Rank and File
A Clerk’s War
Sunday 19th to Friday 31st August 1940
As I write this, workers are still clearing up after the victory speeches yesterday. Ministers Fricke and Goebbels performed well, with a “spontaneous” crowd of tens of thousands present in front of the old Bundesrat building at Wilhelmstraße 94 for the appearance of the Führer and other dignitaries. I didn’t bother to attend (nobody would have noticed my absence) as I didn’t want to see the happy faces of my fellow citizens. All of Germany was convinced that the war was over, with the British sure to surrender within weeks once they realised they were alone on their little island. How could I look my fellow citizens in the eye when I knew that Foreign Ministry reports stated that the English were resolved to keep fighting, no matter the cost? Even worse, when I knew that within eight months we would be fighting the largest army in the world, that of the Soviet Union?
Part of the huge crowd at the front of Wilhelmstraße 94: the Führer and several ministers appeared on the balcony
In the excitement of the successful completion of Unternehmen Stierkampf, there was no interest in the work of road workers in Silute and Memel. Yet the news from the Baltic provinces was as clear an indication of the thinking of the Führer and the Cabinet as anyone could want. After months of work the contracts to repair and upgrade the road and rail links in those provinces on the border were finished. Without even a discussion, fresh funds were allocated for another round of contracts. Significantly, these new contracts will run until 15th March 1941. To my mind, this is the first clue as to when we can expect the next stage of the war to begin.
Also yesterday, General von Hadeln took command of 285th Sicherung Division. He was not able to attend the celebrations, as he and his men are already loaded onto trains bound for Madrid. It will not be long until the front-line troops in Spain head east. In fact, I noted that an order has been approved to commission another two garrison divisions in 65 days. Spain, Frankreich and Yugoslavia can expect to be stripped of combat units in the next six months.
As it was, the infrastructure projects approved yesterday were just a glimpse of Minister Bayerlein’s plans. Today the full scale was revealed. 25 provinces reported that improvements had been completed, and an expansion of the Przemysl aerodrome is ready for use. While I was absorbing that, clerks started wheeling in box after box of documentation. Calling for the detail sheet, I saw that the boxes contained tender applications, plans and contracts for 16 projects in Poland, one in Yugoslavia, 18 in Romania and 8 in Spain. As if that were not enough, a further expansion of Przemysl airbase and work on the airfields near Suwalki has also been approved. By the end of March next year several chains of decent transport links will criss-cross the occupied territories in the east. As tens of thousands of vehicles and millions of men drive into Russia, we should be able to provide them with the fuel, ammunition, food and replacement parts that they need to function.
This is what passes for a road in Eastern Poland: still a lot of work to be done
First, however, we must crush Gibraltar. Rommel wants to attack the fortress from as many angles as possible, so he intends to eliminate all opposition outside the city before launching a mass assault. General Blaskowitz, denied the honour of capturing the Spanish government in Huelva, has been told that instead he is to seize Cádiz, the only major port other than Gibraltar that remains outside our control. Two Ex-Spanish HQ units are trying to hold off 29.Infanterie (mot) to allow 18th MountainInfantry Division to escape to Gibraltar. Blaskowitz has orders to prevent this.
Battle of Cádiz
On Tuesday five road projects in Ostmark (I still think if it as Österreich) were finalised, and the Mininster Bayerlein was apparently satisfied that the transport system is now satisfactory there, as the excess industrial capacity is to be used for equipment upgrades. The only other item that day was the transfer of Kitzinger’s 3rd Kampffliegerkorps to Madrid, attached to Rommel’s Sud-Frankreich Army. The Luftwaffe is making sure that we have sufficient bomber assets available to make life in Gibraltar very miserable.
Wednesday saw the first step in the expansion of the Jagdkorps. JG 11 “Odin” was assigned to 4th Jagdfliegerkorps, joining “Freki” and “Geri”. This is the first three geschwader interceptor korps, and OKL is hoping it will tilt the balance our way in the Battle for the Channel. “Odin” is currently equipped with Bf 109E aircraft, but these should soon be upgraded. Another interceptor geschwader has been ordered and this will be the new Messerschmitt Bf 109F. Someone has developed an interest in Nordic mythology, as on the same day the long-awaited renaming of the two “Westwall” geschwader took place. JG 14 will now be known as “Huginn” and JG 15 as “Muninn”. Rumour has it that further renaming is being considered by OKL.
