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June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today.

Malta vs. Compass. Available planes.

Postby BDV on 13 Oct 2010 16:44

LWD wrote: And in any case, even an epic Italian failure at Malta, would be a much cheaper lesson than what transpired in Cyrenaica, few months later.
Would it? I'm not so sure. Especially if the Italians loose the majority of their fleet and cargo ships in the process.


I'd think it significantly cheaper. If Regia Marina takes a big trimdown, at least Italians would stop wasting money on upkeeping the WWII version of HochSeeFlotte (i.e. iron scrap that's worse than useless - being that it antagonizes Great Britain). You gotta think RM would get a few licks in, and RAeronautica a few lucky bombs. So the MedFleet would need some time to lick its wounds too.

120,000 men lost? I cannot see Malta costing italians more than 10,000 men, 15,000 tops.

But just the trucks, artillery pieces, and planes, lost in Compass. What was there? A quarter of Italian army's motorized park? Maybe half of the deployable fraction?

In fact they had so much [motor transport] that we were able to motorise two brigades out of what we captured; ironically but for the captured transport, we could never have pushed so far into Libya, Of particular value were the large 10-ton Diesel lorries of which the 10th Army had large quantities.
David Hunt - A Don at War


And artillery pieces lost, maybe 10 modern 150 mm pieces, maybe 50 Schneiders? 10-20 tankettes - if that? Compass was a steep price for a wake up call, for sure.

Plane-wise all kinds of ungodly figures are bandied about (wiki has 1,200), but I think mid-three figures (4-500 italian planes lost) is a good estimate.

P.S.
For the air attack on Malta Italians could have ~600 bombers (SM79s, Breda Ba 65s, and Fiat BR 20s), ~300 biplane fighters, ~100 modern fighters (Fiat G50s and Macchi200s), and remain with a small reserve of ~400 modern planes (fighters and bombers) and 3-500 biplane fighters. The biplanes, although obviously outclassed if faced with say Hurricanes, would still have matched 1940 bombers, so they could have defended the mainland and Libya.
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Re: Malta vs. Compass. Available planes.

Postby LWD on 13 Oct 2010 17:38

BDV wrote:
LWD wrote: And in any case, even an epic Italian failure at Malta, would be a much cheaper lesson than what transpired in Cyrenaica, few months later.
Would it? I'm not so sure. Especially if the Italians loose the majority of their fleet and cargo ships in the process.

I'd think it significantly cheaper. If Regia Marina takes a big trimdown, at least Italians would stop wasting money on upkeeping the WWII version of HochSeeFlotte (i.e. iron scrap that's worse than useless - being that it antagonizes Great Britain). You gotta think RM would get a few licks in, and RAeronautica a few lucky bombs. So the MedFleet would need some time to lick its wounds too.

They are at war with Britain. It's hard to antagonize them much more than that. Furthermore a decisive defeat at Malta especially if the fleet has taken considerable damage may completely unhinge their position in Africa. Sure RN is likely to take some damage but they can shift units in from elsewhere if they need them.
120,000 men lost? I cannot see Malta costing italians more than 10,000 men, 15,000 tops.

Perhaps not in the actual battle but the fallout will be considerable. Indeed the initial Italian attack may not come off at all if it does it's likely to be less successful and the British counter attack more successful.
But just the trucks, artillery pieces, and planes, lost in Compass. What was there? A quarter of Italian army's motorized park? Maybe half of the deployable fraction?

And this would make their situation even worse both due to an even worse supply situation and the moral impacts.
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Malta vs. Compass.

Postby BDV on 13 Oct 2010 18:43

LWD wrote:But just the trucks, artillery pieces, and planes, lost in Compass. What was there? A quarter of Italian army's motorized park? Maybe half of the deployable fraction?
And this would make their situation even worse both due to an even worse supply situation and the moral impacts.


Still, Britain cannot base any big naval force in Malta because of the Italian airplanes. So Italian ships should still be able to travel to Benghazi and Tobruk. And for morale, a worse blow than Compass, I cannot imagine.

Malta would give a wake-up call to Italians for a fraction of the Compass losses (maybe at the expense of a few expensive pieces of scrap more than OTL).

