A Tragic Mistake

A Tragic Mistake

There’s no such thing as ‘friendly fire’…

The following is from the war diary of the Italian Corpo di Armata di Manovra, the motorised corps comprising the Ariete armoured and Trieste motorised division. The diary entry is from 19 December, when C.A.M. brought up the rear of the Axis retreat through the desert.


Italian M13/40 medium tanks on the march. Unknown date and time.

At 16.30 hours, a formation of Stukas, despite the display of the national signs and flags, and the launch of recognition signals, violently bombarded the column in error, provoking damage that in the first instance appeared to be not grave, but on further investigation became noteworthy:

  • Command C.A.M.: 33 dead, 35 wounded, 3 vehicles destroyed and about ten damaged so heavily they could not be repaired.
  • Division Trieste: 11 dead, 21 wounded, and about ten vehicles damaged
  • Division Ariete: 3 dead, 5 wounded, 4 vehicles destroyed and many damaged.

In total, 47 dead, 61 wounded, 17 vehicles destroyed or damaged beyond repair, and another 10+ vehicles damaged. Probably one of the more effective dive-bombing attacks of the campaign. Losses the already hard hit C.A.M. could ill afford.

Many thanks go to Michele for digging this war diary out.

Panzergruppe Afrika Intelligence Assessment – 19 November 1941

Another day into the battle, but still the German command is left wondering. The fog of war was still thick…


Ic attempts to establish through heavy air reconnaissance whether the enemy advance might be the expected and possible big offensive of the English.

Enemy radio traffic continues to be silent for the time being.

Ariete reports attacks from southwest, elements 7th Armoured Division occupy Bir Gubi.

Enemy behaviour see 20.XI.41

On the second day it was clear that still, nothing was clear.

Panzergruppe Afrika Intelligence Assessment – 18 November 1941

I will try to be disciplined and post these on a daily basis now, for every day of the campaign. Can’t promise that I will be able to maintain this…


Almost complete wireless silence of the English units. Air reconnaissance could not be flown due to the bad weather, airfields of the Luftwaffe are muddied up, Uadis are carrying high water. On the afternoon of 18.11. 21.Panzer-Div. reports clash of reconnaissance group with strong enemy reconnaissance forces (see attachment).

Thus the first day of CRUSADER ended with Panzergruppe none the wiser about what was going on.