School of Tank Technology Reports on Italian Tanks

Nuno has very kindly put the original reports on the Italian tanks online. You do unfortunately need a SCRIBD account to be able to read them.

These are the reports that were produced by the UK School of Tank Technology in Chertsey, who undertook detailed examination of captured Axis and gifted Allied tanks, e.g. the Soviet KV-1 and T34 models. They are illuminating because they tell us what experts thought in the day, rather than through the distorted lens of 70 years onwards.m13

Report Cover Page

M11/39 at this link (for completeness – this tank did not serve in CRUSADER)

M13/40 at this link (the medium tank that equipped Ariete armoured division in CRUSADER)

Happy reading.

Italian Marine Battalion San Marco OOB 21 Dec 1941

The files of 90.lei.Afrika-Div. contain some information on the Italian units it encountered after moving from the main battle area to the rear area around Agedabia and el-Agheila. Below the information and assessment of the 3rd ‘A.S.’ (North African – Africa Settentrionale) battalion, which was formed from detachments of  1st ‘Bafile’ battalion of the Italian San Marco marines regiment. The information is from a document dated 21 Dec. 1941, and signed by Oberst Marcks, the commanding officer of Schuetzenregiment 155, which had taken over the Aphelia – Mersa el-Brega sector, and from Feldgrau.com (at this link). The battalion was not at full strength, as it had only the 3rd rifle company of the Bafile battalion, and had not yet received most of the gun reinforcements. The battalion was not involved in combat during Operation CRUSADER and the counter offensive.

Marines Battalion San Marco

Strength:

About 500 men

Organisation:

1x Rifle Company

1x MG Company

1x Command Company

Weapons:

12x light machine guns

3x light mortars 4.5cm

12x heavy machine guns

2x AT guns (most likely Boehler 4.7cm)

Motor vehicles:

None

Combat value:

Appears to be fully ready for action. Battalion subordinated to Sabratha Division, under orders to await further instructions in el-Agheila. Subordinated temporarily to my command.

Signed:

Marcks

Colonel and Regimental CO

 

Combat Report Kampfgruppe Briel on Gambut Airfield – 21 November to 3 December 1941

Below a relatively straightforward combat report by Captain Briel, CO of the self-propelled anti-aircraft battalion 606, equipped with 2cm AA guns. The main attack on 23 November was undertaken by 4 N.Z. Brigade, which afterwards was drawn off south. Through its east-facing defence of Gambut, Briel’s Kampfgruppe ensured that the vital rear services of the Panzergruppe which were located north of the Via Balbia, could continue to work throughout the battle. The area was only cleared up by 2 S.A. Division in the middle of December.

The map below from the New Zealand Official History shows this quite neatly.

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AA Btl. 606

COMMANDER                                                                    Btl. CP 4 Dec 1941

 

Battle Report

Concerning the combat of the combat group tasked with the protection of the Via Balbia

 

21. Nov. 41

At 21.00 hours the 20mm platoon of 1st Company, which was tasked with the protection of the ration depot, was tasked with the protection of the supply services of 21. Panzerdivision against advancing English forces.

 

22. Nov. 41

On 22 November I received the order to carry the order to move the supply services to the Ib of the division. When I arrived there, the 20mm platoon was in combat with 6 English tanks, 8 armoured cars, and about 150 riflemen. The riflemen had already crossed the Via Balbia northwards, and advanced on the depot. Realising that immediate and resolute action was required here, I resolved to protect the area of the division with all available forces.

I immediately assembled two rifle platoons from the remaining force of 1./Fla 606, the battalion staff of Fla.606, and riflemen of the butcher company, which through a northern envelopment threw back the English riflemen to the south.

The English laid on heavy artillery fire from the Jebel escarpment into the area 19km west of Bardia and north of this point.

The position was held nevertheless until the supply services of the division and remaining forces had moved off into the new area.

Since not everything could be removed from the depot on this day, I gave the order that the elements present had to hold the position until the next day. From the position MG nests and foxholes were effectively attacked, and losses were caused to the English.

