Battle for Northern Africa-interesting info
Posted 10 December 2002 - 02:15 PM
Born Green Meadows near Hastings NZ. Son of US plumber. After high school attended commercial college, passing his junior Civil Service exam.
When 16 entered Royal Military College of Australia at Duntroon as staff cadet. Graduated in 1918 and returned to NZ. Posted as instructor in musketry at Trentham. Later became aide-de-camp to general commander. Towards end of 1918 Lieutenant Clifton attached to India Army where he saw active service winning Military Cross. Returned NZ 1921. Went to England for further training then attached to War Office in London. 1935 returned to NZ. Soon after outbreak of war in 1939 promoted from captain to major. Became commander of Royal Engineers Sept 1940 as lieutenant-colonel. Next year became chief engineer with Middle East Forces. Awarded DSO in Dec 1941 for distinguished services in Greece and bar next February. Promoted to brigadier 1942, given command of 6th Infantry Brigade. Following Sept reported missing then captured. But soon began a new career in escaping. Escaped 9 times - 3 times in desert, 4 in Italy, twice in Germany. First time in July 1942, recaptured and taken before Rommel who asked him why NZ was fighting. Second time Rommel told him he'd be shot if tried to get away again and sent to Italy where he escaped 4 times - once got as far as Swiss border. In Germany held in "hell camp" for officers with escape records. When he escaped from there he made his way to the advancing American forces. Arrived back in NZ in April 1945. Second bar to DSO in 1945.
In March 1946 was appointed brigadier on general staff of British Occupation Force in Japan. Then commandant at Army School of Instruction at Trentham. 1952 pub'd escape stories in 'The Happy Hunted'. Retired from Army 1953. Moved to Taupo in 1966 becoming borough councillor.
Posted 10 December 2002 - 02:30 PM
The idea of creating a desert raiding force to weaken Rommel's supply lines and disrupt aircraft operations was conceived by Captain David Stirling (right) while recovering in hospital from a parachute training accident. Stirling had already gained experience of working behind enemy lines in North Africa with Colonel Robert Laycock's 'Layforce' commando brigade. However, following three disastrous operations during which heavy losses were sustained, the group was disbanded in June 1941.
Remaining convinced of the basic concept, Stirling managed to bluff his way to see Major General Neil Ritchie (Deputy Commander-in-chief N.Africa & Middle East). His idea was to raise a new group from the remains of the Layforce organised into smaller units that would parachute down near enemy airfields, plant delayed-action explosives, then walk to rendezvous points to be picked up by L.R.D.G. (Long-Range Desert Group) patrols. The plan was bold and both Ritchie and his Commander in Chief thought it might just work.
In July 1941 Stirling gained permission to form the L Detachment of the non-existent Special Air Service Brigade, a name intended to confuse German intellegence. His ideas proved difficult to put into practice without sustaining large losses of men either killed or captured On one disatrous occasion only two men made it back! Remembering a successful raid on an airfield carried out by the Layforce when closely supported by the L.R.D.G. in Chevrolet trucks mounted with .303 machine guns, Stirling turned his thoughts towards the potential of the jeep for carrying out his deep penetration raids behind enemy lines.Vehicles obtained by the British Army through the Lend-Lease Scheme were obtained and suitably modified for SAS use.
Their first successful raid soon followed on 17th November 1941, when two groups destroyed 61 aircraft at two airfields. Another raid was launched soon after; this time twenty seven were destroyed. By July 1942 the regiment had 15 specially modified jeeps in action in North Africa.
The jeeps were stripped of all non-essential parts including the windscreen, most of the radiator grille bars and even sometimes the front bumper to increase the effective load carrying capacity of the vehicle. Thus the large amount of fuel and water needed for fast long-range raids could be carried avoiding the need for slower support vehicles. A water condensing unit was fitted to the front to reduce loss from the radiator which would otherwise have had to be topped up from the limited drinking water supplies. The jeeps also carried sand mats, metal wheel channels, radio equipment and large quantities of ammunition.
The jeeps were heavily armed with combinations of both Browning and Vickers K machine guns. The ex-aircraft Vickers weapons were generally mounted in pairs and a total of up to five machine guns were carried on some vehicles. The effectiveness of this armament firing a mix of ball, armour-piercing and tracer shells can be judged from one assault on an airfield where 12 aircraft were destroyed in a five minute raid. With all guns blazing a single SAS jeep could deliver an impressive 5000 rounds per minute! The net result was that over 400 aircraft had been destroyed on the ground by November 1942. Stirling was finally captured in 1943 but escaped four times before being sent to Colditz where he spent the rest of the war.
As the front moved from Africa to Italy and then on into Northwest Europe so did the SAS. The scale of each action varied tremendously. In one operation (codenamed Houndsmith), 144 men were parachuted with jeeps and supplies into an area close to Dijon, France. In another four men in two jeeps killed or wounded 60 SS men destroying two staff cars and a truck in the process at the village of Les Ormes, France.
By late 1944 the SAS were operating behind German lines in Europe. Further modifications to the jeeps included the use of armour plate with bullet-proof glass screen at the front and a wire cutter fitted to the front bumper of some vehicles.
The effectiveness of the SAS in Europe during W.W.II can be judged from the fact that they inflicted 7,733 German casualties, 4,784 prisoners were captured and 700 vehicles were either destroyed or captured. 164 railways were cut, seven trains were destroyed and a further thirty-three derailed. The SAS was briefly disbanded at the end of W.W.II.
Posted 11 December 2002 - 07:07 PM
On the night of November 14th, 1941 two British submarines - HMS TORBAY AND HMS TALISMAN approached the shores of the northern most part of Cyrenaica. In the rough seas a much smaller than planned raiding party of commandos managed to land ashore. The group was led by Col. Keyes and was largely composed of the members of the LRDG, SAS and SBS. Their first objective - Rommel's HQ in Beda Littoria, second - Italian HQ in Cyrene, third Italian Intelligence Office in Appolonia, and finally general sabotage actions in the Axis rear. Due to an astonishing ammount of bad luck the whole operation ended in fiasco. Already under-strength due to weather conditions during landing, they managed to attack Rommel's villa on the night of November 17th.(Keyes died during the assault, Rommel was meanwhile somwhere else), from that point onwards the group was being pursued by both Italian and DAK patrols as well as by pro-Axis Libyans. In ensuing skirmishes most of the raid members were either shot or captured. Out of 59 men that left for that mission only the overall commander Col.Laycock and sargeant Terry survived after dodging the enemy for 41 days in the hills of Cyrenaica. This was the "only" official "Raid on Rommel" during the North African campaign.
Posted 11 December 2002 - 07:25 PM
Field Marshal Rommel suffering from chronic stomach and intestinal catarrh, nasal diphtheria and considerable circulation trouble. He is not in a fit condition to command the forthcoming offensive.
For detailed understanding...
Posted 12 December 2002 - 12:56 PM
the last commandant of the Afrika Korps
16.05.1943 captured in Tunisia
23.05.1944 exchanged, returned to Germany, placed in reserve
20.07.1944 honorably discharged from the Army
General Cramer was released for ill reason in May 1944 by british. Cramer was appointed to the staff of the Oberbefelshaber West in Paris for special duties. He was relief of duty after the events of 20th July, 1944 under suspicion of beeing involved in the plot. Cramer was kept under house arrest but later found unguilty. He was transfered in the Führer-Reserve.
