1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

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Von Schadewald
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1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Von Schadewald » 01 Apr 2020 13:29

What if the Belgian White Brigade failed to thwart the German demolition of the Antwerp dock crains, the Canadians fail in clearing the Scheldt, and V2 fire causes total evacuation?

In OTL, the first US supply ship unloaded in Antwerp docks on November 28, enough time for the Allies to build up 2 weeks worth of supplies to counter the German Bulge counterstroke.

If Antwerp was still unavailable as a port well in to 1945, how would this have affected the war in the west, if at all?

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 01 Apr 2020 15:29

First unknown here is what preparations or plans were already in place for repairing the docks. The Allies had anticipated X or Y amount of damage to the other ports they used & had men & material allocated to restore them. ie: Cherbourg was severely damaged. Secured in the last week of June it was accepting discharge at or near its peacetime intake in early August. Between 8,000 & 10,000 tons daily. Late August-early September the discharge to the docks averaged more than double that & briefly in September hit a peak of 24,000 tons daily. (Ruppenthal: Logistics in Overlord) To do this the USN used first material on hand for the port restoration, then to boost beyond the ports nominal capacity drew on material allocated for the unsecured Bereton ports. ie: Operation CHASITY.

The other variable is what the German sabotage plan was, & their actual ability. The Birts crossed the Somme 26 (?) August. That left eight to ten days for the local garrison to prepare a demolition plan and assemble explosives, other tools, and some skilled labor for the task. How well prepared were they in late August & what demolition could they actually accomplish?

From the example of Cherbourg with its severe sabotage & the British restoration of Le Hrave we might guess it would take between four and six weeks to restore a port to its 1930s peace time average discharge rate. Eight weeks at the out side. In the Mediterranean in 1943 Allied expertise was less, but so was German skill at sabotaging ports. There four to eight weeks was a rough average for rehabilitation to some sort of peace time level of discharge capacity. Note how the Allied goal in this was intake capacity only. The port operations units were concerned with importing supplies for their armies and essentials for the civilian population. Export flow was sacrificed for import, so most or all the ships dock side were discharging vs a portion loading during peacetime. A second note is the operations or capacity was jumped up beyond peace time capacity in nearly all cases. Cherbourg was a extreme case, but all were boosted above their nominal 1930s capacity in small or large amounts.

Antwerp was captured 4 September & started operations 22 November. That allowed ten weeks for repairs to meet the OTL opening date. However not all repairs could be effected until the approach was opened. Much of the material for restoration was best delivered by ship, and other items sent overland would be competing for dock space and transportation with supplies for the combat forces. Belgian industry might be drawn on for some restoration, but that ability is another unknown other than we know Belgium was a first tier industrial region with a skilled workforce.

There is the problem of Antwerps clearance rate in 1944. It was a 'through port' where the material discharged was immeaditely transported elsewhere. Its storage capacity was not large enough to accommodate its peacetime discharge average. The Belgian transport system was as badly damaged as that of France so this full removal could not be accomplished. By late December the port operations authority ceased unloading operations. The material was suffering significant damage from sitting on the docks and railroad sidings awaiting transport. Return to Decembers peak discharge rate was not reached again until later in January.

Last here there is the matter of the blockage of the Scheldt channel. German sabotage of the other ports, from Bizerte, though Naples, Marseilles, Cherbourg, Le Harve & the others depended on mining and sinking ships in the harbor waters. In that sense Antwerp was successfully sabotaged, Half the tasks were accomplished September-October, or earlier. It was the landward half that was not accomplished.
Last edited by Carl Schwamberger on 01 Apr 2020 15:36, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by OpanaPointer » 01 Apr 2020 15:31

More V-2 available for London?
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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 01 Apr 2020 15:43

Not London, the fields west of there. The V2 had been largely misdirected then & were ineffective vs London.

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Von Schadewald » 01 Apr 2020 16:05

Hi

Can you please refrain from introducing what is essentially another WI into a WI that is but a few posts old.
You constantly do this and usually why your WI go south very quickly and then locked.

Regards as ever

Andy H

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Andy H » 01 Apr 2020 16:13

OpanaPointer wrote:
01 Apr 2020 15:31
More V-2 available for London?
Hi OP

If we're to believe the thread authors proposition, then a fair proportion of the 2000+ V1&2's aimed at the city, could have been used elsewhere.
Though these would have caused some irritation to allied plans at some level, its worth remembering that the vast majority aimed at Antwerp city centre, let alone the docks, actually hit.

There's some good info here concerning the V-Weapons used against Antwerp.
http://www.v2rocket.com/start/chapters/antwerp.html

Regards

Andy H

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 02 Apr 2020 00:02

Assuming Antwerp does not start receiving cargo until Christmass, or early January, then the US 1st Army is probably undersupplied for attacking during December. Possibly 21 AG as well. Ike may order those two to do diversionary operations & have 3rd Army & 6th AG take on a larger share of offensive ops. That affects the Allied response to the December offensive.

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 Apr 2020 15:39

Carl,

If US 1st Army operations had highest priority why wouldn’t some of the supplies historically sent to US 3rd Army just have been diverted to Hodges?

Regards

Tom

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Aber » 04 Apr 2020 16:11

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
02 Apr 2020 15:39
Carl,

If US 1st Army operations had highest priority why wouldn’t some of the supplies historically sent to US 3rd Army just have been diverted to Hodges?

Regards

Tom
You would think so, but given how Bradley interpreted "priority for 1st Army" in OTL, who knows? :D

Back to OP; IIRC the key issue at Antwerp were the dock gates to the Scheldt - the Kruisschans Lock.

