Book review on Java Gold Blog.
Thanks to Stuart over at Tanknet, I have come across this, and had a bit of a look. I want to note that I am publishing this for research purposes, and not to in any way, shape, or form endorse the content.
It’s a pretty comprehensive collection of this Luftwaffe propaganda magazine, that was published in multiple languages, and also featured a lot of colour pictures. Publication seems to have been bi-weekly, and it is reasonably close to the events, so for CRUSADER it is worth looking through the December to March issues of it.
The magazine carried foto stories of the war, both home and actual front, some political articles, regular columns such as ‘How they gained their Knights Cross’, some funny corners and a crossword, amongst other things.
When reading it we shouldn’t forget that it was a propaganda magazine for the Nazi regime, and anything, both pictures and text, needs to be critically considered in this regard, and with it constantly in mind.
Some sample content related to CRUSADER below:
Morning aerial reconnaissance on 3 April noted the Via Balbia free of enemy up to 60km north of Agedabia. A group of 20 tanks retreated north at 08.00 hours, 20km east of Agedabia, 30 motor vehicles north and northeat at Sidi Abd el Aati. 10.30 hours single tanks were observed 35km east of Agedabia, probably stopped due to lack of petrol. The impression gained of the enemy was that his retreat north and northeast continued. The Commander in Chief took the decision to unsettle the enemy’s southern flank by a forward detachment in the area of Ben Gania, and forward elements at Tengeder, to ascertain if the English wanted to hold Cyrenaica, and if appropriate to push forward into his rear and flank into the direction of Tmimi.
Since the operation planned for the occupation of Gialo had become superfluous because of the development of the situation, the troops which had been prepared under Lt. Prince Bentheim in Agheila were ordered to move up by an Aide de Camp.
A request was made with the Italian high command for Italian forces to occupy Marada, and 5.lei.Div. was ordered to pull up its units placed there.
Detachment Santa Maria (subordinated to Div. Ariete with operation order of 2 April) became Korpstruppe (reinforced by one radio station and two platoons Pz.Jaeg.605), and at 13.45 hours received verbal order by Lt.General Rommel to reach M. el Grara and to reconnoitre in the direction of Ben Gania, Zt. Msus. Especially important order: reconnoitre track Trigh el Abd 16.00 hours renewed order to Santa Maria by Aide de Camp: “Santa Maria pushes reconnaissance to Ben Gania today. Early pulling up of the whole Detachment to Ben Gania on 4 April, and intent is for pushing forward of reconnaissance patrols direction Mechili, el Beter.
15.00 hours report from Fliegerfuehrer Afrika about success of Stuka operation: “Around 12.00 hours enemy columns on track Antelat – Solluch escorted by 8 – 10 Hurricanes, successful Stuka attack. During heavy air combat 1 Ju 97 shot down, 1 Me 110 force landed. Probably several successful shoot-downs.”
Lt.Col. Graf Schwerin, who at 18.00 hours reported to the Corps command post to report about the operation Murzuk, was ordered to take over the lead of the push to Ben Gania, Tengeder. Detachment Santa Maria and Detachment Prince Bentheim were subordinated to him. He commenced the advance on the track to Giof el Matar that same evening with Detachment Bentheim.
A patrol of A.A.3 reported during the morning 3 April reported 20 – 25 tanks 20km north of Cantoniera Zuetina. Lt. General Rommel tasked a reinforced tank battalion with the target B.el Ageredt. Lt. Bernd of the Corps staff, who around mid-day drove north on the Via Balbia by himself with a sidecar motorcycle, reported that these were parked Italian tanks, and Magrun was free of enemy. In the absence of the Commander in Chief the Chief of Staff therefore ordered 5.lei.Div. to prioritise supply of A.A.3 with petrol and rations, and to have it ready for bigger operations at the latest on 4 April.
15.45 hours Lt.General Rommel himself gave the order: “A.A.3 becomes Korpstruppe, advances on Magrum, and reconnoitres towards Solluch and Chemines.”
During the evening Lt.General Rommel drove again to the reconnaissance battalion 20km south of Magrum and ordered to occupy Benghazi, which was free of enemy according to an Italian priest. The Commander in Chief pointed out the special attention to be given to the right flank.
The mass of 5.lei.Div. was on 3 April ready for defense in the area Agedabia – Zuetina, and carried out the replenishment of ammunition, water, and rations. When the division reported at 17.30 hours that it only had fuel remaining for 150km and would require at least four days to replenish, using all available vehicles, the Commander in Chief ordered to send off all supply and combat vehicles that could be done without to bring up petrol in one day and one night from the Arco dei Fileni. (Quote of Lt. General Rommel: “That saves blood and wins us the Cyrenaica.”) To keep roads free for traffic flows officer patrols were used. All columns available were ordered up from Tripoli.
The 5.lei.Div. is therefore immobile for at least 24 hours. It should only keep Aufklaerungsabteilung 3 and one strong forward detachment ready for action.
