D.A.K. War Diary Entry 31 March 1941

31 March 1941

Attack by 5.lei.Div. led to capture of English forward positions at Maaten Bescer, as well as partial capture of built-up positions near Marsa Brega. Combat-capable elements of A.A.3 took B. es Suera. Counterattacks by enemy tanks were repulsed.

The reinforced 12th Bersaglieri battalion of Div.Ariete moved into position on the heights just north and 10km orth of Maaten Giofer.

Italian air force attacked reserves around Agedabia, the German tank and motor vehicle concentrations at Bleidet, as well as the positions at Marsa Brega. Near Agedabia a Hurricane was shot down. One Me 110 was lost in aerial combat, another one due to forced landing on our territory.

Operation order of evening 31 March set out in writing verbal orders of Commander in Chief concerning operations of divisions to defend, following occupation of B.es Suera and establishment of the bridgehead at Marsa Brega (see same).

Before Lt.General Rommel drove into the forward area to be present at the forward push of 5.lei.Div., he ordered the occupation of Gialo on 2 April (see operation order to 5.lei.Div.). 10 transport planes each were requested from X.Fliegerkorps and the 5th Italian Air Fleet. To be ready at Merduma on 1 April.

Detachment Schwerin moved to rest on the evening of 30 March after a 275km march through the rocky desert 35km south of El-Gaf. On the evening 31 March Count Schwerin reported arrival in Hun and intent to reach Sirt in two day marches on 2 and 3 April, after motor vehicles have been repaired.

The Quartermaster Department in Tripoli reported: “Steamer Galilea of 15th Naval Transport Squadron torpedoed or ran on mine during return leg at 07.00 hours, 31 March. Towing into Tripoli will be attempted.”[1]

[1]Galilea, a German steamer of 1,927GRT was torpedoed by HM/Sub Upright (Lt.D.E.Norman). While not sunk by the attack, she was towed back to Tripoli under escort, beached there, and never repaired. She was finally sunk in the harbour entrance by the retreating Axis forces on 20 January 1943.

D.A.K. War Diary 30 March 1941

30 March 1941

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops

Losses due to sinking of Heraklea

Equipment 2.Fla.Batl.(mot.) 606

Elements armoured reconnaissance platoon A.A.3, elements 6./M.G.2

Arrived in Tripoli:

I./Flak 18, Elements Fl.M.G.Batl. 606[1]

Quartermaster Department Tripoli reported that 15th Naval Transport Squadron entered harbour at 09.00 hours, and that the torpedoed steamer Ruhr was to be towed to Sicily. Losses are presumed to be: 30 men, equipment: 2.Fla.Batl. (mot) 606, 7. Kol.Abtlg. 686, elements 6./M.G.Batl. 2, elements armoured reconnaissance platoon A.A.3.

5.lei.Div. reported as result of the day: 1 enemy armoured car with slight clutch damage captured, Luftwaffe: 1 armoured car, 1 self-propelled gun, and 1 tanker shot up and burning.

Lt.General Rommel ordered the Commander of 5.lei.Div. in verbal conference to carry out the planned operation to take Marsa Brega on 31 March. The Commander in Chief declared himself satisfied with the plan for execution.

The operation order of 30 March as preparation set out the order of the divisions following the occupation of B. es Suera and Marsa Brega. To be implemented on 31 March was the taking over of security just and 10km north of Maaten Giofer by Div. Ariete.

An air attack on Tripoli between 01.00 and 04.00 hours caused only light damage to buildings.

A request was made by the Afrikakorps to the O.K.H. to set up five independent companies as garrison troops for oases, which will become important during the proceeding of operations as connection points, flank protection, and for water supplies.[2]

The requests to O.K.H. to leave the Stuka Group until the arrival of Ju 88, and to send Foreign Legionnaires as garrison troops were turned down.

[1]A nice example of how even the bureaucratic Germans use different ways of referring to the same unit.
[2]See my older post for their organisation, at this link.

D.A.K. War Diary 29 March 1941

29 March 1941

A supply operation to Marada was successfully carried out.

Lt.Col. Count Schwerin intended for 29 March to repair motor vehicles, and for 30 and 31 March to march back to Hun. The two missing motor vehicles found their way back by themselves.

Quartermaster Tripoli reports: submarine attack on 29 March 1941 against 15th Naval Transport Squadron at the height of Kerkennah. steamer Heraklea sunk, steamer Ruhr heavy torpedo hits. Towing into Tripoli will be attempted.  Two additional destroyers sortied from Tripoli. Losses not known yet.[1]

[1]The attack was carried out by HM/Sub Utmost. It was the first major disruption of the Afrikakorps’ transport to North Africa. Ruhr, 5,955 GRT was actually a Motor Vessel, finally sunk by aircraft in 1943. On this voyage she carried most of the elements of Fla.Btl. 606, a truck supply company, vehicles for the Corps Signals Battalion, a medical company, a total of 585 men and 160 vehicles. She also carried 448 tons fuel, 120 tons of ammunition, and 208 tons of rations for the army and 104 tons of equipment for the Luftwaffe.

