Both Hackett's accident and the loss of Buffalo is true, see this post below, for a bit more detail
 
Both Hackett's accident and the loss of Buffalo is true, see this post below, for a bit more detail
Good grief! Definitively a command in need of a good shake up and the removal of dead wood.
 
Both Hackett's accident and the loss of Buffalo is true, see this post below, for a bit more detail
Altering an old expression. Maybe a little bit of bleeding now may help reduce some of the bleeding later on. Keith Park will have to kick some butt. I don't know if he was suited for that or not.
 
Bleed some in peacetime so you bleed less in war. Something my Drill Instructor repeated whenever he heard us bitching. Apparently it's a paraphrasing of a German saying. It worked...
 
MWI 41040710 The Jungle Training Camp
1941, Monday 07 April;

It had been coming some time, indeed ever since Percival had watched Stewart’s Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders shred the defences of Singapore’s Garrison in an exercise, he’d known the command needed more than just general training, it needed training for the theatre it was in, it needed jungle training! As always money was a problem, the War Office was loath to sanction yet more expense, in such a backwater, but with both Lord Gort’s backing and then Dill’s support in London, Percival had finally been given the green light last month, with funds being authorised.

Finding a location for the camp, had given him some concerns, all the good land, was either already in use, far too expensive to buy, or would take forever to get authorisation from the relevant civil authorities for a compulsory purchase agreement. But a off record comment made by Maj Gen Simmons, of all people, suggesting the camp should be kept as far away from Singapore, so as not to upset the civilian population took hold. Placing it far away from the bright lights and attractions of any major town, would help focus the minds of the individuals there, as to the job they were there for, namely learn how to manage in the jungle environment.

With that requirement set, finding somewhere had suddenly become easy, and at a dinner party, the Sultan of Johore, on hearing of the type of site they were looking for, had suggested a large tract of land he would be happy to give, for a small price, far away from the bright lights of Singapore, up in northern Johore. The camp would initially be for about 1,000 men, but with room to expand to four times that number if required.

It was located close to the village of Jementah, was in an ideal position, lying at the foothills of Mount Ophir, to the south-west, which presented all the hilly terrain one could possibly want, undulating jungle to the north and marsh and padi of the upper reaches of the river Muar, lying between the camp and the small town of Segamat, provided all the different terrain you would meet in Malaya. The Sultan had offered to cut all red tape on its transfer and they were already two weeks into clearing ground and constructing the first hutted accommodation. Although it would have all the requirements of a camp, it would be basic, living in the camp itself would be part of the training environment, let alone the field exercises they would be out on.

The 12-mile road to the camp from Segamat needed some improvement, new rail sidings at Segamat to be constructed, and a small military camp and hospital to be built in Segamat to provide support facilities. Personnel to be transferred, and training courses to be developed. But what he most needed now, was a leader, someone who would have a zest for this, and a proven record in delivering good quality jungle training.

He knew who he wanted, Lt Col Stewart, but….it had been taking some time to win Gort over, who, having been present when Maj Gen Simmons and his two fortress battalions had been exposed as being totally unfit for fighting in the jungle, had remembered feeling acutely embarrassed for Simmons. Simmons himself though, hadn’t shown up well, having desperately tried to rule Stewarts manoeuvres as outside of the scope of the training plan, and as such, not to be counted in the outcome, and was able to declare the defenders as the victors.

The humiliation of Simmons had left Gort with an extremely dim view of Stewart, indeed, only thanks to Percival, and the 12th Indian Brigade commander, Brigadier Paris, pleading support for Stewart, had stopped Gort from insisting on his removal at the time. Percival had remained patient, and finally it had paid off, with Gort acquiescing to Ian Stewart being promoted Colonel and given command of the jungle training plan and camp.
 
I never understood that about such wargaming back then. We were given objectives, and how we achieved those objectives was up to us so long as we didn't break any recognized international laws and...that was it. Otherwise, go wild and use our imagination. Indeed the point was to use our imaginations and think outside the box as much and often as possible.
Our Gunny went out and bought us a bunch of Motorolas ( it was the early 90s) so the platoon had a comms net all our very own, a massive advantage it turned out as it allowed us to maneuver in ways our opponents couldn't yet stay in contact and coordinate, and our opponents cried foul. The ref shrugged and basically said, "Sucks to be you. They got inventive, you got your asses kicked. You lose."
And needless to say that's now a big advantage every modern military has these days. I call such occurrences worthy learning experiences and the men who bring them about worthy of possible promotion (barring the Peter Principle rearing its ugly head).
 
