Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

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Phaing
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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Phaing » 18 Mar 2017 06:29

Here is a full list-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regia_Marina#Destroyers_2

I think that even w/o the Spica, there are still about 4 times as many Italian DDs in the Med.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Kingfish » 18 Mar 2017 12:36

Phaing wrote:Here is a full list-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regia_Marina#Destroyers_2

I think that even w/o the Spica, there are still about 4 times as many Italian DDs in the Med.


Not counting the 7 listed in their Red Sea flotilla, and the 5 of the Soldati class that weren't commissioned until 1942, I come up with an even 50 Italian DDs.

Granted, that is double the number of available British DDs in the theater at this time, but far less than the numbers required to fill out your projected task forces.
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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Phaing » 18 Mar 2017 19:32

Wiki.... so useful, but there are times when I want to punch the screen. The Pilo class are Destroyers. And then there was that fellow with the video. :roll:

Okay, so 50?, but I can compensate-
3 x Heavy groups with; 2 x BBs or BCs , 3 x Light Cruisers, 3 x DDs.

2 x Heavy Cruiser Divs with 3 x CAs, 1 x CL and 4 x DDs.

4 x DD Divisions of 8 x DDs each.

Changes in bold, and leaves 1 left over/in hack. It also makes for groups of 8 uniform, forcing enemy scouts to take a second look to make certain of what kind of group they are looking at. Due to the short ranges often involved in the Med, some of the better Torpedo Boats can fill the roll of a Destroyer in a pinch.

And those TBs aren't nothing, not with 3 x 100mm guns, 4 x 18" torpedoes and a speed of 34 knots. That's the Spica Class, and there are 30 of them. Short range most likely, but this is the Med. IMHO, they would make a great compliment to the western mine barrage covered by aircraft and MBTs.
There are also over 100 submarines. Who knows, some of them might get lucky.

There is also something that Italy starts with and can't afford to lose; the initiative.
That generally gets you a freebie 1st move, but how can Italy keep it?

I am looking at Italian East Africa, and I think I have the answer...

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Takao » 20 Mar 2017 05:00

Phaing wrote:Wiki.... so useful, but there are times when I want to punch the screen. The Pilo class are Destroyers. And then there was that fellow with the video. :roll:

Okay, so 50?, but I can compensate-
3 x Heavy groups with; 2 x BBs or BCs , 3 x Light Cruisers, 3 x DDs.

2 x Heavy Cruiser Divs with 3 x CAs, 1 x CL and 4 x DDs.

4 x DD Divisions of 8 x DDs each.

Changes in bold, and leaves 1 left over/in hack. It also makes for groups of 8 uniform, forcing enemy scouts to take a second look to make certain of what kind of group they are looking at. Due to the short ranges often involved in the Med, some of the better Torpedo Boats can fill the roll of a Destroyer in a pinch.


The TBs will be pinched...Your supposedly going hell for leather all over the Med...Yet, have made no arrangements to protect your merchant traffic that will be supplying your forces.


Phaing wrote:And those TBs aren't nothing, not with 3 x 100mm guns, 4 x 18" torpedoes and a speed of 34 knots. That's the Spica Class, and there are 30 of them.

The TBs are not nothing, but they are close to it.

The 100mm guns are limited in elevation and will be practically useless for AA.
The 450mm torpedoes had smaller warheads than the larger 533mm torpedoes, and they had a shorter range.
34 knots...You do know that was without weapons & ammunition, and as little weight as possible aboard ship. At best, they were operationally capable of 30 knots, and that would be fresh from overhaul and with a clean bottom.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Phaing » 20 Mar 2017 19:13

Takao wrote:
The TBs will be pinched...Your supposedly going hell for leather all over the Med...Yet, have made no arrangements to protect your merchant traffic that will be supplying your forces.


That's the truth. Even with only 2/3rds of the merchant ships in home waters they still had about 2.5 million tons. I think they were lucky to have that much in home waters, but they do need protection.
I was thinking more in terms of seaplanes covering the convoys, but surface ships need to be there too.

Takao wrote:The 100mm guns are limited in elevation and will be practically useless for AA.
The 450mm torpedoes had smaller warheads than the larger 533mm torpedoes, and they had a shorter range.
34 knots...You do know that was without weapons & ammunition, and as little weight as possible aboard ship. At best, they were operationally capable of 30 knots, and that would be fresh from overhaul and with a clean bottom.


