The loss of MFP148, 15 January 1942

The loss of MFP148, 15 January 1942

In late 1941 the Kriegsmarine introduced a new type of vessel into the Mediterranean theatre, the Marinefaehrprahm (MFP, or simply ‘Prahm’), of ‘F-Lighter’ as it was known by the Royal Navy. I have previously written about the early history of these vessels at this link.

DSC 0247 copy

One of the first series of MFPs on the move from Palermo to Tripoli, late November 1941. In the background a Spica class torpedo boat, probably Perseo. (Author’s Collection)

F148, of the first series, was mined and lost on 15 January 1942, while proceeding to the forward area from Tripoli. At this stage, the Axis forces were in the Marada – Mersa el Brega position, having retreated from Agedabia on 6 January 1942. It was the furthest east they would move until after their defeat at El Alamein in October and November 1942. 

Supply to this area was not possible by normal ships, but could be carried out by the MFPs with their much shallower draft. The British on the other hand were well aware of the importance of coastal traffic to the Axis forces, and made persistent efforts to interdict it, both through direct attacks and through a mining campaign. Mines were dropped regularly by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish and Albacores operating out of Malta and Cyrenaica, on what the Malta forces called ‘cucumber’ raids. 

One such raid took place on 4 January, with two Swordfish from No. 830 Squadron F.A.A. and one Albacore from No. 828 Squadron F.A.A.  setting out from Malta to mine the approaches to Tripoli harbour, at this stage the only main harbour left to the Axis in North Africa. The raid is noted here. While it cannot be said whether this mining raid led to the loss of F148, it is the last one before she was mined. The location of the mining indicates that this was an air-dropped mine.

Report on the Loss of F148

15. January

18.00:

82 tons of fuel in canisters loaded.

18:30

About 4 nautical miles east of Tripolis, at a distance of about 800-1,000 metres from the coast, detonation under the rear of the vessel. Probably English E-Mine. Ship slowly slips down aft. Emergency signals. All rescue boats and one man blown overboard. Two man on fireship, three below deck, the others on the poop. 11 men are wounded, some of them severely. Try to bring floats closer again to recover the wounded. Attempts are broken off since Italian 34th AA Battery and one Arab come alongside with three boats to take off the crew. Emergency signals seen from the coast. Admin Officer grips an Italian motor boat with some men and takes it to the site of the incident, but doesn’t find any crew on board. Boat continues to float.

Flotilla CO leaves port with Italian rescue tug, touring in the ship if possible. Because of the draft of the tug the site of the incident can only be reached at 22.00 hours. Life boat is hoisted out. Lighter has however already capsized, poop has sunk, prow sticks out of the water keel up. Nobody left on board. On return to port English air attack on Tripoli, therefore only tied up alongside at 24.00 hours. Crew was moved to hospital Tripoli by Battery.

Thus ended one of the small dramas of the desert war. Nobody was killed, but a valuable supply vessel with 82 tons of fuel was lost.

For the wargamers, you can play with these vessels here.

Artillery Statistics for Middle East Command 4 November 1941

Artillery Statistics for Middle East Command 4 November 1941

On 5 November 1941 Middle East Command issued a complete list of guns present in Middle East Command. This is preserved in WO169/949 in the UK National Archives, and reproduced in the table below. In an earlier post I had published the medium artillery numbers. It can be found at this link, and is from the same document.

25-pr and Quad, 22 Dec 1941

Instrument of war during the triumphant pursuit in late 1941. “A 25-pdr field gun and ‘Quad’ artillery tractor, 22 December 1941.” (IWM E7245)

MOST SECRET

ARTILLERY SITUATION IN MIDDLE EAST

AS AT 4 NOVEMBER 1941

(excl. CD and AA)[1] 

COPY NO. 16

CRME/3612/RA

5. Nov. 41

APPENDIX “A” ATTD.

1. ARMAMENT FD. ARTY

(a) Guns in Units – 25-pdr Mk II on Mk I carriage

Unit

 

Number of Guns

 Remarks

Seven British Fd. Regiments at 24 each

4 RHA, 60 Fd, 51 Fd, 31 Fd, 72 Fd, 74 Fd, 124 Fd)

168

 

Nine British or Ind Regts at 16 each

1 RHA, 2 RHA, 104 RHA, 107 RHA, 1 Fd, 4 Fd, 8 Fd, 25 Fd, 28 Fd)

144

1 S.A. Div Arty

 

64

(4 S.A. Fd Regt short of men)

2 S.A. Div Arty[2]

 

72

 

1 N.Z. Div Arty

 

72

 

6 Aust Div Arty[3]

 

72

 

7 Aust Div Arty[3]

 

72

9 Aust Div Arty[3]

 

72

 

Two Army Fd Regts RAA

 

48

 

Polish Carpathian Arty

16

 

1 Greek Fd Regt[4]

 

24

 

Schools and Depots

 

20

 

L.R.D.G.

