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Battle of Derna Jan 1941

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I am writing on the Battle of Derna and seeking some information.

I am trying to find information on the actions of the 7th Armoured Division between 15-13 January. Once the Australian 19th Brigade arrives on the scene on 23 January, I can align the Italian and Allied accounts fairly well. Before then I have mainly the Italian accounts and very little on what the Allies were doing. The challenge has been finding UK/CW accounts that address the nine days prior to the 23rd.

From the UK official, the 7th Armoured Brigade was dispatched towards Derna while the 4th Armoured Brigade was sent towards Mechili on 21 Jan (Playfair I:351). This appears to be too late as the Italian accounts state that they had contact with British forces starting on the 14th. While it is clear that these contacts were mostly reece/exploratory probes by British armoured forces, they appear to have escalated in strength over the coming days. What I am trying to find out are which units and when did they start moving towards Derna?

Arena states that on the 17th that elements of the 7th Hussars crossed the Wadi Bagr and attacked the blockhouse at KM marker 17, an attack that was beaten off. The 7th Hussars, AFAIK, was part of the 4th Armoured Brigade, not the 7th. Given that both armoured brigades likely moved through Martuba before going their different directions, this is plausible. The 17th is also the day the Italian sources state that the enemy pressure increased and their (UK) artillery was in action on the 18th.

Any information on these actions would be appreciated.

Graze!
 

Slavomir

New Member
Unfortunately, I do not have the WD of 7th Hussars to confirm Arena's dates. But most of the books claim that the 7th Armd started to advance on Jan 20th. The reason for it is the reorganization of the tank force. 8th Hussars and 6th RTR transferred their tanks to other battalions and were withdrawn to Egypt. I have found confirmation of that in WDs of 1st and 2nd RTR and 3rd Hussars as well.
Looking quickly through the War Diaries:
A Sqdr of the 11th Hussars conducted recce towards Mechili and C Sqdr 3rd Hussars towards Derna itself. From what I can found in WD of the Cherrypickers looks like by Jan 15th, they encountered Italian recce elements in the vicinity of Mechili. On 16th, A Sqdr was chased off Mechili by Italian troops supported by few airplanes.
Reinforced C Sqdr 3rd Hussars reached deserted Bomba seaplane base on Jan 15th. From there, one troop moved without opposition 2 miles further towards Derna. Mortar platoon of D coy 60th Rifles, with one light tank from A Sqdr, reconnoitered track towards Mechili spotting Italian mechanized forces. On 16th, two troops of C Sqdr 3rd Hussars continued recce towards Derna reaching deserted Martuba.

Hope it helps

Slawomir
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Slawomir

That is some great information. Thank you!

There is no info for 17-23 Jan?

I hope someone has the war diary of the 7th Hussars. I would like to pin that down.

Okay, the 3rd Hussars was part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, so that tracks with the 7th Bde being sent against Derna. I assume they are equipped with MK VI Light tanks. I assume the 60th Rifles are the King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC).

The 11th Hussars was the reece regiment so I assume equipped with Morris CS9 or the Marmon-Herringtons.

Again thank you!
 

Slavomir

New Member
Before we move forward, first, let me make few corrections:
My typo: 7th Armd Div main body is supposed to start the movement on Jan 22, not as I have written on Jan 20 - sorry.
11th Hussars were equipped with Rolls Royce AC, Morris AC, and Guy AC. Marmon Herrington's were taken over in April.
I have also checked the WD of 6th Aust Div - on Jan 23 10.00 hrs Division reported both Force "A" (built around Sqdr A 6th Aust Cav) and Force "B" (built around 19th Aust Bde) at Tobruk. Force "A" started their movement in the afternoon of Jan 23, reaching Ain el Ghazala for the night. Force "B" started the movement on Jan 24, reaching Ain el Ghazala, the same day Force "A" reached Martuba.

Back to 11th Hussars, on Jan 17, A Sqdr continued recce along the Trigh Enver Bey.
On Jan 18, C Sqdr moved to 3 miles south of Sidi Breghise, B Sqdr sent one troop to check Sidi Breghise itself and later Bir Temrad, A Sqdr continued recce along Trigh Enver Bey.
On Jan 19, C Sqdr moved to Sidi Breghise and in the afternoon to Ghot Afrat (4 miles west of Bir Aleima). A Sqdr continued recce along Trigh Enver Bey and was attacked twice by Italian fighters with negligible damage to one truck. B Aqdr in the morning reached Wadi Scegga and sent patrols towards Bomba - Tobruk road, reached Bomba airfield.
On Jan 20, Sqdrs A and C resting and refitting, B Sqdr on patrols north of Mechili.

More to follow
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Excellent! Thank you!
 

Slavomir

New Member
11th Hussars:
Jan 21 - C and A Sqdrs in the same position, Sqdr A reported at least 15 German bombers escorted by 6 fighters, B Sqdr also reported few german planes in reconnaissance.
Jan 22 - C Sqdr deployed two troops to the north of Mechili - no enemy movement reported. A Sqdr also deployed two patrols, but one troop did not reach the assigned area due to mechanical failure, the second failed due to bad terrain. B Sqdr joined RHQ at Bir Aleima.
Jan 23 - C Sqdr overlooking Mechili and track to the north. Sqdr sen one troop sent on patrol to Auriet el Hammama, blocked by deep wadi, had to return. A Sqdr deployed patrols towards Auriet el Hammama (WD recalls that troops were 50 miles apart). B Sqdr moved to Bir el Hamarin. Some mechanical failures (at least 3 x AC - one of them Guy AC).

