Malta Garrison 1942

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by phylo_roadking » 06 Mar 2008 17:25

however the text doesn't make clear about which units (if any) were still in the Med in 1942.


Yes it does.

C Battalion remained intact on Cyprus


All those whose regiments were in the Med were RTU'd, all others let out on general replacement.


None were sent home to the UK.

Out of the 1600 sent - there were losses on Crete and the Litani river crossing, and some went off to the Far East and the SAS. C Battalion @400 men remained "intact" and on roster. The rest would still be in-theatre if split up. When I get hold of Messenger's "The Commandos" again I'll check what he actually says about losses on Crete and in Syria, but I'd reckon perhaps another 200-300 men could be recalled from units though that number would have suffered depending on frontline casualties from 1941 to July 1942.

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Davide Pastore
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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 06 Mar 2008 18:20

phylo_roadking wrote:
however the text doesn't make clear about which units (if any) were still in the Med in 1942.

Yes it does.
C Battalion remained intact on Cyprus

According to both Osprey Elite #64 & Battle Orders #18, No.11 (Scottish) Commando was disbanded in Cyprus in the late summer 1941, after having suffered heavy losses in Syria.

Some of the men were transferred to the newly raised 'Middle East Commando'.
About the latter unit, the same books offers this composition:

No.2 troop: 'L' detachment of SAS
No.3 troop: 60 men from old C battalion [No.11 Commando]
No.4 troop: Palestinian soldiers from No.51 Commando
No.5 troop: as No.4
No.6 troop: personnel of SBS
[no mention of No.1 troop]

No.3 troop carried an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Rommel (suffering heavy losses) while men from SAS and SBS 'soon departed'.

The unit was retitled the 1st Special Service Regiment in April 1942.

P.S. since Commandos, SAS, SBS & all that are so enshrined in Briton mythology, it will be rude on my part to wonder how such a puny force could have changed the outcome of C3...

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Mar 2008 13:44

25% losses wasn't that heavy compares to losses the Commandos suffered elsewhere, such as in Crete...but regulars do have an aversion to "specialist" raiding units on their roster LOL so I can well understand No.11 being "disbanded" and the manpower absorbed elsewhere in the Cyprus garrison.

Meesenger's book always lets off when Commando units get subsumed into other forces, so the later history of the men of the four battalions under a different badge is of no interest to him.

I don't suppose the Osprey book gives any other numbers for the other four troops mentioned?

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Davide Pastore
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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 07 Mar 2008 15:03

phylo_roadking wrote:I don't suppose the Osprey book gives any other numbers for the other four troops mentioned?


Not much about numbers, but there is something about inter-service litigations:

Image
Source is Osprey OOB #18 & Osprey Elite #64
(I'm afraid the font is too little :oops: )

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Bronsky » 07 Mar 2008 17:16

Two points.

1. Maltese walls

These are not in anyway comparable to the bocage of 1944 Normandy fame. They're much lower. The bocage consisted of thick hedges, high enough to hide vehicles (let alone troops) and thick enough to absorb small-arms fire in many places. The walls separating the Maltese fields are too low for that. They'll provide protection to troops lying prone behind them, but that's about it from the point of view of the land battle.

Two things that they will do, though, is make things absolutely miserable for landing gliders (a lot of these paras' heavy equipment will be lost on arrival) and make cross-country advance of wheeled and light tracked vehicles difficult.

All in all, I see them as making a mess of the initial attack, on the other hand the Folgore was not your average Italian outfit they were crack troops and could be expected to fight aggressively in the face of things going awry.

Where Phylo raises a good point is what exactly were the lessons learned by the Germans from their previous operations (as opposed to what we, today, know or to the reports compiled by German generals after the war) and how much of that experience was made available to the Italians.

2. The whole point of taking Malta

Davide is, I'm afraid, pushing the traditional Regia Marina excuse that the Libyan port capacity was maxed out so the convoys operated at peak capacity anyway and Malta had no effect. Which is simply not true. Figures for tonnages unloaded are available, and a discussion of that issue took place in another thread of this section of the folder.

