In an earlier post (at this link) I have provided some information on the arrival of Special Purpose Unit 288 (Sonderverband 288 – SV288) in North Africa, and at this link on the arrival of the first Brandenburger special forces under Lieutenant von Koehnen.
SV288 was sent in pieces as reinforcements between November 1941 and May 1942. An ULTRA intercept of 14 January 1942 gives a nice bit of detail on this unit. It refers to a report of 12 January 1942.
MK 1836/ AL 1679/ AIC
- HQ Company
- No.2 Company Mountain Rifle (Gebirgsjaeger)
- No.3 Company Rifles (Schuetzen/infantry)
- No. 4 Company Machine Guns
- No. 6 Company Anti Aircraft
- No. 7 Company Engineers (Pioniere)
Total strength: 1,535 all ranks
- 85 motorcycles
- 154 vehicles
- 202 lorries
- 26 tractors
No mention is made of the No. 1 and No. 5 companies. Strength of detachment of Special Unit 288 formerly at Benghazi on 28 November was 292 all ranks. These may represent combined strength of No. 1 and No. 5 companies. Report of 12 January does not mention location or destination of sub-units. But it is believed they maybe en route for or already in Greece before being sent to Tripoli either for ultimate employment in forward area or in Tripoli itself.
The ULTRA interpretation was not far off regarding the two missing companies. No. 1 Company was a company from the German special forces regiment ‘Lehrregiment 800′, more commonly known as Brandenburger. No. 5 Company was the Anti-Tank company, which was equipped with the (at the time) powerful 5cm PAK38. These elements, together with some support (engineers, HMG) had been sent during autumn to shore up the defences of Benhghazi. See this older post on Detachment von Koenen at this link.
No. 5 Company also included a section of 3 self-propelled assault guns of the Sturmgeschuetz III type. These were sent to North Africa during late winter 1941/42, and participated in the Gazala battles, where at least one was lost. It appears the other was lost when it ran out of fuel during the retreat from El Alamein, and the last one on surrender of the Axis forces at Cape Bon.
Stug III Ausf.D of Sonderverband 288 being inspected by South Africans (IIRC) after its capture at Gazala.