So yes, escorts or night-time surface attack is all they were good for, and not very good at that. It seems that they were never really intended to serve with the main fleet at all. Just goes to show; if something looks too good, it probably is.
But that still leaves the Italian Fleet with a good numerical advantage. They should have an excellent chance against the RN.... but massing their strength to accomplish that is an operational activity, no a planning item... so I have to leave that alone to stay with my subject matter.
And the subject is already vast an complex enough


I said I would get into East Africa, so I better do that now.
It is a smaller scale, so we can get into greater detail, and I think it could be the key to making it happen for Italy. The way I see it, there would be three goals there'
Priority ONE; close the Red Sea, thus isolating Egypt.
Priority TWO; Move towards Egypt through the Sudan, to meet and eventually link-up with forces coming from Libya

From Wiki -



Aosta had two metropolitan divisions, the 40th Infantry Division Cacciatori d'Africa and the 65th Infantry Division Granatieri di Savoia, a battalion of Alpini (elite mountain troops), a Bersaglieri battalion of motorised infantry, several Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MSVN Camicie Nere [Blackshirt]) battalions and smaller units. About 70 percent of Italian troops were locally recruited Askari. The regular Eritrean battalions and the Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali (RCTC Royal Corps of Somali Colonial Troops) were among the best Italian units in the AOI and included Eritrean cavalry Penne di Falco (Falcon Feathers)


Italian forces in East Africa were equipped with about 3,313 heavy machine-guns, 5,313 machine-guns, 24 M11/39 medium tanks, 39 L3/35 tankettes, 126 armoured cars and 824 guns, 24 × 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, 71 × 81 mm mortars and 672,800 rifles

In June 1940, there were 323 aircraft in the AOI, in 23 bomber squadrons with 138 aircraft, comprising 14 squadrons with six aircraft each, six Caproni Ca.133 light bomber squadrons, seven Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 squadrons and two squadrons of Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s. Four fighter squadrons had 36 aircraft, comprising two nine-aircraft Fiat CR.32 squadrons and two nine-aircraft Fiat CR.42 squadrons; CAAOI had one reconnaissance squadron with nine IMAM Ro.37 aircraft. There were 183 first line aircraft and another 140 in reserve, of which 59 were operational and 81 were unserviceable.[8][a]

On the outbreak of war, the CAAOI had 10,700 t (10,500 long tons) of aviation fuel, 5,300 t (5,200 long tons) of bombs and 8,620,000 rounds of ammunition. Aircraft and engine maintenance was conducted at the main air bases and at the Caproni and Piaggio workshops, which could repair about fifteen seriously-damaged aircraft and engines each month, along with some moderately and lightly damaged aircraft, and could also recycle scarce materials.[8] The Italians had reserves for 75% of their front-line strength, but lacked spare parts and many aircraft were cannibalised to keep others operational.[10] The quality of the units varied. The SM.79 was the only modern bomber and the CR.32 fighter was obsolete, but the Regia Aeronautica in East Africa had a cadre of highly experienced Spanish Civil War veterans.[11] There was the nucleus of a transport fleet, with nine Savoia-Marchetti S.73, nine Ca.133, six Ca.148 (a lengthened version of the Ca.133) and a Fokker F.VII, which maintained internal communications and carried urgent items and personnel between sectors.[8]
(25 total)



On 10 June 1940, the day Italy declared war, the Italian Red Sea Flotilla had seven destroyers organized into two squadrons, a squadron of five Motor Torpedo Boats (Motoscafo Armato Silurante, or MAS) and eight submarines organized into two squadrons. The main base was at Massawa, with other bases at Assab (also in Eritrea) and Kismayu, in southern Italian Somaliland.[1]



• 3rd Destroyer Division (All Sauro class[8] (1,600 tons full load displacement))
• Francesco Nullo - Crippled by HMS Kimberley and eventually destroyed by RAF 22 November 1940
• Nazario Sauro - Bombed and sunk by 813 & 824 Naval Air Squadrons at 0615 3 April 1941 in position 20.00°N 30.00°E[9]
• Cesare Battisti - scuttled after engine breakdown 3 April 1941.[9]
• Daniele Manin (1,058/1,600 tons displacement) - Sunk by RAF 3 April 1941 in position 20.33°N 30.17°E[9]

• 5th Destroyer Division (All Leone class[8] (2,690 tons full load displacement))
• Pantera - Scuttled 3 April 1941 after being damaged by RAF[9]
• Tigre - Scuttled 3 April 1941 after being damaged by RAF[9]
• Leone - Ran aground and scuttled 1 April 1941 in position 16.15°N 39.92°E[9]


The five MAS were organized as follows:
• 21st MAS Squadron
• MAS 204 - Lost due to mechanical difficulty
• MAS 206 - Lost due to mechanical difficulty
• MAS 210 - Lost due to mechanical difficulty
• MAS 213 - Scuttled 8 April 1941
• MAS 216 - Lost due to mechanical difficulty

The eight submarines were organized in the 8th Submarine Group as follows:
• 81st Submarine Squadron
• Guglielmotti (896/1,265 tons displacement) - Sailed to Bordeaux, France and arrived 6 May 1941[10]
• Galileo Ferraris (880/1,230 tons displacement) - Sailed to Bordeaux, France and arrived 9 May 1941[10]
• Galileo Galilei (880/1,230 tons displacement) - Captured 19 June 1940
• Luigi Galvani (896/1,265 tons displacement) - Sunk 24 June 1940
• 82nd Submarine Squadron
• Perla (620/855 tons displacement) - Sailed to Bordeaux, France and arrived 20 May 1941[10]
• Macallè (620/855 tons displacement) - Ran aground and scuttled 15 June 1940
• Archimede (880/1,230 tons displacement) - Sailed to Bordeaux, France and arrived 7 May 1941[10]
• Evangelista Torricelli (880/1,230 tons displacement) - Sunk 23 June 1940

