Italy invading Malta in 1940

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Ironmachine
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 19 Nov 2018 08:12

5,469 British Army only. Already past the oft quoted 5,000.
Probably this number is just the infantry battalions, Maltese contribution included.
MarkN wrote:Correction to my last.

It was not the RAF Commander, Malta. My mistake off the top of my head.

I found the information in Telegram 1541, 7 July 1940 from Vice Admiral, Malta to the Admiralty.

He wrote, "44% of garrison are Maltese".

By garrison, I assume he is not just referring to the Army - especially as he is a matelot.
The numbers given by Richard Anderson add nicely to the 44% with the Army forces only. If Vice Admiral, Malta is not just referring to the Army and he is actually including the RAF and the remaining RN personnel and RM, as you suggest, then either their total number is really low or the number of Maltese in them is high; but I have never seen anything about a significant contribution of the Maltese to the strength of the RN or the RAF in Malta. So probably he is just referring to the Army, unless you know better about Malteses in the RN and the RAF. As he is a matelot, I assume he would not consider the Royal Navy as garrison.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 19 Nov 2018 12:26

Ironmachine wrote:
19 Nov 2018 08:12
The numbers given by Richard Anderson add nicely to the 44% with the Army forces only. If Vice Admiral, Malta is not just referring to the Army and he is actually including the RAF and the remaining RN personnel and RM, as you suggest, then either their total number is really low or the number of Maltese in them is high; but I have never seen anything about a significant contribution of the Maltese to the strength of the RN or the RAF in Malta. So probably he is just referring to the Army, unless you know better about Malteses in the RN and the RAF. As he is a matelot, I assume he would not consider the Royal Navy as garrison.
In a very short space of time, and all down to the diligence of Richard Anderson, we have ascertained that the 5,000 Malta garrison is a falsehood. 5,000 doesn't even cover the British LAND component - let alone the AIR and SEA components - and completely ignores the local Maltese contribution!!!

LAND forces, British and Maltese seem to be approaching 10,000 combined, adding in the AIR (RAF, FAA and odd Free French crews) and the remaining landbased elements of SEA (RN & RM), the number undoubtably passes through the 10,000 mark. 10,000 is a lot closer to the 15,000 produced by Italian intelligence than 5,000.

Of course, this 'revelation' makes no difference to Italian or British planning at the time. Nor does it change my personal helicopter view of the likely outcome of any imaginary Italian amphibious assault. I do, however, feel a little warm inside knowing that the contribution of the local Maltese has not entirely been forgotten. It may put a bit of a spanner in the works of fantasy games creators who were using 5,000 and claiming a realistic scenario. :wink:

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Ironmachine
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 19 Nov 2018 13:11

MarkN wrote:I do, however, feel a little warm inside knowing that the contribution of the local Maltese has not entirely been forgotten. It may put a bit of a spanner in the works of fantasy games creators who were using 5,000 and claiming a realistic scenario.
Well, after reading this and your previous statemente that
MarkN wrote:I keep seeing 5,000 being bandied around as the (true) force for the Italians to overcome - as opposed to the (false) 15,000 that Italian intelligence produced. Where does this 5,000 figure come from? What does it include and exclude?
I took the effort of reviewing the whole thread and I have to tell you that:
1) 5,000 has not been bandied around (not in this thread, at least) as the true force for the Italians to overcome.
2) game creators (if you mean forum member Wargames) have not claimed to be using 5,000 as a realistic figure.
3) local Maltese contribution was never forgotten.
Unless I'm missing something, the 5,000 figure was mentioned first by forum member pugsille in page 3 of this forum when he wrote:
5,000 Italian infantry without heavy weapons are not going to prevail against 5,000 garrison troops with some artillery.
Then on page 4 he posted the source of this figure
"Since British defenses were grossly over estimated eg. 15,000 Infantry, 100 armored vehicles and over 80 coastal defense guns when tehtrue figures were respectively about 5,000, none (excluding Bren gun carriers) and 26"
"The Place of Malta in British Strategic Policy 1925-1943" Douglas Austin.
page 121
which clearly explains what it includes (just the infantry) and does not forget the Maltese contribution because it is not excluding the KOMR.
As far as I can see,the 5,000 figure was not mentioned again until your post asking about the source of that number and its meaning.
Regards.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 19 Nov 2018 15:01

