Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

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jurisnik
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Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by jurisnik » 11 Dec 2021 13:52

Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

About the Series
This article is part of a series: Maps of the Desert War. In this series I explore battles and operations that took place during the WW2 North African Campaign (or more precisely – its Western Desert part). For decades I've been reading about the campaign, but I've often had hard time to find maps that go with the riveting stories I read. But since I've started the research for my new game design, I needed to have a well researched and detailed maps, in order to create game scenarios. And this is how this series came to be - as a result of my ongoing research.


Intro
Operation Crusader (18 November-30 December 1941) was Rommel's first defeat in North Africa. It was a very complex operation, which will be described here with a series of maps. I will try to show the situation day-by-day, and zoom in on the action when needed. I will also accompany each map with a short description of events. If you wish to learn more about the operation, I advise you to look at the Sources section at the end of this article.

As this was a long and complex operation, my research and map design is not done and this will be the first post on the subject of Crusader. It will show the maps for the period from 18th November until the Totensonntag on 23rd November. I will be creating and uploading the second post in some future time, when I conclude my research on the subject.


Axis Situation
The main Axis force was Panzer Group Afrika, under the command of General der Panzertruppe Erwin Rommel. It consisted of two corps: German Afrika Korps (15th Panzer, 21st Panzer, Afrika division, and Savona), and Italian XXI Corps (Pavia, Brescia, Trento and Bologna infantry divisions). There was also the Italian motorised XX Corps (Ariete armoured division, Trieste motorised division, RECAM reconnaissance group) which was under separate, Italian command.

The Libya-Egypt frontier was held by the Italian Savona Division, and some smaller German troops. The two Panzer divisions were held in reserve, between Tobruk and Bardia. Afrika division was on the Tobruk perimeter, and around Sidi Rezegh airfield. The Italian XXI Corps (of four infantry divisions) was besieging the Tobruk fortress. The Italian XX Corps was holding the southern flank - between Bir el Gubi and Bir Hacheim.

Rommel was planning of capturing Tobruk, and positioned himself in preparation for this offensive which was scheduled to begin on 23 November. However, the Allied attack will begin several days before that.


Allied Situation
The Allied forces were a newly formed British Eighth Army, under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Alan Cunningham. It was a Commonwealth force, consisted primarily of British, Indian, New Zealand and South African troops. It was split into two corps: XIII and XXX Corps. The XIII Corps was an infantry force, containing the 2nd New Zealand Division, 4th Indian Division and 1st Army Tank Brigade. The XXX Corps was an armoured force, containing the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats), 1st South African Division and 22 Guards Brigade. The Tobruk fortress was defended by the garrison, made up of 70th Division, Polish Carpathian Brigade Group and 32nd Army Tank Brigade.

The Allied plan was for XIII (infantry) Corps to contain the Axis frontline garrisons (stretching from Sidi Omar to Halfaya Pass), and to isolate them from the main Axis forces around Tobruk. The XXX (armour) Corps was given the task of finding and destroying the bulk of German armour. It was to move north-west in the direction of Tobruk, and to provoke the clash with the German Afrika Corps. After the defeat of the German armour, both Corps were to move towards Tobruk and attack the besieging forces. The Tobruk garrison was to attack the siege ring from within in order to link up with the relief forces.


The Battle
18 November
Eighth Army launches the operation. Heavy rain keeps the Axis air reconnaissance on the ground and the XXX Corps reaches Gabr Saleh unopposed. There are some skirmishes with Axis recon units, while XIII Corps advances to the border garrisons at the line Sidi Omar-Halfaya Pass.

Image



19 November
XIII Corps begins its move around the border fortifications. 7th Armoured Brigade and 7th Support Group move north-east and capture the Sidi Rezegh airfield. 22nd Armoured Brigade advances to Bir el Gubi, attacks the Italian Ariete armoured division and suffers heavy losses. 4th Armoured Brigade remains at Gabr Saleh, covering the link with XIII Corps. Kampfgruppe Stephan is sent south-west towards Gabr Saleh, where German panzers clash with 4th Armoured Brigade with inconclusive results.

Image



20 November
15th and 21st Panzer are sent southwards, and attack the lone 4th Armoured Brigade around Gabr Saleh, inflicting heavy losses. 22nd Armoured arrives too late to assist, and both armoured units fall back and regroup south of the track.

Image



21 November
Rommel realises that the crisis is developing around Sidi Rezegh, and orders 15th and 21st Panzer to move there. 4th and 22nd Armoured Brigades follow close behind, but are kept at bay by the German AT guns. Cunningham orders the 70th Division to begin its breakout attack. 2nd New Zealand Division advances north, taking position in the area between Sidi Azeiz and Fort Capuzzo. 4th Indian Division prepares to attack Sidi Omar.

Image

Image



22 November
5th South African Brigade tries to capture point 178 and position south of Sidi Rezegh airfield. This attack fails, and 21st Panzer division counter-attacks between two ridges and towards the airfield. It hits 22nd and 7th Armoured Brigades, with heavy losses for both sides. The British are forced to retreat south-west towards 5th South African Brigade.

