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
Captured Guns in Use by 13 Corps, 17 February 1942

Captured Guns in Use by 13 Corps, 17 February 1942

One of the interesting things in the desert war was that both sides liberally scrounged weapons from the other side, and used them. Most famous for that are usually the Germans, who seem to have taken a deep liking to Allied tanks, and of course motor vehicles. But also the Australians used captured Italian tanks (which did them no more good than they did their previous owners, when the Axis forces attacked in early 1941), and of course the famous ‘bush guns‘ in Tobruk, pictured below.

TOBRUK, LIBYA. 1941-08-27. MEN OF THE 2/17TH INFANTRY BATTALION USED THIS CAPTURED ITALIAN FIELD GUN TO SEND 75 MM. SHELLS BACK TO THEIR FORMER OWNERS. THEY WERE KNOWN AS THE “BUSH ARTILLERY” BECAUSE THEY WERE CONVERTED INFANTRYMEN. THIS GUN CREW IS WAITING TO GO INTO ACTION

Less well known however is the use of captured guns by other Commonwealth forces. At the end of the CRUSADER operations in February 1942, the use had grown to such proportions that the artillery command of 8 Army felt compelled to issue a note to 13 Corps on the matter, including a table of guns currently in use. I reproduce it below. Incidentally, when the Germans evaluated Commonwealth guns after the Gazala battles in May 1942, they wistfully noted that the 5cm Pak 38 had good penetration success against the Panzer III, at considerable range.
What the note indicates is that the Commonwealth troops seem to have had less strict regulations regarding booty equipment than at least the Germans. During the counter-offensive in January 1942, the German command issued strongly-worded orders which forbade units to acquire booty material. Never mind that these weren’t obeyed religiously, they still threatened court-martials for men or officers defying them. On the other hand, this could also indicate the more urgent need for the Axis command to utilize captured weapons and equipment, in order to alleviate the fairly dire supply situation.
For the Commonwealth, it appears clear that guns held a particular attraction, especially LAA, in order to thicken air defense (since it was Commonwealth policy during CRUSADER not to put a fighter screen above the army units, but rather to carry out strategic interdiction), and A/Tk, since the 2-pdr was becoming a more marginal weapon around this time, and since the Axis A/Tk weapons were of comparatively high quality.

TOBRUK, LIBYA. 1941-04. MEN OF 8 BATTERY, 2/3RD LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT REGIMENT, PREPARING A SITE FOR THEIR 20/65 BREDA 20MM CANNON. THIS UNIT WAS EQUIPPED WITH CAPTURED ITALIAN GUNS. LEFT TO RIGHT: BOMBARDIER P ROBERTS, GUNNER J W CROFT, GNR R V INCE AND GNR J BUNTZ. (LENT BY MR R K BRYANT)

 

WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT. 1942-07-30. CHOKE-BORE GERMAN 47.32 MILLIMETRE ANTI-TANK GUN BEING INSPECTED BY REGIMENTAL SERGEANT-MAJOR P. LAWSON, OF 2/32ND AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION.

 

Headquarters,

Royal Artillery,

13 Corps.

 

17th February, 1942.

 

Dear

 

I attach a list showing the “foreign” guns now in use in the Corps; I think it is fairly accurate, though I have seen no returns yet from many units of the Armoured Division or Armoured Car regiments etc., whom I know to have many more, e.g. the K.D.Gs have at least three 28/41mm German A/Tk guns.

 

The trouble is they can usually only carry very few rounds of ammunition with their unauthorised weapons, when these are expended or if one of the tyres gets punctured, the gun is thrown away.

 

Incidentally it is a bit of a sidelight in the transport situation when they can carry such guns in addition to their proper W.E.

 

I can’t help feeling that we ought to get the whole of this captured gun racket tidied up, and when saying this, it is with no desire to deprive units of weapons which they evidently now feel are essential for their safety.

 

To my mind, certain factors govern it and force us to decide which types of captured equipments are worth retaining.

  1. The number of such weapons captured.
  2. If of dual purpose, the best primary role to use them in.
  3. The ammunition stocks held by us.

If we examine the attached list on these lines, we see the following:-

 

  1. The 105mm Italian is one of the best field guns used against us.
  2. The 75mm Italian especially without sights is useless to anyone as a fd gun and a danger as an A/Tk weapon.
  3. The 50mm German A/Tk is a real good weapon but will be neglected if doled out as at present, and it is recommended that it be withdrawn and if ammunition is reasonably plentiful, it be used in the place of 18-pdrs to complete some of these 64 gun A/Tk Regts.
  4. The 47/32mm Italian A/Tk is the most common of all and seems to have plenty of ammunition. Its not a bad A/Tk weapon.
  5. The 37mm German proved to be a failure against our tanks hence the 50mm.
  6. The 25mm French is not a bad weapon at all and there may be a good many of them. But is ammunition available.

From this it would appear as if we ought to go all out on:-

The 105mm Italian in a Field role.

The 50mm German )

The 47/32mm Italian) in an A/Tk role

The 25mm French )

 

But none know here the stocks of ammunition held. If we go on as we are, the ‘Q’ staff will go “nuts” and end by supplying the wrong type of ammunition.

 

 

Yours

 

Brigadier E.J. Medley, O.B.E., M.C.

Headquarters, R.A.

Eighth Army

 

CONTINENTAL GUNS IN USE

Type

Calibre

Country of Origin

Numbers in Use

Remarks

Notes

Field

105 mm

Italy

6

Tobfort Very good, 14,000 yards
Field

75 mm

Italy

6

5 N.Z. Bde. Unreadable
Field

C.75 mm

France

24

Free French ?
           
A/Tk

C.75 mm

France

20

Free French ?
 

50 mm

Germany

8

3, Poles.
5, 1 Armd Div
Very Good
 

47/32 mm

Italy

47

12 Free French;
8 NZ Bde;
6 38 Inf. Bde;
6 Armd Div; 17 4 Ind. Div.
Not bad.
 

37/45 mm

France

3 (12)

Poles ? unreadable
 

37 mm

Germany

18

Poles Unreadable, could be ‘not good’
 

25 mm

France

25 (20)

2, 4 Ind Div; 17 TOBFORT;
6, 1 Armd. Div.
Not bad. No. unreadable.
 

20 mm

Italy

6

5, 57 LAA;
1, Poles.
Dual Purpose
LAA
           
LAA

20 mm

France

4

Free French  
 

20 mm

France

8

Free French  

Large E 008282 1

General Brink, accompanied by General Stanisław Kopański, the CO of the Carpathian Rifles Brigade, inspecting a shell of a captured German Pak 38 anti-tank gun, which is now used by Polish troops. The gun, covered by a camouflage net, can be seen in the foreground. IWM E8282