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The Relief of Tobruk

Note on Sources

page 530

Note on Sources

The primary sources for the New Zealand operations are the 2 NZEF war diaries, General Freyberg's diary and other contemporary records, the files of the Prime Minister's Department, various reports and accounts, most of them in the archives of War History Branch, and private documents including diaries and wartime and post-war correspondence and interviews. For the hardest phases of the fighting, particularly at Sidi Rezegh, the testimony of other ranks has been invaluable, because many of the officers concerned are dead; but in military history of this kind two and two do not make four. Where a company commander died his platoon commanders cannot jointly replace his account; they can perhaps establish what happened but not all he had in mind. No amount of post-war research, moreover, can altogether make up for the loss of the records of 5 Brigade Headquarters at Sidi Azeiz or for those of 24 and 26 Battalions at Sidi Rezegh.

On the enemy side there is a serious imbalance. Photographic copies or translations of almost all relevant German war diaries except those of Panzer Group Africa from 19 November onwards (which are missing) heavily outweigh the few Italian contemporary documents which have come to hand and published sources do little to rectify this. Kriebel's unpublished Feldzug in Nordafrika, however, is helpful and there are some excellent and well-documented appreciations prepared by the Enemy Documents Section of the Historical Branch of the Cabinet Office (though these, too, inevitably lack adequate Italian sources).

For details which seemed critical to New Zealand operations the United Kingdom official histories, narratives, and draft administrative history have been augmented by copies of United Kingdom war diaries and other documents supplied by the Cabinet Office. There are also New Zealand copies of many official Middle East records, including General Ritchie's report. Similarly the drafts of the official South African history and a narrative of the operations of 2 South African Division in the frontier area have been supplemented by comments on the New Zealand narrative and by an extensive correspondence with the Union War Histories' Section of the Prime Minister's Department, Pretoria, in which copies of some contemporary South African documents have been made available. Indian operations have been covered by the United Kingdom narratives, a narrative of the operations of 4 Indian Division (dated 17 April 1942) supplied by the Historical Section, India, and published sources. The Australian Official War History section has elucidated some points in correspondence, but for details of Australian operations published sources are the main ones.