Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Series One: Army

Volume 1

To Benghazi

By Gavin Long

Australian War Memorial



The writers of these volumes have been given full access to official documents, but they and the general editor are alone responsible for the statements and opinions which the volumes contain.

Table of Contents


List of Events from 31 March 1939 to 25 March 1941

Chapter 1: Between The Wars

Chapter 2: A Second AIF

Chapter 3: The Volunteers

Chapter 4: To the Middle East

Chapter 5: After the Fall of France

Chapter 6: Victory at Sidi Barrani

Chapter 7: Before Bardia

Chapter 8: The Battle of Bardia

Chapter 9: The Capture of Tobruk

Chapter 10: The Engagement at Derna

Chapter 11: Beda Fomm and Benghazi

Chapter 12: The Capture of Giarabub


Appendix 1: The AIF in the United Kingdom

Appendix 2: The 6th Division’s Operation Order for the Capture of Bardia

Appendix 3: Abbreviations

Appendix 4: AIF Colour Patches, 1941



Militia exercises at Port Stephens, October 1938 – An 18-pounder field gun firing during exercises – Senior leaders of the Second AIF – Victorian recruits for the 6th Division entraining at Flemington, Victoria – At sea with the first convoy, January 1940 – The Middle East Commanders-in-Chief – A race meeting organised by the 6th Division at Barbara, Palestine – The 2/6th Battalion in Palestine and Egypt – “The Head Man” (cartoon by David Low) – Exercises in the Western Desert – Italian lines at Tummar – Infantry tanks in the Western Desert – Handling a cargo at Salum – Lieut-General R. N. O’Connor and Major-General I. G. Mackay – Living conditions outside Bardia – Infantrymen advancing towards Bardia – Infantrymen advancing on Bardia – Engineers at the anti-tank ditch – Sheltering in an anti-tank ditch at Bardia – An abandoned Italian battery position – Upper and Lower Bardia – British Infantry tanks advancing towards Tobruk – Brigadiers A. S. Allen and L. J. Morshead – Infantrymen at Tobruk – Captured Italian tanks – Infantrymen advancing towards Tobruk – On the heights overlooking Tobruk from the south – Italian prisoners – Australian troops approaching Derna – The road climbing the escarpment from Derna – The advance to Giovanni Berta – An abandoned ammunition dump near the Wadi Cuff – Overlooking the Italian colonies near Barce – Captured Italian tanks at Beda Fomm – The ceremony at the capture of Benghazi – Giarabub – Giarabub – The staff of the 6th Division at Barraca – Mr S. M. Bruce with Australian soldiers in England – Sawing competition between New Zealand and Australian foresters – The march of Australian foresters through New York


The Middle East – Bardia, dusk 3rd January 1941 – Tobruk, 11 a.m. 21st January 1941 – Derna, night 29th–30th January 1941 – The advance to Beda Fomm and Benghazi: dusk 5th February 1941 – Giarabub: 2/9th Battalion’s attack, 21st March 1941

Sketch Maps

Australia: Military Districts and Command areas, 3rd September 1939 – Palestine: Leave towns and military encampments – Cyrenaica – Greek-Albanian frontier area – Alexandria area – The attack on Sidi Barrani, 9th December 1940 – Italian dispositions at Sidi Barrani, December 1940 – The advance of detachments 7th Armoured Division to the Bardia–Tobruk road, 14th December 1940 – The encirclement of Bardia, December 1940 – Forward battalions of the 6th Division, 1st January 1941 – Forward companies of the 2/6th Battalion, 1st–2nd January 1941 – The plan of the attack on Bardia – The 16th Brigade dispositions at midday, 3rd January 1941 – The 2/5th Battalion in the Wadi Scemmas, 3rd January – Forward companies of the 2/5th and 2/7th Battalions, dusk 3rd January – Forward companies of the 2/5th and 2/7th Battalions, morning 4th January – The 2/6th Battalion in the Wadi Muatered – The situation on the southern flank at Bardia, dusk 3rd January – The 16th Brigade’s attack at Bardia, 4th January – Bardia to Tobruk – The plan of attack at Tobruk – The advance of the 2/8th Battalion on Ford Pilastrino, 21st January – Tobruk: position at dusk 21st January – Tobruk to Cyrene – The 19th Brigade dispositions at Derna, morning 26th January – Dispositions at Derna, dusk 31st January – The Mediterranean area – British and Italian dispositions, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, midday 10th – East Africa – The Egyptian frontier – Giarabub