Oasen Bataillon z.b.V. 300

That’s be Oasis Special Purpose Battalion 300, in English. This peculiarly named unit proves that the Wehrmacht was not averse to a practical joke being played on its soldiers, since they probably never got anywhere near an Oasis. Instead of being based in a palm-studded Arabic paradise with tough war-like men on horses and beautiful women wearing veils they found themselves in dusty and stony dirtholes on the Libyan-Egyptian border, until they were forced to surrender in January 1942.

I understand the battalion was formed in summer 1941 in reaction to General Paulus visit to the desert in April/May, when he found the defensive position on the border too weak.[Correction to follow below]. The battalion was formed in response to a request made by the D.A.K. HQ to O.K.H. on 30 March, for garrison troops for oases through the desert, such as Gialo. The original request asked for five independent companies. The thinking was that these companies could act as flank and rear-area protection for traffic links and water supply points.

The battalion consisted of soldiers who had been to Africa before the war. While it is often given as part of  Division z.b.V. Afrika (later 90th Light Division), I think that at least for this battle any association with the division was purely administrative, and honestly I don’t think there was much of a connection at all. See e.g. the OOB of Division zbV at this link. No mention of Oasis Battalion 300. In the Panzergruppe OOB it is given as being directly under command of the Panzergruppe HQ. It would be interesting to see who first came up with the idea they were under Division zbV.

The battalion consisted of a battalion HQ, and five (on paper) identically equipped rifle companies, numbered 2., 6., 10., 12., and 13. The only explanation I can come up with for the peculiar numbering is that each of the comapnies was supposed to form the nucleus of a battalion, if it was planned to extend the battalion to a regiment later, with 13 company providing the nucleus for the support companies.

From the order of battle of Panzergruppe, September 1941. The document shows the planned (but not necessarily real) organisation and heavy weapons equipment of the five Oasenkompanien.

Each company had 12 light machine guns, 3 light mortars (50mm), and 6 light anti-tank rifles (7.92mm). The  12 light machine guns were more than a normal battalion would field, and indicates that either there were either 12 sections (could be three in four platoons, or four in three platoons), but the three mortars indicate three platoons), or six sections with two light machine guns each. The reported company strength of 152 of all ranks (see here) makes me think it was probably a case of  12 sections of nine or ten men each, but I’d be happy to be corrected on this. Regardless, it was a considerable amount of firepower for a company, and in line with lessons learned in the desert up to this point. What it wasn’t though was strong in anti-tank firepower. In consequence, in position the companies of the battalion were supported by Italian and German artillery, including 88mm AA guns. The article at Lone Sentry is very good in describing the situation.

The last remnants of the Oasis Battalion 300 went into Commonwealth captivity when General Fedele de Giorgis surrendered his forces on 17 January 1942, with the last organised elements surrendering in Sollum on 12 January, apparently. The battalion was not reformed to my knowledge, and provided little more than a footnote to the overall battle.