4 April 1941
Weather situation: max. temperature 31 degrees C
Arrival and Departure: Arrived in Agedabia: I./Flak 18
The enemy observation during 4 April showed that he was retreating with this rearguards from the south and southwest in the direction of Barce. One rearguard covered the retreat path 24km east of Benghazi. The main forces of the enemy were supposed to be retreating east from Barce. A strong enemy group of 100 tanks and motor vehicles was observed marching east, with its forward elements at Msus at 11.00 hours, apparently a flank protection, whose further march to Tengeder or Mechili was possible. It had to be expected that the enemy would hold Mechili at all cost to protect his flank. Small groups of tanks and motor vehicles were reported by Detachment Schwerin at 18.00 hours between Ben Gania and Tengeder.
During early morning Lt.Col. Graf Schwerin received the order by Aide de Camp and radio: “As soon as possible push to the coast and carry out operation Tmimi. Reinforcements from 5.lei.Div. will be sent after you. Task: block coastal road and reconnoitre in both directions, prevent move of English to the east. Push forward to Tobruk with forward detachment.”
The staff of 5.lei.Div. also planned to advance with its forward detachment.
09.00 hours Div. Ariete is ordered “Division establishes strong forward detachment, pushes off as soon as possible on Trigh el Abd, reaches track junction at Ben Gania, and takes possession of Mechili. Mass of the division prepares to follow on the same track. The Detachment Fabris which was formed on 3 April can, after reinforcement, become the forward detachment. Current task can be obviated.”
After “Benghazi occupied 03.00 hours by A.A.3 was reported, Lt.General Rommel in person ordered Div. Brescia at 10.00 hours: “The division forms a forward detachment strength two batteries 7.5cm, 3 batteries AT 4.7cm, one batterie AA 2cm. Task to garrison Benghazi, reconnoitre on Barce.
“One battalion of infantry to be pulled up as soon as possible. The forward detachment is directly subordinated to the Corps.”
At midday Lt.General Rommel drove forward to A.A.3 in Benghazi and ordered: “Following arrival of forward detachment Div.Brescia immediately jump off for Mechili. 30-35 enemy tanks reported by patrol are to be attacked immediately.”
18.00 hours the A.A. during advance in direction ordered, at 24km east of Benghazi, hit enemy rearguard behind a mine barrier, whose resistance could only be broken on 5 April. The tank company had heavy losses due to mines and was not able to advance for the moment.
In a conference between Fliegerfuehrer Afrika, Staffelkapitaen of 2.(H)/14. Pz. and the Ia of the Corps saw the respective areas of reconnaissance limited as follows:
2.(H)/14 on both sides Trigh el Abd up to the line B. Hacheim – Gief el Mrar – Mechili.
Fliegerfuehrer Afrika armed reconnaissance in the area Barce – Derna – Mechili.
The forward detachments set on the Trigh el Abd reached, during the night of 4/5 April:
Lt.Col. Graf Schwerin with Lt. Prinz Bentheim (1 MG platoon, 1 AT platoon, and command group) 19.00 hours Bir el Amia. Since Graf Schwerin had jumped off without arranging his logistics, he was at this point of time already immobile and dependent on air supply on 5 April. Detachment Santa Maria had remained behind Schwerin, its location was unknown.
The staff of 5.lei.Div. with reinforced M.G.Batl.8 area M. el Grara.
All detachments reported heavy losses of vehicles because of the completely trackless terrain. The 5.lei.Div. considered further supply to only be possible by 4-wheel-drive trucks. Lt.Col. Graf Schwerin was repeatedly drawn off the Trigh el Abd because of tracks made by retreating English columns, which moved in all directions. Reports confirmed the quote of General Zambon, who had described the Trigh el Abd as a suicide route that in a Ghibli often was completely covered by sand.
The squadron commander
A specialised reconnaissance squadron which was under the control of the armoured division or Corps, and not the air force. There is a lot of detail at this link. The squadron was equipped with Henschel Hs 126 close reconnaissance planes at this stage.
A Henschel 126 in Italy in 1943, showing quite well how the high-wing design facilitated the reconnaissance task. The soldier standing behind it gives a good impression of the size of this plane. Bundesarchiv Bildarchiv.
How did I / Luftwaffe FlaK Regiment 18 (Gem) (Mot) arrive at Agedabia?
I thought that they didn’t reach North Africa until the July, and then at Tripoli?
Quote” After “Benghazi occupied 03.00 hours by A.A.3 was reported, Lt.General Rommel in person ordered Div. Brescia at 10.00 hours: “The division forms a forward detachment strength two batteries 7.5cm, 3 batteries AT 4.7cm, one batterie AA 2cm. Task to garrison Bardia, reconnoitre on Barce.”Unquote.
Shouldn’t “Bardia” read “Benghazi”?
Thanks David, correction made. That was a Freudian slip. I./Flak 18 came on the 16th convoy, loaded on Ankara and Reichenfels, outbound Palermo 30 March 03.45 hours, inbound Tripoli 31 March 13.00.