MAJOR ROLAND-RICHARD VON HOSSLIN
23 July 1942: Awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for extreme gallantry in action during the First Battle of El Alamein. The award citation reads in part:
Through his bold independent action on July 6 and 7, 1942, Captain von Hosslin, commander of Reconnaissance Battalion 33, forced strong enemy forces in the deep southern flank of the army to withdraw to the east. On July 15, fighting in the front lines with extreme personal bravery, he led a skillful counterattack which recovered a fort (Deir el Shein) which had been taken from the Italians. The loss of this fort would have made the position of the panzer army in this sector untenable. Captain von Hosslin was wounded in this action.
20 July 1944: Participated in the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime. His planned role in the coup was to surround and isolate Army High Command Headquarters (OKH) with three companies of armored reconnaissance troops. An active member of the German Resistance, von Hosslin was recruited by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg through a mutual friend from Cavalry Regiment 17 (Peter Sauerbruch).
23 August 1944: Arrested by the Secret State Police (Gestapo).
13 October 1944: Executed by hanging for his involvement in the failed coup attempt.
GENERAL DER PANZERTRUPPEN GEORG STUMME
When the battle of El Alamein begins, on October 23, 1942, Rommel is sick in Germany since the end of September and it is temporary substituted by the General George Stumme. At dawn the English artillery enters in action and unloads on the Italian and German lines an incessant fire; the artillery of the axis doesn't answer,has orders of saving ammunitions as well the allied fire caused big losses. On October 25, in the second day of the battle, at the first hours of the day the General Stumme is given as missing and only many hours later find him dead.
(dropped dead from a heart attack.)
GENERAL DER PANZERTRUPPEN
HASSO-ECKARD VON MANTEUFFEL
Interesting fact is that he wore both cuff titles of "DAK" and "Grossdeutschland" on his uniform.
Horst von Oppenfeld, Oberleutnant
Would you be willing to relate any interesting stories from your service in the DAK?
Rommel was quoted instructing commanders of various Kampfgruppen. When the leader would say "Jawohl Herr Feldmarschall", according to my estimates that proposed behind the lines encirclement would require a drive of 150 km. Our fuel supply is barely enough for 50 km." Rommel would reply in his Schwaebisch dialect, "drive, drive fast, then you will not need any fuel." (Fahren Sie, fahren Sie, dann brauchen Sie keinen Betriebstoff), meaning to get there quickly, fill your tanks from the enemy's vehicles.
Another unforgettable experience were the comments made by My commanding general (von Broich) upon his return from the last "Kommandeurbesprechung" with the top commanding officer (Gen.v. Arnim). He quoted Gen. v. Arnim as having said "I just had my last phone call from the Fuehrer. He ordered under no circumstances was I allowed to surrender the Africa Korps. But he did not forbid you to do so on behalf of the units you command". Then Gen. V. Broich said to me, "Oppenfeld, grab a motor bike while I attach a white shirt to a carbine". We drove towards the enemy line and he surrendered to a commanding officer of the 8th British Army. The "Limies" received us with the utmost dignity and gave us two options. To reach the designated PoW camp we would either have to walk there (some 50 km), or surrender our arms immediately and be allowed to drive there with our vehicles. As we chose the latter option, we drove through the main avenue of Tunis, a grandiose layout comparable to the Champs Elysee in Paris. We had mixed feelings about this. As the losers and captives we felt depressed, but for us the war was over. To our surprise, the Tunisians lined the streets, waved from the windows, shouting "Vivent les Allemands". Their sympathies were on our side!
GENERAL DER FALLSCHIRMTRUPPEN
On july 19th 1940, Ramcke was transferred to the 7th Flieger-Division and on july 31st joined the Fallschirmtruppen and was awarded the Fallschirmjäger qualification badge at the age of 51
The only Knight´s Cross with oak leaves, swords and diamonds to a member of Fallschirmtruppen was to General Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke. Not for his airbone actions, but whilst in command of Festung Brest on the french coast after the D-Day landings, when it came under siege from allied troops. Finally the Fortress surrendered on 20 th september 1944.
On 30th of September 1942 Marseille was died, and his body was brought to headquaters of JG27, "Rumba a zul" played in Marseille's tent all the day. Again and again... It was his favourite song...
Posted 12 December 2002 - 04:34 PM
In the first five days the Geschwader lost six young pilots, five of them to Spitfires and one in an accident.On 6th Sept one ace with 40 claims, Gunther Steinhausen, and another pilot were shot down by Hurricanes. The next day, a second top-scorer, Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt with 59 claims, was killed by a Spitfire of 601 Squadron. In the next fortnight JG 27 lost six more pilots, two of them in a mid-air collision.On the last day of the month they lost Marseille...
Having lost already 15 pilots, the loss of Marseille was the last straw for JG 27. The Gruppe was withdrawn from operations for a month.
Posted 12 December 2002 - 08:01 PM
Had he lived--I can only just wonder what his final tally would be? Somehow I dont think that Erich Alfred Hartmann--would have been the highest scoring ace of all-time--but at least to a man that was at least as good as he was.
Posted 13 December 2002 - 12:18 AM
Posted 13 December 2002 - 06:38 PM
Posted 17 December 2002 - 01:33 PM
"…(you must) dispel by all possible means the idea that Rommel represents anything other than the ordinary German general……….PS, I’m not jealous of Rommel." (Auchinleck)
In El Alamein at the start of the real attack, Montgomery sent a message to all the men in the Eighth Army:
"Everyone must be imbued with the desire kill Germans, even the padres - one for weekdays and two on Sundays."
Between the two armies at El Alamein was the ‘Devil’s Garden’. This was a mine field laid by the Germans which was 5 miles wide and littered with a huge number of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.
Posted 16 January 2003 - 05:46 AM
This is not slightly inaccurate it's wrong. The new SAS did not take part in the raid on Rommel. They were on a separate mission which failed. The raid on Rommel was led by Keyes junior but comprised extensively No.11 Commando remustered into the Middle East force with some members of the SBS with specific duties of getting the Commandos ashore. The role of the LRDG was in meeting the Commandos after the raid to transport them back to base, which never happened.
Originally posted by Kai-Petri:
SAS and the raid on Rommel
The group was led by Col. Keyes and was largely composed of the members of the LRDG, SAS and SBS. http://www.geocities.../7414/imag.html
[ 16. January 2003, 10:18 PM: Message edited by: No.9 ]
Posted 18 January 2003 - 12:12 PM
"CURRAHEE"-War-cry of the US 506th PIR.
"Everybody thinks that they are going to get the chance to punch some Nazi in the face at Normandy-and those days are over, they are long gone"-Lt Chris Burnett
Posted 18 January 2003 - 01:07 PM
At the moment working on the Fallschirmjäger and Italy, and Skorzeny´s businesses in late 1944, but I´ll be back.
I am glad that someone knows more on the subject as No 9 has pointed out. Actually with the key words he gave I was able to find more of the attack on supposed Rommel´s HQ. Unfortunately I haven´t been too interested on the allied side, so I will always be like on thin ice when talking about their secret operations.
Posted 19 January 2003 - 05:42 AM
Posted 19 January 2003 - 08:48 AM
Even though I started this thread I do consider these are "free for all" so all information that might give us a clearer picture on what happened-is quite welcome!