Image



23 November (Totensonntag)
23 November is German "Totensonntag" – the Sunday of the Dead, a day of rememberance for those lost in the Great War. But on this holy day, Rommel decides to destroy the bulk of the enemy force. Three armoured divisions (15th, 21st Panzer and Ariete) are moved south of the Allied concentration of troops, and they attack nortwards - crushing the Allies between tanks and German infantry in the north. The attack falls so hard on the 5th South African Brigade, that it virtually ceises to exist, while the brigades of 7th Armoured Division suffer significant losses and are forced to retreat once more. Meanwhile, in the north the 6th New Zealand Brigade arrives from the frontier and advances towards point 175 near Sidi Rezegh. General Cunningham becames very concerned about the progress of the battle, and even considers breaking the offensive. But on the Auchinleck's insistance, the offensive is continued and the spearhead is shifted to XIII Corps - with infantry taking the initiative.

Image


This concludes the first part of Operation Crusader. See you next time!


Sources

Le Operazioni In Africa Settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk (Marzo 1941-Gennaio 1942)
Stato maggiore dell'esercito, Ufficio storico, Mario Montanari. 1993.

The War in the Mediterranean and the Middle East Volume III. British Fortunes Reach their Lowest Ebb
Naval & Military Press, Major-General I. S. O. Playfair; and others. Uckfield, UK, 2004.

The Crucible of War: Western Desert 1941
Paragon House, Barrie Pitt. New York, 1989.

Operation Crusader 1941. Rommel in Retreat
Osprey Publishing, Ken Ford. Oxford, UK, 2010.

Battle Orders: Rommel's Afrika Korps, Tobruk to El Alamein
Osprey Publishing, Pier Paolo Battisteli. Oxford, UK, 2006.

The Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941
Oxford University Press, J.A.I. Agar-Hamilton & L.C.F. Turner. Oxford, UK, 1957.

Panzer Battles
Spellmount Limited, Major-General F.W. von Mellenthin. Stroud, UK, 2008.

Crusader: Eighth Army's Forgotten Victory, November 1941-January 1942
Leo Cooper, Richard Humble. 1987.

Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-november 1942 (Great Campaigns)
Combined Publishing, Jack Greene & Alessandro Massignani. Conshohocken, USA, 1999.

The Rommel Papers
DaCapo Press, Erwin Rommel & B.H. Liddell-Hart (ed.). 1982.

Operation Crusader 1941 FULL WW2 Documentary BATTLESTORM
YouTube, uploaded by TIK. 2019. https://youtu.be/Ji7MZYB4dho

The Crusader Project
https://rommelsriposte.com/

--------------------------------------------------------

If you wish to support the game, be sure to wishlist it on STEAM: https://bit.ly/2NDSNbW

If you wish to watch the YouTube series in which I will show detailed gameplay of each of these operations described here, subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdEM-o ... N0pplI7fCg

If you wish to check the game's website, you can find it here: https://www.attackatdawn.com/

And if you wish to download the full-sized maps, you can do it in the Gallery section of the game's website: https://www.attackatdawn.com/ Just go to the homepage and you'll find Gallery there. The maps are FREE TO USE (we only kindly ask you to credit us when you do so).

Thank you for your patience and see you next time on the desert battlefields!
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
— Sir Winston Churchill, following the Second Battle of El Alamein

Attack at Dawn: North Africa website: https://www.attackatdawn.com/

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Tanzania
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Re: Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by Tanzania » 11 Dec 2021 18:57

Jurisnik

A really great graphic presentation; - perfect! Please continue in this way; - Part II (?) :thumbsup:

Cheers Holger
“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. . . . All History was a
palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary” – G. ORWELL 1984

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jurisnik
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Re: Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by jurisnik » 11 Dec 2021 19:27

Thanks! Yes, part II will be next .. in the same style. Hopefully from Dash to the Wire until the end of operation.
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
— Sir Winston Churchill, following the Second Battle of El Alamein

Attack at Dawn: North Africa website: https://www.attackatdawn.com/

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Urmel
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Re: Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by Urmel » 12 Dec 2021 14:32

These are very very nice.

Some minor corrections/suggestions:

18/19 Nov
1. Would break up 1 SA Div into its two brigades as these moved independently pretty much
2. You have 21 Pz too far east, they were at Gasr el Arid, straight south of Gambut.

19 Nov
1. KG Stephan came straight down south, quite a distance.
2. 4 AB only made short move north-west (not long move north-east) with one regiment. Remainder of Brigade swanning off in North, up to crossing Trigh Capuzzo but these did not engage Stephan (see: https://scientiamilitaria.journals.ac.z ... /view/1319 )

22 Nov
1. I would start showing the breakout salient here

23 Nov
1. 4 NZ Bde is at Gambut
2. The escape of remnants of Empire forces on Sidi Rezegh was actually by a southern hook and then east.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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jurisnik
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Re: Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by jurisnik » 12 Dec 2021 19:40

Great suggestions Urmel, thanks! Rommelsriposte to the rescue 😉 I'll revise the maps as suggested
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
— Sir Winston Churchill, following the Second Battle of El Alamein

Attack at Dawn: North Africa website: https://www.attackatdawn.com/

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jurisnik
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Posts: 66
Joined: 12 Jul 2011 22:41
Location: Split, Croatia

Re: Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by jurisnik » 15 Dec 2021 10:29

Here are the corrected maps:

18 November
Image

19 November
Image

20 November
Image

22 November
Image

23 November
Image
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
— Sir Winston Churchill, following the Second Battle of El Alamein

Attack at Dawn: North Africa website: https://www.attackatdawn.com/

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Urmel
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Posts: 4388
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Maps of the Operation Crusader (part 1)

Post by Urmel » 16 Dec 2021 09:46

Lovely work! For the next article you can do the maps!
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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