Around evening time the English crossed the Via Balbia northwards with six tanks and riflemen.

Further armoured cars advanced on the Jebel escarpment, deeply enveloping our position.

Thus the danger developed that the small group would be encircled. I waited for dusk, and then avoided encirclement by a change of position.

To allow resistance against the vastly superior enemy, at least for as long as it took to completely remove all the depots, I started to assemble a combat group.

On the evening of 22 Nov. I subordinated to the combat group the 4th platoon of Supply Company 200, to be used as riflemen. A further addition were 2 20mm guns of I./Flak 33.

 

23. Nov. 41

During dawn I moved with the small combat group again into the original position, and prevented the advance of the English. The English again put down heavy artillery fire on the position in order to push us out. But the position was held.

Around 14.00 hours I observed that a strong English detachment advanced rapidly on the Jebel escarpment, and that three armoured cars had already advanced towards the brown house [probably a Casa Cantoniera?] on the Via Balbia.

Since during the day the last columns had moved off to remaining commands, I now saw the main task in preventing the enemy’s advance against the supply services of the 15.Pz.-Div., and especially the tank repair company [Pz.Werkstatt-Komp.].

I changed position with the combat group on the double towards the brown house. When the combat group arrived, artillery fire already lay on both sides of the brown house, and two rifle companies advanced from the airfield in the direction of the brown house.

The security force which had been put on the airfield during the morning had already, according to orders, displaced towards the position south of the brown house. When the six 20mm guns rolled into position at the brown house a 2.5 hour fight developed. I subordinated 2 50mm AT guns and three tanks of Pz.-Rgt.8 which had just come from the Werkstatt.-Kp. to the combat group. With these forces and increasing artillery fire it was not only possible to prevent increasing the advance by the English, but the English riflemen and armoured cars retreated onto Gambut airfield.

During the fight the English put down about 240 rounds of artillery fire on our forward positions. Our weapons fired around 2,000 rounds 20mm.

Around 17.00 hours I subordinated to myself a 150mm howitzer of 9./A.R.33 coming from the Werkstatt, which took the serpentine and the Jebel escarpment under fire, and provided valuable service to the combat group.

 

24. Nov. 41

During the night enemy patrols were repulsed.

During the night I established through reconnaissance the position of the enemy artillery, and following the reconnaissance had the howitzer fire.

The success was excellent. The English battery had to repeatedly change position, the OP could no longer stay on the Jebel escarpment, and the English columns drove in wild confusion on the airfield.

To establish a clear situation for the next night, I faked an attack on Gambut with five tanks and all available riflemen while our artillery delivered a lively fire. The success was excellent.

The English columns moved off south, on the Jebel escarpment south of the airfield armoured cars remained in position as security.

The task which I had set the combat group was fulfilled, even though the enemy was very much superior in weapons and numbers.

The position was held, the supply services of the D.A.K. were protected, and could ensure supply.

 

25. Nov. 41

30 Panzerpioniere [soldiers from an armoured engineer battalion] of Pz.-Pi.-Btl.200 [of 21.Pz.Div.] were subordinated to the combat group. On this day both sides engaged in patrol activity. Results from reconnaissance were constantly passed on to the D.A.K. via the Ib of 15.Pz.-Div.

 

26. Nov. 41

On 26 November I established liaison with Div.z.b.V. to have clarity on the general situation. I received there the order from the divisional commander to hold the position at Gambut under any circumstance in order to ensure the supply of the D.A.K., especially with fuel and ammunition. Following my return I informed my combat group about the meaning of its task, and ordered the position to be built up into a defensive position. The engineers produced moveable barriers, and the guns were dug in.

Also on this day I had reconnaissance carried out to km 16 in the direction of Bardia, and towards the south up the Jebel limit of the airfield.

The incoming results were immediately passed on to the Div. z.b.V. and the D.A.K. by the means mentioned above.

 

27. Nov. 41

During the morning reconnaissance patrol activity by us.

During evening the Panzergruppe and Korps staffs arrived on the airfield Gambut. I reported immediately and established security for the protection of the staffs on the airfield. The chief of staff confirmed the measures taken as correct based on the general situation, and I now received the order from Korps to hold the position under any circumstance because of its immense importance for the assurance of supply.

