Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment for 29 November 1941

This document was signed by von Mellenthin on 29 November, and received at during the evening on the same day.

1. Enemy Behaviour on 29 Nov. 1941

The expected enemy attack from the south did not take place during the morning, almost certainly due to supply problems. For example, 4 Armoured Division has no ammunition. During the early afternoon hours, battle group Arko 104 is being attacked at and east of B. Bu Cremeisa by 100 British tanks (4 Armoured Brigade). The attack was repulsed, 20 tanks were lost. 1 S.A. Brigade ceases to advance because apparently the ordered redez-vous location has been occupied by the opponent. 22 Armoured and 7 Rifle Brigade attack flank and rear of 21 Panzer Division on the Trigh el Abd in the area southwest of Gambut. Artillery effective on rearward columns. The capture of the GOC 21 Panzer Division is reported. During the evening hours 22 Armoured Brigade disengages again into the same area as yesterday (around B. el Chelb). The same is assumed of 4 Armoured Brigade, since the supply depots are in the area of B. Taieb el Essem..

During the course of the day 4 and 22 Armoured Brigades attempted to delay the advance towards Sidi Rezegh of the D.A.K. and the Italian Division Ariete, but were pushed off to the south. During the late afternoon hours 2 New Zealand Division in the area east of Sidi Rezegh has been enveloped by German forces. By means of a German push from west on S. Rezegh this division was also tied down frontally. Around midday 7 Rifle Brigade, in its resting area of B. Taieb el – Esem, was tasked in northeasterly direction to stop the Italian division Ariete, which advanced north from the area of B. Bu Meliha. The task failed, and in the evening 7 Rifle Brigade jointly with 4 and 22 Armoured Brigades was situated in the area B. el Chelb and east of it. Ring around New Zealand Division tightened in the evening hours. Connection established between 15 Panzer Division which wins Ed Duda and anti-tank battalion of 90. light Division appear 5km north of Belhamed. Even though today the reunion of enemy forces advancing from the south with the troops in Tobruk did not succeed, also tomorrow renewed attacks by these troops have to be expected.

2. Order of Battle:

30 Army Corps (HQ in Maddalena was moved to B. Taieb el Essem) with subordinated 7 Armoured and 1 South African Division, 13 Army Corps (now Tobruk) with Tobruk and New Zealand Divisions.

3. Order of Battle 4 Indian Division

11 Indian Brigade

7 Indian Brigade

5 Indian Brigade

1 Army Tank Brigade

1, 25, and 31 Field Artillery Regiments

68 Medium Artillery Regiment

57 LAA Regiment

65 AT Regiment

8 Field Artillery Regiment

2 South African AT Regiment

4, 11, 12, and 18 Pioneer Companies.

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Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment for 28 November 1941

This document was signed by von Mellenthin on 29 November, and received at 06.25 on the same day.

Enemy Behaviour on 28 Nov. 1941

During the course of the day 4 and 22 Armoured Brigades attempted to delay the advance towards Sidi Rezegh of the D.A.K. and the Italian Division Ariete, but were pushed off to the south. During the late afternoon hours 2 New Zealand Division in the area east of Sidi Rezegh has been enveloped by German forces. By means of a German push from west on S. Rezegh this division was also tied down frontally. Around midday 7 Rifle Brigade, in its resting area of B. Taieb el – Esem, was tasked in northeasterly direction to stop the Italian division Ariete, which advanced north from the area of B. Bu Meliha. The task failed, and in the evening 7 Rifle Brigade jointly with 4 and 22 Armoured Brigades was situated in the area B. el Chelb and east of it.

1 South African Brigade also received the task to advance on S. Rezegh during the afternoon, to secure the area there. Its arrival in the area is not expected before dusk. It has to be expected that the enemy forces on the southern flank of the D.A.K. will on 29 November try, by attacking, to prevent the destruction of 2 New Zealand Division. Enemy grouping otherwise largely unchanged.

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 27 November 1941

This report was received on 28 November.

