Apart from some patrol activity in the area north and northwest of Msus today no contact with the enemy. According to radio reconnaissance, 11th Indian Brigade, which was until now in the area Derna and west of it, from the evening of 26 January stands in the area Maraua – d’Annuzio and south of there.
Otherwise enemy grouping as the previous day. According to radio reconnaissance two reconnaissance battalions (11th Hussars and Royals) were subordinated by 13 Corps to the heavily hit 1st Armoured Division.
Enemy Behaviour on 26 Jan 1942
Remnants of 1st Armoured Division, which had been defeated on 25 January at and south of Msus have apparently retreated via the line el Gharruba – el Abiar. In this line cover from 5th Indian Brigade, lying south of Barce. 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, placed south of Benghazi, has pushed mobile combat groups forward into the line Sceleidima – Solluch – Ghemines. According to aerial reconnaissance, reinforcements are being brought into Cyrenaica. Radio interception reports on 25 January for the first time appearance of 1st Light French Division in the area west of Derna. In the area of Mechili only a weak enemy group has been detected. According to an intercepted radio communication, an enemy advance from the area of Benghazi in south-easterly direction is intended in case of further German advance into the direction of Mechili. On the other hand there is noticeable strong disagreement amongst British commands due to the recent defeat. Due this it is not possible to exclude an evacuation of Benghazi in the coming days.
25 January 1942
Also today the German motorised forces advancing on Msus inflicted extremely heavy losses on 1st Armoured Division. The following were captured or destroyed:
- 96 tanks and armoured cars, including some American models built in 1941
- 38 guns
- a large number of motor vehicles,
- ammunition dumps and equipment
- 10 planes were shot down or destroyed on the ground
According to aerial reconnaissance the remains of 1st Armoured Division retreated north and north-east in flight, apparently on Mechili. There according to radio reconnaissance the command of 13 Corps.
The reconnaissance forces placed in the line Sceleidima – Solluch – Ghemines (Central India Horse and 1st Welch Regt.) have pulled back their forward elements in the area of Beda Fomm, except for patrols.
According to aerial reconnaissance around noon north of Tobruk with westerly course 5 freighters with 8 destroyers. At the same time motor vehicle concentrations near Tobruk. From there heavy traffic to the west.
Radio reconnaissance establishes a command of 1st Light Free French Division west of Derna.
Enemy Behaviour on 24 January 1942
The 1st Armoured Division which is encircled by German – Italian formations in the area east of Agedabia suffered extremely heavy losses during the reduction of the cauldron and in its attempts to break out, especially in the area south of Saunnu. During this operation were destroyed or captured (during the time 21 – 24 January 1942):
- 143 tanks and armoured cars
- 80 guns
- Ground troops shot down 14 planes
- 1,000 prisoners brought in
2 Armoured Brigade 10 Hussars refueling a M3 Stuart tank during operations in January 1942. Rommelsriposte.com collection.
According to aerial and radio reconnaissance the command of 1st Armoured Division is in the area of Msus in the evening hours of today – there are about 700 vehicles in the area – and the heavily hit formations of 1st Armoured Division are in the area north-east of Saunnu – Antelat. No movement noted for the mass of 4th Indian Division. Reinforced reconnaissance forces in the line Sceleidima – Solluch – Ghemines. Weaker forward forces in the line north-west of Antelat – Beda Fomm – Si. Abd el Asti. Aerial reconnaissance reports no specific movements area Bardia – Tobruk – Mechili.
1. Enemy Behaviour 23 January 1942
Elements 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Support Group and 200th Guards Brigade encircled in the area Saunnu – 23km south-west Antelat – east of Agedabia – Mn. el Grara. Breakout attempts in north-easterly direction were repulsed. In area Beda Fomm reconnaissance units 4th Indian Division. According to radio reconnaissance in the area 20km north-east Antelat a new formation.
2. Report about number of prisoners and booty to follow.
This is just a small housekeeping issue, but when googling I noted that there is a lot of false information on the internet about the date of the change in designation from Panzergruppe to Panzerarmee. This change was communicated to Panzergruppe on 22 January 1942, effective immediately, i.e. just the day after the counter-offensive started. The change did therefore not co-incide with Rommel’s promotion to Generaloberst which followed on 30 January, or the award of the Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross, which happened on 21 January, and it was not related to the success of the counteroffensive.
I am not sure why there was this divergence, it is possible that Rommel’s promotion was a snap decision based on the re-occupation of Benghazi, but to be honest I have no information on this.
Rommel instructing his staff. Picture dated to mid-1942, but almost certainly from CRUSADER period. Bundesarchiv Bildarchiv.
What is certain however is that the redesignation of Panzergruppe had nothing to do with the successful counteroffensive, it was probably just an administrative move, since the other four Panzergruppen on the eastern front had by then all been redesignated too.
Enemy Behaviour 21 Jan 1942
The opponent pulled averted the German – Italian attack in flight and retreated up to the line Mn. Mensci – el Gtafia and north of it. By evening 1st Support Group stood in the sector Mn. Mensci up to about 10 km south of Gtafia. Mass 200th Guards Brigade area Gtafia and north of it. Staff near B. el Tombia. According to radio reconnaissance the northern wing of this brigade completely confused.
Luftwaffe attacked during dawn commands of 13th Corps and 1st Armoured Division, as well as successfully enemy concentrations at Ain en Naga and north of it. In this area presumed 2nd Armoured Brigade, which according to radio reconnaissance was not ready for action during the morning due to supply difficulties. Rear services of 1st Armoured Division have received task to be ready for march. Even though according to aerial reconnaissance no rearward moves were noted of the enemy forces in the area el Haselat – Agedabia – Mensci, it has to be expected that during the night the opponent will further retreat in north-easterly direciton.
No details thus far on number of prisoners and booty.