3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

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ClintHardware
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3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by ClintHardware » 26 Jun 2013 10:49

No it wasn't. It fought on inside Tobruk and was absorbed into 32nd Army Tank Brigade in September 1941. Panzer Regiment 5 with 25 operational panzers arrived at Tobruk on the 9th/10th April and 3rd Armd Bde arrived with crews in trucks possibly two Cruisers on transporters. The crews were given a few tanks that had been in workshops at Tobruk. Further reinforcements followed including 1st RTR and a squadron from 7th RTR and a Troop from 4th RTR. Panzer Regiment 5's operational strength doubled with repairs between the 10th - 14th April.

Here is part of what I think is an Australian 9th Division compiled report at the NA at Kew WO 201/353 9th Australian Division: Report on Operations in Cyrenaica, March - October 1941. I am quoting it because I thought the figures might be of interest. The losses are less than those of Panzer Regiment 5 in the same period but to be fair they were being struck by 25-Pdrs as well as lesser projectiles. Here is the quote:


7. Casualties [from 3rd Armd Bde]
In all actions between 9 April and 6 June, casualties in 3rd Armoured Brigade were :-

Offrs Ors

3 killed 18 killed
1 wounded 10 wounded
2 missing 14 missing

Total tank casualties were -
“I” tanks 4
Cruisers 6
Light tanks 2


In addition a further 4 cruisers and 6 “I” tanks were more or less seriously damaged and were out of action for varying periods. As a result of the good work carried out by RAOC workshops the repair of battle casualties and the overhaul of mechanical casualties, tank strength was maintained at a fairly constant level except for short periods.
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 26 Jun 2013 12:20

ClintHardware wrote:No it wasn't. It fought on inside Tobruk and was absorbed into 32nd Army Tank Brigade in September 1941.
Sorry, but it was. The relevant report from 2 Armoured Division (CAB66/17/22, June 1941) makes that quite clear.

On 6/7 April the following was the assessment:

6 R.T.R. had ceased to exist (those were the M.13 captured tanks)
5 R.T.R. had 6 tanks left (out of 48) when they reached Derna.
3 Hussars had been scattered (but a number of their light tanks may have made it back)

The Brigade command was shattered (last contact 7/8 April) and the commander captured.

If that is not destruction, what is? That some elements made it back into Tobruk is neither here nor there in my view. It was not a combat capable formation.

How many tanks did actually get into Tobruk?
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by David W » 27 Jun 2013 00:02

It certainly ceased to exist after this time.

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 27 Jun 2013 09:41

ClintHardware wrote:The losses are less than those of Panzer Regiment 5 in the same period but to be fair they were being struck by 25-Pdrs as well as lesser projectiles.
As you say, that's not really a fair comparison, even to imply. The German tanks were lost in attacking a fortified line, not in tank combat.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 27 Jun 2013 18:17

Andreas,

Although not many 3rd Armd Bde tanks were lost in "tank combat" either. The vast majority simply broke down or ran out of petrol and had to be abandoned.

I would humbly suggest that "destroyed as a formation although with surprisingly few personnel casualties" would be more appropriate. :)

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 27 Jun 2013 20:14

I doubt many of the tanks lost after 9 April ran out of petrol though :)

But you are quite right, the apparent inability of the British to produce reliable tanks, create a recovery organisation worthy of that name, supply petrol (or track pins - see 'The Gods were Neutral') contributed significantly to the very lopsided casualty ratios in Greece, Cyrenaica Apr 41 and Cyrenaica Jan 42.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by ClintHardware » 27 Jun 2013 21:59

Tom from Cornwall wrote:Andreas,

I would humbly suggest that "destroyed as a formation although with surprisingly few personnel casualties" would be more appropriate. :)

Tom
No not destroyed as a formation - the 3rd Armoured Brigade remained in combat and was reinforced and also exchanged units, and then was absorbed by 32nd Tank Brigade in September 1941. The brigade lost its first set of tanks yes, but with the 5th RTR having lost it last operational tanks beating the crap out of Gruppe Ponath at Derna on the 7th April, they were being re-equipped at Tobruk from the 9th onwards. Brigade crews and transport were mostly intact.

In fact at Derna on the 7th April the last rearguard after the 1st KRRC and 1st Tower Hamlets Rifles got out was in fact the 'B' Echelon of the 5th RTR using Brens and Lee Enfields until dark against Gruppe Ponath. But not many people know that.
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by ClintHardware » 27 Jun 2013 22:38

Urmel wrote:
ClintHardware wrote:No it wasn't. It fought on inside Tobruk and was absorbed into 32nd Army Tank Brigade in September 1941.
(CAB66/17/22, June 1941) makes that quite clear.
Sorry no. CAB66 17/22 is a political document written to shock the War Cabinet. It is inaccurately worded because 6th RTR were tank-less when they had joined the Brigade in March taking over M.13-40s but never managed to get into action. After the carri armati broke down or ran out of diesel, they left for Egypt on lorries but fought on till the end of the war in other formations. And 3rd Hussars and 5th RTR entered Tobruk on lorries and were then re-equipped to a degree and fought as a composite regiment before being evacuated for future operations.
The Brigade command was shattered (last contact 7/8 April) and the commander captured.
No. Brigadier Rimington died of wounds he received at Derna and his Brigade Major (Major Fanshawe) became a POW. So Lieutenant-Colonel Drew took over a skeleton Brigade H.Q. inside Tobruk and those not needed for combat were evacuated to Alexandria.
Shattered = never fought again. Drew remained in Tobruk until the 6th June when he was replaced and returned to the 5th RTR. That is not Shattered.

