Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by phylo_roadking » 31 May 2009 15:23

I-M - not Franco himself, that's why I put "bought and paid for" in parenthesis :wink: Franco's Spain and it's policies regarding the war. We have too much of a tendency to "personalize" states in the period.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Ironmachine » 31 May 2009 21:17

There is certainly such a tendency to personalize. In this case it could have produced a false idea about Franco's foreing policy in 1940-41, that's why I asked. Thanks for the clarification.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by phylo_roadking » 31 May 2009 22:28

I-M - just as an aside...is there any hint that March was cogniscant of or was to play any part in the sabotage/covert action in Spain elelment of the 1940 Operation Goldeneye?

I would be suprised if at the very least his knowledge of affairs wasn't canvassed...

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Ironmachine » 01 Jun 2009 07:24

Never heard about that (but on the other hand I'm far from being an expert on that field. :wink:). Interesting point, though. It would have depended heavily on how much confidence the British really had on March not being a double agent, I suppose, or how much information they could obtain from him without revealing their purposes.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Jun 2009 14:30

Hi Phylo,

No, Williamson Murray doesn't give a breakdown for the figures for either 4/5/40 or 29/6/40. I presume that both include a small proportion of types other than Ju52s.

I am sorry if my production of statistics and sources additional to your own doesn't meet with your approval. Rather than instinctively kick against them, why not just assimilate them into your calculations? Your calculations indicate Luftwaffe transport strength in mid 1940 was at about 60% of the Crete figure. Williamson Murray's stats indicate that they may have been as high as about 80%. Either way, most of the resources later used against Crete were potentially available, including transport aircraft. We aren't actually in fundamental disagreement.

Why might it be less practicable to evacuate Malta by sea than Crete? Because more and better Axis air and naval bases were closer and the British naval and air bases in Egypt were much further away. Besides, on Malta itself there was much less strategic space behind which to conduct an evacuation than on Crete. Any post-invasion evacuation from Malta would necessarily start with Axis ground forces closer to the embarkation point than on Crete and with less natural obstacles between them.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Jun 2009 14:41

Hi Ironmachine,

Certainly far larger, and probably more influential than any buying by the Allies of any individuals in Spain, was the line of credit that the USA gave to bankrupt Spain from 1940 to buy food in Latin America, particularly Argentine beef. The British then had the threat of a naval blockade to hold over Spain. Either the USA or the UK could thereafter create starvation in Spain by financial and/or naval means that the Axis powers could not alleviate due to their own growing nutritional problems and the poor transport infrastructure for delivery and distribution.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Jun 2009 14:52

Hi Bf109E,

The Malta attack would go in before Crete, so the losses of Crete wouldn't be an inhibiting factor in the Malta case.

Reliable British ground defences on Malta were few in 1940 - only four regular infantry battalions and the local regular Royal Malta Artillery. And they had to cover a relatively long coastline. I would suggest that once the Axis were ashore, the game was pretty much up. Only air or naval interdiction was likely to prevent this. Malta's offensive air strength was minimal in 1940 and we know that once the Luftwaffe appeared the Royal Navy had to abandon Malta as a surface naval base for all but coastal forces - which were also weak in 1940.

The best British chance was, as Phylo suggests, outside naval intervention by the Royal Navy, but its bases were half the Mediterranean away, so their reaction time would be impaired and their approach would be vulnerable to both the Italian fleet and the Luftwaffe.

I think the odds are in Axis favour.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by phylo_roadking » 01 Jun 2009 20:05

I am sorry if my production of statistics and sources additional to your own doesn't meet with your approval. Rather than instinctively kick against them, why not just assimilate them into your calculations?
Sid - it doesn't need to be "instinctively kicking" against something to point out we weren't talking about the Luftwaffe's overall transport capability - just the number of Ju52s and their capability to mount airborne assualts. If we HAD been discussing overall transport capability - then your material would have been of interest, Sadly
Your calculations indicate Luftwaffe transport strength in mid 1940 was at about 60% of the Crete figure. Williamson Murray's stats indicate that they may have been as high as about 80%
...Murray's stats about overall transport strength don't reflect how much of that the FJ could make use of.
Any post-invasion evacuation from Malta would necessarily start with Axis ground forces closer to the embarkation point than on Crete and with less natural obstacles between them
...and the defences already clustered around the probabale embarkation points - which can themselves handle a greater through-put than evacuating from a beach somewhere; look for instace at the evacuation numbers/rates from Dunkirk port and Mole compared to directly from the beaches.
The Malta attack would go in before Crete, so the losses of Crete wouldn't be an inhibiting factor in the Malta case.
Crete wouldn't go ahead if the Italians didn't invade Greece. It would of course be Neutral territory...and Crete wouldn't even be "unnecessary" to the Axis - given the airfields on Rhodes and Dodecanese.

