1. Enemy Behaviour on 15 January 1942
Along the whole front lively reconnaissance activity and weak artillery fire on most forward strongpoints in the sector Mn. Belcleibat – Mersa el Brega. The reconnaissance battalion east of Burruei (12th Lancers) received reinforcements from the area Mn. Bettafal during the day. According to air reconnaissance at and west of Gr. es Sahabi 120 vehicles established. This could be a reconnaissance battalion from E-Force (before Gialo Group). DIvisional command 1st Armoured Division according to radio reconnaissance area Agedabia. According to aerial reconnaissance 2nd Armoured Brigade also confirmed in that area. Overall enemy grouping as yesterday.
2. Halfaya Front
Continued heavy artillery fire by land and naval forces and continuation of air attacks.
Enemy Behaviour 13 January 1942
The British 13 Corps brought up the rear elements of its formations via Giof el Matar – Agedabia in a southwesterly direction. It’s situation is as follows in the evening: 7th Rifle Brigade astride track Mn. Bettafal – B. es Suera. 22nd Guards Brigade with mass in area Rta. el Gtafia – Mn. Tabilba – B. en Ginn, a weaker group southwest B. en Ginn facing southwest. Along the whole front no combat contact thus far apart from reconnaissance activity and weak artillery fire. Mass 2nd Armoured Brigade and 1st Rifle Brigade apparently in area Giof el Matar – Agedabia – el Haselat. In area Mn. Burruei enemy reconnaissance unit, otherwise south Uadi Faregh no enemy movement.
Overall impression: An enemy attack has to be expected shortly with focus at and south B. es Suera, while simultaneously advancing on both sides of the Via Balbia.
On 12 January Lower Sollum was lost after a tough fight, few strongpoints still holding out. On the remainder of the Halfaya Front artillery activity.
1. Enemy Behaviour 14 January 1942
Enemy grouping as previous day. Active combat reconnaissance by both sides at and southwest of B. es Suera. The reconnaissance unit in the area Burruei was, according to aerial reconnaissance, reinforced by a further 200 vehicles – brought up on the treck Mn. Bettafal – Burruei. This column suffered considerable losses due to repeated air attacks. The 1st Armoured Division in the area of Giof el Matar – Agedabia – el Haselat received, according to aerial reconnaissance, further reinforcements from the areas of Antelat and Saunnu.
Overall impression: enemy appears to prepare himself for a planned attack.
22 Guards Brigade from 14 January renamed 200 Guards Brigade. At Marada 1 Captain and 1 man of the Long Range Desert Group captured during reconnaissance 4km east of Marada.
I thought readers might be interested to see original Axis material on which the intel reports were built. So here is a Fliegermeldung, an aerial recce report, in all its glory. The cognoscenti will recognise this as a NARA copy. If you click on the picture, it should load it in all its glory.
The example here was a message dropped at the command post from the air, in order to expedite delivery. It would have been followed by a full report based on the interpretation of the pictures taken. But this would of course have taken some time, and not been available until hours later. Dropping messages from the air was a relatively standard way of delivering timely intelligence to German ground units.
So, what does it say? From the top:
||Crew Ju 88 – 7A+GH*
||12 Jan 1942
|Path: Take off: 12.20
||Arco – Uadi Faregh – Trigh el Abd – Tengeder – el Hacheim – Mechili – Msus – Arco
||Ic 12 Jan 1942
||Eye and photo reconnaissance in area outlined above
||Around Giofer about 20 vehicle stopped
||Just north Belcleibat in Uadi el Faregh 2-3 vehicles stopped
||Just north Tengeder about 5 vehicles stopped
||Northern edge of el Hacheim 80 – 100 vehicles stopped
||Around el Mechili about 20 vehicles stopped
||on track Bir Belhamed – Msus about 50 vehicles, driving west
||Airfield Msus occupied by about 40 planes, single- and 2-engined
||no clouds, visibility 100 km
* 7A was the unit code for 1./(F)121, a long-range reconnaissance unit equipped with Junkers 88D-1, the long-range recce version of the Ju 88. GH was the plane identifier. Since the plane was based at Arco dei Fileni air field, it is likely that it was part of the Afrika Kette, a small group of recce planes permanently based in North Africa, while the remainder of 1./(F)121 was based in Sicily on 12 Jan 1942, at Catania, participating in the assault on Malta (see here).
A less fortunate sister of GH can be seen below:
** RAF equivalent rank: Sergeant, US Army Air Force equivalent rank: Staff Sergeant
*** This is the first time I note an NCO observer, they normally seem to have been officers.
1. Enemy Behaviour 12 January 1942
Also today along the whole front strong enemy reconnaissance activity. Most southerly reconnaissance unit at Mn. Burruei (reconnaissance squadron Gialo group). 7th Rifle Brigade at and north of Uadi Faregh, and 22nd Guards Brigade astride the Via Balbia pushed their most forward elements to about a line 10km west of Mn. Bettafal – Mn. el Gefera – M. Cabilba. Command 7th Rifle Brigade 10km west-south-west Mn. el Mensci, 22nd Guards Brigade Rta. el Gtafia. According to radio reconnaissance 1st Armoured Division with 2nd Armoured Brigade and 1st Rifle Brigade in area Saunnu – Msus – Antelat – Giof el Matar. It appears to continue to have severe supply problems. Aerial reconnaissance reports no movements on track Marada – Gialo – Sahabi, Tirgh el Abd, track Mechili – Msus. From area Solluch 250 vehicles on Via Balbia driving to Agedabia.
Overall impression: further forces other than 1st Armoured Division have not yet arrived at 13 Corps, 1st Armoured Division apparently not yet completely ready for action. Nevertheless it is possible that an advance of the 7th and 22nd Brigades, reinforced by 1 – 2 tank companies, will take place in a southwesterly direction.
2. Halfaya Front
Opponent continues his heavy attacks on Lower Sollum. After repeated attacks he succeeded in gaining possession of some defensive positions in Lower Sollum. At other points the attack was successfully repulsed.
Enemy Behaviour 16 January 1942
Along the whole front only weak enemy patrol activity. According to radio reconnaissance one battle group each of 200 Guards Brigade 10km NW B. es Suera, just north B. el Ginn, 5km south Bu Grada, and command in area Alem Zogba. 1st Armoured Division has supply problems. Aerial reconnaissance could not be tasked due to dust storm.
Enemy Behaviour 11 January 1942
- Opponent felt ahead across the whole frontline with reinforced reconnaissance, focus on both sides Uadi el Faregh. Enemy grouping by and large unchanged.
- On Halfaya front since morning hours heavy attack against Lower Sollum in progress.
On 10 January some POW from 2 South African Division made at Cirener*.
* Cirener was a strongpoint in the Halfaya position.
Below is the aerial reconnaissance map for the day. I hope it is self-explanatory (and readable).
Results of three aerial recce missions of the Axis, 11 Jan 1942