Italy invading Malta in 1940

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Richard Anderson
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 21 Nov 2018 18:57

Gooner1 wrote:
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
Yes, it's easy to declare "garbage guns" when ignorant of and then choosing to ignore the actual facts. Campbell fired two rounds, not four, and fired them on a bearing and range transmitted to the battery by one of the four RDF (i.e., radar) sites on the island, because it was night, the vessel was not illuminated by searchlights, and the gun-laying radar installed at the time were Type GL. Mk. I and Mk. II, which were early anti-aircraft early warning and gun-laying systems built by the Army at Bawdsey Manor. Operating from 5.5 to 3.5 meters (54.6 to 85.7 MHz), they were capable of providing ranging but only coarse targeting. The GL positions were:

Air Ministry Experimental Station (AMES) No. 242 at Dingli Cliffs, which was the first operational, followed by:

No. 241, also at Dingli (July 1940), No. 501 AMES at Tas-Silġ, No. 502 AMES at Madliena, and No. 504 AMES at Dingli emplaced by July 1941, followed by:

No. 241 AMES moved to Għar Lapsi (originally installed with No. 242 at Dingli), No. 841 AMES at Wardija, and No. 521 at Gozo Giordan Lighthouse.

These were later supplemented by much better AMES Type 13 and 14 sets based on RN designs.

I suspect it was the relatively primitive Madliena AMES 502 set that directed the fire on the night of 16/17 May 1942.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Richard Anderson
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 21 Nov 2018 21:03

Some additional information and amendments.

The No. 214 and 242 sets were designated Chain Overseas High (COH) and designed for high-altitude aircraft interception. No. 501 and 502 were the first Chain Overseas Low (COL) installations. 501 was operational by December 1940 with 502 and 504 shortly after (the three sets arrived on the same vessel in November 1940).

Interestingly, Dobbie specifically mentions nine GL sets in continuous operation on 9 April 1941, when he urgently requested more fitters be supplied for maintenance. One of the "missing" two was a COL station on Gozo, which was moved to Malta on 29 April 1942, when it was decided the island could not be adequately defended. I have yet to track down its AMES number (AMES 314 at Kaura Point is a possibility). The other "missing" one remains elusive. By May 1942, fourteen RDF stations were operational, including two GCI stations using the AMES Type 13 or 14 sets. By October 1942, AMES 841 was moved to Gudia Island.

See "Line of Defence", Aeroplane, June 2017, pp. 33-36; Robert F. Linden, "George Cross Island", in Chapter VI of George K. Grande, Sheila M. Linden, & Horace R. Macaulay, Canadians on Radar, 2003.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Gooner1
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Gooner1 » 22 Nov 2018 17:49

Wargames wrote:
21 Nov 2018 16:38
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.
Would the Italian bombardment ships be well beyond the range of the 9.2-inch guns of Forts Madalena and Binjemma?
Which forts could also target any landing attempt in the WNW.
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).
Nope, the Campbell battery was sited primarily to protect St. Pauls Bay and Mellieha Bay. Valetta already had guns to protect it.

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.
"A ship's a fool to fight a fort"

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Robert Rojas
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RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940 - ( A Camel Is A Horse Designed By A Committee).

Post by Robert Rojas » 22 Nov 2018 18:34

Greetings to both citizen Gooner1 and the community as a whole. Howdy G-1! Well sir, in deference to your point OR points-of-view as articulated within your posting of Thursday - November 22, 2018 - 8:49am, old your truly would, in principle anyway, generally concur with your position that it would not be a prudent course of action for a naval vessel to attempt to slug it out with a shore fortification. However, desperation, like necessity itself, is often the mother of invention. When the time avails itself, you might want to either acquaint OR reacquaint yourself with the actions of United States Navy destroyers that came in to support the troops assaulting the fortifications facing Omaha Beach at Normandy, France on June 06, 1944. It's just some friendly food for thought. Yorkshire pudding anyone? Well, that's my latest two Yankee cents worth on this "hypothetical" topic that I erroneously thought that I had permanently forsaken - for now anyway - MAYBE! As always, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in your corner of merry old England. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN - not to mention everybody else.


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

Richard Anderson
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Re: RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940 - ( A Camel Is A Horse Designed By A Committee).

Post by Richard Anderson » 23 Nov 2018 15:06

Robert Rojas wrote:
22 Nov 2018 18:34
Greetings to both citizen Gooner1 and the community as a whole. Howdy G-1! Well sir, in deference to your point OR points-of-view as articulated within your posting of Thursday - November 22, 2018 - 8:49am, old your truly would, in principle anyway, generally concur with your position that it would not be a prudent course of action for a naval vessel to attempt to slug it out with a shore fortification. However, desperation, like necessity itself, is often the mother of invention. When the time avails itself, you might want to either acquaint OR reacquaint yourself with the actions of United States Navy destroyers that came in to support the troops assaulting the fortifications facing Omaha Beach at Normandy, France on June 06, 1944. It's just some friendly food for thought. Yorkshire pudding anyone? Well, that's my latest two Yankee cents worth on this "hypothetical" topic that I erroneously thought that I had permanently forsaken - for now anyway - MAYBE! As always, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in your corner of merry old England. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN - not to mention everybody else.
I thought it was "an elephant is a mouse designed by committee? :D

Anyway, OMAHA is not really a good example, given that the two German coast batteries that could bear on the Western Task Force ships there, Pointe du Hoc and Longues-sur-Mer, were both put out of action...one by the Rangers (abetted by the earlier bombing forcing the Germans to keep the guns away from the battery position) and the other by British cruisers tasked to bombard it. BTW, Longues-sur-Mer is a good example of the hazards of the enclosed-type gun battery design used by the Germans.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 28 Nov 2018 19:07

Uncle Bob!

