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

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
User avatar
Davide Pastore
Member
Posts: 2768
Joined: 26 Nov 2005 22:05
Location: Germagnano, Italy

Post by Davide Pastore » 09 Jan 2006 20:44

Bronsky wrote:Argh, looks like the Ufficio Storico is going to strip me of more of my hard-earned money...
Alas, it seems that the book is temporarily out of print. Only a few volumes of the serie are still in print (the others will be no doubt reprinted in future):
http://www.marina.difesa.it/storia/Uffi ... cio003.htm

Davide

Eugen Pinak
Member
Posts: 1048
Joined: 16 Jun 2004 16:09
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine

Post by Eugen Pinak » 10 Jan 2006 14:15

After reading the "memoria" of Mussolini about overall strategic situation and sending 8th Army in the USSR I have big suspicion, that even if there were no ARMIR, most of its weapons were left in Italy and not sent in Africa.

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 10 Jan 2006 14:55

Davide Pastore wrote:
Bronsky wrote:Argh, looks like the Ufficio Storico is going to strip me of more of my hard-earned money...
Alas, it seems that the book is temporarily out of print. Only a few volumes of the serie are still in print (the others will be no doubt reprinted in future):
http://www.marina.difesa.it/storia/Uffi ... cio003.htm
I don't have the shelfspace to store all these books for now, so I must concentrate on the "vital" ones. Hm, guess I'll have to wait for a reprint, get it second-hand (some bookshops might carry it), or get it from inter-library loan or something and scan the pages... :-)

FB
Member
Posts: 371
Joined: 13 Sep 2002 13:43
Location: Italy

Post by FB » 11 Jan 2006 10:48

Eugen Pinak wrote:After reading the "memoria" of Mussolini about overall strategic situation and sending 8th Army in the USSR I have big suspicion, that even if there were no ARMIR, most of its weapons were left in Italy and not sent in Africa.
For sure it would have been a huge hell of a problem to receive those weapons/items in NA. The ports facilities were already clogged by what was already being shipped, just imagine what would have happened if, say, Italy decided to ship to Lybia just half of the 16.000 + motor transport means it sent to Russia.

Even if the Duce really decided not to send anyone to Russia (and provided that this decision was actually politically feasable, considering the 1942 German invitation, so to say, to that front), I doubt that it could be physically possible to send in NA materials in quantities significantly more important than those actually received.

Best regards

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 24 Jun 2006 18:31

Further to both this and the related railroad topic, I have finally acquired and read (gasp!) the book about the New Zealand rail builders and operators in the Western Desert. The book contains much good information, but it's disseminated in an un-systematic, anecdotic manner which makes it difficult to destill the information into brief posts here.

Anyway, of relevance to this topic, the book contains some useful info about the nature and capacity of Tobruk harbour:
(p. 114)Although Tobruk possessed a large and reasonably sheltered harbour it was only serviced by five small wharves, which were completely devoid of any lifting apparatus. Ship's winches were employed to discharge their loads onto the lighters. After a lengthy delay a small mobile crane was made available but it only had a lifting capacity of 10 hundredweight...(p. 180) [as much as 4000 tons of supplies could be brought forward a day to the Charing Cross railhead], a considerable amount when compared to the port of Tobruk which could only manage a maximum capacity of 900 tons per day.
I've lifted the below picture from the German DAK Site

Image

Note that a crane is visible to the back of the picture. I dare not say if this crane was installed by Axis forces, or if it had been there all along.

It is unclear when the picture was taken, but given the general state of destruction (other pictures from the same series show Tobruk thoroughly wrecked) I surmise that it was taken right after the Axis capture in June 1942, or after Tobruk had been recaptured by Montgomery in November.

I've requested permission of the site and picture owner to post this picture, but no answer whatsoever has been forthcoming, so I am posting this under fair use. Edit: moved post to this topic.

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 26 Jun 2006 17:47

If you compare 900 tons per day with the average tonnage received in North Africa, you will find that this represents a significant proportion. In a nutshell, Tobruk + Mersa Matruh had between them enough capacity to supply PanzerArmee Afrika. And yes, they were very small ports. But it was a small army.

The crane is interesting. I'm not aware of the Axis shipping cranes to Tobruk, and I'm pretty sure that they didn't capture any when they got the place. So this would place the picture after the Allied recapture. Unless I'm wrong, a definite possibility.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 27 Jun 2006 08:16

Well, if we take the 900 tons/day figure and hold it against Van Creveld's 18,000 tons/month we arrive at a monthly maximum capacity of Tobruk which is 33% higher than Van Creveld's. As you showed earlier Van Creveld's figures are a bit too low when compared to how much was actually delivered at times, but 18,000 tons/month may still be accurate as an average. 900 tons/day should have been just about enough to supply the DAK, not the entire Panzer Armée, but this would not allow for the additional fuel needed to cover the distance from Tobruk to El Alamein.

