Italy invading Malta in 1940

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Wargames
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Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 04 Nov 2018 22:47

I’m considering the possibility of an Italian landing on Malta on August 28, 1940. Anyone know when high tides were reached then?
So far I have been limiting my study as to whether the Italians could meet such a deadline and with what. Yet now I’m considering the British response, beginning with Admiral Cunningham:

Cunningham’s response (Alexandria):

1) Would Cunningham await orders from the Admiralty? No.
2) Would he sail to Malta to engage the Italian landing? Yes.
3) What would he sail with? 3 BB’s (Warspite, Malaya, Ramillies), 5 CL, 16 DD’s (no minesweepers. They’d slow him down and he only has to stay in deep water to avoid mines.)
4) Time to raise steam: 1-4 hours.
5) Time to develop a sailing plan: The same 4 hours of #3.
6) Sailing time from Alexandria to Fort Campbell area: 53 hours at 19 knots (Should I use a different speed? I based this on Ramillies.)

Cunningham’s reinforcements:

1) Cunningham had two battalions of the 6th Infantry Division available. Would he order them assembled? Yes.
2) If yes, how would he transport them? By two cruisers (Liverpool and Gloucester) or three fast transports? Time to load?
3) Time of reinforcement troop’s arrival? Escorted by what?

Have I made any mistakes above? Left anything out?

Somerville’s response (Gibraltar)

1) Would Somerville await Admiralty orders? Yes.
2) Somerville has naval reinforcements for Cunningham. Would he still plan for them to sail? Yes.
3) Somerville would send the naval reinforcements with their original planned escort, letting them rendezvous south of Malta with Cunningham to provide their escort balance.
4) Somerville has a planned bombardment of Cagliari. Canceled or not? Not canceled.
British Admiralty’s response:
1) Decision to call off HATS or delay? Reasons to call off include Malta was considered unsafe for surface ships and they were moved to Alexandria. This decision was repeated with the withdrawal of the sub base on Malta on June 21 and Cunningham’s taking off civilians in July without adding any more troops to Malta. Defending the island became a consideration only in August. Knowing Italian paratroopers and troops were already landing, they would have to debate the result of what would happen if Valletta fell before their destroyers arrived and could refuel. A 24 hour delay could be granted HATS as it would still arrive under cover of a new moon.
2) Send Somerville to support Cunningham? Yes. But only by executing the planned attack on Cagliari. I doubt Somerville would approve taking his DD’s to Malta without an assurance of fuel.

So somebody straighten me out on my mistakes. :D

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 04 Nov 2018 23:13

Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
So somebody straighten me out on my mistakes. :D
This part of the forum is (allegedly) for serious historucal discussion and research.

Your non-historical what if speculation has a place of its own elsewhere lower down the page.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 05 Nov 2018 00:08

Thank you but this is the "What if" section.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by pugsville » 05 Nov 2018 01:57

Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
Have I made any mistakes above? Left anything out?
HMS Argus. HMS Eagle. Both active in the Mediterranean in August, arguable pretty important in Royal naval tactical thinking.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Kingfish » 05 Nov 2018 03:36

Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
6) Sailing time from Alexandria to Fort Campbell area: 53 hours at 19 knots (Should I use a different speed? I based this on Ramillies.)
During the run up to the battle of Punta Stilo Cunningham decided to proceed with Warspite at her fastest speed, thus leaving both Malaya and Royal Sovereign to catch up (which neither did in time to participate). Given the strategic importance of Malta I would bet Cunningham would likewise divide his command and steam with whatever was fastest.
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
~Babylonian Proverb

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 05 Nov 2018 10:52

Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
1) Cunningham had two battalions of the 6th Infantry Division available. Would he order them assembled? Yes.
Which 2 battalions? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they not now going to be doing because they are pinged elsewhere?

Which 6th Infantry Division?

If the Italians are now 'starting' their war with an invasion of Malta, how does that impact their plans in Cyrenaica and Albania? Do they still invade Egypt on 9 September? Greece at the end of October?

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Berto » 05 Nov 2018 13:50

MarkN wrote:
04 Nov 2018 23:13
Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
So somebody straighten me out on my mistakes. :D
This part of the forum is (allegedly) for serious historucal discussion and research.

