Full Monty wrote:Well the figures I have are similar to those given above, as I have already stated.
If they are, then how can you claim consistency of tonnage landed in North Africa?
This graph shows deliveries between December 1940 (when the first losses occurred) and November 1942 (after which the situation was shot to pieces and therefore not representative). Deliveries in blue are expressed as a percentage of the average for the period. The purple area represents losses, so blue + purple is what the Axis planned to send, purple represents the direct contribution of Allied sinkings.
As you can see, deliveries start fairly low. In June 1941, deliveries pick up and the loss rate is low. In the second half of 1941, losses increase (the Luftwaffe has been redeployed to Russia, Malta is more active) so deliveries decrease. This is both a direct effect of Malta i.e. Rommel's convoys are getting sunk, and an indirect effect i.e. less convoys are being sent because this is a danger zone so only heavily-escorted convoys are sent which limits the amounts that can be shipped.
Then starting in January 1942 we have a new low-losses period, and deliveries increase correspondingly. Things reverse again in the second half of the year although in the last four months you can see Rommel struggling to get deliveries regardless of shipping losses so there are very few indirect effects (i.e. the amounts sent don't significantly decrease). This is even more obvious if I format the data in bimonthly increments so as to get a smoother curve, and factor out the reinforcements received during the Spring of 1942 (April 1942 was a record month which gives the whole curve an uglier shape than it could have).
To me, the picture is fairly clear, but I'm taking pains to explain why. If you disagree, you can presumably show where my use of the figures is wrong.
On the other hand, you argue that the figures show a consistency in the deliveries. The way I see it, out of the 24 months examined there are 18 in which a deviation greater than 10% from the average occurred, of which 13 (i.e. more than half) in which deliveries were more than 20% over average or less than 80% of average. That, to me, is not consistent for a supply chain.
Full Monty wrote:Percentage figures are meaningless without the appropriate base numbers. In any case I'm working on tonnage landed. Ellis states that on average some 203,000 tons per quarter were landed in North Africa. Even when vehicles are taken out of the equation this still gives a daily allocation of some 800 tons per division per day. ('Brute Force' - pp.251-2) This stacks up pretty well with supplies provided for other Heer formations.
203,000 divided by 90 days in a quarter is 2,255 tons which is about a quarter of the daily allocation that you mentioned (depending on how much you count an Italian division was worth in terms of supply).
The Italian official histories give a reasonably close figure for the quarterly average, apparently Ellis' figures is 1941 and 1942, he leaves out 1940. Fair enough, so here are the quarterly deliveries. Each time, the figure is tonnage delivered followed by the percentage of the average figure (204,041) to measure consistency.
Q1/41: 221,020 - 108% Q2/41: 275,879 - 135% Q3/41: 213,745 - 105% Q4/41: 142,549 - 70%
Q1/42: 172,723 - 85% Q2/42: 269,155 - 132% Q3/42: 220,672 - 108% Q4/42: 116,585 - 57%
Remember that the percentage figures are based on the historical deliveries i.e. an insufficient amount to begin with. So when you read 100% it doesn't mean that supply was satisfactory, just that it was parr for the course including the disastrous months of December 1942 etc. These figures show that the situation was satisfactory in the second quarter of each year i.e. when Malta was on the ropes. At the end of each year, Malta was active again and the Axis supply line interdicted and, lo and behold, this coincided with the greatest Axis defeats.
Full Monty wrote:Auchinleck's armour was pretty worn down, but 8th Army had started the battle with a 4-to-1 advantage in medium tanks. Additionally, Rommel had wasted considerable supplies launching his ill-advised 'Dash to the Wire'. But your point about the supply convoys is questionable, since the Axis army was hardly working on a 'hand to mouth' basis. As as been pointed out, the supply situation at Tripoli and Benghazi was good, the shortfall took time to work through to the forward supply dumps.
Rommel had to withdraw because he hadn't just run out of tanks but he also lacked fuel and ammunition for those tanks that he did have. And the 'dash to the Wire' burned some fuel but practically no ammunition. Also, he was close enough to Benghazi at the time, and yes, Axis logistics were hand to mouth according to him, Mellenthin and various other records.
In crisis situations, he had to beg for practically every convoy as a matter of emergency.
Full Monty wrote:That's so one sided it's close to nonsense. The Allies committed vast resources into keeping Malta open. Said resources could have been redeployed into North Africa leaving us with a 'zero sum' argument. I'd like to know what other scheme could have been adopted as a 'more efficient option' to keep Rommel's Army supplied.
The resources that the Allies committed to keep Malta open couldn't have helped shape the situation in the desert. The resources that the Axis committed to keep Malta down were also needed in the desert. For the Axis, it was an either/or situation, as for example when Rommel captured Tobruk and he successfully argued that he should keep the Luftwaffe assets temporarily attached to him for the Gazala offensive, instead of releasing them for the scheduled operation against Malta.