Regarding the crane in the picture above I found a Geocities site with a picture dated 1941 which shows part of the crane above (I think!) in the foreground of a picture towards the bottom of the page. I hope I can obtain permission to post the picture here, until then you must follow the link to see it. I don't know anything about cranes, but the one evident on the pier at Tobruk harbour does not look substantial enough to lift a 20+ ton tank, although ships with their own derricks (such as the one you can see in the picture above to the left) would have been able to unload heavy cargo themselves.

Edited post: 1) inserted correct link, and 2) obtained permission to post the pictures below:

Image

Image

Both images are (C) copyright Arthur Sekula, from http://www.geocities.com/pentagon/quarters/7414/ and posted with permission
Last edited by Jon G. on 10 Jul 2006 01:27, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
edward_n_kelly
Member
Posts: 1154
Joined: 26 Nov 2004 04:48
Location: Australia

Post by edward_n_kelly » 27 Jun 2006 09:13

Here is a much better picture of the floating crane in Tobruk Harbour on the AWM site:

1941-01-23. TOBRUK - THIS TWENTY TON CRANE LEFT INTACT
and
Tobruk, Libya. 1941-01-22. View across the harbour of the town.

If you cannot get them because of the search "expiring" goto here ==> Collection Databases and do a search on all databases for 005615 and P02038.091 (negative numbers).

I wonder how long it survived? The Germans were noted as generally pretty thorough with the demolitions so it is unlikely to have lasted to get into Monty' hands.

Edward

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 27 Jun 2006 14:56

Jon G. wrote:900 tons/day should have been just about enough to supply the DAK, not the entire Panzer Armée, but this would not allow for the additional fuel needed to cover the distance from Tobruk to El Alamein.
Good point, and one which may explain why I mentioned Tobruk + Mersa Matruh instead of Tobruk alone...
Jon G. wrote:Regarding the crane in the picture above I found a with a picture dated 1941 which shows part of the crane above (I think!) in the foreground of a picture towards the bottom of the page. I hope I can obtain permission to post the picture here, until then you must follow the link to see it. I don't know anything about cranes, but the one evident on the pier at Tobruk harbour does not look substantial enough to lift a 20+ ton tank, although ships with their own derricks (such as the one you can see in the picture above to the left) would have been able to unload heavy cargo themselves.
This is interesting. Axis accounts mention that there were no cranes to be had in Tobruk, which is why I assumed that the British had brought one in and the picture was from after El Alamein. Apparently, there was a crane but for some reason it couldn't be used, perhaps some critical piece of equipment missing.

Regarding what the crane looks like, I'm no expert either but looking at other pictures there are heavy cranes that look just like this one. Anyway, this is an interesting puzzle. I know that Axis ships unloading in Benghazi had to do so with their own masts until the Italians shipped a crane (taken off a mainland Italian port) there. I didn't know about the Axis bringing a crane to Tobruk, though from a strictly technical point of view there's no reason why it couldn't have.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 27 Jun 2006 16:04

Bronsky wrote:
Jon G. wrote:900 tons/day should have been just about enough to supply the DAK, not the entire Panzer Armée, but this would not allow for the additional fuel needed to cover the distance from Tobruk to El Alamein.
Good point, and one which may explain why I mentioned Tobruk + Mersa Matruh instead of Tobruk alone...
Yes, but with Tobruk processing 27,000 tons/month Rommel would still be 23,000 or 43,000 tons short of his monthly needs as stated in Van Creveld. Would Mersah Matruh alone have been able to shoulder that balance?
...This is interesting. Axis accounts mention that there were no cranes to be had in Tobruk, which is why I assumed that the British had brought one in and the picture was from after El Alamein. Apparently, there was a crane but for some reason it couldn't be used, perhaps some critical piece of equipment missing...
It's probably easy enough to sabotage a crane by dynamiting its source of power. The chassis of the crane remaining doesn't prove that it was operational. Still, you would think that Axis forces at least tried to use the crane. It's interesting that the New Zealand rail book I quoted from above explicitly states that there was no lifting machinery at Tobruk, suggesting that the crane had ceased operating already prior to Rommel's 1941 siege of Tobruk.

Thank you Edward for providing a link to a much better picture of the Tobruk crane - and your source even gives an figure for the crane's capacity. At twenty tons lifting capacity the crane would almost have been powerful enough to lift a Pz III or a Pz IV tank, each usually rated at 22 tons.