Your non-historical what if speculation has a place of its own elsewhere lower down the page.
You know Mark, you could have informed him without sounding unnecessarily arrogant. But perhaps you can't...

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RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by Robert Rojas » 05 Nov 2018 23:06

Greetings to both brother Wargames and the community as a whole. Howdy Wargames! Well sir, in respect to your introductory posting of Sunday - November 04, 2018 - 1:47pm, before old yours truly launches into my layman's spiel on this hypothetical topic, I must openly disclose that matters that are both naval and maritime are NOT my stronger suits. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, I do have one gnawing concern about your projected Italian assault upon the Island of Malta on August 28, 1940. At this quite early point in the European conflict, does the Regia Marina actually retain a rudimentary amphibious warfare capability? Assuming that the Port of Valletta cannot be seized with a COUP-DE-MAIN by Italian Airborne Forces, will the Italian Army Units sailing with the Regia Marina then have to HIT-THE-BEACH in common long boats? It's just something to ponder. Well, that's my initial two cents worth on this exercise into the tactical unknown - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day from sea to shining sea,


Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it" - Robert E. Lee

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by thaddeus_c » 05 Nov 2018 23:58

my initial thought was if Italy decided to invade during that timeframe? why not attempt to seize Crete? (they were planning an invasion of Greece)

my understanding Souda Bay on Crete was the coveted port? did not think Malta was perceived to be necessary to Axis until later.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 06 Nov 2018 08:26

MarkN wrote:
05 Nov 2018 10:52
Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
1) Cunningham had two battalions of the 6th Infantry Division available. Would he order them assembled? Yes.
Which 2 battalions? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they not now going to be doing because they are pinged elsewhere?

Which 6th Infantry Division?
As a quick answer:

HMS GLOUCESTER and HMS LIVERPOOL - Under the operation title MB 5, these two light cruisers sailed from Alexandria 28.9.40 in company with the Fleet, having embarked 1200 troops and RAF personnel to reinforce the Malta garrison. The two ships entered Malta late on 30.9, landed the troops and sailed again at 0230 1.10.

The 1,200 men belonged to the 6th Division which was then being broken up at this time and afterwards ceased to exist. Here are the infantry battalion components (basically companies):

2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment: 5 officers 221 OR
1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment: 4 officers 112 OR
2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment: 3 officers 164 OR
8th Bn Manchester Regiment: 7 officers 72 OR
2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers 9 officers 147 OR

They would be reorganized as two battalions on Malta.
If the Italians are now 'starting' their war with an invasion of Malta, how does that impact their plans in Cyrenaica and Albania? Do they still invade Egypt on 9 September? Greece at the end of October?
None of those change including the September 10, 1940 transfer of aircraft to Belgium.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 06 Nov 2018 08:31

pugsville wrote:
05 Nov 2018 01:57
Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
Have I made any mistakes above? Left anything out?
HMS Argus. HMS Eagle. Both active in the Mediterranean in August, arguable pretty important in Royal naval tactical thinking.
You're right about Eagle. Argus, between August 22 and September 5, 1940, was operating off Takoradi on the Gold Coast.

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Re: RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by Wargames » 06 Nov 2018 08:54

Robert Rojas wrote:
05 Nov 2018 23:06
I do have one gnawing concern about your projected Italian assault upon the Island of Malta on August 28, 1940. At this quite early point in the European conflict, does the Regia Marina actually retain a rudimentary amphibious warfare capability?
Italy had four landing ships (Sesia class) plus one more which, combined, could land over 5,000 troops in one hour. They could also land tanks and artillery.
They also had obtained 80 light coastal steamers of about 250 tons each able to land 10,000 men (Time unknown as never tested but probably much longer than desired. Likely very similar to the caique landings on Crete.)
They had another five ships obtained from France that could land 500 men each (2,500 men total) also in one hour.
Assuming that the Port of Valletta cannot be seized with a COUP-DE-MAIN by Italian Airborne Forces, will the Italian Army Units sailing with the Regia Marina then have to HIT-THE-BEACH in common long boats? It's just something to ponder. Well, that's my initial two cents worth on this exercise into the tactical unknown - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day from sea to shining sea,


Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
I don't see any intention of their using common long boats. The steamers would be run up on the beach, their bows blown off, and the soldiers would have to wade in knee deep water to the beach.

