Despite making successful runs by April, when Luftwaffe operations were winding down and attention shifting to other sectors, Malta was under strict rationing and food was becoming scarce. Just as aerial operations were biting hard and air control by the Axis over the island was at it's peak for the year, the Luftwaffe let up and after the process started the April convoy arrived. Looking back at my sources it was overboard to say the British were ready to abandon Malta by May 1941, as they were reviving then and the reason offensive shipping left Malta was the Crete campaign, not bombing (the Brits were willing to risk the naval strike force that conducted the Triago attack in mid-April by stationing it in Malta). The May reinforcements of Malta though came after the Luftwaffe effectively stopped attacking the island.Gooner1 wrote:Your evidence for this is? This strikes me as wishful thinking especially since convoys and naval ships did make successful supply runs to Malta February-May '41.stg 44 wrote: I don't think it was inevitable. The Mediterranean Front was winnable with a different strategy than IOTL. A critical mistake was not starving Malta into submission before shifting X. Fliegerkorps to Greece in May-June. They let up just at the moment the Brits had given up on it, but hadn't decided to surrender yet, which let them recover and turn it into the major output in the Mediterranean. Had they kept up Luftwaffe efforts through June it would have surrendered in June or July
That said I am convinced had the Luftwaffe not prematurely abandoned their focus on Malta starting in April (they started sending some of the interdiction forces to support Rommel in March, but that was unavoidable) they could have gotten the island to surrender by putting in the requisite efforts to limit supplies to the island to the point it could not continue to resist. By April rationing was hitting hard and it wasn't until the Luftwaffe shifted attention that enough supplies were reliably getting through to ease up the majority of supply hardship.
The only numbers you provided are when AFV shipments were received, which doesn't tell us how many were operational or even deployed to the front. In 1942 hundreds of British Cruiser tanks were immobilized with mechanical issues and were not even desert-ized so required major work to get running for use in Egypt/Libya, a similar situation I'm sure existed in 1941.Urmel wrote: I provided data and verifiable information. You ignore it in order to claim things that are verifiably untrue in pursuit if an argument that makes no sense and flies in the face of reality. When you engage with the data and bring anything worth that description of your own, rather than making up things, you'll get a reasoned response. At present the above is all your post deserves.
For all the problems of the Crusader tank, the Stuart apparently was even less useful.Initial performance of the Crusader was found to be better than the comparable Stuart light tanks. Despite reliability problems, the tanks formed the primary unit for British cruiser tank armoured regiments, while the Stuart was used for recconnaisance.
The Crusader suffered from chronic reliability problems in desert use as a result of several factors. Tanks arriving in North Africa were missing many of the essential tools and servicing manuals needed to maintain operation - stolen or lost in transit. As tanks broke down, a lack of spare parts meant that many components were replaced with worn parts recovered from other tanks. When the tanks were returned to the base workshops upon reaching service intervals, many were serviced with components that had already achieved their design lifespan.
A rapid ramp-up in manufacturing within the UK caused quality issues as inexperienced workers began assembling tanks. This placed further pressure on the receiving base workshops who had to carry out the necessary re-work.
The new tanks also had a number of design flaws which needed to be worked out. The reconfiguration of the Mk. III Liberty engine into a flatter format to fit into the Crusader engine compartment had badly affected the tank's water pumps and cooling fan arrangements, both of which were critical in the hot desert temperatures. Several official and unofficial in-theatre modifications were applied in attempts to improve reliability and conserve water, which otherwise had to be prioritised on keeping the vehicles running. Rectification of these issues took a very long time, by which time confidence in the Crusader had been lost. Calls were made at various points for the vehicles to be replaced with the Valentine infantry tank or US-made M3 Grant tank.
As time moved on, more and more were being returned to base workshops leading to a shortage of battle-ready tanks, and a massive backlog of repair works to be completed. The number of vehicles available on the frontline dwindled, and US made replacements were brought-in.
The Crusader proved unreliable in the desert. This started with their transport from the UK to North Africa. Poor preparation and handling caused problems that had to be rectified before they could be passed to the regiments, and ate into the supply of spare parts. Once in use, the sand caused erosion in the cooling system and the stresses of hard cross-country travel caused oil leaks in the engine blocks. Since there were few tank transporters or railways in the desert, the tanks had to travel long distances on their tracks, causing further wear.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M3_Stuart ... and_Europe
From mid-November 1941 to the end of the year, about 170 Stuarts (in a total force of over 700 tanks) took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with the better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armored fighting vehicles used in the North African campaign, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel. On the positive side, crews liked its relatively high speed and mechanical reliability, especially compared to the Crusader tank, which comprised a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942. The Crusader had similar armament and armor to the Stuart while being slower, less reliable, and several tons heavier. The main drawback of the Stuart was its low fuel capacity and range; its operational range was only 75 miles (cross country), roughly half that of the Crusader.
