June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

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Dave Bender
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June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Dave Bender » 08 Aug 2010 16:53

British Garrison on Malta during June 1940.
34 heavy AA guns.
8 light AA guns
4 Gloster Gladiator fighter aircraft. Only 3 pilots available.
~4,000 soldiers.
…..Malta Brigade composed of 4 British infantry battalions.
…..1 locally raised infantry battalion.

It’s a foregone conclusion that Italy can gain aerial supremacy over Malta during the summer of 1940. Why didn’t they seize the island while the RN were occupied at Dunkirk?

1940 Italian Assault Transports.
I assume these could be supplemented by converted merchant ships if necessary.
AP Matteucci
AP Cherso
AP Lussino
AP Tripoli
AP Enrichetta
AP Vallelunga
AP Panigagila
AP Asmara

Assault Troops.
Italy had plenty of infantry divisions available during 1940. Pick the best one, bulk it up and provide it with amphibious training.

Italian parachute regiment.
Italy had 3 parachute battalions in 1940. They would be used to neutralize Malta coast defenses before the assault transports arrive.

Dunserving
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Dunserving » 08 Aug 2010 18:10

"Foregone conclusion that Italy can gain aerial supremacy over Malta during the summer of 1940"?

Hmmmmm..........

The whole point is that the Italians didn't gain aerial supremacy, or at least as far as they were concerned they thought they couldn't/hadn't.

Every heard of Faith, Hope, & Charity?

Dili
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Dili » 08 Aug 2010 21:46

The reason they didn't invaded outright is because they thought the war would be finished by August/September. In words of Mussolini give me 1000 deaths to be able to have a seat at conference. So there wasn't any urgency. Same in North Africa: no movement. Even against France they declared War 10 June nothing was prepared to attack and only in 20 June they started to advance until French surrender day 24.

Italians did gain aerial supremacy(how Faith, Hope, & Charity stopped Italians?), but that didn't helped them because they can't destroy enough of Malta with bombing and they had no planes to do close air support, neither they were pushing with bombing. There wasn't any coordination between Regio Esercito and Regia Aeronautica except observation planes(that in Albania had to do emergency close air support with 12kg bombs) and Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina were at best in a cold war, so a collaborative operation between 3 arms was rather difficult.

There are other reasons: Italians started with only 2 Battleships(which if we look at belt armor of 250mm are more like battlecruisers) so couldn't face in equal terms Royal Navy until 2 Littorios were in service by August.


The OP forgot the coastal guns

7x 9.2in
10x 6" BL Mk VII
9x 6pdr 10cwt QF Mk I twin

Guns of 26 Anti-Tank Regiment RA - i have it strangely with 18pdr

JonS
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by JonS » 08 Aug 2010 22:45

Dave Bender wrote:Why didn’t they seize the island while the RN were occupied at Dunkirk?

...

Italy had plenty of infantry divisions available during 1940. Pick the best one, bulk it up and provide it with amphibious training.
Your time and space appreciation is hopelessly naive. How long does it take to "bulk it up and provide it with amphibious training"? How long were the RN "occupied at Dunkirk"? How many RN ships left the Med for home waters during this period? How much prior experience with amphib ops did the Italian navy, army, and air force have to draw on? How much prior experience of 'jointness' did they have to draw on?

It is incredibly hard to seize unexpected and fleeting strategic opportunities, which is what Britain's situation in June 1940 was. Mounting a major amphibious operation is not the work of an afternoon's planning.

BTW, given this is your WI, I think you're supposed to give a view on what the effects would be.

Dave Bender
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Dave Bender » 08 Aug 2010 23:09

The reason they didn't invaded outright is because they thought the war would be finished by August/September.
I don't follow your reasoning. If Italian troops occupy Malta prior to the armistice they will almost certainly get to keep it. And Italy should want to acquire Malta if they intend to dominate the Mediterranean.

Same in North Africa: no movement. Even against France they declared War 10 June nothing was prepared to attack and only in 20 June they started to advance until French surrender day 24.
North Africa and metropolitan France are far more difficult to seize then Malta. If 1940 Italy is looking for a quick and relatively easy victory with serious strategic value then Malta is the right place to attack.

no planes to do close air support
Shouldn't need them as Italy has so many ships available to provide fire support.

Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina were at best in a cold war
Just like the RN and RAF. Not to mention the USN and U.S. Army Air Corps, Luftwaffe and KM, IJA and IJN.

Italians started with only 2 Battleships
Italy also starts with aerial supremacy and hundreds of bombers. Plus aircrew with recent combat experience gained in Spain.

The OP forgot the coastal guns
To the contrary, that's what the three Italian paratroop battalions are for. Coast defense guns that cover the invasion beach would be attacked from the landward side by paratroops.

Mounting a major amphibious operation is not the work of an afternoon's planning.
Of course not. Like every professional military force Italy would have contingency plans. If they don't already have a plan for invading Malta which is updated on a regular basis then the head of the Regia Marina is incompetent.

JonS
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by JonS » 08 Aug 2010 23:13

Dili wrote:Guns of 26 Anti-Tank Regiment RA - i have it strangely with 18pdr
Not so strange. Quite a few British A-Tk regts found themselves at least partially equipped with 18-pr due to a shortage of anything else. Against the tanks of the time they were a kind-of ok substitute. I *believe* the last time they got used extensively in the a-tk role was durinmg CRUSADER. Also; this is Malta we're talking about. Armoured attacks aren't anywhere near the top of anyone's realistic list of 'threats to be countered.'* :)

Jon

* yes, yes. I know the Italians planned for some, and the Germans planned to send some captured Russain vehicles over, in 1942. There weren't many captured Russian tanks available in mid-1940. Nor, indeed, were there many Germans in the Med. ;)

JonS
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by JonS » 08 Aug 2010 23:17

Dave Bender wrote:
Mounting a major amphibious operation is not the work of an afternoon's planning.
Of course not. Like every professional military force Italy would have contingency plans.
Oh, well, ok then. I'm keenly looking forward to reading them. They'll add immeasurable depth to this thread.
If they don't already have a plan for invading Malta which is updated on a regular basis then the head of the Regia Marina is incompetent.
o_O

Dili
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Dili » 09 Aug 2010 00:26

I don't follow your reasoning. If Italian troops occupy Malta prior to the armistice they will almost certainly get to keep it. And Italy should want to acquire Malta if they intend to dominate the Mediterranean.
At that time Italy didn't wanted to make anything that gave chances to prolongate the war.
North Africa and metropolitan France are far more difficult to seize then Malta. If 1940 Italy is looking for a quick and relatively easy victory with serious strategic value then Malta is the right place to attack.
Italy only wanted to win without too much risk and effort. Malta would not be easy.
Just like the RN and RAF. Not to mention the USN and U.S. Army Air Corps, Luftwaffe and KM, IJA and IJN.
Any that prevented that existed squadrons in airforce or navy with torpedos despite industry having a working model of modern aerial torpedo since mid 30's?
To the contrary, that's what the three Italian paratroop battalions are for. Coast defense guns that cover the invasion beach would be attacked from the landward side by paratroops.
There were only 2 battalions(both in Libia) and the second one was still forming, the parachute model had several problems. They were not prepared for operations against any kind of competent defenses...to not even talk of the size of the task...
Shouldn't need them as Italy has so many ships available to provide fire support.
First Naval bombardments are overrated. Second Italians ships could only do area bombing since there wasn't any training to support troops in an invasion. Third Royal Navy.
Italy also starts with aerial supremacy and hundreds of bombers. Plus aircrew with recent combat experience gained in Spain.
For Regia Aeronautica that is enough, not for Regia Marina and Regio Esercito.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by phylo_roadking » 09 Aug 2010 00:41

If Italian troops occupy Malta prior to the armistice they will almost certainly get to keep it.
Dave - you mean before the Armistice with FRANCE? 8O
Shouldn't need them as Italy has so many ships available to provide fire support.
First Naval bombardments are overrated. Second Italians ships could only do area bombing since there wasn't any training to support troops in an invasion. Third Royal Navy.
Would have been a gift to the RN - the opportunity to engage the RM when the RM is pinned to supporting the Malta operation :wink: The RN tried all through the summer of 1940 and after to draw the RM into a major engagement...here you're gifting them with the opportunity of KNOWING where the Italians are going to be for some days at least...AND where they dare not leave :D They'd have piled down on them for a nice dusk or nighttime gun action - with the RA unable to support the Italian fleet :wink:

