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.