In the late spring of 1942, both the Germans and the British on the
Gazala--Bir Hacheim line were building up strength for offensive action and, at
the same time, organizing their own defensive systems to repulse the expected
enemy attack. A captured German order issued by the Commander of the 15th
Armored Division contains several interesting notes on these German defensive
Comparing the position of the division to that of a "spider lying in wait... for
its victim," the commander ordered all elements of the division to be ready
for action as follows:
(a) All front-line troops, immediately upon attack by the enemy;
(b) A specially designated task force, within an hour;
(c) The remainder of the division, within 3 hours.
Instructions were given for thorough ground reconnaissance to be
carried out by all units down to and including platoons. Artillery observers were
ordered to take positions much farther forward than normally, since "otherwise,
after the first shot, dust develops and there is no possibility for direction of fire."
Apparently a tank company, in addition to the normal armored-car
patrols, was to be held in readiness for action at all times. This company,
however, was not to be committed unless the enemy attacked in force, and above
all, was not to engage routine enemy patrols.
Just as the tank company was to be held as a reserve, the remainder of
the division's tanks was not to be committed until the artillery and Panzerjäger units
had engaged the enemy. Apparently, the German commander expected the
British attack to consist primarily of tanks.
In addition to the regular minefields, dummy minefields were ordered
laid. The commander emphasized that a great deal more attention should be
given to making these fields realistic, pointing out that a captured British
document indicated that the German dummy minefields were ordinarily too easily
distinguished from the real ones.
Knowing that the British had a justifiable fear of the 88-mm gun, the
commander ordered that dummy 88's be constructed with trucks and old telephone poles.
In addition to these measures of deception, dust generators (no description
given) were to be used for simulating vehicle movements; and captured
British trucks were to be camouflaged as tanks.
Great emphasis was laid on utilizing existing materiel to the utmost to
achieve greater combat effectiveness. Unit leaders were requested to submit
suggestions on how a larger amount of ammunition and fuel could be carried by
the existing transport facilities. In this connection they were asked to discard
all possible material and equipment which would be unnecessary for combat.