Bender & Law Correction to their “Uniforms Organization and History of the Afrikakorps”

This is coming from a discussion at the AHF at this link. Basically DavidW was wondering why Bender & Law have a company of Fla-Btl 617 in North Africa in 1941 that he has only present after March. DavidR helpfully provided the exact text from p. 114., which I have copied below, although I have reformatted it for easier reading, and added some explanations in the ‘Branch’ and ‘Strength’ columns:

“Kampfgruppe Menny” was formed prior to, or shortly after the opening phases of the assault on the Gazala Line (December 13-16, 1941). A second “Kampfgruppe Menny” was formed around April 2, 1943 (47)

Unit Notes Bender & Law Branch Strength
2./Panzer-Regiment 8 (one platoon of Pzkw IVs) Tanks 1 company (22 tanks)
3./Panzerjager-Abteilung 33 AT 1 company (12 guns)
Panzer-Aufklaerungs-Abteilung 33 Recce 1 battalion
Teile Panzer-Nachrichten-Abteilung 78 Signals Elements
II./Schutzen-Regiment 115 Infantry 1 battalion (3 rifle coys)
I./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion (12 how)
III./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion (8 how/4 guns)
1./Flak-Abteilung 18 (Luftwaffe) Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 battery (4 guns)
3./Flak-Abteilung 617 Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 company (12 guns)
one Panzer-Abteilung of Division Ariete tanks 1 battalion (52 tanks)
one Batterie Sfl. from Division Ariete Artillery 1 battery (4 SP guns)
one Kr. K.W.-Zug Ambulance 1 platoon
one Horch-Zug Signals (radio intercept) 1 platoon

The footnote (47) above states:
“Microfilm Publication T315, roll 666, frame 001272, and The Relief of Tobruk, pp. 499-500”.

David adds:

The reference in the New Zealand OH above does not mention any of the German units of Kampfgruppe Menny other than “the composite battalion of 115 Infantry Regiment”. It is merely a two page account of the destruction of 1st Bn, The Buffs at Point 204 on December 15th.

Now for the errata:

1) The document on which this OOB is based is indeed numbered correctly, but explicitly states that it refers to the organisation of KG Menny on 22 April, when it was established to backstop a forward push of Italian infantry division Brescia with the aim to prevent continued deep recce advances by Empire forces into the southern flank of the Axis position.  Bender and Law made some errors transcribing the OOB, which are corrected below.

Unit Notes (note in bold differs from Bender & Law) Branch Strength
2./Panzer-Regiment 8 reinforced by one platoon of Pzkw IVs Tanks 1 company (22 Panzer III, 4 Panzer IV)
3./Panzerjager-Abteilung 33 AT 1 company (12 guns)
Panzer-Aufklaerungs-Abteilung 33 Without armoured platoon, reinforced by one platoon 3./Panzerjaeger 33 Recce 1 battalion
Teile Panzer-Nachrichten-Abteilung 78 Signals Elements
II./Schutzen-Regiment 115 without II./SR115   Infantry 1 battalion (3 rifle coys)
I./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion (12 light field how)
III./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion
(4 light how/4 heavy how/4 guns)
1./Flak-Abteilung 18 (Luftwaffe) Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 battery (4 guns)
3./Flak-Abteilung 617 Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 company (12 guns)
one Panzer-Abteilung of Division Ariete tanks 1 battalion (52 tanks)
one Batterie Sfl. from Division Ariete Artillery 1 battery (4 SP guns)
one Kr. K.W.-Zug Ambulance 1 platoon
one Horch-Zug Signals 1 platoon

2) The major error in Bender & Law is to not be clear on what their OOB refers to, i.e. the first or second formation of KG Menny. KG Menny was first formed before the first battle in the Gazala line opened, the order for its establishment was given by D.A.K. on the evening of 11 December 1941.

3) The OOB in December 1941 was rather different altogether from that of April 1942, and is set out below. This is based on the war diaries, D.A.K. and 15. Pz.Div., as well as various reports in T315 roll 666. The table below does not reflect the initial strength, but rather the best available information on its strength during the attack on 5 Indian Brigade on 15 December 1941, which led to the destruction of The Buffs.

Unit Branch Strength
Panzer-Regiment 8 Tanks 5x Panzer II
16x Panzer III
2x Panzer IV
2x Large Command Tank
Panzer-Regiment 5 (Company Rocholl) Tanks 2x Panzer II
6x Panzer III
1x Large Command Tank
3./Panzerjager-Abteilung 33 AT 7-12 Pak 38 5cm, 1 Pak 35 3.7cm
MG Battalion 2 with one light battery AR33 subordinated Infantry (motorised) 4 coys, including one support coy, but probably very weakened due to losses outside Tobruk.
4x light howitzer
I./Artillerie-Regiment 33 (2. and 3. Battery, subordinated 9./AR33 and 6./AR155) artillery 1 reinforced battalion (12 light field how, 4 heavy field how)
Elements I./Flak-Abteilung 33 (Luftwaffe) Anti Aircraft Artillery 3 batteries:
4x 88mm (3. Battery)
12-20x 20mm (4./5. Battery, some subordinated to MG2 and II./SR115)
In support:
II./AR33 Artillery 12x light howitzer
II./Schuetzen Regiment 115 Infantry (motorised) 1 reinforced battalion

Panzergruppe Intel Assessment 31 December 1941

1. Enemy Behaviour on 31 December 1941

The heavily knocked 22nd Armoured Brigade has retreated up to the area south of Msus, according to radio intercepts. Based on aerial reconnaissance the 22nd Guards Brigade has retreated from the Agedabia front to the northwest and is now with its mass in the area Saunnu – Antelat. On the other hand, Polish Brigade south of Beda Fomm with most forward elements now just north of the Agedabia position. According to radio intercepts the Command Staff 1st Armoured Division or the Command Staff 2nd Armoured Brigade are moving into the battle zone. Aerial reconnaissance reports 500 motor vehicles on the track Gazala – Mechili, moving west.

2. Overall impression

Because of the failure of 22nd Armoured Brigade 13 Corps has retreated with strong elements. The bringing up of reinforcements, especially armoured units that are currently lacking, has to be expected soonest.

Panzergruppe Intel Assessment 30 December 1941

1. Enemy Behaviour 30 December 1941

22nd Armoured Brigade retreated, pushed by Group Cruewell, across the track Agedabia – Giof el Matar, to the northeast. In this engagement another 48 tanks were destroyed today. With this the total number of tanks destroyed in the last three days rises to 136. Otherwise enemy situation as yesterday.

2. Details

a) Prisoners were made from the following units:

4th County of London Yeomanry, 122nd Light AA Battery of 13th AA Regiment, 2 RHA, 12th Lancers, and The Royal Dragoons.

b) According to captured documents:

22nd Armoured Brigade has subordinated to it:

3rd CLY (tank battalion); 4th CLY (tank battalion); 2 RGH (tank battalion); 2 RHA (artillery regiment); 102 (Northumberland) AT battalion; 122 Light AA Battery; 9th Rifle Brigade (motorised infantry battalion); engineer platoon and signals platoon; furthermore 12th Lancers.

c) Captured letters show addressees:

A/E Battalion 1 RHA and H/J Battalion 2 RHA.

Panzergruppe Intel Assessment 29 December 1941

1. Enemy Behaviour on 29 December 1941

a) The number of enemy tanks destroyed on 28 December increased to 65. In addition 23 armoured cars. The heavily knocked 22nd Armoured Brigade retreated today from the area El Haselat to Giof el Matar and the area southwest of it. Elements of 22nd Guards Brigade advanced on both sides of the track Antelat – Agedabia, closing up to the German-Italian positions. Radio reconnaissance ascertained the Polish Brigade in Beda Fomm, vehicle concentrations there confirmed by aerial reconnaissance. 7th Support Group continues in the area Solluch and west of it. Command Staff 4th Indian Barce, 7th Indian reached Benghazi.

b) Bardia and Sollum front: on 28 December according to radio reconnaissance 120 Blenheims sortied against Bardia. 5th New Zealand Brigade has 42 RTR subordinated to it. Further strong enemy attacks have to be expected, since the opponent is deeply affected in terms of supply by this fortress position.

