Rommel's Tanks in the Desert


Tripoli Parade of Pz.Reg.5 on March 12,1941
Pz.III Ausf.G of Pz.Reg.5, still in German Gray colour, proudly parading in Tripoli

On 6pm of March 12,1941, after assembling on the splendid "Corso Italo Balbo" in the center of Tripoli, the darkgray tanks of the newly arrived Pz.Reg.5 started their engines. The Libyan crowd was eagerly awaiting the upcoming spectacle.
Slowly moving along the Corso, the tanks crossed the "Piazza Italia" to reach the "Piazza Castello" named after the huge castle residing just vis-a-vis the "Teatro Miramare".
Just beside the newly erected statue of the "Duce" posed on a horse, the German and Italian high brass with Rommel and Gariboldi, was watching the German armour passing by slowly.
Map of the center of Tripoli with route of the March 12 parade
At the end of the piazza, the tanks turned right into the "Lungo Mare" lakeside road and continued their drive along the Port of Tripoli, greated by the cheering locals.
As the proud Italians wouldn't leave the field to the German ally alone, the new M13/40 medium tanks of "Ariete" rounded off the impressive parade.
Due to the impatient Rommel, Pz.Reg.5 had left Tripoli instantly and reached the front after 4 exhausting night marches, not without facing numerous annoying breakdowns of their glorious tanks...

"212" of 2.Kp., I./Pz.Reg.5 in front of the Castello
Same vehicle with turret number removed by censor
Original unit symbol of 3.Pz.Div. still visible on left hull front

Rommel's deception

Oberleutnant H.W.Schmidt ("With Rommel in Africa"), who was on Rommel's staff, remembers:

“Singly and at regular intervals the Panzers clattered and rattled by. They made a devil of a noise on the macadamized streets. Not far past the saluting base the column turned into a side-street with mighty squeaks and creaks.

I began to wonder at the extraordinary number of Panzers passing, and to regret that I had not counted them from the beginning. After a quarter of an hour I noticed a fault in one of the chains of a heavy Mark IV Panzer, which somehow looked familiar to me although I had not previously seen its driver. Only then did the penny drop, as the Tommies say, and I could not help grinning.

Still more Panzers passed, squeaking and creaking round that bend.The road surface was beginning to show serious signs of damage from the caterpillar tracks. The Italians stared with wide-open eyes. but otherwise were dumb..."

"501" of 5.Kp., II./Pz.Reg.5 lined up in Corso Italo Balbo, awaiting the parade
Pz.I Ausf.A of regimental staff
Pz.I Ausf.A on Corso Italo Balbo
White "II" - Staff cars of 2./Pz.Reg.5
Pz.II Ausf.C "835" of 8.Kp., II./Pz.Reg.5
8./II./PzReg.5 lined up on Corso Italo Balbo at 5pm
White "823" missing, but appearing later as "Pz.IV/F1"
Pz.IV Ausf.D "813" of 8.Kp., II./Pz.Reg.5
Pz.IV Ausf.D on Piazza Castello
Pz.IV Ausf.D w/Add-On Armour passing Teatro Miramare
Parading M13/40 medium tank of 7th Battalion 32nd Armoured Regiment, "Ariete" division
Posing in front of the "Duce" statue
Passing the "Banca d'Italia" on the "Lungo Mare"

Pz.I Ausf.A Sd.Kfz.101
Pz.I Ausf.A of Pz.Reg.5, 5.le.Div., in "German Gray" lightly overpainted with sand colour mix
Note air recognition flag on rear engine deck
Under British inspection...
Drowned in the desert...
Pz.I Flamethrower... action at the Tobruk boundary
Note spare roadwheel and "N.K.A.V." smoke discharger
On the march, still in plain German Gray
Entering Agedabia, late March 1941
Pz.I Ausf.B
Ausf.B of 21.Pz.Div., formerly 5.le.Div
Passing a captured B.I.T. Mk.2 "Matilda"
In company of a PzJg.I of 605th Panzerjäger Abteilung
On German 10-ton Sd.Anh.115 trailer and ...
... British/U.S. 45-ton M9 Rogers trailer
"Digger" examining damaged turret
Note cannister bracket on rear left fender
M3 "Grant" medium tank passing the burning Pz.I leftovers

PzBefWg.I Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.265
Sd.Kfz. 265 "Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen", "Nachrichten-Zug", Stab 1./Pz.Reg.5, 21.Pz.Div.
Captured and shipped to U.K. for further inspection
Field maintenance and refitting
Rear turret box as trop modification
Passing a disabled B.I.T. Mk.2 "Matilda II"
Sd.Kfz. 265 "Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen", Stab Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div., with "Motorschaden" (Engine defect)...
Desert burning...
...after successful British attack
After the Battle...

Pz.II Ausf.C Sd.Kfz.121
Pz.II Ausf.C "Black 8" of a Le.Kp., 8.Pz.Reg., 15.Pz.Div., Libya 1941 Horch Kfz.15 in the back right
Dodge T212 (D8A) PU to the far right
Note extra front and turret armour as well as...
...spare roadwheel on front glacis plate
All North-African Ausf.C with late-style turret cupola
Sign of the 21.Pz.Div., formerly 5.le.Div.
Note antenna pennant and Sd.Kfz.10 in the back
Famous images of Pz.II Ausf.C of Pz.Reg.5, 5.le.Div., on the advance thru Cyreneika
Usually no N.K.A.V.("Nebelkerzen-Abwurf-Vorrichtung") [wonderful German ;-), smoke discharger] used with Ausf.C
Lull in the fighting : Note rare N.K.A.V. smoke discharger
Pz.II belonging to staff of II./Pz.Reg.5, 5.le.Div.
Encounter in the oasis...