Posted 20 January 2003 - 03:01 AM
Outline of British Special Forces Middle East
31 January 1941, Bob Laycock left the Isle of Arran with some 1700 men comprising Nos. 7, 8 (including Roger Courtney’s Folboat Section – later to become the SBS) and 11 Commando, and one Troop of No.3 Commando. They were formally designated as Z Force which became renamed Layforce. Their objective was to sail to the Middle East and take the island of Rhodes. In the Middle East since July 1940 were Nos. 50, 51 and 52 Commando. After sailing round the Cape, Layforce arrived at Suez on 7 March they found No.52 Commando there (from the Sudan) and No.50 Commando arriving about the same time from Crete. Nos.50 and 52 were amalgamated and placed under command of Layforce.
Layforce was now formed-up into four battalions, A=No.7 Commando; B=No.8 Commando; C=No.11 Commando and D=No.50/52 Commando. Though they prepared for the invasion of Rhodes with the Folboat Section (SBS) conducting reconnaissance of the island, the operation was called off due to various developments. Rommel launched an offensive at the end of March driving back the Western Desert Force which itself was seriously depleted due to Churchill bullying Wavell into sending troops to Greece, (arguably, if Wavell had been allowed to continue securing the major ports, Rommel would have been denied somewhere suitable to land in February?); 6 April the Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia; by 11 April Rommel had taken Cyrenaica, Bardia and Sollum. Layforce now reverted to former Commando role in the Middle East, raiding the North African coast behind enemy lines.
Various actions and missions took place including Crete and Syria (Litani River) which stretched and depleted Layforce. As the original purpose of Layforce was gone and the Navy was unwilling to provide craft for continued amphibious missions, Wavell decided the Commando Brigade was an expensive commodity and the men should be deployed among his depleted regiments rather than on independent offensive missions which he was not really in a position to mount. In mid June he ordered Layforce to be disbanded except for No.11 Commando who was to take up another spell of garrison duties on Cyprus, then under threat of invasion. Wavell was replaced by Auchinleck who concurred with this view. August 1st, 1941 Layforce ceased to exist. Most of No.7 Commando under Cpt. Nicholls went on to form Mission 204 which supported the Chinese forces in Burma. 75 Men of No.8 Commando (which were originally formed from the Guards), volunteered for a mission to raid out of Tobruk, only to find the obnoxious CO there told them on arrival ‘we don’t need any Special Forces’ and were subsequently advised they were disbanded. They then found themselves attached to the 18th Indian Cavalry (Mechanised) which proved to be a good home as the Commandos found the officers and men to be first class soldiers, eager and capable of conducting raids with them. Also from No.8 Commando was David Sterling who had his idea for a Small Scale Raiding Force (66 men) approved and was informed it would be known as L Detachment SAS. This to lend credence to the fictitious SAS devised by Dudley Clarke (ironically the man who first named the ‘Commandos’) to mislead the Axis powers.
Bob Laycock returned to England in July and began petitioning for the reconstitution of a Middle East Special Forces Brigade. His pleas reached Churchill who minuted the Chiefs of Staff to effect this with Admiral Cunningham in charge of Combined Operations out there. Subsequently Churchill switched this charge to Auchinleck. All this did not prevent the disbandment of 11 Commando under command of Geoffrey Keyes, (son of Sir Roger Keyes - W.W.I hero, friend of Churchill and Director of Combine Operations 1940/41). It was not until October 11th that GHQ met to decide what could be Brigaded from the remains of the various units. A number of men had returned to their former regiments or joined the Long Range Desert Group, (formed by Brigadier Bagnold – a W.W.I soldier and between wars academic who studied deserts – whose primary job was reconnaissance and intelligence), or, David Sterling’s new SAS. Sterling got many men from No.11 as many of No.8 (his old Commando), had gone to Tobruk. Sterling recruited Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne (who was to succeed Sterling after his capture) while Mayne was under detention for decking his CO, Geoffrey Keyes.
Bob Laycock's new Middle East Brigade comprised:
HQ and Depot Troop (at Geneifa)
No.2 Troop (L Detachment SAS – under Sterling)
No.3 Troop (No.11 Commando with some other British of Layforce – under Keyes)
No.4 and No.5 Troops (No.51 Palestinian Commando – under Cator)
No.6 Troop (SBS – under Courtney)
[No.51 Commando was found still intact in Abyssinia as was the SBS who had been ‘borrowed’ by Admiral Maund for covert operations.]
Auchinleck was to mount Operation Crusader, a general offensive, on 18 November. On 17 November he wanted the SAS to raid 5 airfields in the Gazala-Tmimi area and No.11 Commando (Operation Flipper) to mount an attack on Rommel’s HQ at Beda Littoria, the Italian HQ at Cirene, the Italian Intelligence Centre at Appolonia and telecommunications in the area. Sterling was advised there was adverse weather conditions for his raid, but his was the decision whether or not to abort. Sterling was eager to go and believed his men were also. He went ahead with the mission which was unsuccessful. Following is the full story from No.11 Commando – The Raid on Rommel.
Posted 20 January 2003 - 04:02 AM
FROM No.11 COMMANDO ARCHIVES
No.11 Commando would be landed by submarine, on the largely unguarded shore, and make their way inland 250 miles behind enemy lines to the village of Beda Littoria where the Germans had a headquarters and where it was reported that Rommel occupied a villa. Of the original 11th Scottish Commando there remained Captains Glennie and Macpherson and Lieutenant Sutherland, 110 other ranks. A number of other officers and men from the Middle East Commando were added as were two Senussi guides from the Libyan Arab Force. Among the officers was Captain Robert Campbell of No 8 Commando, who spoke German, and Lieutenant Roy Cooke of the Royal West Kent Regiment. Bob Laycock also insisted on being part of the team.
On October 19th Captain Macpherson and Cpl. Evans embarked on the submarine Talisman for a reconnaissance mission. They were landed near Apollonia on October 26th but failed to make the pre-arranged rendezvous with the submarine and attempted to walk to Tobruk. They were captured on November 3rd. Despite this set-back reliable intelligence on the target was available, provided by Cpt. Haselden who was attached to G.H.Q. of Middle East Command. He had travelled through the area and been brought out by the L.R.D.G.
The mission called for just one troop of the Commando. The second troop was left behind. On November 10, Lt. Col. Keyes, Lt. Cooke and Cpt. Campbell together with 25 other ranks crammed into H.M.S. Torbay while Col. Laycock and Cpt. Glennie and Lt. Sutherland, with a further 25 other ranks, were in H.M.S. Talisman. Each group would be landed in 7 rubber boats and would be accompanied by two S.B.S. folbots. They would be guided into the beach by Cpt. Haselden who had returned to Cyrenica with the help of the L.R.D.G. The plan was revealed to the men while they were underway. The group would split into four. The first detachment, under Keyes, would attack the villa used by Rommel, communications on the road the German H.Q. at Beda Litoria. The second detachment, under Lt. Sutherland, would attack the Italian H.Q. at Cyrene and disrupt communications. The third detachment, under Lt. Chevalier would attack the Italian Intelligence Centre at Apollonia and the air field there. The fourth detachment, under Cpt. Haselden would disrupt communications between Faidia and Lamluda.
