D.A.K. War Diary 28 April 1941

D.A.K. War Diary 28 April 1941

Weather: max. temp 26 degrees C

Arrival and Departure of subordinated troops:

Arrived by air in Benina:

Staff Pz.Pi.Batl. 33
1./Pz.Pi.Batl.33
3./Pz.Pi.Batl.33

One battalion of Artillery Regiment Dalmote (Corps Artillery Regt.) arrived west of Das Mdauuar.

On Tobruk front lively patrol activity by both sides.

Luftwaffe attacked 2 ships at 11.30 hours in Tobruk harbour of 1-2,000 tons. Hit close to ships side. [1] Direct hits were obtained in heavy AA battery on promontory. To commence the planned attack on Tobruk Stukas attacked battery positions and fortifications with great success during the afternoon. Fighters attacked ground targets in strafing attacks. Burning trucks and explosions in ammunition stores were also observed by siege troops 1 Blenheim and 1 Hurricane were shot down.[2]

https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/items/ACCNUM_SCREEN/127950.JPG

  ARMED BOARDING VESSEL CHAKLA, UNDER BOMBING ATTACK IN TOBRUK HARBOUR, 1941-04-29. NOTE HER CAMOUFLAGE SCHEME, THE COLOURS OF WHICH ARE PROBABLY 507A (THE DARKER GREY) AND 507C. THE CHAKLA WAS SUNK AS A RESULT OF THE ATTACK. (STILL FROM A CINE FILM)

 2200 hours the area of Division Trento was under heaviest fire by naval artillery of heavy calibre.

1250 hours following order issued to Gruppe Herff:
“Occupation of track climbing up at Pt. 191 and Suleiman important. Protection has to be so strong in MGs, ATGs and single guns that it hold as long against enemy attacks until support from the rear arrives.” Operations order followed by courier officer on 29 April (see the same).

2200 hours reported Gruppe Herff: “South of line Sidi Omar – Sidi Suleiman 5km southeast Pt. 191 enemy secures with armoured cars and tanks, evade when we advance. Coastal plain up to 15km southeast of Sollum free of enemy. 
Security pushed forward up to 6km southeast Sollum across the track leading from the desert to plain.”

NewImage

 

1942 British Map of the area. Sidi Suleiman (Pt. 206) to the south centre. Halfaya Pass (probably Point 191) to the left above it. 

Replenishment of 5.lei.Div. by bringing in troops via air was announced by O.K.H.

[1]This was a joint German-Italian attack. The close hit was caught on film, and ABV Chakla (3,081t) was sunk as a result of the attack. Her sister ABV Chakdina was sunk on 5 December with heavy loss of life, when leaving Tobruk with POW on board, and the last of the three, ABV Chantala, ran on a mine outside Tobruk on 7 December 1941 and was lost.
[2]ID to follow. 

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 27 April 1941

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 27 April 1941

Weather: max. Temp. 19 degrees C

Arrival and departure of subordinated troops:

Arrived by air (personnel)

Staff 15th Rifle Brigade
Staff I./I.R.104
3./S.R.104
4./S.R.104

Arrived in the operational zone:

Staff company S.R.115

Arrived of Div. Brescia:

227th Company 4.7cm ATG

On the frontline of Tobruk continuous active movement at and behind the enemy positions, in some areas limited enemy advances and artillery activity. Noticeably weak air activity.

On Sollum front enemy has apparently pulled back towards the ridgeline 10km east of Sidi Suleiman with one reinforced battalion. No more contact with the enemy on our security line. Our reconnaissance was hampered by heavy losses of armoured cars during the recent combats.

1345 hours order issued to Gruppe Herff to take Point 191 and Sidi Suleiman at 1700 hours following our air attack with a strong assault patrol and to hold it (see that order).

2100 hours reports Gruppe Herff: “As ordered, posts have been pushed out at Sidi Suleiman – Point 191.”[1] The units foreseen for the attack on Tobruk were set in march from the Sollum front following dusk, as outlined in the order “concerning move of formations”. Gruppe Herff was reordered as follows.

In the area Capuzzo – Sollum Battalion Montemurro and one company Battl. Trento, Artillery Battalion Frongia. In Bardia 1 Battl. Trento. A.A.3 as mobile reserve 6km south of Bardia on the road Bardia – Capuzzo. Standing patrols in the line Sidi Omar – Sidi Suleiman – Point 191. Mobile reconnaissance against the enemy across this line towards south and east.