On the 22nd a serious air battle took place in the Western English Channel. Generalleutnant Waber had a total of 280 fighters when he met Air Vice-Marshall Leigh-Mallory with just under 400 carrier aircraft. For once we seem to have inflicted some losses on the British, though we lost a significant number ourselves. My brother’s unit, “Schlageter”, has been particularly hard hit, though Ernst is still fine.
Air Battle of Western English Channel: 9AM 22nd August: note the tank formation passing through Bournemouth – where could it be heading?
On Thursday the Luftwaffe took delivery of its third group of transport aircraft. KG zbV2 has joined Abernetty’s 1st Truppentransporterluftflotte. Producing the Ar 232s is hugely expensive, and no more will be constructed for now. Hasty factory conversions are taking place to allow the manufacture of equipment for a new motorised division, as well as a rather less costly garrison division. The motorised division will have an attached tank destroyer regiment armed with the Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 7.5cm Pak 40/3 Ausf. M Marder III Sd.kfz 138, mercifully referred to as the Marder III M.
Our latest tank destroyer: the Marder IIIM
Diplomatically, we were asked by Bulgaria whether we would be prepared to extend credit to them to allow them to purchase raw materials. As we have no real use for additional cash and it is in our interest to build up the Bulgarian economy, unlimited credit has been approved for the duration of the war. Of course, our normal restrictions will apply. While we are prepared to sell as much coal and steel as required, it is unlikely that more than a trickle of rare materials will cross the border.
The big news of the 23rd August, however, was an attack by the British. Leaving the security of Gibraltar, at 11AM General Hobart attacked 16.Infanterie (mot) in Algeciras. De Angelis has identified at least 5 divisions attacking, a total of just under 31,000 men. All of these are second line troops, however, and de Angelis is confident that his 10,000 soldiers can hold them off: the mountain terrain is perfect for defence. There is some speculation as to why the British have left the relative safety of their tunnels and bunkers to move into the open, but the most popular theory is that Hobart hopes to provide an escape route for the defenders of Cádiz.
Battle for Algeciras
Perhaps this was the moment Rommel has been waiting for: immediately he announced that preparations for Fall Steingarten, the capture of Gibraltar, were complete. Two hours later the Reichskanzlei was buzzing with the news that General Ott has given the order to advance from Montellano. He has three divisions including an SS Mountain unit. Even with this substantial force victory is doubtful, as the Rock is a natural fortress and the British have had hundreds of years to add to its defences.
Battle of Gibraltar
With Gibraltar itself under attack, General Hobart had no option but to call off his own offensive. De Angelis is claiming victory, but most military analysts here consider him lucky. Hobart had inflicted 38 casualties on 16.Infanterie (mot) while his own losses were kept to 44. Given the conditions and the fact that Hobart then had to disengage under fire, this was a creditable result. The analysts consider this a worrying indication of the quality of the enemy units: even if they are second-line, they will not collapse when put under pressure.
More significant was the victory in Cádiz. With Hobart pulling back from Algeciras, the last hope of rescue was dashed. That was it for the thousands of British and Spanish who were fighting an unwinnable battle. With 293 of his men dead, General Olalde gave the order to surrender. General Blaskowitz achieved his objective (with only 4 men lost), as 18th Mountain Infantry Division will take no part in the defence of Gibraltar. In fact, not one of the British, Belgian or Irish divisions committed to fight in Spain made it back to British territory: a brilliant result for General Rommel who had sworn that any Allied units encountered would not escape.
There was one obscure report that provoked a lot of interest from the more astute Wehemacht observers. I had overlooked a message from Generalleutnant Christiansen who had been patrolling the Northern Bay of Biscay. Far out to sea, 4th Jagdfliegerkorps (I must get used to seeing “Huginn” and “Muninn”) was surprised to encounter a large formation of Blackburn Skuas. A few of the British bombers were short down, but the majority continued heading north. I had glanced at this and moved on, but I heard a senior Luftwaffe officer pointing out that the only explanation for this was that the RAF is evacuating its aircraft from Gibraltar. If true, this is a signal that the British themselves do not consider the Rock to be impregnable.
