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Bardia to Enfidaville

The Enemy on 28 March

The Enemy on 28 March

On the Mareth front the enemy had completely withdrawn, with 30 Corps following up as fast as mining and demolitions would allow. He had restored some sort of order to the shattered line facing 10 Corps and NZ Corps and there was a reasonably continuous line page 242 between El Hamma and the sea. Liebenstein Group, consisting of 164 Light Division, 21 Panzer Division and some units of 90 Light Division, was on the enemy right covering El Hamma. Then came the remnants of Pistoia Division, the bulk of 90 Light, and finally Spezia Division in front of Gabes. But in the afternoon Pistoia was sent to the rear and 90 Light took over its sector.

The 15th Panzer Division, in an advanced position opposing NZ Corps, was forced back during the day. The enemy high command—Messe or Bayerlein—decided that it could no longer withstand the pressure of what amounted to two armoured divisions and would have to leave El Hamma. This withdrawal started in the afternoon, to a line behind Gabes, east and west through Oudref. All troops except 15 and 21 Panzer Divisions and 164 Light were to go straight back to the Akarit position; but these were to make a stand on the intermediate line and were to leave strong rearguards behind them.

The enemy had again avoided encirclement, and all except the rearguards were out of the Mareth position and for the moment safe in the Chotts area. But SUPERCHARGE had been alarming to the troops in the Mareth Line, and nearly catastrophic to those at Tebaga, with the result that all withdrawals were faster than usual, indeed so fast that the effectiveness of their delaying measures by mine and demolition was much less than usual. Had it not been for the sanctuary of the Akarit line the enemy would have been kept on the run. The truth was that at last the continued defeats and retirements had weakened the enemy's physical power to resist, except where the ground might prove eminently suitable for defence. But while the Italians had obviously had enough, the morale of the Germans was as high as ever.