MWI 41040920 A Fighting General
1941, Wednesday 9 April;

It was another meeting of the CoS and Churchill

“Hmmm, I have concerns, it seems to me that this Rashid Ali and his Golden Square are becoming more than just a nuisance. If we don’t act soon, it could develop into a major problem and we could end up losing control of Iraq. What is the news about help from India, General Dill?”
“India have offered the 20th Indian Brigade, which is a couple of days out of Bombay as reinforcement to the newly forming 9th Indian Division in Malaya Prime Minister. We could quickly turn her around and have her head for Basra. We do have concerns about the possibility of any opposition to our landing, I’ll pass you over to my esteemed colleague Admiral Pound for the naval plan, Dudley”

“Thank you, John, Prime Minister, we currently have HMS Cockchafer, a river gunboat at Basra, I plan to have a reinforced escort of 4 sloops for the troop convoy, and HMS Hermes with 814 FAA Squadron on board, with the light cruisers HMS Emerald and HMNZS Leander to provide any assistance required to any opposition on shore to our landings. We could deliver them there for the 18th of this month Prime Minister”

Dill resumed the narrative, “Having secured Basra Prime Minister, we could have a second brigade in Basra by the end of the month, commanded by the headquarters of the 10th Indian Division moved from Ahmednagar, and one of its brigades by mid May, and reconstitute them all as the 10th Indian again. I’m hopeful we could begin to move onto Baghdad later in May. I’ve tentatively given the codename Sabine to the operation, Prime Minister”
“And who had we thought to command this theatre John”
“I have a couple of suggestions Prime Minister, attached to the back of the report”

Ismay lifted a paper folder, and drew out the bottom sheet, sliding it to Churchill, who studied the text.
“John this first name, Quinan, wasn’t he an Aide De Camp to King Edward”
“Err I believe so Prime Minister, he’s currently in Indian, North-West frontier, has had a lot of success there over the years”
“A bush general, wasn’t he unwell a while ago, no, he won’t do, has no modern fighting experience, I want someone who won’t let us down if things get sticky. Let’s consider the second option … Good god man, have you gone quite mad, I thought we’d agreed this man wasn’t having another command, he gives up far too easily, no fighting spirit!”
“He’s doing quite well in East Africa, Prime Minister he’s...”
“East Africa? Pug, Pug, how come I don’t know about this, when did this happen, no, no, NO, this really won’t do, who’s that chap you was considering for the new Corps command in Malaya”
“Lewis Heath, Prime Minister, I said considering, because he was just about to capture Massawa, but he could be released now, however…”
“Heath! He’s a fighting man, the hero of Keren, I don’t want him wasting away in some backwater job, no, he must stay, He’s one of the few decent generals we have, and we might need him and his division in North Africa, once they’ve helped clear up in Ethiopia, we’ll send the faint heart to Malaya”.

“And Iraq, Prime Minister?”
“Well, it will have to be Quinan, Wavell recommends him, I’m sure he’ll be alright for now! promote them both, get it done”. Churchill looked left to Maj Gen Hollis, the CoS Committee Secretary. “Hollis, when did I agree to this man going to East Africa, err, never mind Hollis, just note the changes”.

It was raining hard in Neghelli, Abyssinia, the pouring rain hit the tent hard, driven by the wind, and succeeded in finding several ways to drip or even trickle in. The gas lamp swung above the small table, throwing shadows. Wrestling with the logistical problems of supplying his scattered units, and trying to maintain an advance was Major General Alfred Godwin-Austen, CO of the 12th African Division and Brigadier Christopher Fowkes, his 22nd East African Brigade commander.

A rap on the canvas, and a W/T operator came in and handed a sheet off a signal pad. Godwin-Austen read the note twice and handed it to Fowkes, remarking.
“It’s from General Cunningham, Chris, congratulations, as of from next Monday, you’re now the new commander of the 12th African Division. I’m being promoted to command a newly forming Indian Corps in Malaya”
“I say Alfred old chap that’s wonderful news, isn’t it, surely a promotion?”
“Yes Chris, but look where it is, how much more of a backwater can it be, it looks like my war is just about over”.
 
