Two new books on North Africa/Rommel by Cedric

My friend Cedric has been considerably more productive than I have been, and has put out two books in the last year and a half. I am afraid they are in French, but if you speak French, they are bound to be chock full of information and pictures (or in the case of the biography, maps) you have probably never seen. I haven’t read them, but going by the quality of his articles/special issues in Batailles & Blindes, they are must haves.

Mas/Feldmann – Rommel Biography (2014)

Mas – The Battle of El Alamein (June – November 1942)

Of the special issues of Cedric, the first one is still available at this link, while the second one is sold out, as are the regular numbers 31 & 32, which contain a two-set article on the German artillery in North Africa.

Happy reading!

Image

Bender & Law Correction to their “Uniforms Organization and History of the Afrikakorps”

This is coming from a discussion at the AHF at this link. Basically DavidW was wondering why Bender & Law have a company of Fla-Btl 617 in North Africa in 1941 that he has only present after March. DavidR helpfully provided the exact text from p. 114., which I have copied below, although I have reformatted it for easier reading, and added some explanations in the ‘Branch’ and ‘Strength’ columns:

KAMPFGRUPPE MENNY
“Kampfgruppe Menny” was formed prior to, or shortly after the opening phases of the assault on the Gazala Line (December 13-16, 1941). A second “Kampfgruppe Menny” was formed around April 2, 1943 (47)

Unit Notes Bender & Law Branch Strength
2./Panzer-Regiment 8 (one platoon of Pzkw IVs) Tanks 1 company (22 tanks)
3./Panzerjager-Abteilung 33 AT 1 company (12 guns)
Panzer-Aufklaerungs-Abteilung 33 Recce 1 battalion
Teile Panzer-Nachrichten-Abteilung 78 Signals Elements
II./Schutzen-Regiment 115 Infantry 1 battalion (3 rifle coys)
I./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion (12 how)
III./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion (8 how/4 guns)
1./Flak-Abteilung 18 (Luftwaffe) Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 battery (4 guns)
3./Flak-Abteilung 617 Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 company (12 guns)
one Panzer-Abteilung of Division Ariete tanks 1 battalion (52 tanks)
one Batterie Sfl. from Division Ariete Artillery 1 battery (4 SP guns)
one Kr. K.W.-Zug Ambulance 1 platoon
one Horch-Zug Signals (radio intercept) 1 platoon

  
The footnote (47) above states:
“Microfilm Publication T315, roll 666, frame 001272, and The Relief of Tobruk, pp. 499-500”.

David adds:

The reference in the New Zealand OH above does not mention any of the German units of Kampfgruppe Menny other than “the composite battalion of 115 Infantry Regiment”. It is merely a two page account of the destruction of 1st Bn, The Buffs at Point 204 on December 15th.

Now for the errata:

1) The document on which this OOB is based is indeed numbered correctly, but explicitly states that it refers to the organisation of KG Menny on 22 April, when it was established to backstop a forward push of Italian infantry division Brescia with the aim to prevent continued deep recce advances by Empire forces into the southern flank of the Axis position.  Bender and Law made some errors transcribing the OOB, which are corrected below.

Unit Notes (note in bold differs from Bender & Law) Branch Strength
2./Panzer-Regiment 8 reinforced by one platoon of Pzkw IVs Tanks 1 company (22 Panzer III, 4 Panzer IV)
3./Panzerjager-Abteilung 33 AT 1 company (12 guns)
Panzer-Aufklaerungs-Abteilung 33 Without armoured platoon, reinforced by one platoon 3./Panzerjaeger 33 Recce 1 battalion
Teile Panzer-Nachrichten-Abteilung 78 Signals Elements
II./Schutzen-Regiment 115 without II./SR115   Infantry 1 battalion (3 rifle coys)
I./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion (12 light field how)
III./Artillerie-Regiment 33 artillery 1 battalion
(4 light how/4 heavy how/4 guns)
1./Flak-Abteilung 18 (Luftwaffe) Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 battery (4 guns)
3./Flak-Abteilung 617 Anti Aircraft Artillery 1 company (12 guns)
one Panzer-Abteilung of Division Ariete tanks 1 battalion (52 tanks)
one Batterie Sfl. from Division Ariete Artillery 1 battery (4 SP guns)
one Kr. K.W.-Zug Ambulance 1 platoon
one Horch-Zug Signals 1 platoon

2) The major error in Bender & Law is to not be clear on what their OOB refers to, i.e. the first or second formation of KG Menny. KG Menny was first formed before the first battle in the Gazala line opened, the order for its establishment was given by D.A.K. on the evening of 11 December 1941.

