Panzers in Africa. Piazza Castello, Tripoli, Libya, February/March, 1941.
Ferried in a haste from Naples to Tripoli, the first tanks of Panzer-Regiment 5 arrived in Africa from mid-February 1941 onward; all vehicles still wearing their European dark grey camouflage paint, as well as their old unit’s insignia (the yellow inverted ‘Y’ of the 3. Panzer-Division).
Rommel needed time, and he knew that his arrival wouldn’t go unnoticed, so he employed several ruses to deceive the British and make them think twice about advancing further into Libya. One of the ruses employed were the parades held in the Corso Sicilia, one of Tripoli’s main arteries. Because only a meager part of his forces were available, it is often said that Rommel simply ordered the same panzers to parade several times in a row, thus giving the impression that a much larger force had landed. If this is true or not it’s highly debatable, but Rommel did went to great lengths to deceive the Allies as to his forces’ real size and strength, including the use of wood and canvas tanks deployed among his real tanks.
Before Pz Regt 5, elements from Aufklärungs-Abteilung 3 (a recon unit) and Panzerjäger-Abteilung 39 (anti-tank) had already arrived on the 14th. Together with other units from the 3. Pz Div, they were now part of a new formation: the 5. Leichte (Light) Division, named thus on February 18, 1941.
The new Division would later be upgraded and renamed to 21. Panzer Division. Together with the 15. Panzer Division it formed the famous D.A.K., short for Deutsches Afrika Korps.
Special mention to 'Emperor’ Mussolini’s statue on the left.
The Afrika Korps or German Africa Corps
Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK)
was the German expeditionary force in Africa during the North African Campaign of World War II. First sent as a holding force to shore up the Italian defense of their African colonies, the formation fought on in Africa from March 1941 until its surrender in May 1943.
After three years of fight under the harsh desert conditions, the remnants of the Afrika Korps and other surviving units of the 1st Italian Army retreated into Tunisia in March. On 13 May, remnants of the Afrika Korps surrendered, along with all other remaining Axis forces in North Africa.
A small part of Deutsches Afrikakorps hymn:
“…Vorwärts, vorwärts! Vorwärts mit unserem Rommel! …”
“… Forwards, forwards! Forwards with our Rommel! …”
Plate01: Perhaps the best-known Sd.Kfz.250 ever built. Rommel’s Sd.Kfz.250/3 leichter Funkpanzerwagen “Greif”, often misquoted as a Sd.Kfz.250/5 leichter Beobachtungspanzerwagen it most definitely is a Sd.Kfz.250/3. The soldier standing on the left is standing on the seat box seen in the Sd.Kfz.250/3 series, but missing from the Sd.Kfz.250/5 series of half-tracks. It is a middle production vehicle with the track mounted semaphore indicators, but has the earlier medium height indicators. Of note is the spare aerial in its own brackets with a supplementary support tip of the semaphore. The leather cover for the Notek light is still in place, the headlights have their own factory lens covers made of leather, the tracks hanging from the front lifting hooks, as does the tow cable. In the background to the right is Rommel’s personal Horch Kfz.21 Funkbefehlwagen plus a Kfz.15 Dienstwagen to the left,
Plate01:A Sd.Kfz.250/12 leichter Messtruppanzerwagen with an extra stowage box (the oblong box on the rear) for range finders and other important ‘specialist’ equipment. The role of the vehicle is for extended range artillery spotting, ranging and surveying. They were also used to position their own artillery for maximum effort. Anybody who has seen episode number 3 “Carentan” of the Band of Brothers series can tell you just how well German artillery was ranged.
This picture was taken by Erwin “The Desert Fox” Rommel
Plate01:This Sd.Kfz.253 DAK crew certainly have as much creature comforts as possible given their location and been very successful in adding their personal invetory. They have two catering sized cans that are or were full of what appears to be figs. The large tins are marked as “Spezial Delikatesse Frischgebaken” (Special delicacy baked/or cooked). The tent pole stays are secured with Panzer I track-wheels and there appears to be a leather motorcycle pannier hanging off the rear of the Sd.Kfz.253 leichter Gepanzerter Beobachtungskraftwagen. Of note here is the “bed-frame” antenna attached. These were needed due to the long ranges the war in the Western Desert campaigns were to have.