Italy invading Malta in 1940

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MarkN
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Re: RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by MarkN » 09 Nov 2018 15:03

Wargames wrote:
08 Nov 2018 22:48
Thanks for your reply. However, I have never asked any questions on how to get the Italians ashore. They had that problem solved. Yet I have obtained the answer I needed. Thanks to all!

I'm glad you've got your answer. Although, it seems to be an answer to a question that you haven't actually asked. :roll: Never mind.

The invasion plan proposed by Graziani (talking history now not fiction) was rejected by Cavagnari at the Chiefs of Staff meeting on 5 June 1940. Rejected primarily because of the recognition that the army had not as yet trained any troops for an opposed amphibious landing, the navy had no specialized amphibious landing craft and the airforce was deployed for an operation against Yugoslavia.

Having rejected the 'army plan' to land 40,000, the navy were asked to come up with an alternative which they produced on 18 June 1940. This involved just 20,000 but came with several caveats and also suggested that there seemed little point in doing it as the British had already removed the Fleet from Malta and thus removed the 'threat'. Why not just contain Malta by sea and air power? It was largely based upon this analysis that the proposed invasion was kicked into touch.

In history, it wasn't Mussolini's "stupidity" that called a halt to the invasion planning, it was the Italian Navy's pessimism that it was doable or even necessary.

Moreover, was 28 August 1940 a realistic D-Day when, even as late 18 June, NOTHING practical had begun? Still no training of the landing forces, still no conversion work begun on shipping. Is 2 months sufficient time?

Had the Italians ever decided to go ahead and start practical preparations, they would have taken some time. I suspect these would have become known to the British who would have altered their strategic outlook and dispositions. Moreover, an invasion of Italy is almost certain to have had a knock-on effect of some description to Italian plans to invade Egypt and Greece.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Nov 2018 17:26

Ironmachine wrote:
09 Nov 2018 08:15
Actually, the Italians did have a dive bomber unit, the 96º Gruppo Bombardamento a Tuffo (BaT), established on 20 March 1940 with two Squadriglie (236 and 237) totalling eighteen Sm 85s and one Sm 86. Based on Pantellaria Island, the unit only took part in one combat sortie against British ships, but they failed to even find them. The Sm 85 was a disappointment, and they were soon withdrawn as unserviceable.
The first Stukas (52 aircraft) arrived in Sicily on 21 August 1940 to reequip the squadriglie of the 96º Gruppo.
Yep. And the first 96º Gruppo squadriglie with the Ju 87B-2 and Ju87B-2trop became operational in September, which makes a "28 August" capability date somewhat dicey.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 09 Nov 2018 19:36

Richard

Thanks for the sources. Yes, I have MAJ Vivarelli paper. When discussing the small craft, he uses the term lagune (lagoon) motorboats (p. 57). However on page 56 he cites Gabriele (pp. 148-149) when discussing a range of small craft. Gabriele does in fact state vaporetti in the discussion of the shipping assembled for C3 in 1942:
To the 48 motor-yacht and 4 motorcisterne which at the end of 1941 were ready for the operation against Corsica, it was necessary to add the new construction of motor launches and motor barges, in addition to small steamers and a pile of smaller boats that were raked [collected] a little everywhere, in ports, in marinas, in sailing clubs. We tried to recognize the useful characteristics for specific military use in the available ships, which had been built for other purposes; so the ferries of the Strait of Messina and the vaporetti of Venice were adapted, they were transformed from pleasure motorboats into assault vehicles, pursuing with determination and commitment, between obstacles and setbacks, a difficult work [effort] to organize. (p. 149, my translation).
I will note that these laguni are not mentioned in the 1938 or in the 1940 planning. Instead the plan was to use bragozzi, a type of fishing boat heavily used in the Adriatic. From 'Progetto del 18 giugno 1940', section 2, found in Gabriele p. 232.
For the purpose (in the absence of more suitable barges) the fishing boats, bragozzo type, used all over the Adriatic and which were not required, thus lent themselves all to the enterprise. (my translation)
In support of Mark's comment about the 18 June 1940 position, the following are the concluding paragraphs to that memorandum:
Final Considerations

Given the exceptional difficulties and the forces that should be dedicated to it, it would be justified only if Malta represented a decisive objective.

