Technical vs. battle losses during the first days of CRUSADER – PR5

It is quite rare to come across reasonably reliable data for technical losses of tanks during battle, i.e. how many tanks fell out because e.g. their transmission conked out, or some other part of the complex mechanism failed.

Fortunately enough the war diary for Panzerregiment 5 survives, and contains such information for at least the first few days of CRUSADER. The table below gives this. Panzerregiment 5 had the oldest tanks in the Mideast, which would have clocked up substantial mileage by the time of CRUSADER.

While not 100% clear, I suspect that these are permanent losses, as ascertained after the battle, when the war diary was written up, and an explanation what caused them. The reason for this is that each of the losses for tanks needing recovery is followed by a note on why and where the tank was lost. Causes of loss are outright destruction, mobility kill in enemy territory that could not be recovered, mobility kill that was recovered but was lost later at a concentration point, or in a workshop.

It is likely that the extent of technical problems is understated here too. The regiment started moving on 18 November. Between 18 and 19 November, it’s strength reduced by a total of 37 tanks (11x II, 23x III, 3x IV), or 31% of its reported tank strength on 18 November, and it is not far-fetched to suppose that many of these tanks may not have been able to move, or quickly broke down, given that only 8 tanks were reported as complete losses on the day.

23 November was the day of the battle of Totensonntag, Sunday of the Dead, when 5 South African Brigade and 7 Support Group were taken to the cleaners at Sidi Rezegh.

25 November was the day when PR5 was sent into the two disastrous attacks on 4 Indian Division’s position outside Sidi Omar.

It is also worth noting that on 27 November, when the regiment was left with 2x IV, one of them had to be cannibalised (and was lost in consequence), to get the other one going again. These two technical failures are not accounted for in this list.

On 30 November it is noted that the regiment received 3x II, 4x III, and 2x IV as repaired vehicles from the division’s workshops. The strength returns make clear however that some tanks were received throughout, maybe after their crews undertook minor repairs to get them going again. 

II = Panzer II
III = Panzer III
IIICd = Panzer III Command Tank (grosser Befehlswagen)
IV = Panzer IV 

Date

Combat Loss TWO1

Combat Loss (MK2)

Technical Loss (MK)

Total Loss

Technical Loss Share

19 Nov

2x III

1x II
4x III

1x III

8

13%

20 Nov

1x III

2x II
1x IV

 

4

0%

21 Nov

1x III

1x III

1x II
1x III

4

50%

22 Nov

1x III

3x III
1x IV

2x II
2x III
1x IIICd

10

50%

23 Nov

2x III

1x IV

5x II
6x III
1x IV

1x II
1x III

17

12%

24 Nov

2x III

1x III Cd3
2x III

 

1x III4

6

17%

25 Nov

1x II
9x III

1x II
1x III
1x IV

1x II
1x III

15

13%

Total

20

31

13

64

20%

1 TWO = Total Write Off, tank was destroyed by enemy action on the battlefield

2 MK = Mobility Kill, Vehicle had to be towed off the battlefield

3 This was later repaired and rejoined

4 Report not complete