The report which follows is the result of British experiences in one of
the campaigns in Cyrenaica, as indicated in a British document. Minefields
played an important part in this fighting.
a. In Consolidation
Until such time as antitank mines can be brought forward in bulk by
night, the early consolidation of a newly captured position can be very greatly
strengthened by the laying of a limited number of mines in order to restrict
the probable avenues of enemy approach. An armored vehicle in engineer units
is desirable for this purpose, though its design offers considerable difficulty, since
it must resemble other armored vehicles in the vicinity and still have an
adequate carrying capacity (two diametrically opposed characteristics).
The campaign in question proved once again the paramount importance
of minefield records, and it is clear that this problem received insufficient
attention. Casualties were reported as resulting from the absence of records on
the location of British antipersonnel mines, and the records kept of the numerous
antitank minefields were often far from complete.
c. Marking of British Minefields
It should be noted that the majority of British casualties caused by
British antitank and antipersonnel mines were due to carelessness with respect
to the marking of the fields and notification of their presence. For this
problem, no solution has been found either by the British or by the
enemy, whose minefields are often marked by the wrecks of their own
vehicles, and the vicinity by the graves of their own men. One difficulty
was that there was no standard system of marking the minefields. One of a
number of systems suggested was that in rear areas they should be marked
with tin triangles painted black and hung on barbed wire, supported on
either long or short stakes; it is essential that the stakes be placed
firmly in the ground. In forward areas, a 2-inch white tape has been
suggested, over-printed every yard with a black triangle and supported
on short stakes; the tape would be issued with the mines from the advanced
railhead, or packed in each box of mines at the base. The quantities of
supplies involved would be considerable.
The decision as to whether minefields should be marked rests with the
commander, who should realize that what denotes a minefield to friendly
troops may also disclose its presence to the enemy.
d. Clearance of Enemy Minefields
In attacks on fortified enemy positions, mine detectors were used with
success, through some difficulty was experienced in their operation in the noise
of battle. In addition, they cannot, of course, be used under actual shell fire or
aimed small-arms fire. There would appear to be a call for a type of detector
with a visual indicator which can be operated from within a tank.
The best method of clearing minefields is still neutralization by hand
under cover of darkness. Where mines have to be dealt with during daylight, the
operation must be covered by smoke. On the enemy side of the main obstacle, when
all surprise had been lost, a gelignite cordtex net was used for clearing
lanes for the tank advance.
In one area, as a deliberate operation, 70,000 antitank and antipersonnel
mines were cleared, and 100 miles of warning fence were erected; all this was
done by 3 field companies in 25 days. Eighty percent of the mines cleared were
laid by the enemy, and all had been subjected to shell fire and blast over a long
period. Casualties during the 25 days were 16 killed and 13 wounded. This was
considered a very fine piece of work under the circumstances.