The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 7 No 6 - December 1988

TOBRUK - 1942
(Compiled and translated from the official War Diary of the German Supreme Command)

by Jochen OEO Mahncke

Panzerarmee Afrika 14.6.1942

After re-grouping the Panzerarmee, which took place in the morning hours of the 14th, the DAK [Deutsches Afrika Korps] began its attack in a northerly direction with massive artillery assistance. After fierce battles enemy tank units were thrown back into areas around Acroma.

The enemy lost 52 tanks and numerous equipment Despite a heavy sand storm in the afternoon, the attack by the DAK gained ground slowly. Protected by a deep minefield, the enemy tried to erect a new defensive frontline, employing all tank units and a motorised brigade.

Air patrols observed heavy transport movements on the Via Balbia, west of Tobruk, in an easterly direction. The enemy destroyed ammunition dumps in the Gazala position, and tried to screen his withdrawal by attacks against the Italian AK [Afrika Korps].

Panzerarmee Afrika 15.6.1942

Last night the enemy tried to withdraw various units along the Via Balbia towards Tobruk. An attack of the DAK, west of Acroma, cut off the road to Tobruk.

During the day the enemy tried unsuccessfully to open up the road to Tobruk in an area north-east of Acroma by desperate attacks. The XXI AK opened the Gazala front from the west aud advanced (evening of 15.6.) into the area east of the Gazala airfields.

Strong units of the 50th British Infantry Division tried to break through the sector of the X AK in the south. The attacks were essentially repulsed with high and bloody losses for the enemy. 300 prisoners were brought in, 400 motor vehicles destroyed.

After encircling the Gazala front, the Panzerarmee pursued the enemy via El Adem in an easterly direction.

The strongly fortified desert fortresses in the southern part of the outlying sectors of Tobruk, in the area of El Adem, which were obstinately defended by parts of the 5th Indian division, were stormed in the evening hours.

More than 800 prisoners were brought in, a number of guns and other war material were captured.

Despite many enemy bombing attacks further ground in the east was occupied. The enemy withdrew his tank units from the area east of Tobruk further eastward.

During the night from the l2th to 13th British sabotage commandos, some of them in German uniforms, and provided with German cars and documents, undertook attacks on airfields in the region of Derna-Barce-Benina. Aircraft were destroyed, a hangar was set on fire. One sabotage squad - with an officer in German uniform - was captured, as well as one camionette with explosives.

Panzerarmee Afrika 16.6.1942

The attack from the south directed against the deep flank of the British Gazala positions (west of Tobruk), encountered the forces of the British XIII corps, which consisted at that time of the 1st Tank Division, the 1st South African and the 50th British Divisions.

During the severe clashes south and west of Acroma, the British tank units were destroyed. After the non-operational 1st Tank Division had to retreat from the battlefield during the night of 14th, the DAK followed along the Via Balbia to the coast.

During the battles between Acroma and Bir-el-Tamar, forces of infantry brigade strength were annihilated. Another brigade was destroyed when the 50th British Division tried to break out to the south-west.

The 150th Brigade had already been smashed during the battles at Got el Valeb. During the battles for Acroma and attempts to break through to the east, the 1st South African Division was severely mauled. Their losses were at least that of two brigades.

Altogether 6 000 prisoners were taken in the fighting for the Gazala positions; 224 tanks, 85 guns and a great amount of war material was captured and destroyed. Following the destruction of British forces in the area west and south of Tobruk, the British command has withdrawn the remaining, badly mauled divisions to the Libyan-Fgyptian border area. There they are being collected and re-organized.

After the completion of the operations for the Gazala positions the Panzerarmee Afrika is re-grouping.

During the fighting within the outer fortress positions, the German Panzer divisions occupied a number of obstinately defended strongholds south-east of Tobruk.

Panzerarmee Afrika 17.6.1942

During fighting for possession of the outer fortress positions with its many defensive, well-equipped strongholds, a vital point in the El Adem area was taken early on 17.6.

A break-out by the encircled enemy from this stronghold in the night from the 16th to 17th was essentially repulsed with high losses for the enemy. The number of prisoners was 500.

Further strongholds were surrounded during 17th. Reconnaissance forces pushed between strongholds through to the fortress belt. In front of the fortress, Italians occupied positions in an area south-east to north-east of Acroma.

To win and secure the necessary protection of the German rear, prior to the proposed attack against Tobruk, forces from the DAK and the Panzerdivision Ariete advanced in an easterly direction towards Gambut. This would eliminate any chances of the enemy air force being able to operate from airfields around Gambut.