In line with radio communication of 27 April 1850 hours Gruppe Herff was also left with an additional company Kradschuetzen Batl. 15 and one light AA platoon I./18. These were readied as reserve north of Capuzzo to be at the call of Gruppe Herff.

Bombers of Fliegerfuehrer Afrika successfully attacked AA positions in Tobruk.

Elements of 15. Pz.Div. were sent by air to Bengasi. An application was made to O.K.H. for immediate transport to Gazala, since no column space was available to bring these up.

[1]Probably Halfaya Pass. Sidi Suleiman seems to be Pt. 205

Fuel Allocation Request – Artillery Regiment 33

There is a lot of talk about how the desert required higher fuel allocations than foreseen for the German forces, but very little evidence of how this worked out in detail. I have just now come across some information in my files, which I will post below.

First a bit of background. Fuel was by far the most urgent and heaviest (by weight) of items in the German supply requirements. In the context of the desert war, fuel was crucial – no fuel, no movement of anything. The armies in the desert were dependent on trucks for moving supplies, and no attempt to ameliorate the situation by using coastal shipping, railways, or pipelines (all of which were used), could do more than lessen the requirement. 

Fuel was needed to carry everything, including fuel. The further away from supply entry points an army got, the worse the ratio of useful load/fuel use got. In the German case, the Panzergruppe  Command estimated that 1kg delivered to the port of Bardia was equivalent to 6kg delivered to Tripoli harbour, which should be read that to deliver 1kg of goods from Tripoli to Bardia, 5kg of fuel were needed – in other words it was hugely inefficient. 

Furthermore, for any movement off the main coastal road (which was in quality comparable to European roads), fuel consumption went through the roof. Moving vehicles of any type in desert terrain was not easy on the fuel use.

Finally, German fuel logistics were based on the concept of Verbrauchssaetze (loosely: ‘consumption units’), which used a set unit of output to determine a supply requirement. For fuel, this was the amount of fuel needed to move the vehicle 100km of distance. For weapons, it was called Ausstattung, and was the ammunition quota needed to carry out about 3-4 days of combat. For those wanting to know more, you can have a look at this link.

Now, after this explanation, here is the short but informative request, translated from a captured document, and found in WO208/3173 in the UK National Archives in Kew:

REPORT OF PARTIAL FUEL REQUIREMENTS (10 DAYS)

26 September 41: Artillery Regiment 33 reports to the 15. Panzerdivision

The 3,100 liter allowed to the Rgt. for every ten days is insufficient. The Rgt. asks for a raise of the allotment according to  the following key:

Water supply: 1,850 liter
Ration collections: 650 liter
Post collection: 350 liter
Fuel, ammunition, and spares collection: 360 liter
Evacuation of the sick: 650 liter
Inspection drives: 320 liter
Battery chargers: 700 liter

Total: 4,880 liter

Some items of note here. AR33 was stationary during the period in question. It’s supply point was Bardia, while it was stationed east/south of Bardia. The high number of fuel requirement for evacuation of the sick may reflect the high incidence of sickness in Panzergruppe during this period.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-782-0006-22%2C_Nordafrika%2C_Nachschub%2C_Soldaten_mit_Feldflaschen.jpg

Delivery of supplies in North Africa, March/April 1941, courtesy of the Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia.

A little analysis shows that the requirement was about 57% higher than the allocation. Water supply was by far the highest requirement, at 38% of the new requirement, and almost 60% of the original allocation. What is interesting is the high requirement for battery charging – not something one reads a lot about in the context of military logistics in WW2. It’s over 14% of the new requirement, and almost 23% of the original allocation.

Sidi Rezegh After Action Report – 3./Flak 33

I have previously posted the some AARs on the pivotal battle of the campaign, the destruction of the Allied forces on the Sidi Rezegh landing ground on Sunday of the Dead, 23 November 1941. The report by Ariete Division’s di Nisio column can be found at this link, and that of 6 NZ Brigade at this link.

The report below is from one of the less glamorous German units, an anti-aircraft battery that was subordinated to 15. Panzerdivision’s armoured regiment, Panzerregiment 8. It provided the link between the advancing Panzerregiment on the right (east) and Ariete’s column on the left, during the final attack on Sidi Rezegh.

