Greece-Afrika DAK connection

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Peter H
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Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Peter H » 03 Apr 2008 11:03

Would it be fair to say that after 1941 DAK supplies flowed through Italy,manpower through Greece?Or part manpower,reinforcements via Athens?

Why were Ramcke's Brigade and the 164 Leichte Division moved via Crete?

How was the 164 Division transported to Libya?Did it cross to Italy first by ship or air?

Specifically it can be stated that the 164th was at Festung Crete anyway and then "arrived in Africa early in July 1942".

But how did it get there?

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Andreas » 03 Apr 2008 13:16

I think that often the soldiers would be flown across - quicker, and safer. Going via Crete would indicate air transport to me. Equipment would then go by ship, and could go either from southern Italy (in particular Naples, Taranto, Brindisi) or from Piraeus (or in the case of 164 Light Division maybe from Suda, since this division was already on Crete).

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Peter H » 04 Apr 2008 01:12

Thanks Andreas.

It appears the men of the 164th were flown into Tobruk....two regiments IR 382,IR 433.Then 125 Pz Gen Regt already in theatre joined it.Captured Allied transport at Tobruk was then used to motorise it.

An air corridor from Crete to Tobruk freely available also suggests that Allied control of the skies in the Eastern Med was not a fact.


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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Andreas » 04 Apr 2008 09:29

At that point the air corridor may simply have been out of range to single-engined fighters, which would make it reasonably easy to control it for the Germans.

In general I do not think that the Allies did have, or indeed ever claimed to have full control of the air in the eastern Med after the loss of Tobruk and the Axis advance to El Alamein.

To give you an idea, Heraklion - Tobruk is 403 km. Mersa Matruh (west of Alamein) to Tobruk is 320km (Great Circle Mapper, search for HER, TOB, MUH http://gc.kls2.com/ ). The most forward-based British single-engine fighters would not have had the legs to interfere with that air corridor. E.g. when the Proserpina was attacked by RAF torpedo bombers, these went in without fighter cover.

The only thing available to interdict would be Blenheims or Beaufighters. But then in order to intercept you needed to intercept in a narrow strip outside fighter cover range of either Crete or Tobruk, and you needed to know what you were looking for, when and where, to be at the right place, at the right time. Even then you could not be sure to even spot the Ju 52, if they flew on the deck. And even Ju 88 fighter cover could ruin your day, by the way.

All the best

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Jon G. » 04 Apr 2008 09:53

Peter H wrote:...Why were Ramcke's Brigade and the 164 Leichte Division moved via Crete?...
Because stopping over on Crete meant that the German transport planes didn't have to draw from limited North African fuel stocks. Crete didn't have the infrastructure to support a lot of transport planes, so the Luftwaffe set up its main support center at Cancello, Naples. They could conceivably also have done that in Greece, but overland rail communications to the Balkans were not good, and the railroad line was constantly being blown up by partisans.

When the front line was in eastern Cyrenaica or Egypt, German transport planes usually went Italy-Greece-Crete-Cyrenaica; as the front moved west Italy-Sicily-Tripoli became the norm (again stopping over at Sicily to avoid refuelling in North Africa); and finally Italy-Sicily-Tunis, again with Sicily added for fuel economy reasons.

The BV-222 flying boats had the range to fly out and back without refuelling; they flew directly from Taranto to Cyreneica.

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by alf » 04 Apr 2008 09:56

Russel Brown's "Desert Warriors" book p 107 records how on 12th May 1942 six Beaufighters of 252 Squadron and 10 Kittyhwaks of 250 Squadron with long range tanks intercepted a air convoy of 13 Ju 52's and an escort of one BF110 from Crete. 9 Ju 52's were shot down or force landed, 2 survived, the BF 110 was shot down twice it seems.

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) had been monitoring flights and times and the operation of the 12th of May was the first attempt to interdict. Fighters over the Desert p110 lists 147 German soldiers died and another 47 were rescued from the ocean.

It doesnt help other than the fact the British were aware of the flights and monitored them via the LRDG and attempted to intercept when possible.

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Peter H » 04 Apr 2008 12:43

Thanks gents!

As Alf indicates the Crete air corridor was well in use before the fall of Tobruk.Likewise Fallshirm Kampfgruppe Burckhardt returned to Germany in March 1942 via air transport from Libya,first to Maleme,Crete then to Taranto,Italy,then by rail back home.

I'm also curious about what air assets the Luftwaffe had in Crete in 1942.We generally consider this sector as a backwater in 1942 but transport and fighter escort assets must have been around.

Anyone know how the IR 47 of 22 Infantrie Division got from Greece to Tunisia in late 1942?

This link ( http://www.historic.de/Home/home.html ) shows rail transport in use.I assume they entered Italy by rail,then by air or sea to Africa.

Image

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Andreas » 04 Apr 2008 13:49

Certainly - Crete was used a lot for supply and also combat missions on the North African shore. Obviously the front needed to be in range, but that was certainly the case after 6 February 42, and before 18 Nov. 41.

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Jon G. » 04 Apr 2008 15:32

Peter H wrote:...As Alf indicates the Crete air corridor was well in use before the fall of Tobruk...
Yes, it appears that the via-Crete route was in use from quite early on. The besieged garrison at the Halfaya Pass was supplied by Luftwaffe units flying from Crete, for example.