Ironmachine wrote:
19 Nov 2018 13:11
I took the effort of reviewing the whole thread and I have to tell you that:
1) 5,000 has not been bandied around (not in this thread, at least) as the true force for the Italians to overcome.
I did not specify this thread nor any individual. :roll:
The 5,000 is a well used mythical number - as you have started to see. Just counting the infantry is, at best, unhelpful - more likely, disingenuous.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 19 Nov 2018 17:22

MarkN wrote:I did not specify this thread nor any individual.
I know. I just wanted to show you that not every mention of that figure is made as, in your words, " the (true) force for the Italians to overcome", as evidence by this same thread. :roll:
MarkN wrote:The 5,000 is a well used mythical number - as you have started to see.
Mythical? No, not as long as you know and imply it is just (about) the number of the infantry, not the whole force of the garrison.
MarkN wrote:Just counting the infantry is, at best, unhelpful - more likely, disingenuous.
Again, not really. You can make a disingenuous use of such number, or you can use it properly, in which case it can be helpful.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 19 Nov 2018 17:56

Ironmachine wrote:
19 Nov 2018 08:12
The numbers given by Richard Anderson add nicely to the 44% with the Army forces only. If Vice Admiral, Malta is not just referring to the Army and he is actually including the RAF and the remaining RN personnel and RM, as you suggest, then either their total number is really low or the number of Maltese in them is high; but I have never seen anything about a significant contribution of the Maltese to the strength of the RN or the RAF in Malta. So probably he is just referring to the Army, unless you know better about Malteses in the RN and the RAF. As he is a matelot, I assume he would not consider the Royal Navy as garrison.
I would doubt very much that the 44% figure included RAF and RN personnel, since in all cases the reference appears to have been to the "Malta Garrison", which comprised four elements: the "British Command Staff", the "Brigades Staff", the "Mobile and Coast Defence Brigade", and the "Local and Coast Defence Brigade", of which only the last were Maltese personnel. All were Army.

The first truly complete assessment of the garrison forces I have found is for 1 February 1941. At that time the breakdown was:

British Command Staff: 51 O&OR
Brigades Staff: 8 O
Mobile and Coast Defence Brigade: 10,159
Local Mobile and Coast Defence Brigade: 5,359

If you do the math, you will find at that point the Maltese made up about 34% of the garrison, rather than 44%, which is accounted for by the British reinforcements between 30 June 1940 and 1 February 1941:

30 September 1940 - 1,071
10 November 1940 - c. 2,000
8 January 1941 - 366
10 January 1941 - 218
11 January 1941 - 58
14 January 1941 - 388

...and the small number of locally recruited British and Maltese personnel, not including some 2,000 Maltese conscripts in training by 1 April 1941 [edit]after conscription was ordered 19 February 1941[/edit], but without sufficient small arms and equipment.

The next major reinforcements were:

21 February 1941 - 655 O&OR of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment, 711 O&OR 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment
21 April 1941 - 380 O&OR (mostly RA)

After the arrival of the last infantry reinforcements, emphasis shifted to RA reinforcements.
Last edited by Richard Anderson on 19 Nov 2018 19:07, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 Nov 2018 18:47

Hi Guys,

May I suggest that this discussion on the British defensive possibilities misses the real point that Italy did not have the specialist amphibious assets to mount an invasion in August 1940?

These only became available in 1942, by which time, amongst other developments, hundreds of landing craft had been built, three infantry divisions had been retrained as assault divisions, paratroops were available in significant numbers, etc., etc..