Ahhhh the man who abandoned Somaliland

No wonder Churchill hated him

Good choice actually someone with the 'moral' courage to do what's right and his resignation in 42 should not have been accepted - lost a good Corps commander
 
However it looks like Godwin-Austen's Corps is losing one of its brigades, probably permanently, as once again the demands of the shooting war take precedence over reinforcing the inactive area.
 
“Yes Chris, but look where it is, how much more of a backwater can it be, it looks like my war is just about over”. From post #729.
Oh boy. He couldn't be anymore wrong about that.
 
“Yes Chris, but look where it is, how much more of a backwater can it be, it looks like my war is just about over”. From post #729.
Oh boy. He couldn't be anymore wrong about that.
Indeed, but that thinking is precisely the reason Churchill has sent him there, too.
 
Once again the law of unintended consequences strikes!
Yes, abandoning Somaliland was exactly the right move at the time, trading distance for time and preserving your force has been a military tactic since the first sharpened pole was tossed at a confrontation!
Politician who do not see that and understand the necessity are the problem not the commanders who implement it.
Yes
 
MWI 41041121 The Talk
1941, Friday 11 April;

Dinner was over, the port and brandy poured, cigars lit, and the talk had begun, a Major G T Wards, Assistant Military Attaché, Tokyo, was giving a lecture on the capabilities of the Imperial Japanese Army. A young Lieutenant ushered Lord Gort into the back of the room, everybody sitting with their backs to him. He hadn’t planned to stay for the talk, but having left Percival, and the gathered Brigadiers and Lt Col’s after dinner, and getting into his Humber staff car, he’d only gone a couple of miles on his journey back to Singapore, before the truck coming the other way had hit their car. Gort was fine, annoyed, but fine, but his driver was badly shaken, and the car would need some extensive work in the RASC workshops. He’d been given a lift back to the barracks, to stay here for the night, by the very same truck that had hit him, the driver continually apologising, saying he hadn’t seen the car coming the other way in the dark.

The Lieutenant started to move forward to find Gort a seat, but Gort held his arm, and shook his head, saying no. He stood there in the shadows and listened to the speaker. Major Wards was explaining how the average Japanese soldier lived, the harsh regime, breeding a stoicism, a resourcefulness, how they would adapt to the conditions they were in. He was speaking of their training, how quickly they moved into their battle drills. He talked about being on manoeuvres with them, how little baggage was carried compared to a British battalion, how unencumbered they were in the field.

Wards spoke in a steady measured way, easy to understand, and as he discussed the values of the Japanese fighting man, he gave little examples. He explained that though their weapons weren’t better that ours, the Japanese used them well, getting the best out of them. They had light artillery organic in their infantry battalions, and made good use of mortars and machine guns. And how they would carry a position with a fixed bayonet charge, crying Banzai! And then he talked of their fanaticism in battle, how their take on life was so different to ours, how they ‘wanted’ to die for their Emperor Hirohito, and how he was a god to them.

He then moved onto the tactics of the army, and here he was at pains to express their offensive attitude. He explained how they would quickly move into an attack from an encounter, how they would aim to fix the front with an attack, while trying to flank the position. And he spoke of how despite our perceptions of them having poor sight, the night attack was a much-used tactic. He then spoke of the amphibious landings made in China, how the IJA was getting progressively more proficient at it, and how certain units were now considered masters of the art. He finished with summarising that the IJA was to be considered a formidable foe.

There was a polite round of applause, before Lt Gen Percival got up to say something, but as he turned to address the audience, he noticed Lord Gort walking forward. “Ah Lord Gort sir, an unexpected pleasure, do you wish to address us”. “Yes, please Arthur, I do. Gentlemen I feel a note of thanks must be given to our speaker Major Wards, for providing us such an interesting and refreshing look at the Japanese Army. This current war with Germany and Italy, and as did the last war, has seen modern weapons making marked differences to how we do things, part of the continuing change in how warfare evolves. But some things never change, and the maxim of ‘never underestimate your enemy’ is one of them.

