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

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Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 08 Jan 2006 21:32

This thread should be of interest...

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?p=475997

...it is interesting that peacetime port capacity is universally considered higher than wartime capacity. Bombing and destruction of port infrastructure would of course cut unloading capacity back - but on the other hand, working round the clock (hardly standard procedure in peacetime) should increase capacity significantly, and most ships of the time had their own derricks for unloading cargo. Also, exact unloading time may well have depended on the type of cargo.

I'm re-posting a very good chart of Italian shipments to Libya here, originally submitted by DrG, to whom I am in debt for much information about this very interesting subject.

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Davide Pastore
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Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Jan 2006 21:36

Bronsky wrote: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
Of course I didn't recognize you, Louis.

The Air Force official history list only general data (all fronts) for second half of 1942 (1 July - 31 December):

? flights
40,181 flight hours
8,420,051 flight Km
157,681 passengers
10,042,276 kg payload
337,796 kg mail

There is no breakdown by front but IMHO roughly 80-90% of the above went to Africa.

1943 data (only passengers / payload data):

11 Dec 42 - 10 Jan 43 (20,716 / 1,582,578)
11 Jan - 17 Jan (6,940 / 185,981 + 128,884)
18 Jan - 27 Feb (6,758 / 186,339 + 141,307 + 2,700)
25 Jan - 31 Jan (6,912 / 189,878 / 190,796)
1 Feb - 7 Feb (5,689 / 145,574 + 147,907)
8 Feb - 14 Feb (4,011 / 97,074 + 59,788)
15 Feb - 21 Feb (5,330 / 159,060 + 167,018)
22 Feb - 28 Feb (9,970 / 275,470 + 192,611)
1 Mar - 7 Mar (9,712 / 255,237 + 166,608 + 11,500)
[missing data]
05 Apr - 11 Apr (8,558 / 230,941 + 583,243)
[missing data]
10 May - 16 May (3,857 / 83,173 + 110,724 + 950)

Payload is "Bagaglio" (personal weight of the passengers) + "Materiale vario" (assorted cargo) + torpedoes (when applicable)

Again no breakdown, but again most (90% ?) of the effort was directed to Tunisia.

Davide

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David W
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Post by David W » 08 Jan 2006 21:41

Bronsky. None taken.

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Davide Pastore
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Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Jan 2006 21:52

Jon G. wrote:I'm re-posting a very good chart of Italian shipments to Libya here
The two charts below are from Admiral Cocchia's official history (materials and personnel). There are some minor differences (for example, April + May 1942).

Davide
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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 22:15

Jon G. wrote:This thread should be of interest...
Thanks, I had stayed well away from it given its title, but it looks worth checking out after all :-)
Jon G. wrote:...it is interesting that peacetime port capacity is universally considered higher than wartime capacity. Bombing and destruction of port infrastructure would of course cut unloading capacity back - but on the other hand, working round the clock (hardly standard procedure in peacetime) should increase capacity significantly, and most ships of the time had their own derricks for unloading cargo. Also, exact unloading time may well have depended on the type of cargo.
Also, port capacity can be improved in wartime, the Italians shipped cranes and other equipment to North Africa.
Jon G. wrote:I'm re-posting a very good chart of Italian shipments to Libya here, originally submitted by DrG, to whom I am in debt for much information about this very interesting subject.
Thanks, but I have plenty of figures. Ideally, I'd like the monthly totals for "fuel tonnage sent" from the Italian officials as I have the rest, and a breakdown by port. Also, more data on British shipments to the Middle East. I'm trying to build a spreadsheet putting all this data together, but it's not easy.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 22:19

Davide,

Thanks again.

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Davide Pastore
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Post by Davide Pastore » 08 Jan 2006 22:30

Bronsky wrote:Also, port capacity can be improved in wartime, the Italians shipped cranes and other equipment to North Africa.
Also, from summer 1942 on Italy had 60 or so MZs (copy of German MFP) which could disenbark their load directly on the beach.

Although intended for Malta, they were used instead as cargo ships to Lybia.

Davide
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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 08 Jan 2006 22:53

Yes, I have to finish "Muli di Mare"... :-)

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 09 Jan 2006 10:52

Hi Bronsky,

I always like it when you add your input to these number-heavy threads. That however doesn't mean that I agree with all of it :)
Bronsky wrote:...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.
Yes, the stated port capacites don't fit with the amount of material delivered according to the official Italian history. Either the port capacities were higher than given by van Creveld et al. or alternative means of supply must have accounted for the surplus delivered - something I personally don't think they did; air delivered supplies and reinforcements at no time constituted more than a minor (if crucial) part of overall supply delivered to North Africa, and the Germans themselves failed to meet the 300 tons/day target set for the 6th Army in Stalingrad in 1942/1943.

