The enemy forces engaged at and south of Benghazi – 7th Indian Brigade – were reinforced during the night 27/28 January and during the day 28 January. According to radio reconnaissance, 5th Indian Brigade – until now in the area south of Barce – is now placed in positions south of Benghazi. 8th Army Tank Battalion was brought up via Tocra in the early morning hours, to secure the defense position. Around 3 pm the enemy group at Sceleidima was beaten back, while Solluch and Ghemines remained occupied by the enemy. A German battle group advanced from the area Msus via Benina to 15 km east of Benghazi. 11th Indian Brigade – until now in the area west of Derna – took over security tasks of 5th Indian Brigade in the area Maraua. An advance by reconnaissance forces of 1st Armoured Division, from the northeast in the direction of B. el Melezz, was parried by the forces of the D.A.K. in that area.
This is just a small housekeeping issue, but when googling I noted that there is a lot of false information on the internet about the date of the change in designation from Panzergruppe to Panzerarmee. This change was communicated to Panzergruppe on 22 January 1942, effective immediately, i.e. just the day after the counter-offensive started. The change did therefore not co-incide with Rommel’s promotion to Generaloberst which followed on 30 January, or the award of the Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross, which happened on 21 January, and it was not related to the success of the counteroffensive.
I am not sure why there was this divergence, it is possible that Rommel’s promotion was a snap decision based on the re-occupation of Benghazi, but to be honest I have no information on this.
Rommel instructing his staff. Picture dated to mid-1942, but almost certainly from CRUSADER period. Bundesarchiv Bildarchiv.
What is certain however is that the redesignation of Panzergruppe had nothing to do with the successful counteroffensive, it was probably just an administrative move, since the other four Panzergruppen on the eastern front had by then all been redesignated too.
Enemy Behaviour 21 Jan 1942
The opponent pulled averted the German – Italian attack in flight and retreated up to the line Mn. Mensci – el Gtafia and north of it. By evening 1st Support Group stood in the sector Mn. Mensci up to about 10 km south of Gtafia. Mass 200th Guards Brigade area Gtafia and north of it. Staff near B. el Tombia. According to radio reconnaissance the northern wing of this brigade completely confused.
Luftwaffe attacked during dawn commands of 13th Corps and 1st Armoured Division, as well as successfully enemy concentrations at Ain en Naga and north of it. In this area presumed 2nd Armoured Brigade, which according to radio reconnaissance was not ready for action during the morning due to supply difficulties. Rear services of 1st Armoured Division have received task to be ready for march. Even though according to aerial reconnaissance no rearward moves were noted of the enemy forces in the area el Haselat – Agedabia – Mensci, it has to be expected that during the night the opponent will further retreat in north-easterly direciton.
No details thus far on number of prisoners and booty.
Enemy Behaviour 19 January 1942
Enemy armed reconnaissance with focus south B. es Suera and east of B. el Ginn. Established presence of 20 tanks there. Along the whole front weak artillery fire. On both sides Via Balbia noticed 5 batteries.
Also today 1st Armoured Division brought up further in south-westerly direction. 1st Support Group inserted itself by this move between 7th Support Group and 200th Guards Brigade.
Aerial reconnaissance noticed no enemy movements south of the Uadi al Faregh, other than the enemy reconnaissance battalion east of Burruei.
On 18 January 12 prisoners from 2 K.R.R.C. were brought in from opposite the sector of the Trento division.
Enemy Behaviour on 18 January 1942
Along the whole front normal reconnaissance activity and weak artillery fire on the northern sector. The opponent pushed closer towards the Italian positions at and north of B.es Suera and on both sides of the Via Balbia. Thus far two enemy batteries were recognised northwest B.el Ginn and 2-3 batteries on both sides of the Via Balbia (6km east Marsa el Brega). South of B.es Suera only reconnaissance forces in the area forward of our lines. According to aerial photo reconnaissance 800 vehicles (amongst them 80 tanks) are in the area north M.el Mensci and at R.el Gtafia 600 vehicles, while in the until now more heavily occupied area south and south-east of Agedabia only occasional vehicle groups were recognised. Based on this the mass of 1st Armoured Division has pushed further south-west. According to radio reconnaissance the 7th South African Field Artillery Regiment – until now at the Bardia front – is now appearing under 2nd Armoured Brigade.
Overall impression: The enemy appears to concentrate for a planned attack with focus between B. es Suera and B. el Ginn.
1. Enemy Behaviour 17 January 1942
The enemy reconnaissance battalion in the area Mn. Burruei and south of it was reinforced through tanks (about 1 company). During the course of the afternoon it was repeatedly attacked by the Luftwaffe. Along the whole front apart from reconnaissance activity by both sides no fighting contact. Enemy grouping largely unchanged.
2. Halfaya Front
Commander Sector Halfaya (Lieutenant-General De Giorgis) reported morning 17 January: since during last night no rations arrived, I have had to send a negotiator to discuss surrender. The fighting activity has ceased with the start of the negotiations. All heavy weapons were made unuseable by our own troops. Since 13.00 hours there is no more radio contact with Sector Halfaya.
English wire service reports: Sector Halfaya has surrendered.
Much ink has been spilled over the famous 3./N56 (3rd company, Corps Signals Battalion 56), under the command of Captain Seebohm, Rommel’s radio interception company. I have below appended an actual intercept note, and translated it. Every day there would have been a number of these, which were submitted to the Ic (Staff Officer Intelligence) of Panzergruppe Afrika, and which he used to build the intelligence picture of the enemy’s position, situation, and intent. While relevant information seems to have been passed on immediately, it was also neatly typed up and comments were added (in brackets) based on previous intel results.The example below is of this variety. I am guessing these were handed into the Ic once or twice a day.
The ability to break Empire troop codes and the relative lack of discipline of Empire troop signallers, made it relatively easy to assemble orders of battle, and be well informed about the other side of the hill. You can find a short overview of the history of this unit at this link (note where it refers to FAK621, this would have been 3./N56 in 1941).
|17 Jan 42
||Received 15.00 hours
|Intercepted Radio Message from 3.N.56
|RASC Company of 2nd Armoured Brigade to Supply Officer
||8th Field Regiment (formerly 1st Army Tank Brigade) and 2n S.A. AT Rgt. (formerly Gialo Group) are now with the Brigade. I have ammunition for 8th Field Regiment but not yet for 2nd S.A. AT Rgt.