Monday, February 22, 2016

The Germans are established in Libya in February to March 1941

On 19 February 1941, the German force in Libya was named the "Africa Corps". A few days before, the first elements of the X Air Corps arrived in Libya. They had 60 dive bombers and 20 twin-engined fighters (Bf-110). They would also have support from German aircraft based in Sicily. By late February, the first units of the 5th Light Division were at the landmark that the British called the Marble Arch. That position was about 40 miles from El Agheila. The Italian divisions were spread out with the Savona Division in Tripoli. There were also the two infantry divisions, the Bologna and Pavia divisions. There were also the Ariete Armored Division and the Brescia Infantry Division. With the Free French force from Chad taking Kufra oasis, Rommel decided to move forward. The Germans prepared a position west of El Agheila. By 11 March, the tanks from the 5th Light Division were unloaded from ships in Tripoli. By 13 March, Rommel established his headquarters at Sirte. He ordered his troops to move to Marada, which the British had not occupied. The British were left with a minimal force facing the Germans and Italians in the west of Cyrenaica. The area included the fine Italian road from Tripoli to the Egyptian border. The operations from 1940 until 1943 all were within the confines of the coastal region. A prominent escarpment played an important role in operations during this period. At the east was the Qattara Depression, south of El Alamein. To the west were the salt marshes at El Agheila. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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