Other vessels[edit]
• Colonial ship Eritrea (2,170 tons displacement) - Sailed to Kobe, Japan, and surrendered to the Allies in Columbo, Ceylon, when Italy surrendered
• Torpedo boat Vincenzo Giordano Orsini (670 tons displacement) - Scuttled 8 April 1941
• Torpedo boat Giovanni Acerbi (670 tons displacement) - Scuttled in the mouth of the harbor at Massawa as a blockship after suffering heavy bomb damage[9]
• Gunboat G. Biglieri (620 tons displacement) - Captured
• Gunboat Porto Corsini (290 tons displacement) - Scuttled
• Minelayer Ostia (620 tons displacement) - Sunk by British Royal Air Force attack within the harbor at Massawa; all mines still racked
• Auxiliary cruiser Ramb I (3,667 tons displacement) - Sailed to Kobe, Japan. Lost 27 February 1941 in battle against the light cruiser HMNZS Leander.
• Auxiliary cruiser Ramb II (3,667 tons displacement) - Sailed to Kobe, Japan, and placed into the service of the Imperial Japanese Navy when Italy surrendered
• Hospital ship Aquileia - former Ramb IV - Captured and placed into the service of the British Royal Navy


That's just .... weird.
Were the Italians planning to just let it wither away, or were they hoping it could hold out?
Italian military leadership appears to have been totally schitzo on this subject. One the one hand, the fighters are obsolete and few in number, but on the other hand a major effort was made to reinforce them by flying about 50 more in by cargo plane during the war.
There was little mechanization aside from a large number of armored cars, and yet they sent in 24 of those M11 tanks, the newest and best type the army had.
And then there were all those rifles, in a place where they only ever mobilized 370,000 men. Why? Were they to arm the large Italian civilian population so that fewer units would be tied down in garrison duty?
How to treat this all in a rational way and do something with it besides sitting around waiting for your doom?


I don't want to add new types of equipment, especially aircraft, that would only over-burden the existing infrastructure, but a few things really stand out- only 24 of the 20mm AA guns? After reducing and re-organizing the army Divisions back home, we should be able to double that. They could also use a like number of 75mm dual-use guns, and there is a way to get those to them. The Czech Skoda 75mm guns of that type did end up in Italian hands, all we would have to do is speed up the process a few months.

That is all I would risk, but that makes me think about the ubiquitous and uniquely useless CV-33. Instead of trying to use it as a tank, it should be used as a weapons platform to support the infantry. Every other vehicle should be armed with either the 13.2mm Heavy MG, or the Brixia 45mm mortar. That "mortar" is a breach-loader, so it would work (I really hate that thing, but this is one application where it could be worthwhile). This remote theater could be a good test-bed for this sort of thing. This was suggested by T.A.Gardener, and I had my doubts until I found out the one thing I like about the CV-33/35; the ammo capacity.
"Stalk, don't charge" could be their new motto.

And, that is WAY long for one post, more later. :milsmile:

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby T. A. Gardner » 21 Mar 2017 02:14

On the Malta plan... First, Italy only has about a battalion or so of paratroops at the outset of the war. But, that's hardly the least of their problems doing an air drop. What are you going to use to transport the troops? It's not like the RA really has a bunch of paratroop suitable transports laying about.
The seaborne follow up faces two problems: The Royal Navy might well show up, and Malta isn't exactly a beach friendly island.

This plan has serious issues that might well cause it to fail.

With attacking France... The French fortifications in the Southern Alps along the French - Italian border make the Maginot Line look weak. That isn't going anywhere soon.

At sea the RM really, really, needs a carrier or two.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby T. A. Gardner » 21 Mar 2017 19:49

Oh, another point. Italy had more commitments than that plan listed. The Italians had several divisions in the Greek islands and Rhodes. They also committed troops to assist the Germans in Russia and Yugoslavia, along with occupation of part of France, and Corsica. They have additional troops on Sardinia as well. This is in exchange historically for German assistance in North Africa.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Kingfish » 21 Mar 2017 23:34

T. A. Gardner wrote:Oh, another point. Italy had more commitments than that plan listed. The Italians had several divisions in the Greek islands and Rhodes. They also committed troops to assist the Germans in Russia and Yugoslavia, along with occupation of part of France, and Corsica. They have additional troops on Sardinia as well. This is in exchange historically for German assistance in North Africa.


