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Bardia to Enfidaville

The Enemy on 18 January

The Enemy on 18 January

Meanwhile Rommel hoped for a short breathing space as he expected our advance to slow down in the broken country southwest and south of Tarhuna. Nevertheless he was nervous about his western flank, and gradually strengthened the troops about Tarhuna at the expense of the coastal group. Defending Tarhuna from west to east were 164 Light Division, a third of the Young Fascists, Centauro Battle Group (which had lost heavily in the last few days), 15 Panzer Division, and the GAF Brigade. The rest of the Young Fascists were still south of Tarhuna, but moved fast into the Tripoli defences. The 33rd Reconnaissance Unit also was south of Tarhuna, and 3 and Nizza Reconnaissance Units were the link between Tarhuna and the coastal forces, with Nizza apparently never where it was wanted. In the Cussabat–Homs area was XXI Corps, with Trieste Division and two-thirds of Pistoia Division, but with 90 Light Division in reserve in the Corradini area, for again it was Rommel's intention to get the Italians back to Tripoli.

The reconnaissance reports which Rommel received from Superlibia held that the HomsTarhuna line could not be outflanked to the west by any large force. There is no evidence that he counted on this, and he later records without surprise that British forces were moving towards Garian; but the report showed that the Italian views on what was and was not possible did not coincide with ours.