If, and I do say if, Japan was to attack us, I wouldn’t want people to be under the illusion that it would be a cake walk, indeed, as Major Ward has explained how they operate, it would be far from it. But, should they come, we will be ready for them, and again I emphasise the word ‘will’ because woe betide anyone who doesn’t take this lecture, and the need for us all to improve, seriously”. Gort led a round of applause, before turning to Major Wards and asking if the Major would be so kind as to have breakfast with him tomorrow.
 

Driftless

Donor
^^^^ Just trying to extrapolate how the Major's presentation and Lord Gort's commentary might be processed by the officers present. I could imagine for some both comments are taken with a bit of an eye-roll followed by looking for a drink refill. For other ears, Lord Gort's straight forward endorsement of Major Ward's preso, would probably be taken very seriously.

The General having Major Ward stick around for a personal visit at breakfast would likely be noted by scuttlebutt, and have extra meaning to those who were present the night before.

How might the concepts of Japanese Army fighting practice be considered in new training plans?
 
1941, Friday 11 April;
There was a polite round of applause, before Lt Gen Percival got up to say something, but as he turned to address the audience, he noticed Lord Gort walking forward. “Ah Lord Gort sir, an unexpected pleasure, do you wish to address us”. “Yes, please Arthur, I do. Gentlemen I feel a note of thanks must be given to our speaker Major Wards, for providing us such an interesting and refreshing look at the Japanese Army. This current war with Germany and Italy, and as did the last war, has seen modern weapons making marked differences to how we do things, part of the continuing change in how warfare evolves. But some things never change, and the maxim of ‘never underestimate your enemy’ is one of them.

If, and I do say if, Japan was to attack us, I wouldn’t want people to be under the illusion that it would be a cake walk, indeed, as Major Ward has explained how they operate, it would be far from it. But, should they come, we will be ready for them, and again I emphasise the word ‘will’ because woe betide anyone who doesn’t take this lecture, and the need for us all to improve, seriously”. Gort led a round of applause, before turning to Major Wards and asking if the Major would be so kind as to have breakfast with him tomorrow.
I don't know if in OTL this lecture from Major Wards or something like it occurred. If so there is one of the biggest butterflies flapping when General Percival is prevented from speaking and General Gort instead addresses the officers and praises Major Wards and states that the gathered officers should take seriously Wards' descriptions of the IJA.
A very clear indication of the fact that the British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya are under a far more determined and professionally minded leadership with Gort. I wonder what Percival would've said to the gathering if Gort hadn't stepped up? It's almost a microcosm of this ATL.
 
^^^^ Just trying to extrapolate how the Major's presentation and Lord Gort's commentary might be processed by the officers present. I could imagine for some both comments are taken with a bit of an eye-roll followed by looking for a drink refill. For other ears, Lord Gort's straight forward endorsement of Major Ward's preso, would probably be taken very seriously.

The General having Major Ward stick around for a personal visit at breakfast would likely be noted by scuttlebutt, and have extra meaning to those who were present the night before.

How might the concepts of Japanese Army fighting practice be considered in new training plans?

I don't know if in OTL this lecture from Major Wards or something like it occurred. If so there is one of the biggest butterflies flapping when General Percival is prevented from speaking and General Gort instead addresses the officers and praises Major Wards and states that the gathered officers should take seriously Wards' descriptions of the IJA.
A very clear indication of the fact that the British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya are under a far more determined and professionally minded leadership with Gort. I wonder what Percival would've said to the gathering if Gort hadn't stepped up? It's almost a microcosm of this ATL.
There won't be any training plans aimed specifically at countering the Japanese Army, but a realisation that the threat they face is serious. Malaya Command still faces the challenges of training both at low level, small unit commanders as well as formation level, but will begin to include the jungle as part of the battleground, and not dismiss it as impenetrable. Most units, Australians aside, badly need training, having a lot of new recruits within their ranks.

Onto Wards, there was an air of complacency within the Far East, with regard to Japanese capabilities. In part this was due to their performance against China, highlighting their poor logistics, as well as most units not being motorised. One view taken, was the Japanese Army's capabilities lay somewhere between the Italians and Afghans. And undoubtedly, racism, along with a need to down play the Japanese so as not to alarm the local populace.

Ward did make the talk, its mentioned in a number to books and articles, I will quote from "The Defence and Fall of Singapore1940-1942, page 139" by Brian Farrell, who I would regard as an expert historian on this campaign. It happened in April 1941, Singapore, to senior commanders and staff officers, just before Percival took over from Lt Gen Lionel Bond, my timeline has advanced that change in leadership by about four months.