1

 

144 Fd Regt

 

Nil (Armed with a variety of weapons in Tobruk)[5]

Total:-

 

845

 

 

 

 

 

 (b) Available not yet issued:-

Unit

 

Number of Guns

 Remarks

En Route to Tobruk

20

(8 for Polish Fd Regt + 12 for 144 Fd Regt)[6]

In Ordnance Depots

144

 

Total:-

 

131

 

  (c) Advised and released:- 

Convoy[7]

 

Number of Guns

 Remarks

Guns of 11 RHA

 

24
W.S.12

 

20

 

R.246 

 (Slow Convoy)

20

 

Canadian, 

 Oct – Dec prod.

66
U.K. production 

 Oct.

48  
 Total:-

 

186  

 Note:- 8 25-pdrs have been despatched to E Africa.

(d) Total 25-pr guns in M.E.

Status

 

Number of Guns

 Remarks

Shipped and advised

 

1162  
W.E. of 40 Fd Regts 

 at 24 guns each

960

 

Reserves Complete equipments

202

 

Carriages only 104  
  Barrels only 72  
  Jackets only 6  

 (e) 18/25-pdrs

Location

 

Number of Guns

 Remarks

Base Depots

 

8

Ordnance Depots

 

14

 

Total:-

 

22

 

 

 

   

16 have been despatched to East Africa.

A certain number of carriages have been used for 18-pdr. pieces in order to raise the standard of 18-prs Mk V sent to India.

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New Zealand 2-pdr anti-tank gun mounted on a truck in the portee role, 3 December 1941. (IWM E3743E)

2. A-Tk Weapons

(a) Guns with Units

Unit

 

2-prs

 18-prs

3 RHA

36

 

102 A-Tk

36

 

65 A-Tk

 

48

73 A-Tk[8]

 (late 73 Med.)

48

 16

7 N.Z. A-Tk

48

 16

1 S.A. A-Tk

 

48

 16

2 S.A. A-Tk[2]

 

48

 16

2/1 Aust A-Tk[3]

 

72

 

2/2 Aust A-Tk[3]

 

36

 

2/3 Aust A-Tk

 

 

Tobruk

 (149 A-Tk etc.)

40

 9

4 Ind Div A-Tk Coy

 

9

 

Greek A-Tk Bty

 

3

 

Cyprus

 

4

Schools etc.

 

1

 

 Total:-

 

 437

 73

 (b) Available not yet issued:- 

Unit

 

2-prs

18-prs

In Ordnance Depots

 

15

11

In ports

 (ex SS Steelworker)

48

 

En Route to Tobruk

 

8

 

 Total:-

 

 71  11

  (c) Advised and released:-  

Unit

 

2-prs

18-prs

Guns of 76 A-Tk

 

36

W.S.12

54

 

Canadian Prod.

UK Prod

Jul – Sep

Oct

50

76

 

 Total:-

 

216  

 (d)  

Status

 

2-prs

18-prs

W.E. of THREE A-Tk Regts

 at 36 guns each

108

 

W.E. of NINE A-Tk Regts

 at 64 guns each

576

 

W.E. of TEN Div Recce units

at 12 guns each

120

 

Total:-

 

804
2-pr guns in M.E.

 shipped and advised

724

No. of 2-prs therefore

 required immediately

80

 

In addition a further 16 2-prs each will be required  to complete 

THREE A-Tk Regts, arriving in future convoys, from 48 to 64 guns

48

 

Total 2-prs 

required therefore

128

 

 

 

  (2) 37 mm Bofors A-Tk Distribution:-  

Unit

 

37 mm Bofors

Remarks

Tobruk

 

26

 

4 Ind Div

 

18

 

Ordnance Depots

12

 

Total:-

 

56  

 (c) 47/32mm Distribution:-  

Unit

 

2-prs

Remarks

Tobruk

 

42

 

L.R.D.G.

 

6

 

Ordnance Depots

6

 

Total:-

 

54  

(g) Note:- 6 18-prs Mk V were despatched to India in Sep., a further 18 are being despatched this month.

NOTES:

[1] CD – Coastal Defense, AA – Anti-Aircraft
[2] At El Alamein, with one battery with ‘E’ Force
[3] In Syria

[4] Not in action during CRUSADER
[5] The famous ‘Bush Artillery’, mostly captured Italian guns.
[6] These guns would have arrived and been issued prior to operations commencing
[7] None of these guns would have made it to the theatre before operations commenced.
[8] One battery with ‘E’ Force

Large 000000arty

Artillery as a killer during the retreat in December 1941. “The result of an Italian ammunition column which came under our heavy shellfire near Derna.” (IWM E7309)