The following notes deal with the Axis technique of laying minefields
in the North African desert. It must be emphasized that an important
Axis purpose in laying minefields is to create and spread fear among
United Nations troops. Cool heads and common sense, as well as a sound
understanding of enemy methods, are therefore "musts" for all personnel.
1. TYPES OF MINES
Although the Germans and Italians use several types
of mines in desert warfare, including captured mines as
well as those of Axis manufacture, it has been reported
that the enemy recently has shown a preference for the
a. German Teller Mine
This is a 19-pound antitank mine containing 11 pounds of explosive (tolite). It
is shaped like a disk, 12 inches in diameter and 4 inches high. The
firing pressure is about 350 pounds.
b. German "S" Mine
The "S" mine is an anti-personnel weapon containing 1 pound of tolite
and 350 steel shrapnel balls. It is cylindrical, 4 inches in
diameter, and 5 1/2 inches high. "S" mines may be fired either
by push-igniters or pull-igniters. These mines are buried, but when they are
fired, they are thrown about 3 feet above the ground before detonating.
c. Italian "B4" Mine
This is a 3 1/3-pound anti-personnel mine
containing 1/4 pound of T.N.T. and scrap metal fragments. It is
cylindrical, 3 inches in diameter, and 5 inches high. In use, B4 mines
are concealed, but not buried. A trip wire is attached to the trigger
of a B4. When the wire is tripped, it releases a striker, which fires
d. "Wooden Box"
A new and unusually effective type of mine has been encountered
during the present Egyptian-Libyan offensive. The mine consists
of a wooden box containing nine blocks of guncotton and measuring
about 18 inches in length, with inside dimensions of the box
given as 11 by 8 by 2 1/2 inches. The mine is fitted with a
sensitive detonator, which is activated by about 35 pounds
pressure. Since the mine is made of wood, the British probe
for the mine with a bayonet, instead of using their regular
mine detector. This is done with the bayonet at an
angle to the surface of the ground, rather than perpendicular.
Most minefields are laid in patterns. Prisoners of war state that
these may vary considerably, and that they are decided upon by the
officer in charge of a particular task, who must take into
consideration local conditions and the type of defense that is
contemplated. Among the patterns very frequently encountered are
the "regular pattern" and the "regular pattern offset."
a. Regular Pattern
This is the most common. Mines in a row are spaced at equal
distances, with equally distant rows, and with the mines of one
row equally spaced between the mines of the previous row. A
variation in this method is to vary the distances between rows. In
no reported case, except for scattered mines, has the distance
between mines in a row been unequal.
b. Regular Pattern Offset
By means of a pacing drill, a certain variety is introduced
into the regular pattern. The distance between mines in any
one row is equal, but one row is slightly offset from the
previous row, and the next row is again offset by a different
distance. Once a few mines have been located, the pattern soon
becomes apparent and mines will be found where expected.
c. Random Mines
In front of most regular minefield belts, and particularly
in front of gaps, there may be found mines scattered at random
and unmarked. These are either continuous at very wide and
irregular spacing, or in groups more closely spaced but not
laid in any pattern inside a group.
The average spacing observed between mines in a row is 6 yards; it has never
been less than 3 yards and seldom greater than 10 yards, except in scattered
fields. The commonest distances observed between rows are 5 yards and 10 yards.
Shallow minefields usually consist of from two to four
rows of mines. Deep minefields generally consist of
several belts of mines with considerable distances between
belts, and with seldom more than eight rows of mines in
any one belt. A single belt may be of any depth up to
Often the front edge of forward minefields is not
marked. The rear edge normally is marked by some form
of fence, usually with a trip wire on short pickets, although
cattle-fence, concertina wire, and rock piles are
sometimes used. Instances of unmarked rear edges have
been reported. The distance between the front fence, if
there is one, and the rear fence may be anything
from 100 to 800 yards.
A common marking is a single row of concertina wire
running along the center of a field parallel to the rows of
mines. In a large minefield there may be several unmarked
rows of mines in front, then a row of concertina
wire, more mines, then concertina wire, and so on, finishing
up with a row of concertina wire on the rear edge.
Only one case has been reported of continuous wire
running irregularly within a field. Little information is
available regarding signs used to mark fields, except those
mentioned under "Gaps" (see par. 7, below). It is believed
that a skull of crossbones indicates the presence of
anti-personnel mines or booby traps.
In rear areas enemy minefields may be expected to be
well marked with cattle fences and warning notices in
German and Italian.
5. USE OF BOOBY TRAPS
No booby traps have been found fitted to captured
British mines used by the Axis. Fields of Teller mines
have been found, with a number of the mines fitted with
booby traps. In one case Teller mines were in groups
of 20, with about one-third fitted with pull-igniter traps and
one-third with push-igniter traps. Teller mines, each
fitted with a pull-igniter and a loop of wire projecting
above the top of the mine as a trip wire, have also been
found, but it has been the exception rather than the rule
to find booby traps attached.
6. USE OF ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES
Increasing use of the Italian B4 anti-personnel mine
was noted during September, 1942, before the British Eighth Army
cracked the El Alamein line. These fields contained some "S" mines, but
mostly the B4's. Spacing of B4 and "S" mines ranged from 7 to 10 yards
between mines in a row. The layout usually consisted
of mines and wooden pegs set alternately, 4 to 5 yards
apart, with trip wires from the mines running to the
wooden pegs on both sides of each mine.
Little information is available about gaps through
minefields, but the following conditions were reported
Widths of 7 and 10 yards were observed.
b. Method of Closing
Gaps are usually closed by means of two or three rows of Teller
mines, with boards placed on one or all of the rows to insure
detonation of mines if a vehicle attempts to pass through. Normally, gaps
are kept closed.
In the northern sector of the El Alamein line, two types
of gap markers were found:
(1) Painted signs.--Painted signs (see fig. 1) may
appear on either side of a gap.
(2) Luminous tubes.--Luminous tubes 1 inch long have
been placed on the tops of mines to mark a route for
patrols. These tubes are visible 3 yards away.
It is reported that gaps are a favorite place for laying Teller mines
without any marking wire or signs. Gaps are sometimes
protected by unmarked groups of mines scattered in front of the gap.
8. TACTICAL SITING
One report states that the minefield is usually 215 yards
to 325 yards in front of the main line of resistance, is
covered by fire, and is observed by outposts. In another
report the distance from the main line of resistance
to the main minefield is given as varying from 215 yards
to 1,080 yards. A listening post was also located by a
patrol 100 to 150 yards behind a minefield. It definitely
can be stated that it is the enemy's practice by day to
cover all main minefields with small arms fire from close
range, and by night to maintain anti-lifting patrols and
outposts, often located within the minefield itself.
9. MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
Until recently most mines were laid on the surface. Now a
greater proportion of fields have the mines buried, but
mines are often badly concealed so that by daylight
their positions can, with practice, be located by eye. This
should not be relied upon, however.
Teller mines, and sometimes captured British mines, have
been found laid two or three on top of one another. The
bottom mine may be laid upside down. Such groups are
A most important point to remember is that the forward edge
of a main minefield is often unmarked. Furthermore, whether
the main field is marked or unmarked, there may be some
scattered mines laid at random and unmarked in front of this
field. Also, enemy minefields normally consist of several
shallow belts laid in depth, with considerable gaps between
belts rather than in one belt consisting of a large number of rows.