On the other hand - if Malta happened first, and Greece happened OTL - then the losses on Malta would be an inhibiting factor on Crete....
Malta's offensive air strength was minimal in 1940
Already discussed as above; it wouldn't stay minimal...the RN had a proven ability to reinforce Malta's air strength through 1940.
once the Luftwaffe appeared the Royal Navy had to abandon Malta as a surface naval base for all but coastal forces - which were also weak in 1940.
I don't think Force K could be described as "coastal forces"... OR weak - given what they achieved; nor was it the Luftwaffe which led to its demise.
outside naval intervention by the Royal Navy, but its bases were half the Mediterranean away
As per the UK - the British would put anti-invasion RN light forces into Malta, as they did on the South coast of England in 1940. And unlike Crete and Suda Bay - Valetta allows them to re-arm and re-sortie on a regular basis until the outcome is decided one way or another, the same as the 1940 anti-invasion flotillas proximity to the UK would have allowed them to do. And given that Force H AND the East Med squadron were at various times willing to make fast dashes to enter Italian ports and do damage, both in 1940 and 1941...
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 01 Jun 2009 21:44, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by bf109 emil » 01 Jun 2009 21:38

Sid and Phylo, what was the strength or abundance of Italian amphibious craft available in 1940 to attempt a Malta Invasion? I am a tad leary, whether even if the RN is a good distance away that an amphibious force could have snuck or landed prior to RN capital ships being involved...as I assume this what if thread being slightly accurate...would also have called for Luftwaffe forces to begin establishing bases and details of there role to be played would have been read at Bletchley Park and seeing how this would take not a day or 2 but more so IMHO over a week, i think the surprise or at least the building of Amphibious forces as well as Luftwaffe transfer of planes would have been detected so a surprise landing or one which might need a cloak of secrecy to be successful wouldn't have happened and it would have ended up in laments terms "a slugging match"

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Jon G. » 02 Jun 2009 03:32

Sid Guttridge wrote:... Malta's offensive air strength was minimal in 1940 and we know that once the Luftwaffe appeared the Royal Navy had to abandon Malta as a surface naval base for all but coastal forces - which were also weak in 1940...
Malta's coastal defense may have been strong enough to ward of an attack in 1940, although we of course can't know because it was never tested.

However, in the inter-war years, especially the RAF took a very pessimistic view of the feasability of defending Malta. The Royal Navy was somewhat more optimistic. There was general agreement between the two services that the British Mediterranean fleet would withdraw to Alexandria the moment Italy entered the war, which indeed was what happened. In fact, the British Med fleet was also withdrawn from Malta during the Abyssinian crisis. In fact, it has been argued (in the article which I am posting a few scans from, below) that the percieved weakness of Malta was part reason why Britain didn't take a harder policy on Italy's actions in Abyssinia.

All scans from Michael J. Budden Defending the Indefensible? The Air Defense of Malta, 1936-1940, War In History, no. 6 (1999), first is a foot-note, other scans are from the article proper.

Image
Image
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...I would agree with you that the Germans and Italians in collaboration could probably have taken Malta by a joint assault in 1940. Of course, that does not turn the Mediterranean into an Axis lake in itself...

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 02 Jun 2009 10:26

Hi Bf109E,

The lack of a dedicated amphibious force was a major Italian drawback. They had had to improvise their occupation of Albania in April 1939 and this had shown up their limitations. They had an improvised landing ship force available for a possible descent on Corfu in October 1940 but this was not then used. Whether the British were aware of this, I do not know. They later built, if I remember rightly, 200 landing craft for an invasion of Malta, but these ended up providing coastal transport in Libya once invasion plans for Malta were abandoned in 1942.

Any invasion of Malta in 1940 would largely have had to be improvised from available civil shipping, as was the German Sea Lion.

Whatever British intelligence sources found out would (a) have to be accurate and (b) be reacted to. Neither can be guaranteed. Bletchly was not then reading much German traffic in anything approaching real time and the invasion threat and the normal friction of decision-making would inhibit British reactions. Even then, the British would be playing catch-up.

We do have a measure for the Luftwaffe's reaction time under improvised conditions. We know that on 26 March 1941 the Germans suddenly ordered a mass of Luftwaffe units to redeploy from the Channel coast opposite the UK to airfields in Austria, Hungary and Romania for the attack on Yugoslavia. The great majority were already operational by the time it was launched at dawn on 6 April. This was about 10 days. In 1940, the RAF could not possibly match this sort of speed to support Malta or the Middle East, even if it detected the Luftwaffe move immediately.

I don't foresee any likely slugging match. If the Axis landing wasn't defeated at sea, once ashore there was very little to stop them overwhelming the 3,000 British infantry on Malta.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 02 Jun 2009 10:32

Hi Phylo,

Actually, we were "talking about the Luftwaffe's overall transport capability".

Furthermore, it was originally you who wrote "....except transport aircraft", not "except JU52s".

