Thursday, October 02, 2008

Notes from a diary of a German lieutenant – prisoner of war 17-4-41

Major Holmann said how fortunate we were that the Regiment has managed to survive once more. Yes, the 2nd Btn. lost 10 tanks, 5 medium tanks with 7.5mm guns from 8th Coy. alone. Many dead, many wounded and many missing. Things went badly with 8th MG Btn. when they tried to attack A/T guns and light and heavy guns. The Regiment had all it's doctors taken prisoner. The Regiment is, to all intents and purposes, no more. Last night Tommie had the aerodrome near us.

At 0700 hrs. the artillery started off again, and the bombers began playing their ghastly game. At 1200hrs. I went to see Battalion Commander. Once more the conversation turned to the events of the 14th. To us all, it was simply incomprehensible how we managed to get out of it, and it was agreed that it was the most difficult day of the war. But what Tommie must have thought of us! Two strong detachments break through the defences, approach to within about a couple of kilos of the town, and then run back fast, as fast as they came in. The day will occupy a prominent place in the history of the Regiment.

The war in Africa is something different to that in Europe. It is simply a question of man to man. There are no masses of men and material. It is a battle between opponents on the ground and in the air and both on equal terms. Eye to eye, blow for blow. Were the battle not so brutal, so devoid the higher principles, one could compare it with the romantic idea of joustings among Knights. It has been like this at El Brega, Agedabia, and now before Tobruk. The aeroplanes get on our nerves, there are 10 or more raids a day – no aa's, no fighters, - tonight two more attacks.

The day begins with the usual bombing and shelling. No German troops have received straffing from the hair as we have. The 5th Tank Regiment has no reserve tanks...

Extracts from diary of a German soldier, captured at Tobruk - April 1941

Dec. 4th, 12th, 24th 1940
Called up, took oath etc. at Frankfurt.

January 1941
General training

February 1st - 17th
Preparation. Frankfurt, Berlin, Melzour. Tropical outfit issued. Testing of gas masks.

Entrained direction of Italy
19th Naples
25th Sailed from Naples
27th Arrived Tripoli (without sight of British Navy)

March 1st
Left Tripoli

April 2nd
Attacked by English tanks. Chased them 40km and later in the day entered Agedabia.

5th Left Agedabia.

6th - 8th Continued in desert. Arrived Mechili 1900 hrs. 2000 prisoners taken.

9th Left Mechili – passed hundreds of English prisoners. 90 km to Derna, were attacked by Hurricanes. Some of 5th Coy. were machine gunned, on Derna Aerodrome.

10th Fired on by English tanks and observed by aircraft.

11th In position at Tobruk. Constantly under artillery fire since Good Friday. There are already a lot of dead and wounded in the 3rd Coy. It is very distressing. Our nerves are taut to breaking point. If only we had artillery to reply to theirs. But now it is only a question of holding on after every salvo from the Tommies.

(The last entry of the diary is a decision that the writer will devote himself to God after the war, if he comes out of it alive)

Copy of document which fell into our hands at Tobruk. A report on the actions of April 11, 12 and 14 by Colonel Olbrich, of the 5th Tank Regiment, German Army.

“The intelligence gave out before the attack that the enemy was exhausted, that his artillery was extremely weak and that his morale had become very low. Before the beginning of the third attack, the Regiment had not the slightest idea of the well-designed and executed defences of the enemy, nor of a single battery position or of the terrific number of anti-tank guns, also it was not known that he had heavy tanks. The Regiment went into battle with unbendable will, determined at all costs to break the enemy and take Tobruk. Only the vastly superior enemy, the frightful loss and the lack of any supporting weapons caused the Regiment to fail in it's task. 39 tanks went into battle; 17 were shot to pieces by the enemy. 2 officers are missing and wounded. 21 NCOs and men are missing. 10 NCOs and men are wounded. This means a total loss of 50% OLBRICH”


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