The submarines arrived off the landing beach on November 13 and the following day preparations were made for the landing. The weather was deteriorating but as soon as it was dark, the captain of Torbay approached the beach.
Lieutenant Tommy Langton, who was in a Folboat remembers:
"There was one moment none of us will ever forget. It was as we were closing the beach in Torbay. We were on the forward casing of the submarine, blowing up the dinghies and generally preparing. We could just see the dark coast line ahead. We had been told that Haselden would be there to meet us, but I think no one really believed that he would. He had left Cairo quite three weeks before, and during the interval there had been several changes of plan.... When the darkness was suddenly stabbed by his torch, making the looked for signal, there was a gasp of amazement and relief from everyone - in other circumstances it would undoubtedly have been a spontaneous cheer."
The landing was very difficult. Men and equipment were swept into the sea and dinghies were blown away from the submarine but were retrieved time and again by the folbots. After six hours, all the men from Torbay were on the beach with Haselden. With only three hours until dawn and the weather deteriorating further, Talisman had a more difficult task. On the way to the beach, Talisman grounded and the men and boats were tossed into the water. Most were recovered but Talisman was damaged and had to withdraw. Only four boats from the second submarine, including one with Col. Laycock, made it to the beach.
Col. Laycock, along with two S.B.S. officers, whose folbots had been damaged in the landing, were to remain by the shore to cover the escape route. They hid the rubber boats in a cave near the beach, lit a fire, and tried to dry their clothes and equipment.
Captain Campbell, who attacked the HQ with Keyes relates:
"Just before first light, Keyes gave the order to assemble the stores and personal kit and to follow him inland to a wadi, which he had previously selected from the map as a good place to lie up in during the following day. The men were dispersed in various old ruined houses and caves all round the bed of the little dry stream, where they huddled together and slept-as cold as charity.
Keyes spent the morning with Laycock modifying his plan. There were to be just two groups rather than the four anticipated with the full attack: No. 1 Detachment under Keyes to attack the villa used by Rommel and the German H. Q. at Beda Littoria. No. 2 Detachment under Lt. Cooke to attack the Italian H.Q. at Cyrene. In the afternoon Keyes summoned his men, and after explaining the new plan in outline, supervised the opening, repacking and distribution of the ammunition, explosives and rations. Although his original plan had been very thoroughly upset and his force lacked guides, two, or it may have been three, officers and some twenty men, Keyes gave no sign of being disturbed by this, and none of the men seemed to realise how seriously hampered the operation was from the outset.
During the afternoon the sky had become overcast and some rain fell; it was extremely chilly and cheerless. None of us had seen cloudy skies or rain for many months. We had hoped for the usual dry North African weather, since we would have to spend about six days in the open. Whatever he may have felt like inside himself, Keyes certainly appeared confident and cheerful as we set off at about 8 p.m. He took the lead with the guide and Drori the interpreter, leaving Laycock with a beach party of Pryor, Brittlebank, and two men with Bren guns to guard the stores in the Wadi and keep in touch with the Torbay. The Talisman was to lie off an alternative beach."
[This arrangement, however, had been cancelled, and she returned to Alexandria, with seventeen Commandos on board.]
”The raiding party reached the top of the first escarpment [which is half a mile inland] about 09:15 after a fairly stiff climb, and all that night we marched inland over extremely difficult going, mostly rock-strewn sheep tracks. Our guide left us about midnight, fearing to go any further in our company. Keyes then had the difficult task of finding the way by the aid of an indifferent Italian map, his compass and an occasional sight of the stars. In spite of this responsibility he kept the heavily laden party going with my help and that of Lieutenant Roy Cooke (an officer of the Royal West Kent Regiment, attached like myself for the operation). Here was another disappointment for Keyes - none of his own officers had been able to land. At the end of the night Keyes was carrying more than his own equipment.
Later, next morning, November 16th, our second day ashore, I awoke in drizzling rain to the sound of excited shouting. Keeping out of sight I crawled over to where Keyes was sitting wrapped in his Arab blanket, to await developments. Presently Drori, the Palestinian interpreter, came running up to Keyes and reported that they were surrounded by armed Arabs. Raising our heads cautiously above the scrub we saw a few rascally-looking Arabs, one or two brandishing short Italian rifles. However, Keyes decided that they did not appear either particularly formidable or implacably hostile, so he gave the order for the chief of the band to be brought to him for a talk. Shortly afterwards a villainous-looking Arab, with a red head cloth wound round his head, was brought up by the Palestinian interpreter and a sentry. Keyes exchanged a few civilities with this seedy brigand, and then began a conversation through the interpreter, asking his help against the Italians. He showed him the letter from Seyed Idris, exiled chief of all the Senussi, instructing his subjects, the people of Cyrenaica to render every aid to our friends. Unfortunately, the brigand couldn't read, but Keyes must have managed him very skilfully, for he was soon grinning happily and offering to do anything he could to help.
The Arab made several rather unpractical offers of help and at last Keyes asked him whether he could perhaps manage to get some cigarettes (knowing that the men had brought very few ashore and that most of these had been ruined by sea water). The Arab thought he could if he had some Italian money, which Keyes gave him, asking where they were going to come from. The answer was, from an Italian canteen. The idea appealed to Keyes and all of us as you may imagine. Sure enough, after a couple of hours, an Arab boy returned with packets of Italian cigarettes. After prolonged haggling, he and Awad Mohammed Gibril of the Masamir tribe, a taller, younger, but equally unprepossessing ruffian, agreed to take the raiders to Rommel's Head Quarters, which they knew well, for the sum of a thousand Italian lire. They promised that when night fell they would guide the party to a cave within a few hours march of their objective, and in the meantime, for another thousand lire, offered to prepare a kid for them to eat. This offer was accepted thankfully, as the men had nothing hot to eat or drink since they had landed.
When it grew dark we fell in and marched off in file, with Keyes and the guides and interpreter at the head. We had only one alarm when we heard some shouting, and what sounded like a number of men away on our flank. Keyes sent off a couple of scouts and the rest of us lay on the ground in silence. The scouts reported that they could find nothing alarming; so we resumed our march, and after about two and a half hours came to the cave called Karem Gadeh at Carmel Hassan, described by the Arabs as being about five miles from Sidi Rafa (The Arab name for Beda Littoria). The entrance to the cave went down under a pile of stones and rocks; inside it was fairly roomy and quite dry. Apart from an appalling smell of goats, it was an ideal place to spend the rest of the night and the following day. The roof was blackened by the smoke from generations of goatherds' fires, and the smell of generations of goats clung to the floor and walls. Keyes decided it would be safe to light a fire inside, so that we passed the rest of the night in a dry and warm though smoky cave.
The guides left us there, promising to return before dawn. When they came back they warned us that it would be imprudent to stay in the cave after dawn, as goatherds were in the habit of bringing their flocks there from time to time in bad weather. Keyes enlisted the help of the Arab's boy to spy out the troop disposition in Sidi Raffa. The boy set off, after being given careful instructions from Keyes, who promised him a big reward if he brought back the desired information. This proved a brilliant move on Keyes' part, for when the boy came back a good many hours later, his report enabled Keyes to draw an excellent sketch map, which proved to be extremely accurate and included such details as the outbuildings, and the park for staff cars. He was thus able to give the men a good visual notion of their objective. The boy told him there was a guard-tent in the grounds of the headquarters, but that if it rained the guards would probably all be inside the house.
