About the Project

The Project


The aim of this blog is to accompany the preparation of a complete history incorporating the Axis and Commonwealth perspectives of the Winterschlacht (Winter Battle) in North Africa, November 1941 to February 1942. The battle was known as “Operation Crusader” to the British, the 2nd (British) Offensive to the Italians, and as the ‘Winterschlacht’ (winter battle) to the Germans.  The start date is universally agreed to be 17 November 1941, while the end date is 15 January for the British (thus excluding the Axis counter-offensive of late January), while it is 6 February for the Axis, including the counteroffensive.

FFBE9B6824504EE4821C6D111F52C826 THUMBNAIL 1

The blog originally started on Google’s Blogger on http://crusaderproject.blogspot.com, but I was unhappy with the editing and layout there, so I moved it over to here.

Another book on the desert war? I need that as much as another hole in my head…

Hang on a minute.  We know that Agar-Hamilton and Turner, Orpen, Jackson or Carver are giants on whose shoulders we can only dare hope to stand eventually. But one of the reasons why we think it will be a valuable addition is that nobody has provided an Axis viewpoint of this battle in any depth or quality in English yet, and that we will attempt as far as is practicable to integrate the questions of supply, air and intelligence into the main story of the ground battle. We will primarily tell the story from the German command perspective using contemporary source material. That in itself is new as well, as most of the history has been written (very well)  from the Allied perspective, with the exception of the (never translated) Italian histories, of which I would highly recommend Montanari’s Tobruk. Regarding intel, when the standard histories were written in the 50s and 60s, ULTRA was still protected, and we believe that weaving this in with the story of the battle will add value. We think that what we have found and keep finding in the material we look at will lead to a better understanding of the battle.

What is Going to be on this Site?

As in all book projects, we will come across material we deem interesting, but which the eventual publisher will decide are not worth it. In that case, these will be published here. The same applies to info we think is interesting, but where even we admit it is too detailed.

Additionally, we will publish book reviews, and links back to interesting forum discussions related to the topic. you’ll also probably find the best link selection related to operation CRUSADER anywhere on the internet, but that’s just a guess.

Fundamentally, we hope that visitors to this site leave after having seen something they otherwise might never have found.  We are very lucky that we live in accessible distance to the archives containing all this stuff, so we like to share this.

This would also be the point where I would like to thank my friends James and Jon, who are toiling in NARA and the New Zealand archives when their time permits, and both of them have been a great help. Jon is also a great source of New Zealand biographies of participants in the battle.

So, this site is the final truth on operation CRUSADER then?

Well, no, actually.  It’s a site on the internet, not the Bible. This site is a work in progress, just as our research.  What we post here is going to be a reflection of the best attempt we can make at description and analysis at the time of writing. Where we are not certain about something we’ll say so.  Where we find later, after posting, that there are errors or omissions, we’ll correct them. This means older posts are not abandoned but are updated when we can add information (one example for this is this post, to which I have added quite a bit of additional info over time)   So we won’t post things here that we know are in error, and what is posted here is going to be the result of fairly thorough research before it appears here (because that’s the kind of chaps we are), but that is no guarantee that it is right.

 Blogs confuse me – how can I find my way around here?

No need to worry, as part of our effort to make this information accessible, we have provided a site-map here:

Blog Map

Status 2011

An update seems in order, after three years and no book yet. Much has changed in terms of conception. What was meant to be a 1-volume treatment will be a 3-volume history, with a spin-off book.

The spin-off will focus on the operation of Oasis Force under Brigadier Reid. This will be authored by me, Andreas, Kuno Gross, and Roberto Chiarvetti. It will be first to publish, and appear hopefully by February 2012. This book will be self-published, due to issues in getting a fair contract from a publisher for this kind of work.

For the main volumes, I have started talking to publishers, and have one offer of contract. The publication will be in the order of Vol. III (counter-offensive), Vol. I (Main battle Sidi Rezegh/Tobruk), Vol. II (pursuit and investment and taking of Bardia/Halfaya).  Publication at the earliest mid-2012, but could be pushed back to early 2013. It’s a lot of work, and I have a day-job, since writing books clearly does not suffice to pay the bills.

Current Status (09/13)

See at this link.

 A Note on the Header

In case anyone is interested, one of the pictures on top is part of a painting called ‘Tank Battle on Belhamed’, by Peter McIntyre, which can be seen in all its glory here on the New Zealand War Art site: http://warart.archives.govt.nz/files/images/NCWA_00297.jpeg. The other pictures with which this alternates are also by Mr. McIntyre.

Peter McIntyre’s biography is also available on the site: http://warart.archives.govt.nz/PeterMcIntyre

I think it’s great the New Zealanders are making these available to view just like this.