Had these been available in August 1940, an invasion was plausible. However, they weren't so I don't think it was a viable proposition at that time.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 19 Nov 2018 19:06

Sid Guttridge wrote:
19 Nov 2018 18:47
May I suggest that this discussion on the British defensive possibilities misses the real point that Italy did not have the specialist amphibious assets to mount an invasion in August 1940?
Hi Sid, if you review, the Italians actually had five not very good landing ships, a small marine regiment, and an even smaller airborne regiment, as specialized assets. The landing ships could each, in theory, carry a reinforced infantry battalion, and four could carry light tanks, vehicles, or field artillery, but sacrificing some infantry capacity.
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 19 Nov 2018 22:54

WRT 12pdr 20cwt guns used as artillery, I found a reference to “Silent Gun” positions of the 6th Hvy AA Btry RMA with four 12pdr 20cwt at Ghajn Tuffieha and four others at Naxxar, each with two two-gun positions as of 6 July 1941, but probably earlier. They had no equipment for air engagement and appear to have been intended for repelling an amphibious assault, like the 18-pdr beach guns.

WRT the number of 18-pdr "beach guns", there is a proposal by Dobbie to the War Office on 30 July 1941to reorganize 26 Defence Regiment as three batteries from its current two, thus "adding 24 18-pdrs", which might imply it then had 48 and also implies there might have been as many as 72 available?
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 20 Nov 2018 08:10

I'm going to withdraw the following:
These vessels are not the “80 light coastal steamers” I previously described. They were in addition to them (As proof, “motobraguzzi” does not translate into “light coastal steamers”.).
I now think the 80 light coastal steamers are not steamers at all but motobragozzo. While motobragozzi does not translate into "light coastal steamers" the term "vaporetti" does. My source for light coastal steamers (Douglas Austin, The Place of Malta in British Strategic Policy 1929-1943, page 121) cites as his source Gabriele, Operazione C3, 34-42. While one can find the word "vaporetti" in Gabriele it is not used as Austin cites (The drawbacks of not being able to read Italian.).

Carry on.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 20 Nov 2018 08:31

Richard Anderson wrote:
Sid Guttridge wrote:May I suggest that this discussion on the British defensive possibilities misses the real point that Italy did not have the specialist amphibious assets to mount an invasion in August 1940?
Hi Sid, if you review, the Italians actually had five not very good landing ships, a small marine regiment, and an even smaller airborne regiment, as specialized assets. The landing ships could each, in theory, carry a reinforced infantry battalion, and four could carry light tanks, vehicles, or field artillery, but sacrificing some infantry capacity.
What follows may be interesting in this regard (from On Seas Contested: The Seven Great Navies of the Second World War
editado por Vincent OÕHara:
5. Amphibious Operations
Prewar Italian amphibious doctrine was based on the concept of the coup de main. Planners envisioned operations against Corsica, Yugoslavia's Dalmatian coast, and the Greek Ionian islands. The Regia Marina maintained a flotilla of semispecialized amphibious units in June 1940 (a prototype and four ships of about 1,000 tons, which doubled as water carriers) and the San Marco marine infantry brigade.
After a failed March 1939 assault against Cartagena, Spain, delivered by two Nationalist [sic] merchant vessels adapted as amphibious ships, Italian staff concluded that many small landing craft would stand a batter chance of success in an opposed landing than a few large ones. In May 1939 they projected a 20-ton craft capable of landing a 13-ton tank from a forward ramp. However, the program for a batch of fifty such units was cancelled in November 1939.
So it seems the Italians could have had more amphibious assets in 1940 than they had. Anyone has more information about those projected Italian landing craft?
By the way, the Italian staff may have been right when they concluded that many small craft were better than a few large ones, but I doubt they concluded that from the failed Spanish operation against Cartagena, because the quoted passage is completely wrong when talking about it: the National merchant vessels involved in the operation (many more than two) were not adapted as amphibious ships because it was in no way an amphibious assault against an enemy coast. Cartagena was supposed to be under friendly control by forces that had rebelled against Negrin's government; thus, no opposition was expected and the ships were simply to dock in the harbour, and the troops would then disembark in a normal way. It would be just a naval transport operation, not an amphibious invasion.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 21 Nov 2018 16:38

