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Bardia to Enfidaville

Divisional Orders for the Advance

Divisional Orders for the Advance

In the formal operation order for the advance, issued on 12 January, the ‘Intention’ paragraph read: ‘2 NZ Division will capture Tripoli, destroying any enemy forces encountered’. This could not be criticised for any lack of thrust. The advance was to be in three stages. Stage I would commence at 7 p.m. on 14 January from a start line just short of Wadi Bei el Chebir and end when near Wadi Umm er Raml, opposite Fortino. As this was a night move it was important to ensure that space between the groups was available at dawn for a dispersal of 100 yards between vehicles. To achieve this groups would move so many miles past a distinctively lit sign on the axis of advance and then halt. These were calculated as nine miles for Divisional Cavalry in the lead, six and a half for 6 Infantry Brigade Group, two and a half for Headquarters and Reserve Group, and nil for 5 Infantry Brigade Group. Administrative Group 1 would move in daylight on 15 January.

Stage II would commence at 7.15 a.m. on the 15th, at which time Divisional Cavalry would cross the GheddahiaBu Ngem track, named as the start line. All other groups would await verbal orders, but would close up to ensure a cohesive column. The axis of advance, Fortino – Tueil el Ase – SedadaTmed el Chatua, would be marked with black diamonds, already so well known.

Stage III, for which few details were yet prescribed, was to be the advance on Tripoli by the best route on the general line Beni UlidTarhuna.

Various tasks were laid down for the specialist arms. The artillery was directed to provide anti-aircraft protection at the crossings of Wadi Zemzem and other defiles. The engineers were to clear the road SedadaBeni Ulid of mines and develop water supplies. Divisional Cavalry was to operate seven miles to the front and flank, especially to the west and south, and was to keep touch with 11 Hussars of 7 Armoured Division on the right. The regiment was given a series of bounds with codenames, on which page 92 it was to report, and was to reconnoitre Wadi Zemzem and Wadi Sofeggin, where there might be opposition from the enemy in addition to the normal difficulties of passing through a bottleneck.

The 4th Light Armoured Brigade would operate as the most advanced scouting force, and the Royals would be on 2 NZ Division's front.

On the morning of 13 January, while the Division rested, Freyberg held a conference to give the latest information about the enemy, elaborate on the order, and give details of the movements of 4 Light Armoured Brigade and 7 Armoured Division. He expected that the crossing of Wadi Zemzem would be contested, and that fighting might occur at other points, perhaps against a panzer division. His Tactical Headquarters would remain near Divisional Cavalry, and the headquarters of the leading brigade would move there also, so that quick adjustments could be made to the divisional axis. As far as Beni Ulid 6 Brigade Group would lead, but at that point 5 Brigade Group would pass through. He was pleased with the presence of 94 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment and said that its guns could be used as anti-tank and close-support weapons also. He probably had in mind the value the Germans obtained in that way from their 88-millimetre guns. He ended by saying that while strategical surprise could not be expected—in other words, while the outflanking move could not be hidden—it was still possible to obtain tactical surprise by night moves, wireless silence and other deception measures.

After the conference the GOC reported briefly to the New Zealand Government, saying that the Division was adequately trained and equipped for its mobile role.1

1 Documents, Vol. II, p. 160.