pass at Ed Duda. They planned to use companies C and D for the counter-attack at Ed Duda. The situation was such that D company probably would not be ready in time, since they had been farther away. Colonel Burrows made an adjustment so that company B would attack with company C, instead of company D.The two companies gathered at the north side of the escarpment at the bottom. Some 25pdr guns were firing over the men as they gathered. Except for that, the night was quiet. The 25pdrs stopped firing, but a German shell landed in the middle of a platoon and caused immediate casualties to everyone present.
The other men were forced to march past the platoon that he been decimated. They walked around the corner to a starting point for an attack towards the southwest.  Ed Duda had "pimples", so the men were on both sides of the pimples. Looking through binoculars, they could see German tanks about five hundred yards away. Colonel Burrows declined to attack with the tanks in front of them. He needed tank support so that they could fight on an equal footing. Colonel Burrows took time to visit Brigadier Willison's headquarters to discuss the situation. They would either get tank support or they would not attack. The new plan was to get the Australian infantry and the British tanks in close with the enemy, and recognize that they would not be able to have artillery support, due to the close contact. Battery A/E of the 1st RHA had already left for outpost Tiger as the sky got dark. They had also ordered B/O Battery to head back in the belief that the road was not blocked. In fact, though, the 4th RTR had three tanks blocking the road, just forward of the 2/13th Battalion positions. To the east, the 44th RTR had another road block using tanks.
The 7th Armoured Division tanksk were sitting in the desert, not very far away, but were not involved in the criitical fight. Instead, Brigadier Willison and his brigade had been carrying the load, fighting German tanks over the last nine days. And here they were ready to fight the main German armored force, the German Africa Corps. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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