jwsleser wrote:
18 Nov 2018 16:31
RE: Fort Campbell. We will need to agree to disagree. To clarify, the Italians don't need to take Fort Campbell, only reduce or remove its capabilities to interfere with the landings which mainly resides with the two 6" guns. The fort can rot on the vine after that.
Quite true. I saw no plan to actually take Fort Campbell, simply disable its two guns.
I don't believe the guns are invulnerable; they might be hard to disable or destroy, but it is doable.
Yes. It is "doable". One does not actually have to hit the guns themselves to take them out. The gun directory system was in one building and firing solution in another. If either of the latter were taken out the entire system would fail. So you could take out the system with two hits on the guns or one hit on the "brains". So 1-2 hits in the right spot would eliminate the fort as operational.

But now we must consider the bombs being dropped. Italy had no A/P bombs bigger than 220 pounds. Germany, Britain, the US, and Japan all had 550 pound A/P bombs capable of taking out Fort Campbell. The Italians only had two bombs that would not bounce off Fort Campbell. They had an 1,100 pound bomb that would crater Fort Campbell and a 1,760 pound bomb that would go right through it. The vast majority of the bombers that would have been assigned to Fort Campbell could not even carry this big of a bomb and those few that did were being reassigned to transport duty to North Africa. It is quite clear that R.A. intended 1,100 pound bombs by the bombers assigned. Based on the 1940 math of the time, one thousand 1,100 pound bombs had an 80% chance of "doable". But some of this math isn't quite right. To actually take out the gun directory system room would take two hits as it was actually two separate rooms in the same building or even three hits when the first only cratered. There is also the probability of the British making repairs, particularly to the two guns just by removing rubble. The actual hit seldom destroys the gun itself. It may kill the crew. It may bury the gun under rubble or it may disrupt its mountings (Which often resulted in a broken barrel.). But the gun itself tends to stay intact in all but the last scenario.

Given Italy's available bombers and five day's bombing, they had an 80% chance (assuming 1940 math to be accurate) of eliminating the Fort. That same math also allows a 20% chance of it being operational or, as MarkN put it, “on a die roll of 6 the fort is still there”. So while the odds favor you, they’re not guaranteed.
While I certainly would throw aircraft at it over time, the naval bombardment would like be the main effort to silence the guns. While there has been comments about how many shore batteries weren't destroyed during the preps at various locations, let's not forget that many batteries were silenced by a prep. As important, none of batteries caused the landings to fail. The Italian can focus on one battery and no amount of camouflage is going to hide its location.
I must have missed this as there is virtually no chance of the Italian Navy hitting anything. There are various factors at play here but the two main ones were that, first, the British guns were recessed in the ground which cut their exposure in half to a “side hit” (possible perhaps by the Italians below 14,000 yards but they never planned to come closer than 23,000 yards) and, second, they were only susceptible to a “deck hit” inside the gun pit at about 28,000 yards. Given the known dispersion of the three Italian battlecruisers they would be lucky to hit the fort let alone the guns at even 23,000 yards.
If the Italian Navy had a contribution to make, it was that it had 600 1,100 pound shells (HE again) to lob at the fort. Fired at one round a minute they could maintain bombardment for 10 hours and would be the equivalent of 600 bombs or 300 bombers. Given that many shells they could probably score four hits on the fort but what they hit is anyone’s guess. Still, for those 10 hours the gunners of Fort Campbell might stay away from their guns as the Italian bombardment ships were well beyond their range.
This might be important because there wasn’t just a problem with the Italian naval guns. The two British guns had problems as well. They were designed first and foremost to cover the “approaches to Valletta” and so pointed out to sea with approximately 180 degrees of traverse. Their coverage of St. Paul’s Bay and Millieha Bay were of secondary importance. They could fire on the outer bays but not necessarily on the inner bays (and definitely not inland). Second, their gunnery fire resolution did not account for a moving ship. Fort Campbell never once hit a moving target. It was a case of garbage guns versus garbage guns. Of course, if the Italians presented a beached, non-moving target…

