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When will my order be ready to collect? Psychologically, it was a shocking blow to German morale, cohesion, and momentum. For the British and their allies, it provided a long-needed boost in morale. A captured panzer officer called Tobruk "a witches cauldron. Many lessons were learned from the experiences at Tobruk, both by the Germans and the Allies, concerning tactics, weapons, equipment, logistics, and training.
The following are some of these lessons, some arrived at from the German perspective, others from the Australian and British view of things. However, infantry units, if well balanced, were able to defend themselves against tank attacks from various directions when supported by artillery. Moreover, there was not enough room inside a battalion sector for a portion of the artillery to be placed to carry out a normal artillery role, which is essential to the defensive plan.
Battalion-defended positions must therefore be placed in groups sufficiently close to each other to ensure that the ground between them can be effectively covered by antitank, small-arms, and mortar fire. In addition, each group must be arranged so that the artillery is protected from direct attack from any direction. If brigades have to be placed in isolated positions, the general plan of defense must provide for their withdrawal in the event an enemy obtains freedom of action in the area in which they are positioned.
Otherwise, the enemy will be able to concentrate its attack against such brigades and destroy them in detail. Therefore, organization and establishment of defenses is primarily an artillery and antitank problem and must be treated as such. No defended area can hope to stop a tank attack if the antitank defense is not in depth. The pounder troops should not constitute the depth but only add to it.
As far as resources permit, there must be depth in the disposition of antitank guns in front of the pounder troop positions.
Easter at Tobruk - Michael O'Sullivan - Google Livres
A plan must then be made to attack him in the flank or rear, using the largest number of tanks possible, supported by all available weapons. Artillery will be used either to provide concentrations of fire against the enemy's supporting weapons or to blind them by using smoke. All available machine guns and small arms must be used to neutralize enemy antitank guns, to force enemy tanks to remain buttoned up, and to prevent any movement of dismounted troops with the tanks.
If guns open fire individually, they reduce the effect of surprise and run the risk of having the whole of the attacker's fire concentrated on each, in turn. It is, however, dangerous for a gun to remain silent when it has obviously been located by the enemy tanks or supporting weapons.
For pounders, direct fire was held until the enemy vehicles were within 1, yards. Opening fire at yards was found to be too short a distance because the enemy machine guns were then within effective range. At yards, the antitank gun was nearly as accurate as at yards, whereas the machine gun had lost considerable accuracy and was unlikely to penetrate gun shields.
All-around defense is essential. These observation post OP ladders were used both as dummies to draw fire and for observation. They were mounted on trucks or could be removed quickly and set up. The British observation towers were generally about twenty-five feet high.
The Germans had a two-piece telescoping tube mounted on the side of their armored OP, which could be cranked up into observing position.
Easter at Tobruk
To employ these gun towers effectively, numbers of them-at least one to each four guns-should be used. These, like tanks and the slight rises in the ground, aid in overcoming the flatness of the desert. They must also know where, for how long, and in what circumstances artillery defensive fire will be brought down and how it is proposed to make use of smoke.
Distances to tactical features must be paced off, not guessed.
Range marks must be put up. The maximum ranges at which fire is to be opened by each different type of weapon must also be paced off and marked on the ground with rocks, tins, or some other means. This applies to machinegun, mortar, antitank gun, and field artillery units, as well as to infantry platoons. Trucks must not be allowed to drive around stopping to deliver rations except during mirage hours or in darkness. The enemy will spend hours watching for such clues as to the location of positions.
Commanders must take frequent action to make certain this does not happen. The deeper the minefield, the greater the need for forward patrolling. Minefields can be used to economize in antitank weapons employed, but not in infantry. Small dispersed minefields are useless. One foot exit on each company front and one vehicle exit on each battalion front was the minimum. Also, dummy lanes are deceptive and excellent for ambushes. All vehicles were painted with non-glare, sand-colored paint, and all glass was smeared with oil or a glycerine solution, and then dirt was thrown on these surfaces. Only a narrow un-smeared slit on the windshield was left to obtain vision.
Wheel tracks were everywhere but could not be disguised or obliterated.
A liberal application of dull yellow paint-the color of the sand-was found to be the best method of rendering both artillery pieces and trucks less visible in the desert. The outlines of pieces were broken by the use of scrub and sand mats. The barrel and cradle were sometimes painted a dull sandy color, except for a one-foot diagonal stripe of light brown or green to break up the pattern of the gun. Motor vehicles carried camouflage nets, which were stretched taut from a central position on the roof of the vehicle at an angle of not more than 45 degrees and then pegged to the ground and covered with threaded screen and bleached canvas or with pieces of sandbags, 50 to 70 percent of which were painted a dull yellowish white.
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The vehicles themselves were painted cream white, broken by irregular patches of light brown or green. The object was to neutralize dark shadows by an equivalent amount of dull white. The Germans and British adopted this sand color as camouflage. During operations, German tanks were painted black, evidently to aid their antitank gunners in quick daytime identifications while also serving as night camouflage.
A code system employing colors and combinations of colors with numbers to indicate various tactical organizations was adopted. Units carried more supplies than was contemplated by peacetime training; seven days' supply was advocated by many units, and the Germans were said to carry fourteen. Each unit sent into the desert needed to be as self-sustaining as possible. The artillery played an important role in the defense of both dumps and columns. The British did not have this capability and suffered accordingly. All ammunition other than small-arms ammunition was especially packed for the tropics.
All munition cases were so marked. Weapons were difficult to detect at a distance when this type of propellant was used. The use of separate-loading ammunition placed any weapon at a disadvantage during action against armored vehicles. Because there was little cover and only a few reverse slope positions in the desert, they said it was desirable to have only vehicles and weapon systems with a low silouette.
They determined it was especially important to have tanks that were fast, maneuverable, and equipped with long-range guns. However, in a suggestion submitted to the army High Command by the army in Africa, the following training subjects were considered important:. Aiming and firing exercises were to be carried out by daylight, at night, in the glaring sun, during twilight, facing the sun, with the back to the sun, with the sun shining from one side, by moonlight, and with artificial lighting.
Tobruk Fortress Order of Battle, 14 April A German tank battalion in tactical formation moves in short rushes, taking advantage of the terrain. Frequently the whole regiment advanced in mass formation with lines of tanks at regular intervals of about 50 yards, advancing in waves. The relatively close formation is more readily controlled than a widely dispersed one. Field artillery and antitank weapons are kept up close, although their location is not apparent until they go into action, usually on the flanks of the tank column.