Rommel’s comments on Australian soldiers [1941-1942]

Following are some excerpts from The Rommel Papers (1953), which reproduces some letters from Rommel to his wife, in three of which he mentions Australian soldiers. Erwin Rommel was the German field marshal who led the German and Italian forces in North Africa during the Second World War.

In a letter dated 25 April 1941 (which, coincidentally, was Anzac Day), he wrote:

“As I stopped at Kirchheim’s H.Q., the Italian force was just halting, unloading its weapons and ammunition and going into position.

I was extremely annoyed and charged Major Appel with the task of getting the Italians forward. He made a great effort, but did not achieve much. With British artillery fire sweeping the whole area, the Italians crept under their vehicles and resisted all their officer’s attempts to get them out again.

Shortly afterwards a batch of some fifty or sixty Australian prisoners were marched off close beside us — immensely big and powerful men, who without question represented an élite formation of the British Empire, a fact that was also evident in battle. Enemy resistance was as stubborn as ever and violent actions were being fought at many points. All the same, I continued for some time to think that we would be able to maintain our attack and take Tobruk. The only question was whether we had enough troops to go on feeding the attack long enough.”

From his 14 July 1942 letter:

“With the sun at their backs, our units fought their way forward from south to north as far as the area between the road and railway, where the attack came to a halt. Fierce fighting followed with the Australians, whom we knew only too well from the time of the Tobruk siege, and lasted well into the night.”

In his 14 July 1942 letter, he said:

“On the moonlight night of the 26th July, the Australians attacked again, this time in brigade strength. Their objective was the German line west of the Alamein-Abu Dweis track. The assembly had been made in all secrecy, and the assault, which was preceded by a violent R.A.F. bombing attack, consequently achieved a considerable measure of surprise. Despite the curtain of fire which was at once put down by the German-Italian artillery, the Australians succeeded in penetrating our front and wiping out the greater part of the German battalion. However, a dashing counter-attack by Combat Group Briehl, 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment and Kampfstaffel Kiehl eventually smashed in the Australian wedge, and threw the enemy back to his own line with heavy losses.”




Source:
B. H. Liddell Hart, The Rommel Papers, London: Collins, 1953, pp. 132, 255-256, 259

See also:
Erwin Rommel, Encyclopædia Britannica
Erwin Rommel, Wikipedia
Erwin Rommel (1891-1944), Biography

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