Arko 104 was forced by night attacks of 2 New Zealand Division to evacuate Belhamed. Around 11.00 hours aerial reconnaissance detects numerous enemy tanks in the area 30 km northeast of B. el Gubi, driving northwest (4 Armoured Brigade). Based on report that German tank columns on Trigh Capuzzo are driving west, 4 Armoured Brigade is turned northeast. 22 Armoured Brigade (until now employed with 2 New Zealand Division) also has to cease its advance towards the northwest and turn around, to attack the opponent threatening the rear of 2 New Zealand Division. Around 15.00 hours 22 Armoured Brigade alone is in combat with German tank forces (21 Panzer Division). 4 Armoured Brigade receives order to accelerate its advance, since it would be too late otherwise. English air attacks are tasked against the German tank formations. Around 15.30 hours 4 Armoured Brigade arrives on the battlefield. Heavy combat continues into the evening. Also today renewed breakout attempts by the opponent in Tobruk. During late afternoon limited successful attacks by Arko 104 target El Duda. In the area southeast B. el Gubi remain remnants 1 New Zealand Brigade, 7 Rifle Brigade, and 22 Guards Brigade. It has to expected that the opponent will also tomorrow continue attack to unite with opponent in Tobruk, probably also by involving enemy forces standing at B. el Gubi.

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 26 November 1941

Received by OKH at 0805 hours, 27 November.

  1. Enemy Behaviour on 26 November 1941

    2 New Zealand Division also today attacked in same combat grouping the battle group Arko 104 (Bel Hamed and southwest of it). Attack repulsed in sometimes bitterly fought combat, as well as a breakout attempt with 50 tanks from Tobruk (area Bir Salem) which was halted by Italian forces.

    Radio intercept of 26 November 1941, whereas supposition that 1 South African Brigade, remnants 7 Armoured Division (area Bir Emba) retreated east has not been confirmed. Remnants 4 Armoured Brigade, 7 Armoured Division, 7 Rifle Brigade, and as yet to be employed 22 Guards Brigade in area Gabr B. Taef el Erem – Gabr Saleh did not undertake major movements. Employment direction Tobruk possible tomorrow. At Trigh el Abd, specifically around B. el Gubi, strong reconnaissance forces.

    Situation at 5 New Zealand Brigade which was attacked by 15 Panzer Division during the afternoon not yet ascertained.

    4 Indian Division according to radio intercept appears today to have taken section of the front running on both sides of the track Gasr el Abid – Bir Rabata, with the task to attack with strong reconnaissance forces enemy east of the wire.

    Heavily knocked 1 South African Brigade in area south of it, newly arrived 2 South African Brigade concentrating in area B. el Aneba and east of it.

    Continued heavy English air attacks.

    POW numbers are rising.

  2. Details
    1. Order of battle: 1 South African Division: 1 South African Brigade with 1 Transvaal Scottish, 1 Natal Carbineers, Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles; 2 South African Brigade; 5 South African Brigade (destroyed or captured), Regiment President Steyn, 1 Artillery Regiment, 3 Reconnaissance Battalion, Divisional Pioneers.
    2. Call-sign tables captured, both issues August 1941, of particular importance.

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 25 November 1941

This report was sent to Berlin at 11.49 hours on 26 November.

Enemy behaviour 25 November 1941

Tobruk front quiet. During the early morning hours attack along the Trigh Capuzzo by the enemy grouping reported yesterday in the area south of Capuzzo on German-Italian defensive group Bel Hamed. Strength of this group, 4 and 6 New Zealand Brigades, 1 battalion 1 Army Tank Brigade, 1 battalion 22 Armoured Brigade.? The apparently not very committed attack was repulsed around mid day. At the enemy grouping southeast B.el Gubi, aerial reconnaissance showed during midday long vehicle columns in southeasterly direction, forward elements at the wire. Apart from local combat with Italian troops in the area east of el Gubi no major combat took place. Remnants 7 Armoured Division remained in prior area today without major movements [replaced by handwritten: moved back area Bir Inba]. Elements 4 Indian Division retreat before German pressure on Sidi Omar in southeastern direction, divisional command staff in the evening around the area B. el Chregat. 5 New Zealand Brigade in defensive combat line Capuzzo – Sollum. 6 Brigade of 2 South African Division 07.00 hours off the startline towards southwest from Sidi Barrani. Evening mass of 21 Panzer in area southeast Halfaya – Cirener, 15 Panzer S. Azeiz (armoured elements) 15 Panzer (motorised elements) area S. Omar and south. There use of strong British air forces. 7 Armoured, 1 South African, 4 Indian [Division] heavily knocked (thus far more than 5,000 POW).

