Exposition- 8th Dec 1941, South of Sidi Barrani
The last few weeks have been hot. As have the weeks before. And the weeks to come. Every single man in the Staff Company of my batallion has found a different way of coping with it. I, for one, spend most of the day in my command tent, which is not a lot colder than being outside, but at least saves me from the merciless, scorching sun.
My name is Baldo Lupinacci. I'm a Maggiore (Major) and commander of the II (M) Tank Detachment, currently attached to the mobile „Grupo Maletti“, which is posted directly at the front we share with the British.
I have been a soldier for quite a while now, but only very recently came to battalion command when my superior officer, Tenente Colonnello (Lieutenant Colonel) Bagliano, died during the short offensive we started in early December. He has not been killed, but had become a victim of our most grueling foe, Cholera, which has cost us many more men than the few short battles we had in our one-week offensive. I joined service in 1933, and in 1936, a Tenente (First Lieutnenant) by then, saw my first action in the Conquest of Ethiopia. I had distinguished myself, apparently, and over a relatively short time, have risen through the ranks to become 2nd in command of this group of fine young men, and now, finally, lead them.
From September 9th to 16th , our forces advanced about 100km into enemy territory, only to grind to a halt when supplies ran short, and there was not decisive victory over the British in sight, as they simply evaded our advance.
Currently, our Detachment is positioned just south of Sidi Barrani, where the brunt of our Army, the X Army under command of Generale Berti, currently deputised by Generale Italo Gariboldi, is positioned. The Grupo Maletti, named after Generale de Divisione (Major General) Maletti, is the southern anchor of the Italian Position, and is entrenched in what we call the „Nibeiwa Camp“. Well, „entrenched“ is an exagerration. Both hunger and bad morale has led the force to become sluggish, and our positions are not as excellent as they should be. Our 34 „medium“ M11/39 tanks are not exactly in a fine position, but in good shape, although not exactly well stocked with ammo and fuel.
Now, we sit in our foxholes and makeshift emplacements, and wait how this situation is going to play out.
It's morning of the 7th December, I am currently outside smoking one of my very few remaining cigarettes, as a motorcyclist approaches the little road into our camp. After being hailed by the Guard and hastily let through, he drives up straight to my tent. „Are you Maggiore Lupinacci?“ he asks, informally. He is a Sergente (Corporal), obviously tasked with bringing a message to my outpost. I decide to look over his insolent question, and simply ask „What message do you have?“. He takes out a piece of paper from his bag, and hands it to me. „I come from the commanding General.“, he says, and I sense some pride in his voice. „One of his staff officers has been sent home. Syphilis.“. My face darkens. I have heard of the excesses behind the frontlines, and a sense of both anger and envy shortly clouds my mind. I read the note. „Immediately?“ I ask. „Yes. You are to replace him. We are very short on personnel back there, and from our figures, your Detachment should be well stocked.“ he says. „Well, take a look around. 'Well stocked' is not really the term I would choose. Half my men are sick and I am rather short on officers.“. „Well, my orders are clear, I am to bring you to Bardia immediately.“
After the two hours the courier gives me to hand over command to my friend 2nd in command, the now nervous Sergente finally takes me towards Bardia.
Arriving there the same evening, I am immediately brought to the HQ of the Army inside a rather burgeoise building at the heart of Bardia. The Courier leads me inside a room with a big map table. Currently, there seems to be a meeting going on. The Courier salutes. „Generale, I bring you Maggiore Lupinacci as ordered.“ I stiffen. The acting commander, Italo Gariboldi, just glances at him shortly. „Good, good. Dismissed.“ He turns his attention to me, as the Sergente quickly leaves the room. „Maggiore, as you might have heard, I am quite low on staff officers. I understand you have visited several German staff courses and are fluent in their language?“ „Very much so, sir.“. Surprised by his familiar tone, I completely forget to salute, which he, apparently, does not notice. „Very well. You will be a fine replacement in my operations department. You will be assigned to Colonnello (Colonel) Mangiavi and his men. Now, Gentlemen,“ he adresses all his officers in the room, „our supply situation is worrying, but at least the British seem too occupied with other matters instead of taking care of our force.“
„Let us be honest. Our position is not too great. The forward position of the Sibille Division, which itself is not exactly one of the best forces to set foot in this desert, is absolutely unmaintainable should the British decide and attack. The unreliable forces of the Blackshirts around Bardia, the 1st, 3rd and 4th Legions, are at least in a decent position. Our tanks are split up among our forces to support them if needed, and the Grupo Maletti is going to be extremely useful if the enemy approaches down the main road alongside the coast, as we expect it. If that is the case, I am still rather certain that our strong tank reserves will manage to fend them off just long enough for us to bring up our reserves from Bardia and even Tobruk.“
Colonnello Mangiavi, a wiry old man with an impressive mustache, speaks. „Generale, I do very much fear for our southern flank. The Cirene Division is not even ready for operations, and the few tanks they have available are only our L3 tankettes, which, as we have seen, count for nothing against the British models. If the enemy punches through the Sufafi Gap, he has an easy way into the rear of our main forces, and we do not have too much hold them back should they decide to come directly for Bardia!“
The Generale sneers. „No worries. They would not risk operating that far from their main supply lines, and the path through the Sufafi Gap does not allow for any quick operation. I deem our southern flank save just the way it is. Our air reconnaissance and our strike aircraft will prevent any operations towards it and behind our lines with ease.“ He yawns and takes a look at his pocket watch. „Gentlemen, it is late, and we are not going to make any more meaningful decisions tonight. Tomorrow is just going to be another boring day, just as yesterday, and I am fed up of this. I will retreat into my quarters. Dismissed.“ And just like that, he walks out of the room.
< Message edited by HvonMoltke -- 2/26/2019 4:52:47 PM >