"On the withdrawal of our tanks (British), German
Mark IV tanks advanced and came hull down on our
"Fire orders and orders to the gunners appeared to be
given by voice and not through I. C. (intelligence control)
system. The commander of the unit was in a Mark II
tank. He kept 60 to 80 yards behind the line, cruising
backwards and forwards, and his radio control appeared
to work very well. There was another Mark II apparently
carrying a F. O. O. C. (Forward Observation Officer
Command). The tanks were supported by
2. COMMENTS OF THE U.S. OBSERVER
The German armored force unit has a high proportion of very effective antitank and antiaircraft artillery. German tactics involve close coordination of tanks and artillery, with the artillery serving as antitank guns. The artillery is placed well forward and is advanced from its initial positions by bounds with the forward movement of the tank force. Withdrawal from action is customarily covered by artillery or antitank guns which themselves withdraw after the tanks have cleared. British armored units have suffered heavily on many occasions when they have been thus lured into the range of Axis artillery.
When a high-ranking British officer was asked why the R. A. F. had not more frequently attacked definitely-located concentrations of miscellaneous transport, undoubtedly supply vehicles of German armored units, he stated that the high proportion of antiaircraft artillery which was customarily placed in protection of such concentrations made low-elevation attacks too costly and that the difficulty in clearly determining the identity of the concentration made high-elevation air attacks too dangerous to the British ground forces.
The German armored force, even the smaller units when operating alone, is a well-balanced, self-contained fighting unit. Its tank weapons and its antitank and antiaircraft weapons have been designed to outrange the weapons of their opponents.
3. REPORT BY AN ESCAPED BRITISH OFFICER3
"At about 1000 January 21, 1942, I was captured by
two German armored cars. Their advance was going
pretty well just then; so they had no time to take us back.
Later, we were taken to HQ, where we were asked a few
questions and searched. I was then put in a saloon
(sedan) car in which we followed the battle all day at a
distance varying from 200 yards to
"The German force consisted of about 35 tanks, half of
which were Mark IV's; 8 field guns rather larger than our
"The tanks were divided into two groups which advanced together or one at a time, depending on the opposition they encountered. They advanced by bounds and usually halted in horseshoe formation. When they advanced, two guns were advanced with each group, leaving two in action. When they came up against opposition, the guns with the tanks dropped into action beside them. When the advance continued, the rear two guns leap-frogged.
"There was considerable German air activity and the cooperation between ground and air was close. Messages were dropped on three occasions which I saw, and there must have been others. The ground-to-air recognition signal is a magenta-colored (purplish red) smoke cartridge fired from a special smoke projector. The Germans also draped red swastika banners over some of the vehicles. The medium guns followed us about 1 1/2 to 3 miles behind. I never saw them in action. No precautions were taken against air attacks, vehicles constantly being closely bunched.
"The advance halted about 1730, and at about 1815
we went into night leaguer (bivouac). The tanks formed
a vast circle facing outwards, with everything else in the
middle. They did not close right up as do our close
leaguers, but every vehicle was about 50 to 75 yards from
the rest. Patrols were circling the leaguer all night, and
white Very lights were sent up every few minutes. Next
morning they stayed where they were, not opening out at
all. 'B' Echelon4 came up on a long crocodile, nose to
tail, and the tanks were refueled. The petrol (gasoline)
was all brought up in
"After refueling, the tanks moved off in a northwesterly
direction, followed by 'B' Echelon. I was placed in a
"The German morale appeared to be very high, in spite of the fact that the Germans had been retreating steadily since Salum. They had no doubt that they would finish off the war in Africa very quickly, and the whole war quite soon. Their propaganda has been very successful, and they said that we had lost 400 tanks at Tobruk. The food was very good and much more varied than we got.
"There were about two Italian tanks from the Ariete Division which came into the leaguer. One of the Italians came up and talked to the Germans in my truck and also to me. They seemed certain that the Ariete Division would get through very quickly to Alexandria and Cairo. The Germans regard the Italians as rather a joke and are very contemptuous about their fighting qualities.
"They had a large number of British vehicles in use
with their forces. Nearly half their 'B' Echelon was
British, and they also had a lot of
2. Although the
3. This is a report based on experiences as a prisoner of war in Libya.
4. Supply trains.