Without an active Italian threat, I'd presume the British high command would play it safe and focus instead on securing the Levant and East Africa (maybe get a head start on "Free French"-ing Vichy posessions), and let a drole de guerre develop at the Egypt-Lybia border.
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby John T on 13 Oct 2010 23:04

phylo_roadking wrote:
One point to consider is that during a landing at Malta the initiative would been on the Italian side


Actually - not really; during an operation like this, there are many points at which the initiative would pass to the british;

Regarding the landing and ground part I agree but my main point is that IF RN will seriously affect the outcome of an Italian landing at Malta, RN must operate in the waters between Malta and Sicily. And has to that before Italian ground force build up at Malta will reach a level where the Italians are unstoppable.

So Royal navy will have her Initiative heavily curtailed in both space and time relative the way RN did operate.
As I wrote
while the raids on Italian bases where often unopposed due to the Italian lack of reconnaissance. This is one of the few times where the Italian Navy could have a set piece battle. And for once be able to get her light forces to bear on RN.


RN did Raid Rhodes "one week", Bengazi the "second" and then sent four cruisers up the Ionina sea as a feint during Taranto night. And that kind of "Nelsonian" freedom to choose where to show Initiative would not be given if you had to support Malta.


phylo_roadking wrote:1/ if ANY of the many and various large-scale preparations/exercises/training mentioned previously are noticed/detected by the british - the initiative on how to conduct the defence or whether to conduct one at all passes to them...as long as they keep the fact that they know what's afoot secret from the Italians :wink:


Of course not in any way certain given "ANY" , but each adds up towards a trigger level.

to quote you:
John, I would counsel you to avoid making the same mistake that so many other posters in the WI section make....that whereas they posit THE most amazing PODS on behalf of one party....they demand that the other side hold rigid to the historical, OTL circumstances!


cheers
/John
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby sallyg on 13 Oct 2010 23:28

This is quite the thread.

Sadly its does not contain any issues not argued to death in the Sealion threads.

The conclusions seem to be the same. Due to lack of a credible capacity the invading force would get their butts kicked.
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Re: Malta vs. Compass. Available planes.

Postby JonS on 13 Oct 2010 23:41

BDV wrote:I'd think it significantly cheaper. If Regia Marina takes a big trimdown, at least Italians would stop wasting money on upkeeping the WWII version of HochSeeFlotte (i.e. iron scrap that's worse than useless - being that it antagonizes Great Britain). You gotta think RM would get a few licks in, and RAeronautica a few lucky bombs. So the MedFleet would need some time to lick its wounds too.

120,000 men lost? I cannot see Malta costing italians more than 10,000 men, 15,000 tops.

But just the trucks, artillery pieces, and planes, lost in Compass. What was there? A quarter of Italian army's motorized park? Maybe half of the deployable fraction?

In direct costs, maybe, but indirect costs would tot up pretty quick. For starters: Lybia would collapse tout de suite since the RM is now out of the picture.

Which means that a failed Malta costs the forces lost there, plus all the forces lost in COMPASS, plus whatever else was left in Africa.
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby phylo_roadking on 14 Oct 2010 00:39

The military that gifted the Axis Krete and Singapore, and got pushed by the same italian infantry with its backs to Alexandria. Twice.


No - the same military that held Tobruk, took the war TO the Italians in the Western Desert in the summer of 1940, destroyed the FJ as an airborne/airlanding force on Crete....oh,. and the same military that put 250,000 Italians in the bag at the end of 1940....as well ats the military that invaded Syria/Lebanon etc., etc.

I'd think it significantly cheaper. If Regia Marina takes a big trimdown, at least Italians would stop wasting money on upkeeping the WWII version of HochSeeFlotte (i.e. iron scrap that's worse than useless - being that it antagonizes Great Britain). You gotta think RM would get a few licks in, and RAeronautica a few lucky bombs. So the MedFleet would need some time to lick its wounds too


A few lucky bombs? See back up the thread for how many lucky bombs they managed to hit.....or not....Cunningham's fleet with at Calabria in this timeframe. As for the RN having wounds to lick? So what??? Once the RM is incapacitated off Malta...exactly who ELSE is there for Cunningham to fight in the Med? 8O

if the fleet has taken considerable damage may completely unhinge their position in Africa. Sure RN is likely to take some damage but they can shift units in from elsewhere if they need them.


Exactly; and even though the RN in the Med was significantly weakened by mid-1941 - I don't see the Italians historically being willing or able to advantage of that weakness :wink: So why should they be able to/be willing to ATL with even fewer surviving assets as a result of the Battle of Malta???

The biplanes, although obviously outclassed if faced with say Hurricanes, would still have matched 1940 bombers, so they could have defended the mainland and Libya.


