Axis shipping in the Mediterranean

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Wargames
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Post by Wargames » 03 Dec 2006 10:11

Jon G. wrote:
- It is interesting to see that the Italian liners Esperia, Conte Rosso, Marco Polo and Victoria only figure one time each, in one convoy, whereas most of the other merchantmen seem to be working pretty much around the clock. I wonder which conclusions can be drawn from that? That men are easier to move than material? Or, that it is more practical to move men and equipment aboard the same freighters? Or, do the Italian liners only figure once because they weren't part of Sonnenblume strictly speaking, just sailing in the same convoy on one occasion?

I would estimate that each liner had roughly a 3,000 troop capacity so that all four, together, probably moved at least 12,000 troops for Sonnenblume 3 (22-26 February) and at least 9,000 for the three used in the Italian Convoy (14-16 March). These ships have the advantage of the required food service, berths, lifeboats, and sanitation facilities that wouldn't be found in cargo ships.

The failure to put them to work "round the clock" probably indicates that, with so much of the hull donated to cabin (passenger) space they reached insufficient cargo capacity even with a "vehicle deck". If so, ultimately, they move bodies (And, evidently, not even one tank.).

Of note, the Conte Rosso carried 2,544 passengers at 18 knots as a liner, the Marco Polo carried 1,905 at 17 knots, and the Esperia, equipped with turbine engines, made a minimum of 17 knots (versus the "15 knots" attributed to Italian liners in another post). Passenger capacities of liners as troopships could be increased (by as much as seven times) by having troops share the same bed in shifts. Although the passenger capacities of all four liners isn't known to me, it was not unusual for liners of 12,000 plus tons to carry 3,000 plus troops.

The number that jumps out at me though is the number of freight transports being used. I'm pretty certain most of this was being used for vehicle space because it did not require the US anywhere near this amount of transports to land infantry on Guadalcanal. In that situation, thirteen big transports (AP), six large cargo ships (AK) and four small high-speed transports (APD) carried some 19,000 U.S. Marines. Ignoring the APD's, that's about 1,000 men per ship including supplies and artillery. We can't compare the ships directly but, if they were about the same size (* see note below), we'd think the Germans and Italians could have moved 40,000 men, with supplies and equipment (except tanks and vehicles) with 40 transports and with no need for liners (making two trips) at all. It suggests to me that vehicles is the biggest consumer of cargo space - So much so that there wasn't room for the men (again considering berths, food service, sanitation, and life boats) so liners were used.

Minor observations include the Germans seem to have preferred German ships to Italian and that no tankers were used (Although I don't think any of were expecting any.).

Fascinating information if my "vehicle" observation is correct.


* The comparison probably can't be made... but the US Navy Tryon class of TR's (7,100 tons) had a capacity of 1,274 troops (no mention of cargo capacity).
Last edited by Wargames on 04 Dec 2006 00:52, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by Bronsky » 03 Dec 2006 19:28

More comments on the Sonnenblume convoys. They're not meant as corrections, either the Italian officials have details that Rich's sources hadn't, or a way exists to resolve the contradiction, which is the interesting part. Call it providing additional data points.

Also, the Italian official history doesn't differentiate between the Sonnenblume and other convoys (it does list particular operations later on).

RichTO90 wrote:Sonnenblume 3 (22-26 February):
German transporters Reichenfels and Marb and probably the Italian Cità di Agrigento (?), and the freighter Menes (5609 BRT), escorted by the destroyers Freccia, Saetta and Turbine left Naples on 22 February and was joined by an Italian convoy of the freighters Sabbia (5788 BRT) and Silvia Tripcovich (2365) escorted by the torpedo boat Montanari, but Sabbia is torpedoed by HMS Ursula the same day and Silvia Tripcovich is torpedoed, probably by HMS Ursula off Sfax on 23 February. They are also joined by a high-speed convoy en route comprised of the Italian liners Esperia (11398 BRT), Conte Rosso (17879 BRT), Marco Polo (12272 BRT) and Victoria (13098 BRT), escorted by the destroyers Camicia Nera and Baleno, the torpedo boat Aldebaran and Orione and a screen comprised of the light cruisers Giovanni delle Bande Nere and Armando Diaz with the destroyers Ascari and Corazziere, that had sailed from Naples on 24 February. En route Menes was torpedoed by HMS Regent on 23 February (?) and Armando Diaz was torpedoed by HMS Upright on 25 February. The combined convoy arrived at Tripoli on 26 February.


That entry is a mess to reconcile.

Cocchia has the convoy with Sabbia and Silvia Tripcovich escorted by Montanari, leaving Trapani at 19:30 on the 21st. Both are torpedoed in the evening of the 22nd but proceed. Silvia Tripcovich disappears without traces during the night (22/23 Feb), the escort claimed the submarine as sunk, but the claim wasn't confirmed. So that one is a match even though the convoy is not mentioned as joining anything.

Menes had sailed from Naples to Tripoli on the 17th (Arta, Heraclea, Menes, Maritza escorted by Freccia, Saetta, Turbine) and reached Tripoli on the 20th (no losses). It was torpedoed around the date you list but at the time it was on its return trip: left Tripoli at 8:00 on 21 Feb along with Heraclea and Maritza, with the same 3 escorts as on the way in (only Arta remained behind, going back with another convoy 3 days later), torpedoed at 14:30 the same day and taken in tow by Saetta, headed back to Tripoli at 3.5 knots which it reached at 8:000 on the 22nd. Freccia attacked the submarine and claimed it as destroyed though the claim was not confirmed.

Reichenfels is shown as leaving Naples at 19:00 on the 23rd, along with Marburg, Ankara and Kibfels, escorted by Aviere, Geniere and Castore, arriving at 20:30 on the 25th with no loss.

I didn't find any mention of the Città di Agrigento (a small liner) in the preceding days, or until mid-April, though the Città di Bari - a cargo - made a trip and was sunk in harbor by air attack in early May.

The fast convoy with Esperia, Conte Rosso, Marco Polo and Victoria is accounted for, leaving Naples 24 Feb 20:00 and arriving in Tripoli 26 Feb at 15:45.

Summary: the German version has 3 convoys joining and reaching Tripoli on the 26th, the Italian version has 3 convoys sailing separately within 3 days and arriving with 2 days of each other. Menes being part of the Sonnenblume convoys seems clearly an error, Città di Agrigento probably one as well. On the other hand, the Italian source mentions two ships unaccounted for (Ankara, Kibfels). So at least both sources agree on how many ships were sent.

RichTO90 wrote:Italian Convoy (24 February):
The Italian freighters Navi Honor and Santa Paola left Palermo for Tripoli and Arta, Nirvo, and Giovinezza left Tripoli for the return to Naples on 24 February. There were no losses.


Perfect match on the return convoy, but Navi Honor and Santa Paola are listed as leaving Palermo on the evening (18:00) of the 25th i.e. after nightfall, picking up the Caucaso (small steam-powered tanker) from Bizerte in the morning of the 26th and reaching Tripoli in the morning of the 28th.

Two months later (see the Swordfish examples I provided in a previous post) there was such heavy Italian traffic in Vichy French international waters, both reinforcements to Libya and phosphates being shipped to Italy, that it came under R.A.F. attack. I believe that Italian and Italian-chartered ships were already plying that route (Sfax from Bizerte, then to Sicily & Italy) in February but don't quote me on this as I didn't bother to check the relevant sources prior to writing this.

RichTO90 wrote:Sonnenblume 4 (25-27 February):
The German freighters Wachtfels, Leverkusen and Alicante, and the Italian freighter Giulia, escorted by the destroyer Vivaldi and torpedo boats Calliope, Orsa, and Procione left Naples at noon on 25 February, probably arriving 26 or 27 February? There were no losses.


Perfect match, listed as leaving at 12:30 on 25 February and arriving 27 February at 18:30.
I love it when a plan comes together...

RichTO90 wrote: (Note that Leverkusen had suffered a fire in Naples circa 10 February that had destroyed much of its original cargo, including 13 tanks of 5. Panzer-Regiment. It was reloaded after repairs, but evidently was no longer carrying tanks, since it is explicitly stated that they came in on Sonneblume 8 – see below.)