To be fair his WI spells out an Italian blitz right at, or very close to, their DOW. The commitments you call out came much later, and probably would not come to fruition if this WI goes the way of every other Italian adventure.
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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Phaing » 22 Mar 2017 02:32

T. A. Gardner wrote:On the Malta plan... First, Italy only has about a battalion or so of paratroops at the outset of the war. But, that's hardly the least of their problems doing an air drop. What are you going to use to transport the troops? It's not like the RA really has a bunch of paratroop suitable transports laying about.
The seaborne follow up faces two problems: The Royal Navy might well show up, and Malta isn't exactly a beach friendly island.

The Southeast corner was designated, it does appear to be the best place for landings.
And for aircraft, the SM.82 was a remarkable aircraft, but it was just coming into service and only 100 entered cervice in 1940.
So, lets look at the predecessor -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_SM.75
What, the Italians only had one battalion of paratroopers? Okay, fine, how many British fighting soldiers were on Malta at the time? Last I heard, they didn't have much there because they assumed it would be too easy for the Italians to take it in the event of war.


Let me get back to East Africa-




Cr.42; There is conflicting information. There were 9 to a squadron, and either two or three squadrons.
About 50 more were brought in over the air-bridge from Kufra in Libya, packed into the excellent Kangaroo transport planes. The 3rd Squadron was probably formed later with these replacement aircraft at some point.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_CR.42

The Cr.42 did remarkably well in many situations, that may be why they kept making more ... they even shot down Ju-86 bombers and their escorts.
Yes, German bombers, sold off to make a profit pre-war.
To South Africa!
The Germans were right, they were obsolete, and only had three light MGs for defense. The trick was intercepting them in a vast front.


Cr.32; Not nearly as good, 40 mph slower and armed with twin 30-cal instead of the 50-cals on the 42. I was going to make one a dedicated night-fighter unit and the other a ground-attack squadron. However... they can only take on a 100kg. bomb-load. The only way to make that impressive is to load them with the 2kg. anti-personnel bombs. A good supply of those will have to be set up.

SM.79; the best bomber, as already mentioned. There are only 2 squadrons of 6 planes each. Historically, the daylight raid on Aden lost one bomber to flak and another returned as a write-off thanks to flack damage and being intercepted by two Gladiators (one was shot down by the SM.79)
I want to hold the remainder back as torpedo-bombers only, and assign a Cr.42 squadron as their escorts.
This is in keeping with Priority ONE.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_SM.79


SM.81; there are seven 6-plane squadrons, and its NOT a bad plane, with double the guns of the Ju-86.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_SM.81
And check out the bomb-load options-
- 4 × 500 kg (1,100 lb) (stored horizontally)
- 4 × 250 kg (550 lb) (ditto)
- 16 × 100 kg (220 lb) (stored vertically, as all the smaller ones), true weight around 130 kg (287 lb)
- 28 × 50 kg (110 lb) (true weight, around 70 kg/150 lb)
- 56 × 31 kg (68 lb), 24 kg (53 lb), 20 kg (40 lb), or 15 kg (33 lb)
- 1,008 × 2 kg (4 lb) (true weight, around 1,700 kg/3,750 lb)
Incendiary bombs are also an option
These crews are already capable of night operations.

Ca.133, Six Squadrons, of 6 each again. Light Transports doing duty as light bombers, I want 2 Squadrons keeping an eye on the Red Sea, bombing mine-sweepers and dropping flares at night. The rest can raid Sudan and Kenya in the early days (they did, with some success) and later, see below.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caproni_Ca.133

Ro.37; 1 squadron, nine planes, a Biplane Recon plane, its main virtue seems to be its ceiling of 23,600 feet. It can also drop a reasonable bomb load.
I would scatter them in 3 x 3-plane groups to the far corners of the theater, watching for developments from unexpected directions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMAM_Ro.37

There were 183 first line aircraft and another 140 in reserve, of which 59 were operational and 81 were unserviceable. Replacements are at hand, but a lot of these could be used up as sources of parts if more are not sent in.


And there were transports... a pitifully small collection of 25.

S.73 were the best, and so of course there are only 9 of them.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_S.73

9 x Ca.133, again, and six Ca.148 (a lengthened version of the Ca.133)
Interesting, we have the option of expanding an over-stressed transport fleet by using light bombers of the same type.

And there is one Fokker tri-moter, just one. It was probably a civilian plane requisitioned for this campaign.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fokker_F.VII
It is a very common plane, and not identified with Italy.
This could be useful, if we want to get very bold with a commando raid.


Enough about the aircraft, until I get info on exactly what the other side had there. From what I have seen, it wasn't much in 1940.
Hawker Hinds? Jeez....




Army Operations; The first wave will be 100,000 Colonials who are sent out to over-run their British Empire equivalents. And they can do it with a 5-1 numerical superiority and support from the air, which Italy had in the first months of the war. This wave is mainly Cavalry, to be replaced with infantry during the Autumn.

