An Example of a Stosslinie

In a previous post (at this link) I have explained the German ‘Stosslinie’ system by which units were given locations on a standard map. The picture below shows such a line on an Italian map used by the German intelligence officer in Panzergruppe Africa’s command staff. The line starts with the value of 65 north of B. el Harmarin/south-east of Mechili, and ends with the value of 105 at Bir el Gobi.

Stosslinie

Panzerarmee Intelligence Assessment 6 February 1942

1. Enemy Behaviour 6 February 1942

Reconnaissance activity in the area southeast Mechili by a reconnaissance battalion of 1st Armoured Division based at Segnali. Further improvement of the defensive front B. Hacheim – B. el Harmat – Acroma and north under cover of the security screen formed in the line B. Hacheim by 150th Brigade and the 6th and 7th South African Reconnaissance Regiments of Force E. Recognised in the defensive line: 1st Armoured Division from B. Hacheim to B. el Harmat, following on 1st South African Division to north of Trigh Enver Bey, following on from there probably Polish Brigade. From about 2km south of Acroma to the coast 4th Indian Division with 11th Indian Brigade south of Acroma and north of it 5ht Indian Brigade. XIII Corps in Tobruk, there also 70th Division and 1st light Free French Division as well as 32nd Army Tank Brigade. Aerial reconnaissance noted today only weak traffic between Tobruk and Bardia. At the end loop of the railway 500 wagons and 300 motor vehicles. 

2. Deserters from 4th Indian Division state that of 5th Indian Division only the 29th Brigade is in North Africa. 10th and 38th Brigades of this division are supposed to be on Cyprus. Nevertheless, 38th Brigade has appeared in the radio picture in the area of Tobruk for a few weeks now.

Panzerarmee Afrika

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Panzerarmee Intelligence Assessment 5 February 1942

ENEMY FORCES NORTH AFRICA

Status as of 5 February 1942

1. 8th Army Controls the following formations:

Formation

Estimated Combat Power

Infantry Battalions

Artillery Regiments

Tanks

a) XIII Corps Area Tobruk Gazala B. Hacheim with:

4th Indian Division

5th Ind. Bde (1)

6

2 light

 

7th Ind. Bde (1)

 

11th Ind. Bde

1 medium

 

8 R.T.R.  (2)

 

 

40 (I)

1st Armd. Division

2nd Armd. Bde.

 

1

30 (m)

1st Support Grp.

2

1

 

200th Guards Bde.

3

1

 

Force E

 

1

 

150th Bde.

3

1

 

Polish Bde.

3

1

 

1st Light Free French Div. (3)

5

2

40 (m)

Reinforced 70th Div. (4)
(Remains 32nd Army Tk. Bde.)

9 (garrison)

Fortress Art.

25 (I)

1st South African Div.

6

2

 

 

b) XXX Corps in area SollumBardiaTobruk and south of it with:

2nd South African Division

9 (garrison)

2 light

2 medium

 

(Remains 1st Army Tank Bde)

 

 

 

22nd Armd. Bde (rebuilding)

 

 

30 (m)

 

 

 

 

Total

31

18 garrison

10 light

1 medium

2 light and 2 medium Bardia and Tobruk art.

100 (m)

65 (I)

c) In the Delta and Western Egypt:

7th Armd. Div.

1 brigade ready middle of February

2/3rd 50th Engl. Div.

Occupation Troops

7th Engl. Division

Occupation Troops

12th Engl. Division

Occupation Troops

Elements 5th Indian Div.

Occupation Troops

2 Greek Brigades

Occupation Troops

(1) heavy losses

(2) subordinated from 1st Army Tank Brigade

(3) mechanised

(4) Tobruk garrison 

2. Analysis

In Marmarica there are currently British formations with a strength of 6 – 7 infantry divisions, of which 2 divisions are tied down as occupation troops of Tobruk, Bardia, and Halfway. Also 1st Armoured Division with 60 cruiser tanks and army tank regiments with about 90 infantry tanks.

The enemy formations in the Delta and Western Egypt are tied down there as occupation troops, apart from 7th Armoured Division, of which, according to orientation from the OKH (1), 1 armoured brigade is ready by early February.

The accordingly available British troops ready to take the field (4-5 partially motorised infantry divisions, 150 cruiser tanks and 90 infantry tanks) are only capable of defensive battle. The announced departure of 8 infantry and 2 armoured divisions from mainland Britain has not been noticed yet in the Middle East, according to orientation from OKH. The arrival of infantry divisions has to be expected in the near future, furthermore additions and replacements for the rebuilding of the heavily hit formations.

