Bardia to Enfidaville
The Enemy on 23 January
The Enemy on 23 January
The enemy withdrew with the same orderliness in which he had conducted the retirement throughout. On the coast road the final rearguard left its position east of the city at 11 p.m. The GAF Brigade had difficulties fending off attacks from 7 Armoured Division and speeded up its timings to commence withdrawing at 9 p.m. on 22 January instead of at midnight. The 15th Panzer Division withdrew from Azizia between 1 a.m. and first light, leaving rearguards in front of Bianchi. In the morning of the 23rd 7 Armoured Division was checked south-east of Zanzur. There was thus no rapid retreat, and while air reconnaissance showed steady movement to the west, there was nothing resembling a flight. The enemy was apprehensive about the possibility of a wide outflanking movement along the foot of the Gebel westwards to Medenine in Tunisia, but his general plan was now to retire to the Mareth Line in any case, sending all the Italians first and leapfrogging the German formations along the coastal road. By the evening of 23 January the enemy rearguards were west of Zauia, and thereafter they withdrew steadily towards the Tunisian frontier.
The advance to Tripoli involved 2 NZ Division in very little fighting. Indeed, for the most part, action was restricted to the Divisional Cavalry and the Greys, with some assistance from the artillery. The engineers were frequently called on for mine clearing and track making, and the supply echelons, of course, concerned themselves constantly with the maintenance of the Division. But for the infantry, accustomed as they had become to action and to page 118 setting hardship at defiance, the journey from Nofilia to Tripoli was an easy one. It was mostly very much a matter of sitting patiently in their lorries, enduring the jolting, the dust and the delays until their arrival in what had become a common term for Tripoli—the promised land.
The Division's casualties since beginning the march from near Nofilia on 9 January were 21 killed and 56 wounded, of whom one killed and ten wounded were from infantry units. The total casualties since leaving the Bardia area early in December were 69 killed, 197 wounded and 8 prisoners of war, who were distributed as follows:
Killed Wounded Captured Divisional Cavalry 11 15 Artillery 12 24 Engineers 19 44 5 Infantry Brigade 22 59 6 Infantry Brigade 4 22 5 Others 1 33 3 – – – 69 197 8