Monday, December 13, 2010

13TH COMPANY, 800TH "BRANDERBURGER" REGIMENT

Brandergurger cuff title
This unit was named after the german county "Mark Brandenburg"


The Brandenburger units in North Africa were special German commando forces fluent in Arabic and English, who were used in long range reconnaissance missions and raids behind British lines. Rommel frowned on this type of warfare until the British made an attempt on his life and headquarters with similar tactics, and from that point on he was more than happy to employ these units for special missions. They usually used captured British vehicles to penetrate the lines, which at times were in total chaos, and some of these raiders almost reached Cairo.

One of the most daring plans was to be carried out by Kampfgruppe Hecker, made up of the 13th Brandenburger Company, elements of 33rd and 39th Panzerjager Battalion, 778th Pioneer Landing Company, and accompanied by the Italian 3rd San Marco Marine Battalion, a total of over 700 men. This was an aborted raid to try and cut the Via Balbia supply route by making an amphibious landing 30km east of Tobruk during the attack on the Gazala Line in May 1942. This amphibious strike force was assembled in Bomba Bay, well west and north of Tobruk. The attacking force would be transported from Bomba to their objective by four self-propelled landing barges and two landing boats. These were to be preceded by four boats from 6th Minesweeper Florilla based at Derna. This amphibious assault force would land well east of Tobruk and try to disguise themselves as British troops until their blockade efforts were in place.

To cover this landing force, five boats of the 3rd Torpedo Boat Flotilla from Ras el Hilal were to patrol ahead and attack any enemy ships they encountered. Five German submarines were also on call to support the operation, and the Luftwaffe would supply the crucial air cover. The type of captured British tanks to be used on this mission is far from clear, but the most logical choice appears to be Crusaders, since these would attract the least attention in this time frame. There were also two German S/P guns assigned to this operation and it had been suggested that they might have been the two StuG. IIIs that arrived in Africa with Sonderverband 288, since they reportedly mounted 75mm guns.

One tank was placed on each of three barges, with the Land-Wasser-Schlepper (LWS) on a landing boat. The other equipment was spread among the various crafts and consisted of three 50mm and six 37mm A/T guns; four 2-pdr British A/T guns; ten British trucks; four British armored cars; four motorcycles; three 45mm mortars; over 5000 sandbags; 300 mines; 50 anti-tank charges; plus adequate light and heavy MGs and 10 anti-tank rifles. They were also issued 250 shovels and 250 pickaxes, so they certainly had intentions of filling those sandbags and setting up a determined blocking force. The landing force carried enough ammunition and food for 3 days, and supply by night from the sea would bring additional supplies if they had to hold out longer.

Rommel's orders for the May 26 assault on the Gazala Line closed with these lines: "On X+1 Kampfgruppe Hecker will land at Gabr Si. Hameida to block the Via Balbia in the area of Kilometer 136." However, this amphibious operation was never launched, and the reason why seems to have been lost in the annals of time. It is suggested that the required air support was not forthcoming, and that one of the barges had sustained damage. It is acknowledged that the vehicles had been loaded and the force was ready to go, but no orders to proceed were given. Seemingly they disembarked, only to be instructed to proceed with the mission again on May 28th. Then within 20 minutes another order arrives cancelling the operation again.

1 comment:

  1. I wish there was more information on Sonderverband 288. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete