Massacre at Tobruk: The British Assault on Rommel, 1942 by Peter Charles Smith

Massacre at Tobruk: The British Assault on Rommel, 1942 by Peter Charles Smith

Author:Peter Charles Smith [Smith, Peter Charles]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Military History, World War 2, Campaigns, Battles
ISBN: 9780811734745
Google: eaLaGgAACAAJ
Amazon: 0811734749
Goodreads: 1834475
Publisher: Stackpole Books
Published: 1987-01-01T05:00:00+00:00

A wounded survivor from the Sikh aboard one of the Italian vessels on the way back to harbor.

The principal causes of the failure of the bulk of Force C to get ashore were later put down to

1. The dispersal of the two flotillas of MTBs during the night due to bad station keeping.

2. Partial failure of communications between the Long Range Desert Group and the MTBs.

3. Inadequate leading lights.

In fact, it was only from the signal which he received at 4:40 A.M. that Commander Blackburn was ever made aware that two of his missing boats had in fact carried out their task successfully. On receipt of this tardy information, Blackburn took the two nearest vessels of this remaining force, MTB 262 and MTB 266, into the inlet. As they pushed into the bay, they were met by a hail of artillery and small-arms fire from the north shore of the harbor. This made it very obvious that either the British troops had not established themselves ashore after all, or that (as proved the case) they had done so earlier but had been chased away by the defenders since. Blackburn therefore had little choice but to beat another hasty retreat to the eastward in the face of this fierce fire.

The three MTBs were held in the searchlights throughout this little foray and were all subjected to merciless fire, both medium sized shells and small-arms fire being received, but, miraculously, they survived all this, although they again became separated from each other in the process of extracting themselves.

Lieutenant Robert Allan, RNVR, had managed to keep most of the boats of his flotilla together, but had of course lost sight of the senior officer and Lieutenant Denis Jermain’s force. Both men had considerable MTB experience, including combat fighting in the English Channel, but some of their junior subordinates were fairly green. Nonetheless, this second group also appears to have arrived off Tobruk only a little later than the first, but they never sighted them at all subsequently. What they did run into was the hornet’s nest already well stirred up by the others, with searchlights and tracer flickering all over the approaches and the enemy defences obviously fully ready for them.

This group—MTBs 260, 261, 262, and 316—also nosed up to investigate the boom defenses, but could find no break. Three of these MTBs even fired torpedoes in the hope of blasting a passage through, but to no avail, and heavy return fire was met each time they tried to penetrate. Like the SO’s section, Allan’s boats remained in the area until daybreak and then, equally frustrated and running short of fuel, straggled off together back to the east. They took fourteen hours to complete the voyage back to Alexandria, being restricted to slow speeds for the whole journey.

Dudley Pope commented that Blackburn was “an RN captain who, as far as is known, had not previously handled a unit of MTBs.” What he failed to mention, however, is that Commander Blackburn most assuredly did


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