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 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.
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.