So while I agree that, by the summer of 1942, the odds were just stacked too high for the Axis to prevail in the Mediterranean, I'd still argue that Malta would make a significant differente to both sides' logistics in Libya & Egypt.

Another thing that I didn't see mentioned is exactly when that operation is supposed to take place. That's because the Allies were pushing reinforcements into the theater so that, in August, Axis air superiority over Malta was simply no longer to be had even when the Germans tried. So the clock is ticking, here and it'd be nice to nail down a timeline.

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 07 Mar 2008 19:18

Bronsky wrote:Davide is, I'm afraid, pushing the traditional Regia Marina excuse that the Libyan port capacity was maxed out so the convoys operated at peak capacity anyway and Malta had no effect.

OK, what I meant is that IMHO the occupation of Malta would not have changed the picture so heavily as to permit Rommel to break through at El Alamein. To reach such result, supply flow should have received a large increase (IMHO in the region of +100%). It is my opinion this could not be done, even having Malta. So it had no practical effect on the outcome of the war.

Bronsky wrote:Another thing that I didn't see mentioned is exactly when that operation is supposed to take place.

I am currently debating the point with my (American) co-author [well, the book is not as yet written, of course...]. There are two possible dates, July new moon and August new moon. Each has its pros and cons.

Bronsky wrote:in August, Axis air superiority over Malta was simply no longer to be had even when the Germans tried

Of course there was not an Axis air superiority, because the assets that should have been attacking Malta since June were employed elsewhere.

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Bronsky » 08 Mar 2008 10:03

Davide Pastore wrote:OK, what I meant is that IMHO the occupation of Malta would not have changed the picture so heavily as to permit Rommel to break through at El Alamein. To reach such result, supply flow should have received a large increase (IMHO in the region of +100%). It is my opinion this could not be done, even having Malta. So it had no practical effect on the outcome of the war.


If Malta is attacked, then there is probably no El Alamein in the first place, the British position at Mersa Matruh won't be attacked if I understand the plan correctly.

I also disagree on the technical point: doubling the supply flow to North Africa was possible, even realistic after the capture of Malta. That the Axis would make the resources available for a 100% increase in shipments is more questionable, though.

That being said, I agree about the larger issue which is that capturing Malta during the summer of 1942 doesn't appreciably change the strategic picture in the Mediterranean. The capture would have had to take place at the latest in the spring of 1941 for that.

Davide Pastore wrote:Of course there was not an Axis air superiority, because the assets that should have been attacking Malta since June were employed elsewhere.


Well, my understanding is that Kesselring made a new, largish effort to keep Malta down and this time failed. Granted, if Rommel hadn't pursued there would have been more air assets available, but depending on the date British defense could be serious enough to make suppression long and costly. Or at least so I remember, without looking any number up 8-)

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Mar 2008 10:22

Bronsky wrote:If Malta is attacked, then there is probably no El Alamein in the first place

Definitely so. The land front has to stay along the Egyptian border for the duration of the invasion (including the preparatory air campaign) probably along the Sollum cliff.

However at some later time Rommel has to move and try to break through the next obstacle, El Alamein. I see no point in just staying there waiting for the British to build up their force and strike back.

Bronsky wrote:doubling the supply flow to North Africa was possible, even realistic after the capture of Malta.

I would like to see some numbers, and some historical examples, here.
Have you already covered this topic in some forum discussion?

Davide Pastore wrote:Well, my understanding is that Kesselring made a new, largish effort to keep Malta down and this time failed.

Given these premises, there is no invasion, period.

Any discussion about C3 has to have as premise a successfull air campaign (in the same way as any discussion about Seelowe) otherwise it wil never take place.

My understanding is that we don't know the outcome of the summer air campaign against Malta, since it never happened. It could have failed or it could have succeeded.

For my researches, I'm supposing the air campaign succeeded.

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Bronsky » 08 Mar 2008 14:12

Davide Pastore wrote:However at some later time Rommel has to move and try to break through the next obstacle, El Alamein. I see no point in just staying there waiting for the British to build up their force and strike back.


Yes, but the British didn't intend to withdraw all the way to El Alamein, they only did so because Rommel bounced them off Mersa Matruh. If there's a next battle, it will involve strong British forces anchored around that position, not El Alamein. How strong depends on the date.

