The following is a report on an enemy minefield encountered by the British during the
fighting in Libya in late 1941.
All the mines were German Tellermines, which are antitank mines shaped like a plate and
weighing about 11 pounds.
Many of these mines had pull-igniters screwed into the bottom as anti-lifting devices, and
occasionally mines were laid upside down to increase the difficulty of disarming the main
fuse. The mines were laid at very irregular intervals, but always on or near a desert
trail. The mines laid across trails were generally marked with small piles of stones
at the corners of the field. Mines were also laid along trails and these were apparently
marked by piles of stones at either end of the mined section.
In some instances, places where mines were laid showed signs of the earth having been
disturbed, but in others there was no such indication of mines because the ground had
become smooth and sun-baked, owing to rain and sun.
Where trails ran through scrub, loose pieces of scrub, sometimes with booby traps
attached, were placed on top of the mines as camouflage.
In several places a single strand of wire had been strung on tall stakes marked with
warning or notice boards. These boards carry the
inscription "ACHTUNG MINEN," or "ATTENTIONE MINA," or "ATTENTION MINES." The
wire itself, although attached to booby traps, did not protect live minefields, which
were invariably placed to one side of the wire, approximately in prolongation of it.
Dummy minefields were also encountered; these were completely wired in, and contained
tins sunk into the ground with occasional booby traps attached to them. Gaps between
dummy minefields were invariably sown with live mines.
A notice board with skull and cross bones painted on it always indicated booby
traps. (This must not be taken to mean that all German booby traps are marked; the
contrary is generally true.) These consisted of small standard charges ignited by
standard German pull-igniters. The igniter may be attached by fine binding-wire to
stakes in a wire fence, direct to the wire, to trip wires placed a few inches above
ground, to stones which support stakes, or to the notice boards themselves. Booby
traps also were generally laid in the scrub on either side of the trails. Occasionally a
second booby trap was placed underneath the first to make the removal more difficult.
Booby traps could be detected by close scrutiny for anything out of the ordinary, i.e., notice
boards facing, or in sight of, the enemy, loose strands of wire, sticks with wire
wrapped round them, old explosive wrappings, etc. Stakes with booby traps underneath
them were normally dug in, while others were driven in. White wood stakes
protruding 6 inches above ground and connected by inconspicuous trip wires
were sometimes found. These could usually be identified by the presence nearby of
small excavations, containing explosive.