Now that is the kind of information that I'd really like to have (is there a drooling emoticon anywhere?)

Convoys #5 & 6 are perfect matches

RichTO90 wrote:Sonnenblume 7 (5-10 March):
The German freighters Ankara, Kybfels, Marburg and Reichenfels, escorted by the destroyers Vivaldi, Da Noli, Malocello, Folgore and Lampo, left Naples on 5 March, were joined by the torpedo boat Centauro from Tripoli en route, and arrive at Tripoli on 7 March. A returning convoy leaves Tripoli on 5 March with the German freighters Castellon, Ruhr and Maritza, escorted by the auxiliary cruiser Ramb III and the torpedo boat Orione and Pegaso, arriving at Tripoli by 10 March. There were no losses.


This is a confusion from two entries. The return convoy is as listed, arriving in Naples on 7 March.
The incoming convoy is a match for departure date and strength, but it stayed in Palermo from the morning of 8 March to the morning of 9 March, arriving in Tripoli at noon on 10 March.
Given how the information is displayed in Cocchia, I'm pretty sure that this is a case of the Der Seekrieg author switching lines. From personal experience, this kind of mistakes occurs distressingly often when adapting a chronological list from one format to another.

RichTO90 wrote:Sonnenblume 8 (Transportstaffel) (7-9 March):
The German freighters Alicante, Arcturus, Wachtfels, and the Italian Rialto, escorted by the destroyers Fulmine, Baleno and Turbine leave Naples on 7 March loaded with the tanks of Panzer-Regiment 5., arriving at Tripoli on 9 March. At the same time a return convoy leaves Tripoli with the German freighters Adana, Aegina, Arta, Heraklea and the Italian Amsterdam, escorted by the destroyer Tarigo and the torpedo boat Aldebaran. There were no losses.


Same confusion as above. The incoming convoy left Naples on 7 March, returned to Naples due to a "naval alert", leaving again in the early afternoon of the next day, and arriving in the evening of the 12th at Tripoli after a brief stop at Trapani.

The returning convoy left Tripoli on 9 March, reaching Naples in the early morning of the 12th.

RichTO90 wrote:Sonnenblume 9 (Transportstaffel) (9-11 March):
The Italian freighters Andrea Gritti and Sebastiano Venier, escorted by the torpedo boats Alcione, Pallade, Polluce, Clio and Centauro leave Palermo on 9 March and arrive undisturbed at Tripoli on 11 March. A simultaneous Italian convoy with the tanker Tanaro and the freighters Caffaro, Fenicia and Capo Vita on the way from Trapani to Tripoli escorted by the auxiliary Attilio Deffenu and torpedo boat Papa, were attacked off the Tunisian coast by HMS Utmost and Unique. On 9 March Utmost missed Deffenu but sank Capo Vita (5683 BRT) an on 10 March Unique sank Fenicia (2584 BRT). But they are forced to ignore a northbound convoy of small ships by due to orders to conserve torpedoes at Malta.


The Andrea Gritti & Sebastiano Venier convoy had left Naples in the evening of 6 March, stopped in Palermo in the morning of 8 March. Left the following evening, as indicated. The small nitpick here being that Palermo was indeed where the convoy started its crossing from, but not where it had been formed (and loaded).

The second convoy (Tanaro, Caffaro, Fenicia, Capo Vita) is listed as leaving Palermo 6 March 20:00 for Bizerte. Submarine attacks forced its rerouting to Trapani, which it left again in the evening of 8 March. Caffaro is grounded on the Colombaia reef (off Palermo), the others proceed, escorted by the lone Deffenu (presumably, Papa had remained behind to help Caffaro), and at noon of 9 March Capo Vita is hit by torpedoes and explodes (no survivors). The remaining Fenicia + Tanaro and their escort turn back to Susa, but the Italian Admiralty directs them to Tripoli instead. on 10 March, slightly south of the Kerkennah (Tunisia), Fenicia is sunk by another submarine attack. In the late afternoon, Deffenu reaches Tripoli while Tanaro seeks shelter in Trapani (the western tip of Sicily).

Match on the following Italian liners to Tripoli and back, Sonnenblume 10, 11 and 14.

For the return convoy of 16 March listed as part of Sonnenblume 12, I show Alicante instead of Ruhr. Also, there was another Italian convoy that day (16 March) doing Naples -Tripoli, apparently it wasn't part of Sonnenblume.

Ditto for the 19 March: in addition to the Sonnenblume 13 convoys listed, the Securitas and Agata (escorted by light DD Mosto) sailed Palermo - Tripoli, the German Preussen & Iserlohn escorted by the auxiliary Città di Tunisi sailed Tripoli to Naples, while the German Ankara escorted by the light DD La Farina sailed Tripoli to Naples via Trapani. None suffered losses.

RichTO90 wrote:Possible Italian Convoys (26-30 March):
On 25 March the submarine HMS Rorqual laid a minefield west of Cape Gallo, Sicily. On 26 March a convoy ran into it and the steamer Verde (1432 BRT) and the tanker Ticino (1470 BRT) were sunk. On 28 March the torpedo boat Generale Antonio Chinotto also sinks in the minefield. Then on 30 March Rorqual sank the Italian tanker Laura Corrado (3645 BRT) with torpedoes and gunfire and on 31 March the Italian sub Capponi.


My list shows none of these, the 26 March losses look like coastal traffic. The Laura Corrado was, I suspect, tasked with picking up fuel from the French in Algeria. There was a deal in which the French were "fined" a certain amount of fuel which they managed to translate into some kind of sale, and that could be the Italian tanker assigned to picking up the oil. I would have to look it up. Anyway, none of these appear in Cocchia's list of convoys between Italy and Italian North Africa.

There are other Italian convoys listed in that period, however. Presumably not Sonnenblume.

RichTO90 wrote:Sonnenblume 15 (28 March):
On 28 March HMS Utmost attacked a Tripoli bound convoy with the German freighters Adana, Samos, Heraklea, Ruhr, and Galilea, escorted by the destroyers Folgore, Dardo, and Strale, sinking the Heraklea (1927 BRT) and damaging the Ruhr (5954 BRT).


Left 26 March from Naples, Ruhr was towed to Trapani by the Dardo, two tugs from Trapani, and a covering force from Messina concisting of the light DD Sagittario, Circe, Alcione and 2 MAS.

Match on Sonnenblume 16 and the returning convoy attacked by HMS Upright, as well as the Italian convoys.

RichTO90 wrote:Note that by 1 March 14 German freighters and 4 Italian liners had made it to Tripoli. From then to the end of March another 46 freighters were used to move the tanks of 5. Panzer-Regiment, supplies, and roughly 3,000 more men.


For February, my hand count, figure is the date of departure but all reached Tripoli before 1 March.
Liners: Esperia, Conte Rosso, Marco Polo, Calitea (5) the same (24)
German freighters: Leverkusen (6), Ankara, Arcturus, Alicante (8), Adana, Aegina, Kibfels, Ruhr (12), Castellon (15), Arta, Heraclea, Menes, Maritza (17), Ankara, Reichenfels, Kibfels, Marburg (23), Alicante, Arcturus, Wachtfels, Leverkusen (25).

So that's 8 liners and 21 German freighters. On their second return trip the Italian liners had 3,750 civilian refugees and 1,860 "repatriated military" (presumably wounded) from Cyrenaica.

Then you have to factor out errors in sources like Cocchia listing Kibfels sailing Naples to Tripoli on 16 February while it was in fact a return trip.

March:
Liners: Brindisi (2) Conte Rosso, Marco Polo, Victoria (12)
German freighters: Castellon, Ruhr, Maritza (1), Adana, Arta, Aegina (3), Santa Fe (4), Ankara, Kibfels, Marburg, Reichenfels (5), Allicante, Arcturus, Wachtfels (7), Castellon, Ruhr, Maritza, Leverkusen (12), Adana, Aegina, Heraclea, Galilea (14), Marburg, Reichenfels, Kibfels, Ankara (16), Arcturus, Santa Fe, Procida, Wachtfels (19), Castellon, Alicante, Maritza, Leverkusen (22), Adana, Samos, Heraclea, Ruhr, Galilea (26)

So that's an additional 4 liners and 39 German freighters. In other words, the totals for February and March match, only the breakdown differs (e.g. your sources might count "unloaded by 1 March" instead of arrived by 1 March")

I hope this helps, and that should also go some way to answering Jon's question (which is just as well as it took me a while to write and I don't feel like tackling another :-) )

LC

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Post by RichTO90 » 04 Dec 2006 05:33

Wargames wrote:I would estimate that each liner had roughly a 3,000 troop capacity so that all four, together, probably moved at least 12,000 troops for Sonnenblume 3 (22-26 February) and at least 9,000 for the three used in the Italian Convoy (14-16 March). These ships have the advantage of the required food service, berths, lifeboats, and sanitation facilities that wouldn't be found in cargo ships.