 

28. Nov. 41

During the early morning of 28 November the guns of the combat group, in co-operation with the guns of 2./Fla-606 which were tasked with the protection of the Korps staff, during an English air attack shot down:

            2 bombers and

            2 fighters

During the day my combat group was temporarily subordinated to Lieutenant-Colonel Knabe [OC PR8]. This subordinated relation ceased however after only a few hours and the combat group became independent again. The combat group of Lieutenant-Colonel Knabe reinforced me with one infantry gun [either 75 or 150mm] and three 37mm AA guns.

29. Nov. 41

By order of Div. z.b.V. the heavy howitzer [the one taken over on 22 November] had to be sent off to the Tobruk front. During the day reconnaissance patrol activity.

 

30. Nov. 41

During the morning lively English reconnaissance activity with armoured cars from east and south against the positions of the combat group. In the area east and south-east of the airfield single English vehicles. During the day I received the order from the Div. z.b.V. to send off all heavy weapons above 20mm, furthermore a platoon of 20mm, and the armoured engineers to the Batallion Kolbeck [see related article].

Because of the time when this move was ordered, the release of these elements from the position could not be missed by the English reconnaissance patrols. Half an hour after the elements had moved off, the English pushed from east and south against my position, which at this point in time was only occupier by 4 20mm guns and some other guns. The fight against the advancing enemy was taken up, as ordered.

Through a despatch rider sent to Div.z.b.V. I succeeded in having the elements which I had been ordered to send off stopped, and returned to my command. [this is an interesting interplay with the situation on the Tobruk front, where the next day Battalion Kolbeck’s attack failed miserably, partially for want of fire support.]

These elements returned on the double to the defensive position and by their immediate use and continuous fire the enemy could be stopped.

The defensive combat lasted until 03.00 hours in the morning. Because all elements of the small combat groups did their utmost throughout, the advance of the again vastly superior in weapons and men English could be prevented.

 

1. Dec. 41

During the night the English brought his artillery into position on the airfield Gambut, and from 06.45 to 10.30 hours prepared a new attack against the Via Balbia. During the time indicated 330 to 340 rounds of artillery were fired by the English on our positions, calibre 80-90mm. The hits in the brown house on the Via Balbia are witness to this fire.

When the English then tried a renewed advance with infantry, this attempt was again repulsed decisively in fighting.

A renewed start to the artillery fire was prevented by the immediate use of the 4th and 7th batteries of Art.-Rgt.33 [of 15.Pz.-Div.] which arrived by accident from Bardia.

These two batteries completely secured the defensive success of the combat group, by forcing the entire British battalion off the airfield by excellently placed fire.

Our immediately started reconnaissance showed that the English retreated onto the Jebel south of the airfield. During the course of the afternoon all heavy weapons had finally to be handed over to Div.z.b.V. on its orders.

 

2. Dec. 41

No combat during the morning.

During the afternoon an English truck column, accompanied by four armoured cars and two tanks, was taken under long distance fire by the 20mm platoon of the combat group which was tasked with securing the airfield.

The column therefore turned and retreated on the Jebel escarpment south of the Via Balbia in the direction of Bardia. At 18.00 hours [difficult to read] a forward detachment of 15.Pz.Div. arrived, which leaguered north of the road and advanced against Bardia early on 3 Dec.

 

3. Dec. 41

I reported the situation and the advance of the forward detachment via Ordonnanz officer to the D.A.K., and received the order:

            The task of the combat group is fulfilled.

            The combat group is to be dissolved.

            Elements Fla.-Btl. 606 will report to 21.Pz.Div.

 

Personnel losses

            2 dead

            13 wounded [3 seriously wounded]

            4 POW

 

Materiel losses

3 guns

1 special trailer

 

At 13.00 hours I arrived with the elements Fla.Btl.606 at the 21.Pz.Div.

The other elements were relieved and sent back to their units.

