On 1 December 1941, Wartime Pictorial News No. 32 was released to theatres in the UK. It ran a four-minute clip of the preparations and start of Operation CRUSADER, focusing primarily on the army and the navy. It starts at 05:48, which is well worth watching.
The IWM holds the newsreels. No sound, but in a way that’s not so unfortunate if you know what you’re looking at, because it takes away the pathos and the received pronounciation.
This one shows quite a few interesting things. ‘Bush’ artillery (captured Italian guns) being fired; a quite comprehensively destroyed Panzer IV; the bombed out wreck of the Italian navy’s obsolete armoured cruiser San Giorgio, amongst others.
Well worth your time!
Quite sobering, 1944 (I think) colour footage of a Lancaster crew getting ready, including the raid and return.
This report was sent to Berlin at 11.49 hours on 26 November.
Enemy behaviour 25 November 1941
Tobruk front quiet. During the early morning hours attack along the Trigh Capuzzo by the enemy grouping reported yesterday in the area south of Capuzzo on German-Italian defensive group Bel Hamed. Strength of this group, 4 and 6 New Zealand Brigades, 1 battalion 1 Army Tank Brigade, 1 battalion 22 Armoured Brigade.? The apparently not very committed attack was repulsed around mid day. At the enemy grouping southeast B.el Gubi, aerial reconnaissance showed during midday long vehicle columns in southeasterly direction, forward elements at the wire. Apart from local combat with Italian troops in the area east of el Gubi no major combat took place. Remnants 7 Armoured Division
remained in prior area today without major movements [replaced by handwritten: moved back area Bir Inba]. Elements 4 Indian Division retreat before German pressure on Sidi Omar in southeastern direction, divisional command staff in the evening around the area B. el Chregat. 5 New Zealand Brigade in defensive combat line Capuzzo – Sollum. 6 Brigade of 2 South African Division 07.00 hours off the startline towards southwest from Sidi Barrani. Evening mass of 21 Panzer in area southeast Halfaya – Cirener, 15 Panzer S. Azeiz (armoured elements) 15 Panzer (motorised elements) area S. Omar and south. There use of strong British air forces. 7 Armoured, 1 South African, 4 Indian [Division] heavily knocked (thus far more than 5,000 POW).
Order of Battle
The following changes in the order of battle: 30 Corps with 1 South African, 2 South African, based at Bir Inba. Moved out 7 Armoured Division (directly under 8 Army command). 1 South African Division remains sub-ordinated, and it is therefore considered possible that this division will also be moved west across the border again (preparations for this have been recognised through aerial reconnaissance). 13 Corps with 2 New Zealand and 4 Indian Divisions.
Two American observers, who accompanied 4 Armoured Brigade, were taken POW. Details to follow.
Ronnie Gamble sent me a link to British Pathe for a small movie of the desert war. One of the side links was to a 4min 30sec movie taken in January 42 after the capture of Benghazi.
It is very interesting to watch, there is footage of a lot of tidily arranged war material (primarily Italian light guns); of British officers talking to native kids, etc.
The movie is dated 5 February 1942, which is of course highly ironic, since on 30 January 1942 Benghazi was recaptured by the rapidly advancing Axis forces during the second counter-offensive. So by the time it was released, events had well overtaken the movie.
One wonders if it was actually screened at all. And indeed what happened to the guns so neatly arranged – were they recaptured? Given the rapid departure of 7 Indian Brigade from Benghazi on 29 January, I doubt anyone had time to destroy them.
In any case, here it is in all its glory: Link to Movie Happy viewing!
Added 13 May 2012: I have today come across an ULTRA intercept of a German Y-Service intercept of a British message (complicated, huh?) about what the British captured by way of serviceable (sic!) German planes at Benina, the main airfield of Benghazi:
- 1 Junkers 52 transport
- 4 Junkers 88 medium bombers
- 2 Messerschmitt 109 fighters 1 Messerschmitt 109F fighter (the latest model that outclassed anything the Commonwealth fielded in North Africa at the time)
- 1 training airplane
- In addition:
- 9 tons of petrol (i.e. almost nothing), and
- 9 crated engines for Ju 88.