10,000 are going into British Somaliland.
50,000 are invading Kenya, split between Somalis and Ethiopians.
33,000 of the best and most mobile troops, most notably the Eritreans, are going into Sudan along two main axis.
7,000 picked men are going on a special mission; Aden

Somaliland- Only 20,000 total troops will be there instead of the Historical 25,000 for this invasion, but Aden is the reason for this. The British won’t be landing 2 or 3 battalions in Somaliland if they were destroyed at Aden or had to be diverted to defend Oman.

Kenya; One of the biggest things people fail to do is plan for success.
Okay, what if you close the Red Sea, what happens then?
The answer is easy; all the material that was being sent to Egypt by that route will land sort of there, and be used to mount an offensive aimed at opening it back up again. Logically, they will land at a good harbor like Mombassa, Kenya. If they can’t do that, they will simply land farther down the coast at an even better harbor; Dar es Salam in Tanzania.
… and there is really nothing we can do about that.

However; that in itself will delay the same troops that attacked the Italians in November and December until early 1941. It is possible to delay them even more-
In Kenya, it will be Scorched Earth. The norther part of the country can be left livable, that will be our first defensive belt. The mid-section is to be wrecked, turned into a wasteland, even the grass is to be burned, right down to nothing. The south is to be raided heavily, and we can paraphrase the Japanese in China a give the horse & camel cavalry a new motto; “Shoot all, loot all, burn all.”
Hopefully, they will do it in that order…
No regular Italian Army units will be part of this effort. The Division that takes Somaliland and most of it’s supporting units will be arriving there sometime in September, which is exactly when the whole Sherman’s March approach will have run its course, and these Bande will be replaced by more formal Colonial troopers. It was simply a matter of the Natives getting out of hand, don’t you see?
Cynical, yes, but this is Fascist Italy at war.
May as well take advantage of it.

Sudan; This is no raid, this is a serious bit of conquest. Italian East Africa can justify a rescue effort by blocking the Red Sea, but it also has to try to meet that rescue effort halfway.
That halfway point is somewhere north of Khartoum.

12,000 Troops accompany the 65th Division, making that the only front where Italians outnumber native troops.
16,000 head for Port Sudan. Hey, they might get lucky, and these are Eritreans, the fierce ones.
2,000 Camel Cavalry accompany the Groupo Sudani, helping them help the main columns.
3,000 will cross the Ethiopia border with South Sudan, and cut the river and railroad links there, and amuse themselves raising hell in general.

Sudan Logistics;
I can hear it already, but I had the answer before I started this.
The group headed for Port Sudan would have to be the lightest and most mobile troops, what their mules can carry will be it for them. But, they LIVE there, they know what they can do and what they can’t. Groupo Sudani will need a real caravan of trucks to support it, and with what is going on down in Somaliland and then Kenya, that is pretty much the limit of what this theater can provide, right?
So, what about Khartoum?
The Blue Nile, that’s what.
It may seem like going the long way, but not by very much, and your water problem is solved too. But best of all, you have that river, it is navigable and it is flowing the right way. You just raft the supplies down to them, or not even by Italians, but the locals. They have been there for thousands of years, they know what to do. And they will do it, if you PAY them. A kilo or two of tiny gold coins is all it will cost Italy to have the support this offensive needs transported to it.
Just don’t try to pay them in script, or those supplies will be stolen half the time.

Aden; Much of this will be in the Navy section, coming next.
The landing force will need 7,000 native troops, and 1,000 of those will have to be Cavalry of some kind. Those will be about the only troops that will be able to push very far into the interior from Aden.

The remainder of that landing force will be 3,000 Italians of 3 battalions. One Battalion will be the independent Mountain Battalion, Aden is surrounded by mountains after all. The others will come from the Blackshirt Division.
That isn’t a typo. Yes, they were WW1 Vets putting on an act, but there was a Battalion that was made up of Assault Group veterans. There was also a Machine Gun Battalion without their MGs and an Artillery Battalion without cannon… and both of those were made up of University Students. Take the best of those, combine them and put them under the wing of the Veterans. Those College boys should also be good at making use of whatever captured equipment is found in Aden. If we have smart Privates, might as well make the best use of them. A battery or two of 75mm AA guns will be included in any case.
The three left-over CV-33 tankettes and three of those miserable 611 Armored Cars will be going, too.
A little armor is much better than none, and the propaganda value will be immense. Can you imagine what they will think when words gets out; “Enemy tanks are on the Arabian Peninsula!” The phlegmatic Brits, maybe not so much, but what about the Arabians themselves?

One last bit of cynicism; don’t allow any pics of the tankettes when they are next to the armored cars. Those cars make the tanks look very small and insignificant. It may be best to just take a picture of the tracks they make in the sand, headed symbolically towards he Persian Gulf.
THAT ought to give the Sheiks heartburn.