Air Battle of Northern Bay of Biscay: 3PM 23rd August
A progress update from General Ott on 24th August would support this analysis. While Ott was mainly concerned with informing General Rommel that Eppich’s 5th Gebirgsjägers had joined the assault (from Estepona) and that de Angelis and 16.Infanterie were moving up from Algeciras, he also pointed out that his observations led him to believe that the Gibraltar airbases were now empty (they are very exposed to shelling). The lack of RAF (as opposed to RN Fleet Air Arm) bombing in the past day would support this, so it seems that our task may be easier than expected.
Fall Steingarten: situation at midnight of 23rd August
Although the RAF was conspicuous by its absence, Saturday saw the return of the carrier air groups. They did nothing to interfere with our bombing of Gibraltar, preferring to hit our troops moving to the front. Losses were quite low, particularly in comparison to the damage our bombers are inflicting.
Saturday also saw our seventh Panzer division join the Heer. For now it is based in Breslau, where General von Hubicki will oversee final training. It is to be the kernel of a new Panzerkorps, with another tank division expected to be ready soon, and several motorised infantry units in the last stages of preparation. A new motorised division has been approved, this one to have a self-propelled artillery regiment of “Grilles” in support. (Another useful abbreviation: the actual order documents refer to the “15cm s.i.G 33 (Sf) auf Panzer 38(t) Ausf. K Grille Sd.Kfz 138(1)”. Any additional resources will be used to arm and equip yet another garrison division.
The rather cramped worked space of the “Grille”. Although they can’t carry much ammunition, a regiment of these guns has proved to be a valuable addition to a motorised formation.
Our Italian allies have purchased a small amount of coal from us but insist on paying for it, even though I am sure we have agreed to extend unlimited credit to them. Considering we produce far more coal than we can use, we would give it to them for nothing.
When I left work on Saturday evening all was well, but when I returned on Monday I got a shock. There had been nothing in the newspapers about Spain, so I assumed everything was OK. Yet the first few papers on my desk referred to General Ott calling off his attack. One used the word “defeat” pointing out that we had lost 621 men against the British losses of 588. What was happening? Had the legend of the invincibility of the Rock affected Rommel’s decision-making?
All this passed through my mind in seconds, and luckily before I could actually say anything I saw another document with a later time stamp. General Schack had moved on Gibraltar with his own 10.Infanterie (mot) and Engelbrecht’s 4th Gebirgsjäger divisions. General Hobart is still holding firm, but he now has two thousand less men than he had three days ago: the result of the continuous bombing and Ott’s persistent attacks.
Second Battle of Gibraltar: the rain has returned temporarily
That was the only news for Sunday and Monday was just as dull. Presumably Schack was moving cautiously forward, but there was no information from Sud-Frankreich Army. The Luftwaffe reported a few dogfights over the Western English Channel, but nothing out of the ordinary. It was noticeable that the armoured division spotted moving along the coast several days ago was no longer to be seen.
Air Battle of the Western English Channel: 6PM 27th August
In fact the high point of the day was a change in our occupation policies. The Cabinet has decided that recruitment in the Polish territories is too low, and this has been caused by our decision to impose a full military government. Although allowing a Polish collaboration government will cost us some production (they will need to provide a few luxuries to the populace) it will make it more socially acceptable for young Poles to join the Wehrmacht and for tertiary graduates to take up careers in the military or other professional areas.
Life in the Kanzlei has reverted to pre-war pace: until Thursday nothing exciting occurred to disturb our routine. Then we received disturbing news from General Schack (via Rommel’s HQ). Over the past few days he has been gradually making progress as more and more divisions arrived to join the assault. He now has two motorised, two Gebirger and an armoured division under his command. Sud-Frankreich Army has 3 Kampffliegerkorps, 3 Schlachtfliegerkorps and a Jagdfliegerkorps available, though airbase capacity and supply restrict Luftwaffe performance. All well and good, but the British resistance has stiffened in the past day, and now we know why. The armoured division we spotted on the Channel coast has arrived in Gibraltar to provide additional support! This has thrown General Rommel into a fury: he has contacted Berlin to ask how he is expected to capture a fortress that is being reinforced faster than he can reduce its defenders’ numbers. The response was immediate: 1st and 2nd Seefliegerkorps have left Nantes and rebased to La Coruña, the only airbase able to take 400 aircraft. Orders have been issued to both Stumpff and Geisler that they are to immediately start patrols off the coast of Carvoeiro, and that no troopships are to be allowed to reach Gibraltar. This is a bit unfair – as many Luftwaffe officers have said it is the responsibility of the Kreigsmarine to blockade enemy ports. Unfortunately life isn’t fair, and our two battle fleets are still repairing damage and waiting for replacement Zerstörergeschwader.