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 27 Jun 2006 17:16

Jon G. wrote:Yes, but with Tobruk processing 27,000 tons/month Rommel would still be 23,000 or 43,000 tons short of his monthly needs as stated in Van Creveld. Would Mersah Matruh alone have been able to shoulder that balance?
Van Creveld overestimates the actual supply needs of PanzerArmee Afrika and underestimates port capacity. See the figures I provided for a 60 days period in the summer of 1942 in the Malta thread. Tobruk + Mersa Matruh together received 76,683 tons, despite RAF air attacks. If port capacity had been used to the maximum, the figure would likely have been even higher. And yes, this works out to some 32,000 tons per month for Tobruk.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 27 Jun 2006 19:49

Regarding the 900 tons/day figure for Tobruk harbour quoted as a maximum figure during Rommel's 1941 siege, I simply took it as an additional point of reference, not as a figure set in stone. I just made the extrapolation on how many tons would have to be funnelled to Rommel via Mersah Matruh based on these 900 tons/day delivered via Tobruk if Rommel's theoretical needs would have been met.

Van Creveld sets the theoretical monthly consumption of the Panzer Armee at 10,000 tons per division per month, but also acknowledges that this figure is exaggerated given that Rommel's forces were understrength. Referring to The Rommel Papers p. 192 van Creveld gives Rommel's admission that his Panzer Armee needed 60,000 tons of supplies per month, '...this figure apparently does not include Luftwaffe supplies'. The figure may be an overestimate, but at least it comes from the horse's mouth.

What needs to be factored in is where Rommel's supplies were unloaded; he received fewer supplies per division in February-May 1942 than he did in the same period the year before - but Rommel was able to push further into Egypt regardless because a proportion of his supplies was delivered much closer to the front line.

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 28 Jun 2006 10:11

Jon G. wrote:Regarding the 900 tons/day figure for Tobruk harbour quoted as a maximum figure during Rommel's 1941 siege, I simply took it as an additional point of reference, not as a figure set in stone. I just made the extrapolation on how many tons would have to be funnelled to Rommel via Mersah Matruh based on these 900 tons/day delivered via Tobruk if Rommel's theoretical needs would have been met.

Van Creveld sets the theoretical monthly consumption of the Panzer Armee at 10,000 tons per division per month, but also acknowledges that this figure is exaggerated given that Rommel's forces were understrength. Referring to The Rommel Papers p. 192 van Creveld gives Rommel's admission that his Panzer Armee needed 60,000 tons of supplies per month, '...this figure apparently does not include Luftwaffe supplies'. The figure may be an overestimate, but at least it comes from the horse's mouth.
Well, the text that you quoted mentioned "only 900 tons per day" as Tobruk's capacity. While this is indeed not much as ports go (Tobruk was a very small port) and would look downright ridiculous compared to the figures in, say, NW Europe after Overlord, my point was that it was sufficient to provide for a lot of PAA's supply needs.

As the figures I posted show, Tobruk's capacity proved actually to be higher than that during the summer of 1942 which, added to the 300 tons per day in Mersa Matruh, gives 38,000 tons a month relatively close to the front. I know that PAA theoretically required 60,000 tons or so, plus the needs of the non-military personnel in Libya. These are the figures given to the Italians, and used by them as their planning baseline. This is consistant with van Creveld's use of Italian figures for port deliveries (and quite ok with me as I'm using the same figures, I just find that the figures don't support his conclusions and am pretty sure that he knew it, too).

On the other hand, the average monthly deliveries between July 1940 and November 1942 was 62,000 tons for everything i.e. the Germans, the Italians, the civilians, the air forces, the navy, etc. This figure doesn't count the tonnage sent by airlift but it was negligible compared to the overall total (the average tonnage delivered each month was far less than 1,000 tons), it's only significant if you count personnel which doesn't concern us here.

My point was therefore that had Tobruk and Mersa Matruh's limited capacities been available - which they weren't - they would have been sufficient to vastly improve Rommel's supply position.

One thing to keep in mind regarding North African logistics is that our main source for port capacities is the official Italian history of the Regia Marina. That history's agenda is to demonstrate that the RM did its job protecting the traffic to North Africa (a thesis with which I'm prepared to agree). To do so, the author provides figures for port capacities, compares them to the global tonnage delivered, and finds that the average tonnage delivered corresponded to max port capacity, so the obvious conclusion is that the navy did all that could be done. However, this demonstration ignores the fact that deliveries were very uneven and therefore the theoretical (or average) port capacity was exceeded by a large margin for long periods, like 2-3 months in a row.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 28 Jun 2006 18:51