Except there is little evidence thatthey carried 12,000 and cosniderable evidence that they carried about their designed capacity. Conte Rosso when she was sunk for insrtance, was carry 2,761 souls and was designed for 2,544 passengers and about 360 crew. Marco Polo's accomodations were smaller, as were the others. The key is that the tonnages for these vessels are BRT/GRT, which is a measure of cargo volume (1 registry ton equals 100 cubic feet) and not of displacement as for a warship. Thus, Marco Polo at 12,272 BRT with 1,905 passengers and about 300 crew, had less volume than most US APA, for example, Charles Carroll ran about 13,000 GRT and could carry a maximum of 1,322 troops, a crew of 612, and 2,700 tons of cargo, while Joseph Dickman ran 17,000 BRT and could carry 2,056 troops, a crew of 693, and 2,600 tons of cargo. The main differance is that the US APA, although they started as merchant vessels, were purpose converted to auxiliary amphibious warships. They were designed to rapidly load and unload troops and cargo, the Italian liners weren't.

Nor were the Italian liners the Queens, which is what you appear to be conflating them as. The Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth were converted to carry maximum loads of troops with their personal equipment, on a trans-Atlantic, high-speed run. In that role they could carry as many as 16,000 troops, about 7 times their peacetime capacity, but each went through extensive refits to do so and it was only their great sustained speed that made them safe enough to do so.

The failure to put them to work "round the clock" probably indicates that, with so much of the hull donated to cabin (passenger) space they reached insufficient cargo capacity even with a "vehicle deck". If so, ultimately, they move bodies (And, evidently, not even one tank.).


No, they were optomized passenger vessels, converting them into useful amphibious auxiliaries with a dual passanger/cargo capacity would have required considerable work. They had no "vehicle deck" so were limited to the capacity of their on-board cranes or those dockside, another limiting factor.

(snip)

The number that jumps out at me though is the number of freight transports being used. I'm pretty certain most of this was being used for vehicle space because it did not require the US anywhere near this amount of transports to land infantry on Guadalcanal. In that situation, thirteen big transports (AP), six large cargo ships (AK) and four small high-speed transports (APD) carried some 19,000 U.S. Marines. Ignoring the APD's, that's about 1,000 men per ship including supplies and artillery. We can't compare the ships directly but, if they were about the same size (* see note below), we'd think the Germans and Italians could have moved 40,000 men, with supplies and equipment (except tanks and vehicles) with 40 transports and with no need for liners (making two trips) at all. It suggests to me that vehicles is the biggest consumer of cargo space - So much so that there wasn't room for the men (again considering berths, food service, sanitation, and life boats) so liners were used.


They weren't freight transports, they were freighters and transporters, I'm surprised nobody noticed the differance. Freighters were primarily tasked with moving cargo, while transports moved people. So Sonnenblume 1 and 2 were primarily cargo, 3 was primarily personnel, 4 cargo, 5 personnel, and so on.

And the vessels used by the USN at Guadalcanal were very different indeed. For example, the six AK utilized were all except Alhena well over 5,000 BRT, while the 13 AP totaled about 20,745 BRT. In terms of cargo tonnage, the AK could carry roughly 35,650 tons by themselves, while the AP could carry another 34,000 tons, plus 16,174 troops. They were basically very different animals.

Minor observations include the Germans seem to have preferred German ships to Italian and that no tankers were used (Although I don't think any of were expecting any.).


Well I don't think you can read much into that, the Germans were providing aide to an ally and part of it was that they absorbed the cost of the shipping, German ships, German registry, German marks. :)

Fascinating information if my "vehicle" observation is correct.


I'm not sure what it was? Vehicles - except tanks - tend to absorb a lot of cubage while requiring less weight, they can't be stacked like crates and have a lot of empty space, so they tend to be very inefficient to transport, especially in ships.

* The comparison probably can't be made... but the US Navy Tryon class of TR's (7,100 tons) had a capacity of 1,274 troops (no mention of cargo capacity).


I expect that's displacement tonnage, which is meaningless for a merchant vessels or a naval vessel doing essentially merchant things. For instance, McCawley had a full load displacement of 9,600 tons, could carry 1,295 troops and had a GRT of 16,456. But American legion, displacing 13,729 tons, could carry 1,644 troops and had a GRT of only 12,000 tons.

It gets a little complex. :D

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Post by RichTO90 » 04 Dec 2006 05:47

Bronsky wrote:More comments on the Sonnenblume convoys. They're not meant as corrections, either the Italian officials have details that Rich's sources hadn't, or a way exists to resolve the contradiction, which is the interesting part. Call it providing additional data points.


Thanks, Chronik Seekrieg can be a little opaque at times. For instance my interpretation of Sonnenblume 3 was in an attempt to try to reconcile their confused account, with another Italian confused account and to get it all to fit into the known structure. I'll happily incoporate your corrections with a few exceptions. For instance, even though there were earlier liner sailings in February they weren't part of Sonnenblume. And since Sonnenblume transported primarily Germans I was ignoring the total numbers of Italians transported.

Finally, sorry to disappoint you re the content of the ships. Part of the problem I think is that KTB 1 of DAK wasn't microfilmed at NARA, since it wasn't in the captured records collection. I understand that a copy has been given to BAMA though, so I dream that someday I'll be able to go over it. Otherwise, we know the principle units that arrived in February were 5. le. minus Panzer-Regiment 5. Also we know that the Regt.Stab/Art.-Regt. 155 mit Nachrichten-Zug und Stabs-Batterie, Stab/I. Abtl. and Stab/III. Abtl. with 7., 8., and 9. Battr., and the le.-Beob.-Bttr. did not arrive prior to 5 July, nor had 2./Heeres-Flak-M.G.-Btl. 606 (I believe they had been sunk en route). Further, I./LW-Flak-Regt. 18 (gem. mot.) was without its vehicles. I can add to the population of those who hadn't arrived by 1 March if you like?

Rich

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Post by Bronsky » 04 Dec 2006 10:28

RichTO90 wrote: They weren't freight transports, they were freighters and transporters, I'm surprised nobody noticed the differance.


Actually, I think the lack of comment about that particular arrangement comes from the fact that most of us were already familiar with it, as opposed to not noticing the difference. ;-)

Wargames wrote: Minor observations include the Germans seem to have preferred German ships to Italian and that no tankers were used (Although I don't think any of were expecting any.).


Not sure how many German tankers there were in the first place, at the time. But the Sonnenblume convoys were about sending in additional reinforcements (i.e. DAK) they were not about regular supply traffic. Tankers would be part of the second effort.

Tanker voyages in February and March 1941, dates are arrival in Tripoli:
Caucaso 2065 GRT (already mentioned), 28 February
Rondine (unknown tonnage) 3 March
Meteor 1685 GRT 3 March
Tanaro (?) 12 March
Superga (?) 15 March
Caucaso (from Bizerte) 20 March

A total of 14,741 metric tons of oil arrived in Libya in February and March 1941.

RichTO90 wrote: I'll happily incoporate your corrections with a few exceptions. For instance, even though there were earlier liner sailings in February they weren't part of Sonnenblume. And since Sonnenblume transported primarily Germans I was ignoring the total numbers of Italians transported.


This is understandable: as I wrote, my source didn't differentiate between Sonnenblume convoys and the others, so I could ignore other convoys taking place at the same time but it had to be a judgement call for the additional two trips by the 4 liners, both just before (5 February) and after (March) the convoys you were listing. I decided that they might or might not have been part of Sonnenblume but were probably carrying reinforcements as part of the parallel Italian effort and as such were worth listing.