Davide Pastore wrote:Have you already covered this topic in some forum discussion?


This thread from the Usenet WWII group 3 years ago has a good outline of the argument,
http://groups.google.fr/group/soc.histo ... 20e00e415d

This thread also has some, though the discussion is somewhat polluted by other considerations.
viewtopic.php?f=56&t=102636&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

Essentially, the argument is that

1/ The figures for tonnage offloaded prove conclusively that the port capacity figures provided by Cocchia and quoted by Van Creveld (whom everyone else quoted from then on) are demonstrably conservative. You already have the relevant figures, and can judge for yourself, so the Axis could have shipped a lot more to North Africa.

2/ Malta was a key part of Axis logistical troubles in North Africa, because in addition to the direct losses (and bear in mind that this was prime-quality shipping loaded with expensive equipment, not an old English tramper sunk while carrying sheepskins to Belfast) it forced the Regia Marina in a very inefficient and expensive patter of operations. Escorted convoys (read: poor port efficiency, huge fuel consumption), sending ships half-loaded so as to minimize equipment losses and maximize discharge rate, plus the need to devote large forces just to keeping Malta down.

Remove Malta and the assets historically used to keep it down become available again. The Axis can use shipping in a more efficient manner that will make better use of existing port capacity. But I suggest that this discussion take place in the proper thread.

Davide Pastore wrote:Any discussion about C3 has to have as premise a successfull air campaign (in the same way as any discussion about Seelowe) otherwise it wil never take place.


Sure, so this leaves us with 3 scenarios assuming Rommel agrees not to pursue 8th Army all the way to Egypt (more likely: Rommel is in hospital for some reason so Kesselring gets to make the decision):

1. The campaign kicks off very early, Malta is suppressed before significant reinforcements make it there, invasion takes place.
2. The campaign starts a bit later, some reinforcements have already arrived so the air campaign to suppress the island takes longer (the good news is this offers the opportunity to defeat follow-up reinforcements piecemeal) or alternately the Axis decides to launch C3 with air superiority but not air supremacy.
3. It is still later, or the campaign isn't doing well (e.g. because some of the fighters were initially retained in Libya to provide protection over Tobruk against RAF attacks), the campaign drags into August by which time Parks' substantial reinforcements - and the expectation of still more to come - make the whole thing impracticable, the Axis eventually calls it off. Battle of Britain II.

There are mentions of the air battles in the usual works, which I'm sure you're already aware of, so doubtless you can piece the dates together more quickly than if I tried it by memory, alternately I can look up a more detailed chronology, but my point here is that the clock is definitely ticking and there will be a point after which a successful C3 will no longer be in the cards.

This is more realistic a situation than Seelöwe, because the Luftwaffe never actually was in a position to defeat the RAF over its home turf, but there are still limits. You can't just decide that the Axis has air superiority, period, and now let's pick a date for that to happen.

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Mar 2008 14:30

Bronsky wrote:You can't just decide that the Axis has air superiority, period, and now let's pick a date for that to happen.

Of course I can. Otherwise, the book is going to be very short, containing just a single sentence: "As we all know, the invasion didn't took place, so it is useless to describe its details."

Total air superiority, not supremacy, was required (as per plans). This means reducing RAF Malta strength to one-digit number. This also means destroying Spitfires as they are delivered, instead of waiting for 100+ of them being alive and well on the island before suddenly remembering to start the air campaign.

I also fully agree Rommel is the single largest problem, since that idiot (I have a low opinion of him) is not going to just stay quiet and wait. And as soon as he launches his inevitable next 'reconissaince in force' beyond the border, anything bearing a German cross around the Mediterranean will be thrown behind him. I too had already pondered about having him hospitalized if not worse (likely, enhancing Axis chances next battle :lol: ).

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Bronsky » 08 Mar 2008 15:26

Davide Pastore wrote:
Bronsky wrote:You can't just decide that the Axis has air superiority, period, and now let's pick a date for that to happen.

Of course I can. Otherwise, the book is going to be very short, containing just a single sentence: "As we all know, the invasion didn't took place, so it is useless to describe its details."


