D.A.K. War Diary 28 April 1941

D.A.K. War Diary 28 April 1941

Weather: max. temp 26 degrees C

Arrival and Departure of subordinated troops:

Arrived by air in Benina:

Staff Pz.Pi.Batl. 33
1./Pz.Pi.Batl.33
3./Pz.Pi.Batl.33

One battalion of Artillery Regiment Dalmote (Corps Artillery Regt.) arrived west of Das Mdauuar.

On Tobruk front lively patrol activity by both sides.

Luftwaffe attacked 2 ships at 11.30 hours in Tobruk harbour of 1-2,000 tons. Hit close to ships side. [1] Direct hits were obtained in heavy AA battery on promontory. To commence the planned attack on Tobruk Stukas attacked battery positions and fortifications with great success during the afternoon. Fighters attacked ground targets in strafing attacks. Burning trucks and explosions in ammunition stores were also observed by siege troops 1 Blenheim and 1 Hurricane were shot down.[2]

https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/items/ACCNUM_SCREEN/127950.JPG

  ARMED BOARDING VESSEL CHAKLA, UNDER BOMBING ATTACK IN TOBRUK HARBOUR, 1941-04-29. NOTE HER CAMOUFLAGE SCHEME, THE COLOURS OF WHICH ARE PROBABLY 507A (THE DARKER GREY) AND 507C. THE CHAKLA WAS SUNK AS A RESULT OF THE ATTACK. (STILL FROM A CINE FILM)

 2200 hours the area of Division Trento was under heaviest fire by naval artillery of heavy calibre.

1250 hours following order issued to Gruppe Herff:
“Occupation of track climbing up at Pt. 191 and Suleiman important. Protection has to be so strong in MGs, ATGs and single guns that it hold as long against enemy attacks until support from the rear arrives.” Operations order followed by courier officer on 29 April (see the same).

2200 hours reported Gruppe Herff: “South of line Sidi Omar – Sidi Suleiman 5km southeast Pt. 191 enemy secures with armoured cars and tanks, evade when we advance. Coastal plain up to 15km southeast of Sollum free of enemy. 
Security pushed forward up to 6km southeast Sollum across the track leading from the desert to plain.”

NewImage

 

1942 British Map of the area. Sidi Suleiman (Pt. 206) to the south centre. Halfaya Pass (probably Point 191) to the left above it. 

Replenishment of 5.lei.Div. by bringing in troops via air was announced by O.K.H.

[1]This was a joint German-Italian attack. The close hit was caught on film, and ABV Chakla (3,081t) was sunk as a result of the attack. Her sister ABV Chakdina was sunk on 5 December with heavy loss of life, when leaving Tobruk with POW on board, and the last of the three, ABV Chantala, ran on a mine outside Tobruk on 7 December 1941 and was lost.
[2]ID to follow. 

D.A.K. War Diary 29 March 1941

D.A.K. War Diary 29 March 1941

29 March 1941

A supply operation to Marada was successfully carried out.

Lt.Col. Count Schwerin intended for 29 March to repair motor vehicles, and for 30 and 31 March to march back to Hun. The two missing motor vehicles found their way back by themselves.

Quartermaster Tripoli reports: submarine attack[1] on 29 March 1941 against 15th Naval Transport convoy at the height of Kerkennah. steamer Heraklea[2] sunk, steamer Ruhr[3] heavy torpedo hits. Towing into Tripoli will be attempted.  Two additional destroyers sortied from Tripoli. Losses not known yet.

Utmost

HM/Sub Utmost (N19) underway. IWM FL 4279

[1]The attack was carried out by HM/Sub Utmost. It was the first major disruption of the Afrikakorps’ transport to North Africa. HM/Sub Utmost survived its Mediterranean tour, returning to the UK in February 1942.

[2]Heraklea, 1,927 GRT, was a smaller steamer built in 1922. She carried all the vehicles and most of the personnel of 2./Fla.Btl. 606 (60 ORs were on Ruhr), as well as some staff vehicles of Fla.Btl. 606, and one armoured car for A.A.3. A total of 206 men and 100 vehicles, as well as 144 tons of fuel, 45 tons of ammunition, and 39 tons of rations for the German army. 69 men were lost on her, as well as a whole battery of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns.

