It has been stated that Marshal Rommel, in planning his campaigns, puts
great emphasis on the capture of British equipment and supplies, and that the
acquisition of large quantities of such booty has been one of the important factors
in the success of his past operations in North Africa.
The importance of captured materiel in the German supply system is illustrated
by a field order issued by Rommel on May 23, 3 days before the start of the
German spring offensive. The order states: "The shortage of raw material and
supplies in Africa makes it necessary to take every opportunity of seizing
enemy equipment and supplies. Units may take with them only such amount of
captured materiel as will not impair their operational readiness; all other
booty will be dealt with by a special Salvage Section (Beuteberge-Abteilung) of
Panzer Army Headquarters.
"A guard is to be left over all dumps and stocks. The Salvage Section will make
arrangements for the security and removal of all dumps and will provide technical
personnel and transport. It is to be in direct communication with the forward
troops. Captured supplies are to be marked in light blue paint with the
words 'Tedesco' (Italian word for German) and 'Erfasste Beute' (captured
booty). Strong disciplinary action is to be taken in the event of any misuse or
destruction of salvage."
On several occasions during the course of the offensive, it was observed
that, at the conclusion of an engagement, enemy salvage parties appeared on the
battlefield and began recovery of transport and antitank guns before the
evacuation of prisoners of war had been completed.
On the other hand, the Germans are equally thorough in measures taken to prevent
their own materiel from falling in serviceable condition into British
hands. For example, German vehicles used in the desert are equipped with
demolition or incendiary bombs, and drivers are instructed to destroy their
vehicles prior to capture. Similarly in a recent visit to the El Alamein
battlefield, it was noted that captured Axis tanks, motor
vehicles, artillery, and anti-tank guns in large numbers had been
destroyed prior to capture.