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jun 2009 17:16

Jon, I've come across Budden before, exerpted in various locations. The interesting thing to take out of all that is that Churchill inherited an established policy of under-investment in the islands' defences in favour of retiring to either end of the Med on the outbreak of war. Against that hower - is the speed with which the British THEN began to invest in Malta when they could, with the ferry convoys discussed previously over the summer :wink:

I don't regard it as the oversight Budden does that "incredibly, no consideration appears to have been given at any point before the summer 1940 to the possibility of German aircraft operating from Italian bases"; look at the timeline - as late as January 1940 this is discounted...but only four months later Dowding is loosing planes hand-over-fist in and over France that were needed for the defence of the UK, having been strong-armed into deploying them against his best judgement. AFTER the end of DYNAMO...historically there was no chance until the "summer" to revisit the prospects for the LW deploying to assist the Italians, for a two-month period i.e. into the summer everything was needed to replace blank files in Fighter Command's home roster.

It would be interesting to know WHEN in "summer 1940" that subject was revisited; after all, "summer" in British terms includes June i.e. the month we went to war with Italy :wink: It could be that rather than a real delay in deciding what to do about Malta...it was done within days of the war with Italy being declared. That we don't know - from Budden. But remember - historically Operation HURRY put a fighter squadron of Hurricanes onto Malta in August...AFTER Fighter Command's roster had been filled...and can't have been decided or assembled overnight.

I wonder when Malta's perceived weakness was first discussed and decisions made after June 10th??? :wink:
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

As an aside - for it doesn't have too much to do with this topic, I'm not sure about
In fact, the British Med fleet was also withdrawn from Malta during the Abyssinian crisis. In fact, it has been argued (in the article which I am posting a few scans from, below) that the percieved weakness of Malta was part reason why Britain didn't take a harder policy on Italy's actions in Abyssinia.
Budden, who's subject seems to be the AIR defence of Malta, seems to have missed the Air Staff telling the PM in 1935 that they were not in ANY way ready to go to war, couldn't defend the UK, and could only send four squadrons of light and medium bombers abroad to Egypt for a possible war over Abyssinia IN TOTAL. See John James on that...

In THAT context, transferring the Western Med squadron to Alex -
with IIRC include one of the RN's precious carriers at the time
(IIRC from James, one of the carriers was just short of recommissioning when the crisis blew up, while another had just been drydocked for its three-yearly refurbishment)- can ALSO be viewed as...bolstering the air deployment to the Middle East by another full squadron for bombing duties...or 20% :wink:

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by bf109 emil » 02 Jun 2009 18:05

If there was a right course for Hitler to take in the second half of 1940, the Mediterranean looks to be it.

Cheers,

Sid.
Sid i have to agree as hindsight for the capture of North Africa required taking Malta, but i also question as to why? sure taking control of Africa would be nice, but what if it was totally abandoned and efforts to control Crete, Yugoslavia as was done in 1941 where retained and Africa abandoned, sure the Italians might cry foul, but even though Rommels worked miracles his force fighting the British did just this, allow the British a theatre in order to fight, the lack of which would have basically tied them to a bomber offensive with little hope of a land or army battle...IMHO i can't see Britain making a landing back in continental Europe in 1940 or 1941...maybe even 1942...in this event the goals of Germany where focused on Soviet Russia...Sure Stalingrad ended in defeat but then so did the fate of the DAK around the same time in early 1943...what if these 200,000 plus men, hundreds of tanks, hundreds of planes, thousands of tons of fuel sunk by the RN in the med. had gone to southern Russia as opposed to dividing forces and allowing, even though at times battling the British proved fruitful and promising, having divided and trying to support the theatre in Africa all the while depending on satellite armies to protect and hold a superior Soviet force in a drive which in Hitlers views was vital to secure oil from the Caucasus, yet not having the total forces necessary to win decisively helped not only to loose in Stalingrad but also ending in defeat in the Med.
Sure i agree had a push came Malta could have been taken, but after such glorious victories with little loss and the continent of Europe basically in Hitlers control, why gamble or risk losses which might have questioned his legend or touted might back home with his people...All in all capturing Malta and a focus on the Med. might have won a victory over Britain and perhaps even removed them as a fighting land force from the war or better...but not going full out at them as was the case in North Africa caused the squandering of supplies, troops, machines, armour, planes the likes of which where hard pressed for Germany to make up or worse to loose when the goal of total victory in Africa never seemed to come to bear fruit in the mind of OKH

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Re: Are these two "What If" theories overly simplistic?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 02 Jun 2009 18:56

Hi Bf109E,

Africa is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.

The original premise for a German thrust into the Middle East was to force the UK to the negotiating table. We know from history that a direct attack on the metropolitan UK in 1940 was not practicable. This leaves threats to the British Empire as the only alternative. The only possible route to threaten the empire was via the Mediterranean. It gave access to a string of Muslim countries whose armies were anti-British (Egypt, Iraq, Iran) and these led to the source of 60% of the available oil in the Indian Ocean theatre in the Gulf and ultimately to India, which was already under internal political stress due to growing demands for independence. British land and air defences were weak and obsolescent and the Italian Navy was a counterweight to the local Royal Navy presence. It was quicker and easier for Germany to deploy air and army units to the Mediterranean than it was for the British and, I would suggest, at Gibraltar, Malta and the Western Desert there were realistic chances of Axis success if the Germans were present in strength in 1940. This would open up the Middle East and put pressure on the UK to deal.

Cheers,

Sid.

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