[3]Ruhr, 5,955 GRT was actually a Motor Vessel, finally sunk by aircraft in 1943. On this voyage she carried most of the elements of Fla.Btl. 606, a truck supply company, vehicles for the Corps Signals Battalion, a medical company, a total of 585 men and 160 vehicles. She also carried 448 tons fuel, 120 tons of ammunition, and 208 tons of rations for the army and 104 tons of equipment for the Luftwaffe.

D.A.K. 27 March 1941

D.A.K. 27 March 1941

27 March 1941

Aerial reconnaissance ascertained 50-60 motor vehicles, including armoured cars, well dispersed across the countryside in the track area north of B. el Ginn. These can only be forces that have been newly brought up. 18km east of Maaten Belcleibat a stationary patrol was noted.

Forward forces at Agheila were reinforced by bringing up M.G.Batl.8. A.A.3 was pulled out to be fully available for reconnaissance tasks.

09.00 hours Agheila was attacked by one Hurricane at low-level. No losses caused.

I./A.R.75 reached area around Nofilia. By 28 March arrival of 5.lei.Div. is expected.

0251

10.5cm howitzer of A.R.75 in firing position, unknown date and place but almost certainly 1941, based on the tropical helmets. Rommelsriposte.com Collection.

The return march of Count Schwerin was ordered since the Afrikakorps does not consider the reported movements of the De Gaulle troops to have any meaning. Two motor vehicles that went missing at Ummel Araneb have not been found yet. Since Fliegerfuehrer Afrika  did not have resources available a request for help was made to the Italian air force in Hun.

O.K.H. turned the attention of the Deutsches Afrikakorps again on the taking possession of Gialo Oasis, to prevent a flanking move from there in the context of the planned operation.[1] The Deutsches Afrikakorps is fundamentally in line with this view, but considers the move on and the supply of the forces tasked with this to be only possible by air, due to sand drifts affecting vehicles. The Commander in Chief intends for the time being, due to a lack of forces and to prevent dispersion of forces, only to use weak forces (reinforced MG platoons). In this context the quick arrival of the first companies of Foreign Legionnaires was requested from O.K.H. (possibly by air)[2]. Fliegerfuehrer Afrika considers the the plan to occupy Gialo from the air as executable. He does not believe however that air transport capacity will be available prior to 30 March. A corresponding request is made to the O.K.H., to make available to the X.Fliegerkorps the requested air transport units.

[1]A piece of micro-management from Berlin that was no doubt appreciated in the D.A.K. HQ. It is interesting to note however the weakness in infantry at this stage, as well as the very thin situation of air cover across the theatre. The Regia Aeronautica would be responsible for much of the reconnaissance in the North African theatre throughout the campaign.

[2]I suspect this refers to the Oasenbatallion 300 z.b.V. In the end this did not arrive until much later. See this link.

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 26 March 1941

D.A.K. War Diary Entry 26 March 1941

26 March 1941

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops:

Div.Brescia reinforced by 12 3.7cm AT guns

The evening report to the O.K.H. gave the following assessment of the enemy situation:

“It has to be presumed that the concentrations reported in the area Ghemines – Solluch  – Magrum are a mobile reserve for use in a southerly or southeasterly direction.

The construction of a new road on the coast from Magrum to Zuetina, and repair work on the road Magrum – Agedabia may point to the ability to more quickly move reserves, and may serve to relieve pressure on the main road for supply traffic.

The occupation of Agheila led to reinforcement in the area of Agedabia, probably only close to Agedabia. The radio intercept picture shows a strength of these new forces of up to 3 battalions, 1 armoured car regiment, and 2 artillery battalions. It is presumed that Agedabia is to be definitively held.”

Detachment Schwerin reached Gatrun on 25 March, 17.00 hours. Area between border and Gatrun apparently free of enemy. Inquiry from Detachment Schwerin whether a push in direction Giado and Zuar should be made, since only by doing this a precise picture about the enemy situation of the De Gaulle troops could be ascertained.

The recall to Sicily of the Stuka Wing with one Group made the planned aerial reconnaissance with Schwerin against the De Gaulle forces impossible.

H.E. Gariboldi was named Commander in Chief of the Italian forces in North Africa, and Governor General of Libya. Marshall Graziani resigned from all his offices[1].

Tripolis, Ankunft DAK, Rommel

Gariboldi (left behind Rommel), Rommel and Streich (right) in Tripoli during one of the arrival parades.

