General question about army units, or SA units at the fall of Tobruk

Discussion in 'South African' started by Meloz, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. Meloz

    Meloz Member

    I don't know if this is a specifically South African question, but can someone explain something to me about how this is set out in the Wikipedia entries?

    At this point Tobruk - Wikipedia it lists a number of British regiments and battalions, and the 2nd South African Infantry Division.

    On the 2nd South African Infantry Division page here, it lists a whole swag of regiments, companies and other assorted names, underneath 3 headings, being one "division" and two "brigades".

    Wikipedia tells me on their Brigades page that "A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Two or more brigades may constitute a division."

    Being fairly unfamiliar with all of this terminology, is there an easy explanation for why and how those SA units are listed, and/or is it all correct and logical the way it has been done? Is it the case that the British regiments and battalions were all under separate command chains, but all of the SA ones came under that 2nd SA Infantry Division (for the purpose of battle or otherwise)?

    (Map attached is from the Agar-Hamilton book listed as a reference in Wikipedia.)

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
  2. Meloz

    Meloz Member

    Does anyone know if it's possible or likely that all of those SA battalions and units became part of the 2nd South African Infantry Division? Would that General Klopper have been in charge of all of them?

    It also says near the top of the Wikipedia entry for the 2nd Infantry Division that
    "On 21 June 1942 two complete infantry brigades of the division as well as most of the supporting units were captured at the fall of Tobruk".
    This seems to suggest that the two infantry brigades listed down the page (4th and 6th) were part of the Division, but the rest of the list (i.e. all of those listed under "Division Troops") were supporting units...?

    My question is really about whether this list of units were for the purposes of that day would have been regarded as part of that Infantry Division, or are they regarded as "supporting units", still answerable to their own chains of command?
    • Die Middelandse Regiment (Machine-gun battalion)
    • 7th South African Reconnaissance Battalion
    • 2nd Field Regiment, Natal Field Artillery, South African Artillery
    • 3rd Field Regiment, Transvaal Horse Artillery, South African Artillery
    • 6th Anti-Tank Battery, South African Artillery
    • 2nd Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, South African Artillery
    • 4th & 10th South African Field Companies, S A Engineers
    Does anyone have any ideas?

    [Edit: This long narrative gives quite a lot of detail Rommel's greatest victory - and tells a bit about Klopper. It's a bit hard to tell, but I don't think that Klopper was necessarily in charge of those other regiments and battalions.]
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
  3. DianeE

    DianeE Member

    Meloz and Tricky Dicky like this.
  4. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    2nd South African Infantry Division.

    4th South African Infantry Brigade.
    1st Kaffaraian South African Infantry Battalion
    2nd Battalion Durban Light Infantry
    1st Battalion Umvoti Mounted Rifle Regiment

    5th South African Infantry Brigade.
    1st Battalion South African Irish Regiment
    2nd Battalion Botha Regiment
    3rd Battalion Transvaal Scottish Regiment

    6th South African Infantry Brigade.
    2nd Battalion Transvaal Scottish Regiment
    1st Battalion South African Police
    2nd Battalion South African Police

    Die Middlelandse Machine Gun Battalion

    1st Field Company S. A Engineers
    2nd Field Company S. A Engineers
    3rd Field Company S. A Engineers
    5tht Field Company S. A Engineers
    19th Field Park Company S. A Engineers

    1st South African Field Artillery Regiment
    2nd South African Field Artillery Regiment
    5th South African Field Artillery Regiment

    1st Company. 7th South African Reconnaissance Battalion
    2nd Company. 7th South African Reconnaissance Battalion
    3rd Company. 7th South African Reconnaissance Battalion

    2nd South African Anti Tank Regiment

    2nd South African Light A.A Regiment

    Anything else was attached. But some units did swap between the first and second divisions during the campaign.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
    Meloz likes this.
  5. Meloz

    Meloz Member

    Thanks Diane. Actually I had come across that document before, but not looked at that specific part. However it doesn't fully explain the details of the 2nd Division. It does say in a note "Klopper was installed as the Tobruk garrison commander prior to its investment on 14 May 1942." - so I'm now wondering if the fact that he was "garrison commander" means that he was in charge of all of the units charged with defending Tobruk?

    David - thanks, that list looks more extensive than the one in Wikipedia - does it come from a reliable source? Is it actually contradicing Agar-Hamilton's version? And if it is, can it be trusted as a better source?

    When you say "anything else was attached", do you mean that the above units were directly under the 2nd Division, but anything else was somehow affiliated but not part of the Division?
  6. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Hi Meloz.

    The above is correct for the end of November 1941. Which is when the final units of the 2nd Division arrived in North Africa. Except for the machine gun battalion, that somehow I missed this morning, and have now added as an edit.

    3rd S.A Field regiment was originally in the 1st S.A Inf Div. perhaps it was transferred to the 2nd by June 1942.
    The 6th A/T Battery was part of the 2nd A/T Regiment.
    The 4th & 10th Field Companies are new ones on me. They may have been replacement units sent out because of earlier losses, as they don't appear to have arrived along with either division.

    I hope that helps.
  7. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

  8. Meloz

    Meloz Member

    Hi David,

    Thanks for clarifying that, much obliged.

    My particular interest at the moment is the 2nd SA Light AA Regiment, but as I consult Wikipedia I try to update their entries with reliable information where possible. That's why I was asking about the source of the information, as Wikipedia requires references to be cited. I've compared your list with the Wikipedia (Agar-Hamilton's) list, and whilst there is a fair degree of overlap, there seem to be units mentioned in each which is not mentioned in the other. But it seems likely that they were moved around (and some decimated) before that June 1942 battle at Tobruk, in which case both Wikipedia and your source are correct.

    The memoir I am working on talks about being split up into small groups or columns, and also "for a short time we formed part of the alleged secret anti-tank defences of the Gazala Line" - so it does sound as if things were rather fluid. Either way, I think that from what has been said above, the 2nd SA Infantry Division included different units at different time. So I think I have the information I was looking for now, thank you. :)
  9. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Hi Meloz.

    The 2nd South African Light A.A Regiment arrived in North Africa in late November 1941. It seems that it was under strength, consisting of only two batteries, the 6th and 7th; each of 12x 40mm Bofors.
    It was previously known as 2nd South African Anti Aircraft Brigade. I am not sure at what date the title changed.
    On the 28th May 1942, it received another 12x Bofors guns. If this a new battery arriving, or just guns to replace losses is not clear.

    I'm sorry, that's all I've got at the moment.

    Kind Regards,
  10. Meloz

    Meloz Member

    Hi David

    Thanks for that extra info.

    This page South African Military History Society - Journal- THE 2ND ANTI-AIRCRAFT BRIGADE, SAA has told me quite a lot about their history, in particular the 4th Battery, and says that the name change happened in Egypt (en route to Libya).

    My information suggests that the 4th Battery was operational first south and west of the Tobruk perimeter (Gazala, El Adem aerodrome), and then within and without it, around that time (May 1942), although no precise date is given. It does however, say "By 19 June we had been moved to “Fig Tree”, a point near the western perimeter with the two RDLI (Durban Light Infantry) boys in front of us and four SA Field Battery behind us." They were subsequently "...involved only in sporadic firing at wandering Stukas and Me109s" and were only told of the surrender around 0800 on Monday (22nd), according to this account.

    That's great. I think I've got as much of a picture as I need.

    Kind regards,
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2017
  11. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Hi Mel.

    Glad to have been of some help.
    Meloz likes this.

Share This Page