 

Signed:

Briel

Hauptmann

 

The History and Operations of F-Lighters during CRUSADER

Background

In the spring of 1941, the German navy in the Mediterranean considered the expansion of its capabilities by adding a new type of vessel to support coastal traffic in North Africa, in particular for supply of smaller harbours such as Derna and Bardia, which could not be reached with large merchant vessels. The type of vessel was called a Marinefaehrprahm (MFP), or Naval Ferry Lighter. Because of their ‘F’ class designation, they became known as ‘F-Lighters’ to the Royal Navy. 

MFPs were originally designed after the experience with make-shift landing vessels in the preparations for the invasion of the UK in 1940 had shown that a specialist type was needed. The MFPs had a carrying capacity of 70/100 tons in adverse/good weather conditions, or three tanks, and displaced about 200 – 220 tons. They had broad front doors to unload through the bow, and were powered by diesel engines. The initially planned range of 120 nautical miles was quickly seen to be insufficient, and the design range grew to be sufficient to make the 420 nautical mile leg Tripoli – Benghazi without refuelling. The crew consisted of 14 men.

The planned use of the MFP was i) as transports, and ii) as escorts for other slow and unprotected transports. Thus even freight MFPs were reasonably well armed with light AA, captured 7.5cm guns, and depth charges to combat submarines.

2. L-Flottille, a cover name meaning 2. Lehr-Flottille (2nd Instruction Flotilla) instead of 2. Landings-Flottille (2nd Landing Flotilla), was to become the main Kriegsmarine unit under which the MFPs operated in the Mediterranean. It was ordered to be established in mid-August 1941, with a first HQ at Palermo, where the MFPs were laid down at Cantieri Rinuniti Navale, and then Tripoli in Libya, as ordered on 9 October 1941, with a view to having it operate in the Tripoli-Benghazi zone. A total of 30 MFPs were foreseen at this time, in two lots of 15, of which 22 were to be built in Palermo, and eight in Varna, Bulgaria. 15 of these vessels had been ordered in April 1941, to be built in Italy. In October the Italian order was expanded by another 15, and in December another 20 were planned to be built. The intent was to grow the fleet to about 100 vessels.

The first ten MFPs were commissioned in Palermo in November 1941, MFPs F146 to F154 and F160. In the first half of December the remaining five of the first order, F155, to F159 commissioned. The latter two showed how quickly these boats could enter service. They were launched on 6 December, and commissioned on 10 December. 

Operations

Below are two pictures I came across in NARA a number of years ago. Apologies for the bad quality, the pictures were taken off a microfiche reader screen. They show the first MFP convoy to North Africa, which arrived in Tripoli on 5 December 1941. It consisted of four MFPs, F146, F148, F150, and F160. The four lighters had left Palermo on 22 November 41 to move to Trapani, where I presume they were loaded up. They then went to North Africa escorted by the torpedo boat Perseo. The load carried consisted of 800 barrels of fuel, 20 tons Italian cement, Draeger diving gear, 132 tons of equipment, and 20 tons of rations.

These four MFP went across without their 7.5cm guns, which only arrived in Palermo on 2 December 1941. They were subsequently equipped with these I presume. They were also expecting a 2cm AA gun each, from stocks in Benghazi.

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First MFP convoy on the way to North Africa. Escort is the Spica-class Perseo

MFP160

3 December 1941, MFP160 sinking with 400 barrels of fuel and 10 tons of cement and the diving gear, after the front loading doors gave way to wave action. Perseo is taking over the crew.

After the arrival of this convoy, the three survivors underwent repairs, and were then employed on coastal supply duties. E.g. F150 was sent to Bardia in mid-December to pick up tank engines, and F146 was sent to beleaguered Bardia on 20 December, with 70 tons food, 20 tons ammunition and 2 tons mail. This must have been a somewhat harrowing journey, since the Allies at this point controlled the Libyan coast almost up to Benghazi, and were running supply convoys up to Tobruk. F146 was then ordered to remain in Bardia to ensure supply between Bardia and Sollum. It was lost on 24 December to artillery fire, with all of the crew rescued.