"Concentrating on the IJA, Wards warned them it was a first class fighting machine in every respect. Several officers strongly challenged his views and Bond publicly dismissed them as 'far from the truth as I know from my information, which I receive from all sorts of sources. What Major Wards has told you is merely his own opinion and is not in any way a correct appreciation of the situation'. Wards took this up privately with Bond, who replied, "We must not discourage the chaps, we must keep their spirts up"
 
MWI 41041314 Japan And The Soviet Union Sign A Pact
1941, Sunday 13 April;

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka shook the hand of Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, and then turned and shook the hand of Joseph Stalin. Both Matsuoka and Ambassador Yoshitsugu Tatekawa had just signed the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact with Molotov, in Stalin’s presence.

In addition, they’d also signed declarations pledging to respect the territorial integrity of their puppet states, the Mongolian People’s Republic and Manchukuo. It was a deal that suited them both admirably, with the distractions of the border wars they had fought now put to bed. Twice Japan had become involved in full scale battles with the Soviets, The Battle of Lake Khasan, back in the summer of 1938 had escalated from a few Soviet Border Guards occupying the disputed Changkufeng Heights. The Japanese had been slow to confront this, and for two weeks the Soviets strengthened the outposts. On the 15th July, the Japanese attaché in Moscow had insisted on their withdrawal, which was ignored.

On the 31sth July, the Japanese 19th Division, sent its 75th Regt to recapture the hills, which they did, and the rest of the division moved in to fortify the location. However, despite the request for further reinforcements, the Japanese High Command stopped at that, hoping the conflict wouldn’t escalate even further. But there was no appeasing the Soviets, who amassed large numbers of troops, guns and tanks. They began their attacks on the 2nd August, but were repelled with heavy loss of men and tanks, the attacks being uncoordinated, poorly planned and led. But they persisted and eventually they succeeded in outflanking the Japanese, who were force to withdraw, with a subsequent Japanese counter attack failing. It was clear the Japanese would have to greatly reinforce, to retake the hills, so, instead they chose to agree a ceasefire. Owing to their own poor performance, the commander of the Soviet forces, Marshal Vasily Blyukher, was arrested by the NKVD, and charged with incompetence, dying while undergoing an interrogation.

But it hadn’t stopped there, on the 11th May 1939, a small cavalry unit of the Soviet puppet state, Mongolia, had crossed the Khalkha River, near the village of Nomonhan in search of better grazing. A cavalry unit of the Japanese puppet state Manchuria, had driven them back. Two days later a much stronger Mongolian force recrossed the river and occupied the ground. A small force from the Japanese 23rd Division pushed them back, only to be pushed back themselves by a larger number of Mongolian and now Soviet troops. Both sides now reinforced, The Japanese reinforced the recently raised 23rd Infantry Division with another two infantry regt’s, the 1st Tank Corps, of about 90 tanks and supporting units all under the command of the 23rd Div CO, Lt Gen Komatsubara. The Soviets sent a rising star of the heavily purged general staff, a Corps Commander, Georgy Zhukov, to command the 57th Corps.

On the 2nd July, the Japanese launched a two-pronged attack, three infantry regt’s, crossed the Khalkha River, over to the Western bank, on their right wing and captured the high ground overlooking the river, before swinging left heading for the strategically important Kawatama Bridge. The other prong was the 1st Tank Corps with some supporting infantry, which made a frontal assault on the Soviet forces dug in on the western bank, later that night. For a while, things looked good, but the Japanese armour was unable to break through the Soviet lines, losing half their tanks. The following day Zhukov reacted to the Japanese infantry on the western bank, launching a massed armoured attack of 450 light tanks and armoured cars, unsupported by infantry.

The Japanese infantry was short on anti-tank artillery, but fought tenaciously, their few 37mm AT guns, along with large numbers of Molotov cocktails, demolition charges and anti-tank mines, destroyed 120 armoured vehicles with numerous acts of bravery, but the 45mm guns and machine guns of the Soviet tanks, took a heavy toll. With only a single pontoon bridge supplying them, the Japanese were being gradually squeezed into an ever-collapsing pocket, ammunition supplies becoming a major problem. On the 5th July, to save them from being annihilated, Komatsubara withdrew his forces back across the river. Four days later, Zhukov counter attacked and threw the Tank Corps out of the few positions it had captured, pushing the Japanese back to their starting positions.

