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Bardia to Enfidaville

The Enemy

The Enemy

Information about the enemy on the whole was accurate. It was known that he did not intend to fight on the Buerat line and that one panzer division had been withdrawn, although the reason for this was obscure. It was also known that all units, both German and Italian, were much below strength, but it is unlikely that actual numbers were known, for post-war information reveals that strengths were very low indeed. It was believed that by 15 January all the Italian troops had been withdrawn to HomsTarhuna, if not farther; but this was not correct.

On 15 January, when the attack started, enemy dispositions from north to south were:

Between Maaten Giaber and Bir Umm er Raml: (a) remnants of Pistoia Division with the German 19 Anti-Aircraft Regiment page 93 (fighting as infantry) to strengthen it, (b) German Air Force Brigade, (c) elements of Spezia and Young Fascist Divisions, (d) 164 Light Division (only 3500 strong).

From Bir Umm er Raml to the southern end of Dor Umm er Raml: (a) Africa Panzer Grenadier Regiment, (b) Ariete Battle Group (now renamed Centauro Battle Group and with Nizza Reconnaissance Unit under command)—57 tanks, (c) 15 Panzer Division (with 3 Reconnaissance Unit)—35 tanks.

The 33rd Reconnaissance Unit was patrolling as far south as Bu Ngem and back to El Faschia. The 90th Light Division was in the main in second-line positions behind Spezia and Young Fascist Divisions, but was also patrolling out in front of these divisions.

The Italian XX Corps comprised the Italian troops in the above line. The XXI Corps was at this time at work on the HomsTarhuna line and on the close defences of Tripoli. It comprised the bulk of Spezia, Pistoia and Young Fascist Divisions, together with Trieste Division.

The petrol position had improved comparatively, for units had enough for about 125 miles; but the reserves in the area were only sufficient for another 35 miles, and there was no sign of further supplies.

The enemy information about our troops was exaggerated. He identified the divisions actually assembled, but added 10 Corps comprising 1 Armoured Division, 50 Division and 4 Indian Division, and moreover included 10 Armoured Division and 44 Division. Part of this confusion could have been the consequence of his having heard of Montgomery's intention to bring forward 10 Corps but not of the cancellation. Also, one of the armoured brigades now with 7 Armoured Division had originally been with 10 Armoured Division, and other rearrangements of brigades may have confused him. Whatever the reason, Rommel expected to be attacked by stronger forces than were actually present.