2. Current Order of Battle

8th Army with 13 Corps (combat corps), 30 Corps (occupation corps), 13 Corps with 22nd Armoured Brigade, 22nd Guards Brigade, Polish Brigade, 7th Support Group, 4th Indian Division. Pulled out for refreshing 7th Armoured Division with 4th and 7th Armoured Brigades, 30 Corps with 1st South African Brigade area Derna, 70th Division (Tobruk), 2nd South African Division (Bardia – Sollum front) with 5th New Zealand Brigade and 1st Army Tank Regiment [Brigade], Command Staff 1st Armoured Division, Command Staff 1st South African Division, both without troops.

Immediately subordinated to 8th Army: Gialo and Oasis Groups. According to radio reconnaissance for both moving out has been ordered.

Panzergruppe Intel Assessment 28 December 1941

Enemy Behaviour 28 December 1941:

22nd Armoured Brigade, which advanced via El Haselat in the direction of Um Confus was thrown back on El Haselat by a counter-attack of Battle Group Cruewell. During this engagement 58 tanks, as well as numerous armoured cars and other combat vehicles were destroyed. Situation as yesterday at 22nd Guards Brigade and 7th Support Group. Command Staff 13 Corps ascertained area Msus. Radio interception could no longer ascertain Command Staff 7th Armoured Division. Since 4th Armoured Brigade has been relieved a few days ago, and 7th Armoured Brigade has not been active for a longer period of time, it follows that the mass of 7th Armoured Division is no longer in the area of battle. 7th Indian Brigade has arrived. According to radio intercept it has to be expected that the Polish Brigade will be brought up to the area of Solluch.

Panzergruppe Intel Assessment 27 December 1941

Sent 03.44 AM 28 December.

1. Enemy Behaviour 27 December 1941

7th Support Group also today with mass in the area Solluch and southwest of it felt against the Agedabia northern front with only 1 – 2 motorised infantry companies, which were repulsed. (POW from 2nd Scots Guards). Also 22 Guards Brigade, in the area Antelat – Saunnu, shifted only slightly to the southwest. Instead very active reconnaissance activity against the north-east front of the Agedabia position. 22 Armoured Brigade since midday engaged in combat with D.A.K., with about two battalions in the area 20km west and northwest of El Haselat. Elements still between Giof el Matar and el Haselat. 7th Indian Infantry Brigade with most forward elements Barce is supposed to be transported to Benghazi by truck in several convoys on 27/28 December. The available supply columns for this task are very limited.

2. Overall Impression

An attack by 22 Armoured Brigade in a westerly direction has to be expected tomorrow, equally an advance by 22 Guards Brigade against the east and north-east front of the Agedabia position is possible.

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 26 December1941

1. Enemy Behaviour 26 December 1941

Also today the opponent only felt ahead against the Agedabia position with reconnaissance forces. According to aerial reconnaissance enemy grouping as yesterday. According to radio intercepts, heavy supply traffic, especially bringing up of replacements. Possibly also relief of elements 4th Armoured Brigade, by 22nd Armoured Brigade. Command Staff 4th Armoured Brigade no longer ascertained. Furthermore Gialo Group ordered back to Tobruk, apart from some smaller reconnaissance units, which are subordinated to 22 Guards Brigade.

One artillery battalion of 4th Indian Division receives order to move to 2nd South African Division.

4th Indian Division has only made slight progress in march towards Benghazi due to road destructions and shortage of transport. Polish and 1st South African Brigades remain in area Derna – Berta.

2. Overall Impression

Opponent carried out partial relief, or re-grouped, and replaces losses in formations. Based on this a decisive attack is unlikely to be expected for tomorrow.