If these are blocked and capacity falls, then the British supply line is still probably OK using the Channel ports. US will either need to develop Le Havre further, keep Cherbourg in full use, or even use Brittany ports.

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Apr 2020 14:08

Aber wrote:
04 Apr 2020 16:11
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
02 Apr 2020 15:39
Carl,

If US 1st Army operations had highest priority why wouldn’t some of the supplies historically sent to US 3rd Army just have been diverted to Hodges?

Regards

Tom
You would think so, but given how Bradley interpreted "priority for 1st Army" in OTL, who knows? :D
Ike has a role in this decision too. He might see a need to abandon or modify his broad front strategy. Even to the point of shifting 3rd Army to 6th AG & weighting the main effort south of Belgium.
Back to OP; IIRC the key issue at Antwerp were the dock gates to the Scheldt - the Kruisschans Lock.
If that is severely damaged it could take far longer than eight weeks. However one of the techniques for hotrod ding Cherbourg intake was extending railway spurs and automotive roads to shore line suitable for beaching LST. There the beaching sites were paved. The LST were discharging onto ramps of steel paving matts over compacted rock. This was also done to various degrees on the beaches. Operation CHASITY included railway spurs of 10+ kilometers connecting the existing Brest-Le Orient railway to the prefabricated docks in Quiberon Bay. There may have been suitable sites for the same near Antwerp.
If these are blocked and capacity falls, then the British supply line is still probably OK using the Channel ports. US will either need to develop Le Havre further, keep Cherbourg in full use, or even use Brittany ports.
I wonder what further capacity of Le Havre &the Channel ports was? One hard limit was the size of the harbor basin/protected anchorage. Expanding the Brittany port group does not get around the problem of inland transportation problems. It probably aggravates it from the increased railways necessary to rebuild.

On the game board not having Antwerp is seldom a good thing. When a Allied player I found it always better to put priority on securing that port earlier than later. Getting these ports open is so important that given a choice between a under defended Rhine crossing and a under defended Rotterdam I'd seriously consider the latter as priority for this phase of the campaign.

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Aber » 06 Apr 2020 08:24

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
05 Apr 2020 14:08
I wonder what further capacity of Le Havre &the Channel ports was? One hard limit was the size of the harbor basin/protected anchorage.
You have the whole of the Seine estuary to improvise with.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@49.47447 ... 312!8i6656

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Apr 2020 08:40

It was navigable as far as Rouen. IIRC the US Army used that cities docks as a discharge point in the autumn of 1944 & into the winter

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Andy H » 06 Apr 2020 11:25

Hi

Didn't Allies in the OTL utilise and improve the facilities at Ghent, as a means of offsetting the issues arising at Antwerp!
If that's the case, then could they be improved to a greater extent in this ATL?

Regards

Andy H

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Apr 2020 14:28

Andy H wrote:
06 Apr 2020 11:25
Hi

Didn't Allies in the OTL utilise and improve the facilities at Ghent, as a means of offsetting the issues arising at Antwerp!
If that's the case, then could they be improved to a greater extent in this ATL?

Regards

Andy H
Possibly. How far that might go depends in part on what I tried to get at in my first post:
First unknown here is what preparations or plans were already in place for repairing the docks. The Allies had anticipated X or Y amount of damage to the other ports they used & had men & material allocated to restore them. ie: Cherbourg was severely damaged. Secured in the last week of June it was accepting discharge at or near its peacetime intake in early August. Between 8,000 & 10,000 tons daily. Late August-early September the discharge to the docks averaged more than double that & briefly in September hit a peak of 24,000 tons daily. (Ruppenthal: Logistics in Overlord) To do this the USN used first material on hand for the port restoration, then to boost beyond the ports nominal capacity drew on material allocated for the unsecured Bereton ports. ie: Operation CHASITY.
To clarify; the improvisation that raised the discharge capacity of the Cherbourg port group drew on material for other port operations. So my question revolved around what men, port operating units, and material were at hand to improve Ghent or other sites. Since in theory Antwerp was not expected to be captured so soon, there may or may not have been a pile of 'stuff' sitting ready for use. Answering that question answers the question of if other ports could be expanded.

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Re: 1944: Opening of Antwerp Port delayed by months

Post by Aber » 06 Apr 2020 18:31

Andy H wrote:
06 Apr 2020 11:25
Didn't Allies in the OTL utilise and improve the facilities at Ghent, as a means of offsetting the issues arising at Antwerp!
If that's the case, then could they be improved to a greater extent in this ATL?
Ruppenthall Vol 2 p 395
Ghent had not figured seriously in early COMZ port planning. In mid-January, however, U.S. and British officials agreed on a plan for its joint use, the main thought being that it would serve as a standby to Antwerp in case operations at the latter were interrupted. The arrangements were very similar to those made for Antwerp. A port executive committee was appointed to decide on allocations of space, the joint use of certain facilities, and so on. Initially the port's capacity was divided to allow a discharge of 5,000 tons per day for the British and 7,500 tons for the Americans. The 17th Port, then operating the Bristol Channel ports, was assigned the mission of working the U.S. sector.
Ghent had been used almost exclusively
by barges, coasters, and small freighters, and there was doubt at first as to whether ocean-going ships could be accommodated. The first ship to enter on 23 January was a Liberty, however, whose 57-foot beam barely cleared the Terneuzen locks, and the port thereafter handled both Liberties and coasters regularly. Some ships had to be lightened by discharge to barges at Terneuzen, at the entrance to the canal, before they could proceed to the port. Ghent unloaded only about 2,500 tons per day in the first month of operations, but it more than doubled that record in March, and discharged an average of 9,300 tons in the final month before V-E Day."

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