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Bardia to Enfidaville

Situation at the End of 20 April

Situation at the End of 20 April

At the end of the day 2 NZ Division had consolidated its first-light positions. Communications had improved, and the various headquarters knew the situation in detail, but the general outlook was little better. Prisoners amounted to 380, of whom 120 were German, all from 90 Light Division—either 47 or 361 Regiment. The Italians came from Trieste Division, and in the main had fought surprisingly well. All the opposition was still on the front of 5 Infantry Brigade. On that of 6 Infantry Brigade there was only token opposition, for the reason, still not fully appreciated, that the real line of defence was even farther north than had so far been reached.

The enemy showed little desire to counter-attack. Nothing came of the feared assembly opposite 23 Battalion, and his only offensive ground action anywhere was the small attack against the summit of page 335 Takrouna. The defence had centred, only too effectively, on guns, mortars, and small-arms fire, brought down over likely areas of approach and any movement, and mines had hampered movement whatever its nature.

On the flanks of the Division also there was stalemate. The 201st Guards Brigade on the right was able merely to patrol some few miles north of Enfidaville. The 4th Indian Division on the left resisted continuous enemy counter-attacks against its foothold on Djebel el Blida, but made no further advance.

During the morning of 20 April the tanks of 15 Panzer Division moved from the Bou Ficha area west and then south towards the rear of Djebel Mdeker, apparently to be ready in case of a breakthrough on our part. But they were never close enough to be in contact with our troops, and once it was evident that the advance of 2 NZ and 4 Indian Divisions was definitely checked, the tanks were moved back again. During the next day or two they went to the front of First Army. Eighth Army's attack had thus not even pinned down the enemy troops on its front, far less caused the withdrawal of those opposing First Army. The enemy had every reason to be content with the check he had given Eighth Army from the security of his positions based on strong natural defences.

At 11.10 p.m. on 20 April 10 Corps issued a message outlining its plans for the immediate future, but other than foreshadowing the relief of 50 (N) and 2 NZ Divisions and the arrival in the area of 51 (H) and 56 (L) Divisions, the instructions amounted for the moment to ‘hang on to what you've got’. For 2 NZ Division the' interest lay in its relief by 56 (L) Division, followed by further operations northwards, but no date was given for the relief and no details of the operations.

In fact, most senior officers were beginning to wonder just what they could hope to achieve by continuing the attacks in any form.