You are of course free to incorporate them or not: as I wrote, they were meant as additional data points for each of us to use as he wants (though I fear that one of us may make me regret that generous statement).

RichTO90 wrote: Finally, sorry to disappoint you re the content of the ships. Part of the problem I think is that KTB 1 of DAK wasn't microfilmed at NARA, since it wasn't in the captured records collection. I understand that a copy has been given to BAMA though, so I dream that someday I'll be able to go over it. Otherwise, we know the principle units that arrived in February were 5. le. minus Panzer-Regiment 5. Also we know that the Regt.Stab/Art.-Regt. 155 mit Nachrichten-Zug und Stabs-Batterie, Stab/I. Abtl. and Stab/III. Abtl. with 7., 8., and 9. Battr., and the le.-Beob.-Bttr. did not arrive prior to 5 July, nor had 2./Heeres-Flak-M.G.-Btl. 606 (I believe they had been sunk en route). Further, I./LW-Flak-Regt. 18 (gem. mot.) was without its vehicles. I can add to the population of those who hadn't arrived by 1 March if you like?


I believe most of us have a large shopping list for that mythical time when we may get to spend a few days at BAMA... ;-)

Anything you can add will be welcome, no rush though. What I'd love to see would be something like the chronology but including cargoes. It's all well and good to learn how many people were transported, but it would be even better to be able to break the shipments up between new arrivals (reinforcements) and the normal replacements, people returning from leave, etc. Ditto with the cargoes between additions and routine supply accumulation.

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Post by RichTO90 » 04 Dec 2006 15:24

Bronsky wrote:
RichTO90 wrote: They weren't freight transports, they were freighters and transporters, I'm surprised nobody noticed the differance.


Actually, I think the lack of comment about that particular arrangement comes from the fact that most of us were already familiar with it, as opposed to not noticing the difference. ;-)


Well, some of us maybe. :D

RichTO90 wrote: I'll happily incoporate your corrections with a few exceptions. For instance, even though there were earlier liner sailings in February they weren't part of Sonnenblume. And since Sonnenblume transported primarily Germans I was ignoring the total numbers of Italians transported.


This is understandable: as I wrote, my source didn't differentiate between Sonnenblume convoys and the others, so I could ignore other convoys taking place at the same time but it had to be a judgement call for the additional two trips by the 4 liners, both just before (5 February) and after (March) the convoys you were listing. I decided that they might or might not have been part of Sonnenblume but were probably carrying reinforcements as part of the parallel Italian effort and as such were worth listing.

You are of course free to incorporate them or not: as I wrote, they were meant as additional data points for each of us to use as he wants (though I fear that one of us may make me regret that generous statement).


No, I don't think so, generosity usually brings generous rewards in my experience. :) But what are you interested in? I confess my main interest is Normandy, but I tend to have packrat collections of data to share. :D

I believe most of us have a large shopping list for that mythical time when we may get to spend a few days at BAMA... ;-)


Yes, sigh. :(

Anything you can add will be welcome, no rush though. What I'd love to see would be something like the chronology but including cargoes. It's all well and good to learn how many people were transported, but it would be even better to be able to break the shipments up between new arrivals (reinforcements) and the normal replacements, people returning from leave, etc. Ditto with the cargoes between additions and routine supply accumulation.


Well, I have the details for 1942 by month, you may already have those, and quite a bit of details for the Tunisian phase, but again monthly. The problem is to find the manifests, which I fear are long gone. :cry:

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Post by Bronsky » 04 Dec 2006 16:18

RichTO90 wrote: But what are you interested in? I confess my main interest is Normandy, but I tend to have packrat collections of data to share. :D


North African logistics is one of my areas of interest, so are economics & logistics in general, and 1940. Regarding the latter, it looks like I'm becoming a specialist i.e. I know more and more about less and less :-) but details on U.S. economic mobilization at the time would be welcome, not the stuff that's already available in books but the gory details about e.g. tank & aircraft deliveries, that kind of things.

RichTO90 wrote:Well, I have the details for 1942 by month, you may already have those, and quite a bit of details for the Tunisian phase, but again monthly. The problem is to find the manifests, which I fear are long gone. :cry:


I have monthly figures for personnel sent and received, tonnage sent and received, fuel received for the period June 1940 to May 1943, my "fuel sent" series is incomplete, so are the coastal shipping deliveries - I believe I have April to September 1941 and June to September 1942. All this and a bunch of other notes incorporated in spreadsheet format.

I'm also typing in the list of convoys to and from Italian North Africa that I drew from to write my previous post, this is proceeding at a somewhat leisurely pace but one day it will be complete.

Cargo manifests are likely gone - though who knows? captain's logs & ships' journals may have that information and most of these should be available - though I would expect the Italian and German quartermasters in North Africa to have kept records of what they were receiving and what they had on stock. There should also be records of the messages sent to and from Libya, which should provide an indication of what the front was asking for and what the Mediterranean theater was promising to deliver (whether these promises were kept being Part Two of the research :-) ).

I may be spending a couple of weeks in Italy next summer on hollidays and who knows? perhaps I can persuade my family to let me disappear for a couple of days in the Ufficio Storico...

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Post by Wargames » 05 Dec 2006 00:23

RichTO90 wrote:
Except there is little evidence that they carried 12,000 and cosniderable evidence that they carried about their designed capacity. Conte Rosso when she was sunk for insrtance, was carry 2,761 souls and was designed for 2,544 passengers and about 360 crew. Marco Polo's accomodations were smaller, as were the others.

So, instead of "roughly 3,000", should I have stated "roughly 2,500" or even 2,000?
Nor were the Italian liners the Queens, which is what you appear to be conflating them as.

I don't see where I "conflated them" as such or else I would have posted "roughly 21,000" versus "roughly 3,000". I happened to notice that a claim exists that two of these liners were sunk with 6,000 troops aboard, versus the figure of 5,000 which would have been the more correct figure obtained by designed passenger capacity (but maybe the crews were counted as "troops"?). I therefore allowed for the possibility that the ships could carry 500 more men than designed and explained how this could be done. So what is your evidence that the liners carried only their standard passenger capacity instead of any extra men?

BTW, thanks for sharing on BRT/GRT as I knew absolutely nothing about that.

So? What are you thinking an average "transport" carried in terms of men in February/March? Could we subtract the amount of men delivered by liner (using their designed capacities) and divide the remaining men by the number of TR's used and produce an average? Or would this be just a useless exercise in math applicable to only those particular ships? I ask because Japanese TR's seemed to be pretty consistent in carrying about 1,000 men as did US.

Vehicles - except tanks - tend to absorb a lot of cubage while requiring less weight, they can't be stacked like crates and have a lot of empty space, so they tend to be very inefficient to transport, especially in ships.

Why do you say "except tanks"? You listed four ships to carry 5th Leicht's armor regiment which, I believe, was 86 tanks. That's only 21 tanks per ship. It looks like they absorb even more space than other vehicles - Although "other" vehicles is a huge number. I've never bothered to keep track of vehicles by division before but I Googled a Leicht Panzer division and obtained "1400 trucks, 100 armored cars, 600 cars, 1,100 motorcycles". This would appear to be equal to in excess of 2,000 trucks in total required transport space. That's a lot of ships just to move that. Have you any comparables for vehicle capacities for any ships of that era? You seem to have given this some thought (Perhaps in your Normandy research?).

For anyone else, I felt it was also relevant to obtain the number of trucks in an Italian (binary) infantry division in order to compare its ship transport requirements to North Africa. Once again, I had to rely on Google (My WWII US intelligence book on Italian divisions being very unreliable) and hit an Italian source citing "131 trucks and cars" for a 1940 division. I knew they were all on foot but only 131 vehicles??? They'd need 60 just to tow their guns. So I'm suspicious of that number.

