Sunday, October 15, 2006

The German reaction to the initial moves in the Crusader Battle

Rommel was so fixated on attacking Tobruk that he dismissed the initial British moves, starting on 18 November 1941, as "a reconnaissance in force". The Afrika Korps commander, General Crüwell, that that the movements portended an offensive, but Rommel was determined to not change his dispositions. That left the 15 Panzer Division between Tobruk and Gambut. The 21st Panzer Division was situated "to the west of Sidi Azeiz". They were to cover the units on the frontier, such as at Halfaya Pass. The Ariete division was to cover the Axis flank, to the desert side. It was positioned at Bir el Gubi. This was all planned to support the coming assault on Tobruk. In fact, Rommel had no intention to move his divisions in response to the British advance. The 7th Armoured Division was left with its brigades dispersed. The 4th Armoured Brigade was positioned to protect 13th Corps on the frontier. Because the ultimate objective for the 7th Armoured Division was to be Sidi Rezegh, the 7th Armoured Brigade was headed in that general direction. That left the 22nd Armoured Brigade, with the Yeomanry regiments to take Bir el Gubi. The Support Group was to be used for either of the 7th or 22nd Armoured Brigades, depending on circumstances. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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