Whether the British formations sent from home will be used in the Middle or the Far East is not clear yet, but in any case a new British offensive, if any, is not expected before the beginning of April.

(1) Oberkommando des Heeres – High Command of the Army.

 

Panzerarmee Intelligence Assessment 4 February 1942

1. Enemy Behaviour on 4 February 1942

4th Indian Division retreated via Tmimi, Gazala, into the area of Acroma, protected by reconnaissance forces of Force E standing at and south of Gazala. 1st Armoured Division retreated on both sides of the Trigh el Abd, up to the area of B. el Harmat.

The following are to be presumed in the area B. Hacheim – Acroma and north of it during the evening of today: 1st Armoured Division, 150th Brigade, 1st South African Division, Polish Brigade, 1st Light French Brigade and 4th Indian Division.

Overall Impression: It appears that, protected by a security screen in the line Mteifel el Chebir – Ain el Gazala, an enemy defensive line is forming west of Tobruk between B. Hacheim – Acroma and north of it.

2. During January 1942 the below were destroyed or captured:

377 tanks and armoured cars (as well as armoured vehicles)

192 guns

1,220 motor vehicles (most of them destroyed)

50 planes (shot down or destroyed by army units)

3,300 prisoners of war were brought in

3. Tank situation of 2nd Armoured Brigade based on captured papers

a) 16 December 194 arrived at Matruh

Staff 9 M3 and 1 Mk. VI

Bays 17 M3 and 35 Mk. VI

9th Lancers 17 M3 and 35 Mk. VI

10th Hussars 17 M3 and 35 Mk. VI

b) 18 January 1942 at Antelat

Bays – 44

9th Lancers – 46

10th Hussars – 48

in total 138 medium tanks

Panzerarmee Afrika

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Notes:

M3 = US-built M£ Stuart light tank

Mk. VI = British-built Cruiser Mk. VI Crusader

The 16 December total arrives at 163 tanks, the ordinary total expected in a 1941 armoured brigade would have been 166. 

The 18 January total is pre-combat, but after a long approach march, much of it on tracks. This number was also mixed, although the M3 and Mk. VI have not been broken out.

Panzerarmee Intelligence Assessment 3 February 1942

1. Enemy Behaviour on 3 February 1942

Today 4th Indian Division retreated via Derna to Tmimi, covered by rear guards of 5th Indian Brigade at Gasr el Carmysa, Martha, and Si. Umm er Rzem. During the evening hours still combat south of Si. Umm er Rzem. 1st Armoured Division also, at least with elements, retreated from Mechili 40km east.

2. A Polish POW taken near Martuba states: strength French Brigade 5,000 Polish, 900 Czech. In Tobruk there are 3 battalions of French.

3. Assessment of the currently available enemy formations in North Africa

British defensive line in the triangle Tobruk – Ain el Gazala – B. Hacheim is being established. Available for this: heavily hit 1st Armoured Division and 4th Indian Division, Polish Brigade, 1st South African Division (one brigade), 150th Brigade, 1st French Light Brigade, 22nd Armoured Brigade (in replenishment), 70th Division with remains 32nd Army Tank Brigade tied down as Tobruk garrison, 2nd South African Division tied down as garrison Bardia and Sollum front. Therefore available for mobile defense line west of Tobruk at present: about 150 tanks, 18 battalions, 9 light and 3 medium artillery regiments.

Panzerarmee Afrika

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Notes:

In Item 1 the original sentence stated that there was still combat at Si. Umm er Rzem, but then ‘at’ and ‘still’ were struck out and replaced by an unreadable insert, reproduced below. Thanks to Matti for solving this!

NewImage

Item 2. was added by hand to the typed report. It should refer to the Polish Brigade, but that is not what is written there. Many thanks to Horst Weber and his mother who helped decipher the handwriting on this thread.

Panzerarmee Intelligence Assessment, 2 February 1942

1. Enemy Behaviour 2 February 1942

Today 11 Indian Brigade retreated in the direction of Derna after giving up its rearguard positions at De Martino.

5 Indian Brigade, evading towards Martha further south, was attacked by German combat groups in the area of Gasr el Carmusa during the afternoon. Group Ergh has retreated up to the area Abiar es Saadi. 1 Armoured Division continues to remain in the area Mechili, reconnaissance forces still northeast of B. el Melezz. Remains 7 Indian Infantry Brigade have pushed through into the area southeast of Mechili following the battles of 29 January. According to radio reconnaissance, 1 South African Division, until now suspected in the area of Bardia, now appears with one brigade in the area of Gazala. 150 Brigade has moved from Mersa Matruh to the area west of Tobruk. It is reinforced in particular with mines, sandbags, aand barbed wire.