Order of Battle

The following changes in the order of battle: 30 Corps with 1 South African, 2 South African, based at Bir Inba. Moved out 7 Armoured Division (directly under 8 Army command). 1 South African Division remains sub-ordinated, and it is therefore considered possible that this division will also be moved west across the border again (preparations for this have been recognised through aerial reconnaissance). 13 Corps with 2 New Zealand and 4 Indian Divisions.

Details

Two American observers, who accompanied 4 Armoured Brigade, were taken POW. Details to follow.

Taking L.G. 125 out of commission – Luftwaffe attacks on 23 November 1941

09-12-13: I have updated this post following a detailed discussion at 12 o’clock high:

In order to allow strafing attacks and fighter cover deep in the interior of the Axis position, a landing ground was established far to the south in the desert. This was found by Axis air recce and then subjected to attack in order to put it out of commission, since it posed a considerable risk to the Axis rear area installations. In order to combat it, and the advance of Force E to Gialo, a very strong ‘Benina Group’ was assembled by the German air force, consisting of the full strength of LG1, the Ju 88 equipped bomber unit in theatre, and a group of StG3, a dive bomber unit equipped with Ju 87. In total over 50 bombers were assigned to this task of rear area protection, at a time when the battle was at a critical juncture outside Tobruk.

L.G.125 had No. 33 Squadron (long-range Hurricanes), No.113 Squadron (fighter Blenheim IVF with additional machine-guns under the fuselage) and a battle flight of No. 73 Squadron (Hurricanes) based on it.  A discussion about the long-range Hurricane can be found at this link. The long-range Hurricane with the extra underwing tanks was not exactly a stellar performer.

Image

EGYPT, WWII. “HURRICANES ON PATROL – CARRYING 2 45-GALLON LONG-RANGE TANKS.” – From the AWM

23 November was the day when a concerted effort seems to have been made to take L.G.125 out of commission. There were at least four separate encounters on the day above LG125:

1) recce by two Bf 110 of Stab/StG3 after 0540 German time
2) Attack by I./NJG2 at 0815 German time
3) Attack by Benina Group at 1107 German time
4) Attack by Benina Group at 1515 German time

In addition there was a recce at 0720 by III/LG1 which does not seem to have led to an encounter, although this may have been the cause for the scramble that led to the loss of the Bf110.

Losses suffered by the German force in these attacks were 2x Ju 88 NJG2 damaged severely, and 1x Bf 110.

Below are excerpts from German messages relating to the events of the day, from the ULTRA intercepts held in Kew.

CX/MSS/459/T30
Following operations report from for 23/11 sent by Fliegerfuehrer AFRIKA IC to Fliegerkorps X and ITALUFT at 1730/23/11:-
“0540 hours 2 Bf.110 of Stab Stuka 3 on recce S. of DERNA as far as 30 degrees N. 1 Bf. 110 brought confirmation of the 2 field aerodromes. 1 Bf.110 missing .
[…]”

CX/MSS/458/T16 (note this was the morning report of action on the previous day, 22/11)
On 23/11 O.C. BENINA Group reported as follows: (document badly torn in parts)
“…. occupied by 25 to 30 twin-engined and 15 single-engined a/c and about 200 M/T.
0700 to 0900 hours:
No enemy forces on BENGHAZI – TRIPOLI road in area square 81-91 E.13: normal traffic of single M/T units in both directors.
Thirdly: operations 1107 to 1116 attack with 23 Ju.88 on enemy aerodrome square 2186 – E 23. with very good results. 5 to 6 a/c were left burning fiercely. Strong splinter results may be assumed. Fighter defences consisting of 8 Hurricanes over target. One Ju.88 shot down 2 Hurricanes. Medium and heavy A.A. Losses: 2 Ju.88 missing, one crew saved.
1515 – 1520 ours:
2 Ju.88 bombed the same target with good hits in the area. Strong light A.A.
1430 hours
Square 1235 – East 23, one man dropping by parachute, probably forced landing of missing a/c mentioned above. Rescue operation follows on 23/11.
Please send a Storch to BENINA.
Readiness return for 23/11. (Roman) I LG.1, 5 Ju.88 (Roman II LG.1 4 Ju.88, (Roman) I Stuka 3, 27 Ju.87. Detachment of NJG.2, 6 Ju.88.