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Telegram to Naval Transport Command Italy, with information about the planned trip to Bardia.

The first 15 MFPs quickly diminished in number. Information about their fate during Operation CRUSADER is from the Historisches Marinearchiv at this link:

F160 – sunk due to heavy weather on 3 December 1941

F146 – set on fire and beached due to enemy artillery fire on 24 December 1941

F150 – mined and sunk on 15 January 1942, with a load of 80 tons of gasoline

F151 – heavily damaged and partially submerged while unloading due to heavy weather. Finally destroyed by enemy air attack, 3 January 1942.

Five each were then lost in 1942 and 1943, and the last of this series, F155, ran aground off southern France and became a total loss.

 

Pencil Drawings of Italian Naval Vessels

This is an absolutely fantastic site I came across by accident today. It looks as if it has thousands of pencil drawings of Italian ships, including several hundred of the Italian navy including auxiliaries. The drawings seem to be based on photos

http://www.cherini.eu/mmi/index.html

Unfortunately in Italian only, but it should be easy enough to manoeuvre for ship lovers. Below a drawing from the site and the corresponding photo of Sagittarius, from the Italian Wikipedia. 

Sagittarius was a 600 ton escort of the Spica-class, sub-class Perseo. Sagittarius survived the war and soldiered on until 1964, before being stricken from the naval list.

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Axis Aircraft on Captured Landing Grounds–November/December 1941

Background

On 3 January 1942 the Air Liaison Officer with 13 Corps sent through a report on operations, including an Appendix on Axis planes found at the various landing groups which had been overrun at this stage. At this point in time, Agedabia and Antelat landing grounds had not been captured, and for some reason the list does not include Sidi Rezegh, where at least 18 planes would have been found (16 were destroyed when the landing ground was taken).

The list includes all planes found, and it is important to note that the wrecks did not necessarily hail from the CRUSADER operation, but could have originated anytime during operations, including the COMPASS offensive earlier in 1941. It is also worth keeping in mind that a good number of these planes would not necessarily have been lost due to enemy action – accidents were a constant hazard, and many planes were thus written off. Finally, the table of course gives only a snapshot, since planes that were lost outside aerodromes would not be considered here.

Planes that almost certainly were lost on current operations were the Me 109F and Mc202 types, as well as a good number of the Ju 88s, while the Breda 88 and Me 109E wrecks most likely preceded Operation CRUSADER. One Me 109F was captured in flying condition, and there are some pictures on the net of this plane flying with No. 1 Squadron S.A.A.F.

A note on Mediterranean Air War Vol. I

As an aside, I found the same statistics in Mediterranean Air War Vol. I MAW I) today, but there are some issues I have with the conclusions drawn there. First of all, in addition to the 458 planes below, MAW I also gives numbers for Agedabia and Thamet aerodromes which of course had not been taken at this stage (and Thamet would not be taken until a year later, in fact). These numbers appear to be simply a repeat of the claims made by the S.A.S. for the raids on these airfields in December. The problem with this is of course that these claims were certainly wrong for Agedabia, and probably for Thamet. At Agedabia the S.A.S. claimed 37 planes destroyed, but in reality it was ‘just’ 18. Of course, there probably would have been other planes that had been shot up in strafing raids, or crashlanded. But we simply don’t know, so to state that 37 wrecks were found there is not based on any real evidence.

Furthermore, the conclusion drawn in MAW I is that the number of planes found on the airfields can be taken as a ‘fairly accurate assessment’ of Axis losses. This is of course utter nonsense, and I am perplexed as to why it is stated like this. The only thing it is, is an accurate assessment of the numbers of planes found on the airfields. Any plane that crashed or force-landed away from an airfield is not included in this assessment. The number of planes to whom this happened is without doubt significant (probably in the hundreds since the start of the war in North Africa), so the number of wrecks found on airfields does not tell us anything other than the absolute minimum of planes lost by the Axis between 10 June 1940, and the end of December 1941. In other words, it is quite meaningless. The reason for publishing it below, and why I think it has some information value, is different. I think the statistic shows quite well the range of planes that the Axis used, and who primarily used which airfield (e.g. Benina – German, Berka – Italian), and in some cases we can also clearly tie units to airfields (e.g. Gazala No.2&3 – JG27 with Me 109, Benina – LG1 with Ju 88).

