Amphibious Assault Plan: May 27-28, 1942

13th Company, 800th "Brandenburger"s Regiment
The Brandenburger units were special German commando forces fluent in Arabic and English, who were used in long range reconnaissance missions and raids behind British lines. Rommel frowned on this type of warfare until the British made an attempt on his lide and headquarters with similar tactics, and from that point on he was more than happy to employ these units for special missions. They usually used captured British vehicles to penetrate the lines, which at times were in total chaos, and some of these raiders almost reached Cairo.
One of the most daring plans was to be carried out by Kampfgruppe Hecker, made up of the 13th Brandenburger Company, elements of 33rd and 39th Panzerjager Battalion, 778th Pioneer Landing Company, and accompanied by the Italian 3rd San Marco Marine Battalion, a total of over 700 men. This was an aborted raid to try and cut the Via Balbia supply route by making an amphibious landing 30km east of Tobruk during the attack on the Gazala Line in May 1942. The attacking force would be transported from Bomba to their objective by four self-propelled landing barges and two landing boats. These were to be preceded by four boats from 6th Minesweeper Florilla based at Derna.
To cover this landing force, five boats of the 3rd Torpedo Boat Flotilla from Ras el Hilal were to patrol ahead and attack any enemy ships they encountered. Five German submarines were also on call to support the operation, and the Luftwaffe would supply the crucial air cover. The tyep of captured British tanks to be used on this mission is far from clear, but the most logical choice appears to be Crusaders, since these would attract the least attention in this time frame. There were also two German S/P guns assigned to this operation and it had been suggested that they might have been the two StuG. IIIs that arrived in Africa with Sinderverband 288, since they reportedly mounted 75mm guns.
One tank was placed on each of three barges, with the Land-Wasser-Schlepper (LWS) on a landing boat. The other equipment was spread among the various crafts and consisted of three 50mm and six 37mm A/T guns; four 2-pdr British A/T guns; ten British trucks; four British armored cars; four motorcycles; three 45mm mortars; over 5000 sandbags; 300 mines; 50 anti-tank charges; plus adequate light and heavy MGs and 10 anti-tank rifles. They were also issued 250 shovels and 250 pickaxes, so they certainly had intentions of filling those sandbags and setting up a determined blocking force. The landing force carried enough ammunition and food for 3 days, and supply by night from the sea would bring additional supplies if they had to hold out longer.
Rommel's orders for the May 26 assault on the Gazala Line close with these lines: "On X+1 Kampfgruppe Hecker will land at Gabr Si. Hameida to block the Via Balbia in the area of Kilometer 136." However, this amphibious operation was never launched, and the reason why seems to have been lost in the annals of time. It is suggested that the required air support was not forthcoming, and that one of the barges had sustained damage. It is acknowledged that the vehicles had been loaded and the force was ready to go, but no orders to proceed were given. Seemingly they disembarked, only to be instructed to proceed with the mission again on May 28th. Then within 20 minutes another order arrives cancelling the operation again. Possibly Rommel felt that the British opposition to the DAK sweep was far more intense than anticipated, and that Hecker's group would be left stranded. Another suggestion is that the British were warned of the proposed landing, either through air reconnaissance or radio intercept, and Hecker was running into a trap. For now we can only speculate and possibly the whole story will eventually surface.

My sincere thanks to Richard Garczynski for his input into this account of a little known operation.

A rear view of a Landwasserschlepper training in Africa.