Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday 25th June 1946

SUPPLEMENT t o the LONDON GAZETTE, 26 JUNE, 19463265 (c) Fine leadership and fighting qualities displayed by all personnel. Our equipment, in particular the Infantry Tanks, Cruiser Tanks and 25-pounders, proved to be excellent. Part II.— Second Phase— Ope rat ions from Bard ia toTo b r u k —December 15,1940, to January 21,1941.7. Bardia— Enemy Position and Strength. 27. The enemy forces within the perimeter of Bardia comprised the greater part of four in­fantry divisions, together with guns and tanks. Some of these formations had taken part in the later stages of the fighting after the cap­ture of Sidi Barrani. 28. The defences qf Bardia, apart from coastal and anti-aircraft defences, consisted of a perimeter seventeen miles in extent, lying mainly 011 a level plain South-West of the escarpment. The perimeter itself consisted of concrete posts at intervals of some seven hun­dred yards, containing machine guns and anti­tank guns, each post being wired and having an anti-tank ditch. Five hundred yards behind the first line was a second but less elaborate line of support posts. Outside the whole ran a continuous anti-tank trench and wire obstacle. Only at the Southern end of the perimeter was there an additional switch line, three to four thousands vards from the outer line. o 8. Plan of Attack on Bardia. 29. The troops available for the attack were:— 7th Armoured Division: Major-General Creagh. 6th Australian Division: Major-General Mackay. 16th Infantry Brigade. 7th Battalion R .T.R .:Now reduced to 26 tanks.' ist Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusi­liers: Machine-gun battalion. Corps Artillery: Consisting of one field and one medium regiment. Two squadrons of the Australian Divisional Cavalry Regiment had been diverted to observe Jarabub, to which a considerable enemy force had withdrawn. The rdle of 7th Armoured Division was to prevent the enemy reinforc­ing from or escaping to the North, and the assaulting troops therefore consisted of approxi­mately 20,000 men, 122 guns and 26 tanks. 30. The diminished resources of infantry tanks necessitated a bold employment of infan­try both in the assault and in the exploitation. This demanded a high expenditure of ammuni­tion for their protection. The period of six­teen days between the arrival of the first in­fantry outside Bardia and the launching of the attack was occupied mainly in upbringing large additional supplies of ammunition from railhead at Mersa Matruh. The harbour of Solium, which the enemy withdrawal behind the defences of Bardia had put at our disposal, was used for this purpose, and its possession greatly facilitated the task. 31. The following was the general plan: —One infantry battalion, of the 16th Aus­tralian* Brigade, closely followed by en­gineers, was to attack at dawn at a point due West of Bardia, where the anti-tank A 2 ditch and the wire nearly coincided. Covered by a heavy artillery concentration, the bat­talion was to seize and hold a bridge-head while the engineers infilled the anti-tank ditch at five separate points. This achieved, tanks and infantry were to enter the peri­meter and sweep South-Eastwards on a wide front as far as the road Bardia-Capuzzo and the edge of the escarpment overlooking Bardia. Thereafter units of the 17th Aus­tralian Brigade were to break into the peri­meter South of the original point of entry, and, driving still further to the South-East, contain the enemy forces manning the strong­est positions at the Southern end. The attack would then be exploited East and North-East to Bardia. W'hile these operations were in progress demonstrations were to be made against parts of the perimeter remote from the real attack on the North by 7th Armoured Division, and on the South by those units of 17th Aus­tralian Brigade not taking part in the attack. The area North of the road Bardia-Tobruk was to be subjected to heavy bombardment both from the sea and from the air. 9. The Assault on Bardia. 32. By the 27th December, the 16th and 17th Australian Brigades were in position opposite the defences, and on New Year's Day the 19th Australian Brigade also arrived. On the 3rd January, at 0530 hours, the attack began. The 2/ist Battalion Australian Infantry successfully established the bridge-head, and the engineers had completed their task within 50 minutes. 16th and 17th Australian Brigades (Brigadiers Allen and Savige) captured their objectives with small loss, in spite of a counter-attack by enemy tanks. At 1745 hours on 4th January tanks and infantry entered Bardia and on the 5th the defenders of the South-Eastern sector sur­rendered. 45,000 prisoners and 462 guns, of which 216 were field guns, wxre taken— 117 light and 12 medium tanks were also cap­tured. 10. Tobruk.— Enemy Position and Strength. 33. With the loss of Bardia, the Italian forces remaining in Cyrenaica were: —(a) At Tobruk: — 61st Sirte Infantry Division. Headquarters and Corps troops of XXII Corps. Coast Defence and Anti-Aircraft units of Tobruk garrison. Remnants of the divisions from the for­ward areas. (b) Further W'est— 60th Infantry Division. (c) About Mechili— Nucleus of .armoured formation under General Babini. Even before Bardia fell I had decided that an attack on Tobruk was justified on both operational and administrative grounds. By the 6th January, 7th Armoured Division had cut the roads Tobruk-Derna and Tobruk- Mechili, and was in contact with the perimeter and with enemy troops East of Dema and Mechili, causing the enemy to abandon the aerodromes at Gazala, Tmimi and Bomba. B they 7th January, 19th Australian Infantry Bri­gade (Brigadier Robertson) was in position fac­ing the Eastern defences, and the remainder of*
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