Meanwhile, however, during the Arab boy's absence the thunderstorm continued and the men returned to the cave for shelter. Every now and then the clouds seemed to open and a deluge of rain fell. The country we had to march over turned to mud before our eyes. Little torrents of muddy water sprang up all over the countryside we could see from the mouth of the cave, and a rivulet ran into the cave which sloped downwards from the opening. Also the roof began to drip. Spirits were sinking - I know mine were - at the prospect of a long, cold, wet and muddy march before we even arrived at the starting point of a hazardous operation.
During the afternoon Keyes held a briefing. The password challenge would be 'Island' to be answered by 'Arran.' About 6 p.m. we changed from our boots into out plimsolls and set off. The going became so bad that we were compelled to go in single file to avoid knocking one another over as we slipped and stumbled through the mud, and it became so dark it was only just possible to see the man in front. We had to hold on to one another's bayonet scabbards in order to keep in touch. Every now and again a man would fall, and the whole column would have to halt while he picked himself up. From time to time the middle of the column would lose touch with the man in front of him, and we would have to stop and sort ourselves out again. We reached the bottom of the escarpment at about 10.30 p.m. without serious mishap. After a short rest we began our climb of about 500 feet of muddy turf with outcropping rocks. About half way up the noise of a man slipping and striking his tommy-gun against a rock roused a watch-dog, and a stream of light issued from the door of a hut as it was flung open about a hundred yards away on our flank. As we crouched motionless, hardly breathing, we heard a man shouting at the dog. Finally the door closed, and we resumed our way upward.
At the summit (which is known as Zaidan hill) we found a cart track which the guides said led straight to the back of the German Headquarters. We halted for a rest and Keyes re-formed the men, some twenty-four all told. After this halt we set off down the cart-track, Keyes in the lead with Sergeant Terry, Drori, and the Arabs, while I followed with the main body of the men at an interval of fifty yards. We reached the edge of the village and Lieutenant Cooke's party separated from the main group. Keyes and Sergeant Terry went off to make a preliminary reconnaissance of target. While he was away one of my party tripped over a tin can and roused a dog, which began to bark. An Arab in one of the houses also began to scream. After a minute or two an Italian in uniform and an Arab officer of the Italian Libyan Arab Force emerged from one of the huts and approached us, asking who we were and what we were doing there. Drori replied in German saying, 'We are German troops on patrol. Go away and keep your dog quiet.' Drori repeated this in Arabic, asking them to quiet the man in the hut, and the Arab officer, believing they were Germans, then spoke to the man who was screaming, addressing him by name and told him to be quiet. Bidding us 'Gute Nacht' they disappeared back into their hut apparently satisfied, which the men thought was a great joke.
Just as they did so, Geoffrey and Sergeant Terry came back Keyes then led us through a hedge into the garden, and we found ourselves at the back of the house. He posted Corporal Kearney and Private Hughes at the back door, which he had already tried and found locked. All the ground floor windows were high up and barred with heavy wooden shutters, so it was impossible to get in that way. There was no alternative but to use the front door. We followed him round the building on to a gravel sweep in front of the house. The front door was set back inside a porch, at the top of a flight of stone steps. Keyes ran up the steps. He was carrying a Colt .45, and I knocked on the door for him, demanding loudly in German to be let in. The door opened on a second pair of glass doors, and we were confronted by a German (officer I think) in a steel helmet and overcoat. Keyes at once closed with him, covering him with his Colt. The man seized the muzzle of Keyes' revolver and tried to wrest it from him. Before I or Terry could get round behind him he retreated, still holding on to Keyes, to a position with his back to the wall, and his either side protected by the first and second pairs of doors at the entrance. He started to shout. Keyes could not draw a knife and neither I nor Terry could get round Keyes, as the doors were in the way, so I shot the man with my .38 revolver, which I thought would make less noise than Keyes' Colt. Keyes then gave the order to use tommy-guns and grenades, since we had to presume that my revolver shots had been heard. Keyes said that his arm had gone numb; perhaps the shots had chipped his elbow, or it may have been the wrestling match with the German had damaged it?
We found ourselves, when we had time to look round, in a large hall with a stone floor, it had a stone stairway leading to the upper stories on the right. We heard a man in heavy boots clattering down the stairs though we could not see him nor he us, as he was hidden by a right hand turn in the stairway. He was shouting- "What goes on there?" As he came to the turn and his feet came in sight, Sergeant Terry fired a burst with his tommy-gun. The man turned and fled away upstairs. Keyes had been flinging open the doors on either side of the hall. We looked inside and found the rooms were empty. He pointed to a light shining through the crack under the next door and inside were about ten Germans with steel helmets, some sitting and some standing. He fired two or three rounds with his Colt .45 automatic. I said "Wait, I'll throw a grenade in." He slammed the door shut and held it while I got the pin out of the grenade. (Sergeant Terry, who had closed up behind them, afterwards said he could hear the sound of heavy breathing inside the room.) I said "Right" and Keyes opened the door. I threw in the grenade, which I saw roll to the middle of the room, and Sergeant Terry gave a burst with his Tommy-gun. Before Keyes (who said "Well done" as he saw the grenade go in) could shut the door the Germans fired. A bullet struck him just over the heart and he fell unconscious at the feet of myself and Terry.
After the grenade went off, this was followed by complete silence, and we could see that the light in the room had gone out. I decided Keyes had to be moved, in case there was further fighting in the building (and because we intended to blow it up), so between us Sergeant Terry and I carried him outside and laid him on the grass verge to the left of the front door. [Terry went back inside to keep guard.] He must have died as we were carrying him outside, for when I felt his heart it had ceased to beat."
Captain Campbell returned to the house and found Sgt. Terry and informed him that Keyes was dead. They were drawn outside by gunfire and while investigating the rear of the house, was shot in the leg by one of his own men. His leg was broken badly and he could not be moved. He turned over command to Sgt. Terry and, after a shot of morphine was left propped up against a tree.
In the meantime, Sgt. Bruce, Cpl. Kearney and Lt.-Cpl. Coulthread were busy with demolition charges and managed to put the power plant out of action. Sgt. Terry blew the whistle which was the signal to retreat and after regrouping, the raiders began retracing their path to the beach. The quickly became disoriented in the darkness and dreadful weather and had to wait until first light before proceeding. They pressed on all day and reached the beach about 5 p.m. where they met Col. Laycock. The men had a cold meal as they waited for dusk and the rendezvous with the submarine.
Account compiled by Graham Lappin
Further to my anecdotes on the above, it has been said to me by the Commandos that Keyes was actually hit by shrapnel from the grenade rather than a German bullet?
Posted 20 January 2003 - 04:33 AM
Lt. Cooke's party had their own adventures.
"Contrary to the official reports, my party went with Keyes as far as the Headquarters, as numbers were too small to risk sending us off until we had seen the layout. Consequently I was about the place until just before Geoffrey [Keyes] and Robin [Campbell] went in. My party were detailed to watch the main road approaches until the shooting started, and then to get away to our objective. As for the rest of the story, when Keyes went to war, we - self and six - shot off up the road. Unfortunately, with the weather and the late hour, we were unable to get the lift we expected on the road (Long Range Desert Group truck from Slonta), and had to do the whole 15 miles on foot, which, coming on top of the other march, wasn't so good.
