D.A.K. War Diary Entry 7 April 1941

7 April 1941

Weather: max. temperature 21 degrees Celsius

2nd Battalion Artillery Regiment 24 (10.5cm guns) “Frongia” was subordinated to the D.A.Korps[1]

Analysis of the intercepted radio messages gave the Ia the enemy picture, which resulted in a radio message to Lt.General Rommel, Colonel Olbrich, 2(H)14 and Fliegerfuehrer Afrika: “Forces at Tobruk apparently not particularly strong, have the task to defend at Acroma, and otherwise only to send patrols to the south and west. Probably retreat of a larger group, latest morning of 7 April, from the area south of Derna to Gazala and further east. Last elements of a larger group with staff of Quartermasster move into area south Derna, Mechili, by morning 7 April. Again point out appearance on morning 7 April of the tank group already heavily hit by Froehlich at Mechili. Panzerkorps Olbrich[2] will still be able to reach this group and finally beat it.”

A.A.3 was also oriented about the situation in a short radio message and driven to the highest urgency to reach the target of the attack, Mechili. Lt.General Rommel issued guidelines for the future conduct by the Ia in the following radio call: “06.40 hours: generally agree with all measures taken. Mechili – Derna decisive points today. Attack Mechili to take place 07.00 hours. Following occupation push on Derna. Supply of petrol is precondition. Keep Stuka ready for Derna. Armed reconnaissance[3] Derna – Tobruk – prevent enemy movement here. Brescia and Trento to be tasked on el Abiar and especially the coastal road Barce.”

The Commander personally organised the preparation for the attack in front of Mechili.

Following the collection of the last available petrol reserves of the 5.lei.Div. it was possible to bring Detachment Fabris in position south of Mechili at 08.15 hours. Negotiators sent out by the Commander to request the surrender of Mechili were sent back twice. Nevertheless there was no attack on Mechili on 7 April since, as Lt.General Rommel noted on a reconnaissance flight during early afternoon, Group Olbrich still hung back 50km in southwesterly, A.A.3 60km in westerly direction, and the mass of Group Streich with elements of the tank company only arrived in front of Mechili when night fell.

Lt.Col. Ponath pushed through to the airfield Derna at 17.00 hours on 7 April, and there blocked the Via Balbia in both directions. He reported “Good landing possibilities, lots of booty, water, petrol.”[4]

Group Olbrich reported 14.10 hours: “Marching group is resting because of terrain difficulties 15km south Bir el Beter. The marching group can only advanc e very slowly.” Repeated urgent directives were issued by the Ia, to push on to Mechili even only with elements of the force.

The group of Major Taetz rested 17.00 hours to 19.00 hours near Ben Gania. The elements of I./Flak 18 had however not followed. The van of Div. Ariete had by this time also reached Ben Gania, but had reached the end of its petrol supplies.

Across these substantial distances the direction of the different marching groups from the Corps command post in Agedabia was very difficult on 7 April. Sufficient radio communications only existed to 5.lei.Division. For the Commander radio messages had to be sent blind until the afternoon hours. With Group Olbrich a good communication existed only while the marching group was resting. From A.A.3 there was no report whatsoever since the evening of 6 April.

According to an incomplete radio message from Fliegerfuehrer the Aufklaerungsabteilung could be presumed to be at Ben Nagra around midday.

The northern group of Div.Brescia, which advanced only slowly due to mine fields and road blocks, reached Maraua by 16.30 hours.

A further addition to the general enemy picture came in the evening from the operations report of the Luftwaffe. It noted at 15.00 hours strong motor vehicle and tank concentrations around and east of Gazala, west of it in the sector Umm er Rzem – Gazala only weak occupation of the road, further west no enemy any more. The retreating enemy columns and noted concentrations at Gazala were attacked with bombs and MGs during the morning and afternoon, with greatest success.

Supply of troops in front of Mechili was carried out by heaviest operations of transport planes on 7 April. Since the required fighter cover was absent, two Hurricanes operating from the airfield at Mechili were able to destroy two Ju 52s while landing, and damage several more. The largest part of the supply vehicles hung back on the advance route, so that some troop elements had been without rations for four days.

To recover vehicle crews of vehicles that were stuck, and dispersed on both sides of the track, truck columns operating together with reconnaissance planes were used from 7 April.

During the night 6/7 April Tripoli was heavily attacked by English bombers. The field hospital suffered light, the Hotel Mehari heavy building damage. Losses: 1 Major of the Luftwaffe killed, two flying officers wounded.

[1] German forces in North Africa remained relatively weak in artillery until late summer of 1941.
[2] Not sure when ‘Group’ Olbrich morphed into an armoured corps.
[3]By aircraft.
[4]4 Blenheims of No. 55 Squadron R.A.F. had been destroyed on Gazala north landing ground when the airfield was abandoned the day before.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s