Pz.III Ausf.F Sd.Kfz.141
Pz.III Ausf.F with early 360mm wide tracks, 15.Pz.Div.
Pz.III Ausf.F of 6./Pz.Reg.5,21.Pz.Div.
Unusual double sparewheels on left rear fender
Ford G917T 3-ton in the background
Often misidentified as Ausf.G type...
Red "114" of 1./Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div., early 1942
"223" of 2./Pz.Reg.5, 21.Pz.Div.
Note early spare tracklink attachment
Having a free ride on the "Red One"
Under German management...
...destroyed and under British inspection

Pz.III Ausf.G Sd.Kfz.141

Pz.III Ausf.H Sd.Kfz.141

Pz.III Ausf.J Sd.Kfz.141
Additional 20mm thick Armour ("Vorpanzer") on turret and hull front
7./Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div., summer 1942
Pz.III Ausf.J(lg.) with Kw.K.39 L/60
Note incomplete "Vorpanzer" on turret front
2./Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div., El Alamein front

Pz.III 5cm Kw.K L/42 - Overview
Main Differences between the 4 short-barelled Pz.III Ausf. in the desert
PzBefWg.III Sd.Kfz.266-8
Sd.Kfz. 267 "Grosser Panzerbefehlswagen" Ausf.E, Stab 15.Pz.Div.
Personal tank of Generalmajor Walther Neumann-Silkow - Commander 15.Pz.Div. until his death on Nov 08,1941
PzBefWg.III Ausf.E, Stab Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div.
Personal tank of Oberstleutnant Herbert Olbrich - Commander Pr.Reg.5 in spring of 1941
Jerrycans on turret roof, sparewheels on fender and baggage box on engine deck
Stab Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div., again
Regimental "R" and jerrycans on right fender
Early N.K.A.V., no black-out tail light yet, double sparewheels
Yell.-bl.-yell. arm.reg. pennant attached
All men in greatcoats
A sunbath in the hammock (plz note the jerrycans as well!)
PzBefWg.III Ausf.H
Sd.Kfz. 267 "Grosser Panzerbefehlswagen", Stab Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div.
Personal tank of Oberstleutnant Hans Cramer - Commander Pr.Reg.8 in spring of 1941
Note jerry cans and sparewheels on the right fender, British ammo box on the left
Cramer leaning in his cupola, spring of 1941
A cold morning in the desert...
Pz.Bef.Wg.III Sd.Kfz.267 equipped with Radio Sets "Fu 6" and "Fu 8"
Note: Typical rear box on engine deck deliberately omitted in drawing
Hans Cramer (2nd left) confering with his crew
Hans Cramer proudly presenting his knights cross...
Receiving Rommel's orders...
Note: Typical rear box on engine deck once again omitted in drawing
Meeting in the desert
Sd.Kfz.251/6 radio halftrack alongside
At last: the standard luggage box !
Note wooden stick bundle on halftrack front
Pz.Reg.8 - jerrycans, not only on the right fender

Pz.IV Ausf.D/E Sd.Kfz.161
Don't drink'n'drive...
Pz.IV Ausf.D w/Additional Front and Side Armour
... leading a "Kuebelwagen" light car
Completely destroyed by the Tobruk artillery
Pz.IV Ausf.E w/Additional Front and Side Armour
"Black 8" of Pz.Reg.8, 15.Pz.Div., presenting 4 out of 5 crew members
Injured driver
Stone and steel as crew protection
Chief of 8.Kompanie
Swastikas prohibited here in Germany
"Black 8" after the battle, ...
... destroyed and burnt out, a total "write-off"
4.Kompanie suffering heavily during...
...Crusader at Sidi Rezegh, Nov 1941
Another victim, w/out antenna deflector under barrel

Pz.IV Ausf.F1 Sd.Kfz.161
Red "823" (Remember: Turret-No. missing at Tripoli !) of Pz.Reg.5, 21.Pz.Div., ... rest and...
...after destruction
one roadwheel less...
So young, but old enough to fight and die...

Pz.IV Ausf.F2 Sd.Kfz.161
Red "215" of 2.Kp., I./Pz.Reg.5, 21.Pz.Div., El Alamein Sep 1942
You never can have enough jerry cans...
Towing a disabled Ford F.A.T.
Alam Halfa, Aug 31, 1942 - a Ridge too far...

StuG III Ausf.D Sd.Kfz.142

In May 1942, three Sturmgeschutz Ausf D of 5th Coy., Sonderverband 288 special purpose unit, arrived in North Africa on board of the freighter Thessalia. The unit participated in the Gazala battle, where one Stug was lost at Bir Hacheim while doing some scouting. Second Stug was lost during retreat after second battle of El Alamein after it ran out of fuel and third one was captured at Cape Bon in Tunis after being hit and abandoned. Two of these vehicles were taken to UK for examination, where one was scrapped and the other used for target practice.

Unloading the StuG off Thessalia
Meeting Gen.Maj.Ulrich Kleemann, Commander of 90.le.Div., June 1942
M3 "Honey" passing Pz.III and StuG III
Examining the abandoned StuG

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Last Updated: Dec 26, 2022