Question on composition of Italian forces in NA without...

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 07 Jan 2006 22:20

David W wrote:F.W.I.W, I think the biggest problem is going to be adequately supplying any additional Italian forces in the North African theatre. Bear in mind that of the three ports used by the Axis, only one (Tripoli) was in their hands for the entire campaign. Also look at the ports capacities, and compare them with the requirements of a typical Italian or German Division.

Tripoli: 45,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.
Benghasi: 24,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.
Tobruk: 18,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.

Typical Monthly requirements of an Italian Division: 8,000 Tonnes per Month MINIMUM. German Division: 11,000 Tonnes per Month MINIMUM.
Do the sums and you will see how stretched the Axis were in supplying the existing forces, never mind having to cope with even more.
While I don't disagree with the general point i.e. there was a definite limit to how much force the Axis could supply in North Africa, the numbers you quote give the wrong idea.

1/ When you match the total port capacity to the figures you provide for Axis divisions, it looks like PAA should have starved to death. Let's see: at the time of Gazala port capacity was 45,000+24,000 = 69,000. There were 3 German divisions (33,000 tons), so just 4.5 Italian divisions would have used it all up, and there were more than these.

2/ When you compare total port capacity according to these figures with the actual deliveries - as listed in the Italian official histories, and used e.g. by Van Creveld in the relevant chapter of "Supplying War" - then there is an "impossibility" of supply landed for the months where the figures are negative. The formula is port capacity minus tonnage delivered, taking into account which ports were under Axis control e.g. only Tripoli from March to May 1941, Tobruk only starting in July 1942, etc.
mars-41 -34 183
avr-41 -47 753
mai-41 -36 472
juin-41 -14 331
juil-41 -56 076
août-41 6 724
sept-41 -14 956
oct-41 1 487
nov-41 -4 614
déc-41 39 157
janv-42 15 908
févr-42 -21 170
mars-42 -3 965
avr-42 21 412
mai-42 -81 389
juin-42 -17 439
juil-42 46 673
août-42 -4 491

It shows that theoretical port capacities could - and were - improved upon.

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David W
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Post by David W » 07 Jan 2006 22:26

They wouldn't starve because of stockpiling, and the fact that when not in combat they only need food & water, not fuel & ammo as well.

If the port capacity figures were bettered it would not have been by a significant amount.

You are in general agreement though, I assume, from your opening comment.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 08 Jan 2006 02:04

David W wrote:They wouldn't starve because of stockpiling, and the fact that when not in combat they only need food & water, not fuel & ammo as well.
They would have needed a fair amount of fuel moving stores to the front from the ports. That had to be factored in even in periods of relative quiet.

Michael

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 08 Jan 2006 08:54

Bronsky wrote:
David W wrote:...
Tripoli: 45,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.
Benghasi: 24,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.
Tobruk: 18,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.

Typical Monthly requirements of an Italian Division: 8,000 Tonnes per Month MINIMUM. German Division: 11,000 Tonnes per Month MINIMUM...
While I don't disagree with the general point i.e. there was a definite limit to how much force the Axis could supply in North Africa, the numbers you quote give the wrong idea.

1/ When you match the total port capacity to the figures you provide for Axis divisions, it looks like PAA should have starved to death. Let's see: at the time of Gazala port capacity was 45,000+24,000 = 69,000. There were 3 German divisions (33,000 tons), so just 4.5 Italian divisions would have used it all up, and there were more than these.
Not quite starve to death - Axis divisions given less than the stated amount of supplies would just have to make do with less. According to Rommel, the target was 10 Ausstattungen of ammunition and 10 Verbrauchssätze of fuel per DAK division, an ideal that rarely if ever was attained for offensive operations. Supply shortages were an endemic problem to Axis forces in North Africa, but the shortages experienced did not threaten the very existence of Axis forces, just their mobility and their ability to go on the offensive.

Also, and with all respect to David W :), I think the 8,000/11,000 tons/month requirements of Axis divisions are averages needed for offensive ops, not minima. A German division on offensive operations might well use the stated 11,000 tons supply/month or more (making do with captured supplies whenever possible), but an Italian infantry division on garrison duty in Tripolis would need significantly less. Additionally, a division on protracted offensive for a whole month on end would be a far more exceptional occurrence than a division spending a whole month of inactivity.
2/ When you compare total port capacity according to these figures with the actual deliveries - as listed in the Italian official histories, and used e.g. by Van Creveld in the relevant chapter of "Supplying War" - then there is an "impossibility" of supply landed for the months where the figures are negative. The formula is port capacity minus tonnage delivered, taking into account which ports were under Axis control e.g. only Tripoli from March to May 1941, Tobruk only starting in July 1942, etc...
juil-41 -56 076
août-41 6 724
sept-41 -14 956
oct-41 1 487
nov-41 -4 614
...
The official Italian figures are presumably for the tonnage delivered at Axis-controlled ports, and not the amount at the time of departure from Naples? That may tell something of the overall strategic situation of Axis forces in North Africa (which was overall satisfying in the five months I've included above), but rather less of the situation at the front.

