Italy invading Malta in 1940

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DrG
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by DrG » 30 Jan 2019 18:06

Ironmachine wrote:
30 Jan 2019 06:58
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.
As far as I know, the Castillo de Olite had been modified to operate as a landing ship and the operation was studied by Italian military advisors, causing a serious change in the minds of the Regia Marina high command. Cavagnari and Mussolini lost their faith in the Italian amphibious operations doctrine, based upon the use of few and large ships, soon thereafter, as noted by Ciano in his entry of 15 March 1939 of his diary.
I was wrong, instead, about an Italian sponsoring: the operation was analysed by Italian officers, not planned or supported by them.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 30 Jan 2019 19:12

DrG wrote:As far as I know, the Castillo de Olite had been modified to operate as a landing ship
No, no modification had been carried out in that sense in the Castillo de Olite, and there is no way that she could qualify as a "landing ship". She was a standard freighter, and in fact she had cargo onboard (bales of wooden slats) when she was selected for the operation. The troops had to wait for the cargo to be unloaded from the ship before embarking. And the same can be said about the other freighters that took part in the operation: none of them could have landed troops directly onto shore, without using a dock or a pier.
DrG wrote:Cavagnari and Mussolini lost their faith in the Italian amphibious operations doctrine, based upon the use of few and large ships, soon thereafter, as noted by Ciano in his entry of 15 March 1939 of his diary.
The Castillo de Olite was sunk on 7 March 1939. If between 7 and 15 March the Regia Marina high command was able to ask the Spanish authorities about the operation, receive the available data (that I suspect the Spaniards had little interest in sharing), have it analysed, and reach the conclusion that their amphibious doctrine had to be changed, they certainly acted with remarkable speed. It's not that there was much to analyse: the operation was basically 1) find some troops; 2) find some freighters; 3) put the troops onboard the freighters; 4) send the freighters to Cartagena, one by one as soon as they had their troops onboard. But for the same reason the conclusions that could be obtained from the operation were highly questionable.

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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 23:08

Sid Guttridge wrote:
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.
No, they never really were. But, the biggest "normal" coast defense gun for the British was a 9.2". The next size down was a 6" gun. The 15" in Singapore and the 14" on the Channel were exceptions to the rule.

By comparison, the US generally defended the most important harbors and locations with guns up to 16" in size and had far more of them.

The other difference was the British didn't put in the sort of fire control system the US did for controlling fire. Both had radar, but the British generally had one set for a battery where the US would have two or more. The US used several base stations that coordinated with a central plotting room for observed fire rather than a single control station or even sighing by the gun crew itself like the British did.

This is the US system:

Image

Image

The 'B' stations acted like a massive stereoscopic rangefinder that had a base of as much as a thousand yards or more with a director (DC) position giving a third plot that coincided with the plotting room.

The other thing the US did was make many of their batteries 360 degree fields of fire. Mortar batteries (12") had this capacity. Barbette guns also had this capacity and generally operated in an indirect fire mode that screened their fire from observation by the target.

Image

The British typically had a Battery Observation Post (BOP) equipped with either a Barr and Stroud or Dumaresq range keeper, much like used on early WW 1 ships. The gunners aimed off instructions passed to the guns from the BOP or could aim directly as an alternate. Fire was pretty much the same as from a ship. The first salvos were for ranging and corrections would be passed to the guns from observed shell splashes.

After 1940, most British home coast defense batteries got Home Guard manning them as well.

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DrG
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by DrG » 31 Jan 2019 02:28