[1]Graziani was not given another position for two years. Gariboldi was to be replaced by Bastico in July 1941, after continuing disagreements with Rommel.

D.A.K. War Diary 21 March 1941

D.A.K. War Diary 21 March 1941

21 March 1941

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops:

One battalion of Div. Bologna is subordinated to Div. Ariete, task to protect the airfield at B. el Merduma.

Arrived in Tripolis:

I./AR75 less one battery.

Staff and Radio Company, Corps Signals Battalion, remainder Pz.Jg.605 [1]

A Kleiner Befehlswagen being unloaded in Tripoli, March 1941. These also equipped the command section of Panzerjägerabteilung 605. Rommelsriposte.com Collection.

Evening report to O.K.H. transmitted following assessment of enemy situation:

“Absence of 10 to 14 radio stations from enemy radio map can be considered as confirmation of move back of forces. Overall reconnaissance result shows approximate strength of one armoured reconnaissance regiment, one tank battalion, one motorised rifle battalion or more, French Brigade[2], one artillery regiment, in the area around and southwest of Agedabia.”

Armed reconnaissance successfully bombed motor vehicle concentrations east of Marsa Brega on 21 March. Two Ju 88 [3] supported the defense of Giarabub against intense English attacks by bombing a battery position north of Giarabub and by strafing[4] attacking columns with machine gun fire. One Ju shot down, probably by Italian machine gun.[5]

Detachment Schwerin was located, since 20 March, 18.00 hours with its staff in Sebha on 22 March, continued march to Murzuk on 23 March[6]. A Ghibli [7]will bring spares, rations, and mail there on 23 March.

As preparation, and also to go alongside the offensive planned for May, the following operations were prepared these days:

1.) Fighting reconnaissance push to Marsa Brega in cooperation with Fliegerführer Afrika. See also 18 March.
2.) Occupation of Gialo as jumping off point to relieve Giarabub and following that reoccupy Cufra[8]. Purpose: protection of the right flank of the envelopment movement towards Tobruk.

Notes

[1] A self-propelled anti-tank battalion equipped with Panzerjäger I armoured AT guns.

[2] This was either an error or a deliberate misinformation through wireless spoofing.

[3] Probably from Lehrgeschwader 1

[4]Low level machine gunning of ground targets. The term comes from the German verb ‘strafen/bestrafen’, to punish. It is a joke based on a WW1 exclamation attributed to German Emperor Wilhelm II, ‘Gott strafe England’ – may God punish England, and it is also the origin of British General Gott’s nickname ‘Strafer’.

[5]The crew was rescued by Australian soldiers on 25 March. They were apparently unimpressed with the value of Giarabub. There is no mention in the Australian account of any impact these two planes had on the battle.

[6]Dates are confusing in the original.

[7] An Italian multi-role twin-engined aircraft manufactured by Caproni.

[8]An oasis in the deep desert which had been occupied a few weeks before by Free French forces and the L.R.D.G. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_Kufra

D.A.K. War Diary 20 March 1941

D.A.K. War Diary 20 March 1941

20 March 1941

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops.

One medium tank battalion arrived at Div.Ariete.

Assessment of enemy position was reported to O.K.H.[1]  in the evening report[2]: “Based on reports of the last days it’s not excluded that the enemy is fully poised for defence, and has moved back the mass of its forces into the Cyrenaica north and east of Benghazi.”

“Forward forces still southwest of Agedabia. Defensive line Mersa el Brega (security patrols at Bescer) – southern tip Sebeha es Seghira and mobile tank security at Uadi Faregh from Bettafal to Ain en Naga, security in Haselat, reserves around Bilal, Gtafia.”

According to Italian reports Giarabub was strongly attacked. For 21 March support of the defenders by two Ju 88 planned.[3]

[page 21 missing]

The following measures were taken or ordered in this regard:

  • Major Appel, Corps Staff, Afrikakorps was named Commander of Marada.
  • Forces situated in Marada until now were reinforced so that now a full AT company is at their disposal. Task for the garrison of Marada is to defend Marada and to carry out ground reconnaissance up to Bir Zelten – Ain Si Mohammed – Maaten Gheizel.
  • Preparation of the supply of Gialo.
  • Request to the Luftwaffe to reconnoitre by air the water supplies at Gialo and the condition of the tracks connecting Ain Si Mohammed – Gialo.
  • Request to the Italian High Command to make available Italian froces to secure the rear links of the attacking forces by occupying an defending the gaps and to carry out supplying and repair of air fields.