3) The OOB in December 1941 was rather different altogether from that of April 1942, and is set out below. This is based on the war diaries, D.A.K. and 15. Pz.Div., as well as various reports in T315 roll 666. The table below does not reflect the initial strength, but rather the best available information on its strength during the attack on 5 Indian Brigade on 15 December 1941, which led to the destruction of The Buffs.

Unit Branch Strength
Panzer-Regiment 8 Tanks 5x Panzer II
16x Panzer III
2x Panzer IV
2x Large Command Tank
Panzer-Regiment 5 (Company Rocholl) Tanks 2x Panzer II
6x Panzer III
1x Large Command Tank
3./Panzerjager-Abteilung 33 AT 7-12 Pak 38 5cm, 1 Pak 35 3.7cm
MG Battalion 2 with one light battery AR33 subordinated Infantry (motorised) 4 coys, including one support coy, but probably very weakened due to losses outside Tobruk.
4x light howitzer
I./Artillerie-Regiment 33 (2. and 3. Battery, subordinated 9./AR33 and 6./AR155) artillery 1 reinforced battalion (12 light field how, 4 heavy field how)
Elements I./Flak-Abteilung 33 (Luftwaffe) Anti Aircraft Artillery 3 batteries:
4x 88mm (3. Battery)
12-20x 20mm (4./5. Battery, some subordinated to MG2 and II./SR115)
In support:
II./AR33 Artillery 12x light howitzer
II./Schuetzen Regiment 115 Infantry (motorised) 1 reinforced battalion

History of 4th Armoured Brigade

I am not in any way linked to the publisher of this, except that I have in the past made an order with them.  Merriam has for years now provided a very good service to researchers by making available (at low cost) material that otherwise would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to get, and require mortgaging your house or selling off your first-born to pay for it, such as original unit histories written shortly after the war, or post-war studies done by German generals for the Allies.

Today I came across this one on Google books:

4th Armoured Brigade History – with the chapter on the relief of Tobruk available as a free read.

To order it go here – it is available very cheaply if you are happy with the PDF. If you wanted to purchase the original now, presuming you could find it, it’ll probably set you back by about 100 dollars.

Sir Arthur Coningham

It is arguable that New Zealander Coningham’s work in command of the Desert Air Force was critical to the Commonwealth success in Crusader. That is certainly how the historian of the German air effort in the Mediterranean, Gundelach, sees it, and I have quite a bit of sympathy for this view. It is therefore particularly nice that Coningham’s biography is available for free on Google Books here. It can also be accessed through the publications section of the USAF historical site, but I have trouble loading that: http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/

Coningham’s biographical data is available on RAFweb.org here. A short bio sketch is here.

Coningham was one of the great commanders in the desert, and it is difficult to comprehend why he was not rewarded more highly. It is also a shame he had to die quite early, in an air accident in 1948.

I have not read all of Orange’s biography, but what I have read is very good, and there is a lot of food for thought in it.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia:

Sir Arthur ‘Mary’ Coningham – CO Desert Air Force, 1895 – 1948

The Mediterranean Fleet – Greece to Tripoli

This is another of the official books published by the Ministry of Information, this time in 1944. The same caveats apply as in “The Tiger Kills”, but so do the same reasons for recommending it. There are very good accounts of naval operations off Crete during the evacuation, of the Tobruk Run, the effort to keep the garrison of besieged Tobruk supplied in 1941, and of the Malta convoys.

Recommended reading.

The Tiger Kills

During the war the British government had a range of books published to inform the general public about the actions of specific elements of the forces or about campaigns that had been concluded. These books started appearing from 1941. Obviously, since they came out during the war, they were not able to draw on German or Italian sources, and they therefore contain mistakes and misappreciations. They also do not discuss technical issues in detail, because of the need to preserve secrecy. Finally, they are of course full of rousing individual exploits, gunners heroically fighting their guns until they are overrun by tanks, or intrepid Sikhs walking 200km through the desert and the Axis lines with a wireless set on their back.

Having said all that, these books are very interesting reads, and they do contain a wealth of information about the progress of the war as it was seen at the time. They also benefit from being quite available on the 2nd hand market, or as reprints, because they were printed in huge numbers during the war. The later ones, this one included, contain very interesting pictures, maps, and detailed accounts of actions.

I recommend them highly.

Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts

Seems this book is gathering some rather mixed reviews, either very good or not quite adequate.

http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=9381

http://www.comandosupremo.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5301

Amazon.com reviews

I’ll probably get it at some point, and will see what it is like for myself. But the comments by Jeff and palamara, but most importantly Mr. Goldstone on Amazon.com are rather off-putting. Daniel is probably not quite the expert on the matter. 🙂 My ‘problem’ is that I speak Italian, so I can read Italian sources and books, and am therefore not quite as blown away if something on the Italians appears in English. 🙂