I think we need to look closer at how port capacities were calculated. If we take extreme theoretical examples, it's clear that unloading a ton of feathers takes longer than does unloading a ton of lead. Much like stated monthly divisional requirements, the capacity of the port in question is a rule of thumb, not a number set in stone. For example...
Davide Pastore wrote:...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...
Davide here gives the capacity of Tripolis' port as five cargo ships and four troop transports. Van Creveld (on p 184) gives the capacity of Tripolis harbour as five cargo ship or four troop transports. Assuming that Davide's figures are the right ones, the inference is that Tripolis only had enough dockside cranes to service four cargo ships at a time, but overall quay space was larger - so ships with their own derricks (such as the Ankara, which delivered some of Rommel's first tanks in 1941) may have been able to deliver their cargo above and beyond the stated capacity of Tripolis? If you can accept this theory, it might instantly increase Tripolis' capacity by a massive 80% to 81,000, but only for certain types of ship and cargo.

I think I can find support for this approach in the peak delivery month for 1941:
Bronsky wrote: 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.
The table I submitted has it as June 1941, not July, so perhaps the tonnage you state should read 'as of July 1st 1941'. In relation to the chronology, it coincides fairly well with the beefing up of Italian forces in preparation for the assault on Tobruk, a beefing up that included the shipping over of the Trieste motorized division. This was also about the time when the Division z.b.V. Afrika came into existence.

If a proportion of the 'material' (if my pidgin Italian is correct) sent over also includes reinforcements and the kit they could carry off the ships themselves, maybe you have an explanation of why the unloading capacity was larger at certain times?
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...
As I understand it from van Creveld, the Italian navy delivered a growing proportion of Rommel's fuel at Tripolis, very far away from El Alamein, throughout 1942. The Italians navy's own fuel shortage, paired with prohibitive losses whenever it ventured too far east forced them to do so. In any event, Tobruk alone - also if we give it your revised tonnage capacity of 18,000 tons/month - did not have sufficient capacity to support the Axis advance on Egypt.

I have no real disagreement with your comments on the relative usefulness of supplies and material acquired from French North Africa. I merely made mention of them in order to illustrate that the Axis forces in North Africa had other, minor supply channels.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 09 Jan 2006 12:07

Gentlemen, ISTR reading somewhere not too long ago the the Axis was able to enlarge the capacity of their Libyan ports somewhat by offloading some supplies onto lighters and then landing those on the beach, thus obviating dockside cranes. Presumably this would only work with ships having their own derricks and with managably sized cargos. Does anyone know anything more definite about this?

Michael

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Davide Pastore
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Post by Davide Pastore » 09 Jan 2006 12:20

Jon G. wrote:Assuming that Davide's figures are the right ones
Cocchia adds that these were the maximum values, "employing also lighters and barges for unloading the ships" so apparently not all of them could dock at the same time. Only for Bengasi this had to be excluded, apparently for the conformation of the port which would have resulted in excessive danger for the ships moored far from the piers. (page 7)

Additionaly, Cocchia furnishes these values for maximum loading capability:
- Napoli 14 ships
- Bari 5 ships
- Brindisi 5 ships
(interesting enough, no Sicilian port)
Bronsky wrote: For example, in July 1941 there were 56,076 tons delivered beyond the theoretical maximum capacity of Tripoli and Benghazi.
Cocchia details ALL the convoys. These are the ships at sea during July 1941. Note that the large majority of them are along the Tripoli-Bengasi-Tripoli route. Now you have only to put them in a spreadsheet format... :D (but don't ask me to type the remaining months !!)

Pf = Piroscafo (steam-driven cargo)
Cst = Cisterna (steam-driven tanker)
Mn = Motonave (diesel cargo)
Mc = Motocisterna (diesel tanker)
Mv = Motoveliero ("diesel sailing ship", meaning a fishing trawler)

Format: Starting port (date, hour) / Ships / Arriving Port (date, hour) - Month given only if different from July