So we have no idea of the actual combat strength of armor deployed by September, as there were major issues with 2/3rds of British AFV types.
Of course even the Matilda II's were not that useful except on the attack when they could be deployed as a breakthrough tank:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_I ... 40_to_1942
Of course given the historical record the Matilda was probably the least bad British tank of 1941, as the slow, clumsy Infantry Tanks were more reliable than the Cruisers.Ultimately, in the rapid manoeuvre warfare often practised in the open desert of North Africa, the Matilda's low speed and unreliable steering mechanism became major problems. Another snag was the lack of a high-explosive shell (the appropriate shell existed but was not issued).When the German Afrika Korps arrived in North Africa, the 88 mm anti-aircraft gun was again pressed into service against the Matilda, causing heavy losses during Operation Battleaxe, when sixty-four Matildas were lost. The arrival of the more powerful 50mm Pak 38 anti-tank gun and 75mm Pak 40 anti-tank gun also provided a means for the German infantry to engage Matilda tanks at combat ranges. Nevertheless, during Operation Crusader Matilda tanks of 1st and 32nd Army Tank Brigades were instrumental in the breakout from Tobruk and the capture of the Axis fortress of Bardia. The operation was decided by the infantry tanks, after the failure of the cruiser tank equipped 7th Armoured Division to overcome the Axis tank forces in the open desert.
The other numbers you provided were of the number and name of British divisions, as I pointed out the Aussies were pretty worn down by August anyway and were due to the replaced and would have been eliminated from the British OOB by the storming of Tobruk along with whatever sundry units were there. The Aussie 6th Division would have to be replaced by another division to leave Palestine, as they were the garrison/occupation division to ensure the Arabs didn't revolt again, so they can't be used without replacement. That is two divisions you listed that wouldn't be available by September. Plus then you didn't actually provide numbers about how many troops were in British units and how up to strength they actually were. With Rommel storming Tobruk, the Brits might actually be forced to prematurely attack in August to help them and suffer as they did in July with Battleaxe. They weren't Crusader capable yet, nor would Rommel be as starved for supplies if Malta was kept interdicted or fell by August.
But in terms of relative strengths here is what they were in November 1941:
That was after reinforcements arrived post-August/September and of course the Aussies, both the 9th that would be lost at Tobruk, and the garrison 6th in Palestine, would not be part of this. Plus given the diplomatic issues between the Australian government and Churchill the loss of the 9th Australian division would very likely cause major problems, especially as in August the Australian government was demanding the Tobruk defenders be relieved because they were so worn out by the siege. Their loss in Tobruk would cause some issues about the further use of Australian troops by Britain.Strength
738 tanks[note 1]
724 aircraft (616 serviceable)[note 2]
119,000 men[note 3]
390[note 4]–414 tanks[note 5]
536 aircraft (342 serviceable)[note 6]
Now if we factor in the historical record of Britain defending Egypt despite having superior numbers of AFVs, the chances of them holding once Tobruk was successfully removed from the equation is grim:
As I said and the info about British armor range and reliability, German maneuver warfare and the ability of their armor to sustain it would be the decisive factor in an attack into Egypt in 1941, plus of course relative British weakness. British armor couldn't sustain major maneuver battle due to the issues with their armor and tactics, plus at this point deficiencies of Command and Control. Despite huge numerical and supply advantages the Brits very nearly lost Operation Crusader despite having all advantages you could imagine. With the Germans and Italians on the attack in September, before the Brits reached their November strength and mechanical/supply preparedness, they would dictate the place and pace of the battle, unlike the Brits historically did in November, which they don't have the reaction ability to really combat, as the 1942 fighting demonstrated. Despite the Axis troops being heavily worn down and the British having more armor at Mersa Matruh the Germans outmaneuvered them and rolled around/over them. But here the Axis forces are starting much further forward with greater numerical parity than in 1942.
Plus Operation Battleaxe in June 1941 doesn't indicate that the Brits were really up to snuff:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation ... #Aftermath