Please read the whole sentence: you can (indeed you must), but if to be realistic your scenario can't wait for the extra Spitfire + Park to arrive, which puts definite constraints on the chronology. Now I don't have the faintest idea when the August 1942 new moon was, so possibly this whole exchange is pointless as my initial remark was irrelevant.

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Mar 2008 16:49

Bronsky wrote:Now I don't have the faintest idea when the August 1942 new moon was

August new moon coincided with Pedestal, and June new moon coincided with Harpoon+Vigorous.

No doubt RN whould have done something for the July one as well, had not had PQ-17 to care about.

And yes, in case August is chosen we have the 'little' problem of quietly shelving Pedestal...

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Re: Malta Garrison 1942

Post by Davide Pastore » 10 Mar 2008 06:47

Bronsky wrote:This thread also has some, though the discussion is somewhat polluted by other considerations.
[...]
But I suggest that this discussion take place in the proper thread.

Done: I added my numbers.

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Re:

Post by Gooner1 » 14 Mar 2008 18:30

Davide Pastore wrote:
ORGANIZATION OF THE COAST ARTILLERY

1) Outer Fire Command - 4th H / Coast Rgt RA

East coast:
- Fort Bingemma (1x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 1939: ?, 1942: 10th Coast Bty ?
- Fort Madalena (2x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 1939: ?, 1942: 10th Coast Bty ?

West coast:
- Fort San Leonardo (2x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 23rd H Bty until April 1942, then 6th Coast Bty
- Fort Benghisa (2x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 1939: ?, 1942: 6th Coast Bty ?

2) Inner Fire Command - 1st H Rgt RMA

- 1st Bty (East coast):
Fort Delimara (2x 6" BL Mk VII)
Fort San Rocco (3x 6" BL Mk VII)

- 2nd Bty (West coast):
Fort Tigne (3x 6" BL Mk VII)
Fort Campbell (2x 6" BL Mk VII)

- 3rd Bty (Center):
Fort St. Elmo (12x 6pdr 10cwt QF Mk I)
Fort Ricasoli (6x 6pdr 10cwt QF Mk I)

- 4th Bty: ?
(Maybe Fort Ricasoli ? Maybe converted to AA ?)



Hi Davide, according to 'The History of Coast Artillery in the British Army' by Col. K.W. Maurice Jones:

The Coast Artillery defence in June 1940 at Madalena Battery and Binjemma Battery was 6th Heavy Battery R.A. At Leonardo Battery and Benghaisa Battery was 10th Heavy Battery R.A.
At Rocco Battery and Ricasoli Battery were 1st Heavy Battery R.M.A.
At Tigne Battery was 2nd Heavy Battery R.M.A.
At Elmo Battery was 3rd Heavy Battery R.M.A.
At Delimara Battery and Campbell Battery were 4th Heavy Battery R.M.A.

The gun numbers match your figures exactly , though
"During 1941 additional guns were mounted at:-

Isola Battery 2 - 4.7 inch
Taxbiex Battery 2 - 4 inch
St. Angelo Battery 2 - 4 inch
Manoeldone 1 - 4 inch
Bogebba 2 - 12 pdrs.
Delimara 2 - 12 pdrs."

Those guns may well have been manned by the raised 5th Coast Regiment R.M.A. of 11th, 12th and 13th Coast Batteries.

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Re: Re:

Post by Davide Pastore » 14 Mar 2008 20:06

Thank you very much.

Gooner1 wrote:At Delimara Battery and Campbell Battery were 4th Heavy Battery R.M.A.

Are you sure? It seems a bit un-logical, since the battery is split in two troops serving on opposite ends of the island.

Gooner1 wrote:Those guns may well have been manned by the raised 5th Coast Regiment R.M.A. of 11th, 12th and 13th Coast Batteries.

Are you sure?

I have a 1942 primary source showing 13th Defence Battery RMA equipped with twenty-four 18-prs (dispersed in as many independent fire positions) and part of 26th Defense Rgt.

OTOH I have another (possibly not very reliable) source listing 5th Coast Rgt RMA made of 4th and 17th Coast Bty RMA.

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