Lampedusa (28-Jun 21:00) / Cst Speranza, Mv Eugenio, Mv Vincenzo P., Pf Rostro, Pf Fieramosca / Tripoli (between 02 and 03 July)
Tripoli (29-Jun 17:00) / Pf Brook, Pf Una / Bengasi (01 13:00)
Tripoli (29-Jun 07:00) / Pf Capo Orso / Bengasi (02 21:00)
Palermo (29-Jun 18:00) / Pf Eridano / Tripoli (02 20:00)
Tripoli (30-Jun 20:00) / Pf Esperia, Pf Marco Polo, Mn Neptunia, Mn Oceania / Napoli (02 07:00)
Napoli (30-Jun 18:00) / Mn Francesco Barbaro, Mn Sebastiano Venier, Mn Andrea Gritti, Mn Rialto, Mn Barbarigo, Pf Ankara / Tripoli (02 18:00)
Bengasi (01 13:00) / Pf Cadamosto, Pf Motia / Tripoli (04 09:00)
Bengasi (01 14:00) / Mv Svam I, Mv Cora / Tripoli (07 16:00)
Tripoli (01 20:00) / Pf Preußen, Pf Bainsizza, Pf Maddalena Odero, Pf Nicolò Odero, Pf Giuseppe Leva, Mc Ardor / Napoli (05 00.10)
Bengasi (04 20:30) / Pf Brook, Mv Carolina / Tripoli (07 15:00)
Bengasi (06 18:30) / Pf Pertusola / Tripoli (09 09:00)
Bengasi (06 20:00) / Pf Ninfea / Sunk by HMS Triumph (06 21:45) en route for Tripoli
Tripoli (09 10:45) / Mv Alias, Mv Rita, Mv Unione, Mv Provocazione / Bengasi (11 11:30)
Bengasi (09 18:30) / Mc Labor, Pf Prospero / Bengasi (11 15:15)
Napoli (10 21:45) / Pf Ernesto, Pf Nita, Pf Castelverde, Pf Nirvo, Pf Aquitania / Tripoli (14 06:00)
Brindisi (10 19:30) / Mn Caldea / Sunk by HMS Taku 10nm from Bengasi (13 09:30)
Bengasi (12 14:30) / Pf Capo Orso / Brindisi (14 17:00)
Tripoli (13 12:00) / Pf Motia, Pf Cadamosto / Bengasi (15 12:30)
Tripoli (14 17:00) / Mn Rialto, Mn Andrea Gritti, Mn Sebastiano Venier, Mn Barbarigo [sunk by HMS P-33 15 15:00], Pf Ankara / Napoli (16 14:30)
Napoli (15 24:00) / Pf Bosforo / Bengasi (19 16:00)
Taranto (16 16:00) / Pf Marco Polo, Mn Oceania, Mn Neptunia / Tripoli (18 14:30)
Palermo (17 20:15) / Pf Anna Maria / Tripoli (20 10:00)
Tripoli (17 20:00) / Pf Menes / Trapani (21 12:00)
Bengasi (19 19:30) / Pf Motia, Pf Cadamosto / Tripoli (24 21:00)
Tripoli (18 20:00) / Pf Brook, Pf Prospero, Mv Cora, Mv Esperia / Bengasi (21 12:00)
Tripoli (19 20:30) / Mn Neptunia, Mn Oceania, Pf Marco Polo / Taranto (21 16:30)
Tripoli (19 22:00) / Cst Panuco / Palermo (22 06:30)
Napoli (21 05:15) / Pf Maddalena Odero, Pf Nicolò Odero, Pf Caffaro, Pf Preußen [sunk by Blenheims 19 22:00] / Tripoli (23 17:00)
Palermo (21 23:00) / Mc Brarena / hit by airplanes (22 21:00) en route to Tripoli, and abandoned (eventually stranded at Kerkennah in early August)
Tripoli (25 20:30) / Pf Anna Maria, Mc Labor, Mv Rita / Bengasi (28 09:00)
Napoli (25 21:00) / Cst Pozarica / Tripoli (01-Aug 13:30)
Bengasi (27 02:00) / Pf Bosforo / Brindisi (30 10:15)
Tripoli (27 07:00) / Pf Ernesto, Pf Castelverde, Pf Aquitania, Pf Nita, Pf Nirvo / Napoli (30 03:10)
Tripoli (27 12:00) / Mn Francesco Barbaro / Napoli (29 21:30)
Napoli (27 13:45) / Pf Bainsizza, Pf Amsterdam, Mn Col Di Lana, Pf Spezia / Tripoli (29 19:15)
Taranto (27 14:00) / Mn Neptunia, Mn Oceania, Pf Marco Polo / Tripoli (29 13:00)
Brindisi (28 02:00) / Pf Capo Orso / Bengasi (30 12:00) [HMS Cachalot sunk by escort 30 03:40]
Bengasi (28 15:00) / Pf Brook, Pf Prospero, Mv Esperia, Mv Cora / Tripoli (30 15:00)
Bengasi (30 18:30) / Mc Labor, Pf Anna Maria, Mv Rita / Tripoli (02-Aug 08:00)

I have data for nearly all ships' GRT (own the book detailing any of the merchant ship sunk during the war) but since it is just a unit of volume, not weight, it is probably not very useful for evaluating loads.