They did have a transport with long boats to land supplies (mostly drinking water). Thereafter, supply was provided by parachute.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 06 Nov 2018 09:28

thaddeus_c wrote:
05 Nov 2018 23:58
my initial thought was if Italy decided to invade during that timeframe? why not attempt to seize Crete? (they were planning an invasion of Greece)

my understanding Souda Bay on Crete was the coveted port? did not think Malta was perceived to be necessary to Axis until later.
The Army called for the capture of Malta in 1939 to secure supply lines to Libya. In the spring of 1940 the Army planned out the troops required to take Malta with a planned invasion date of June 29, 1940. It was rejected on June 5.

It did not stay rejected. In July, the Navy made it's own proposal for invading Malta, making improvements to the Army's plan. This was followed by the Regia Aeronautica which made further improvements to the Navy's plan culminating in an argument with Mussolini that began August 8 through August 21. The military lost. Stupid won.

The "time frame" then was Mussolini's thinking. He wanted Italian boots be on British soil at the time that Hitler brought Britain to its knees with Operation Sea Lion. It's very similar to how he got himself included at the table for the surrender of France ("I only need a few thousand dead to sit at the peace table."). He either needed boots in Egypt or boots in Malta when Sea Lion took place. Grazziani, head of Tenth Army, argued for Malta while Mussolini had bigger eyes - Egypt. I have the arguments of all five sides; Il Duce, the Army, the Navy, the Regia Aeronautica, and even Germany's naval adviser attache.

Crete was not an objective.

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Re: RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by LColombo » 06 Nov 2018 09:40

Wargames wrote:
06 Nov 2018 08:54
They had another five ships obtained from France that could land 500 men each (2,500 men total) also in one hour.
Could you elaborate on that? This is the first time I hear about them.

As far as I know, the early invasion plans for Malta (before the Motozattere were built in 1942) called for a considerable use of rather makeshift landing craft such as converted ‘bragozzi’ (small Adriatic sailing vessels) and ‘vaporetti’ (very small Venice lagoon steamers, capacity 75 men each).

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 06 Nov 2018 09:50

Wargames wrote:
06 Nov 2018 08:26
MarkN wrote:
05 Nov 2018 10:52
Wargames wrote:
04 Nov 2018 22:47
1) Cunningham had two battalions of the 6th Infantry Division available. Would he order them assembled? Yes.
Which 2 battalions? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they not now going to be doing because they are pinged elsewhere?

Which 6th Infantry Division?
As a quick answer:

HMS GLOUCESTER and HMS LIVERPOOL - Under the operation title MB 5, these two light cruisers sailed from Alexandria 28.9.40 in company with the Fleet, having embarked 1200 troops and RAF personnel to reinforce the Malta garrison. The two ships entered Malta late on 30.9, landed the troops and sailed again at 0230 1.10.

The 1,200 men belonged to the 6th Division which was then being broken up at this time and afterwards ceased to exist. Here are the infantry battalion components (basically companies):

2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment: 5 officers 221 OR
1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment: 4 officers 112 OR
2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment: 3 officers 164 OR
8th Bn Manchester Regiment: 7 officers 72 OR
2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers 9 officers 147 OR

They would be reorganized as two battalions on Malta.
All 5 of the battalions you mention above were already part of the Malta garrison. They were not part of 6th Infantry Division which had already ceased to exist.
Wargames wrote:
06 Nov 2018 08:26
If the Italians are now 'starting' their war with an invasion of Malta, how does that impact their plans in Cyrenaica and Albania? Do they still invade Egypt on 9 September? Greece at the end of October?
None of those change including the September 10, 1940 transfer of aircraft to Belgium.
You don't think a major conflaguration in and around Malta, including the better part of the entire RN effort in the Med, will have an effect on the supply situation to Libya? An effect that may have consequences on the planned advance into Egypt which, supposedly was to go all the way to the Suez Canal? Convenient.

Are you assuming this will be a swift & simple Italian victory? It seems highly likely to me that if it goes even the slightest bit pear shaped, questions will immediatly be asked whether it is prudent to continue the attack on Greece as planned.

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