Nothing states that the Italians must limit naval bombardment to the invasion itself. Given an August time frame, the R.M. can sortie multiple times prior to that to bombard. Yes, the R.N. can sortie to try and stop it, but time/distance again becomes a factor. As I stated, secrecy isn't going to happen, so use time/distance. The Italians fully understood this when reading their plans.
It would be wise for the Italian Navy to lob a few shells at Marsaxlokk Bay at least once just to keep the British guessing. But there is no danger of the British Navy interfering with an Italian invasion before it reached Malta (If that were possible the Italians would never even have considered invasion and the British would have been constantly sending “anti-invasion task forces” to Malta on false alarms.).
Secrecy does happen. Until one actually launches the preliminary bomber attacks (five days) which for an August 28 invasion beginning August 23 (I allowed preliminary bombing to begin as early as August 21 to account for a subsequent delay), the British have no clue. At that time British photo recon was observing the battleships Vittorio Venetto and Littorio and not invasion harbors. There is no need to assemble the invasion ships prior to August 21 anyway and no need to assemble them all in the same harbor. Further, even if the British magically divined the plan there was absolutely nothing the British could do to oppose it beyond HATS.
RE: lack of specialized landing craft. There is a difference between ideal and useable. Clearly the Italians lack ideal, but they have plenty of usable. Reading the Battle of Tarawa, specialized landing craft didn't make a difference. Many of the troops waded long distances and yet made it ashore. Many of the gators were shot-up as they were unarmored. That was against a level of defensive preparation that doesn't exist on Malta in 1940. 5,000 defenders holding a much smaller island. I have tried to find a good topo map of the island because I am wondering what these guns can actually see. They are not howitzers, so there will be dead space given the broken nature of the terrain.
You win this. The Italians had this very well planned. You could unload a bragozzo with 120 men in ten minutes once the catwalk was rolled out.
So what is the problem? Is it because the Italians aren't brave enough? They aren't skilled enough to charge forward and fight? That 1 UK soldier is worth 20 Italians? That two UK 6" naval guns are going to destroy the entire Italian invasion because, why, they manned by the British? But four Italian battleships can't silence these two super guns?
Well! You’re finally getting down to it. As one poster here stated the Italians were too stupid to dye their orange sails black for a night landing (even laughs at the idea they would even think of it) and that a battery on the Victoria Line would stop any landing anywhere using magical vision (day or night). You may recall I warned you by private message that such “replies” were to be expected given the 48 pages of previous debate as the example.
There are challenges, but as I have shown using primary sources, the Italian did consider them and had plans to address them. Would these plans work? We don't know, but I haven't read anything in the Italian plans that wasn't successfully executed during the war by someone else (or the Italians themselves).
They would have gotten ashore but ashore with very little. Look at the landing pictures I linked again. What’s wrong with them? What are they not carrying?
I don't envision much chasing on the part of the Italians. Once they are ashore the RM is essentially fixed in place, and that would have led to the mother of all naval engagements once Cunningham and Sommerville crashed the party.
The above two sentences says it all. It’s not who wins the battle on the ground for Malta. It’s who wins the battle at sea for Malta. It’s why I asked what the British naval response would be in my first post. All the rest of the arguments made here are secondary.
We can't predict the outcome and I am not trying to.
I’m trying to. It’s actually very simple. Just predict the British naval response. Cunningham is not that hard. You know when he’s coming and with what (See July 9, 1940)
The one fact I have stated that if the Italians get enough ashore, the British lose. With a sizable force ashore with artillery, the British position is hopeless. I again point out that the Italian artillery can be landed, it is man-portable. The British can't starve the Italians out because they can't maintain the type of blockade needed to do so. It is simple logistics and distance.
OK. First of all, the June, 1940 invasion did not include artillery. The catwalks that allowed soldiers to be disembarked from a motobragozzi did not allow for the unloading of artillery. Further, the ferry landing on the north end of the island was for passengers only. The maximum ship that could unload was 350 tons with 11 feet of draft. Unless you wish to argue that Jacque Cousteau’s Calypso could land artillery (The Calypso was once a ferry there) you’re landing no guns but by the Sissa class. How long do you have them?
You’re also dealing with 20-20 hindsight. You know you can beat the British now given perfect information today on the British forces then. But would you have that perfect information in 1940?
There isn't much more I can offer. Our sources are thin and we will never resolve this. To those who state the Italians could never win, I will state you are wrong. To those who believe the Italians could win or they could lose, I am in agreement. The Italians had a viable plan, they had the resources, but war is difficult to predict.

