Battle of Bardia
The Battle of Bardia was fought between 3 and 5 January 1941, as part of Operation Compass. It was the first British military operation of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The victory at Bardia enabled the Allied forces to continue the advance into Libya and capture almost all of Cyrenaica. It led to Operation Sonnenblume, German intervention in the fighting in North Africa.
About Battle of Bardia in brief
The Battle of Bardia was fought between 3 and 5 January 1941, as part of Operation Compass. It was the first British military operation of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The victory at Bardia enabled the Allied forces to continue the advance into Libya and capture almost all of Cyrenaica. It led to Operation Sonnenblume, German intervention in the fighting in North Africa, changing the nature of the war in the theatre. The 6th Australian Division assaulted the strongly held Italian fortress of Barda, Libya, assisted by air support and naval gunfire and under the cover of an artillery barrage. The 16th Australian Infantry Brigade attacked at dawn from the west, where the defences were known to be weak. Sappers blew gaps in the barbed wire with Bangalore torpedoes and filled in and broke down the sides of the anti-tank ditch with picks and shovels. This allowed the infantry and 23 Matilda II tanks of the 7th Royal Tank Regiment to enter the fortress and capture all their objectives, along with 8,000 prisoners. The Italian garrisons in the north surrendered to the 16th Australia Infantry Brigade and the Support Group of the7th Armoured Division outside the fortress. In all, some 36,000 Italian prisoners were taken. Unlike the Great Sand Sea, the Libyan Desert is stony rather than sandy, but no less arid, with little vegetation and almost no food or water. Close nights could be bitterly cold and days could still be uncomfortably hot, yet the ground was broken by wadis.
Military vehicles could traverse the stony desert with little difficulty, although the heat, dust and wind caused their rapid deterioration. Because it was so thinly populated, bombs and shells could be used with minimal risk of civilian casualties. The 4th Indian Division assumed command of the area on 21 December 1940, and it and Mackay of the Indian Division were sent to the Sudan to replace it. On 11 December, General Sir Archibald Wavell decided to send the Australian 4th Division to participate in the East African Campaign. On 21 December, the Australian 6th Division was brought forward to replace the Indian 6th division and it was assumed control of the region. On 9 December, Major General Richard O’Connor attacked the Italian position at Sidi Barrani. The position was captured, 38,000Italian soldiers were taken prisoner, and the remainder of the Italian force was driven back. The Western Desert Force pursued the Italians into Libya, and 7th Armouring Division established itself to the west of the Bardia, cutting off land communications between the strong Italian garrison there and Tobruk. On 13 September 1940, an Italian force advanced across the frontier into Egypt, reaching SidiBarrani on 16 September, but the advance was halted until logistical difficulties could be overcome. A convoy that departed the United Kingdom in August 1940 brought guns, stores, ammunition, and three armoured regiments, including the 7st Royal tank Regiment, equipped with MatildaII tanks.