Popularity (or otherwise)

In case anyone else is as sad as me, there have been about 365,000 hits on the site since 2008 (not unique), and in a normal month I see about 3-4,000 hits. I have no idea whether that’s good or bad for a site like this. Most traffic comes from links in Wikipedia, and on forums. It appears a number of people find this site useful for their research and interests, and that’s of course great news.

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48 thoughts on “About the Project

  1. Part of your readership will be wargamers. Will you hopefully includes some maps and orbats of smaller slices of the action that we can design gaming scenarios from?

    With best wishes for a great project,
    Noel Zaal, South Africa.


    • Hi Noel

      Many thanks for the good wishes and compliments. We are both wargamers ourselves (I used to beta-test Combat Mission), so we will definitely publish things that other wargamers will find of interest. For example, we have what is probably the most detailed OOB of the Italian infantry divisions that is available. If those things don’t make it into the book, we’ll publish them online.

      There is already a very detailed OOB of 90th Light (Africa Special Purpose Division) for 10 November 41, at this link.

      All the best



  2. You’ve said what the project is about, but nothing about yourselves.

    What’s your background? Have you published any works previously?



    • Hi Graeme

      I have had some very bad experience with having my name and contact details published on the internet, so I’ll avoid this. One of us is a published historian. I am just an amateur.

      All the best



  3. Am working on an experiential write-up of Crusader in connection with a broader 1914-45 project. Gradually expanding chronological fragment is at chaosandconspiracy.wordpress. com. Help yourself, as I intend to do with this site and its awesome links, of course with all due credit given. Best regards…


  4. Hi Andreas; I was living in Libya for more than 11 years and have paid several visits to Tobruk and many of the other battlefields. If you thinkt that at one time I could be helpful with photographs or anything, please let me know.

    Kind regards & all the good luck you need with the book-project!



  5. Hello Andreas,

    Congratulations on a fine website: I really enjoyed browsing it. Good luck with the book project as well.

    I’m an aviation historian, and am currently trying to help a fellow researcher interested in Luftwaffe operations from 26 to 31 December 1941. Do you happen to have any ULTRA from this period, and especially the Fliegerführer Afrika daily reports for those days? The relevant HW 5 files at the British National Archives would be HW 5/49, 50 and 51.

    Also, do you happen to have the Regia Aeronautica records for the period 26 to 31 December 1941? I was very interested to see your article about the Cronistoria mission reports. I’ve not previously seen such detailed primary sources about the Regia Aeronautica.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. If you’re interested, in exchange I can offer a few logbook entries for Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 pilots involved in the battle. Nothing too exciting, but I’d imagine that every bit helps!

    All the best,
    Andrew Arthy

    Air War Publications – http://www.airwarpublications.com


    • Hi Andrew

      Good to hear from you. Let me go through my records and see what I have. At present the ULTRA files for that period of December are not in my library, I need another trip to Kew to cover it. I’m only up to HW5/43 at present. I should have the Italian stuff though.

      All the best



  6. Another book on the desert war? I need that as much as another hole in my head…

    haha ,that was seriously funny.Good luck with your endeavor.


  7. HELLO
    I googled Citta Di Tunisie, which was the ship I was on between Port Said and Napoli in early 1946. I was part of number of RAF personnel posted from Egypt to Italy.
    I have often wondered about the history of this ship, and now I have an outline of part of it’s history thanks to your hard work.
    Having arrived in ITALY I was posted to 250 Sudan Squadron RAF at the time was Near Lavariano. This squadron served with the Desert AirForce throughout the Desert and Italian campaigns. it was disbanded there in January 1847 – a nunber of years later I set up the Squadron Association and got members to write their memoirs – fascinating stories now almost ready to pass to the Imperial War Museum.


  8. Andreas
    Do you have access to a copy of the Offical “SECRET” report titles:- “7TH ARMOURED DIVISION – An Account of the Operations in Libya – 18th November to 27th December 1941” published in the desert by Major General W S R Gott January 1942.? I have a surviving copy in my possession if it would be of any help.
    Best Regards


  9. Hello, this seems to be a very interesting project. Hopefully this book might shed some light on some common misconceptions about WWII in North Africa.
    I am an Italian amateur historian, mainly interested in WWII in North Africa and Meditrranean, I have published some articles on Italian history magazines. One of them is about Battle at Bir el Gubi on 19 november 1941, for this article I had access to original war diaries of involved units: diaries of the Ariete division and those of the composing regiments, also those of British units. I have also the books of the italian official history (written by Gen. Montanari) one of which is devoted to Operation Crusader.
    I can send you this article if you are interested (it’s in Italian as I said).


