D.A.K. War Diary Entry 18 April 1941

18 April 1941

Detachment Santa Maria was put into the gap between Group Schwerin and the mass of 5.lei.Div. on the south-eastern front of Tobruk west of Carmuset Beludeah, and subordinated to 5.lei.Div..

The headquarters of the D.A.K. were since the evening of 17 April on the edge of the Jebel 3km south of the Cantoniera (30km west of Tobruk).

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 17 April 1941

17 April 1941

Morning report by Gruppe Herff: “Very active enemy reconnaissance activity during early morning hours. Enemy push on Capuzzo repulsed, four enemy tanks destroyed. Our reconnaissance meets jointly operating armoured cars and tanks in line Sidi Omar – escarpment south of Sollum. Stronger reconnaissance put towards the east via Gasr el Abid.”

An assault team operation by Gruppe Schwerin against the most north-easterly wing of the Tobruk front hit on strong opponent in built-up, wired positions, which could not be broken through. The AA battery in the area of Gruppe Schwerin engaged two small destroyers entering the port of Tobruk, and motor vehicles on the Via Balbia.

Lt. General Rommel on this day also personally led the attack on Ras Mdaauar, which was carried out on the right wing of Div. Brescia, utilising two companies of Kradschuetzen-Batl. 15, reinforced by infantry guns, and self-propelled AT guns, and elements of Div. Ariete  and one battalion Trento. The attack was supported by the Corps Artillery battalion Frongia, and artillery of Div. Ariete. The attack advanced up to a short distance before the wire blocking the enemy position. General Rommel ordered that the line reached by evening was to be held as base line for the continuation of the attack on 18 April.[1]

Vigorous activity of enemy combat planes against our siege troops, continuing all day.

During the afternoon Fliegerfuehrer Afrika attacked battery positions west of Tobruk, fuel depots, and a fort south of Tobruk with 41 Ju 87. Heavy smoke developed over the battery positions, forceful light and dark fires could be seen from the Gulf of Bomba.

Basic requests to Fliegerfuehrer Afrika see the same.

Reports of Gruppe Herff concerning situation and combat operations see the same.

[1]This is again well documented in the Australian Official History at this link. (p. 167 onwards)

Disaster at Sea: D.A.K. War Diary Entry 16 April 1941

16 April 1941

Weather Situation: max. temp. 25 degrees Celsius

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops:

Complete 20th Naval Transport Squadron sunk by enemy naval forces.[1]

Losses:
21 Officers and Civil Servants
363 NCOs and Other Ranks

Material losses:[2]
Elements H.Q. Staff 15.Panz.Div.
Staff and Staff battery Artl. Regt. 33
Panz. Signals Battalion 33
Staff Rifle Regiment 155
Gun company S.R. 155

Div. Trento lost the following during attack on Ras el Mdaauar:

1st Battalion Infantry Regiment 62
1 platoon 2cm AA guns
Staff and heavy mortar company Infantry Regiment 62

During the afternoon the Commander personally, from the most forward lines, led an attack to take Point 209 Ras Mdaauar. The following were planned to attack: armoured battalion Div. Ariete from the south-east Point 182, Regiment 62 of Div.Trento from er Rus (202), towards the east. Objective 209. The IIa of the Corps, Major Schraepler, with a translator and a radio set was used as liaison officer at this regiment. The attack failed because of the hesitant advance of the armoured battalion of Div. Ariete. During a counterattack by some enemy armoured cars 2 companies of Infantry Regiment 62 led themselves be marched off in captivity.[3]

Tobruk

Map of Tobruk Defenses, from the Australian War Memorial’s Official History, Chapter 4.

A landing attempt in Sollum made by a cruiser during the night 14/15 April remained unsuccessful. Also during the night 15/16 April an enemy raid on Sollum with heavy artillery, naval, and air support was repulsed. Own losses 45 men. Only a permanent patrol was left in Sollum due to continuous enemy fire. Continuous air attacks and fire from naval units caused losses to Gruppe Herff.[4]

Written directive to Gruppe Herff regarding offensively organised defense of Sollum see the same.

Early morning reconnaissance by Fliegerfuehrer Afrika noted that 2 transports had left the port of Tobruk. An attack on the large enemy naval unit reported off Bardia and Sollum was not possible due to dust storm.

Directives from the O.K.W. regarding their appreciation of the situation, see the same.

[1]This was the so-called battle of the Tarigo convoy, named after the command vessel of the escort, Navigatori-class destroyer Luca Tarigo. The whole convoy was lost, including all the escorts. The destroyer’s commander, Commander Pietro de Cristofaro, and its Chief Engineer, Luca Balsofiore, received posthumous Gold Medals for Valor for the action, during which Tarigo sank the Tribal-class destroyer HMS Mohawk. More detail on the battle, and the shifting historical views, can be found at this linkthis link, and this link. The Italian Wikipedia (at this link) has good maps.

rct_tarigo_usmm

Luca Tarigo pre-war, after the first set of structural modifications, showing quite well the forward and centre twin-turrets with their 120mm guns.

[2]Some of the material was recovered later, since all the vessels sank in shallow waters.
[3]The whole desaster is quite well described on p.164 onwards of the Official History of the Australian Army, at this link (opens PDF)
[4]See this link for more detail about these actions.