Thursday, August 17, 2006
The German raid in September 1941
The British had screening forces along the frontier to cover their preparations for the offensive in November 1941. Cover had been given by the 22nd Guards Brigade and the 7th Support Group, but by early September, 4th Indian Division was moved in, and General Frank Messervy, the division commander, was given overall command of the screening forces. Rommel had become aware of the existence of several supply dumps, and particularly, one a Bir el Khireigat, 15 miles east of the border. Rommel decided to raid the area with the 21st Panzer Division with air support. German intelligence had found that the dump was not in use, but they decided to attack the forces in that area. The German attackers fought against Brigadier Jock Campbell's 7th Support Group, which blocked the attack. The SAAF achieved a success when two squadrons, No.12 and No.24 Squadrons SAAF caught the Germans refueling. Bombers also hit the German fields at Gambut. The result was that the Germans had left 5 tanks behind and had 9 aircraft either destroyed or damaged. On 11 September, the 21st Panzer Division had 110 running tanks, but by 20 September, they were down to 43. It took until November to rebuild their tank strength, probably mostly by repairs. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.