The battery was equipped with four 8.8cm dual-purpose guns and supported by 2cm light AA guns. More information from a period document can be found at this link.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-443-1574-26,_Nordafrika,_Flakgesch%C3%BCtz.jpg

German 88mm AA gun in firing position in North Africa, June 1942 (courtesy Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons) 

 

COMBAT REPORT

Concerning combat actions of 3./Flakregt.33

from 19 November to 15 December 1941

From 19 November, at the time the code word “Hochwasser” (High Water) was transmitted, 3./Flakregiment 33 was subordinated to Panzerregiment 8 for mobile use. After moving into the concentration area and following that into the alarm area, the following combat actions took place from 20 November:

[…]

23 November Afternoon

1.) Subordination: I./Pz.8[1]

2.) Task: as on 20 November 1941[2]

3.) Operation and combat activity: During the afternoon of this day strong enemy forces were attacked in the same area[3]. The battery was tasked on the left wing of the armoured battalion, and on its own left was connecting to the Italian division Ariete[4] which also attacked. Because of the fast advance of our tanks, as well as dispersedly positioned enemy infantry the battery could, due to the intense MG and rifle fire, not keep up the connection to our tanks. On the other hand the advance of Ariete proceeded only slowly, so that the gap between the two armoured units continued to increase. The enemy recognized this situation and attempted to enter into the gap with a group of tanks supported by infantry, to disturb the attack from the flank. The battery therefore drew all the enemy fire in this space onto itself. Despite strongest opposition it held its position to the beginning of dusk, and thereby prevented the realization of the enemy’s intentions.

4.) Successes:

Destruction of:
5 Cruiser Mk. IV
2 Armoured Cars
1 artillery battery in firing position
20 trucks
1 MG position.

Enemy infantry was engaged with airbursts and fire from 2cm guns.

5.) Ammunition used:

66 AT Shells
33 HE shells contact fuse
36 HE shells timed fuse

6.) Losses

a) Personnel:
1 NCO and 1 OR KIA
1 Off. wounded
7 OR wounded

b) Materiel
1 prime mover with special trailer Type 201 destroyed by direct artillery hit 

Notes

[1]1st Battalion Panzerregiment 8
[2]Task: Support armoured attack and defense against enemy armour acting as tank accompanying battery.
[3]Given as 20km south-east of El Adem. 
[4]Di Nisio column 


 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Burnt-out_88_mm_Flak_36_near_El_Alamein_1942.jpg

Destroyed 88mm AA gun with prime mover (Sdkfz.7) and Sonderanhaenger 201, El Alamein 1942. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial via Wikimedia.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Every so often in going through the mountain of files on my hard drive I come across one that makes me smile inwardly, despite the serious subject matter. Most of the time it’s because I recognise over the distance of 70+ years that little has changed. Administrators and bureaucrats still like to get one over each other, and the mission seems to matter less than to make sure that your unit (or today department) comes off better than the other. Here’s one of those, and it makes you wonder who the enemy was!

Division z.b.V. Afrika

Divisional C.P. 1 November 1941

Dept. Ia Az III/2.

Re: Personnel strengths of Fortress Halfaya

Attention: D.A.K. Ia

1.) Division reports that I./S.R.104, since 30 October assigned to Fortress Halfway, only has a real (‘Ist’) strength of:

18 Officers, 1 Civilian Official, 136 NCOs, 683 ORs, compared to a theoretical (‘Soll’) strength of

26 Officers, 4 Civilian Officials, 176 NCOs, 969 ORs.

This means there is a gap of almost 30% across all categories.

2.) According to the report by the battalion, 21. Pz.Div. pulled a large number [of personnel] into various commands, through permanent (‘Kommandierter’) and temporary (‘Abstellungen’) assignments. Within the [21.Pz] division, only this battalion had to provide these.

This division considers the current real strength of I./S.R.104 a not acceptable weakening of the personell allocation to the Halfway Sector, and requests politely that 21. Pz.Div. is requested soonest to fill up the combat (‘Gefechts’) strength [of the battalion].

The other interesting information here is the considerable strength of Major Bach’s battalion, which at full strength would be able to field 1,171 men. This compares to about 830 men in a British motorised infantry battalion at the same time (see this link). So in fairness, even at the low ‘Ist’ strength being reported, the battalion still had the same size as its British equivalent.

I./S.R.104 (1st Battalion, Motorised Rifle Regiment 104) was the last German unit to surrender in the Bardia/Halfaya Sector. It was then under command of the Italian Savona Division under Major-General Fedele de Giorgis. The battalion was rebuilt from the dissolved MG Battalion 8 in April and May 1942.

The document can be found in the war diary appendices of 90th Light Division in NARA.

