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Bardia to Enfidaville

Enemy Reaction

Enemy Reaction

The enemy troops made no special moves until the afternoon of the 14th, but continued to resist the British advance along and immediately south of the Via Balbia, and were much heartened by the fight put up by Ariete Group. The 33rd Reconnaissance Unit patrolled south and south-east from Merduma, but by evening had found nothing. The petrol position, especially for Africa Corps, was bad: units had barely enough to cover the next stage of withdrawal. The ammunition position was also poor, artillery having only a third of its normal issue.

Then, about 4 p.m., a change came over the situation when air reconnaissance revealed the presence of a strong enemy force including tanks (‘probably an armoured division’) advancing west and north-west at a point south of Giofer. In other words the move of 2 NZ Division from Stage III was discovered, although its identity was not known. The enemy expected that this move would be continued during the night with the object of penetrating through Merduma towards Nofilia—a remarkably accurate forecast. The discovery brought immediate action, for at 4.15 p.m. the codeword was issued for all troops to withdraw at once clear of page 41 the El Mugtaa Narrows, and for 33 Reconnaissance Unit to advance south-east towards Bir Scemmer. Rommel considered that if 15 and 21 Panzer Divisions had had enough petrol, there would have been a good chance of a successful counter-attack against the out-flanking force; but such a move was out of the question.