If the above number is correct, according to my US intelligence book, Italy separated supply trucks from divisional trucks which produces a much higher number of vehicles (8,000 trucks in North Africa in 1940 by one source). I imagine they were allocated on a corps level but don't know. Would any of these supply truck units be transferred with a division as well? Seems like an infantry division couldn't exist without a supply truck allocation. I'd expect that allocation, except for Alpine divisions, should be fairly consistent per standard infantry division even if the trucks are assigned on a corps level. I'm just thinking that landing an infantry division with just 131 vehicles is very unrealistic and am looking for a more accurate representation.
Last edited by Wargames on 05 Dec 2006 09:26, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by RichTO90 » 05 Dec 2006 06:15

Wargames wrote:So, instead of "roughly 3,000", should I have stated "roughly 2,500" or even 2,000?


How about "between 1,000 and 2,500, depending on the ship and the mission." :D


I don't see where I "conflated them" as such or else I would have posted "roughly 21,000" versus "roughly 3,000".


Yes, I noticed that your comment that they could carry multiples of their civilian capacity (something on the order of 7 times there peactime capacity in troops is what I recall reading, but then maybe its the drugs) has now disappeared from your post. I'll be sure to be more careful on what I snip in the future.

I noticed. That's why I separated TR's from AK's in the Guadalcanal landing. However, Bronsky had already argued against this distinction and no one had corrected him.


You're missing the point, yet again. The distinction was in the German description of the role of the vessels at that particular time, they were all the same ships. These were unmodified, typical early-20th Century, hybrid cargo/people haulers. Typically they had accomodations for passengers, usally 250-500 or more, and cargo. The US ships converted to AP were very similar, but extensively modified, that's part of why the Germans and Italians couldn't get the same efficiencies out of their vessels. But then the Germans and Italians weren't executing amphibious ops, they were moving people and cargo, it's just that instead of civilian traffic it was military. But since they weren't amphibious ships they had to have a working port, with a fixed depth at pierhead, and enough pierheads to tie up multiple vessels to. The US AP designs (and the AK for that matter) didn't require that, when properely loaded they could unload onto their own LCM if needed.

So no distinction between cargo ships, transports, and freighters was made. Now, personally, I would have guessed cargo ships were used to transport POW's since their holds made effective jail cells and the prisoners were simply stuffed in them like sardines with no chance of escape. But, evidently, that wasn't a possible consideration so I said nothing.


Again, teir the same ships, Dampfer or steamers generically, Frachter or freighters when carrying primarily cargo, and Transporter of transports when carrying primarily personnel. They were no more or less useful than any other vessel as PW transports and only effective at that if there were PW to transport.

So? What are you thinking an average "transport" carried in terms of men in February/March? Could we subtract the amount of men delivered by liner (using their designed capacities) and divide the remaining men by the number of TR's used and produce an average? Or would this be just a useless exercise in math applicable to only those particular ships?


Since we only know the total vessels by how the Germans classified them and their BRT/GRT, then fundamentally anything we do is guesswork. But it isn't guesswork to say that typical transports in 1942, carried 250-300 men along with cargo and that it is unlikely they did much different at this time. Frankly I think the four liners may have carried the bulk of the German troops of 5. le.-Div., perhaps as many as 7,000 or even 8,000 men, but that still leaves half the troops that were moved. The liners made a quick operation that much quicker, which is why they were probably used, the Italians were in desperate starits after all, but it seems likely they could have still gotten them there - perhaps a week or so later - by other means.

I ask because Japanese TR's seemed to be pretty consistent in carrying about 1,000 men as did US.


Building conclusions on assumptions again? Japanese "transports" were either converted old DD similar to the US APD, which were used extensively at Wake, Guam, and the Philippines, or were simple merchant vessels, Marus, a la the German and Italian method. But at least the Japanese had developed a set of pretty decent landing craft that could be substituted for large ships boats or carried on the converted DD and Marus without much modification.

And again, the US AP were completely different animals, after conversion they were almsot unrecognizable as the original merchant. All had extensive additions of davits and cranes for cargo and boat handling, as well as the landing craft themselves. The smallest US AP, the Fuller, carried 958 fully equipped troops, most carried more, the avergae was about 1,451 in the first 21, the purpose designed Bayfields all carried 1,226.

Why do you say "except tanks"? You listed four ships to carry 5th Leicht's armor regiment which, I believe, was 86 tanks. That's only 21 tanks per ship. It looks like they absorb even more space than other vehicles


Sorry, my fault, hasty typing and drugs. "Except tanks" in terms of wait. Tanks absorb a lot of cubage and require decks capable of handling their weight. Other vehciles absorb lots of cubage, but of course aren't nearly so heavy. And the transport was 25 Pz-I, 45 Pz-II, 61 Pz-III, 17 Pz-IV, 3 kl.Bef.Pz., and 4 gr.Bef.Pz., so 155. But I suspect they were more spread out than implied by the convoy remarks, I rather suspect they came in by Sonnenblume 8 and 9.

- Although "other" vehicles is a huge number. I've never bothered to keep track of vehicles by division before but I Googled a Leicht Panzer division and obtained "1400 trucks, 100 armored cars, 600 cars, 1,100 motorcycles". This would appear to be equal to be in excess of 2,000 trucks in total required transport space.


Well, as of 26 May 1942 Pz.A.O.K. Afrika reported 1,698 Pkw (trucks), 4,817 Lkw (lorries), 929 Krader (motorcycles), and 568 Pz.Sp. and Zgkw. So yes, they needed a lot. Of course they got a fair number initially by requestioning just about every motor vehicle in Tripolitania, somewhere I have the number, I think it was around 1,000 of all types, they were used to help flesh out the Transport-colonne of DAK and later the Panzerarmee.

That's a lot of ships just to move that. Have you any comparables for vehicle capacities for any ships of that era? You seem to have given this some thought (Perhaps in your Normandy research?).


It's all about the cubage and crane handling capacity. It also depends on whether or not the vessel was designed to carry effective deck loads, that helped a lot in moving bulky items like trucks and aircraft. But it varied depending on the requirment and the mission, for instance Normandy isn't comparable in any way, because it was an amphibious operation.

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Post by Wargames » 05 Dec 2006 09:22

RichTO90 wrote:
How about "between 1,000 and 2,500, depending on the ship and the mission."

Why the figure of 1,000? Did one of the liners used have only this capacity?

But it isn't guesswork to say that typical transports in 1942, carried 250-300 men along with cargo and that it is unlikely they did much different at this time. Frankly I think the four liners may have carried the bulk of the German troops of 5. le.-Div., perhaps as many as 7,000 or even 8,000 men, but that still leaves half the troops that were moved. The liners made a quick operation that much quicker, which is why they were probably used, the Italians were in desperate starits after all, but it seems likely they could have still gotten them there - perhaps a week or so later - by other means.

Yes. The liners of Sonnenblume 3 probably carried at least 7-8,000 men. By your record, I see eight German "transports", by eye count, unloadng at Tripoli. You show 16,200 men landed. By that math, and subtracting 8,000 for the liners, the eight transports landed, on average, 1,000 men each. Sound like a familiar number? Or did I just lucky? Because, without the liners, as you say, eight transports could have landed the balance "perhaps a week or so later".
You're missing the point, yet again. The distinction was in the German description of the role of the vessels at that particular time, they were all the same ships. These were unmodified, typical early-20th Century, hybrid cargo/people haulers. Typically they had accomodations for passengers, usally 250-500 or more, and cargo.

Okay. I'm with you. It wasn't the ship being labeled a "troop transport", it was the mission label by the author. I did notice three of the ships seemed to have been used in both ways (examples being Maritza and Leverkusen) and assumed they could be used either way but others, such as Kibfels, seemed mostly to be used in the TR role. But, with your explanation, I will delete my previous post as my own failure to note the author's intent by his terminology. My compliments to you. I appreciate your patience and your efforts.
Building conclusions on assumptions again? Japanese "transports" were either converted old DD similar to the US APD, which were used extensively at Wake, Guam, and the Philippines, or were simple merchant vessels, Marus...

I'm refering to the "Maru's" and I didn't build any "conclusions on assumptions", I asked a question based on a comparison - a comparison which, for some reason or other, appears valid.

It's all about the cubage and crane handling capacity. It also depends on whether or not the vessel was designed to carry effective deck loads...

Oh! You are good. Crane handling and deck weight capacities? I want to buy your book.