Ironmachine wrote:
30 Jan 2019 19:12
No, no modification had been carried out in that sense in the Castillo de Olite, and there is no way that she could qualify as a "landing ship". She was a standard freighter, and in fact she had cargo onboard (bales of wooden slats) when she was selected for the operation. The troops had to wait for the cargo to be unloaded from the ship before embarking. And the same can be said about the other freighters that took part in the operation: none of them could have landed troops directly onto shore, without using a dock or a pier.
Thank you for the clarification, apparently the information I read was not correct.
The Castillo de Olite was sunk on 7 March 1939. If between 7 and 15 March the Regia Marina high command was able to ask the Spanish authorities about the operation, receive the available data (that I suspect the Spaniards had little interest in sharing), have it analysed, and reach the conclusion that their amphibious doctrine had to be changed, they certainly acted with remarkable speed. It's not that there was much to analyse: the operation was basically 1) find some troops; 2) find some freighters; 3) put the troops onboard the freighters; 4) send the freighters to Cartagena, one by one as soon as they had their troops onboard. But for the same reason the conclusions that could be obtained from the operation were highly questionable.
Spain was full of Italian officers, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Italian observers were physically present at Cartagena. The conclusions regarded the Italian doctrine of using few large ships, protected only against rifle-caliber bullets, for landings against defended shores. The operation in Cartagena showed that the concentration of men and materials in few vessels would have caused too high losses with just one or two sunk ships, therefore at least the first wave should have been made of smaller landing ships, such as the ones put into service in 1942 for operation C3 Malta (I am referring to the motozattere, made in Italy but based on German projects). I don't find it too difficult to imagine that the Italian Navy high command reached such somewhat obvious conclusions in a few days and probably, by the way, it used Cartagena just as an empirical proof (or a justification) of doubts and critics already present and quite reasonable and understandable (frankly, it's just a matter of risk diversification, i.e. "don't put all your eggs in one basket").

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Ironmachine
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 31 Jan 2019 07:13

DrG wrote:The operation in Cartagena showed that the concentration of men and materials in few vessels would have caused too high losses with just one or two sunk ships,
Yes, that should have been obvious since the moment the doctrine was formulated, with no need of further "proof".
DrG wrote:therefore at least the first wave should have been made of smaller landing ships, such as the ones put into service in 1942 for operation C3 Malta (I am referring to the motozattere, made in Italy but based on German projects)
And the Italians believed that, if the reference to the 20-ton landing craft projected in May 1939 I posted before is correct. However, if they were cancelled in November 1939, they either changed their mind again or decided that amphibious operations were not worth the effort...
DrG wrote:I don't find it too difficult to imagine that the Italian Navy high command reached such somewhat obvious conclusions in a few days and probably, by the way, it used Cartagena just as an empirical proof (or a justification) of doubts and critics already present and quite reasonable and understandable
Yes, probably the Italians didn't need any "proof" to reach that conclusion. The problem with Cartagena, however, is that is a very particular example. Many things could have been different if planned differently. There is a great difference between trying to enter a port and landing in a beach, for example. Or what would have happened, considering the shaky moral of the defending forces, if some kind of naval bombardment was carried out before the "landing"? Or if some kind of aerial support was present? Certainly the Spaniards would have not carried out the operation if they knew the coastal defenses were going to fight.

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DrG
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by DrG » 31 Jan 2019 23:12

The 20 ton landing crafts (inspired by the Japanese landing crafts observed in China in 1938), according to Cernuschi, "Malta 1940-1943", pages 81-82, were cancelled after the dismission of Gen. Alberto Pariani from the role of Chief of Staff of the Regio Esercito. Pariani was known for his innovative, but sometimes also far fetched, ideas about military plans and equipment, so his fall caused the abrupt end of his last and least conventional proposals. Anyway, even if those ships had been made, it would have been nearly impossibile to have a trained landing force ready for June 1940.

Anyway, it should be noted that most of the attention of Italian plans for amphibious operations were focused on landing on scarcely defended coasts in Greece or Yugoslavia, not against Malta. This rocky island, full of caves and bunkers, whose artillery (not negligible, anyway) was seriously overestimated by the Italian intelligence, was rightly (IMHO) regarded as an impossible target.

Not surprisingly, most of the effort was spent, since the Twenties, on the construction of the "cannonissimo", i.e. a 210 mm very long range gun, which should have bombarded Malta from the Sicilian shores. When the experiments with its prototype proved its unreliability and the excessive wear of its rifling, the bombers of the Regia Aeronautica became the only, and practically uneffective, weapon to attack land targets on Malta. During the war there was a bit of interest in flying bombs, like the aerobomba Mulinacci or Prof. Ing. Giuseppe Beluzzo's flying discs (by the way, I don't see any reason to dismiss his post-war revelations as unreliable: he was a serious scientist with an adamantine curriculum, therefore he didn't need to lie in order to get 15 minutes of fame after a life of successes), but nothing concrete was reached.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Feb 2019 12:25

Hi T. A. Gardner,

An excellent reply.

I accept your point.

Thanks,

Sid.

Wargames
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 01 Apr 2019 06:35

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
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
There you go! Post, be crucified, and hope to learn.

So does anyone know where the 6" howitzer was actually located in northern Malta in 1940? the location I have doesn't make any sense.
Thanks in advance.

:)

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