21.00 hours H.E. Gariboldi arrived in the H.Q. of the Afrikakorps. In a conference with the Commander in Chief, which lasted until midnight, the Italian Commander in Chief spoke of his wish that the Afrikakorps should always report the situation, and only march, especially with the mass of the divisions, on his marching order. The Commander in Chief countered that he could not wait for such a lengthy order process, as a German general he had to issue his orders based on the specific situation. Concerns about the supply situation were unfounded. He had to have full freedom of action (at the end of the conference). At the end of the conference a radio message arrived from the OKW which assured the Commander in Chief of full freedom of action. The closing of the conferences were made much easier in light of this.
Rommel and Gariboldi during a conference, probably late February/early March 1941. Rommelsriposte.com Collection
The O.K. confirmed the establishment of the requested five Oasis Companies. They should be ready for departure on 18 May.
Regarding total losses suffered on 15th Naval Transport Squadron, see report Quartermaster 1 Tripoli.
A clear violation of the Italian High Command’s instructions and the direct order given by the Italian Commander the night before. Rommel was subordinate to the Italian command.
Corps asset, to be assigned directly by the Corps command.
Should be ‘Ju 87’.
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht – High Command of the German Armed Forces.
Probably OKH, but letter is missing in the original.
2 April 1941
During the night 1/2 April 5.lei.Div. closed up to the forward detachment, with the beginning of the main elements at the Via Balbia, south of M. Tabilb.
The enemy which had been observed to the north and south of the Via Balbia at B.Bilal and B. el Medfun during the evening 1 April by the forward detachment of 5.lei.Div. had retreated east during thenight. During the morning of 2 April he again faced about to resist, but after some artillery rounds evaded up to the area 20km west of Agedabia.
German 10.5cm lFH18 light howitzer of I./A.R.75 in action, probably April 1941. Rommelsriposte.com Collection
Lt. General Rommel gave the following verbal order at 13.00 hours: “5.lei.Div. pushes first on Agedabia, then in northwesterly direction on port Zuetina and occupies the same. Mass of the division to be pulled up immediately to Agedabia and the area west of it.”
Armoured Division Ariete at 15.00 hours received order by Aide de Camp “Div.Ariete occupies as soon as possible area (based on thrust line) 12-19 right 2 (7km southeast Cantoniera, south of Mn. Tabilba – Ergh et – Teneb).”
At 16.15 hours Agedabia was taken by the forward detachment of 5.lei.Div. after a short engagement. A.A.3 pushed past Agedabia to the northwest and took Zuetina. 17.00 to 17.45 hours an engagement took place south of Agedabia between II./Pz.Regiment 5 and 20 light English tanks. 7 enemy tanks were destroyed, 11 men captured, three of our tanks were lost.
Div.Brescia advanced into the area east of Agedabia as ordered with the elements instructed to do so. The Bologna battalion on Merduma airfield was subordinated to it.
The operation order of 2 April established the organisation of 5.lei.Div., Div. Brescia, and Ariete for the defense of the area Agedabia – Zuetina.
The Corps combat HQ was suring the day first brought forward to el Muktas, 20km west of Agheila, following that it was brought further forward into the area Cantoniera south Mn. Tabilba.
The airlanding operation to occupy Gialo was further delayed, and now envisaged for 4 April.
The following radio message was received from the Italian High Command: “From messages I have received I take it that your advance continues. This is contrary to what I have ordered. I politely request that you wait for me before you continue the advance.”
See this older link for an explanation.
1 April 1941
Overview of experiences made during operation of Detachment Schwerin see special report.
Situation Map – Afrikakorps, March 1942, showing the area of operations 1 April 1941
At 07.00 hours the bridgehead position at Marsa Brega was occupied by 5.lei.Div. according to plan. No direct enemy contact remained there. The enemy retreated in hasty flight in the direction of Agedabia. (see reconnaissance report Fliegerfuehrer Afrika). One officer and 12 men were captured. The reinforced M.G.Batl.8, acting as forward detachment to 5.lei.Div. maintained contact with the enemy. It reached the area 35 km east of Marsa Brega (1 on the map) at 18.30 hours and noted enemy in retreat northwards from the area of Bilal (3 on the map) and from B. el Medfun (2 on the map) southwards in the direction of the Via Balbia. No clash had occurred by the evening.
The mass of 5.lei.Div. closed up in the direction around and just west of Marsa Brega. Div.Ariete pulled forward a part of its forces into the area Agheila eastern edge of Sebcha es Seghira. Div.Brescia received a verbal order by Lt. General Rommel to bring some of its artillery into position in the area Marsa el Brega already on 1 April, and to pull up the remainder of the division on 2 April.
The Luftwaffe attacked enemy rear guards 23vkm southwest of Agedabia with Stukas with great success. Two tanks, 1 AA gun, and 3 trucks were shot up and set in fire.
For 2 April Lt. General Rommel ordered to keep contact with the enemy through forward detachments. The Commander in Chief reserved the permission for the occupation of Agedabia. 5.lei.Div. reported its intent to advance with reinforced A.A.3 to reconnoitre in the direction of el Gtafia and Agedabia, leapfrogging the forward detachment.