Bronsky wrote:Well, the text that you quoted mentioned "only 900 tons per day" as Tobruk's capacity. While this is indeed not much as ports go (Tobruk was a very small port) and would look downright ridiculous compared to the figures in, say, NW Europe after Overlord, my point was that it was sufficient to provide for a lot of PAA's supply needs.
The 900 tons/day is stated as a maximum on p. 114 in Brendon Judd's NZ rail book. It pertains to a time when Tobruk was under siege, so the figure can only give an approximation of what Tobruk's harbour was capable of processing under different circumstances. Otherwise, I am all with you - even a small port such as Tobruk was capable of covering a large part of the PAA's needs.
As the figures I posted show, Tobruk's capacity proved actually to be higher than that during the summer of 1942 which, added to the 300 tons per day in Mersa Matruh, gives 38,000 tons a month relatively close to the front. I know that PAA theoretically required 60,000 tons or so, plus the needs of the non-military personnel in Libya. These are the figures given to the Italians, and used by them as their planning baseline. This is consistant with van Creveld's use of Italian figures for port deliveries (and quite ok with me as I'm using the same figures, I just find that the figures don't support his conclusions and am pretty sure that he knew it, too).
Van Creveld presents Rommel's dilemma as the dual problem of limited North African port capacity and distance from those ports to the frontline. He does not persistently offer hard figures for how much was delivered to which ports - as a result he may very well overstate the distances the PAA's supply columns had to cover inside Libya and Egypt because, as we implicitly agree, 38,000 tons of supplies delivered via Tobruk and Mersah Matruh were a whole lot more useful to Rommel than 38,000 tons delivered via Tripolis and Benghazi.

I'm not quite prepared to dismiss van Creveld's essay out of hand, but it would be interesting to know how much substance there is to the conflict between the Regia Marina (which was delivering a growing proportion of PAA's supplies to Tripolis due to atrocious shipping losses suffered on the routes to the more easterly located ports) and Rommel, who repeatedly insisted that his supplies were to be delivered further east. The numbers for what was actually delivered where may tell that Rommel had his way to a wider degree than van Creveld admits.
On the other hand, the average monthly deliveries between July 1940 and November 1942 was 62,000 tons for everything i.e. the Germans, the Italians, the civilians, the air forces, the navy, etc. This figure doesn't count the tonnage sent by airlift but it was negligible compared to the overall total (the average tonnage delivered each month was far less than 1,000 tons), it's only significant if you count personnel which doesn't concern us here.
It may be a little misleading to take an average which covers such a long period. The entire strategic situation, the forces in the theater and the operations they were intended to undertake were very different in July 1940 and November 1942. A point made by van Creveld is that fewer supplies were delivered to the PAA in the period February through May 1942 than in February-May 1942; his point is that Rommel was able to push further east in 1942 despite of fewer supplies being delivered due to Benghazi being fully operational in 1942, which it wasn't in 1941.
My point was therefore that had Tobruk and Mersa Matruh's limited capacities been available - which they weren't - they would have been sufficient to vastly improve Rommel's supply position...
The supplies delivered in June 1942 take a sharp dive, and Italian shipping losses also increase somewhat. By July 1942 the supplies delivered rise markedly, reflecting that Tobuk and Mersah Matruh are now online as ports of delivery. The booty captured at Tobuk certainly looks insignificant when compared to the tonnage the port could process. At the most, the 2,000 tons of fuel and 1,500 trucks captured when Tobruk fell gave Rommel a jump start for his push into Egypt.

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 28 Jun 2006 20:24

Jon G. wrote:I'm not quite prepared to dismiss van Creveld's essay out of hand, but it would be interesting to know how much substance there is to the conflict between the Regia Marina (which was delivering a growing proportion of PAA's supplies to Tripolis due to atrocious shipping losses suffered on the routes to the more easterly located ports) and Rommel, who repeatedly insisted that his supplies were to be delivered further east. The numbers for what was actually delivered where may tell that Rommel had his way to a wider degree than van Creveld admits.
IIRC Van Creveld does state that Rommel initially had his way with the Italians delivering the bulk of their tonnage in Tobruk in July before shifting to Benghazi and then Tripoli despite Rommel's orders as a result of fearful losses sustained from RAF air attacks.
Jon G. wrote:It may be a little misleading to take an average which covers such a long period. The entire strategic situation, the forces in the theater and the operations they were intended to undertake were very different in July 1940 and November 1942. A point made by van Creveld is that fewer supplies were delivered to the PAA in the period February through May 1942 than in February-May 1942; his point is that Rommel was able to push further east in 1942 despite of fewer supplies being delivered due to Benghazi being fully operational in 1942, which it wasn't in 1941.
As the graph I posted in the Malta thread shows, the average isn't much different when you take 1941 or 1942. The 1940 months were mostly in the 40-60,000 tons range, so a little below the average, but factoring them out doesn't change the numbers: according to the official requirements, Rommel's forces and/or the Italians and/or the Libyan civilians should have starved. Not only didn't they starve, they managed to fight various battles, win several of them and were still attacking at El Alamein in July 1942. This suggests that PAA could do without the stated requirement of 60,000 tons monthly.

Return to “Italy under Fascism 1922-1945”