Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Crusader Battle turns on 27 November 1941

27 November 1941 saw enemy forces turn from the Egyptian frontier and return to the Tobruk area. The big operation by British forces had dwindled over three days. The action was reduced to what three infantry brigades and three tank battalions could achieve. Even though the British strength was fading, they brought enough pressure on the enemy to cause Rommel to change the focus back to the Tobruk area from the frontier.
The Africa Corps commander, General Cruewell, wanted to turn the armored divisions back to Tobruk to counter the pressure from the British forces. Rommel was reluctant to make the move, because he hoped to obtain some cheap successes on the Egyptian frontier. The German armored forces typically started the day about two hours before dawn. Early in the day, the 8th Armored Regiment crushed the headquarters of the 5th New Zealand Brigade, which was located at Sidi Azeiz. After that, most of the 15th Armored Division drove along the Trigh Capuzzo. If they were not opposed, they would first overrun the XXX Corps Headquarters followed by the XIII Corps Headquarters, and then the New Zealand Division, and finally, the 1st Army Tank Brigade.
At the same time, the 21st Armored Division left Bardia and drove along the coast road. They hit the 22nd New Zealand Battalion, which was holding Menastir. They succeeded in holding up the armored division. The division changed to a different route on the following day so as to make some progress. The 23rd New Zealand Division successfully blocked an attack at Capuzzo by the German 33rd Engineer Battalion with some other detachments under Rommel's close control. The Germans penetrated the New Zealand position, but where finally blocked. After dark, the Germans backed off from the attack and drove west to rejoin their division.
Both the British and the Germans made extensive use of signals intelligence from their enemy. The British were able to warn the New Zealand and the Tobruk force that the enemy armored divisions were driving back to the Tobruk area. The Eighth Army had dismissed the enemy forces on the frontier simply as roaming columns of motor vehicles and tanks that were not accomplishing much. The British command also portrayed the enemy moves toward Tobruk more as a move to escape rather than a threatening attack at a critical point. Earlier, the move towards the Sidi Rezegh area had also been misinterpreted as a retreat while they were chased by the British armor.

While the Germans had been on the Egyptian frontier not accomplishing much, the 7th Armoured Division was able to recover strength from a number of different sources. They were successful in recovering damaged tanks which were repaired. Other tanks were sent from workshops. There were also new tanks recently received. The 22nd Armoured Brigade was rebuilt up to 40 cruiser tanks from almost nothing. The 4th Armoured Brigade was back up to 77 Stuart tanks. The 7th Armoured Brigade was pulled back so as to be rebuilt. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

No comments:

Amazon Ad