OK. I have to ask. You have me hooked. Why am I seeing air transported brigades and divisions arriving in mid-1942? I know I'm supposed to accept that these troops were already available due to the canceled Malta invasion. Yet I find it hard to believe that Rommel was requesting or willing to accept parachutists and air landing divisions. Obviously, he took them - Although I can't see why. Once those "static" troops arrived they weren't going anywhere - forward or back. Is this a "Hitler decision" in response to Rommel's request for reinforcements? If so, I can understand it being forced upon him. Only I don't see it as a "Hitler decision" since Mussollini obviously went along with it when he added the Folgore division. I also can't rule out it's being a decision by Kesselring and, in which case, the entire decision appears to be transport related. All the later units are flown in. I can accept this with the divisions and brigades that were designed for air transport, but not with the 164th Light. I understand they left their vehicle transports on Crete. What's with that decision? Is there a sea transport problem? And then we see the "Centauro" division arriving in driblets - suggesting again, a sea transport problem. I know you mentioned a shortage of DD escort which I wasn't aware of (I always thought they had plenty of "DE" type ships which did a good job.). I look forward to your insights.

My best general guideline from the German viewpoint to the situation is Desert Warfare: German Experiences in World War II by Major General Toppe who was an actual participant to the conflict. But it's so general as to be rather vague on this issue. Some excerpts:

"d. July 1942-May 1943

As a result of Rommel's advance into Egyptian territory after the capture of Tobruk (this advance was contrary to the plans of the Italian Supreme Command), the supplies deposited in the Benghasi and Tripoli areas for the front were practically useless, since the distances were too great for transportation of supplies on land and coastal shipping was prevented by the British. The German Second Air Force was compelled to transfer some of its units stationed in Sicily and southern Italy to Africa and Greece to support the Panzer Army of Africa, which was fighting desperately at El Alamein. As a result, the Luftwaffe was so heavily engaged that it was unable even to screen Malta. The British forces on Malta regained their strength and employed new types of bombers that were equipped with radar and had a wider radius of action. The British succeeded in bringing German convoy traffic to an almost complete standstill. The Italian battleships were in port at Tarent and La Spezia, unable to operate because of lack of fuel. Losses in materiel and fuel were so heavy that it was barely possible to obtain adequate supplies from Germany. The sea routes to Tripoli and Benghasi were completely severed. Air transportation from Crete now played the major role, but quite naturally, the volume was far too small to meet even the most urgent demands of the front. In addition, the Wehrmacht High Command moved an infantry division from Crete to Egypt. This division had no motorized vehicles whatever so that it became an added strain on the transportation and supply services in Africa.

c. July-Mid-November: The Siege of Tobruk and Preparations for the Attack

It was clear to Rommel that Tobruk had to be taken as soon as possible, and it was obvious that the enemy would do everything possible to prevent this happening. Speed was therefore necessary. The following factors made it difficult for Rommel to take the steps that he recognized as essential:

(1) The necessity of awaiting the arrival of further troops, infantry and particularly heavy artillery, and large supplies of ammunition from Europe, since the available forces were inadequate.

(2) The steadily decreasing capacities for German seaborne transportation as the result of the mounting losses of ships.

As early as July, it became evident that it would definitely not be possible for the Germans to commence any systematic attack before mid-September. At an early stage, it was realized that this deadline would have to be extended to October, then to November, and finally to December. Gradually, German doubts grew that the attack could be launched before the expected British offensive commenced."


Thus, Toppe argues that Rommel, by his own initiative, had outdistanced his supplies. He also identifies that Malta brought supply to "a standstill". And that, due to the "mounting losses of ships", airborne transport from Crete was required (I would date this to July/August 1942.). He describes the 164th being airlanded without trucks (They evidently obtained trucks or they'd have been left behind at El Alamein) although they did have artillery (evidently from previously landed reserves?). He continues:

… In the summer of 1942, the 164th Light Africa Division and the Parachute Instruction Brigade were transferred to Africa. As they were transported by plane and since the sea transportation capacities were steadily sinking, these units never received their vehicles. Thus, they remained nonmobile to a great extent-a fact that was to have very adverse effects on the withdrawal from El Alamein."[/b]

Here, Toppe argues that air transport was being used to replace the now lacking sea transport. Obviously, DD's were neither landing troops nor supplies as argued here and by your previous post. He continues:


[i]…The second factor favoring the Germans was that the extremely tense supply situation was relieved by the arrival of two big convoys at Tripoli with supplies of all sorts, replacement tanks, and two tank companies and artillery, which became organic to the units in Africa. This was the first supply shipment to arrive between 16 September and 15 December 1941, during which period not a single ship had reached African ports."


Obviously, Toppe did not recognize the supply contribution of Italian warships (such as CL's carrying petrol, DD's, and subs) as being worthy of a "single ship". The arguments posted here seem to be:

1) There was no shortage of ships. Just a shortage of ships getting through.
2) Troops were arriving by DD to join up with their equipment arriving by unknown means.
3) Between submarine and aircraft transport, Rommel's supply needs were being met.
4) There was a shortage of escorting DD's.
5) Anything could transport a division.

Opinion?
Last edited by Wargames on 05 Dec 2006 11:08, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Jon G. » 05 Dec 2006 10:50

Some really good posts by Bronsky and Rich! Real life constraints have kept me from posting anything yesterday, but not from reading.

Wargames wrote:...The failure to put them [the Italian liners] to work "round the clock" probably indicates that, with so much of the hull donated to cabin (passenger) space they reached insufficient cargo capacity even with a "vehicle deck". If so, ultimately, they move bodies (And, evidently, not even one tank.).


Leaning heavily on Bronsky's post, I am now inclined to dismiss the liners Conte Rosso, Marco Polo, Esperia and Victoria as part of Sonnenblume. They simply sailed together for part of the journey, but that was all the Italian liners had in common with Sonnenblume. Not that I mind being corrected on this; it's simply how I interpret part of the wealth of information provided (thanks, Rich and Bronsky!)

I think we can discount the idea of vehicle decks altogether - vehicles and other cargo were loaded and unloaded by means of the ships' own derricks, or by using dockside cranes. See the first 60 or so seconds of this YouTube clip to get an idea of how it was done.

By inference, it seems likely to me that the Italian liners carried Italian, not German troops. Also, since the liners had carried refugees and repatriated soldiers back earlier in February if I read Bronsky's post viewtopic.php?p=987764#987764 correctly, it could well be that the Italians used liners for some of their transports because their ships also had to return with refugees/wounded etc. from British-captured Cyrenaica.

Of note, the Conte Rosso carried 2,544 passengers at 18 knots as a liner, the Marco Polo carried 1,905 at 17 knots, and the Esperia, equipped with turbine engines, made a minimum of 17 knots (versus the "15 knots" attributed to Italian liners in another post). Passenger capacities of liners as troopships could be increased (by as much as seven times) by having troops share the same bed in shifts...


Rich has addressed the troop capacity, above. Strictly speaking we don't know how many, if indeed any, troops were transported on the Italian liners, but, thanks to Bronsky's information, we can deduce something about their speed. In his post, Bronsky states that the Italian liners which sailed with Sonnenblume 3 left Naples Feb 24th at 2000 hrs. and arriving at Tripolis Feb 26th at 1545 hrs. Toying around with the path function on Google Earth gives approx. 500 nautical miles from Naples to Tripolis - 500/43.74 gives the liners an average speed of just below 11.5 knots.

By contrast, the German transports and freighters left Naples at 1900 hrs. Feb. 23rd and arriving at Tripolis Feb. 25th at 2030 hrs - giving an average speed of just over 10 knots, assuming the ships took the same route. I'm aware that real sailing routes likely weren't totally straight lines, but a) that would probably apply to both liners and cargo ships, b) which means that the relative difference between liners and cargo ships would be the same. We're far from your 17 knot ball park.

...Minor observations include the Germans seem to have preferred German ships to Italian and that no tankers were used (Although I don't think any of were expecting any.).


Well, that seems to have been a question mainly of availability - although it would be interesting to know what the German ships were doing in the Mediterranean prior to Sonnenblume.

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Post by Bronsky » 05 Dec 2006 12:52

Jon G. wrote:Leaning heavily on Bronsky's post, I am now inclined to dismiss the liners Conte Rosso, Marco Polo, Esperia and Victoria as part of Sonnenblume. They simply sailed together for part of the journey, but that was all the Italian liners had in common with Sonnenblume.