Men of 6th Gebirgsjäger Division march in the summer heat from Estapona towards Gibraltar: in expectation of heavy fighting they have exchanged their soft Bergmütze for steel helmets.
Friday was unofficially named “Research Day”. Three projects were completed and three new assignments were issued. The areas involved reflect the changing emphasis of the past few months. Two of the completed projects related to the construction of our next generation of light cruisers. New main armour designs and manufacturing techniques will make the next models more able to absorb punishment, while more powerful engines will allow them to close with the enemy more quickly (or escape I suppose, thought the specifications don’t emphasise this). Six months ago the Kriegsmarine had a lot of influence: now it is completely overshadowed by the Heer and Luftwaffe. While one of the new projects has a naval facet, it is strictly aircraft research, developing better naval strike tactics for our naval bombers.
The other completed research will give our cavalry better small arms. At the moment they are equipped with the Erma Maschinenpistole 1935, a product of Erma Werke. A serviceable weapon, but the Waffenamt believe that with training and new tactics our cavalry will perform better if armed with the MP 40. (For one thing, the MP 40 doesn’t have a disassembly switch near the trigger. Accidently disassembling your weapon while in combat can have severe drawbacks).
The Erma EMP 35: a good design, but a few drawbacks
I have mentioned that our naval bombers will get new strike tactics, and the Luftwaffe also secured one of the other research slots. Another study is to be made of fighter ground control, specifically co-ordination with radar sites. Anything to help our pilots is to be considered, no matter the cost. The last research group was earmarked for the Heer, and General von Blomberg surprised many by selecting a project that would concentrate on mass assault tactics. On closer inspection, the research is expected to boost the morale of our men considerably, so it will be very useful if the Red Army puts up a spirited resistance. While we hope our armour and motorised units achieve breakthroughs, no doubt there will occasions where our generals will have to grit their teeth and order a frontal assault by the infantry.
The month ended with another garrison division leaving for foreign duty, this time to Beograd. General Kotik will command 147th Sicherung Division, the first unit of a future Yugoslav occupation force. There is no respite for the call-up staff: thousands of notices are already being mailed out to notify young men that they are to report for duty with a new Coastal Defence Division, comprising two infantry brigades, an anti-aircraft regiment and a rocket artillery regiment. I hope that the Poles start to attend our recruitment centres soon: our manpower reserves are not infinite.
RAF/RN fleet Air Arm
Lebrija: Leigh-Mallory with No.1 RAF Dive Bomber Group: 45, 45, 73, 10
Lebrija: Dowding with No.5 and 1 RAF Tactical Bomber Groups: 95, 149
Lebrija: Dowding with No.5 and 1 RAF Tactical Bomber and no.1 Dive Bomber Groups: 182, 212, 222, 192
Lebrija: Leigh-Mallory with No.1 RAF Dive Bomber Group, 16th and 17th Carrier Air Groups: 68
Algeciras: Dowding with No.5 and 1 RAF Tactical Bomber Groups: NIL
Lebrija: Gore-Sutherland-Mitchell with 16th and 17th Carrier Air Groups: 68
Algeciras: Maltby with 5th CAG: 15, 7, 45, 44
Montellano: Leigh-Mallory with 4th CAG: 28
Algeciras: Maltby with 5th and 7th CAG: 53
Montellano: Leigh-Mallory with 4th and 6th CAG: 60
Estapona: Maltby with 5th CAG: NIL
Montellano: Leigh-Mallory with 4th CAG: 4, 24
Algeciras: Cunningham with 6th CAG: 18
Estapona: Cunningham with 6th CAG: 30, 33
Montellano: Denny with 7th CAG: 43
Montellano: Leigh-Mallory with 4th and 7th CAG: 47, 26
Cádiz: Löhr with 2nd Schlachtfliegerkorps (2 x Ju 87B): 68, 65
Cádiz: Hoffmann von Waldau with 4th Schlachtfliegerkorps (2 x Ju 87B): 74, 142
Cádiz: Löhr with 2nd and 4th Schlachtfliegerkorps (4 x Ju 87B): 136, 156, 218, 151
Cádiz: Kesselring with 1st Schlachtfliegerkorps (2 x Ju 87B): 131
Cádiz: Kesselring with 1st and 2nd Schlachtfliegerkorps (4 x Ju 87B): 130, 24
Gibraltar: Löhr with 2nd Schlachtfliegerkorps (2 x Ju 87B): 78, 138, 97
Gibraltar: Kesselring with 1st Schlachtfliegerkorps (2 x Ju 87B): 40, 93
Gibraltar: Kesselring with 1st and 2nd Schlachtfliegerkorps (4 x Ju 87B): 141, 197