The Data

Table 1 below has summary data by class of aircraft, while Table 2 is a reproduction of the original table. For some planes it is a bit difficult to classify them. For example, the Cr.42 served both as a fighter and a ground attack plane, and the same was true for the older fighters. The He 111 served both as a ‘hack’ (liaison) plane and as a bomber/torpedo strike plane.

Table 1: Summary of Planes on Overrun Landing Grounds by Class

Total by Type Number Total by Group
Fighters 243
 (current) Me 109F/Mc202 37
Me110 27
(old) Me 109E/G.50/Mc.200 86
Cr.42 93
Bombers/Strat Recce
Ju 88/S.79/Br.20/Do 17/He 111 94 130
Ju 87 36
Transport/Liaison/Tactical Recce
Glider, Ju.52, S.81, Ca.133 48 48
Ca. 310/311, Ghibli, Fi 156, Hs.126, Caudron, Ro.37, Ro.63, Me 108 32 32
Other 5
Breda 88 2
Cant. Z501 Flying Boat 3
Total 458 458

Table 2: Planes on Overrun Landing Grounds by Landing Ground and Type

Landing Ground German Planes Number Italian Planes Number Total by Airfield
Gambut Ju 87 3 G.50 1 42
Me 110 8 S.79 2
Me 109E 17 Ju 87 5
Me 109F 1 Mc.200 3
Ju 88 1
Fi 156 1
Bir el Baheira Me 110 1 2
Hs 126 1
Gasr el Arid Me 109F 2 2
El Adem Ju 87 2 Ca. 311 4 78
Me 109 1 S.79 5
CR.42 or Ro.37 64
G.50 2
Sidi Azeiz Me 109E 1 Cr.42 1 3
Ghibli 1
Gazala No.1 Do 17 1 Mc. 200 5 36
Ju 52 3 S.79 14
Me 109 2 Cr. 42 5
Hs 126 2 Ro.37 1
Fi 156 1 Bomber 1
G.50 1
Gazala No.2 & 3 Me 109F 11 G.50 2 35
Me 109E 6 S.79 6
Fi 156 3 Br.20 1
Ju 87 1 Cr.42 2
Me 110 2 Mc.200 1
Tmimi Ju 88 3 S.79 7 23
Ju 52 2 Cr.42 1
Me 109F 4 Biplane 1
Ju 87 5
Martuba West S.79 12 22
Ca.133 2
G.50 7
Mc.202 1
Martuba West (Sat. E) Ju 87 2 5
Me 109F 2
Me 109E 1
Martuba East Ju 87 2 Mc 202 1 10
Me 110 3
He 111 1
Me 109E 1
Fi156 1
Hs 126 1
Derna Gliders 6 G.50 3 74
Ju 88 4 Mc.200 4
Fi 156 6 S.79 2
Ju 87 7 Mc.202 1
Caudron Goeland 1
Ju 52 18
He 111 3
Me 110 8
Me 109F 4
Me 109E 7
Maraua Ju 87 2 2
Barce Me 109F 1 Mc.202 5 28
Berka Main S.79 3
Ca.311 1
G.50 7
Ro.37 2
Br.20 1
S.81 1
Ro.63 1
Cr.42 6
Berka Satellite S.81 2 29
G.50 8
Ca.133 2
S.79 1
Ca.311 1
Ca.310 1
Cr.42 14
Benghazi (Harbour) Cant Z.501 3 3
Benina Me 110 5 Breda 88 2 64
He 111 4
Ju 52 12
Me 109E 6
Ju 87 7
Me109F-2 4
Ju 88 22
Me 108 1
Caudron Goeland 1
Total 228 230

458

One for the Wargamers – OOB of Italian 21 Army Corps

Below a table showing how the Italian 21 Army Corps was structured for the attack on Tobruk, dated 18 November 1941. My thanks to Michele who found this in the Italian archives.