We had to drop off two of the boys as they couldn't make it. (One of them had lost his shoes and his feet were in a fearful state.) However, we filled them up with grenades, etc. and told them to muck up any odd transport, or what have you, that they could find, and try to get back. . . . We pushed on and hit the communications pylon about dawn. Unfortunately all matches, etc. for setting off the charges were soaked, even inside the oilskin pouches - it had rained for some sixteen hours very solidly - very worrying, because it was getting light and there were one or two posts around us. I tried a grenade under the charge and then running like hell and falling flat and felt very foolish when it turned out a blind - the second one went off, but the charge didn't. I returned to the boys nearly frantic with wind up and frustration and nerves, cursing pretty profusely. Then a Geordy [native of Newcastle, N.E. England] by the name of Gornall - bless his heart - who had been watching me running about with grenades, trying to strike matches that wouldn't and so on, sort of metaphorically took the straw out of his mouth and said: "I suppose a self-igniting incendiary wouldn't be any good sir, would it?" Of course, it was just the answer to our prayer. We set it off touched off the fuse, and up she went in fine style.
We lay up in an old tomb that day; very cold and wet we were. Pushed off next night to try and get back to the ship. We went very hard and got back to within five miles of the place, but at about 8.30 that morning had to rest, which we did in a cave with some Arabs. We didn't know it, but we had sat down in front of two battalions that were beating the scrub for us and looking in all the caves. The Arabs managed to slip out before we got the troops right on top of us, and tried to divert attention from the cave, by a little shooting on their own account, but no go. Two blokes came down into the cave and we shot them, then they threw down so much stuff at us that the fumes nearly suffocated us, so we called it a day."
Much to their dismay, the group on the beach found that their rubber boats and lifejackets were missing. Towards dusk, Col. Laycock sighted Torbay and began signalling. They sent in a dinghy with lifejackets and food but the weather made attempts to take the men off the beach impossible and they resolved to try again the next night. The rubber boats had been moved to safety by some friendly Arabs and were later recovered but too late to try to reach the submarine.
The men dispersed to wait in the caves which surrounded the beach. However, the attack party had been tracked by some Carabinerri Arabs and in the morning, they were discovered.
Lieutenant Pryor, one of the S.B.S. lieutenants who had remained on the shore recounts:
"I remember an old chap was ploughing with a very ill-matched team of a donkey and a camel half a mile to the west of us, when 'bang' went a shot from our western sentry, and we ran in a fusillade of pops to action stations in a ruined house on a knoll back of our cave. I saw our chaps from the cave across the stream running out and taking position likewise, facing west, and there in the distance were some Arabs in red turbans crawling towards us.
Everybody fired and they fired back, there were a few bigger bangs that I imagined were from a mortar, and I remember thinking 'our old wall doesn't look a bit bullet proof'. There didn't appear to be many of these native troops as enemy, so we discussed, and thought if we could mop them up, we might still get away in the Torbay that night.... I said to Colonel Laycock: 'Give me a Scotsman with a gun and I'll go and try and get round the seaward side of them'. So we ran out, in a lot of shooting, till we got in the dead ground of the stream. We went on, and came under fire again, and ran on to the cover of a stone or concrete drinking trough. 'Very bad shots they are' I said. 'They'll never hit us.... On to those rocks next ...' and so on by leaps and bounds . . . and there behind the native red turbaned point-section, were about six tin-helmeted Ities, lying leisurely shooting at us.
Behind the next rock we stopped again in our approach - by then about two hundred yards from these chaps - I looked round and saw that my man had managed to get his tommy gun jammed solid. I poked it about a bit and banged it, but couldn't budge it. Rather cross I said 'Well try and clear it for God's sake - I'm going on'- and very foolishly, I went on another fifty yards, bound for another patch of rocks. When I got there I saw there were some more Ities on the hill further west, and there were my six lying there having target practice at me. 'Well John,' thinks I, 'the brave thing to do is to rush them with your pistol and this one grenade . . .' but there were no more rocks between me and them, and as it was a long uphill rush I reckoned and decided I might just as well go back to Bob and tell him what I had seen.
So I up and slopes off back, and a splinter or something hits my right big toe. 'Damn' says I, and runs faster, and past my first intended bound, when bang, something like a horse kicking me up behind bowled me over. I lay there and thought 'Well, I've often hit a rabbit in the back legs, I hope it doesn't hurt more than that, for that was nothing....' I was covered with sand; the bullets kicked up all round me, and 'Hell' I thought, 'that's hardly the game' and crawled to a flat stone which I fitted up as a shield, but they chipped that twice, and thinks I 'if they move a bit they can get me. I must get out,' and found my leg would carry me well,- which it did back to Bob.
'Damn it' says he 'that's no good. We'd better bugger off. Can you walk?' Well I was a bit knocked up, and I dare say looked worse than I was, with a lot of blood about. So he left a very reluctant R.A.M.C. orderly from Manchester to tie me up, and under a storm of excited and inaccurate shots from the Ities, dashed off into the surrounding scrub. I heard later that the tommy gunner was shot point blank when he surrendered next day to an Italian Libyan Arab section, and that another man was also shot and wounded at the same time. While we waited for the victorious Ities to approach the R.A.M.C. orderly said: 'Do you think they'll shoot us, sir?' which seemed a bad way to speak to a wounded chap feeling a bit cold and miserable I thought, and made me laugh to think of it, so it cheered me up actually. 'Yes, I'm sure they will', I said, and his face was a picture. Then the Ities arrived and after order and counter-order and a lot of shouting: 'Portare qui! No, No, Portare quoi!' they eventually put me on a mule and led me off westward about 12 miles to their dirty old H.Q., and a lovely great red-backed shrike sat on a Juniper bush and looked at us going by."
Colonel Laycock's account of the action on November 19 is particularly clear:
"All was quiet until about mid-day, when a few shots were heard from the direction of the wadi and from the Westernmost sentry-group. At first the only enemy to be observed were Carabinieri Arabs known to be stationed at Hania, about eight miles to the west. This did not worry us unduly since we were confident that we should be able to drive them off until darkness allowed us to retire to the beach for evacuation, which now seemed feasible as wind and sea were rapidly abating. I sent two small parties from the main body to outflank the enemy, but it soon became evident that they were not on a wide enough front or in sufficient numbers, as detachments of Germans now appeared moving south towards us down the Western side of the wadi, whilst further Carabinieri forces came from the West.
Later, what appeared to be a considerable party of Italians showed themselves on the skyline about a mile to our North but took no part in the battle. Fairly accurate fire was brought to bear on us, but we were behind good cover and suffered no casualties, though it was feared that the party in the wadi had been over-run. The detachment sent to outflank the enemy to the East was held up after advancing a few hundred yards, but succeeded in rejoining our position. The detachment to the West advanced about a quarter of a mile before the tommy-gunner's gun jammed and became useless. He and the private with him were pinned to the ground, but Lieutenant Pryor gallantly continued to advance single-handed and, using cover and firing his revolver, he attempted to deceive the enemy into thinking that an outflanking operation was still in progress. He was eventually shot through the thigh, but managed to limp back to the main position.