Back to 3rd Hussars, which we left on Jan 16 :)
Still Jan 16 - reports on 60th Rifles (1st KRRC) sending ransacking parties to Bomba - main body at Ein Al Ghazala airfield.
Jan 17 - 20, the whole regiment in leaguer by the sea, taking over tanks from 8th Hussars. Reorganization within the squadrons.
Jan 21 - A and C Sqdrns on 30 minutes NTM to support the assault on Tobruk if necessary.
Jan 22 around 13.00 Regiment started its advance towards position north of Mechili, covered 34 miles north of Trigh Enver Bey.
Jan 23 - continued march towards assigned position north of Mechili. Sent patrol to link with 4th Armd Bde at Hagfet Sidi et Taieb.

It looks that my article from 2011 require some adjustments ;)
Bitwa pod Derna

Tomorrow I will check what can be found in WDs of 1st RTR and 2nd RTR.

Regards

Slawomir
 
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jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Many thanks again!

I would like to read your article.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time looking for the various locations mentioned in the WDs. A problem is that I haven't found any online sites that have the UK 1:50K maps. The US maps I am using are 1:250K. Detailed but not the best. A key map in that set is much newer than the others (1965) and man names have changed.
 

Slavomir

New Member
I am using the 1:500K; of course, they are not perfect but printed in 1942, and I can trace the majority of the locations. In some of the WDs, they refer to 1:500K.
I have attached an example.

Going back to WD, let start with 1st RTR:
Until Jan 15, the regiment was resting at Dhot el Charuba, on Jan 18, taking over tanks from 6th RTR. On Jan 19, B Sqdr moved to Bir Aleima to protect the supply dump. Light tanks of A Sqdr moved to the vicinity of Bomba to prevent enemy movements on Tobruk - Derna road. On Jan 20, C Sqdr took over tasks of A Sqdr. Reorganization back into three squadrons.
On Jan 21, C Sqdr conducted a recce of Martuba. After reaching junction Martuba - Derna road sent two patrols: towards Derna and towards Martuba. Derna patrol, after 1,5 miles, got under a small arms fire from an enemy patrol (motorcyclists), which withdrew. Later 5 medium tanks with motorized infantry attacked British patrol, which now in turn retreated. At Martuba British squadron was reinforced by portee Bofors gun. Around 14.15, the Italian force advanced on Martuba, heavy exchange of fire on both sides, Italian tanks withdrew on starting positions at 14.30. At 15.50 C, Sqdr withdrew towards the main body of the regiment.
There are two more daily entries for January, but the date is eligible, so cannot confirm exactly when 1st RTR moved to W[?]Scegga area (RHQ, B, and C Sqdr), A Sqdr moved to Martuba again (that may be Jan 22 or 23) - sorry I am out of my bookshelves so cannot crosscheck in other sources.

Best regards

Slawomir

P.S. Unfortunately article is in Polish, as well as the second one about Battle of Beda Fomm.
 

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jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Slawomir

Thank you for the info on the maps. Yes, the 1:500K do seem to work better. I would hate to navigate using these maps. One must use a lot of dead reckoning.

RE: Article. Translating isn't a problem if you feel the article had good info (I sure you do think that).

RE: W[?] Scegga = Wadi Scegga (Derna - P5018). Uadi on the Italian maps that are the basis for much of the information on these AMS maps.

The action described on the 21st generally matches up with the Italian accounts.

Pista! Jeff
 

Slavomir

New Member
WD of 2nd RTR:
Since Jan 9, regiment 1000 yards south, south-east of Bir El Adem. On 10 and 11 shelled by Italian artillery, no casualties. A Sqdr sent a patrol to block Al Adem - Tobruk road, C Sqdr had to change positions due to accurate Italian artillery fire.
Jan 16 - 17 enemy shelling on regiment position.
Jan 18, taking over tanks from 6th RTR. Reorganization of the regiment.
Jan 19 - heavy shelling of El Adem and attack by Italian bombers. Battalion changed positions. The patrol from A Sqdr blocking El Adem - Tobruk road.
Jan 21 - in the morning regiment put on 15 minutes NTM and remained in that readiness throughout the day and following night. At 16.55, received orders to send two offensive patrols west of El Adem - Tobruk road. One light tank struck by mine, one crewmember badly wounded. Tank evacuated but later abandoned.
Jan 22 - At 14.30 started the advance towards El Mechili, and Jan 23 reached 15 - 20 km east of El Mechili (that is my estimate, seeing the entries in WD, they were also confused and complained about marching using 1:500K maps ;) ). From there regiment sent patrols to check roads leading from Mechili to the north and south.
Tracking the movement, even with maps, is complicated, especially that, in this particular sheet, Egyptian grids are mixed with Libyan. o_O

Best regards

Slawomir
 
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