However the Germans were active in the eastern Mediterranean also before they took Greece and Crete, for example in January and March 1941 when German aircraft - flying from Bari, I presume - mined the Suez Canal.
...I'm also curious about what air assets the Luftwaffe had in Crete in 1942.We generally consider this sector as a backwater in 1942 but transport and fighter escort assets must have been around.
Yes. After Fliegerkorps X had ended its first campaign against Malta most of it (less the Fliegerführer Afrika) was moved to the eastern Mediterranean in the summer of 1941. Later, when the Germans initiated their second air campaign against Malta in early 1942, the job was given to Fliegerkorps II which was transferred from the Eastern Front; Fliegerkorps X stayed in the eastern Mediterranean. Niehorster's OOB pertains to Alamein, but the overall picture for mid-1942 should be roughly the same.
...This link ( http://www.historic.de/Home/home.html ) shows rail transport in use.I assume they entered Italy by rail,then by air or sea to Africa...
The railroad car in the background is Italian. That doesn't automatically mean that the picture was taken in Italy, but it's a clue :)

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Peter H » 05 Apr 2008 04:20

Thanks again everyone.

i have never heard much on this subject so a lot has been made clear now.

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Andreas » 07 Apr 2008 20:25

Jon G. wrote:
Peter H wrote:However the Germans were active in the eastern Mediterranean also before they took Greece and Crete, for example in January and March 1941 when German aircraft - flying from Bari, I presume - mined the Suez Canal.
I'd say Rhodes or just west of Mersa el Brega at least as staging post. :)

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Jon G. » 08 Apr 2008 03:18

Andreas wrote:
Jon G. wrote:However the Germans were active in the eastern Mediterranean also before they took Greece and Crete, for example in January and March 1941 when German aircraft - flying from Bari, I presume - mined the Suez Canal.
I'd say Rhodes or just west of Mersa el Brega at least as staging post. :)
Given the timeframe, my vote would go to Rhodes or possibly Albania as a stopping point en route to the Suez. Mersa el Brega wouldn't be a good stopping point in January or for most of March 1941. At least not for an Axis airplane :wink:

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Jon G. » 10 Apr 2008 16:53

AFAIK the very first German air unit in the Mediterranean was a transport unit with fifty-three Ju-52s which was sectioned to the Italuft air liaison staff in Rome on December 8, 1940. The arrival of Fliegerkorps X was just around the corner, but the transport unit - whose exact designation I haven't been able to find - was not part of that organisation initially. Until February 1941 this transport unit ferried 30,000 Italian troops and 4,700 tons of supplies over from Foggia to Albania.

The 'natural' German route to the Mediterranean went over the Balkans. The transfer of Fliegerkorps X to Sicily in early 1941 was a strict tactical expedient. It wasn't until late 1941, when Italian shipping losses began to really pile up, that the Luftwaffe again diverted its point of main effort back to the central Mediterranean.

When looking at a map, Greece appears to offer the shortest sea route to Cyrenaica, but Tobruk only fell in June 1942, so the route via Greece and Crete was mostly used for aircraft, which had the advantage of delivering supplies and personnel near the front, rather than at Tripoli and Benghazi far to the rear.

Also, rail communications to Greece were not good. Here is a 1941 map of Balkan's railroads.

Image
From S. H. Beaver Railways in the Balkan Peninsula, originally printed in The Geographical Journal vol. 97 no. 5 (May 1941)

Everything south of Belgrade was single-track; additionally the line south of Nis, apart from having steep gradients, was restricted to 14 ton axle loads. Also, rail lines in the Balkans were very prone to partisan attacks. I've circled in the approximate location of the famous Gorgopotamos bridge which linked southern and northern Greece. This bridge was blown up on November 25 1942 - too late to affect the PAA's supply position during the Alamein battles, which earned the SOE Montgomery's mistrust; apparently the delay was caused by the need to get the two rivalling Greek resistance movements ELAS and EDES to cooperate.

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Jon G. » 08 Jan 2009 09:23

As a rather belated addendum to this thread, the Germans initiated a program which they called 'Viadukt I' in the autumn of 1942 in order to increase rail capacity between Zagreb and Athens/Salonika. The goal of Viadukt I was to increase daily traffic to Saloniki to 24 trains/day and 12 trains/day to Athens. Until Viadukt I was completed the Salonika-Athens line could only manage seven trains a day.

The initial aim of the Viadukt program was to increase the usefulness of Greek ports for the purpose of supplying North Africa, but it came too late to have any effect. By the time the program was completed by May 1943, there were no Axis units left in North Africa.

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Re: Greece-Afrika DAK connection

Post by Urmel » 08 Jan 2009 22:40

Jon G. wrote:The besieged garrison at the Halfaya Pass was supplied by Luftwaffe units flying from Crete, for example.
I think it would be better to say 'was supposed to be supplied' - and it was not just the Halfaya garrison but the whole of the Bardia/Sollum pocket, since PzGr had only 4 Ju 52 available to supply them and was further away in any case. Bad weather prevented supply coming through from Crete, or at least that's what the LW chaps in Crete claimed.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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