D.A.K. War Diary Entry 3 April 1941

Morning aerial reconnaissance on 3 April noted the Via Balbia free of enemy up to 60km north of Agedabia. A group of 20 tanks retreated north at 08.00 hours, 20km east of Agedabia, 30 motor vehicles north and northeat at Sidi Abd el Aati. 10.30 hours single tanks were observed 35km east of Agedabia, probably stopped due to lack of petrol. The impression gained of the enemy was that his retreat north and northeast continued. The Commander in Chief took the decision to unsettle the enemy’s southern flank by a forward detachment in the area of Ben Gania, and forward elements at Tengeder, to ascertain if the English wanted to hold Cyrenaica, and if appropriate to push forward into his rear and flank into the direction of Tmimi.[1]

Since the operation planned for the occupation of Gialo had become superfluous because of the development of the situation, the troops which had been prepared under Lt. Prince Bentheim in Agheila were ordered to move up by an Aide de Camp.

A request was made with the Italian high command for Italian forces to occupy Marada, and 5.lei.Div. was ordered to pull up its units placed there.

Detachment Santa Maria (subordinated to Div. Ariete with operation order of 2 April) became Korpstruppe[2] (reinforced by one radio station and two platoons Pz.Jaeg.605), and at 13.45 hours received verbal order by Lt.General Rommel to reach M. el Grara and to reconnoitre in the direction of Ben Gania, Zt. Msus. Especially important order: reconnoitre track Trigh el Abd 16.00 hours renewed order to Santa Maria by Aide de Camp: “Santa Maria pushes reconnaissance to Ben Gania today. Early pulling up of the whole Detachment to Ben Gania on 4 April, and intent is for pushing forward of reconnaissance patrols direction Mechili, el Beter.

15.00 hours report from Fliegerfuehrer Afrika about success of Stuka operation: “Around 12.00 hours enemy columns on track Antelat – Solluch escorted by 8 – 10 Hurricanes, successful Stuka attack. During heavy air combat 1 Ju 97[3] shot down, 1 Me 110 force landed. Probably several successful shoot-downs.”

Lt.Col. Graf Schwerin, who at 18.00 hours reported to the Corps command post to report about the operation Murzuk, was ordered to take over the lead of the push to Ben Gania, Tengeder. Detachment Santa Maria and Detachment Prince Bentheim were subordinated to him. He commenced the advance on the track to Giof el Matar that same evening with Detachment Bentheim.

A patrol of A.A.3 reported during the morning 3 April reported 20 – 25 tanks 20km north of Cantoniera Zuetina. Lt. General Rommel tasked a reinforced tank battalion with the target B.el Ageredt. Lt. Bernd of the Corps staff, who around mid-day drove north on the Via Balbia by himself with a sidecar motorcycle, reported that these were parked Italian tanks, and Magrun was free of enemy. In the absence of the Commander in Chief the Chief of Staff therefore ordered 5.lei.Div. to prioritise supply of A.A.3 with petrol and rations, and to have it ready for bigger operations at the latest on 4 April.

15.45 hours Lt.General Rommel himself gave the order: “A.A.3 becomes Korpstruppe, advances on Magrum, and reconnoitres towards Solluch and Chemines.”

During the evening Lt.General Rommel drove again to the reconnaissance battalion 20km south of Magrum and ordered to occupy Benghazi, which was free of enemy according to an Italian priest. The Commander in Chief pointed out the special attention to be given to the right flank.

The mass of 5.lei.Div. was on 3 April ready for defense in the area Agedabia – Zuetina, and carried out the replenishment of ammunition, water, and rations. When the division reported at 17.30 hours that it only had fuel remaining for 150km and would require at least four days to replenish, using all available vehicles, the Commander in Chief ordered to send off all supply and combat vehicles that could be done without to bring up petrol in one day and one night from the Arco dei Fileni. (Quote of Lt. General Rommel: “That saves blood and wins us the Cyrenaica.”) To keep roads free for traffic flows officer patrols were used. All columns available were ordered up from Tripoli.

The 5.lei.Div. is therefore immobile for at least 24 hours. It should only keep Aufklaerungsabteilung 3 and one strong forward detachment ready for action.

21.00 hours H.E. Gariboldi arrived in the H.Q. of the Afrikakorps. In a conference with the Commander in Chief,  which lasted until midnight, the Italian Commander in Chief spoke of his wish that the Afrikakorps should always report the situation, and only march, especially with the mass of the divisions, on his marching order. The Commander in Chief countered that he could not wait for such a lengthy order process, as a German general he had to issue his orders based on the specific situation. Concerns about the supply situation were unfounded. He had to have full freedom of action (at the end of the conference). At the end of the conference a radio message arrived from the OKW[4]  which assured the Commander in Chief of full freedom of action. The closing of the conferences were made much easier in light of this.

The O.K.[5] confirmed the establishment of the requested five Oasis Companies. They should be ready for departure on 18 May.

Regarding total losses on 15th Naval Transport Squadron, see report Quartermaster 1 Tripoli.

[1]A clear violation of the Italian High Command’s instructions and the direct order given by the Italian Commander the night before. Rommel was subordinate to the Italian command.
[2]Corps asset, to be assigned directly by the Corps command.
[3]Should be ‘Ju 87’.
[4]The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht – High Command of the German Armed Forces.
[5]Probably OKH, but letter is missing in the original.

First discord: D.A.K. War Diary Entry 2 April 1941

2 April 1941

During the night 1/2 April 5.lei.Div. closed up to the forward detachment, with the beginning of the main elements at the Via Balbia, south of M. Tabilb.

The enemy which had been observed to the north and south of the Via Balbia at B.Bilal and B. el Medfun during the evening 1 April by the forward detachment of 5.lei.Div. had retreated east during thenight. During the morning of 2 April he again faced about to resist, but after some artillery rounds evaded up to the area 20km west of Agedabia.

Lt. General Rommel gave the following verbal order at 13.00 hours: “5.lei.Div. pushes first on Agedabia, then in northwesterly direction on port Zuetina and occupies the same. Mass of the division to be pulled up immediately to Agedabia and the area west of it.”

Armoured Division Ariete at 15.00 hours received order by Aide de Camp[1] “Div.Ariete occupies as soon as possible area (based on thrust line[2]) 12-19 right 2 (7km southeast Cantoniera, south of Mn. Tabilba – Ergh et – Teneb).”

At 16.15 hours Agedabia was taken by the forward detachment of 5.lei.Div. after a short engagement. A.A.3 pushed past Agedabia to the northwest and took Zuetina. 17.00 to 17.45 hours an engagement took place south of Agedabia between II./Pz.Regiment 5 and 20 light English tanks. 7 enemy tanks were destroyed, 11 men captured, three of our tanks were lost.

Div.Brescia advanced into the area east of Agedabia as ordered with the elements instructed to do so. The Bologna battalion on Merduma airfield was subordinated to it.

The operation order of 2 April established the organisation of 5.lei.Div.Div. Brescia, and Ariete for the defense of the area Agedabia – Zuetina.

The Corps combat HQ was suring the day first brought forward to el Muktas, 20km west of Agheila, following that it was brought further forward into the area Cantoniera south Mn. Tabilba.

The airlanding operation to occupy Gialo was further delayed, and now envisaged for 4 April.

The following radio message was received from the Italian High Command: “From messages I have received I take it that your advance continues. This is contrary to what I have ordered. I politely request that you wait for me before you continue the advance.”

[1]Ordonnanzoffizier
[2]See this older link for an explanation.