Image

Flying Officer L C Wade of No. 33 Squadron RAF, photographed at Gambut, Libya, after being awarded the DFC for his successes in the Western Desert fighting. Lance Wade, a Texan, joined the RAF in Canada in 1940 after being turned down by the USAAC. After pilot training in the United Kingdom, he joined No. 33 Squadron in Egypt and claimed his first victories on 18 November 1941 when he shot down two Italian Fiat CR42s. He took part in the heaviest fighting in the Western Desert before completing his first tour of operations in September 1942. He then toured training establishments and test-flew aircraft in the USA before returning to operations in North Africa as a flight commander with No. 145 Squadron RAF in January 1943. He was made Commanding Officer the following month and added to his victory claims over Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, before ending his second tour as the top-scoring Allied fighter pilot in the Mediterranean area in November 1943. Wade was promoted to Wing Commander and joined the staff at Desert Air Force Headquarters, only to be killed during a routine flight when his Auster spun and crashed at Foggia on 12 January 1944. He remains the highest-scoring American pilot to serve solely in the RAF, with 25 victories. – From the IWM.

CX/MSS/458/T40
Following report from Sonderkdo. JUNG, signed Ltn. SCHULZ, was sent to H.Q. L.G.1 on the evening of 23/11:-
“Armed recce in squares 015, 016, 215 and 216 E.23. In square 2168 W. of an English landing ground a very large number of M/T tracks were observed, running from E.N.E. to W.S.W. The landing ground appeared to be a base on the line of advance observed. The landing ground was occupied by M/T and a/c. Heavy Flak defence by light … (a part missing here) … R4+NK Pilot Obltn. HARMS made a belly landing in CATANIA at 1147 owing to the hydraulic apparatus being shot up. R4+HK, crew Lt. VOIGT and Fw. WOLFF, was shot down at 0815, probably while making a low level attack on British landing ground. The a/c was not seen again after the attack.”
Note: Sonderkdo. JUNG refers to (ROMAN) I/NJG.2 (cf. MSS/455/T9 and Note).

See at this link and this link for more information on NJG2 in North Africa.

CX/MSS/460/T87
Special Detachment JUNG Abt. IA informed H.Q. Luftgau Lehrgeschwader 1 BENINA, near BENGHAZI on afternoon of 23/11 that Ju 88 R4+HK had made contact with enemy and then landed in BENGHAZI, after receiving 50 hits.

CX/MSS/461/T40
Panzergruppe AFRIKA and German AFRIKA Corps morning report for 24/11, sent to Fliegerkorps X (Roman Ic. and ITALUFT:-
Own air activity in addition to report for 23/11:
Reconnaissance from BENINA by 5 Ju 88.’s of (Roman) I LG.1, East of AGEDABIA to BENGHAZI, without result.
At 0720 1 Ju 88 of III/L.G.1 reported that apart from numerous vehicle tracks no signs of enemy occupation were seen. In square 1061 E 23 an abandoned aerodrome was attacked with 20 bombs which fell on the landing ground. Also the field aerodrome in square 2185 was again recognized, occupied by 10, 2 F.G. and 3 (?0) lorries. 3 Hurricanes over the aerodrome. […]
Note: The sentence “10, 2 F.G. and 3 (?0) lorries” was obscure, and has been translated literally.

Ju88-A4 Trop L1+AA of the Wing Commander Major Knust on the return flight to Greece from North Africa, September 1941.

Ju88-A4 Trop L1+AA of the Wing Commander Major Knust on the return flight to Greece from North Africa, September 1941. From Bundesarchiv via Wikipedia.

No. 33 Squadron ORB for the day reads as follows:

Six a/c were at readiness throughout the day. At 0820 P/O Winsland and F/O Anderson took off to intercept an enemy recco a/c. A Me 110 was shot down and crashed [1]. Three a/c scrambled at 0930 hours and about 1000 hours two JU88 carried out a low-level bombing attack on the L.G. without any damage. One JU.88 was shot down by A.A. fire and the other severely damaged by the three a/c on patrol. [2] There were three more scrambles during the rest of the day but no enemy a/c intercepted. [3] F/O Anderson did not return from the last patrol. It is presumed he force-landed owning to darkness. F/Lt Noel-Johnson carried out a reconnaissance of the surrounding country to locate enemy a/c on the ground.

