Losses in Operation Crusader

There are some interesting discrepancies in the statistics.

The first set of numbers is from the Panzerarmee War Diary, drawn up shortly after the battle.


OR = other ranks (soldiers who are not officers)

KIA = killed in action

WIA = wounded in action

MIA = Missing in action

German losses (Officers/Other Ranks – Share of total strength on 18/11/41)
KIA 104/1,032 (7%/7%)
WIA 144/3,339 (8.5%/7%)
MIA 201/9,940 (10.5%/20%) (of these 4,500 Bardia/Halfaya)
Total 449/14,311 (14,760)

Italian losses (Off/OR – Share total strength on 18/11/41)
KIA 85/951 (3%/1.5%)
WIA 155/1.967 (4%/3%)
MIA 1.172/17.382 (34%/30%) (of these 8,000 Bardia/Halfaya)
Total 1,412/20,300 (21,712)

Axis total: 1,816/35,060 (36,876)

Axis Material (Share total strength on 18/11/41)
Tanks 220/120 (85%/80%)
Guns 42/181 (40%/48%)
Aircraft 170/105 (160%/150%)

The Panzerarmee War Diary assumes Commonwealth losses as this:

10.000 KIA/WIA
12.000 POW
1.623 armoured vehicles (tanks/AC/carriers)
2.500 motor vehicles
329 Aircraft

The British official history, which is based on German/Italian records and of course the Commonwealth unit records, gives the following losses to mid January, without Rommel’s counter offensive.

Total strength/KIA/WIA/MIA/Total/Share of strength 18/11/41
German 65,000/1,100/3,400/10,100/14,600/22%
Ital. 54,000/1,200/2,700/19,800/23,700/43%
Axis total 119,000/2,300/6,100/29,900/38,300/32% (13,800 of these MIA
in Bardia/Halfaya)

British losses 118,000/2,900/7,300/7,500/17,700/15%

The counter offensive at end Jan. was no big deal for either side interms of losses, apart from the ca. 1,000 POW of 7th Indian Brigade,which was encircled east of Benghazi but able to break out. Nevertheless this must account for most of the discrepancy in the POW numbers of the Commonwealth forces.

Now for the real puzzle: Italian numbers for Italian losses are much higher than either the British or German numbers:

Italian losses from Italian Official History 15/11/41 to 15/1/42
Autom. support weapons: 3.200
Mortars 89x81mm/307x45mm
Tanks 63 medium/187 light (all light tanks lost)
Armoured Cars 25
Anti-Aircraft guns 320
Guns all calibres 584
Motor vehicles 5.000

The Italian official history also gives Axis strength as higher than the British OH:

Germans 70,000
Italians 100,000 (they count everyone including chaps in Libya, is my guess)

As you can see there are significant discrepancies in the numbers, and the KTB of PAA has to be seen as the absolute lowest for the Axis losses. It is likely that the most relevant number is the one from the British official history.

If anyone has further insight, please contact me.

4 thoughts on “Losses in Operation Crusader

  1. Pingback: The tragedy of the POWs killed at sea « The Crusader Project

  2. Discrepancies on losses aside, I’d take the “Official History” of anything with a large grain of salt. Brit OH of WW I, for instance, written by Haig’s cronies, is a notorious crock. I could bore you with a few hundred other concrete examples but, some other time. Just in general, I think the truth about anything lies in creating as dense a web as possible of eyewitness-participant accounts.


  3. Pingback: Naval Personnel Losses during Operation CRUSADER « The Crusader Project

  4. Pingback: Bardia, Halfaya, and the January Offensive – The Crusader Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s