Short version: these four liners made two trips in February, and the same (minus Esperia) sailed again in March. According to Rich, only the second February trip was part of Sonnenblume, the other two (as well as the one trip by Brindisi) presumably being part of the Italians' own reinforcement effort.

Jon G. wrote:I think we can discount the idea of vehicle decks altogether - vehicles and other cargo were loaded and unloaded by means of the ships' own derricks, or by using dockside cranes.


Most freighters used in the North African run had cranes powerful enough to lift ordinary vehicles. In addition, Naples and Tripoli had heavier cranes. Self-loading / self-unloading capability became a problem when shipping losses mounted, forcing the Axis to rely on older ships (with a pause when new constructions arrived in 1942) and when the front moved westward, forcing the use of ports like Benghazi and Tobruk that didn't have heavy installations. Yes, I know, there's that picture of the Tobruk crane that we discussed in another thread :-) But Benghazi was a case of removing cranes from Italian ports and shipping them there.

Only a handful of ships had heavy-duty cranes. These were either modern freighters or specialized ones, but there were very few of them. I don't have a list of Italian ships with that ability, but from a list that I do have listing French merchant shipping for 1939-40, I count a little under 400 specialist freighters (this is in addition to "mixed" ships and those "liner" types which were designed to transport passengers and cargo). Of these, one had 40-ton loading masts (it was a specialized rolling-stock transporter), 3 others were specialist heavy-duty transporters, and an additional half-dozen had particularly strong masts (don't know the exact strength) for the traffic of colonial wood in French West Africa.

Now the French merchant marine was nothing to write home about in the first place, and its bulk freight component was its oldest and least adequate one. The Italians may well have been better off, though with their most modern ships trapped outside of the Mediterranean at the declaration of war it's unlikely that the number of ships able to handle heavy loads would be very high.

That being said, I'm only mentioning this as general purpose information regarding North African logistics (Sadkovich mentions it at some point IIRC), as this has nothing to do with deck cargo. The problem with the latter was not self loading/unloading capability - especially since, as I wrote, there was sufficient capacity in Tripoli and Naples - it was availability of decks and having the idea in the first place.

If you look at pictures of freighters, you will find precious little room to stack vehicles larger than cars or side-cars. That is because the ships were not designed to carry deck cargoes. Short of specially-designed shipping - as the Allies built, after they recognized how useful it could be - this leaves oilers, and that's about it. The point about deck cargo is it took a while to get the idea, and it was expensive to reconfigure one's shipping so as to be able to gain full advantage from that practice.

The shipping "cost" of a given item is the largest of its volume or weight. An ideal load is when a ship has full holds (volume) and is carrying its maximum load (in tons). In practice, this seldom happens. Military operations, in particular, require the shipping of large numbers of wheeled vehicles and airplanes, both of which are particularly ineffective shipping-wise (they are extremely bulky in relation to their weight).

One solution is to carry them crated, but that requires an assembly plant at the other end. That was not an option in North Africa where neither the manpower nor the industrial base were available (the British did built such a capacity in Egypt over time), where the Axis couldn't afford to wait between delivery and issuance to the fighting units (the lower your overall stock, the smaller the proportion that you can afford to leave in the pipeline), and where the length of the sea lane wasn't sufficient to justify such a practice i.e. disassembly at one end, re-assembly at the other, particularly given how the planes didn't have to be shipped but could all be flown in.

What I'm getting at here is that the Allies were facing tremendous shipping costs, and had larger resources overall. The heavy investments that they made to improve shipping efficiency were worth it, because they could afford them in the first place and because each additional % of shipping efficiency was worth more to them (with a far greater amount of shipping and longer sealanes) than to the Axis.

Jon G. wrote:Strictly speaking we don't know how many, if indeed any, troops were transported on the Italian liners, but, thanks to Bronsky's information, we can deduce something about their speed.


My initial comment to Wargames regarding the speed of liners was to caution against his extrapolating the speed of the largest liners to a general rule. This would be like arguing based on the performnace of the Queens that British liners should all be assumed to have a speed of 24 knots. Like all countries, Italy had a few large and fast liners, and a lot of smaller and slower ones. They will all appear as "liner" in ship lists, though the smaller ones will have a top speed of perhaps 12 knots. That's why I wrote that 15 knots was a better average value than 20. I suppose that is is another case of Wargames attributing to me claims that I didn't make.

Anyway, on that particular trip one of the cruiser escorts was sunk near the Kerkennah islands, off Tunisia. You may want to include that on your plot prior to estimating an average speed, then add zig-zags.

Jon G. wrote:Well, that seems to have been a question mainly of availability - although it would be interesting to know what the German ships were doing in the Mediterranean prior to Sonnenblume.


"German" ships include regular German ships that were involved in trade in the Mediterranean prior to September 1939, as well as some former Yugoslav and Greek shipping captured by the Germans.

Regarding another remark that I read (unless Wargames edited it out), the Italians did not have plenty of "DEs". Just because countries like Germany, France and Italy had "torpedo boats" and "destroyers" while the Royal Navy and USN only had the latter, doesn't mean that the "torpedo boats" are destroyer escorts. They were small destroyers, but large enough to be rated "destroyers" by the RN, whereas the "Zerstörer / Contre-torpilleur / Cacciatorpedinieri" was often larger than a British destroyer. US-built DE/DDs were of comparable sizes (Americans always need larger helpings :-) ) but a "torpedo boat" was not a dedicated escort ship as a Destroyer Escort was.

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Post by Bronsky » 05 Dec 2006 13:31

Wargames wrote:Why am I seeing air transported brigades and divisions arriving in mid-1942?


What other units were available for deployment at the time?

Wargames wrote:Yet I find it hard to believe that Rommel was requesting or willing to accept parachutists and air landing divisions.


He would doubtless have preferred motorized troops, but having requested reinforcements and being short of troops in general, he took what he got.

Wargames wrote:Once those "static" troops arrived they weren't going anywhere - forward or back.


They had the same means of transport as the Italian infantry, which did manage not to go anywhere all the way from Tripoli to El Alamein. Must have been a record case of Zen non-action...

Wargames wrote:All the later units are flown in.


And believe you me, these Tigers that were flown to Tunisia played havok with the Ju.52 service life!

Wargames wrote:The British succeeded in bringing German convoy traffic to an almost complete standstill.


This refers mainly to coastal traffic east of Tobruk, which came under attack from the Egypt-based RAF. Eventually, the RAF forced the Italians to abandon Tobruk as a port. Rommel initially ordered them to use it anywhere, which led to heavy losses in July, then they ignored his orders and discharged farther back.

Wargames wrote:Losses in materiel and fuel were so heavy that it was barely possible to obtain adequate supplies from Germany. The sea routes to Tripoli and Benghasi were completely severed.


The author is a German army officer, and busy trying to assign blame to some other institution. Fortunately, we have another branch of service (navy) from another country (Italy) involved in a campaign. Guess who will be made responsible? I have already posted figures showing such statements to be false.

Wargames wrote:c. July-Mid-November: The Siege of Tobruk and Preparations for the Attack


Tobruk came under siege in June 1941 and was relieved by Crusader (which started IIRC 18 November). July to mid-November 1942, Tobruk was an Axis port. This refers to 1941 as any basic knowledge of the North African campaign would have indicated. It would have been clearer to arrange the text chronologically.

Wargames wrote:(2) The steadily decreasing capacities for German seaborne transportation as the result of the mounting losses of ships.


The author conflates direct and indirect effects, you are assuming they were all direct effects i.e. sinkings as opposed to sinkings + Supermarina sending less convoys until the situation improved. This has been addressed upthread, you may want to read the whole thread.

Wargames wrote:Thus, Toppe argues that Rommel, by his own initiative, had outdistanced his supplies. He also identifies that Malta brought supply to "a standstill". And that, due to the "mounting losses of ships", airborne transport from Crete was required (I would date this to July/August 1942.).


Rommel had outdistanced his supplies in both 1941 and 1942, you're confusing an account of 1942 and one of 1941. In each case, it was expected that the British would launch an offensive, eventually, though the author makes liberal use of hindsight.