In the period I'm quoting from your numbers, Rommel had the same 69,000 tons/monthly port capacity on hand as he had at the time of the Gazala battles. In this period Axis forces managed to...
  • Strengthen the siege of Tobruk by building a road circumventing the town.
  • Stockpile ammunition and bring up heavy artillery for the siege of Tobruk.
  • Make an abortive dash to The Wire and back.
  • Maintain a strong garrison at Halfaya, far away from both Benghazi and Tripolis, and
  • Successfully engage British forces in the opening stages of Operation Crusader.
Also, Axis air activity was high in the period, especially over Tobruk which was bombed frequently, both by aircraft supplied through Tripolis/Benghazi and by aircraft flying from Sicily. The garrison at Halfaya Pass was resupplied by air.

For what it is worth and as I understand it, Rommel's push into Egypt in the summer of 1942 was made possible not due to the addition of Tobruk to the Axis supply chain, but rather due to the supplies - above all fuel - captured there.
It shows that theoretical port capacities could - and were - improved upon.
More likely, it shows that port capacities, while a real constraining factor, were less of a bottleneck than was the distance from supply heads to the front. Also, complimentary supply methods were used by the Axis throughout the North African campaign - notably air lifted supplies, material (trucks and artillery) procured from French North Africa and, especially, captured supplies.

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David W
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Post by David W » 08 Jan 2006 11:49

Yes, I agree that the figures I gave as an average consumption for the Axis Divisions, might be misleading, given the huge differences between a month of frenetic fire & manoever, and a month of rest behind the lines for the same unit.
Perhaps one should view them as an average, spread over the entire campaign.
Their purpose however, was not to set an accurate benchmark for consumption. But to illustrate that the available Axis ports could barely supply the existing Axis units during a time of conflict. Much less support the proposed (in this thread) substantial increase in mobile armoured units arriving in the theatre.
Hope that clears things up a little.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 08 Jan 2006 15:00

Apologies if this already appears in the thread but are the Division (tonnage) requirements based on a European based requirement or a specific African requirement.

Regards

Andy H

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Post by Jon G. » 08 Jan 2006 15:43

The exact per-day requirement is a disputed subject...

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 57&start=0

...I assume that at least for DAK divisions supply requirements were dictated more by which activity the division in question was engaged in, and less by the desert environment.

The big exception was water. The Germans prepared for that by bringing a whole water supply battalion - Wasserversogungs-Bataillon 580 (mot.) - with them to North Africa. This battalion had 'geological' sub-units, probably with well-drilling gear. It's described in more detail here, along with other staff/HQ units of the DAK. Unfortunately the site is in German, but reading a TO&E should not be too hard :)

However, far more telling than the needs of an individual unit would be the distance the unit had to its supply head, a distance that very often could be measured in hundreds and hundreds of miles.

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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 19:28

Jon G. wrote:Not quite starve to death - Axis divisions given less than the stated amount of supplies would just have to make do with less. According to Rommel, the target was 10 Ausstattungen of ammunition and 10 Verbrauchssätze of fuel per DAK division, an ideal that rarely if ever was attained for offensive operations. Supply shortages were an endemic problem to Axis forces in North Africa, but the shortages experienced did not threaten the very existence of Axis forces, just their mobility and their ability to go on the offensive.
Yes. The original comment was about a minimum supply requirement of 8-11ktons and a given port capacity. That comment hadn't been corrected. I wanted to show that if you took these values then the historical situation was an impossibility.

Also, the port capacity figures are wrong because the Axis unloaded greater amounts in various periods.

