Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 11 January 1942

Enemy Behaviour 11 January 1942

  1. Opponent felt ahead across the whole frontline with reinforced reconnaissance, focus on both sides Uadi el Faregh. Enemy grouping by and large unchanged.
  2. On Halfaya front since morning hours heavy attack against Lower Sollum in progress.

On 10 January some POW from 2 South African Division made at Cirener*.

Panzergruppe Afrika

Ic

* Cirener was a strongpoint in the Halfaya position.

Below is the aerial reconnaissance map for the day. I hope it is self-explanatory (and readable).

Results of three aerial recce missions of the Axis, 11 Jan 1942

Results of three aerial recce missions of the Axis, 11 Jan 1942

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 10 January 1942

Enemy Behaviour 10 January 1942

The German rearguard holding today at 12km east of Marsa el Brega did not have enemy contact. Enemy patrol activity as on previous day against sector Maaten el Cleibat – B. es Suera. According to aerial reconnaissance weak reinforcements are brought up from area Msus to area Antelat – el Haselat – Giof el Matar. According to radio intercepts, 5 Indian Brigade (Barce) has issued a weakly training programme to subordinated units regarding formation training and patrol activity. Based on this combat use of 4 Indian Division is apparently not to be expected.

Panzergruppe Afrika

Ic

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 9 January 1942

Enemy advance hampered by numerous mines. Most forward elements of combat troops today’s evening at Ain el Naga, Gtafia, both sides Via Balbia, 20km southwest of Agedabia. Command 7 Rifle Brigade 20km west of el Haselat, Command 22 Guards Brigade Agedabia. The German-Italian rear guard positions were not attacked. Only sporadic artillery fire. Instead very active armoured car patrolling. Patrols of K.D.G. (mass at Mn. Bettafal) report construction of fortifications in sector Maten bel Cleibat – B. es Suera. Aerial reconnaissance shows reinforcement of motor vehicle concentrations in the areas Msus and Antelat. Possibly elements of the armoured brigades of 1 Armoured Division. Command 1 Armoured Division apparently in area south of Saunnu, subordinated to 13 Corps.

Panzergruppe Afrika

Ic

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 8 January 1942

Reconnaissance Battalion K.D.G. reached area just east Mn. Bettafa. Enemy patrols only feeling forward against DAK rearguard at B. Bilal and on the Via Balbia 25km southwest of Agedabia. 22 Guards Brigade did not advance beyond Agedabia, since this area is heavily mined. According to radio intercepts, flight operations can only commence in three days on the airfield there. 7 Rifle Brigade only somewhat moved to southwest, its left wing approximately around El Haselat. According to radio intercepts the advance of elements of this brigade in the Uadi al Faregh has to be expected tomorrow. Aerial reconnaissance reports Sahabi free of enemy. Gialo group still in the area of Giof el Matar. Command 1 Armoured Division appears for the first time in the area of Msus and issues orders to 2 and 22 Armoured Brigade, Guards Brigade, 1 and 7 Rifle Brigades (Sp. Gp.) and Group Gialo. According to triangulation 2 Armoured Brigade and 1 Rifle Brigade are on approach march to Msus and on the Trigh el Abd, respectively. 1b* 1 Armoured Division already in M. el Grara. Aerial reconnaissance could not confirm the approach of these two brigades due to bad weather.

* 1b = Divisional Quartermaster

25/26 November 41–who attacked strongpoint 903?

While going through the events of the night of 25/26 November 1941 outside Tobruk (confusing enough), I came across a puzzling entry in the war diary of Division z.b.V. (later 90th Light).

21.00 – 02.00 attack by English assault detachments in bright moonlight on strongpoint 903, and around 24.00 hours on strongpoint 20, which was taken. In the early morning hours the men who succeeded in getting out after destroying their weapons get back to the divisional command post.

The map below, from the war diary of Division z.b.V. shows the layout of the divison’s strongpoints on 25 November. I have indicated the location of actual attacks and who carried them out, and also where position 903 was located.

image

Now, the order of events during the night was as follows:

  • 21.00 attack by 2 Yorks and Lancasters supported by A Squadron 4 RTR on objective WOLF (formerly known as GRUMPY, and named ‘Fico’ (Fig tree) by the Italian Bologna division which provided the garrison). This attack got completely stuck and the infantry suffered heavy losses. A renewed attack in the morning was required to take out the strongpoint.
  • 21.30 attack by 2 Leicesters supported by D Squadron 7 RTR against position 20 (upper left – unnumbered). This area did not seem to have a code-name, but was referred to as the ‘wrecked plane’ area, after a Junkers wreck lying to the east of it, even though I believe that at least part of the strongpoint was covered by the area code-named HARRY. This attack got stuck. In the morning when it was renewed it was found that the Germans had abandoned the position.
  • 22.00 approach march by 18 and 20 NZ Battalions commences, and ‘before midnight’ the battalions are on the northern slope of Belhamed. The map below shows the approach march, it is taken from the NZ Official History. This was objective LEOPARD. The attack was completely successful.

image

 

The only Allied element that came even close to 903 was Lt.Col. Kippenberger’s party, which had lost it’s way and ended up about 1km north of Belhamed at some point. It reports that there were Germans who were captured by Lt. Baker’s LAA men who were accompanying Kippenberger’s party. While it is possible that this was mistaken for an attack by the garrison of strongpoint 903, but it is quite a way away.

