D.A.K. War Diary Entry 11 April 1941

11 April 1941

Weather: max. temp. 19 degrees Celsius

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops:

Arrived in Tripoli:
4./K.B.15
5./K.B.15

Arrived in the zone of operations:
Stb./K.B.15
1./K.B.15
2./K.B.15
3./K.B.15
Pz.Jaeg.Abt.33[1]

The ring around Tobruk was closed by 5.lei.Div. in the east and south. Div.Brescia held its position at Uadi el Schel on both sides of the Via Balbia.

The combat air reconnaissance above Tobruk showed at 07.30 hours:

“German troops just north of El Adem. The enemy in Tobruk has front towards south-east at B. el Azazi. Further enemy has taken positions on the mountain ridge 20km south-east of Tobruk. West of Tobruk abandoned positions.”

Following a first reconnaissance push of Panz.Regiment 5 west of the road El Adem – Tobruk in direction Fort Pilastrino, the regimental commander reported: “South of Tobruk in Sghifet el Chuer an anti-tank ditch with a lot of AT guns and mines.”

At the road junction south of Tobruk an English advance by 14 tanks was repulsed in the evening. Panz.Jaeger-Abteilung 605 destroyed six tanks.[2] 2./(H)14 reported during early evening that the enemy group of 100 trucks, artillery and tanks standing until now at El Adem had retreated in flight on the Trigh Enver towards the east. A.A.3 therefore received the order at 17.20 hours: “Reinforced A.A.3 immediately jumps off on Via Balbia towards Bardia as Forward Detachment to the Corps. I expect that the Battalion will reach Bardia during the night.”

Forward Detachment Knabe[3] was formed from Kradschuetzenbatl. 15Panz.Jaeg.Abtlg.33, one heavy and one light battery[4], and Flak 18. It received the task to take up the pursuit via El Adem to Sollum, jumping off on 12 April with sunrise. Preliminary objective Sollum. Forward Detachment Knabe was immediately subordinated to the Corps, just as A.A.3.

Detachments Montemurro and Fabris of Div.Ariete were pulled up via Derna and subordinated to 5.lei.Div. The remainder of I./Flak 18 was ordered to El Adem to be at the disposal of the Corps.

[1]Units numbered ’33’ belonged to 15.Panzer, as divisional units.
[2]These were tanks of ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadron 1 R.T.R. Two tanks were lost by these squadrons, both burned, and 4 German tanks were claimed as destroyed.
[3]Gustav Georg Knabe was the commanding officer of Motorcycle Rifle Battalion 15.
[4]Heavy = 15cm, light = 10.5cm

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 10 April 1941

10 April 1941

The Commander assessed the situation on 10 April:

“I am convinced the enemy is retreating, we have to push after him with all forces. Target to be made clear to every man is the Suez canal. To prevent a breakout of the enemy from Tobruk, an encirclement has to be pursued by all means.”

A.A.3, of Forward Detachment Prittwitz which, together with elements of Brescia was in the area 47-35km before Tobruk during the morning, was sent towards the Via Balbia east of Tobruk via Acroma – el Adem. At 12.00 hours it encountered enemy at El Adem (100 – 850 motor vehicles, 2cm AA and heavy tanks).[1]

The mass of Forward Detachment Prittwitz should at first attack the enemy in Tobruk from the west, to then follow A.A.3 after being relieved by Brescia. At 11.00 hours the commanding officer M.G. Batallion 8 reported to the Commander  at km16 ahead of Tobruk: “M.G.8 made contact with the enemy, 2 heavy tanks destroyed, battalion takes position and prepares attack to tie him down.”[2]

When driving ahead towards the frontline at 12.00 hours on 10 April, Major General von Prittwitz died 16km west of Tobruk in the forward line.[3] The command of the Forward Detachments was taken over by Lt.Col. Graf Schwerin.

Lt. General Rommel ordered that, for the night 10/11 April, Div. Brescia should relieve Forward Detachment Graf Schwerin, this should follow A.A.35.lei.Div. should close up in a nightmarch behind the the Forward Detachment.

The most forward elements of Div.Ariete were noted by reconnaissance plane at Tengeder. It received the order to advance on El Adem to be at the disposal of the Commander, jumping off immediately, and to send forward there a mixed, combat-capable battalion, to accelerate the move. Arrival latest on 11 April.

I.Flak 18 and 2./Pz.Jaeg.33 stood at the track junction Mteifel – el Chebir at 08.00 hours and urgently requested supply with petrol and rations.

The Detachment had been without water for 24 hours.

The command post of the Afrikakorps was moved to the Cantoniere Aim el Gazala, the combat airfield of 2./(H)14 to the nearby airfield. The Ia of the Corps arrived at the command squadron midday, coming from Agedabia – Derna.

[1]These were likely elements of 2nd Armoured Division, but it is not clear where the tanks came from.
[2]It is likely they hit the resistance line of Tobruk.
[3]In the general chaos, where the local situation was unclear, the car with the General had passed the most forward Axis position without noticing, and was taken under fire by Australian guns. Both he and his driver were killed.