  10. Hi – Thank you so much for this. I’ve been using this (specifically your translation of Directive 38) as a source for a school project I’ve been working on. I was just wondering if you could help me with citing it: for it to be a ‘valid’ source I need your full name, which I can’t find on the website. I know that you might not want to post that kind of info. but I would really appreciate it, if you don’t mind. Thanks 🙂


  11. I’m after as much info as possible about the Inshore Squadron at Tubruk? Is it possible you could point me in right direction? thankyou Bob


  12. Hi, Andreas.
    My Great-Uncle fought with the 44th Royal Tank Regiment during WW2. I’m currently re-reading The History of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment 1939-1945. I’m here because I was reading up on the account of a Major Rawlins in Command of Force “Bill”, whom was killed 25 November 1941. He was defending the Sheferzen Gap along with a couple Matilda Tanks from both 42 RTR and 44 RTR. I decided to Google him, and it brought me to your site. I can try offer some further info if needed and I’m wondering if you might have any further info to add on my relative that served?

    Kind regards,



      • Hi Andreas,

        Thank you for the reply. The book is written on accounts of the fighting by separate Officers of the 44th RTR throughout the course of WW2. It does go into quite some detail about the situation at and around Tobruk, also making accounts of constant harassment by the German Pzr’s flanking and hitting the ‘B’ Squadron Supply units.

        The book itself is no longer in print, it’s considered rare. It cost me an arm and a leg to get it, but is worth every penny. I’ll add notes as I go along. I’d be happy to share some accounts with you, if it helps grow your project.

        Kind regards,



  13. Hi Andreas,

    I’m really sorry. I completely forgot. Personal life (young family) moving house, holiday and work, it completely slipped my mind until last night. I came across a Youtube documentary on Operation : Crusader which jogged my memory. I’ll scan the book on the African theatre and send as .pdf’s to your email if you like? That way you can read it and dig out any information that you may find useful.

    Once again, I’m really sorry for letting it slip. Any queries, please email me.

    Kind regards,


  14. I am on a mission to trace the family of one “Alois Becker” My husband was given some artifacts by his dad that were handcarved in what I presume to be shale. He scratched on the bottom of a tank he carved ‘erinnerung an die gefangensshaft Pietermaritzburg 1942. Alois Becker. The name etched on the tank is ‘anni’. he put the words “Cairo” “Berna” “Tobruk” and “DAk 1941” on a six sided ashtray he made.

    We would love nothing more than to find his family and give them the three items we have.
    Any help anyone can give me would be much appreciated.


    • This is really special- I would love to see a pic of this. Would like me to share on other forums I am part of? Regards Sven


  15. Great blog- I stumlbed on this via wikipedia in doing some research on a letter published by a Hauptmann Haberland to a Herr Czeke about his son being captured on 17 January 1942 at the battle of Sollum. He was a member of Flak Regiment 33 and the letter clearly says that the German forces were surrounded and overwhelmed in the Sollum area.


  16. Thanks what a great project Can someone please tell me who Auchinleck first chose for 13 Corps and 7 Armored Division for Crusader John Conells book Auchinleck says this on page 285 in a letter to General Dill dated August 14 1941 Pope was chosen for 30 Corps but Conell does not name the other two I guess Godwin Austin and Gott were his second choices thanks


    • Hi Jerry, is there a particular reason why you think that? Godwin Austen had done well in East Africa, and thus together with Cunningham would have been an obvious choice? Gott was well liked and thought of quite highly although I cannot understand why.


  17. My original post was correct They were official nominations in a telegram to Dill It says Cunningham was the only one of four he wanted to get command Martel led an infantry division in 1940 England Shrieber was first choice for Torch Horrocks led a tank division


    • Thanks. Does Connell provide the source information? Martel was Commander R.A.C. at the time, Horrocks had just been given an infantry division (the armoured division came in 1942) that month, so to put him into Corps command seems a stretch… Shreiber I can see, now having read up on him.


      • Thanks Connell only names Cunningham and Pope but not the other two I am just guessing from Auckinlecks time in England It is a letter or taken to Dill by a staff officer


  18. Martel led 50 Infantry Division in BEF before and after Dunkirk He was then put in charge of motorizing the infantry Auckinleck wanted fresh ideas and said this in his letter Schreiber Ithink had major health issues which would have been a major problem in the middle of Crusader much like what happened to Cunningham Again Iam just guessing who the two were


  19. I was thinking Horrocks for 7 Armored It would have been resisted by Brooke and Monty Auckinleck singled him out in a letter written while he was in England Idont live there so I cant go to record office to to try and find it


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