Davide

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 09 Jan 2006 17:38

I would be interested if anyone has any figures on the number of additional Cranes etc that were installed by the Italians in the various ports.

Also I believe that the Italian NA ports were in constant need of dredging and that the Italian dredging capabilities were strecthed at best?

Also the tidal patterns/times would limit effect the unloading capacity.

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Andy H

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 09 Jan 2006 20:04

Jon G. wrote:Either the port capacities were higher than given by van Creveld et al. or alternative means of supply must have accounted for the surplus delivered - something I personally don't think they did; air delivered supplies and reinforcements at no time constituted more than a minor (if crucial) part of overall supply delivered to North Africa, and the Germans themselves failed to meet the 300 tons/day target set for the 6th Army in Stalingrad in 1942/1943.
I have figures for air deliveries, and they don't come near the discrepancy. Ditto for lighter and other coastal traffic, they're counted in the port deliveries (I think). Van Creveld didn't pull the 45,000 tons for Tripoli and other numbers out of thin air: I believe they are the peacetime capacity, because that's what atlases tend to list. Van Creveld's estimate is reproduced in various Italian histories (who dwell on the "see how miserable we were ? No wonder we lost, against those rich English"). On the other hand, just because Tripoli was doing 45,000 tons of business each month prewar doesn't mean that it couldn't do more, there just never was a need for it. The Allies in 1944 exceeded Cherbourg peacetime capacity.
Jon G. wrote:If you can accept this theory, it might instantly increase Tripolis' capacity by a massive 80% to 81,000, but only for certain types of ship and cargo.
Limiting factors to port capacity: ability to load/unload the ship (depends on equipment, in the port and in the ships, and on manpower), ability to clear the cargo from the port which depends on manpower and transportation, type of cargo, type of loading (combat loading means quick unloads but takes up a lot of ship and port space), etc.
Jon G. wrote:The table I submitted has it as June 1941, not July, so perhaps the tonnage you state should read 'as of July 1st 1941'.
The figures I quoted were not tonnage unloaded but port capacity minus tonnage unloaded. When the number is positive, it shows underutilized port capacity. When it is negative, it shows port capacity was understated.
Jon G. wrote:If a proportion of the 'material' (if my pidgin Italian is correct) sent over also includes reinforcements and the kit they could carry off the ships themselves, maybe you have an explanation of why the unloading capacity was larger at certain times?
Yes it does, and yes that is part of the explanation, but not all.
Jon G. wrote:As I understand it from van Creveld, the Italian navy delivered a growing proportion of Rommel's fuel at Tripolis, very far away from El Alamein, throughout 1942.
I think you remember wrong (but am writing from memory myself). The Axis mostly used Benghazi - where they built large fuel tanks - and Tobruk, though the Italians switched back to Tripoli when Allied air attacks made Tobruk too dangerous starting in August 1942. As this was the period when Rommel was stalled in front of El Alamein, he was understandably irritated.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 09 Jan 2006 20:10

Michael Emrys wrote:Gentlemen, ISTR reading somewhere not too long ago the the Axis was able to enlarge the capacity of their Libyan ports somewhat by offloading some supplies onto lighters and then landing those on the beach, thus obviating dockside cranes. Presumably this would only work with ships having their own derricks and with managably sized cargos. Does anyone know anything more definite about this?
This is something that I had suggested in a discussion about North African logistics on soc.history.war.world-war-ii a few months ago, we had discussed coastal traffic with Geoffrey. Essentially, the Italians used lighters for small ports east of Tobruk, also to offload some of the stuff in Tripoli and send it by sea to Benghazi and Tobruk. A way to supplement port capacity, if you want, by making the best of Tripoli without taking the logistical hit from the overland route.

Andy,

I have something somewhere about the cranes, the Italians stripped some of their mainland ports and moved the cranes to Benghazi in 1942 when they restored the port, but there's so much unsorted material in my North Africa files that it may take me a while.

Dredging was a problem in Benghazi, though not a constant one throughout North Africa. Benghazi was a fine port, but relatively shallow waters. Tripoli was ok, though the port could become obstructed after Allied attacks. Tobruk was simply too dangerous, and therefore considered unsuitable for anything but coastal traffic, though it did handle "real" ships when some impetus (read: Rommel) was provided.

Tides are not really a problem in the Mediterranean, storms were, though.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 09 Jan 2006 20:13

Davide Pastore wrote:Cocchia details ALL the convoys.
Argh, looks like the Ufficio Storico is going to strip me of more of my hard-earned money...

Thank you very much for the information, meanwhile !

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