Both sides continued to spar, but supplies were becoming a problem, and on the 23rd, the Japanese made a last effort, with two infantry regt’s attacking towards the Kawatama Bridge supported by all their artillery. They struggled for two days before artillery supplies began to fall short, and withdrew again. Both sides needed rest, and a race to reinforce, and more importantly resupply their forces was on. Above them, for days, a massive air war was being fought, the Soviets eventually losing about 250 aircraft, the Japanese 150.

A couple of Soviet probes were thrown back with heavy loss, but the Japanese were becoming exhausted. Meanwhile the Soviets were secretly amassing for a new offensive. On the 20th August Zhukov launched a new attack, catching the Japanese by surprise. First the southern flank broke through the Japanese lines, swing north, Japanese infantry selling themselves dearly, holding ground and having to be wiped out. Then the northern wing broke through, swinging south, linking up on the 25th. A Japanese counter attack the following day failed to relive the 23rd Division, and its efforts to break out on the 27th failed. The next few days the Soviets collapsed the pocket destroying the 23rd Division.

However, with the German invasion of Poland taking place, the Soviets needed a ceasefire, which was agreed on the 15th September 1939. Zhukov was given the award, ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’, while Komatsubara, would command the remnants of his division for a few months before disappearing in obscurity in staff posts, dying of stomach cancer just over a year later. For the Japanese it had been a chastening experience, the huge numbers of men and material the Soviets had been able to deploy, plus their big artillery concentrations had left lasting impressions. For the Soviets, the way the Japanese fought so tenaciously, with few easy gains, suggested further war with them would be hugely expensive. And so, with the signing of the treaty, and fences mended, both could look away, towards their greater threats, namely Germany for the Soviets, and the USA for a Japan, who was still bogged down in China.

But at present, Stalin was delighted, so much so he’d already decided he’d be at the train station to say goodbye to Matsuoka, with the world’s press there, there was plenty of political play to be had here. For Japan, the signing marked a significant move towards adopting the Southern Expansion Doctrine, favoured by the Navy, that made South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands a target of Japanese dominance, as opposed to the Army favoured Northern Expansion Doctrine towards Manchuria and Siberia.
 
MWI 41041408 Tobruk Holds For Now
1941, Monday 14 April;

“The Germans have broken through the wire, we’ve got to push them out, here’s what we’re going to do” Lieutenant Austin Mackell, commander of no 16 platoon, sat in the command bunker of strongpoint R33, explaining his plan with his section leaders. He spoke slowly, carefully, looking each man in the eye, checking to see they understood. Conference over, Mackell picked up a rifle, and attached the bayonet, and with Corporal Edmondson, moved to the rear of the strongpoint. The rest of Edmondson’s section, were waiting, minus the Bren gun pair, who were staying, helping provide covering fire.

”Ok boy’s lets go” Mackell climbed out of the trench, and began a scurried run to the right, followed by Edmondson and the five remaining men of his section, at a fast, bent over stumble, across the rocky ground, in an effort to flank the Germans. Things went well at first, the small party making good progress in the dark night, familiar with the ground they were defending. But somehow a German saw them, a glint of a helmet, or bayonet, a rock rolling away, and called out. Seconds later, a machine gun opened fire, forcing the men down. And that was the signal for the covering fire, 16 Platoon opening up with everything they had, in an effort to keep the German’s heads down.

Mackell began a crawl, still circling around, the men, all on their bellies, following. Closer to the Germans rear now, they formed up, lying in an extended row, below a shallow ridge of rock. The German’s were worried, but the covering fire was mostly doing its work. Mackell spoke to the men, readying them for a final charge, and then the covering fire stopped. “That’s it boys, charge” the seven men rose stepping over the rocky ridge, and onward towards the shell holes, earth scraps and natural cover behind which the Germans lay. Pins out, grenades flew forward, a couple each, and then holding the rifle with two hands they charged forward.