At least one of the destroyers which closed Omaha Beach was Royal Navy - HMS TALYBONT IIRC. I’m not sure if they were all ordered to close the shore or all (USN & RN) did so on their own initiative.

Regards from a wet and windy island,

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 28 Nov 2018 19:53

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
28 Nov 2018 19:07
Uncle Bob!

At least one of the destroyers which closed Omaha Beach was Royal Navy - HMS TALYBONT IIRC. I’m not sure if they were all ordered to close the shore or all (USN & RN) did so on their own initiative.

Regards from a wet and windy island,

Tom
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/l ... mandy.html is illuminating.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 28 Nov 2018 21:05

Rich,

Thanks - I’ve skimmed and will go back and have a close read as it is full of interesting, and in some cases grim, information. I was obviously wrong though, RN destroyers took part in initial bombardment only before heading out to become part of the screen.

Regards

Tom

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 28 Nov 2018 21:43

I didn't want to be cruel and tell you that directly. 😁 too many sensitive types around here whinging and moaning lately. 🤣
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 29 Nov 2018 18:33

Rich,
I didn't want to be cruel and tell you that directly. 😁 too many sensitive types around here whinging and moaning lately. 🤣
That's the point of forums like this isn't it? Post something up, find out you were wrong, go off and do some more research! Learn something new. Happy days. :D

Please feel free to be as blunt as you like!

Regards

Tom

Aber
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Aber » 30 Nov 2018 08:34

Richard Anderson wrote:
28 Nov 2018 21:43
I didn't want to be cruel and tell you that directly. 😁 too many sensitive types around here whinging and moaning lately. 🤣
Well, we'd get our own back on correcting the pronunciation of Talybont. :D

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DrG
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by DrG » 30 Jan 2019 00:31

I would suggest, at least to those who know Italian language, to read "Malta, 1940-1943. La storia inconfessabile" by Enrico Cernuschi https://books.google.it/books/about/Mal ... hCrgEACAAJ . It addresses most of the issues touched by this topic.

The Italian pre-WW2 amphibious operations doctrine was based on the use of few and large landing ships (used as water tanks), but the only time that a similar kind of operation was tried against a well defended shore turned into a disaster. I am referring to the Italian-sponsored Nationalist Spanish attack on Cartagena on 7 March 1939 using the "Castillo de Olite" ship. After this empirical proof, Italian top military commands discovered that in reality they hadn't any serious landing doctrine, unless the target was undefended (in this case, the old plans worked reasonably well, like in Albania April 1939 and, with much updated plans and means, in Tunisia and Corsica in November 1942).

Maybe, the only way for Italy to take Malta during a war (and not with a surprise attack during peacetime) was by following the plan put forward by the Regia Marina in the Summer of 1942, i.e. by occupying the almost undefended Gozo and then use 149/40 guns to bombard the British defenses and the Grand Harbour, using Comino for artillery spotters. But I prefer to avoid what-ifs and, anyway, this what-if would have been good for 1942 (maybe), but not for the means available in 1940.

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by T. A. Gardner » 30 Jan 2019 02:50

I wouldn't put much faith in the British coast defenses to be decisive, or even particularly effective. Coast defense was never a British strong suit. I'd think the success or failure would lie in between the invading forces and defending ground troops rather than a the few guns installed for coast defense.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 30 Jan 2019 06:58

DrG wrote: but the only time that a similar kind of operation was tried against a well defended shore turned into a disaster. I am referring to the Italian-sponsored Nationalist Spanish attack on Cartagena on 7 March 1939 using the "Castillo de Olite" ship. After this empirical proof, Italian top military commands discovered that in reality they hadn't any serious landing doctrine, unless the target was undefended (in this case, the old plans worked reasonably well, like in Albania April 1939 and, with much updated plans and means, in Tunisia and Corsica in November 1942).
This is the first time I see any reference to a significant Italian involvement in the Cartagena landing operation. Can you explain what you mean by "Italian-sponsored"?
But anyway, as I said in a previous post in this thread, the Cartagena landing was totally improvised in about 48 hours. There were no real preparations, the National merchant vessels involved in the operation (not only the Castillo de Olite, there were many more) sailed as soon as they had their assigned troops onboard, and they were not adapted as amphibious ships because it was in no way an amphibious assault against an enemy coast. Cartagena, probably the best defended coastal area in Spain, 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 was to be just a naval transport operation, not an amphibious invasion. Its value as an "empirical proof" regarding an amphibious landing against a defended enemy coast was highly questionable.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Sid Guttridge » 30 Jan 2019 11:48

Hi T. A. Gardener,

You say that "Coast defense was never a British strong suit".

Given the obsolete guns applied in most cases, you may be right, but do you have any cases where the guns were tested in combat and found wanting?

(I here exclude Singapore, in that the guns were never really tested, and the Channel Dash, where the fall of shot couldn't be seen due to lack of visibility).

I would note that it was the British batteries that apparently eventually (after four years) disabled the German batteries in the Pas de Calais, not the other way around.

Cheers,

Sid.

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