[1] The Bf 110 lost from Stab/StG3

[2] Probably the attack by 1/NJG2, which led to one damaged and one severely damaged aircraft.

[3] Attacks by Benina Group – LG1

Robert on 12 o’clock high has further information on the NJG2 damage, R4+HK was for a while believed lost.

23.11.41
Ju 88C-4 2./NJG2 W.Nr.0556 hit by flak by Benghazi and belly-landed at Catania 25%
Olt. Harmstorf (FF), Uffz. Krogull (BF) and Uffz. Schiffbaenker (BM) all unhurt
23.11.41
Ju 88C-2 2./NJG2 W.Nr.0712 R4+HK damaged by Hurricane by Benghazi (10%)
Lt. Voigt (FF), Fw. Zimmermann (Bf) unhurt; Uffz. Bodden (BM) WIA

Further reading:

Goon in the Block – memoir of P/O Edy

The Coleraine Battery – 6 LAA Battery which provided AA Defense

No. 113 Squadron

Panzergruppe Daily Intelligence Assessments by Day – Overview Table

The table below gives easy access to the daily reports. The background to these reports is as follows:

The reports were made daily to the High Command of the Army’s Foreign Armies West office (OKH – Fremde Heere West) in Berlin. They were normally a page long and followed a fairly standard format. The reports presented here, unlike e.g. war diaries or combat reports which could often be written up long after the events, were not written with the benefit of hindsight, they are the real view of the intelligence department on the day, or the evening at the end of the day. The time stamps and notifications on them make this clear. They are therefore fairly unique documents that give the reader a direct insight into what the Panzergruppe command was thinking about who and where the enemy were, and what they did and intended to do in the CRUSADER battle.

The reports originated from the Ic (intelligence) department in the Panzergruppe staff, headed by Major von Mellenthin. The assessment was based on the analysis of reports from combat units, POW interrogations, radio interception and aerial reconnaissance from both German and Italian sources. Given the complexity and rapidity of events it was often wrong of course, and it reflects the German view of the battle as it evolved, rather than sober historical analysis, and as such is a prime first-hand source on the battle.

An editorial note, I have tried to preserve the reports as much as possible in translating and transcribing them. The result is sometimes stilted English, and that there are strikethroughs in the reports. My guess for their production is as follows: the initial report was handwritten, then typed up. While this happened further thought would be given to the situation, and when the handwritten version was handed to von Mellenthin for sign-off, he introduced further changes by striking out elements and/or adding handwritten notes. This would then be passed on to the radio room for transmission. Since this somewhat illuminates the thought process underlying the analysis, I am trying to preserve it as much as I can. Furthermore, I am trying to use the Dominion Army designations unless there is a good reason to use the German designations. But that will remain a judgement call, and I hope it makes sense.

A word of warning – these reports are very raw. They will only make sense if you have some background knowledge of Operation CRUSADER. Whatever you do, do NOT try to get this knowledge from these reports. There are far too many errors in them.

November 41

December 41

December 41

January 41

January 41

February 41

18 November 1 December 16 December 1 January 16 January 1 February
19 November 2 December 17 December 2 January 17 January 2 February
20 November 3 December 18 December 3 January 18 January 3 February
21 November 4 December 19 December 4 January 19 January 4 February
22 November 5 December 20 December 5 January 20 January (not issued)
5 February
23 November 6 December 21 December 6 January 21 January 6 February
24 November 7 December 22 December 7 January 22 January (not issued)
25 November 8 December 23 December 8 January 23 January
26 November 9 December 24 December 9 January 24 January
27 November 10 December 25 December 10 January 25 January
28 November 11 December 26 December 11 January 26 January
29 November 12 December 27 December 12 January 27 January
30 November 13 December 28 December 13 January 28 January
14 December 29 December 14 January 29 January
15 December 30 December 15 January 30 January Sample Air Recce Report
31 December 31 January Sample radio intercept report