This does not make the Axis logistical position in North Africa rosy, obviously...
Jon G. wrote:
juil-41 -56 076
août-41 6 724
sept-41 -14 956
oct-41 1 487
nov-41 -4 614
...
The official Italian figures are presumably for the tonnage delivered at Axis-controlled ports, and not the amount at the time of departure from Naples? That may tell something of the overall strategic situation of Axis forces in North Africa (which was overall satisfying in the five months I've included above), but rather less of the situation at the front.
Yes, the figures are from tonnage delivered to North Africa, not tonnage sent, some of which was sunk en route. And yes, obviously the amount of supply reaching the theater doesn't necessarily mean that the frontline troops had plenty of supply. Incidentally, these figures are calculated in relation to the stated port capacity. For example, in July 1941 there were 56,076 tons delivered beyond the theoretical maximum capacity of Tripoli and Benghazi. It doesn't mean that this amount of supply was even sufficient to put PAA at full supply, just that saying "there were only 3 ports and their capacity was X" is doubly wrong: there were more ports, and their capacity was in fact higher.
Jon G. wrote:For what it is worth and as I understand it, Rommel's push into Egypt in the summer of 1942 was made possible not due to the addition of Tobruk to the Axis supply chain, but rather due to the supplies - above all fuel - captured there.
It was both. The capture of fairly large amounts of supply and vehicles made an immediate advance possible, though not all the way to El Alamein. The capture of the port made subsequent resupply of the Axis army in Egypt possible, including up to El Alamein.
Jon G. wrote:More likely, it shows that port capacities, while a real constraining factor, were less of a bottleneck than was the distance from supply heads to the front. Also, complimentary supply methods were used by the Axis throughout the North African campaign - notably air lifted supplies, material (trucks and artillery) procured from French North Africa and, especially, captured supplies.
I don't have figures for captured supplies, appart from the well-publicized ones about the 1942 Tobruk booty. Air transport brought in (and out) a significant portion of the personnel, but the tonnage lifted was relatively small. Air transport was significant in some key situations e.g. immediately after El Alamein and during the retreat because small amounts of fuel arriving at the right time and when the force was bone-dry assumed critical importance, but generally speaking in was a very small factor in supplying the North African theater.

French supplies represented (from memory and in round figures) some 1,800 vehicles of which 1,100 trucks, and 2/3 of the vehicles had to be made serviceable again from Axis spare parts (this was part of the original deal, not an act of French resistance). Axis forces had I believe some 16,000 vehicles at the time. Then there were some 7,000 tons of fuel shipped, half of which were Italian fuel carried in French ships, the rest French fuel, between January and June 1942. In the same period, some 136,000 tons of fuel reached North Africa. I don't believe that French supplies made a big difference. I've seen it argued that they were absolutely critical, because although small they were the difference between success and failure in critical occasions like Gazala, but I've never seen that position substantiated and frankly don't believe it.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 08 Jan 2006 20:02

Bronsky wrote:
just that saying "there were only 3 ports and their capacity was X" is doubly wrong: there were more ports, and their capacity was in fact higher.
Hi Bronsky

You could also argue that though the Ports had X capacity (based on ideal scenario's) they in fact may well have been operating at lower capacity due to war damage or weather factors etc.

Regards

Andy H

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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 20:21

Andy H wrote:You could also argue that though the Ports had X capacity (based on ideal scenario's) they in fact may well have been operating at lower capacity due to war damage or weather factors etc.
Hi Andy,

That obviously happened, but my point was that the tonnage unloaded was for many months superior to 45,000 tons for Tripoli + 24,000 tons for Benghazi + 18,000 tons for Tobruk. Actual max port capacity in North Africa seems to have been more in the order of 200,000 tons.

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Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Jan 2006 20:39

I'm pasting this from a post I made on soc.history.war.world-war-ii, hoping it can be of interest:

You have probably read the Navy Official History. However, just in case someone else is reading, I add some excerpts from volume VI, "La Difesa del Traffico con l'Africa Settentrionale" [The defence of traffic with North Africa] by Adm. Aldo Cocchia, about port receptivity.

Peacetime max capability was:

Tripoli - up to 5 cargo ships (2.000 t per day) + 4 personnel ships (500-600 men per hour) unloading at the same time.

Tobruk - up to 3 cargo ships (1,000-1,500 t per day) + 2 personnel ships (250-300 men per hour) unloading at the same time.

Benghazi - up to 3 cargo ships (1,000 t per day) + 2 personnel ships (250-300 men per hour) but only 3 ships unloading at the same time.

However by 1941, due to damage and attrition, capability had dropped to 50% for Tripoli, and even less for Benghazi (recaptured and then lost again).

Globally 1,803,022 t arrived in the Lybian ports between June 40 and January 43; monthly totals exceeded 100,000 t only three times (June 41, April 42, May 42) and often were below 40,000 t (July 40, October 40, November 41, December 41, June 42) while in June 40, December 42 and January 43 the quantity was negligible.