2. Overall Impression

Following the evacuation of Cyrenaica, the opponent brings up reinforcements into the area west of Tobruk to establish a defensive line there.

Panzerarmee Afrika

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The Kriegstransporter Programme

The Kriegstransporter Programme

1941 was not a good year for the German naval supply capacity in the Mediterranean, with many of the vessels that were present at the start of operations in North Africa in February being lost by the end of the year. The tonnage losses amounted to about 70,000 tons lost out of 124,000 tons available at the start of the year, or 57%.

In reaction to this, and the continuing need to supply German forces in North Africa, an emergency construction programme was established, based on a standardised type of a relatively small steamship of easy construction, called a Kriegstransporter abbreviated KT (literally: war transport). This was in addition to the considerable programme of Marinefaehrpraehme abbreviated MFP (literally: Navy Ferry Barge – called ‘F-Lighters’ by the Royal Navy).
Unlike the flat-bottomed MFP, the KT were proper ships with about five times the displacement (1,200 tons fully loaded (I guess) instead of up to 220 tons for version A of the MFP), higher speed (14.5 knots instead of 10.3 knots), and about four times the carrying capacity (400 tons instead of up to 105 tons for Type A of the MFP).  They also had the advantage of running on coal, rather than scarce Diesel or fuel oil, and had considerably more range and were more seaworthy (one of the first MFPs in the Mediterranean sank on its maiden voyage due to constructive weakness). Just like the MFP, the KT were not given names, but were simply numbered, starting with KT1 (KT3 was the type ship, and the only one constructed in Germany).
The KT could take as many tanks as the MFP in one load, six, and they had the ability to unload these themselves in harbour, through the use of a 30t crane that was installed amidships. This was sufficient to handle any tank then in the German or Italian arsenal.
KT1 after launch, September 1942 at Genoa. Source: Seekrieg WLB

KT1 after launch, September 1942 at Genoa. Source: Seekrieg WLB

The programme was discussed in January 1942 at the naval transport section in Naples, and the entry into its war diary is given below. Despite the ambitious timeline, only two vessels were commissioned before the end of 1942, in other words the programme failed to achieve its ultimate aim, to alleviate the shortage of merchant tonnage on the North Africa route in 1942.

24 January 1942 10.30am

Conference at the Naval Attache concerning the construction of Kriegstransporters, with participation by Captain Kleikamp, Lt.Com. Aust from the German Naval High Command, Director Scholz of Deutsche Werke yard Hamburg and Commander German Naval Transport Italy. Captain Kleikamp informed as follows about the Kriegstransporter:

Length: 62 m

Width: 11 m

Height to main deck: 4.2 m

Draught: 2.9 m

Displacement loaded: 1,200t

Stowage space: 980 cbm

Carrying capacity: 400 tons

Bunker capacity: 160 tons

Range: 1,500 nautical miles

Speed: up to 14.5 knots

Hatch 1: 6.75×5.4 m, space for 2 tanks

Hatch 2: 9.8×7.4 m, space for 4 tanks

Cranes: 1×30 t, 4×5 t or 1×30 t, 1×10 t, 3×5 t

Armament: 1×7.5 cm gun, 1×3.7 cm AA gun single barrel, 2×20 mm guns

All the material for 20 transporters, including engines and secondary engines, will be delivered from Germany. The construction plan foresees the following dates for the first group of four steamers:

Laying down: 15 March 1942

Launch: early June 1942

Commissioning: end of August or early September 1942

Another meeting was held at the Italian naval ministry in Rome on 27 January, with high-level representatives from the four shipyards designated to carry out the programme, and the Italian naval ministry. The conclusion of this was a programme that foresaw materials being delivered from February to May 1942, and for five steamers to be ready by the end of September 1942, with another two coming in October and November each, and another four in December, for a total of 12 being ready by the end of the year, and the remaining eight to be finished by the end of August 1943.

This meeting was followed by another meeting during the morning of 28 January in the Naval Ministry, at which the German side was informed by the Italian navy that because of an intervention by the Italian Minister for Transport, the programme had to be halved, because it otherwise threatened the Italian construction programme. The new programme foresaw five steamers to be ready in September, with the remainder coming in the fourth quarter of 1942.

In the end however it was to take to 3 February 1943 to reach four completed KT from Italian yards. Construction continued until the end of the war, when 40 of the KT had been completed on Italian yards, and another two in a French yard. 30 KT were launched by Ansaldo Genoa alone by the end of the war.

An excellent source for these little-known vessels is Wilhelm Donko, Die Kriegstransporter KT1 – KT62 der Deutsche Kriegsmarine: Konzept, Einsatz und Verbleib

There is a very informative thread including many pictures at this link.