A grenade exploded, knocking Private Grant off his feet, the shrapnel wounding Corporal Edmondson in the neck and stomach. Both men scrambled onto their feet and continued the charge. A German fired at machine gun at them, but couldn’t fully traverse it round. He let go and stood up, pulling out a luger, firing it at Grant. The bullets went wild, Grant’s bayonet didn’t, the German falling back into his hole. Mackell was well in front, another machine gun post, a German rose up to his right, he swung the butt of his rifle round, knocking the German down, a second rose, and Mackell stuck his bayonet into him, stabbing through the ribs. The blade wedged in, not coming loose, the German grabbed him around the legs holding him close.

Edmondson, bloodied, was closing, as a third German climbed out the hole, the Aussie’s bayonet taking him in the throat. The first German was up now, climbing onto Mackell back, hands around his throat, throttling him. Two lunges with the bayonet by Edmondson dropped him off, and then he finished off the third German, freeing Mackell. The attack on their rear, with grenades and a terrifying battle cry, did for the remaining Germans, who fled, leaving over a dozen dead, and one prisoner. Their job done, the seven Australians and their prisoner returned to the strongpoint, Grant wondering how they had all survived the mad attack. But they didn’t, as early morning, Edmondson, passed away as a result of his wounds.

The siege of Tobruk began on the 11th of April, and it had been assumed by the German staff that the shipping observed over several nights was evacuating the Tobruk garrison, and consequently, a quick sharp attack could bag the remainder. However, probes by the 5th Panzer Regt had been firmly met by the Australian 20th Brigade, and so a night attack was called for. The attack began after dark on the evening of the 13th, against the Australian 2/17 battalion sector.

Troops of the German 8th MG Battalion, accompanied by engineers began infiltrating the wire at a number of points, with the aim of providing crossing points across the anti-tank ditch, and forming bridgeheads from which 5th Panzer Regt would attack, pushing one column north to the harbour, and a second one west to cut off any escape. The machine gunners didn’t find it easy, and in the small unit actions during the night, Corporal John Edmundson illustrated the Australians desire to hold their ground, winning a VC posthumously, helping repel one probing attack.

However, despite those valiant efforts, a crossing was made, and 5th Panzer advanced, still under cover of the night, and had crossed, formed up, and begun their attacks, initially progressing well. Then daylight broke, and British artillery, often firing over open sights, along with dug in, hull down, cruiser tanks, opened with a storm of fire, began to knock tanks out. Because the Australian infantry had doggedly held their positions, 8th MG Battalion was unable to move forward and support the tanks. With losses mounting, the attack was called off, the Germans somewhat stunned by the ferocity of the defence, and their own losses, both Lt Col Gustav Ponath, commander of 8th MG Battalion, killed, and 75% of the battalion casualties, this in addition of losing Generalmajor Heinrich von Prittwitz, commander of 15th Panzer Division, earlier, who had been sent forward by Rommel to command the ad hoc collection of German units around Tobruk.

The arrival of Rommel, along with the leading units of the Afrika Korps, transformed the fortunes of the Axis Powers in the North African theatre, his energy, daring use of motorised troops in very mobile fluid actions devastated the British With their best troops sent to Greece, what had been left to garrison Cyrenaica was short on experience, equipment, transport, in need to rest and repair. The British 2nd Armoured Division, abet a shadow of what it should have been, was annihilated, its commander, Maj Gen Michael Gambier-Parry, as well as Lt Gen’s Phillip Neame and Richard O’Conner, captured. The rest of the British forces were routed, and all was lost, except for one factor, Tobruk didn’t fall.

Tobruk had been a useful little port for the Italians, a supply point for their Tenth Army, facing Egypt, and as a consequence, had been fortified. When the British had captured it, they in turn found it useful for supplying their army, and the various camps and facilities used by the Italians, also served the British well too. It became a useful rear area base, and the British, with some considerable foresight, had repaired, improved and extended the Italian defences. Owing to the transport shortages, a number of Australian infantry battalions were based there, to ease supply demands, while part of the 2nd Armoured Division was in refit there, along with a number of Field and AA artillery units.

So, Lt Gen Leslie Morshead, commander of the Australian 9th Division, was told to hold out in Tobruk with what he had, stopping its fall. The consequences were huge, without Tobruk, the Axis forces had a large detour around its perimeter, to continue eastwards to Egypt, they missed having the small port as a resupply point, and an administrative base, and were left with a threat in their rear to their communications. And for now, Tobruk had held!
 
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