The plan is to occupy Gialo after the execution of the Mersa el Brega operation[3], and to use the current garrison of Marada for this. It is intended to further reinforce the Battalion Major Appel by additional forces, maybe from the Battalion Santa Maria[4].

3) An advance by de Gaulle troops from French West Africa against Tripolitania was not considered to be of decisive importance. To smash French attempts to attack against Murzuk[5], Air Operation South was requested from Fliegerfuehrer AfrikaFliegerfuehrer Afrika intends in this regard to stock the airfield Zella accordingly, so that from there simultaneous operations by heavy fighter wings to the east and the south up to the area of Gatrun and south of it could be carried out.

As a first measure, the stocking up of Zella is planned for a one-off Group-level sortie towards south.

On 17th, 18th, 19th March Tripolis was attacked, two tugs were hit.[6]

Italian air force bombed on 17/18 March the port of Benghazi, and on 18/19 March the airfield at Berka.

[1]Oberkommando des Heeres, German Army High Command

[2]These reports were sent every evening, summing up events of the day, and plans for the next day.

[3]The oasis of Giarabub had not been occupied by Empire forces at this stage, but was under siege by a mixed force led by Australians. The entry probably refers to the attack by two companies of Australian 2/9 Battalion on 19 March. The history of the siege from the Australian side can be found at this link.

[4]A motorised reconnaissance column under Major Nicolini Santamaria, probably consisting of: 2x infantry platoons with MG and rifles 1x 20mm gun on a FIAT 626 lorry, 1x tank platoon (L35) and 1x artillery battery 77/28

[5]Murzuk is in the deep south of Libya, close to the border with Chad.

Bundesarchiv bild 183 b160022c nordafrika2c truppenparade in tripolis1

M13/40 medium tanks of Ariete Division’s VII Tank Battalion, 132nd Tank Regiment, on parade in Tripoli, mid-March 1942

[6]One Wellington was lost during these operations on the night 17/18 March, damaged beyond repair on landing at Benina (Wellington Ic T2732 of No. 70 Squadron), but with no losses to the crew.

D.A.K. war diary 13 March 1941

D.A.K. war diary 13 March 1941

13 March 1941

Marada is taken under control by a German-Italian detachment under German command.

The command staff of the Afrikakorps (Commander, Chief of Staff, IaIc, and IIa[1] with aide de camps, support officers and office personel moves to Sirt. The Commander flies with the Chief of Staff and 2nd Lt. v.Goerne at 14.00 hours with an Italian Ghibli[2] from Melaha. Because of a sand storm the flight turns around and force lands in Melaha. From there continuation of the journey in a car put at his disposition. Arrival in Sirt only at midnight due to sand storm.

Major Ehlert (Ia)[3] and Lt. von Hoesslin (O1)[4] with the office personnel cannot take off and remain in Tripoli during the night, to fly to Sirt the next morning.

[1] Ia = Senior staff officer. This was a critical and powerful position. The Ia had the right to contradict the commanding officer, and to go past him directly to the command staff of the army in Berlin. Failure to agree on a course of action between the commanding officer and the Ia had to be documented in the war diary. During CRUSADER, Lt. Col. Westphal used this power to the extreme, at some point directing operations by most of Panzergruppe Afrika.  The Ia also was the officer in charge of the staff and the line manager for all other staff officers. Ic = Intelligence Officer IIa = Personnel officer

 [2] Caproni Ca.309, a multi-role twin-engined plane built specifically for and used heavily by the Italian air force in North Africa, for armed reconnaissance and liaison duties.

[3] Major Ehlert had taken up his post in North Africa on 7 March. On 1 March he had been to OKH in Berlin, where he was briefed by Halder on the plans for offensive operations in Africa. He was quickly replaced by Lt. Col. Westphal, in the middle of June. He rose to Colonel and Chief of Staff of LII. Corps in early 1944. When the Romanian front collapsed in August 1944 his Corps was swallowed in the disaster and he went missing.

[4] Senior Aide-de-Camp of the Ia

caproni_ca-309

Ca.309 Ghibli pre-war. Image from Wikipedia.