Heraklea, 1,927 GRT, was a smaller steamer built in 1922. She carried all the vehicles and most of the personnel of 2./Fla.Btl. 606 (60 ORs were on Ruhr), as well as some staff vehicles of Fla.Btl. 606, and one armoured car for A.A.3. A total of 206 men and 100 vehicles, as well as 144 tons of fuel, 45 tons of ammunition, and 39 tons of rations for the German army.

D.A.K. 27 March 1941

27 March 1941

Aerial reconnaissance ascertained 50-60 motor vehicles, including armoured cars, well dispersed across the countryside in the track area north of B. el Ginn. These can only be forces that have been newly brought up. 18km east of Maaten Belcleibat a stationary patrol was noted.

Forward forces at Agheila were reinforced by bringing up M.G.Batl.8. A.A.3 was pulled out to be fully available for reconnaissance tasks.

09.00 hours Agheila was attacked by one Hurricane at low-level. No losses caused.

I./A.R.75 reached area around Nofilia. By 28 March arrival of 5.lei.Div. is expected.

The return march of Count Schwerin was ordered since the Afrikakorps does not consider the reported movements of the De Gaulle troops to have any meaning. Two motor vehicles that went missing at Ummel Araneb have not been found yet. Since Fliegerfuehrer Afrika  did not have resources available a request for help was made to the Italian air force in Hun.

O.K.H. turned the attention of the Deutsches Afrikakorps again on the taking possession of Gialo Oasis, to prevent a flanking move from there in the context of the planned operation.[1] The Deutsches Afrikakorps is fundamentally in line with this view, but considers the move on and the supply of the forces tasked with this to be only possible by air, due to sand drifts affecting vehicles. The Commander in Chief intends for the time being, due to a lack of forces and to prevent dispersion of forces, only to use weak forces (reinforced MG platoons). In this context the quick arrival of the first companies of Foreign Legionnaires was requested from O.K.H. (possibly by air). Fliegerfuehrer Afrika considers the the plan to occupy Gialo from the air as executable. He does not believe however that air transport capacity will be available prior to 30 March. A corresponding request is made to the O.K.H., to make available to the X.Fliegerkorps the requested air transport units.

[1]A piece of micro-management from Berlin that was no doubt appreciated in the D.A.K. HQ. It is interesting to note however the weakness in infantry at this stage, as well as the very thin situation of air cover across the theatre.

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 26 March 1941

26 March 1941

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops:

Div.Brescia reinforced by 12 3.7cm AT guns

The evening report to the O.K.H. gave the following assessment of the enemy situation:

“It has to be presumed that the concentrations reported in the area Ghemines – Solluch  – Magrum are a mobile reserve for use in a southerly or southeasterly direction.

The construction of a new road on the coast from Magrum to Zuetina, and repair work on the road Magrum – Agedabia may point to the ability to more quickly move reserves, and may serve to relieve pressure on the main road for supply traffic.

The occupation of Agheila led to reinforcement in the area of Agedabia, probably only close to Agedabia. The radio intercept picture shows a strength of these new forces of up to 3 battalions, 1 armoured car regiment, and 2 artillery battalions. It is presumed that Agedabia is to be definitively held.”

Detachment Schweing reached Gatrun on 25 March, 17.00 hours. Area between border and Gatrun apparently free of enemy. Inquiry from Detachment Schwerin whether a push in direction Giado and Zuar should be made, since only by doing this a precise picture about the enemy situation of the De Gaulle troops could be ascertained.

The recall to Sicily of the Stuka Wing with one Group made the planned aerial reconnaissance with Schwerin against the De Gaulle forces impossible.

H.E. Gariboldi was named Commander in Chief of the Italian forces in North Africa, and Governor General of Libya. Marshall Graziani resigned from all his offices[1].

Tripolis, Ankunft DAK, Rommel

Gariboldi (left behind Rommel), Rommel and Streich in Tripoli during one of the arrival parades.

[1]Graziani was not given another position for two years. Gariboldi was to be replaced by Bastico in July 1941, after continuing disagreements with Rommel.

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 25 March 1941

25 March 1941

Enemy garrison at Maaten Bescer (until now 30-40 motor vehicles) has apparently withdrawn to the Marsa Brega narrows after Agheila was taken. On 25 March only one enemy patrol was noted on the track Marsa Brega – B.es Suera.

A supply transport for Marada had to be delayed since the road Agheila – Marada was covered by sand drifts in several places.

Operation order to 5.lei.Div. and Div. Brescia see copy.