Gibraltar: Dörstling with 6th Kampffliegerkorps (1 x Bf 109E, 2 x Ju 88): 154
Gibraltar: Sperrle with 1st Kampffliegerkorps (1 x Bf 109E, 2 x Ju 88): 250
Gibraltar: Dörstling with 1st and 6th Kampffliegerkorps (2 x Bf 109E, 4 x Ju 88): 320, 233
Gibraltar: Hoffman von Waldau with 4th Schlachtfliegerkorps (2 x Ju 87B): 117, 133, 46, 147, 4, 54, 32
Gibraltar: Kesselring with 1st and 4th Schlachtfliegerkorps (4 x Ju 87B): 24
Gibraltar: Löhr with 2nd and 4th Schlachtfliegerkorps (4 x Ju 87B): 244, 201
Unterseebootsflotte Activity Report
Eastern Biscay Plain: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth – Gibraltar: Dönitz with 2nd U-flotte
Coast of Porto: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Kuala Belait: Aßmann with 1st U-flotte
Goban Spur: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth – Fongafale: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
Horseshoe Seamount: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth - Ascension Island: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
East Azores: 2 transports (UK): Dover – Dubai: Aßmann with 1st U-flotte
Eastern English Channel: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Hong Kong: von Nordeck with II U-flotte
Western Charcot Seamount: 1 transport and 1 escort (UK): Bombay – Dover: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
Horseshoe Seamount: 3 transports (UK): Singapore – Dover: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
Coast of Porto: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Trincomalee: Aßmann with 1st U-flotte
Eastern Charcot Seamount: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth – Trinidad: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
Cape St Vincent: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Nicobar Islands: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
South-East Porcupine Plain: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Kuching: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
Galician Bank: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Tobruk: Aßmann with 1st U-flotte
Eastern Charcot Seamount: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth – Banjul: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
Gibraltar Approaches: 1 transport (UK): Dover – Socotra: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
Eastern Biscay Plain: 2 transports (UK): Portsmouth –Seychelles: Dönitz with 2nd U-flotte
Horseshoe Seamount: 1 transport (Greek): Athina – Boston: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
South East Porcupine Plain: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth – Kingston: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
East Biscay Plain: 1 transport (UK): Plymouth – Gibraltar: Dönitz with 2nd U-flotte
South East Azores Fracture Zone: 2 transports (UK): Dover – Colombo: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
Cape Peñas: 1 transport (UK): Portsmouth – Mauritius: Dönitz with 2nd U-flotte
Western Biscay Plain: 2 transports (UK): Bombay – Dover: Fricke with 3rd U-flotte
Coast of Cádiz: 1 transport (UK): Portsmouth – Malta: Wolf with 4th U-flotte
Axis Military Position Maps
Greece: the Regio Esercito has broken the back of the Greek army, which is in full flight back to Athina. This could be the end of the campaign.
Libia: no progress in North Africa, where hundreds of thousands of Italians are content to look at a few thousand British and Iraqis, even though our military advisers have clearly instructed them that Benghazi is a key objective.
Western China: our embassy in Tokyo tells us the IJA has reported large troop movements by the Kuomintang. Nobody knows what it means.
Eastern China: the IJA is trying to expand their bridgehead over the Yellow River, but the Kuomintang has called for reinforcements from both the Guangxi Clique and Xibei San Ma.
IndoChina: the arrival of Kuomintang and Guangxi reinforcements has meant a halt to the any offensive action by the IJA
Fall Steingarten at end of August 1940
General Hobart is conducting a tactical withdrawal which is reducing the effectiveness of our attack. The Gibraltar Command garrison division has apparently been evacuated, as it has not been sighted for some days. The armoured division is still on the docks, unable to reach the front lines as yet. My brother’s unit (3rd leichte Panzer) is moving up from Montellano.