The British Engineer-in-Chief, Middle East, reports that as far
as he is aware no anti-tank obstacles were met other than anti-tank
mines and ditches outside Tobruk. With regard to the latter, during
recent operations a Field Company constructed eight class 24 tank
bridges (capacity about 25 tons) in one night over an anti-tank ditch
18 feet wide by 8 feet deep. They were constructed of eight reinforced
steel joist beams for spanning. 12" x 5" and 4" decking was used. The
bank seats were 10" x 10" timber and had been laid a few days previous.
The reinforced steel joists were wrapped in hessian (a heavy fabric) to
deaden the noise. The first four bridges were completed by 0100 hours
and the remainder by 0400 hours.
The officer commanding an Italian infantry regiment, who was taken
prisoner, said under interrogation, "The sapper work in putting 8 tank
bridges across the anti-tank ditch on the eastern sector was carried
out in an impeccable manner. We did not know nor did we hear anything
while they were being put across. The first thing we heard or saw
were British tanks."
From an operational point of view the bridges were entirely
It is believed that this description of British bridging of anti-tank
ditches gives an unduly optimistic picture of the ease of the
operation. The reference seems to be to the original capture of Tobruk
from the Italians. If so, the explanation lies in (a) the fact that
the ditch was outside the obstacle (wire and mines) system; and (b) the
fact that the Italians, in that campaign, were push-overs.
(M/A Report, London, No. 47672.)