I'll get to how the navy makes this happen later on.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby T. A. Gardner » 22 Mar 2017 03:53

In June 1940, there existed 1 Libyan parachute battalion with about 500 men, and one Italian parachute battalion with about 300. Both had 4 companies. Only the Libyan battalion was really fully trained as the Italian one had been activated less than six months before and was still in training. In July 1940, the Libyan battalion was split to form two units and manpower was recruited to fill the ranks out. Parachute training was moved from Castel Benito outside Tripoli to Tarquinia Italy. The movement of the school further disrupts things just as the war starts.

Interestingly, while the officers and men were considered part of the army, parachute units and their training were controlled by the air force.

So, you'd have the one Libyan battalion, possibly the Italian one, and they'd be organized as 8 total companies with small arms only (eg., rifles and machineguns).

Malta was defended by an infantry brigade (the Malta Infantry Brigade). A second brigade was being raised locally. The British had beefed up the AA defenses early in 1940 also. There were six Glouster Gladiators on the island and another 6 still in crates. 3 were operational when Italy declared war. A dozen Swordfish arrived late in June 1940 from Southern France escaping the fall of that country. These were formed into an FAA squadron, but could have seen service on the island instead.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby T. A. Gardner » 22 Mar 2017 06:14

On Malta in June 1940 the British had the following:

1st Malta Infantry Brigade with:
1st Dorsetshire
1st Devonshire
2nd Queen's
2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers
Each is a battalion of about 650 to 750 men.
In addition, the King's Own Malta Regiment was available in about battalion + strength.

There were 2 companies of Royal Engineers mostly for fortress care and construction.

The 2nd, 7th, and 11th Antiaircraft Regiments RA with 8 batteries along with a searchlight regiment were on the island.

1st Coast Defense Regiment Royal Marines manned some of the larger coast defense guns.

The 26th Antitank regiment filled in for field artillery and light coast defenses. This unit had 2 18 pdr btrys, a 12 pdr battery, 1 6" howitzer battery, and 1 3,7" howitzer battery.

The 4th Heavy Regiment RA with 3 batteries was also present.

I'm not positive, but there was possibly a company / squadron of Mk VI light tanks on the island at the time.

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Phaing
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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Phaing » 22 Mar 2017 17:42

That sure sounds like a lot of stuff was left there after Cunningham pulled the RN's HQ in the Med out of Malta and relocated it to Alexandria. It is a good thing a Marine landing Division is included, as well as 20 x 12.6" guns, 32 x 6" and the secondary guns plus a few hundred aircraft.... but I feel like we are talking past each other. I want to get the plans for East Africa out of the way first before rebounding back into that stuff.
That is where my head is at now, and I want to make sure that part of the plan is accepted before we move on to something else.


In harm’s way… WAY way out there

Closing the Red Sea-
Mines are the main ingredient, but they are nothing in themselves. Mines can be swept, unless there is something there to stop the minesweepers. The MTBs are great for that, their draft is so shallow that they can drive right over the mines, and it looks as if transferring them to Asab is going to have to happen, to make sure that they can be close enough to do some good.
The mining won’t be done at the very narrowest point, the land on either side is French or British. Just north of that is a box about 20 miles on each side, and the shores are either neutral Yemen on the east, or Italian on the west. You leave an opening in the mined areas for our own use, and the best place for one is closest to your own shores, where your shore batteries are.
There are also the SM.79 torpedo Bombers, their fighter cover, and the recon aircraft dedicated to covering this water. It CAN be done, and depriving the enemy of their best base in the area is a huge step in making sure of it.

Between the DDs and the dedicated minelayer Ostia, over 500 mines can be laid in one go, and that is an excellent start. I wanted 500-1,000 more mines stored ashore, and even the lower figure should be able to keep the cork in this bottle.


Taking Aden on Day One-
Doing this at all is as bold as it is unlikely on paper, so how do we do it?
Cheat.
IIRC, that 6pm Ultimatum would make it about 10pm local time.
WE MUST INSIST ON 72 HOURSE NOTICE, for the Italian Armed Forces, from Il Duce. Nobody was overly surprised when it came to pass, so we really have to make him abide by this, or at least give a good War Warning, the phrase the Germans would use.

Given that, the following can happen;
Load up the men on commandeered ships at Masawwa and head south, to Asab. Yes, that name keeps coming up, but the MTBs stay put, for now. Coming to Asab on the last day of peace will be half a dozen Destroyers and double that number of ships carrying the 10,000 men to be landed on Aden. They will pull in, and do their best to appear to be landing their troops at Asab for use against French Djibouti, right next door. The charade ends at sunset.
The reason for this is that Massawa is too far away to steam to Aden in less than ten hours, which is all the darkness you get in that part of the world in June. Asab is only about 120 miles from Aden.

This is when we want our newly-trained night-fighters to be especially active. Once that declaration is issued, the Allies will be on the lookout, not just the French but the Brits too.

