Rommel on his way to losing CRUSADER?

Rommel on his way to losing CRUSADER?

This is from NARA, but their caption reads it is from 24 January or November 1941.

Let’s assume they would mean 24 January 1942, not 41 (since 1941 is clearly not possible), and that they were not sure about the location, the context of the picture would change dramatically.  In the first case it would be Rommel off to one of the biggest mistakes he made in the war, the “dash to the wire” after winning the battle of Totensonntag on Sidi Rezegh airfield, while in the second it would be him off to pull victory from the teeth of defeat in the second conquest of Cyrenaica.

Of course, if the location is correct, it can only be 24 November 41.

Given the discussion below, my view is now that this is a November picture, and taken during the ‘dash to the wire’.

From US NARA Digital Archive Site

Gen. Erwin Rommel with the 15th Panzer Division between Tobruk and Sidi Omar. Sdf. Zwilling, Libya, January or November 24, 1941. 242-EAPC-6-M713a. National Archives Identifier: 540147

Personal Pictures by an Italian Soldier

Cédric found this site, which is well worth going through. These are pictures taken by a soldier of the 1st Engineer Regiment of the Italian army, first on the French border, and later in North Africa. Some very interesting pictures of the retreat in December 1941.

Italian captions only, but maybe automatic translation helps…

A Look on the Waterlogged Landing Grounds

A Look on the Waterlogged Landing Grounds

One reason generally given for the failure by the Axis air forces to engage, or even just recognise the approach march on 17 and the start of the empire attack on 18 November is the weather. Violent rain storms lashed the North African coast on the days before the attack started, but they fell harder on the Axis landing grounds in the west, making operations there impossible, and in some cases drowning personnel and destroying equipment, where Wadis had been used as camp or storage sites. They also destroyed signal cables making communication that much harder.

While the runways got back into operation relatively quickly (they could be used by light planes on 18 November, provided care was taken), the more important impact was probably on communications, which had been completely destroyed by the floods.

The IWM photo collection has an interesting picture I came across today, showing a Blenheim IV on Gambut airfield east of Tobruk, maybe in December 1941 or January 1942. It shows quite well the extent of water on the field, this time of course coming from later winter storms.


A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV, ‘U’ (serial number unclear) of No. 45 Squadron RAF, undergoes an engine overhaul at waterlogged Gambut, Libya, after violent rainstorms in November and December 1941 rendered many of the forward airfields unusable during Operation CRUSADER.

The second picture shows RAF crews dealing with the rain – my guess is that it belongs to the same time-frame:


Bomber aircrew baling out rainwater from their flooded bivouacs at a landing ground in Libya, possibly Gambut, after torrential rains rendered many of the forward landing grounds unusable during Operation CRUSADER. (IWM CM1931)

At the start of operation CRUSADER Gambut was a major Axis landing ground, but that changed relatively quickly, and it would be June 42 before the Axis forces conquered it again. The defense of Gambut during CRUSADER rested in the hands of Kampfgruppe Briel and is written up at this link.