Pista! Jeff
Actually we can resolve it at least to the next level of debate. A major British naval offensive is about to occur. Simply predict the offensive and go from there. It’s the opening question of this debate. It matters not who wins on the island (Although I can show you how to land artillery and more than 20,000 Italians), it matters who wins at sea.
The British are coming, Cunningham at the lead.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Gooner1 » 21 Nov 2018 17:54

Wargames wrote:
21 Nov 2018 16:38
Fort Campbell never once hit a moving target. It was a case of garbage guns versus garbage guns. Of course, if the Italians presented a beached, non-moving target…
How many times did the guns of Fort Campbell ever have the opportunity to fire at a hostile ship?

There were only two occasions in which the coastal guns of Malta fired at enemy ships. The night of 25th/26th July 1941 when the 6-pdrs of Forts of St Elmo and Ricasoli destroyed an attempt by Italian Motor Explosive Boats and Human Torpedoes to get into the Grand Harbour in less than 2 minutes of firing.
Also, and this is probably relevant, the 6-inch battery at Rocco fired a salvo at what was probably the Motor Launch Carrier of the Human Torpedoes at a range of 8,000 yards and hit it, later to sink nearer the Italian coast.

The Rocco battery was probably also the lucky one that hit a German E-boat on the night of 16/17th May 1942, crippling the boat at a range of 11,000 yards.

Garbage guns eh? :D

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 21 Nov 2018 18:14

Wargames wrote:
21 Nov 2018 16:38
Secrecy does happen. Until one actually launches the preliminary bomber attacks (five days) which for an August 28 invasion beginning August 23 (I allowed preliminary bombing to begin as early as August 21 to account for a subsequent delay), the British have no clue. At that time British photo recon was observing the battleships Vittorio Venetto and Littorio and not invasion harbors. There is no need to assemble the invasion ships prior to August 21 anyway and no need to assemble them all in the same harbor. Further, even if the British magically divined the plan there was absolutely nothing the British could do to oppose it beyond HATS.
You seem to have conflated historical reality with your own fantasy again. British PR flights didn't spot an invasion build up because there wasn't any invasion build up. Nor were they even specifically looking for an invasion build up because they didn't imagine there would be one. You can't transfer that into some sort of evidence that the Italians had complete surprise on their side. :roll:

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 21 Nov 2018 18:26

Wargames wrote:
21 Nov 2018 16:38
Well! You’re finally getting down to it. As one poster here stated the Italians were too stupid to dye their orange sails black for a night landing (even laughs at the idea they would even think of it) and that a battery on the Victoria Line would stop any landing anywhere using magical vision (day or night). You may recall I warned you by private message that such “replies” were to be expected given the 48 pages of previous debate as the example.
No wonder your fantasy has so many holes in it when this is the sort of understanding your draw from anything posted that doesn't fit your narrative.

Could the Italians dye their sails? Yes of course.
Does it guarantee they won't be spotted by somebody? According to you, yes!

Can artillery be fired at a grid reference without anybody actually watching that grid reference? Not according to you.
Will firing at a grid reference stop a landing on a Malta beach? I have no idea, it didn't happen. The Italians were smart enough not to try it.

It also demonstrates how you came to the conclusion that Cunningham could reinforce the island with 2 battalions of the 6th Division when the 6th Division didn't exist and the troops you mentionned weren't even in Egypt. The source you presented made it clear who they were and where they were and yet you came up with something completely different !!!! :roll:

Also wondering whether you have considered the effects on the food situation in Italy if so many of their fishing boats are temporarily or permanently taken out of fishing duties to serve as beach landing craft.

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