This information is in the relevant War Diaries I did not get it from books.
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 28 Jun 2013 00:22

The Brigade was destroyed as a fighting force, or shattered by the effects of the battle. Everything else is semantics I'm afraid. There is no definition in the military world by which the Brigade was not destroyed. It didn't cease to exist, sure, but only barely.

Again, how many tanks did it have when the German attack started? How many tanks did it bring into Tobruk? Probably impossible to know, since 6 R.T.R. war diary seems to not tell how many M.13 they took over? As for personnel, the initial muster on getting to Tobruk on 7 April showed less than 400 all ranks. An armoured brigade should probably have had 4-5 times that number at full strength (550 per regiment, plus Brigade elements(. When the Brigade shipped out on 14 April there were over 1,200 all ranks. Again, that shows the measure of the disorganisation and confusion the Brigade had suffered by 7 April.

I really don't see what the point of this discussion is. You can as well claim that 21. Panzerdivision was not destroyed in Tunisia, because some men survived and the division was reformed and fought again. It's non-sensical. 3 Armoured Brigade continued to exist a bit longer because it got into Tobruk and its survivors were rescued by the garrison there. But if it wasn't destroyed in the desert, then what would you call what happened to it? Voluntary disbandment for no reason because the commanders in Cairo didn't fancy having it around anymore? :)
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by ClintHardware » 28 Jun 2013 07:32

The reason I do not agree is that the meaning understood from words like shattered and disaster have been important in masking the truth.

Panzer Regiment 5 began their advance with about 155 panzers.
3rd Armoured Brigade began the battle with less than 50 operational British tanks. Only 5th RTR with 23 A.13s really saw any action 31st March - 7th April.

Panzer Regiment 5 arrives at the Tobruk perimeter with 25 operational tanks. 3rd Armd Bde arrive with 2 non-operational tanks on tow or or on trailers. Panzer Regiment 5 losses were mostly due to desert conditions after the 2nd April.

Most of 3rd Armd Bde Workshops and RAOC got to Tobruk as well as most of other Divisional workshops. If there had been sufficient tanks at Tobruk the brigade would have fought on with three regiments of tanks. Instead it fought on with the equivalent of 1.5. 6th RTR was rapidly replaced by 1st RTR. That is not a shattered brigade. It is a brigade lacking tanks.

3rd Armd Bde did not stop arriving until the 9th not the 7th and there were so many of them that half were evacuated to Alexandria because there were no tanks present, and of those that remained many were equipped with rifles and Brens and fought beside the Australians.
3rd Armd Bde re-organised rapidly and their next actions were 11th, 14th and again about the 30th April to 2nd May.

Panzer Regiment 5 upto the 10th April became proportionally as shattered as 3rd Armd Bde if you need to use the word shattered.

If 5. leichte Division was so mobile why did 3rd Armd Bde and 2nd Support escape capture? Half of the Forward and Rear Divisional HQ staff and units got out of Mechili with half of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade. The division as a whole had more mobility thanks to the RASC and their own transport and logistics than the Afrikakorps. The RASC also lifted battalions of the 9th Division who were not captured either. The 2/13th Battalion got out of Er Regima on Cypriot driven RASC lorries after a day (4th April) killing many schutzen.

I am not impressed by the German performance between 31st March - 15th May. When 5. leichte Division encountered the weak half of 2nd Support Group at Mersa Brega on the 31st March (the majority being in Greece) the Support Group was able to withdraw after a whole day of fighting and on the 1st April there was no German ground attack such was the damage and disorganised state of 5. leichte Division. The Support Group were ready on chosen ground but instead of waiting pulled back again. On the 2nd April after some hours of fighting they got out again.

The actions of 3rd Armd Bde and 2nd Support Group have been lost in understanding because of words like shattered. The detail tells a very different story to the one we have been told in books.
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 28 Jun 2013 09:48

I don't think they do.

What about signals? A and B Echelon? Command equipment? Was the Brigade capable of doing anything more than putting a few companies of infantry into the line, based on utilising 9 Australian Division's assets? I seriously doubt it. Would the Brigade have been able to venture out of Tobruk on an independent attack, based on the state of its equipment? Again, I doubt that if they had moved past the fortifications they would have gotten very far in an organised manner, even without Axis interference. If the Brigade was not able to do this, then it was shattered.

