Italian Marine Battalion San Marco OOB 21 Dec 1941

The files of 90.lei.Afrika-Div. contain some information on the Italian units it encountered after moving from the main battle area to the rear area around Agedabia and el-Agheila. Below the information and assessment of the 3rd ‘A.S.’ (North African – Africa Settentrionale) battalion, which was formed from detachments of  1st ‘Bafile’ battalion of the Italian San Marco marines regiment. The information is from a document dated 21 Dec. 1941, and signed by Oberst Marcks, the commanding officer of Schuetzenregiment 155, which had taken over the Aphelia – Mersa el-Brega sector, and from Feldgrau.com (at this link). The battalion was not at full strength, as it had only the 3rd rifle company of the Bafile battalion, and had not yet received most of the gun reinforcements. The battalion was not involved in combat during Operation CRUSADER and the counter offensive.

Marines Battalion San Marco

Strength:

About 500 men

Organisation:

1x Rifle Company

1x MG Company

1x Command Company

Weapons:

12x light machine guns

3x light mortars 4.5cm

12x heavy machine guns

2x AT guns (most likely Boehler 4.7cm)

Motor vehicles:

None

Combat value:

Appears to be fully ready for action. Battalion subordinated to Sabratha Division, under orders to await further instructions in el-Agheila. Subordinated temporarily to my command.

Signed:

Marcks

Colonel and Regimental CO

 

Tobruk Fortifications

In preparation for the attack on Tobruk, Division z.b.V. Africa issued a number of detailed drawings of the Tobruk fortifications to the assault troops, to help them in overcoming these.

I am not an expert, but the fortifications look quite substantial to me. They were built by the much-maligned Italians.

Diagram 1: Schematic outline of the fortification line in the breakthrough sector.

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1. Concrete works at terrain level
2. With 1-2 AT guns and 2-4 MG
3. All round fortifications
4. Continous and anti-tank ditch in forward line
5. With partial wire obstacles and some minefields 

‘Angreifer’ = attacker

Diagram 2: Diagram of the AT ditch.

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‘Querschnitt’ = cross section

‘betonierte Steilwand’ = concrete vertical wall

‘wechselnd’ = changing

Diagram 4: Combat position of the forward line.

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‘Befestigungswerke in ebenem Gelände mit 3 M.G. Ständen’  = fortified works in flat terrain with 3 MG positions

‘Sockel fuer Fliegerbeschuss’ = fixation point for AA fire

‘M.G. Stand’ = MG fighting position

‘Treppe’ – stairs

‘Unterstand für Mannschaften u. Munition’ = covered position for men and ammunition

‘Breit’ = breadth

‘Lageplan’ = overview map

‘Masstab 1:200’ = 1:200 Scale

‘Unterstand fuer Bedienung und Munition’ = covered position for operators and ammunition

‘Wasserbehaelter’ = water tank

‘Zentraler Unterstand m. Eisenbetondecke 1m Stark’ = central covered position with reinforced concrete roof 1m thick

Diagram 4: Detail of work of the forward line.

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‘hinteres drahthindernis’ = rear wire obstacle

‘betonierter Graben’ = concrete ditch

‘z. Tl. getarnt, oder mit Stacheldraht ueberdeckt’ = partially camouflaged or covered with wire

‘Übergang’ = crossing

‘durchlaufender Flandernzaun zwischen den Werken’ = continuous wire/fence installation between works.

‘Tiefe’ = depth

‘vorderes Drahthindernis (versenkt) vermutl. mit S-Minen versehen’ = forward wire obstacle, dug in, probably with added anti-personnel mines

‘Querschnitt des vorderen Drahthindernisses’ = cross section of forward wire obstacle

Diagram 5: Combat position of the rear line.

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‘Befestigungwerke in ebenem Gelände mit 2 M.G. Ständen und 1 PAK Stand’ = fortification works in flat terrain with 2 MG and 1 AT gun fighting position

‘PAK – Stand’ = AT gun fighting positon

‘Wasser’ = water

‘Befehlsstelle’ = Command Post

‘Beobachtungsloch’ = Observation hole

‘Eingang zum Unterstand’ = Entrance to covered position

Others as forward line translations.

Diagram 5: Combat position with one MG fighting position.

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‘Linke Stellung’  left fighting position

‘Verbindungsgraben’ = communication trench

Other translations as before

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Every so often in going through the mountain of files on my hard drive I come across one that makes me smile inwardly, despite the serious subject matter. Most of the time it’s because I recognise over the distance of 70+ years that little has changed. Administrators and bureaucrats still like to get one over each other, and the mission seems to matter less than to make sure that your unit (or today department) comes off better than the other. Here’s one of those, and it makes you wonder who the enemy was!

Division z.b.V. Afrika

Divisional C.P. 1 November 1941

Dept. Ia Az III/2.

Re: Personnel strengths of Fortress Halfaya

Attention: D.A.K. Ia

1.) Division reports that I./S.R.104, since 30 October assigned to Fortress Halfway, only has a real (‘Ist’) strength of:

18 Officers, 1 Civilian Official, 136 NCOs, 683 ORs, compared to a theoretical (‘Soll’) strength of

26 Officers, 4 Civilian Officials, 176 NCOs, 969 ORs.

This means there is a gap of almost 30% across all categories.

2.) According to the report by the battalion, 21. Pz.Div. pulled a large number [of personnel] into various commands, through permanent (‘Kommandierter’) and temporary (‘Abstellungen’) assignments. Within the [21.Pz] division, only this battalion had to provide these.

This division considers the current real strength of I./S.R.104 a not acceptable weakening of the personell allocation to the Halfway Sector, and requests politely that 21. Pz.Div. is requested soonest to fill up the combat (‘Gefechts’) strength [of the battalion].

The other interesting information here is the considerable strength of Major Bach’s battalion, which at full strength would be able to field 1,171 men. This compares to about 830 men in a British motorised infantry battalion at the same time (see this link). So in fairness, even at the low ‘Ist’ strength being reported, the battalion still had the same size as its British equivalent.

I./S.R.104 (1st Battalion, Motorised Rifle Regiment 104) was the last German unit to surrender in the Bardia/Halfaya Sector. It was then under command of the Italian Savona Division under Major-General Fedele de Giorgis. The battalion was rebuilt from the dissolved MG Battalion 8 in April and May 1942.

The document can be found in the war diary appendices of 90th Light Division in NARA.