The corps was commanded by General Enea Navarini, who unlike many other Italian commanders remained with his command from 1941 to 1943. It was a relatively powerful formation, with over 200 field and medium guns, and 19 rifle battalions and a good number of support battalions. For the attack, the Corps was subordinated to Panzergruppe Afrika, together with the D.A.K., and it was supposed to play a crucial role in the attack, and had been reinforced for this, e.g. by the addition of the 31st Assault Engineer Battalion. It is however of note that while it had a lot of guns, most of them were quite out of date, with design dates for guns ranging back to 1890. Furthermore, the light guns of the Italian infantry divisions simply could not deliver the weight of fire and/or range required to support typical combat in World War 2. Nevertheless, it had substantial firepower, and if a troop of British tanks were to encounter the truck-mounted naval 76/40 guns, it probably wouldn’t have made the tank commanders feel better to know that it was first designed in 1898.

A WW1 vintage 152/37mm heavy gun being transported on a trailer in North Africa. This was a standard mode of transport for guns which had not been modernised with rubber wheels between the wars. Note that this form of transport did nothing to the mobility and agility of the guns. Source: Wikipedia

Italian Artillery Positions, Tobruk, 18 Nov 1941.

Italian Artillery Positions, Tobruk, 18 Nov 1941. Roman numerals are the Group, Arabic the Regiment. Trento and Bologna sectors only. Red line indicates position of main defensive line. Source: Attachments to War Diary of Corps Artillery Command, 21 Army Corps (Click on the link to open better picture in new window)

While it may appear weak in anti-tank (47mm Boehler) and anti-air (20mm Breda) guns, these were part of the support battalions in infantry regiments, so the Corps as a whole would have been reasonably well equipped with these weapons, although the Corps had only a very small floating reserve for allocation in critical situations, and none left once that had been parcelled out prior to the attack taking place.

It lacked armour however, and in fact for its role in the attack on Tobruk requested a German medium tank company in support. Nevertheless, as a operations in October around the seizure of the Bir el Azazi had shown, armour was quickly brought up from the frontier in support of operations around Tobruk.

A note on the number of guns – this is always an extrapolation by me, assuming 4-gun batteries (bty) were standard throughout. More importantly though, in a few cases I also had to make assumptions on the number of batteries in a group (I assume it’s always 3 batteries/group). I would welcome corrections on this. Some other questions I would be interested in are the number of companys (coys) and tanks in V Light Tank Battalion, and the number of companies in XXXI Assault Engineer Battalion. I also assumed that both Regia Marina units were equipped with truck-mounted guns.

Order of Battle 21 Army Corps 18 November 1941
Command Level/Unit

Type

Strength

 

Guns

Comment

Origin

Corps Troops
VI Group Lancieri Aosta Cavalry Machine Gun Squadrons          
V Battalion Carri ‘L’ CV33 Light Tanks          
IV Battalion Carri ‘L’ dto 2 coys        
Corps Artillery
16 Corps Artillery Regiment XV Group 105/28 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
  XLIV Group 105/28 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
  XLIX Group 105/28 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
5 Artillery Regiment 149/35 XX Group 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
  XXI Group 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
  XXII Group 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
8 Artillery Regiment XXXIII Group 149/40 3 bty  

12

Modern Italian
  LII Group 152/37 2 Bty  

8

Obsolete Austro-Hungarian
  CXXXI Group 149/28 2 Bty  

8

Modern German
  CXLVII Group 149/28 2 Bty  

8

Modern German
Mixed Regiment XIX Group 149/35 3 bty  

12

Obsolete Italian
  Group 120 Regia Marina 3 SP bty  

12

Obsolete British
Corps Engineers
XXXI Battalion Guastatori Assault Engineers 3 coys        
X Battalion Artieri Pioneers 1 Coy        
Services            
LXV Battalion Collegamenti Signals 1 coy+        
Pavia Infantry Division            
Various units            
Two motorised ambulances            
Pavia Infantry Division
Divisional Command            
Infantry 27 Inf Regiment 2 rifle batt        
    1 support batt        
  28 Infantry Regiment As 27 Regiment        
  XVII Battalion a.a. e c.c. Support        
Artillery 26 Artillery Regiment I Group 100/17 3 bty

