20 March 1941
Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops.
One medium tank battalion arrived at Div.Ariete.
Assessment of enemy position was reported to O.K.H. in the evening report: “Based on reports of the last days it’s not excluded that the enemy is fully poised for defence, and has moved back the mass of its forces into the Cyrenaica north and east of Benghazi.”
“Forward forces still southwest of Agedabia. Defensive line Mersa el Brega (security patrols at Bescer) – southern tip Sebeha es Seghira and mobile tank security at Uadi Faregh from Bettafal to Ain en Naga, security in Haselat, reserves around Bilal, Gtafia.”
According to Italian reports Giarabub was strongly attacked. For 21 March support of the defenders by two Ju 88 planned.
[page 21 missing]
The following measures were taken or ordered in this regard:
- Major Appel, Corps Staff, Afrikakorps was named Commander of Marada.
- Forces situated in Marada until now were reinforced so that now a full AT company is at their disposal. Task for the garrison of Marada is to defend Marada and to carry out ground reconnaissance up to Bir Zelten – Ain Si Mohammed – Maaten Gheizel.
- Preparation of the supply of Gialo.
- Request to the Luftwaffe to reconnoitre by air the water supplies at Gialo and the condition of the tracks connecting Ain Si Mohammed – Gialo.
- Request to the Italian High Command to make available Italian froces to secure the rear links of the attacking forces by occupying an defending the gaps and to carry out supplying and repair of air fields.
The plan is to occupy Gialo after the execution of the Mersa el Brega operation, and to use the current garrison of Marada for this. It is intended to further reinforce the Battalion Major Appel by additional forces, maybe from the Battalion Santa Maria.
3) An advance by de Gaulle troops from French West Africa against Tripolitania was not considered to be of decisive importance. To smash French attempts to attack against Murzuk, Air Operation South was requested from Fliegerfuehrer Afrika. Fliegerfuehrer Afrika intends in this regard to stock the airfield Zella accordingly, so that from there simultaneous operations by heavy fighter wings to the east and the south up to the area of Gatrun and south of it could be carried out.
As a first measure, the stocking up of Zella is planned for a one-off Group-level sortie towards south.
On 17th, 18th, 19th March Tripolis was attacked, two tugs were hit.
Italian air force bombed on 17/18 March the port of Benghazi, and on 18/19 March the airfield at Berka.
Oberkommando des Heeres, German Army High Command
These reports were sent every evening, summing up events of the day, and plans for the next day.
The oasis of Giarabub had not been occupied by Empire forces at this stage, but was under siege by a mixed force led by Australians. The entry probably refers to the attack by two companies of Australian 2/9 Battalion on 19 March. The history of the siege from the Australian side can be found at this link.
A motorised reconnaissance column under Major Nicolini Santamaria, probably consisting of: 2x infantry platoons with MG and rifles 1x 20mm gun on a FIAT 626 lorry, 1x tank platoon (L35) and 1x artillery battery 77/28
Murzuk is in the deep south of Libya, close to the border with Chad.
M13/40 medium tanks of Ariete Division’s VII Tank Battalion, 132nd Tank Regiment, on parade in Tripoli, mid-March 1942
One Wellington was lost during these operations on the night 17/18 March, damaged beyond repair on landing at Benina (Wellington Ic T2732 of No. 70 Squadron), but with no losses to the crew.