I am in the fortunate position to have a copy of the whole of 15. Panzerdivision’s war diary for the period thanks to a fellow researcher. At the end of it, there is an overview of the losses suffered by the division during CRUSADER and the counter-offensive. It is quite instructive, especially in terms of officer losses, which seem very heavy to me. Number in brackets officer casualties, contained in total number.
|Overview of Losses of 15. Panzerdivision by Phase of the Operation|
|18 Nov to 31 Dec||435 (43)||1,361 (52)||1,820 (35)||Main battle, loss of Tobruk, retreat to Agheila|
|1 Jan to 12 Jan||2||5||1||Establishment in Mersa el Brega Position|
|13 Jan to 20 Jan||1||4 (2)||9 (1)||Static Defense in Mersa el Brega Position|
|21 Jan to 26 Jan||11 (2)||41 (4)||1||Counter-Offensive towards Msus|
|27 Jan to 2 Feb||8 (1)||23 (2)||7||Battle for Benghazi & the Jebel|
|3 Feb to 10 Feb||4||4||Move up to the Gazala line|
|Halfaya Pass||280 (3)||1./SR104|
|11 Feb to 20 Feb||23 (1)||48 (1)||15 (1)||Static Defense in Gazala Line|
|Total||480 (47)||1,486 (63)||2,137 (40)||Total for division 4,103 (150)|
North Africa.- Erwin Rommel mit Generalmajor Alfred Gause und Oberst Erwin Menny; PK “Afrika” Bundesarchiv Bildarchiv Bild 101I-784-0208-32A – while the picture is dated June 1942 (its release date), I am reasonably certain it dates to the counteroffensive in January 1942, or even earlier during Operation CRUSADER. The clothes are what Rommel wore during the winter period. The Bundesarchiv label says it shows Rommel during a visit to Italian troops. This is almost certainly a mislabelling, and it is far more likely to show a visit to the HQ of either 15. Panzerdivision or 15. Schuetzenbrigade.
- Almost 90% of the losses had been suffered by 31 December 1941, indicating that operations after this time were relatively light in combat.
- Of particular note is the very small number of officers in the battalion lost at Halfaya when the position surrendered on 17 January 1942. In total the division lost six battalion commanders, one regimental or battalion commander (Lt.Col. Zinke – maybe someone can confirm his command?), and its General Officer commanding, killed, wounded or missing.
- Of further note is the very high share of officers killed, compared to those wounded, or missing (10%/4%/2%). Probably something about officers leading from the front.
- On 10 February the unfilled positions compared to war establishment in the division amounted to 6,201 (159 officers). The discrepancy could be due to sick/evacuated, and maybe the division was a bit understrength before the start of the battle.
- On 11 February the division reported a ration strength (this includes sick and those on holidays, as well a subordinated units drawing supplies from the division I believe) of 5,354. If this number is combined with the understrength figure, we arrive at a war establishment of 11,555, which is probably not unrealistic, and of which 54% were not present. Indeed, on 11 November the division reported a ration strength of 12,160.
Five Knights Crosses seem to have been awarded for the battle, to Colonels Menny and and Crassmann on 26 December 41, Captain Wahl on 6 January 42, First Lieutenant Struckmann on 21 January 1941, and posthumously to Major Fenski on 2 January 42 (he fell on Totensonntag).