When will the mines be laid? Starting at 10pm, as the little fleet leaves Asab and heads out, the DDs fall back and simply drop their mines, and then continue out to Aden. That is the cheat.
And as I understand it, you don’t just drop all your mines in a double-line across the straits, and the Italian Navy was no slouch when it comes to mine warfare. You drop rows of them, diagonally or in other random ways, creating a whole zone of dangerous water. The entire area will be closed to anyone that does not want to get close enough to Eritrea to be within visual signaling range.

Even if you post Night-fighters and picket Subs, you have to expect to be spotted, or that the Brits will know that something is up, so we have to give them something.
Right at the narrowest place, there is an island called Perim. It is worthless and has a magnificent natural harbor, and no water. It was a major coaling stating until everyone went over to oil for their ships. Not EVERYONE, of course, and there was still a small operation there, a British one. Those two Gunboats and Torpedo Boats can sail in about an hour after the Convoy has passed, and just charge in and raise all the hell they can for about half an hour, starting at midnight. They will even have to pass very close to the French coast on their way out.
Convenient, or just good planning?

However, the Cruiser and the Eritrea are still around, but where?
They left the day before, headed for Somalia, apparently. At nightfall they will be rounding the Horn, as if they are going to Mogadishu. Eritrea will instead head for the shipping lanes, and the cruiser will make a big loop around Socotra and make a high-speed run for Aden. The 120 mines on that ship will be laid as a defensive barrier around Aden, and the ship can fire its guns to support the landing.

Between the air raids, the 36 x 120mm and 8 x 150mm guns, and 10,000 men coming ashore, I’d say its a done deal, once all of that is in place. I would estimate no more than 2,000 UK fighting men would be there, and just as many support personnel. The most important part will be getting in quickly enough to secure some booty; mainly, fuel. It is likely to be all they get for a while.
Maybe not ALL, the need to unload everything and get out of there immediately means that a couple of ships will be left behind, to be run aground if the docks can’t be used right away, and this could include the Cruiser. In fact, that might be the best way to go; remove the guns and use them for shore batteries, and save the fuel too, leaving a hulk for the Brits to waste ordinance on.

How long they last is a matter for conjecture. If there is enough fuel, Aircraft can pay them a visit, and medical flights will be made in any case. A few hundred Eritreans can return via neutral Yemen, and Dhows chartered by the Colonial Govt. If rations start running short, this may prove necessary.
The primary job is to secure the place and keep it out of British hands for as long as possible, create a propaganda coupe, and prepare everything for demolition should Aden ever be recaptured. They may last a month, or six months, and while they do, they are to Italian East Africa what this Theater is to Italy as a whole; a diversion of the British war machine to a more distant outpost.
The real point is; the British would have to organize a Division-level attack to get Aden back. That in itself buy the rest of East Africa more breathing space.


I went into a lot of detail with East Africa because I could, it was fun, and because the smaller scale allowed it. And, to prove it can be done this way.
And if it was?

A string of likely victories in Kenya, Sudan and Aden to add to Somaliland (Churchill was upset about that one, it was the begining of the rift between him and Wavell) On top of Malta, Cyprus and whatever happens in Egypt, wow. And all of this happens while the Battle of Britain is still going on. Khartoum could well have fallen before Adler Tag, could all of this knock the UK out of the war?

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby T. A. Gardner » 22 Mar 2017 21:04

While you go on with East Africa, some more on Malta. An amphibious landing faces the following issues:

There is almost nowhere on the coast of Malta to land. You will have to try to do a coup de main and force a landing at one of the larger harbors on the island into a dense urban landscape.
The Italians have no suitable assault landing ships or landing craft. You'd be sending the assault troops in in either ship's boats, or in small ships like trawlers and the like to land at quays and piers.
The RM has zero training and doctrine for naval gunfire support of an amphibious assault. The best you're going to get is them bombarding the island using the various ship's fire controls to direct and hoping you suppress the defenses. That's almost certain to fail.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Phaing » 22 Mar 2017 23:08

T. A. Gardner wrote:There is almost nowhere on the coast of Malta to land. You will have to try to do a coup de main and force a landing at one of the larger harbors on the island into a dense urban landscape.
The Italians have no suitable assault landing ships or landing craft. You'd be sending the assault troops in in either ship's boats, or in small ships like trawlers and the like to land at quays and piers...


Interesting...

Problems closer to home are easier to deal with. Remember the P,O,D, for this one is Planning post-October 1939.
The Germans assembled a huge fleet of barges and tugs and other oddball boats for Sea Lion in a few weeks. I know Italy does not have those resources but a few months should be enough to designate enough suitable shallow-draft boats to move one Division 80 miles. A few cuts for the ramps and some sealant is about all you would need to do ahead of time, plus a few practice landings.

Locations that look good include Mellieha Bay in the north and Pembroke, but the south end that is now called Malta Freeport is what Axis planners were looking at, so I will defer to them. This area offers beaches and docks (I doubt it was as built-up back then as it looks today, but there must have been something) and there is the Hal-Far airfield. All very enticing, Once you have everything within a mile or two of that bay you can just keep feeding troops in until the resistance breaks.