The RN could have effectively ended the North African campaign at one fell swoop before it even got off the ground by grabbing dominance of the Med in late June 1940!
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Dave Bender
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Would have been a gift to the RN

Post by Dave Bender » 09 Aug 2010 03:01

A smart Italy would remain neutral. However that isn't the issue here. Once the Italian Government decide to go to war the Italian military have no choice but to fight. If they cannot win at Malta with aerial supremacy, a massive advantage in ground troops and a supply line which extends only 93km to Sicily then Italy certainly cannot win in Greece, Egypt or East Africa. So give the RN their "gift" and hope that a few hundred Italian bombers based on Sicily will carry the day.

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cormallen
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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by cormallen » 09 Aug 2010 07:54

LOL

"So give the RN their "gift" and hope that a few hundred Italian bombers based on Sicily will carry the day."

and you think the head of the RM may be incompetent!?!

Swap the CHANCE of ownership of Malta for most of the RM's major units (unless they run away and leave the army transports for target practice?) ... BIZARRE!

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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Jon G. » 09 Aug 2010 10:16

FWIW, this scenario has been tried before and doesn't belong in this section.

That aside, the Royal Navy did evacuate the Mediterranean fleet from Malta to Alexandria when Italy declared war, so the RA threat was taken seriously. Cunningham didn't have that many big ships at the time, owing to the still-limited facilities at Alexandria. IIRC, he had the small carrier the Eagle, the dreadnoughts Ramillies and Royal Sovereign, and the modernized Warspite and Malaya, but only enough destroyers to escort two of his battleships at a time.

On the other hand, the timeframe for this scenario still has the French in the picture, meaning that Malta can receive fresh aircraft via France, as indeed happened historically, just as the French fleet can interfere with an Italian invasion of Malta.

On the other other hand, Mussolini was after bigger things than Malta, as Dili has hinted at. Why would he throw his fleet and his air force at a fly-speck just off Sicily when what he really wanted (and thought he could get at the negotiation table) was Corsica, Tunisia, Nice and probably also Gibraltar? It's only with the benefit of hindsight that we can establish that Malta was important for the outcome of the North African campaign; in June 1940 nobody could have known that the RM would be consigned to using most of its resources sailing supplies past Malta for the next three years.

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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Gooner1 » 09 Aug 2010 11:11

Jon G. wrote: That aside, the Royal Navy did evacuate the Mediterranean fleet from Malta to Alexandria when Italy declared war, so the RA threat was taken seriously. Cunningham didn't have that many big ships at the time, owing to the still-limited facilities at Alexandria. IIRC, he had the small carrier the Eagle, the dreadnoughts Ramillies and Royal Sovereign, and the modernized Warspite and Malaya, but only enough destroyers to escort two of his battleships at a time.
There was also Force H in Gibraltar which in June 1940 had Barham, Valiant, Resolution and Hood with Ark Royal joining in July.

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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Andy H » 09 Aug 2010 12:24

I moved this thread from the WI and thought I had made a post to that affect and why. However it doesn't seem to have made it. The posters original post was not in a WI manner but more a question, hence the move to the Africa & Med section.

Given the time elapsed and the number/nature of responses, I will return back to the WI.

However for the X time I will remind posters to give their POV when postulating a WI

Regards

Andy H

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Re: June 1940. Italy invades Malta.

Post by Dave Bender » 09 Aug 2010 14:31

It's only with the benefit of hindsight that we can establish that Malta was important for the outcome of the North African campaign
Italy doesn't need hindsight. They just need to look at a map of the Mediterranean.

Malta is the only RN base in the central Med. Remove the RN base at Malta and the central Med becomes an Italian and/or French lake. That's why the RN spent so much effort building Malta into a major base over the years.

As for the French, the cream of the French Army was lost in Belgium including most of their armor. If they couldn't win with their armor intact the French certainly cannot win now. They are a spent force.

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