The Germans clearly were disorganised, but they managed to put in organised attacks which failed, because they were organised too hastily. But are you seriously saying that in your view if the role had been reversed 3 Armoured Brigade would have been able to deliver any form of organised armoured attack? I'm not discussing German performance though, since it really isn't relevant to the discussion here. In any case, the comparison tells the story. The Germans lost 50% of their tanks. The British 98% or thereabouts. So no, the Germans were not as badly hit by the battle as the British.

http://wp.me/phMWl-mt

As for 1.5 battalions of tanks. That would be the equivalent of 92 tanks, and you only get there before September by including the light tanks (and the first offensive was the last time the British fielded a regiment made up of light tanks Mk. VI, I believe, since they were clearly obsolete by then). In fact it appears that even for the Cyrenaica battle in March 3 Hussars were changing from Mark VI to captured M.13s (see the war diary of 6 R.T.R., but I'd be grateful for confirmation).

When did Tobfort have 92 medium tanks available? They had a few more than that in November, but that was after the whole of 4 R.T.R. was shipped in during September. At that point they had about 28 operational cruisers, and 40 or so Mk. VI, plus 67 operational I tanks, so 95 mediums, or 1.5 regiments worth. In April and May they would have had about 46 mediums and 40 light tanks, at best. Less than a regiment of mediums.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 28 Jun 2013 09:58

And just for comparison, I would also say that 7 Armoured Brigade was shattered at Sidi Rezegh in November 41.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by ClintHardware » 28 Jun 2013 19:50

Urmel wrote:I don't think they do.
They do because more than half of the brigade was evacuated in a few days after the 9th April to reequip in Egypt.
What about signals? A and B Echelon? Command equipment?
Yes they arrived. Frank Harrison was one of the Brigade's signallers during the siege "Tobruk the Siege Reassessed"
Was the Brigade capable of doing anything more than putting a few companies of infantry into the line.
They had their own small arms. B Echelon 5th RTR were the last rear guard at Derna. There was much already at Tobruk including 250,000 25-Pdr shells and supplies and reinforcements were arriving.
Would the Brigade have been able to venture out of Tobruk on an independent attack, based on the state of its equipment?
No they did not need to. The tactic was to use Brigadier Thompson's artillery plan to annihilate the Axis attacks and they largely did with the huge dump of shells at Tobruk. Also with half the brigade sent off to be re-equipped there was no intention of using the brigade to attack outside the perimeter. By the time of Crusader 32nd Army Tank Brigade had been superimposed on 3rd Armoured Brigade within Tobruk and they did attack.

It was after Panzer Regiment 8 began arriving that Panzer Abteilung Hohmann (the remnants of Panzer Regiment 5) was sent to the border and by that time Hohmann's Abteilung was about as weak as 3rd Armoured Brigade within Tobruk.

So the desert, 5th RTR and the field artillery and the anti-tank artillery had shattered Panzer Regiment 5 to a point about equal to the skeleton of 3rd Armoured Brigade inside Tobruk. And it was the desert and lack of investment that had reduced 3rd Armoured Brigade not Panzer Regiment 5.

On the 2nd April 11 A13s faced Panzer Regiment 5 and seriously damaged many panzers:

Panzer Crew Member diary entry 3rd April 1941*
“Yesterday we had a terrifying experience in action against British tanks near Agedabia.
Our casualties were considerable” (WO 169/1414)

* This diary was taken from a panzer crew member who was killed in action on the 14th April at Tobruk. Excerpts from the diary were distributed to units for information.


So no I can not agree that 3rd Armoured Brigade was destroyed in the desert.
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 28 Jun 2013 21:13

I think we're talking past each other.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Brevity » 29 Jun 2013 01:47

ClintHardware wrote:No it wasn't. It fought on inside Tobruk and was absorbed into 32nd Army Tank Brigade in September 1941. Panzer Regiment 5 with 25 operational panzers arrived at Tobruk on the 9th/10th April and 3rd Armd Bde arrived with crews in trucks possibly two Cruisers on transporters. The crews were given a few tanks that had been in workshops at Tobruk. Further reinforcements followed including 1st RTR and a squadron from 7th RTR and a Troop from 4th RTR. Panzer Regiment 5's operational strength doubled with repairs between the 10th - 14th April.

Here is part of what I think is an Australian 9th Division compiled report at the NA at Kew WO 201/353 9th Australian Division: Report on Operations in Cyrenaica, March - October 1941. I am quoting it because I thought the figures might be of interest. The losses are less than those of Panzer Regiment 5 in the same period but to be fair they were being struck by 25-Pdrs as well as lesser projectiles.
Clint

While I don't consider 3 Armoured Brigade as "destroyed" during the retreat, I find it somewhat ridiculous to compare its situation to that of Panzer-Regiment 5, which recaptured half of Libia for a cost of 3-5 destroyed Panzers between 31 March and 10 April 1941 (my current estimate).

I find it revealing how 2 Armoured Division was seen by Australians:
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