12

Obsolete Austro-Hungarian
    III Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete German
Engineers XVII Mixed Engineer Batt.          
Services            
Reinforcements 3 Light Artillery Regiment II Group 75/27 2 bty

8

Obsolete German
    III Group 75/27 2 bty

8

Obsolete German
    2 batteries 20mm        
  24 Corps Artillery Regiment I Group 105/28  

12

Obsolete Italian
  36 battery 65/17    

4

Obsolete Italian
  90 battery 65/17    

4

Obsolete Italian
  XXXI Batt. Guastatori 2 coys        
  XXVII Batt. Artieri 1 Coy        
Bologna Infantry Division
Divisional Command            
Infantry 39 Infantry Regiment 2 rifle batt        
    1 support batt        
  40 Infantry Regiment 2 rifle batt        
  III/40: 2 platoons 20mm        
    1 platoon 47mm        
    1 MG platoon        
    1 81mm platoon        
  XXV Battalion
a.a. e c.c.
Support        
Artillery 205 Artillery Regiment I Group 100/17 3 bty

12

Obsolete Austro-Hungarian
    III Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete German
    IV Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete German
    1 battery 20mm        
    1 battery 47mm        
Engineers XVII Mixed Engineer Batt.          
Services            
Reinforcements 24 Corps Artillery Regiment II Group 105/28  

12

Obsolete Italian
  XXXI Batt. Guastatori 2 coys        
  XXVII Batt. Artieri “Sabratha” 1 Coy        
  1 battery 20mm “Brescia”          
Brescia Infantry Division
Divisional Command            
Infantry 19 Inf Regiment 3 rifle batt        
    1 coy 81mm        
    1 bty 65/17  

4

   
  20 Infantry Regiment 3 rifle batt        
    1 coy 81mm        
    1 bty 65/17  

4

   
Artillery 1 Light Artillery Regiment III Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete Austro-Hungarian
    IV Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete German
    1 battery 20mm        
Engineers XXVII Mixed Engineer Batt.          
Services            
Reinforcements   1 Group 100/17  

12

Obsolete Italian
  340 Guardia Alla Frontiera 1 Group 77/28  

12

Obsolete Austro-Hungarian
  858 Bty Guardia Alla Frontiera 1 bty 149/12  

4

Obsolete German
Trento Motorised Infantry Division
Divisional Command            
Infantry 61 Infantry Regiment 2 rifle batt        
    1 support batt        
  62 Infantry Regiment As 61 Inf Rgt        
  7 Bersaglieri Regiment 2 motorised battalions        
  DLI Battalion a.a. e c.c. Support        
Artillery 46 Artillery Regiment I Group 100/17 3 bty

12

Obsolete Austro-Hungarian
    III Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete German
    IV Group 75/27 3 bty

12

Obsolete German
    1 battery 20mm        
Engineers LI Mixed Engineer Batt.          
Services            
Reinforcements 340 Guardia Alla Frontiera 1 Group 77/28  

12

Obsolete Italian
  1 battery 76/40 Regia Marina 1 SP bty  

4

Obsolete British
  IX Group 105/28 “Trieste” 1 Group  

12

Obsolete Italian
Artillery Strength

Number of Guns 100mm or above calibre

 

220

   

Of which no. of Guns 149mm or above

 

88

   

Number of guns 65mm to 77mm calibre

 

144

   

Source: Attachments to the War Diary 21 Army Corps, Ufficio Storico Esercito

Command Conference, HQ of 21 Italian Army Corps, El Adem, 21 Nov. 1941, from left:
Seated: General Enea Navarini, Commander 21 Army Corps, General Rommel, Commander Panzergruppe
Standing: Unknown, Colonel Diesener, German Liason Officer to 21 Corps, Unknown, General Gause, Chief of Staff Panzergruppe – Source: Bundesarchiv, Wikipedia