An Example of a Stosslinie

In a previous post (at this link) I have explained the German ‘Stosslinie’ system by which units were given locations on a standard map. The picture below shows such a line on an Italian map used by the German intelligence officer in Panzergruppe Africa’s command staff. The line starts with the value of 65 north of B. el Harmarin/south-east of Mechili, and ends with the value of 105 at Bir el Gobi.

Stosslinie

Part I of Wüstennotstaffel eArticle coming soon

Disclaimer first: I commented on this article extensively and contributed some material and knowledge to it, but I have no financial interest.

With that out of the way, I am very pleased to see it shaping up now into what is a very nice addition to our knowledge of the air war in the western desert. I can only highly recommend this to anyone interested in the period and theatre.

A bit of background, the Wuestennotstaffel was a specialised unit under the command of Fliegerfuehrer Afrika (German air force commander Africa), equipped with the venerable Fieseler Storch (incidentally produced in my university town of Kassel – my personal connection is that while a taxi driver there, I once drove an old lady to Sunday tea who had worked on assembling them during the war). The Wuestennotstaffel had the primary task of rescuing downed pilots in the desert. It was unique, no other air force in the theatre had such a formation. It also carried out other tasks, such as local recce, sea search and support of shipwrecked/downed personnel ‘in the drink’, and courier/liaison/personnel transport duties. It was by all accounts a fascinating little outfit.

The below is a straight copy from the Air War Publications blog (at this link), posted here with their permission.

Posted on 10/03/2014 by Morten JessenNo Comments ↓

A lot of material has surfaced since Adam Thompson and Andrew Arthy started digging into the desert activities of this fascinating and unusual unit thirteen months ago. They uncovered far more exciting stories than expected, including run-ins with British elite forces the Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service, the capture of a prominent German general, and, of course, lots of rescues of Allied and Axis personnel from the Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian deserts. Therefore, due to the article’s length it has been split into two parts, the first of which will be published soon. As always, our articles will be illustrated with photographs, colour maps, tables and aircraft profiles. We’ve been very fortunate to contact the families of some of the men featured in the story, and the resulting exchange of information has produced some excellent insights into the activities of the Wüstennotstaffel.

Long-Range-Desert-Group-trucks
Here’s a short taste of Part I of the Wüstennotstaffel eArticle, from the period November-December 1941: “The Wüstennotstaffel was kept very busy during the Operation Crusader fighting of November and December 1941, and growing Allied air strength presented some new challenges. Twice in two days, on 22 and 23 December, Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Heinz Gustav Kroseberg had the misfortune to land his Fieseler Storch at North African airfields just before they were hit by British bombing raids, although on both occasions the 42 year old escaped unscathed. On the first occasion his passenger was the Fliegerführer Afrika, Generalleutnant Stefan Fröhlich, who had been given a ride by Kroseberg between forward airfields.

A No. 24 SAAF Squadron Boston was shot down by Oberfeldwebel Espenlaub of 1./JG 27 on the morning of 24 November, and the four South African crewmen reluctantly enjoyed Hauptmann Kroseberg’s rescue services. The Staffelkapitän and another Storch collected them from the crash site, flew them 25 kilometres to Gazala, and later in the day transported them to internment at Derna. The Boston’s pilot, Lt. B.G. Roxburgh, ended up in German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III. Also on the prisoner transport flight to Derna was the very recently injured Wüstennotstaffel pilot Unteroffizier Konrad Hupp, released from Gazala hospital after crashing his Storch on the previous day.

Photo 028 - Kroseberg with Canadian airman (Der Adler)

On the next afternoon Hauptmann Kroseberg was out on a desert rescue search when he was jumped by what he called Hurricanes, although they were actually No. 3 RAAF Squadron Tomahawks. Sergeant Rex K. Wilson managed to down the slow-flying German liaison aircraft ten kilometres south of Acroma, but the Wüstennotstaffel commander was unhurt. The aircraft – officially on the strength of the Stabsstaffel Fliegerführer Afrika – was destroyed, and one of Kroseberg’s passengers, Leutnant Gorny, was wounded in subsequent strafing runs made on the downed Storch.

Overall, aircraft serviceability of the Wüstennotstaffel was quite low during the Crusader period, reflecting various factors, including the difficulty in ensuring an adequate supply of spare parts and equipment to the North African theatre. The table below provides some examples of the unit’s poor serviceability record in late-November and early December 1941.

Table: 1. Wüstennotstaffel Storch Aircraft during Operation Crusader
Date         On Strength        Serviceable     % Serviceable
26.11.41      8                               3                           37.5
04.12.41      8                               2                           25
06.12.41      8                               4                           50
10.12.41      8                               1                           12.5