Lt.Col. Count Schwerin reported that he would start on an accelerated return march and hoped to be able to reach Sirt on 2 April, and the main force on 3 April.
The position statement by the Italian High Command concerning the current measures and planes of the Deutsches Afrikakorps was hesitant and full of concerns. H.E. Gariboldi gave voice to his concern in his letter of 1 April, “In light of the strong enemy defense to be involved in a major action too early, before all the necessary reinforcements have arrived.”
For the operation on Gialo the transport planes requested from the Italians were missing.
“The occupation of Gialo is not so urgent, and can therefore be pushed back until the required planes are available.”
31 March 1941
Attack by 5.lei.Div. led to capture of English forward positions at Maaten Bescer, as well as partial capture of built-up positions near Marsa Brega. Combat-capable elements of A.A.3 took B. es Suera. Counterattacks by enemy tanks were repulsed.
The reinforced 12th Bersaglieri battalion of Div.Ariete moved into position on the heights just north and 10km orth of Maaten Giofer.
Italian air force attacked reserves around Agedabia, the German tank and motor vehicle concentrations at Bleidet, as well as the positions at Marsa Brega. Near Agedabia a Hurricane was shot down. One Me 110 was lost in aerial combat, another one due to forced landing on our territory.
Panzer III advancing in North Africa, March – April 1941. Bundesarchiv.
Operation order of evening 31 March set out in writing verbal orders of Commander in Chief concerning operations of divisions to defend, following occupation of B.es Suera and establishment of the bridgehead at Marsa Brega (see same).
Before Lt.General Rommel drove into the forward area to be present at the forward push of 5.lei.Div., he ordered the occupation of Gialo on 2 April (see operation order to 5.lei.Div.). 10 transport planes each were requested from X.Fliegerkorps and the 5th Italian Air Fleet. To be ready at Merduma on 1 April.
Detachment Schwerin moved to rest on the evening of 30 March after a 275km march through the rocky desert 35km south of El-Gaf. On the evening 31 March Count Schwerin reported arrival in Hun and intent to reach Sirt in two day marches on 2 and 3 April, after motor vehicles have been repaired.
The Quartermaster Department in Tripoli reported: “Steamer Galilea of 15th Naval Transport Squadron torpedoed or ran on mine during return leg at 07.00 hours, 31 March. Towing into Tripoli will be attempted.”
Galilea, a German steamer of 1,927GRT was torpedoed by HM/Sub Upright (Lt.D.E.Norman). While not sunk by the attack, she was towed back to Tripoli under escort, beached there, and never repaired. She was finally sunk in the harbour entrance by the retreating Axis forces on 20 January 1943.
27 March 1941
Aerial reconnaissance ascertained 50-60 motor vehicles, including armoured cars, well dispersed across the countryside in the track area north of B. el Ginn. These can only be forces that have been newly brought up. 18km east of Maaten Belcleibat a stationary patrol was noted.
Forward forces at Agheila were reinforced by bringing up M.G.Batl.8. A.A.3 was pulled out to be fully available for reconnaissance tasks.
09.00 hours Agheila was attacked by one Hurricane at low-level. No losses caused.
I./A.R.75 reached area around Nofilia. By 28 March arrival of 5.lei.Div. is expected.
10.5cm howitzer of A.R.75 in firing position, unknown date and place but almost certainly 1941, based on the tropical helmets. Rommelsriposte.com Collection.
The return march of Count Schwerin was ordered since the Afrikakorps does not consider the reported movements of the De Gaulle troops to have any meaning. Two motor vehicles that went missing at Ummel Araneb have not been found yet. Since Fliegerfuehrer Afrika did not have resources available a request for help was made to the Italian air force in Hun.
O.K.H. turned the attention of the Deutsches Afrikakorps again on the taking possession of Gialo Oasis, to prevent a flanking move from there in the context of the planned operation. The Deutsches Afrikakorps is fundamentally in line with this view, but considers the move on and the supply of the forces tasked with this to be only possible by air, due to sand drifts affecting vehicles. The Commander in Chief intends for the time being, due to a lack of forces and to prevent dispersion of forces, only to use weak forces (reinforced MG platoons). In this context the quick arrival of the first companies of Foreign Legionnaires was requested from O.K.H. (possibly by air). Fliegerfuehrer Afrika considers the the plan to occupy Gialo from the air as executable. He does not believe however that air transport capacity will be available prior to 30 March. A corresponding request is made to the O.K.H., to make available to the X.Fliegerkorps the requested air transport units.
A piece of micro-management from Berlin that was no doubt appreciated in the D.A.K. HQ. It is interesting to note however the weakness in infantry at this stage, as well as the very thin situation of air cover across the theatre. The Regia Aeronautica would be responsible for much of the reconnaissance in the North African theatre throughout the campaign.
I suspect this refers to the Oasenbatallion 300 z.b.V. In the end this did not arrive until much later. See this link.