D.A.K. War Diary 25 April 1941

25 April 1941

Weather: max. temp. 28 degrees C

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops:

Arrived in Tripoli:[1]

7./S.R.115
9./S.R.115
10./S.R.115
Stab I./Pz.Regt. 8
1./Pz. Regt. 8

Of Div.Brescia arrived:

3rd Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment

Of Div. Trento arrived in Acroma:

7th Bersaglieri Regiment[2]

Statements by English prisoners confirmed the English intent to, if feasible, bring about a fundamental change of the situation at Tobruk by an enveloping attack from Capuzzo. The English radio claimed that on 21 April “a further 2 Indian regiments and 1 Australian armoured battalion were landed in Tobruk without interference by the enemy.”[3]

Based on observation from the ground by Gruppe Schwerin, nine merchants, two destroyers and one cruiser were in Tobruk harbour on 24 May. On 25 May 18.15 hours Lt.Col. Count Schwerin reported: “2 small enemy destroyers at Uadi Delia, [4] discharging men and materials. Lively motor vehicle traffic to the discharge points.”

Along the whole front of Tobruk reconnaissance pushes by the enemy, in up to company strength and sometimes with tanks, were repulsed throughout the day:

03.00 hours an assault patrol (strength about 60 men) against the southern flank of Gruppe Schwerin was repulsed. The enemy left behind one dead and one severely wounded.
12.30 hours 4-5 English tanks approached Pt. 201 from Pt.209
15.15 hours an enemy push of about one company against the northern flank of Div. Brescia came to a halt in our defensive fire.
22.30 hours the division repulsed a second push against its right wing.[5]

The lively enemy assault patrol activity was effectively supported by the well directed fire of the English artillery. On the left wing of Div. Brescia a 7.5cm battery was put out of action completely by this fire. Because of its limited range the battery could not even return the fire. In the sector of Div. Ariete the English fired under direction of an artillery observer plane[6] and covered a battery of the division.

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A Westland Lysander Mark II of No. 208 Squadron RAF parked at El Adem airfield, Libya, shortly after its occupation on 5 January 1940. In the foreground are the remains of one of eighty-seven wrecked Italian aircraft found on the airfield. Courtesy Imperial War Museum

Morning reconnaissance of Fliegerfuehrer Afrika carried out by three Me 110 ascertained: “South of Capuzzo in the wire starting at Uaar cuts every 50m up to about Gabr el Meduar widely dispersed single armoured cars or trucks with front to north. At Sidi Azeiz 12 armoured cars. All vehicles had bombs dropped on them by the 3 Me 110 and were attacked with machine guns and cannon in strafing attacks at a level of 10 metres. On the road Sollum – Sidi el Barrani total quiet during the time of the reconnaissance.”

Gruppe Herff jumped off for counter attack against enemy forces south and south-east of Capuzzo at 12.00 hours. Support of the Luftwaffe was ineffective, since the attack was carried out 35 minutes early and mostly hit our concentration area north and east of Capuzzo and partially on the Via Balbia. The enemy security screen conducted a fighting withdrawal. The enemy artillery fired from positions far to the rear blocking and destructive fire and could not be engaged by our weapons. The attack of Gruppe Herff was broken off at 14.00 hours after reaching Points 206 and 192. Seven enemy armoured cars were destroyed, of which one by planes. Just from our air attack Gruppe Herff lost 7 dead and 10 wounded.

23.20 a directive was issued to Gruppe Herff: “On 26 April after finally pushing back opponent from the southern front take firm possession of the ascent at Point 194 and defend it.”[7]

Air Situation: 24 April 19.30 hours enemy bombing of Derna town and airfield. Enemy bombers and fighters have almost completely ceased to attack ground troops. On Tobruk airfield nine old Italian planes and 7 Hurricanes were ascertained based on take-off observations. Our air force sank an 8,000 ton merchant around lunchtime while it was leaving Tobruk harbour[8]. Destroyers[9] took off during midday hours to support the attack of Gruppe Herff (see above) and at 16.00 hours attacked enemy battery positions east of the border at Gabr Seghir and Sidi Suleiman. After this attack only 2 enemy guns continued firing. One shot down Hurricane crashed onto one Me 110. Both burned out. One Me 110 had to forceland in no-mans land after encountering anti-aircraft fire.

athene-52efn65voaclfhp5gdh_layout

Force-landed Me 110 of 2.(H)/14.Pz. in North Africa, 1941. Aircraft is 5F+PK. Courtesy Bundesarchiv photographic collection.

Based on the bad experience of the last days with the Italian units a change to the intention to attack at the same time with all divisions along the whole front of Tobruk was required. The plan, which was presented to the Ia and/or chiefs of staff of the divisions at 16.00 hours today, saw the main push on both sides of Ras Mdauur by strong groups of 5.lei. and 15.Pz.Div., on the remaining front mainly tieing down the opponent by local or fake attacks. Written orders about moves in the time 26 to 30 April and the attack itself to be issued in the following days.

An order to Fliegerfuehrer Afrika listed its tasks and delineated them from those of 2.(H)/14.Pz.

X.Fliegerkorps received an order by Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe to immediately carry out the air transport of elements of 15.Pz.Div. in Naples to Derna.

[1]7th company is a rifle company in the 2nd battalion of the regiment. 9th and 10th companies are probably the infantry gun and engineer company of the regiment. The regiment had only two rifle battalions in 1941.
[2]Bersaglieri (Sharpshooters) were the elite light infantry of the Italian army. They were normally fully motorised and easily recognisable from their feathered hats. Bersaglieri regiments were normally only attached to armoured and motorised divisions. At this stage of the war, only two Bersaglieri regiments were in North Africa, 7th with Trento and 8th with Ariete. They were joined by 9th with Trieste in September.
[3]This is not correct, but probably deliberately misleading information. One Indian regiment, 18th Cavalry, was already in the fortress, and there were no Australian armoured units in the desert.
[4]Probably on the eastern side of the fortress.
[5]The AWM volume on Tobruk has the following information on these raids:
03.00 hours – not clear.  A night patrol by 2/48 Battalion went out to ‘Carrier Hill’, Point 201 opposite the Ras Mdaaur sector, but no contact reported .
12.30 hours – not clear.
15.15 hours – This was carried out by ‘A’ Company 2/23 Battalion, and was aimed to keep a sufficient distance of no-mans land between the perimeter and the Axis lines. The raid consisted of three separate patrols, one including a mortar team, and between them they brought in 32 officers including at least one officer and one NCO.
22.30 hours – this was either of two raids: i) a raid by 2/23 Battalion to destro the trucks observed in the afternoon patrol, and which claimed 11 trucks destroyer, or ii) a raid carried out by 18 Indian Cavalry, which brought in 33 prisoners including an officer from a wadi 4,500m out of the perimeter.
Not mentioned is a raid by ‘B’ Company 2/23 battalion that hit a German position south of the Derna Road, which left one German killed and one Australian wounded.
[6]While the last three Hurricanes were withdrawn on this day, two Westland Lysanders of No. 208 Squadron RAF remained with the garrison to carry out Army Co-operation Duties.
[7]Halfaya Pass
[8]There is no evidence I can find for this, and I suspect it to be a false claim.
[9]Me 110

 

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