Although the enemy were not equipped with automatic weapons, they were maintaining a steady advance, and bringing a considerable volume of rifle-fire to bear on and around our position. It was now evident that it would be impossible to hold the beach until dark against such superior forces, and that our only remaining line of retreat would soon be cut off. At about 1400 hours I therefore reluctantly decided to abandon the position and to adopt the alternative plan of hiding in the Jebel until we could rejoin our advancing main forces (the 8thArmy).
Nothing could be seen of our Western detachment whose original position was now occupied by the enemy and, as a runner sent to reconnoitre, returned with negative information, I presumed that they had been killed or driven off Westwards. I ordered the main body to split into parties of not more than three men each, to make a dash across the open, and to retire through our Eastern detachment to whom they were to pass on my orders. They were then to gain the cover of the Jebel and to adopt whichever of the three alternatives seemed most propitious: 1. Under cover of darkness to return later to the alternative beach, off which Talisman would be lying until just before first light on the night of 20/21 November. 2. To make their way to the area of Slonta in which vicinity the Arabs were known to be friendly and where there was a chance of being picked up by Long Range Desert Group. 3. To hide in the wadis north of the Cyrene escarpment until news of our forces was received. Leaving a Medical Orderly with Lieutenant Pryor, whom I feared might otherwise bleed to death, I ordered them to surrender and made good my escape.
On reaching the position originally held by our Eastern detachment, I found Sergeant Terry waiting for me and we set off together. The first half mile of the withdrawal was unpleasant owing to the open nature of the country, but the enemy's marksmanship seems to have been particularly poor, and although we had some close shaves, I do not think we suffered a single casualty since Sergeant Terry and myself would almost certainly have observed any which had occurred. Sergeant Terry and myself attempted to gain the alternative beach on the first and second nights, but were frustrated by the enemy whom we contacted near the original beach and considerably to the Northward. We therefore abandoned the project and retired Eastwards.
We found little difficulty in avoiding search parties since the cover in the Jebel is excellent and, having a good pair of field glasses I could usually spot Germans or Italians at considerable distances. Our greatest fear was being stalked by the Carabinieri Arabs who moved much more cleverly by tracking us, and who got close to us on several occasions during the first few days. Later, however, having made friends with the Senussi tribes we adopted the enjoyable policy of moving each night into the very wadis which the enemy were known to have searched during the day Our greatest problem was the lack of food and, though never desperate, we were forced to subsist for periods which never exceeded two and a half consecutive days on berries only, and we became appreciably weak from want of nourishment. At other times we fed well on goat and Arab bread, but developed a marked craving for sugar. Water never presented a serious problem, as it rained practically continuously. Our failure to obtain reliable information of the advance of the British forces we found aggravating in the extreme."
Sgt. Jack Terry recalled:
[/I]"We had never intended to do much walking and were still wearing plimsolls from the raid. After a few days of walking in the dunes, mine were in tatters and it was like walking on bare feet. I cut the felt covering from my water bottle and used the material to wrap my feet in."[/I]
Only Sergeant Terry and Colonel Laycock, after 41 days in the desert, reached the safety of the allied lines. The remainder were killed or captured. For the action at Bede Littoria, Geoffrey Keyes was awarded the V.C.
Although three German staff officers were killed in the raid, the mission failed to capture Rommel. In fact he was not at Beda Littoria at that time but it did have an imaginative effect on allied morale and tied up valuable enemy resources by showing that it was possible to raid so deeply into occupied territory.
Compiled by - Graham Lappin
After the Rommel Raid, the Commando was again reorganised. Men joined other Commandos, the SAS, the L.R.D.G. or went back to their original regiments.
- END -
Posted 20 January 2003 - 02:33 PM
I guess that says all there is to say on that mission.
Posted 02 February 2003 - 12:55 AM
FW 190 units were transferred to North African soil. The units that moved to Tunisia in late 1942 were: II./Jagdgeschwader 2, and III./ Zerstörergeschwader 2.
The FW 190 fighter unit transferred to Tunisia, II./J.G.2, was a highly experienced Channel Front unit which contained a number of Experten. These Experten included Ritterkreuzträgers Oblt. Kurt Bühligen (Staffelkapitän 4.Staffel), Lt. Erich Rudorffer (Staffelkapitän 6.Staffel) and the acting Gruppenkommandeur , Oblt. Adolf Dickfeld. These three pilots in particular would taste great success in the North African skies in the months following the units arrival in Tunisia on 20 November 1942. They would amass a number of victories in trying circumstances, with both Rudorffer and Bühligen claiming some 20+ victories. During the campaign, Rudorffer would be promoted to the rank of Hauptmann, and would become acting Gruppenkommandeur Dickfeld claimed only a few victories in about two months, and two other pilots (Goltzsch and Bänsch) both claimed more than ten aerial victories. A little known FW 190 ace of the Tunisian campaign was Lt. Lothar Werner of 4./J.G.2, who achieved seven victories. The Staffelkapitän of 5./J.G.2, Oblt. Wolf von Bülow also downed about seven Allied aircraft over Tunisia. Feldwebel Kurt Goltzsch was a 30-year old Alter Hase (old hand - experienced pilot), who; scored consistently over Tunisia, becoming the fourth ranking FW 190 ace of the theatre.
On arrival in North Africa, II./J.G.2 was subordinated to Oberstleutnant Günther Freiheir von Maltzhan's J.G.53, and the FW 190s would often fly with Bf 109s of the ‘Pik As’ Geschwader. During its time in North Africa, II./J.G.2 would fly Freie Jagd, bomber interception and occasional escort missions for III./S.K.G.10's FW 190 Jabos, and would later fly ground attack missions itself.
III./Z.G.2 commenced operations in Tunisia on 16 November 1942. Five days later, the newly arrived II./J.G.2 tasted success on its first day of operations, claiming some ten victories for no losses. These victories were achieved after eight FW 190s of the unit, as well as some Bf 109s of J.G.53, attacked Spitfire Vs of 81 RAF Squadron while the latter were taking off from Maison Blanche airfield. Three Spitfires were destroyed and five badly damaged, so the Gruppe's claims were fairly accurate. The unit's first North African kill was achieved by Oblt. Kurt Bühligen.
On 4th December 1942 FW 190s of II./JG 2 were involved in the slaughter of 12 Bristol Bisleys from 18 and 614 Squadrons. All twelve RAF bombers were downed by between 50 and 60 Luftwaffe fighters, and Lt Fritz Karch of II./JG 2 was one of the successful German pilots.
Two days later, on 7 January 1943, II./JG 2 suffered a tremendous blow when the Gruppenkommandeur, the now Hptm Adolf Dickfeld, was severely wounded in a take-off accident. His aircraft, FW 190A-4 Werk Nummer 0140750 Black Double Chevron, somersaulted at Kairouan after colliding with an obstacle, and Dickfeld’s Tunisian campaign came to a premature end. During his brief stay in North Africa, the Gruppenkommandeur had attained 18 victories, and his place was taken by Lt Erich Rudorffer.