Wargames wrote:Here, Toppe argues that air transport was being used to replace the now lacking sea transport. Obviously, DD's were neither landing troops nor supplies as argued here and by your previous post.


The conspiracy option is that several DD captains with their crews all conspired to drop the oil barrells into the sea and return claiming to have delivered them, they fooled the official historian, silenced the complaints of the port authorities and instead presumably created fake receipts. According to that option, all the participants in that plot - maybe 300 DD crews + port authorities - successfully kept the matter secret for half a century.

Other options include Toppe not being aware of these deliveries or deliberately ignoring them (now, who does that remind me of?).

Feel free to pick the option that suits you best.

Wargames wrote:…The second factor favoring the Germans was that the extremely tense supply situation was relieved by the arrival of two big convoys at Tripoli with supplies of all sorts, replacement tanks, and two tank companies and artillery, which became organic to the units in Africa. This was the first supply shipment to arrive between 16 September and 15 December 1941, during which period not a single ship had reached African ports."

Obviously, Toppe did not recognize the supply contribution of Italian warships (such as CL's carrying petrol, DD's, and subs) as being worthy of a "single ship".


Obviously, some here have difficulties telling the difference between 1942 and 1941, even when it's spelled out as in "16 September and 15 December 1941".

(snip strawmen, post quotes if you can or save bandwidth)

RichTO90
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Post by RichTO90 » 05 Dec 2006 16:46

Wargames wrote:Why the figure of 1,000? Did one of the liners used have only this capacity?


I can as easily ask why 12,000? Did all the liners have the ability to carry 3,000 passengers, plus crew?

Yes. The liners of Sonnenblume 3 probably carried at least 7-8,000 men. By your record, I see eight German "transports", by eye count, unloadng at Tripoli. You show 16,200 men landed. By that math, and subtracting 8,000 for the liners, the eight transports landed, on average, 1,000 men each. Sound like a familiar number? Or did I just lucky? Because, without the liners, as you say, eight transports could have landed the balance "perhaps a week or so later".


Perhaps, or perhaps not. I rather expect from various bits of evidence that they were spread out a bit more than that, with the largest numbers of men in the liners and transports and smaller numbers in the primarily cargo shipments.But I don't know, so I can't say if your average of 1,000 is "lucky", "off the mark by an order of magnitude", or brilliant. And it's a familiar number because a lot of these vessels are similar, the early US AP were in some cases converted vessels that were part of Great War reparations IIRC, and the later ones were built on standard C-2 merchant hulls, so they would all be "familiar".

Okay. I'm with you. It wasn't the ship being labeled a "troop transport", it was the mission label by the author.



Exactly.

I'm refering to the "Maru's" and I didn't build any "conclusions on assumptions", I asked a question based on a comparison - a comparison which, for some reason or other, appears valid.


You appeared to be building a conclusion about Japanese troop carrying capability based upon the assumption that they relied on "1,000-man" transports. I was pointing out that the assumption was basically incorrect - there were no "standard" Japanese transports, so invalidating the conclusion. But if you weren't draing a conclusion then I'm not sure what your point was? :D

Oh! You are good. Crane handling and deck weight capacities? I want to buy your book.


No, buy the Quartermaster Corps volumes in the US Army Green Book series, and then follow them up with the Logistics histories of the ETO/MTO, its already been done, about 40 years ago. Why reinvent the wheel?

OK. I have to ask. You have me hooked. Why am I seeing air transported brigades and divisions arriving in mid-1942?


(snip) Bronsky pretty well covered this. But also consider....

In fact, 10. Panzer as well was pretty much available for deployment by August 42 IIRC, after rebuilding in the south of France. But deploying it would have required a Sonnenblume-type effort, when the British capability of intercepting and attacking such a convoy had increased dramatically from spring 1941 when most of that capability was directed at moving their own convoys to Greece (I'm surprised nobody really seems to put together the timelines). Then, assuming they got them to Tripoli they would have to drive them 1,400 miles. As tandard German consumption rates as assumed for this period by Pz.A.O.K. Afrika, that would have been roughly 13,440 cbm of gasoline, just to get them to Alamein. Plus they would have required an augmentation of the army QM transportation assets to support an additional mechanized force of that size. And that was something they already had a problem with.

So again, it is a combination of factors not so easily explained as Toppe's simplistic "no ships, nos supplies".

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 05 Dec 2006 16:53

Bronsky wrote:...
Jon G. wrote:I think we can discount the idea of vehicle decks altogether - vehicles and other cargo were loaded and unloaded by means of the ships' own derricks, or by using dockside cranes.


Most freighters used in the North African run had cranes powerful enough to lift ordinary vehicles. In addition, Naples and Tripoli had heavier cranes.


This thread is pertinent to the crane angle:

viewtopic.php?t=63008

...particularly the last few pages. Although military vehicles (at least the 1941 kind) weren't such extremely heavy objects from a shipping point of view as you imply.

Self-loading / self-unloading capability became a problem when shipping losses mounted, forcing the Axis to rely on older ships (with a pause when new constructions arrived in 1942) and when the front moved westward, forcing the use of ports like Benghazi and Tobruk that didn't have heavy installations. Yes, I know, there's that picture of the Tobruk crane that we discussed in another thread :-) But Benghazi was a case of removing cranes from Italian ports and shipping them there.

Only a handful of ships had heavy-duty cranes. These were either modern freighters or specialized ones, but there were very few of them...


I trust you mean eastwards? Anyway, the Axis did manage to deliver German locomotives - probably the heaviest single items delivered by ship to Libya - to such an underdeveloped port as Tobruk. There are a few pictures of German shunters dangling from the cranes of the Ankara on the sixth page of this thread, the other thread dealing with the technical issues of North African logistics:

viewtopic.php?t=99035

...I lifted the pics from Foo'bar's posts on the DAK forum. I got his blessings to repost them here.

When I wrote about 'vehicle decks', I meant vehicle decks in the modern roll on/roll off sense, like modern car ferries. I doubt if the Italians had any such ferries in 1941, and if they did it is not likely that Tripolis would have been able to accomodate them. The roll on/roll off concept was known at the time, at least for rail ferries, but again Tripolis would likely not have been able to receive rail cars rolling directly off a ferry. As the above thread also discusses, the rail infrastructure of Libya was painfully underdeveloped.

Jon G. wrote:Strictly speaking we don't know how many, if indeed any, troops were transported on the Italian liners, but, thanks to Bronsky's information, we can deduce something about their speed.


My initial comment to Wargames regarding the speed of liners was to caution against his extrapolating the speed of the largest liners to a general rule. This would be like arguing based on the performnace of the Queens that British liners should all be assumed to have a speed of 24 knots. Like all countries, Italy had a few large and fast liners, and a lot of smaller and slower ones. They will all appear as "liner" in ship lists, though the smaller ones will have a top speed of perhaps 12 knots. That's why I wrote that 15 knots was a better average value than 20. I suppose that is is another case of Wargames attributing to me claims that I didn't make.

Anyway, on that particular trip one of the cruiser escorts was sunk near the Kerkennah islands, off Tunisia. You may want to include that on your plot prior to estimating an average speed, then add zig-zags.


Yes, clearly my speed calculation is wrought with unknown variables, so in that sense I'm being guilty of extrapolation based on limited data. However, my main point was simply that, according to the information you posted about the liner convoy and Sonnenblume 3 upthread, the difference betwee the fast liners and the slower cargo ships was not that great - the liners took just below 43.75 hours to reach Tripolis, whereas the transporters of Sonnenblume 3 took 49.50 hours to reach Tripolis. In other words, the fast liners were just ~13% faster than the slow cargo ships on this occasion.

Jon G. wrote:Well, that seems to have been a question mainly of availability - although it would be interesting to know what the German ships were doing in the Mediterranean prior to Sonnenblume.


"German" ships include regular German ships that were involved in trade in the Mediterranean prior to September 1939, as well as some former Yugoslav and Greek shipping captured by the Germans...


Yes, but there can't have been any captured Yugoslav or Greek ships in the German inventory by the time of Sonnenblume. It would be interesting to know what the 50-odd German ships trapped in the Mediterranean post-September 1939 were doing before the Germans decided to lend the Italians a hand in North Africa.

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