The Importance of holding Malta...

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GrossDeutschland
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The Importance of holding Malta...

Post by GrossDeutschland » 30 Apr 2002 20:53

Fellows-
I am aware that British airplanes and submarines, operating from Malta, were able to greatly hamper the supply line from mainland Europe to the Afrika Korps and Italian forces in North Africa. So obviously this island bastion did good things for the Allies. But...
What kind of importance could it have proved for the Axis, had Germans/Italians successfully invaded it? I know that Rommel came within figurative inches of destroying the British Eighth Army at Gazala, but might have he succeeded in his drive to the Suez, and beyond that to the Middle East, if Malta had secured the logistics for him and his forces?

All replies welcome
Danke

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Marcus
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Post by Marcus » 30 Apr 2002 20:54

Welcome to the forum.

/Marcus

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 30 Apr 2002 22:31

My opinion always has been that the Malta question was only of major importance while the Italian Navy was doing nothing to drive the British out of the Mediterrianean. From what I know, the Italian and British naval forces in the Mediterrian in 1940 were of roughly equal size, however the Italian's did not move to make the first blow, instead allowing the British to deal that in their raid on Taranto.

The supply problem was not just on sea, but on land too. The Italian's lack of a rail supply system mirroring that of the British severely limited Rommel's fighting abilities. Thus the further he moved from Tripoli, the further his supplies got stretched, albiet unnecessarily. For had the Italian's built a rail line, or even used harbours closer to Rommel's front line position. The war in North Africa could have taken a much different course.

If I recall the Rommel Paper's correctly, Rommel complained that the only days he received the full quota of supplies he needed was when Kesselring made an airlift to his forces.

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Richard Murphy
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Malta

Post by Richard Murphy » 30 Apr 2002 22:51

Another example of the Third Reich doing before thinking :roll: !

ANY idiot could look at a map and figure out that Malta was always going to be the stumbling block, both for supplying Axis forces in North Africa, and (If under Axis control) doing the same to the British.

Had the Germans and Italians been better co-ordinated, Mussolini's forces could have probably done the job all by themselves in the Autumn of 1939 or Spring of 1940, but the thought doesn't appear to have occured to either of them.

Regards from the Park,

Rich

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 01 May 2002 09:32

Another example of the Third Reich doing before thinking !


They should have given it more thought earlier on, agreed.

An Italian Navy which was actively cutting off supplies to Malta and the British Army in North Africa, rather than just leaving it to the Luftwaffe as was mostly the case, would have meant that Malta was not quite the great key to success that it became. Indeed, Malta could have been isolated and forced into capitulation if the Italian Navy had been active.

However the general impression of the Italian Navy that I've got is that they were determined to do as little as possible for the war effort given that they did not believe in it.

Besides, would an airbourne operation against Malta be worth it? After Crete, Hitler announced something to the effect that the age of the paratrooper was over. The disaster of Crete deeply affected him, no doubt reminding him of the fate his Regiment suffered during the opening months of the First World War.

A seabourne operaton perhaps? Already the British had shown that they could defeat an Axis seabourne operation in the Mediterrianean by wiping out the sea arm of the Crete operation. Malta may have been more successful given it's closer proximity to the Italian mainland, but even so, with the fact that Ultra was by then able to listen in to Luftwaffe preparations (hence why General Freyburg knew exactly where the paratroopers would land in Crete) it must be argued that any operation against Malta would be highly dangerous. And such an operation could well have been crippling to the fleet of JU-52s, which had already suffered such heavy losses on Crete.

Malta as a well supplied fortress island was dangerous to Axis supply operations, but Malta cut off from supplies via the Italian Navy actively fighting the British Navy in the Mediterrianean, would decrease the role of Malta in both British and Axis strategies.

The flaw in the Third Reich's thinking here was no doubt that Hitler counted on the Italian Navy to actually battle the British Navy, something which I'm convinced it wasn't prepared to even slightly consider.

tonyh
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re

Post by tonyh » 02 May 2002 10:45

>>I am aware that British airplanes and submarines, operating from Malta, were able to greatly hamper the supply line from mainland Europe to the Afrika Korps and Italian forces in North Africa.<<

Well, GD. Your answer is in your own post. If The Gerries had been able to take Malta or serverely reduce operations there then the British would not be able to to capitalise on the use of their "...airplanes and submarines, operating from Malta", and therefore not be "...able to greatly hamper the supply line from mainland Europe to the Afrika Korps and Italian forces in North Africa."

The German op's against Malta was not necessarilly a prelude to invasion, but rather an attempt to knock out the British ability to interfere in German supply lines.

Tony

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