The German forces pushed the 7th Tank Division back along their whole front and then reached the area south of Gambut. The operations continued into the evening hours.

Panzerarmee Afrika 18.6.1942

After reaching the areas of Gambut and south of Gambut, parts of the Panzerarmee remained there. Cleaning-up operations netted a further 400 prisoners and a large supply depot.

The ring around fortress Tobruk was closed by an advance on Via Balbia to the north-east of the fortress belt.

The fortress is surrounded, road and railway transport interrupted. 10 tanks have been destroyed, 15 aircraft and numerous other equipment have been captured and 500 prisoners brought in.

Panzerarmee Afrika 19.6.1942

1. Panzerarmee prepares itself, until evening 19.6, for attack on fortress Tobruk. Beginning of attack in early morning hours of 20.6., taking advantage of heavy raids of air force units.

2. The combined reconnaissance forces and one Italian division protect the rear of the Panzerarmee in area Gambut and south-east, and undertake armed reconnaissance in easterly and south-easterly direction.

In the Afternoon the enemy advanced with strong forces via Bir el Gobi northwards.

Panzerarmee Afrika 20.6.1942 (Flash message)

Two-thirds of fortress Tobruk, including harbour, was occupied after severe fighting which lasted from dawn to late evening.

Western part still holds out. Several thousand prisoners, 70 tanks, immense [amount of] equipment.

Panzerarmee Afrika 21.6.1942 (Flash message)

Fortress Tobruk taken. Garrison of 25 000, a number of generals of tank armies. Colossal goods depots of war material. Further reports to follow.

Panzerarmee Afrika 22.6.1942

Early on 20th Panzerarmee Afrika attacked Tobruk from south-east with DAK, supported by half of 90th Light Division on its right, and XX AK on its left. XXI feigned an attack from the west, while one division from X AK, with closely following Panzer corps was intended to occupy the stronghold at the breach.

To protect the southern flank, reconnaissance forces and a division of X AK, as well as Panzerdivision Littorio were deployed in area El Adem. Further reconnaissance forces and 90th Light Division - without 15th Schuetzenbrigade - operated in area Bardia and south of B[ardia].

The air force supported the attacks with heavy bombing raids by bombers and Stukas. After two hours of heavy fighting German divisions succeeded in entering the considerably fortified enemy double bunker lines.

The German attack forces pushed smoothly to the road fork Sidi Mamut by midday (8 km south of Tobruk). 50 enemy tanks were destroyed.

The attack of the XX AK came to a standstill in front of the first bunker line, after crossing the minefield. To prevent further heavy losses, the Panzerarmee Ariete was withdrawn through the penetration sector of the DAK, and immediately deployed north of the bunker line to attack from the west.

DAK reached line Tobruk Harbour - Fort Solaro (5 km south-west of Tobruk) - Fort Pilastrino, after continuing with its afternoon attack. The largest two forts had been taken.

Tank-supported counter-attacks by the enemy were successfully repulsed. Additional tanks were destroyed or captured.

Following the success of the attacks, the rest of the Tobruk garrison surrendered on the morning of 21 June. Negotiations with the enemy were not conducted.

In total the storming of fortress Tobruk netted five generals, among them the commander of the 2nd South African division, 28 000 prisoners; more than 70 tanks were destroyed, 30 tanks handed over undamaged, as well as very large quantities of guns and heavy weapons. Large stocks of supplies and ammunition, as well as petrol depots fell into our hands.

Panzerarmee Afrika 23.6.1942

Enemy withdrew parts of 7th Tank Division, who were still positioned west of Sidi Omar, to a line Maddelene- Scheferzen. Since midday yesterday, the Panzerarmee is preparing to advance against enemy forces on the Egyptian border.

During the attacks on the harbour of Tobruk, German troops of the Panzerarmee sunk one gun boat and 6 small transport ships of 5 200 BRT [Gross registered tons]. They tried to escape with British troops on board. The majority of soldiers were rescued and brought back as prisoners.

The harbour and its installations fell undamaged into German hands. The enemy did not undertake any mine laying operations in the harbour area, and this enabled the troops to begin immediately with transport operations to Tobruk.

Panzerarmee Afrika 24.6.1942

After re-grouping, the Panzerarmee launched extensive attacks against the enemy forces at the Egyptian border in the late afternoon hours of the 23rd. Details about the operations, which carried right through the night, are not yet available.

The number of prisoners from fortress Tobruk has increased to 33 000. Furthermore the already reported figures have been exceeded by a few hundred guns, 20 anti-tank guns, 100 motor cars, 1 large ammunition depot, supplies and petrol; and more than 100 tanks were destroyed.

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