When I get around to it I will provide a write-up of the engagements for the two objectives of 70 Division.

In the meantime, if someone has an answer to who or what attacked strongpoint 903, I’d love to hear it. I am sure it is something eminently simple that I have just overlooked!

Panzerguppe Intelligence Assessment 7 January 1942

1. Enemy Behaviour on 7 January 1942

It was only during the morning hours of today that the enemy commenced its advance in the direction of the evacuated Agedabia position. This consisted of 22 Guards Brigade advancing on Agedabia, 7 Support Group advancing in southwesterly direction on both sides of Belaudah. During the afternoon reconnaissance battalion C.I.H. coming from the north occupies Agedabia as first unit and from there commences to combat German rear guard positions to the southwest with artillery.  Further enemy batteries in combat against this rearguard from positions southeast of Agedabia. Enemy reconnaissance patrols in the area northeast el Gtafia. The enemy reconnaissance battalion standing at Giof el Matar until now is no longer traced, its advance south on B. es Sahabi is probable, since the area of El Haselat has been reported clear of the enemy by aerial reconnaissance.

2. According to Radio Reconaissance

a) 3 South African Field Artillery Regiment until now on Bardia front reports from Bir Hacheim. Accordingly already elements of the enemy forces tasked on the Bardia front have been moved west.

b) Newly traced in Tobruk: 38 and 77 Indian Brigades, unclear whether they are labour battalions or occupation troops, in the latter case relief of 70 Division possible, which maybe made available for further offensive tasks.

3. Overall Impression

Enemy forces used at Agedabia are too weak for larger offensive, their advance in consequence only hesitant. It has to be expected however that the enemy is already starting to bring up further forces now for the continuation of the offensive, although its execution is only likely when the enemy forces tied down at the Sollum front and in rebuilding are becoming available.

Some more on problems with cruiser tanks

In previous posts (at this link, at this link, and at this link), I had written something about the reliability of the Crusader tank, and the other cruiser tanks used in the desert. I have now come across a letter to the Brigade commander of 22 Armoured Brigade, presumably a response from an office in Cairo to what might have been a complaint about the mechanical reliability of the Cruiser tanks. It is reproduced below:

To:- Bde Commander, 22 Armd Bde

From:- B.O.M.E. [1]

4 Jan 42

The reason for the large number of cruiser tank casualties due to mechanical troubles in the last battle and approach march[2] was undoubtedly due to the fact that 90% of the tanks have exceeded the designed mileage before a complete overhaul becomes necessary. This overhaul mileage was assessed at 1200 miles and prior to the last battle most of our tanks had exceeded 1200 miles and many 1500[3].

The above fact reacted in two ways. First, there was a large scale failure of water pumps, air compressors, and main fan drive sprockets due to wear or length of service. Secondly, owing to inadequate supply of new parts for the above assemblies, “cannibalisation” was carried out among parts which although at the time still function had already performed as many hours of service as the parts they replaced.

This method could only afford temporary relief and obviously in the case of tanks still operating with the Brigade fitted with such parts, no estimate of remaining life can be given with any degree of confidence.

Furthermore, at this stage, it is doubtful if fitting new water pumps assemblies etc., will appreciably lengthen the present life of the tank as cases are occurring more frequently of tanks becoming Z casualties repeatedly with different fault on each occasion.

Field

RHA/RAH

(Sgd). R.H.ARBUCKLE

Capt.

R.A.O.C. [4]

[1] Presume this to be ‘Bureau of Ordnance, Middle East’, but happy to be corrected

[2] The ‘last battle’ was the battle between Christmas and New Year in the Uadi al Faregh, in which 22 Armoured Brigade received a savage beating at the hands of the Axis forces, and the approach march therefore must refer to the march of 22 Armoured Brigade from the re-organisation area south of Gabr Saleh, where new tanks were drawn, to the operational area south of Agedabia. As the crow flies, this is at least 400km, and in reality considerably more.

[3] Puts the service interval on my A4 in perspective. Although it too has coolant pump issues!

[4] Royal Army Ordnance Corps – the branch of the British army dealing with keeping stuff functioning (there was a reorganisation in 1942).