New Zealand Division on Zaafran, 1 Dec 1941

On 1 Dec 1941 the New Zealand Division was subjected to violent attacks while trying to hold open the corridor into Tobruk. The Axis forces, led by the Afrikakorps, managed to smash 6 NZ Brigade, and to push the New Zealand Division north and out of the battle, severing the corridor. This success led to Rommel’s premature victory claim (see translation at this link), and it led to the NZ Division passing out of the battle , with only its reconnaissance regiment and 5 NZ Brigade remaining on the battlefield for a longer time, and 18 Battalion and 2 companies of 19 Battalion continuing to fight on Belhamed for a few more days. Nevertheless, in Brigadier Inglis view, 4 NZ Brigade, having suffered serious casualties only to 20 Battalion, was capable of continued action on 1 December, provided it had been possible to replenish ammunition and join the two battle groups into which it had split. 5 NZ Brigade needed a headquarters and had lost most of 21 Battalion, but was otherwise fine. 6 NZ Brigade however had to be completely rebuilt, and the same for 6 NZ Field Regiment.

The war diary of the division has a very detailed statement on which elem ents of the division were on the Zaafran outside Tobruk, and this maybe of particular interest to wargamers. I presume these are the forces which were left after 6 NZ Brigade had been overrun.

Battle HQ NZ Division (most vehicles of the actual HQ had been sent into Tobruk the night of 30 November/1 December)
HQ 4 NZ Brigade
HQ 6 NZ Brigade
B Echelon transport of 6 NZ Brigade and small part of B Echelon transport of 4 NZ Brigade (the major part of it had been sent into Tobruk by Brigadier Inglis on 28 November)
Approx. 50 men of 5 NZ Field Park Company (engineers)
6 NZ Field Park Company
8 NZ Field Park Company
19 NZ Battalion less two companies
25 NZ Battalion
4 NZ Field Regiment (artillery)
One troop 6  NZ Field Regiment
6 2-pounders, 6 18-pounders, 7 NZ Anti-Tank Regiment
One battery less one section 14 NZ Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
Approximately 120 South Africans of 5 SA Brigade (actually just 87, according to Brigadier Inglis, who were what remained of the 127 (7 officers, 120 Other Ranks) who had attached themselves to 4 NZ Brigade on 23 November and were formed into a company, equipped with captured rifles and kit, as well as kit from NZ casualties. Their commander, Major Cochran of the South African Irish regiment, was recommended by Brigadier Inglis of 4 NZ Brigade for a Military Cross.)
8 Field Regiment RA (16 guns)
Some guns 65 Anti-Tank Regiment RA
5 Mark II (Matilda) tanks of 44 Royal Tanks
2 Mark III (Valentine) tanks of 8 Royal Tanks (the Valentine tanks get a very bad review in Brigadier Inglis’ report)

A total of some 700 vehicles and 3,500 troops.

Many thanks go to Jon for providing me with copies of the war diaries and the narrative by Brigadier Inglis. The former is kept under WAII 1 DA 21.1-1-24 latter under WAII 1 DA 46-10-13 in the New Zealand archives.

2 thoughts on “New Zealand Division on Zaafran, 1 Dec 1941

  1. Pingback: George Sugden - World War 2 Talk

  2. Pingback: Battalion Kolbeck–The other side of the Hill | The Crusader Project

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