An example of the skillful maneuvers of the German rearguard action, on
the British Eighth Army Front (January 1943) emphasizes the Germans practical
use of natural cover and natural tank obstacles.
The foundation of tine German rearguard positions was always the 88-mm gun
with 50-mm AT guns concentrated within the position. For support, reliance
was placed on artillery (105's and 210's, and 75's on self-propelled mounts), tanks,
engineers, and infantry well equipped with machine guns and mortars.
The German rearguard screen or protection in the initial stages (open desert) was at
first deployed over a wide front. Artillery was here used (including the 88's) at
extreme range to hold up the British advance and cause deployment. For this same
purpose, mines were effectively used, including dummy minefields.
The Germans moved their tanks to engage the attention of British tanks and OPs while
concentrating their antitank guns on the British line of advance, and then withdrew
their tanks to hull-down positions.
No attempt was made to withdraw the antitank guns until dusk--in some cases after
dark--when the German tanks invariably moved forward to cover their withdrawal.
Except in close country where natural cover and concealment afforded protection,
the 50-mm guns were always placed in defiladed position.
A covered route of withdrawal was always provided for the antitank guns. Infantry
were placed to protect the antitank guns against infantry attack; the protection
was achieved by machine guns and mortar fire from the flanks and not by men in
front of the guns.
The Germans made good use of both natural cover and natural tank obstacles in the
siting of their guns; however, the damage inflicted was negligible, since it
was preferred to hold up the British by firing at extreme range, rather than
wait until there was certainty of making a "kill."