February 1943 was a time of great success for the Experten of II./JG 2. By this time they had adapted to the conditions of desert air combat, and there were plentiful targets as the Allies built up their air power in North Africa.On 9 February 1943, II./JG 2 achieved its highest tally in the Tunisian campaign, when it downed some 16 aircraft, half of which went to the Gruppenkommandeur himself.In fact, Rudorffer claimed all his eight victories in the space of half an hour during one early afternoon sortie. Just after noon on the 9th, bombers (B-17s of the 301st BG) and fighters (18 P-38s of the 94th FS) were reported approaching II./JG 2’s base, Kairouan, and immediately the unit’s readiness Staffel took off to engage them. Rudorffer was last to take off, and after sighting the enemy formation at 21500 feet, attacked the fighters. He attacked P-40s which were flying in a defensive circle, and by slipping in and out he managed to down six of them. He then sighted P-38s below strafing German ground targets. He shot down two of these south of Maktar at 1521 and 1522 in two passes, giving him a total of eight. The following is Rudorffer's own account of the action:
"It was south of Tunis, about 180 kilometres. We got word - we were based at Kairouan - that bombers and fighters were on the way (B-17s of the 301st BG and P-38s of the 1st FG). One Staffel was already sitting in their aircraft and I ordered them off. I was always last to take off and waited to get the latest information on the enemy's course and speed. Then I took off with my Schwarm of four and we assembled with the others in the air and headed for the "dicke Autos und Indianer". They were coming from the west, about 24 B-17s, 18 P-40s, 20 P-38s and a similar number of Spitfires - some of them may have been Hurricanes because when the dogfight began I thought I saw some Hurricanes also. We were at about 7000 metres and the bombers were below us, the P-40s above.
When we started for the bombers the Curtiss fighters came down on us and that's when the dogfight began. After a time the P-40s, which were not as fast as us, went into a 'Luftbery' circle and I began to slip in from low and high and shoot them donw. I managed to shoot down six in about seven minutes. As I recall the combat report, I got one at 1359 and the last at 1406. By that time the fight had broken up and everyone had scattered. Then I saw somw P-38s strafing below us, and though I had only about four FW 190s with me at this time, I went down at them and surprised them. I got one coming from above and then went up again and came down on another and shot him down. That gave me eight for the day - I remember it because it was one of the best days I ever had."
From: Weal, John. Fw 190 Aces of the Western Front, page 37
on 15 March 1943, II./JG 2 left Tunisia for Creil, north of Paris, where it would exchange its FW 190A-4s and A-5s for Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6s.Following the disappearance of II./JG 2 from the scene, the FW 190 Jabos would continue their work, and III./SKG 10 was bolstered by the arrival mid-March of II./Sch.G. 2. With extra numbers, FW 190 Jabos were now able to support the southern front in Tunisia as well as the northern front.
By May 1943 the situation in Tunisia was chaotic for the Axis. Even so, III./SKG 10 remained on African soil until just a week before Axis surrender in the theatre.
III./SKG 10 began withdrawing from Tunisia to Sicily on 6 May, continuing withdrawal the next day. On the 7th, two pilots of the unit - Uffz Heinz Hunger and Uffz Hans-Jurgen Wellendorf - were killed when they crashed at Gela, Sicily, after evacuating their Tunisian base.
Lt Armin Köhler of I./JG 77 describes one incident as follows:
“Obergefreiter Schomaker [of I./JG 77] got back [to Sicily] in an FW 190. As well as the pilot, the plane had four men aboard. An astonishing performance.”
During its four month stint in Tunisia, the Gruppe recorded more than 170 victories. However, the importance of II./JG 2 to the Axis cause can't be measured in statistics alone. The mere appearance of FW 190 fighters in North Africa caused much disruption to the Allied air forces. Not expecting to face this formidable opponent, RAF fighter squadrons of the Desert Air Force had low priority for recieving the new Spitfire IX, and for this reason, II./JG 2 was able to maintain a certain superiority over the old Spitfire Vs it encountered. Only towards the end of its desert sojourn did II./JG 2 face the superior Spitfire IX. Other opponents, especially the Curtiss P-40s and Bell P-39s, were scarcely able to match the FW 190, and although the Lockheed P-38 could match the German type on paper, the USAAF pilots were ‘green’, and suffered accordingly at the hands of the more experienced Luftwaffe pilots (no offense to the American pilots, but many Luftwaffe fighter pilots in North Africa had two or more years of combat experience, while USAAF pilots were making their combat debut).
the ground-attack missions flown by the Gruppe contained more elements of risk than the fighter missions flown by II./JG 2, and as a result the unit sustained much heavier losses. Over five months, III./SKG 10 suffered about 58 combat losses and 38 non-combat losses, a total of 96 FW 190s lost during the campaign. These losses are certainly unacceptably high, but when compared with the unit’s successes and the high risk of the operations undertaken, they could very well have been higher. II./Sch.G.2 also achieved some success with the FW 190, particularly in the final days of the campaign, although it too suffered a number of casualties.
PS. In Hermann Buchner´s book he mentions that Major Armin Köhler escaped from Siberia but that his escape to Germany ended 1953...
I guess this was the man mentioned somewhere here earlier.
Posted 24 February 2003 - 10:10 AM
After the surrender in Africa three of the German divisions that had fought in the Western Desert were reconstituted in western Europe. The 15th Panzer Division was reformed as a Panzergrenadier division, and renumbered as the 115th since there was already a 15th Panzergrenadier Division on the books. The 21st Panzer Division was reformed under its own name. The 90th Light Division was reformed as the 90th Panzergrenadier Division.
In the whole North African campaign the Indians lost 22,000; by this stage in the war around 80,000 Indians had been taken prisoner-of-war. Men from Basutoland (Lesotho), Bechuanaland (Botswana) and East Africa served as Pioneers throughout these desert campaigns. The Basuto Pioneers suffered a catastrophe when their troopship Erinpura was torpedoed on 1 May 1943 en route from Alexandria to Malta; 618 men lost their lives.
Posted 04 March 2003 - 06:55 PM
The lead elements of the 5. Leichte Division moved east to make contact with the British. The lengthy search for a way to carry the fight to the British finally ended with the first contact between Aufklärungs 3 and 33, which formed "Advance Unit Wechmar", and a troop of the British Dragoon Guards. The British lost in this initial, losing 5 vehicles and one soldier killed. The Germans suffered no casualties, and even managed to capture a few British vehicles.
In a poignant irony, the last transmission sent to the OKW from German forces in North Africa was sent by the last commander of the Afrikakorps, General Cramer. By this point in the war, the Afrikakorps was but a small part of the overall German forces engaged - but still its heart and sole nonetheless. This message read: "Ammunition expended. Arms and equipment destroyed. In accordance with orders received the Afrikakorps has fought itself to a condition where it can fight no more. The German Afrikakorps must rise again. Heia Safari." Shortly thereafter, on 13 May 1943, the war in North Africa ended.
[ 14. August 2003, 08:25 AM: Message edited by: Kai-Petri ]
Posted 10 March 2003 - 02:15 PM
Successes in North Africa brought splendour to two British commanders: General Bernard Law Montgomery received the distinguished title of the Lord of Alamein, and General Alexander received the distinguished title of the Lord of Tunis.
Clearing Africa of the Germano-Italian forces had turned that continent into a springboard for the further operations: landings in Sicily and southern Italy. However, before it happened, the Allied bombers under the command of Air Marshal Arthur Tedder started bombing of the tiny island of Pantelleria, heavily fortified to balance the strategic significance of Malta. Its underground shelters carved in the rocks harboured 11,500 Italian soldiers and stocks of arms and supplies, but after few days of bombardment the Italians surrendered without resistance. Also without fights capitulated the crew of another fortified island - Lampedusa. The seaway between Tunisia and Sicily was open
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