At NIGHT? :wink:

my main point is that IF RN will seriously affect the outcome of an Italian landing at Malta, RN must operate in the waters between Malta and Sicily. And has to that before Italian ground force build up at Malta will reach a level where the Italians are unstoppable.


John - did you actually READ the earlier pages of this thread? That's a serious question.

Because if you had you'd have seen that Cunningham is only 36 hours away - while his carrier air group can attack the RM off Malta in only 24 hours.

There's no way - landing by ships' boats etc., and climbing up coastal or cliff paths - that the Italians can reinforce AND supply the bridgehead ENOUGH in that short a time.

RN did Raid Rhodes "one week", Bengazi the "second" and then sent four cruisers up the Ionina sea as a feint during Taranto night. And that kind of "Nelsonian" freedom to choose where to show Initiative would not be given if you had to support Malta.


John - Cunningham doesn't NEED "Nelsonian freedom"....for the RM gathered off Malta gifts him with the ability to engage the RM in the decisive gun action of the Mediterranean war. After that - the RM has no "fleet in being" presence to cast, the RN is even freer to operate than it was historically.

to quote you:
John, I would counsel you to avoid making the same mistake that so many other posters in the WI section make....that whereas they posit THE most amazing PODS on behalf of one party....they demand that the other side hold rigid to the historical, OTL circumstances!


John - that's exactly my point; several posters here through this thread have assumed that ALL this can be prepared without the British getting either HUMINT or ELINT about any/all of the preparations...and even if they do, that they'll disregard the threat to Malta! Historically the British made the assumption that the greater threat was to the Delta - and so it turned out to be in 1940; do you honestly think that if they detected preparations for an amphibious attack, or for basing increased numbers of aircraft in Sicily rather than in Libya, for example.....that their decision, their judgement call on the potential threat - would remain the same???
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby David Thompson on 14 Oct 2010 16:51

Two posts -- one from JonS and the other from The_Enigma -- which employed low forms of speech were deleted by this moderator pursuant to the forum rules - DT.

2. Low forms of speech

We have intelligent readers here, so low forms of speech are unwelcome. We're trying to move past the lavatory wall stage in discussing historical problems. Noncomplying posts are subject to deletion after warning, and in extreme cases, to deletion with no warning at all.

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Re: Malta vs. Compass. Available planes.

Postby RichTO90 on 14 Oct 2010 19:39

BDV wrote:But just the trucks, artillery pieces, and planes, lost in Compass. What was there? A quarter of Italian army's motorized park? Maybe half of the deployable fraction?


Um, no, Tenth Army was just one of ten armies deployed by the Italians at the start of the war and was by far from being its most modern or mechanized. That one - and only one - was Sixth Army in the Po Valley, where it could be sent east to Yugoslavia or west to France. It had two of the three armored divisions (the third was in Albania), both motorized infantry divisions and all three Celere divisions. The divisions in North Africa were at best partly motorized and relied on army-level truck units for fully motorized movements.

And artillery pieces lost, maybe 10 modern 150 mm pieces, maybe 50 Schneiders? 10-20 tankettes - if that? Compass was a steep price for a wake up call, for sure.


The Italian forces in North and East Africa were the least modern around. But losses were pretty much total...over 1,200 artillery pieces of all types including 20mm AA, 65mm, 75mm, 105mm, and 149mm. All the 149mm in Tenth Army were the elderly Cannone de 149/35...four battalions of them and Fifth Army had the same. The loss in tanks was actually pretty severe. Essentially all of the tankettes in Tenth Army were lost as were the two battalions of M13/40 sent as reinforcements. I've got the exact numbers somewhere, but roughly 200 light and 80 medium tanks were lost by the end of January 1941.

Plane-wise all kinds of ungodly figures are bandied about (wiki has 1,200), but I think mid-three figures (4-500 italian planes lost) is a good estimate.

P.S.
For the air attack on Malta Italians could have ~600 bombers (SM79s, Breda Ba 65s, and Fiat BR 20s), ~300 biplane fighters, ~100 modern fighters (Fiat G50s and Macchi200s), and remain with a small reserve of ~400 modern planes (fighters and bombers) and 3-500 biplane fighters. The biplanes, although obviously outclassed if faced with say Hurricanes, would still have matched 1940 bombers, so they could have defended the mainland and Libya.


