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The Development of German Defensive Tactics in Cyrenaica—1941
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 5, October 16, 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the wartime U.S. War Department publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



Ravenstein's report was more specific than the other two. He felt that he still had to combat the idea of linear defense. He expanded Ballerstedt's principle—one heavy weapon, two light machine guns connected by crawl trenches 33 yards away—by applying it to isolated platoons. Varying with the width of front allotted, the minimum depth for a platoon was to be between 110 and 220 yards. In stützpunkte, the command posts of the infantry, field artillery, and 88-mm guns should be close together. Dummy positions should be built when time permits and camouflage technique should be improved. There should be no long communication trenches, as these tend to weaken a position's power of resistance by thinning out the defending troops and giving the enemy cover for penetration. Mine fields, carefully marked, should be laid inside and outside of positions.

Orders were given to build a new defensive line in accordance with the above principles. The 200th Regiment was the first in the field. The 2d and 8th Machine-Gun Battalions, the 2d Oasis Company, and the regimental reserve were assigned to build and occupy a series of southern defense areas extending to Sidi Omar. These positions were Bir Girba and Point 202 (headquarters of the 2d Machine-Gun Battalion); Points 205, 206, and 204 (on the frontier, headquarters of the 8th Machine-Gun Battalion); and two stützpunkte at Salum. As usual, all-around and subsector defenses were ordered, and each position was to have at least one heavy antitank gun and several 37-mm guns, antitank rifles, heavy machine guns, and light machine guns.

On June 10, however, the 5th Tank Regiment referred to the armament of each stützpunkte as "one machine-gun battalion, one battery of artillery, one antitank company, and two or three 88-mm guns." This seems nearer to their eventual strength after the Italian battalions and the oasis companies had been added.

Antitank guns were to be fixed in their firing positions and well dug in against British artillery fire. Engineers were to do this for the 88-mm guns. Artillery was to be emplaced so as to fire over open sights, but protected against tank attack by being located well within the system. Every antitank gun was to be able to fire in all directions. Another document, dated June 2, 1941, shows that the 3d Reconnaissance Unit was covering this work, based on Sidi Suleiman, and that the 15th Armored Division was working from Capuzzo to the sea. Further protection was given by the 1st Battalion of the 75th Field Artillery and the 2d Battalion of the 33d Field Artillery. Counter-attack roles were assigned the 5th Tank Regiment and the 605th Antitank Battalion. Antitank weapons were to vary between 2 (both 88-mm) and 17 in the separate stützpunkte. The strongest positions were to be Point 206, with three 88-mm guns, and Bir Girba, with two 88-mm guns. Artillery orders show that there was to be concentration of direct fire against tanks, and that guns would be able to swing rapidly to other targets. One section of each battery was to be prepared for mobile work.

Halfaya, in spite of its already formidable defenses, was to be strengthened. One thousand mines were to be added to the mine field on the coast, and company positions were to be rebuilt. The frontage of two of these were 720 and 770 yards, and 1,980 yards of wire were laid in front of them. Two thousand more mines were needed to cover the gap between Qalala and the artillery position on the right flank, through which the British tanks would have broken on June 15 had it not been for the 88-mm guns. Qalala, it was reported, could be completed in 10 days. Two 88-mm guns each were proposed for Qalala and Halfaya.

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