The personnel transported totalled 189.198 men, the vast majority of them during 1941 (about 20,000 in each of February, March and April).

In addition 302,835 t and 17,204 passengers were lost in transit.

Giorgio Giorgerini's "La Guerra Italiana sul Mare" (a highly controversial book claiming that The Italians *_won_* the naval war in the Mediterranean, by transporting safely in Lybia most of the embarked material) shows slightly different numbers:

[numbers are: 1940 - 1941 - 1942 & Jan-43]

Personnel
embarked 29,299 - 157,221 - 19,882
arriving 29,249 - 143,053 - 16,960

Material - Oil and gasoline (t)
embarked 47,520 - 234,426 - 317,391
arriving 47,520 - 181,015 - 248,168

Material - vehicles (t)
embarked 30,131 - 144,478 - 100,701
arriving 30,126 - 128,731 - 84,776

Material - Weapons & ammo (t)
embarked 21,948 - 61,054 - 87,058
arriving 21,938 - 53,281 - 74,243

Material - others
embarked 204,868 - 576,483 - 419,322
arriving 197,891 - 490,166 - 372,100

In addition, between November 42 and May 43 77,741 men were embarked for Tunisia (77,246 arriving) along with 433,160 t (306,532 t arriving).

There were 993 convoys (more than one per day) for Lybia with 1,905 cargo ship voyages and 2,206 escort ship voyages (so, the typical convoy was formed by 1.9 cargo ships and 2.2 escorts). In addition, 326 military ships' voyages (in 203 convoys) were employed for transport.

There were 276 convoys for Tunisia with 438 cargo ship voyages and 548 escort ship voyages (average of 1.6 cargo ships and 2.0 escorts per convoy) plus 657 military ships' voyages (in 167 convoys).

There were 3,116 convoys for Albania / Greece / Aegean [during the entire war; more than two per day] with 5,527 cargo ship voyages and 2,580 escort ship voyages (plus 28 isolated military voyages).

Actually, a very great number of such "convoy" was formed by just a single cargo ship (with a lone, if any, escort).

Davide

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David W
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Post by David W » 08 Jan 2006 20:42

Actual max port capacity in North Africa seems to have been more in the order of 200,000 tons.
I doubt that figure is accurate.
Sorry mate.
Nothing personal.
No offence intended.

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Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Jan 2006 20:53

Additionally, Italian Air Force transport units (S.A.S.) managed to fly to Lybia from 10 June 1940 to 10 June 1942:

9,576 flights
45,545 flight hours
11,549,459 flight Km
153,217 passengers
10,119,661 kg payload
1,636,099 kg mail

Davide

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 21:11

David W wrote:
Actual max port capacity in North Africa seems to have been more in the order of 200,000 tons.
I doubt that figure is accurate.
Sorry mate.
Nothing personal.
No offence intended.
None taken.

I ran various simulations for port capacities, with the same idea: see if the available port capacity for a given month made the historical deliveries possible. I used various sources, daily delivery schedules, etc - which of course give conflicting results for the capacity available at any given port - and tried to get the estimate with the least amount of "errors" (i.e. months where tonnage unloaded was superior to the theoretical port capacity).

The best-fitting scenario was when I rated Tripoli at 90,000 tons monthly, Benghazi at 54,000 (dropping to 15,000, then back to 45,000 by May 1942), Derna at 15,000, Tobruk at 18,000 (going to 30,000 in the summer of 1942) and Matruh at 9,000. With these ratings, there were only three months when deliveries outstripped theoretical port capacity: 11,800 "excess" tons in April 1941, 13,331 tons in July, and 1,578 tons in May 1942. Monthly delivery figures from the Italian official history that Davide referred to.

What is very clear is that the max port capacities that you had listed are understated given the historical deliveries (see also Davide's figures: they add up to more. Also 300 tons of fuel daily in Tripoli through hoses, in addition to other cargo). The reason why I believe they're inaccurate is the many months when actual deliveries were above that theoretical capacity (see my initial post where I provided a list with the excess tonnage). And just in case you wondered, nothing personal, no offense meant, etc. This is a topic that I'm interested in and would be glad to find more information about.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 21:15

Davide Pastore wrote:Additionally, Italian Air Force transport units (S.A.S.) managed to fly to Lybia from 10 June 1940 to 10 June 1942:

9,576 flights
45,545 flight hours
11,549,459 flight Km
153,217 passengers
10,119,661 kg payload
1,636,099 kg mail
What about personnel flown out, or flights after June 1942 ? (though you may already have provided that data on Usenet after I asked you there, I didn't check my notes)

Cheers

Louis

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