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Bardia to Enfidaville

Enemy Dispositions

page 254

Enemy Dispositions

First Italian Army had to rely mainly on Italians to hold the line, while the Germans laced the position at critical points. The line was held by XX Corps on the east and XXI Corps on the west. XX Corps had Young Fascist Division on the coast, 90 Light Division astride the main road, and Trieste Division as far as Djebel Roumana. XXI Corps had Spezia Division on the east and Pistoia on the west, with one regiment from 90 Light, and with what was left of 164 Light Division as reserve. The 90th Light Division was much concerned about the defence of Djebel er Roumana, which was not in its sector, and did its best to persuade the Italians to strengthen the defences, even to the extent of offering to put a German battalion there. The offer was not accepted, but 90 Light nevertheless directed one of its regiments to reconnoitre routes to Roumana.

The enemy's transport situation was acute. The 90th Light Division was only 50 per cent mobile, and 164 Light had to march on foot back to its existing position in reserve.

But, as usual, Eighth Army's greatest interest was the whereabouts of the three panzer divisions. The 15th Panzer Division, with only fifteen runners at this time, was in reserve behind XX Corps, much as at Mareth. The 10th Panzer Division, with fifty tanks, together with a heavy tank battalion of twenty-three tanks and Centauro Battle Group with ten, was opposite the Americans at Maknassy. And 21 Panzer Division with forty tanks was opposing the Americans at El Guettar, 50 miles south-west of Maknassy. The enemy's armour was thus dispersed, with the greater strength opposite the Americans, but it was all within one night's travel to any part of the front.

The average strength of the unarmoured divisions, whether German or Italian, was estimated at 4100, and the total unarmoured troops in the Akarit line at 24,500.

However, as with all enemy strength states at this period, the record is insufficient for any degree of certainty. A contemporary estimate for 7 April 1943 puts the strength of 1 Italian Army, including its German element, at 106,000.