How....

Well, the first thing you have to do is the night before; send in your frogmen and minesweepers to do what they do best. Meanwhile, I want at least 100 sorties flown over the island, bombs falling just about everywhere, especially on crossroads and any transportation assets.
At dawn, there will be no landing yet, but air raids on the air bases and the MTBs that are still in the area. I want about 50 of the Ba.65 ground attack planes there, whose job will be to follow other bombers and attack any AA batteries that reveal themselves in the southern area.
The fleet shows up at about 9am, and they take their time finding the range so that they can make every shot count. They will switch to an intensive bombardment of the landing area at noon, and just hammer away at everything they can see for an hour. Being able to see well should become problem in an hour, and the DDs will fire smoke to make things ever worse.

That is when the landings will start, at 1pm. Naval gunfire splits between the shore and the interior (Hal Far area) and into the gap will plunge the Paratroopers. We will need 40 transport and about 300 combat aircraft to pull this off. Meanwhile, the Navy's ships have ventured within a mile of shore to ensure that their shots hit home, and they don't kill their own men.
We'd have to think of something else if the wind was blowing from the north. Melliaha might be the better option in that case. In either event, it is simply using massed firepower to make an opening, and not expecting your troops to do something they aren't familiar with, such as night operations on a grand scale. Sure, the Parras will get hurt, we might even lose all of them, but if they prevent any counter-attack on the beachhead until it is too late, that's the end of Malta.

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Re: Could the right plan have won it for Italy?

Postby Markus Becker » 27 Mar 2017 18:04

I think that a better plan could have won the war for Italy but not like the OP thinks.

First of all I’d like to point out that Italy was militarily and economically weaker than France, even weaker than Japan. So they are not in a position to mess with France, much less with the far more powerful British Empire.

The sudden Fall of France changed that but the Fall of France was utterly unforeseen by anybody and thus nobody had plans to exploit it.

In case of Italy two additional factors complicate attempts to exploit the sudden opportunity. One, Germany assured Italy they’d go to war sometime after 1940 and two, the Italian military was in the middle of a big modernisation that was scheduled to be completed by 1942 or so.


September 1939:

Contrary to their promises the Germans start a war with France and the British Empire. Italy decides to stay the hell out of it. Considering the Italian experience of the Great War this was exactly the right thing to do.


June 1940:

Now it is too late for Italy to join the war. The Germans have already won it and they won it alone. Why would they share the booty? They won’t! So who about an improvised attempt to grab something? Malta? Egypt?

Let’s leave aside the tactical aspects and stay with the political ones. After the Fall of France everybody assumed the war was as good as over. So there’d be a peace conference and WI the great winning power and the great loosing powers decide to make a peace treaty that requires Italy to give back whatever it got its hands on? Can Italy reject the demands? It could not after WW1. Would Germany support Italy? Why? What did Italy do for Germany when the war hung in the balance? Nothing!

So the reasonable thing for Italy to do would have been to assume it was too late to enter the war and remain neutral. Nothing gained, nothing lost. If they had done that, they could have won big time!


November 1940:

The BoB is over and Germany lost it. Now Italy knows the war won’t be over anytime soon and can make plans to exploit this. And once again remaining neutral is the IMO the best option. Why? One, the British still have plenty of fight in themselves. Not enough to be a threat to the Germans. They utterly lack the ground forces for that. So guess who they’ll target if Italy joins Germany. Italy! By default and because they got the naval power and bases to really hurt Italy.

Of course Italy(and Germany) might win in the end like Italy won in the end in WW1 but it would be a costly victory.

At this time the best option is once again remaining neutral because that allows Italy to benefit from the Anglo-German war. As a neutral Italy is free to trade with both sides. And Italy had what the British needed most.

Merchant ships! The British could have chartered Italian ships. They could have bought new ships from Italy and they could have sent their damaged merchant ships to Italian yards for repairs. Yards in the UK were struggling with that. Labour was getting short and the danger of air raids complicated work after dusk.

Italy would have made a lot of money and a lot of jobs would have been created in Italy. That’s a big win for Italy and an even bigger one for Mussolini. The wise Duce keeps his country out of the war just like his people want it and creates an economic boom in the process. I guess Mussolini would have been really, really popular.



July 1941:

Operation Barbarossa begins and it once again looks like the war will come to an end in the foreseeable future. If the USSR falls the only land power that could have threatened Germany will be gone and Germany will gain control of all the natural resources it needs to nullify the British blockade.

Would it be a good idea for Italy to join the war now? IMO no. The modernisation of the Italian military is still far from finished, the Germans look like they once again won on their own and last but not least:

The USSR looks like it is falling. Unlike France it has not fallen yet and it’s not like the Fall of France ended the war.

As before neutrality is the best option.


Early spring 1942:

Russia has not fallen. The Germans have been driven back a bit. The USA is in the war.

Now it the time for Italy to enter the war!


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