Yet another repeated assertion that goes along with another question that has been asked before...where do they all go? :roll: The Sicilian airbases are 100 to 300 kilometers away, Pantelleria is 250. There are 22 airfields on Sicily and one on Pantelleria. All are already occupied by 2nd Air Army units...about 80 fighters and 120 bombers. So to get the rest you simply fly in every other operational Metropolitan Italian air unit in existance?

Uh...yeah... :roll:
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby phylo_roadking on 14 Oct 2010 19:59

Just a minor aside...but let's not forget that at the turn of the year the GREEKS were also to take plenty of materiel, including CV's, and turn them against their former owners/builders too.... :wink: All told, the Italians gave away quite a lot in 1940!
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Re: Malta vs. Compass. Available planes.

Postby BDV on 14 Oct 2010 21:30

RichTO90 wrote:The Sicilian airbases are 100 to 300 kilometers away, Pantelleria is 250. There are 22 airfields on Sicily and one on Pantelleria. All are already occupied by 2nd Air Army units...about 80 fighters and 120 bombers. So to get the rest you simply fly in every other operational Metropolitan Italian air unit in existance?


They would need to, and what would stop them from doing it? That's the only area where they could create any sizeable advantage.

Allegedly of the 3000 planes Italians had available in June 1940, only 60% were operational. If they fly 1,000 against Malta that leaves 800 for defense/reserve.

There should be at least another 27 airfields in Calabria, Tripolitania, and Cyrenaica. Works out to 20 airplanes per airfield. Italian airfields may be small, and ground crews lazy/incompetent but is it too much to expect them to handle 20-30 planes?!

The bombers had longer ranges (SM79, Fiat BR20 > 2,500 km), can come from Lybia and Calabria, while fighters (CR42 ~750 km, but Macchi200 only ~550 km), which also need to loiter a bit, would fly from the nearest airfields.

It's very reasonable to argue that Italians would fail miserably to coordinate 1,000 planes coming from ~30 airfields, but they had the physical means (planes and airfields in range) to do it.
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby phylo_roadking on 14 Oct 2010 21:46

Allegedly of the 3000 planes Italians had available in June 1940, only 60% were operational. If they fly 1,000 against Malta that leaves 800 for defense/reserve.


Three thousand combat aircraft....or did - like the RAf and LW - that total include transports, single and twin-engined ab initio and advanced trainers, communications aircraft, maritime patrol flyingboats and seaplanes, recce aircraft...

It's very reasonable to argue that Italians would fail miserably to coordinate 1,000 planes coming from ~30 airfields, ....


Hmmm, I wonder how the Luftwaffe did it in the summer of 1940...

Oh yes - they loitered for up to an hour over France formating and waiting for the shorter-range fighter escorts to formate with them - thus showing up nice and big on RAF radar screens. Really smart idea.
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby JonS on 14 Oct 2010 21:48

David Thompson wrote:Two posts -- one from JonS and the other from The_Enigma -- which employed low forms of speech were deleted by this moderator pursuant to the forum rules - DT.

Fair enough. Can we presume that the rule about insults will be applied with equal vigour, and all the insultingly stupid posts removed?

* No insults are tolerated

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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Postby phylo_roadking on 14 Oct 2010 21:52

P.S.....as I DID mention up the thread...

If the Italians remove all their air assets and all their inshore naval capacity from everywhere else in the Med to support and protect this operation - exactly WHAT is there to stop the British - on the outbreak of war with the Italians - from rolling up Rhodes and the Dodecanese with three men and a rowing boat??? :lol:

A Malta operation in 1940 makes the Italians vulnerable in MANY areas...
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Re: Malta vs. Compass. Available planes.

Postby sallyg on 14 Oct 2010 21:57

Just following along, your post posed some questions for me.

BDV wrote:There should ?? be at least another 27 airfields in Calabria, Tripolitania, and Cyrenaica. Works out to 20 airplanes per airfield. Italian airfields may be small, and ground crews lazy/incompetent but is it too much to expect them to handle 20-30 planes?!


Clarity please. Do you mean;
1) there are other documented airfields of which Rich is unaware?
2) the operation required the use of these additional airfields?


BDV wrote:but they had the physical means (planes and airfields in range) to do it.


So these 27 airfields did exist. Given that Rich is who he is I'm going to have to ask you for a source on that claim.

Please don't mean Calabria, Tripolitania, and Cyrenaica.

Because Calabria is about 250 KM from Valetta, Tripoli is 350 KM and Benghazi (Cyrenaica) an amazing 650 KM.

Sicily is a mere 100.
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