The same planes were supporting Rommel at the front or keeping Malta down (or going to Russia). So if the British had lost Malta, their Pedestal forces would have been freed to do something else. Great. The main force didn't venture within range of Axis land-based air anyway, so what could it have accomplished in that theater? Pretty much nothing. On the other hand, the British could presumably have resumed convoys to Murmansk, but that's another story. That's why it's not a zero sum argument. Also, geography makes a difference: Malta was within easy attack range of Axis convoys, Alexandria was not. Malta-based attacks could strike at various points, requiring air patrolling of a vast area (or serious air action to suppress the island), whereas Alexandria-based attacks would come from a limited sector and could be more effectively defended against.
Regarding keeping Rommel's army supplied, without the need to heavily escort convoys then more convoys can be run more often making better use of the available port capacity. As things were, the ships had to spend minimal time in harbor and in certain cases returned to Italy without having completed unloading. The historical convoys also forced the Italians to send several under-loaded ships under heavy escort, which was grossly inefficient in terms of fuel (escorts) and shipping. Sending 5 ships with 1,000 tons each makes sense when you have 5 berths to unload from and want to cut your losses in case of attack as well as minimize the time spent in harbor. But if that imperative decreases, then you can send fully-loaded ships which is more efficient in terms of shipping availability, fuel and port capacity (less down time between convoys).
Full Monty wrote:Again that's one sided.
Better one-sided than zero-sided, though...
Full Monty wrote:How would the DAF in Egypt been neutralised, especially with RAF assets being deployed there rather than Malta?
Tobruk and Benghazi were out of escorted bombing range from Egypt, so if you deploy the Malta interceptors to Alexandria they can't be as effective against Axis convoys as they were around Malta where they were in range. Ditto the short-ranged and most effective attack aircraft. Longer ranger means less time to search for targets, longer reaction times between when a target is spotted and an attack force reaches that point, less time on target, less payload, etc.
Full Monty wrote:It's also not just my 'opinion' that it was the inefficient Axis logistical scheme that caused Rommels problems as I have already stated above.
Yes, but Axis logistics weren't inefficient because the Germans had been genetically engineered to be logistical idiots. The Germans could, and on occasions did, run efficient logistics. When you read the German reports of the time, they were fully conscious of how wasteful their system was, but they were forced into it by the tactical situation, of which Malta was the single most important component.
Full Monty wrote:
Similarly, distance isn't everything. Rommel was fighting Crusader in exactly the same spot as he had fought Brevity and Battleaxe. Distance was the same, but resupply rate was not: the difference was sinkings.
And he had serious supply problems at each.(Ellis pp.252-3)
Rommel fought off Brevity and Battleaxe without running into a logistical crisis. He didn't really lose Crusader on the ground but found himself unable to continue with the battle because his logistics couldn't keep up. In the first case, his LOC was relatively uninterrupted, in the second case it was down to 1/3 average efficiency. This makes it kind of difficult to ignore the connexion, doesn't it?
By the way, Rommel was able to attack at Gazala, from a position which used exactly the same ports as he had had before Crusader (if we leave aside sub deliveries to the Bardia area at the time of Crusader).
Full Monty wrote:
Bronsky wrote:This isn't to say that distance didn't matter. It was a factor, but one that could be dealt with absent too much enemy interference. For example, coastal shipping could greatly alleviate the burden of the overland supply route. The Germans knew about it, and tried it. It didn't work. Why ? Because of the direct and indirect effects of Malta that I described in my previous post.
And said coastal shipping could have disembarked the supplies where? Their capacity was?
Coastal shipping picks up the stuff unloaded in Tripoli and delivers it to small ports that regular ships can't really access all that well e.g. Derna, Tobruk, Mersa Matruh. It's also more fuel-efficient than using a truck-borne LOC. It was tried, the problem was British attacks.
For the two months between mid-July and mid-September of 1942, the average monthly flux was:
Tripoli: 35,669 tons received from Italy, 19,015 tons loaded on coastal shipping.
Benghazi: 60,500 tons from Italy, 11,090 tons from cabotage, 13,980 tons sent further east on coastal shipping.
Tobruk: 47,071 tons from Italy + 17,655 from cabotage, 10,471 tons loaded on coastal shipping.
Mersa Matruh: 1,927 tons from Italy + 10,030 tons from cabotage.
Figures from an article, "Quartermaster's Nightmare", by Dario Benedetti and provided by Mauro de Vita.
10,000 tons are 5,000 truck-loads, not counting fuel and spares for the trucks, so figure about the whole truck complement of Panzer Armee Afrika would have been needed to reach that figure. And that was with RAF interdiction.
(edited to try and make the stupid image display, the url works when I type it in my browser but it won't display here. Moderators are welcome to edit my post so as to make the picture visible, or display it in one of their own posts, I'm not spending any more time trying to fix that