D.A.K. War Diary 9 April 1941

9 April 1941

Aerial reconnaissance during the morning 9 April showed: Mechili – Gadd el Ahmar free of enemy, there one of our detachments. 40km east of Gadd el Ahmar retreating enemy column. Tmimi our troops, 40km east the most forward German patrol. About 10 ships in the port of Tobruk.

Lt.General Rommel decided to continue the pursuit, encircle the enemy at Tobruk, and to destroy him. The Commander[1] planned to bring the divisions into the following jumping off positions for the attack.

During the evening 8 April, Major-General von Prittwitz[2] had already been given the task to lead the elements of 5.lei.Div. which were advancing as forward detachments on Tobruk. He reported at 08.00 hours 9 April to the Commander at the command post of the Afrikakorps on Derna airfield: “Forward Detachment Ponath 50km east of Derna. Mass (A.A.3, I./A.R.75, Pz.Jaeg.39, 6./M.G.2, Regt.Stab z.b.V. 200) will close up during the morning.”

At 10.15 hours General von Prittwitz received the order: “Group Prittwitz advances via Ain el Gazala into the area south of Tobruk and reconnoitres from south and southwest against Tobruk.”

At 12.25 hour order from Lt.General Rommel to General Zambon[3]:

“Div. Brescia advances from west onto enemy at Tobruk and opens fire on him with all heavy weapons and the artillery. It does however advance only so far as to stay outside the enemy fire zone.[4] Make lots of dust in the terrain.”

At 18.30 hours Lt. General Rommel arrived by plane at 5.lei.Div., which secured at Mechili to the north and northwest, and was busy repairing and maintaining its motor vehicles. Lt.General Rommel ordered to assemble all drive-ready elements into combat groups and to be ready with these by daybreak at the Via Balbia in Gazala, to be able to reach the jumping off point for the attack soonest. On 9 April, more or less immobile, the groups Schraepler, Taetz, and  Div.Ariete stood in the desert in the area Gadd el Ahmar – Tengeder.

The reconnaissance of Group Schraepler noted a heavy English tank battalion at el Adem.

[1] ‘Lt.General Rommel’ and ‘Commander’ are being used interchangeably.
[2] Commander of 15.Pz.Div.
[3] General Bortolo Zambon relinquished the command of Brescia on 10 October 1941. His career thereafter is not clear. He was involved in the liberation of Milano by anti-fascist forces at the end of the war, having spent time in prison.
[4] How exactly this feat was to be achieved is not clear… One presumes that if you can shoot at the other guy, he’ll be able to shoot at you…

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