But, having long since abandoned by England as the main base for operations, the threat that can be exerted by Malta against our communications and against our naval bases is of secondary importance.

It is sufficient that with aerial bombardments, with submarine ambushes and (when necessary) with night cruises [attacks] by [human] torpedoes, it continues to be impossible for major naval forces to stay in Valletta, to undermined the movement of the few that there are, and the supply of the island must be prevented.

Malta will fall into our hands as a consequence of the final victory, obtained by concentrating all the energies [forces] on the chessboard containing the decisive object. (my translation, my comments/clarifications in []
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 09 Nov 2018 20:07

On whether both Malta and the invasion of Egypt can happen simultaneously, Gabriele offers this:
On 1st August 1940, responding to a request from the Chief of Operations Department of the Air Force, Colonel Bianni, asking the Supermarina War Plans Office "if the occupation of Malta was possible”, Admiral Riccardi replied - and it was not an idle response - that "the possibilities of occupation depends on the extent of the means that can be assigned". It always comes back to the same problem. This time, with the plan for «sterilization» in progress, the offensive on the Egyptian frontier was on the agenda of the Italian Comando Supremo, and there wasn’t room for anything else. However, it may be interesting to note that the offensive – bringing Graziani’s army by foot onto Egyptian soil in front of [against] the motorized forces of Wavell – will constitute, as soon as possible with the disaster at the end of autumn, extreme proof of how uncertain and difficult it is, in the military field, to pursue success without the necessary means. (pp. 49-50, my translation)
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Nov 2018 20:13

jwsleser wrote:
09 Nov 2018 19:36
Richard

Thanks for the sources. Yes, I have MAJ Vivarelli paper. When discussing the small craft, he uses the term lagune (lagoon) motorboats (p. 57). However on page 56 he cites Gabriele (pp. 148-149) when discussing a range of small craft. Gabriele does in fact state vaporetti in the discussion of the shipping assembled for C3 in 1942:

I will note that these laguni are not mentioned in the 1938 or in the 1940 planning. Instead the plan was to use bragozzi, a type of fishing boat heavily used in the Adriatic. From 'Progetto del 18 giugno 1940', section 2, found in Gabriele p. 232.
Thanks Jeff,

When I noticed that Major Vivarelli used the term "lagune" I began to suspect that wargames conflated the 1942 C3 planning for the abortive 1940 planning. Now it appears that the vaporetti also were part of the C3 planning and not the 1940 planning. That would explain the bizarre reference to Italian use of the Èlan-class vessels, which was never cleared up too. Does your source indicate whether or not the bragozzi were intended to be motorized? My understanding is that they were generally smallish sailing vessels, typically under 10 meters long. About the only thing that would make them useful as assault landing craft is its flat bottom. I'm not real confident how well that level of planning would work against the British defenses. :D
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 09 Nov 2018 20:59

Richard Anderson wrote:
09 Nov 2018 20:13
When I noticed that Major Vivarelli used the term "lagune" I began to suspect that wargames conflated the 1942 C3 planning for the abortive 1940 planning.
Accidental conflation or deliberate conflation to change the scenario? :roll:

The 1940 invasion idea was snuffed out by the Italian Navy who didn't think it was doable - or worth it. You can't sell a game commercially if the evidence then and now point to it all being a bit of a non-starter.

So, change the details...
1) Wasn't done because Mussolini was stupid - not because the Navy didn't think it worth it.
2) Ignore the issue about resources and knock-on effect to other plans.
3) Improve the Italian amphibious capacity to increase the chances.
4) Downplay the British chances.
5) And so on...

Creating a story that evens up the prospects of success, is far more commercially viable. 8-)

It's in what if for a reason. I think somebody from AHF management should send an invoice to wargames for its creative input. :wink:

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 09 Nov 2018 22:10

Richard
Does your source indicate whether or not the bragozzi were intended to be motorized? My understanding is that they were generally smallish sailing vessels, typically under 10 meters long.

Yes, they were. The plans state motopeschercci (motor fishing boats). The convoy speed in the plan was 10 knots. Here is a picture from 1942 of a motobragozzo.

Bragozzo194220181109_15073293.jpg
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RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940 - MAMMA MIA!

Post by Robert Rojas » 09 Nov 2018 22:14

Greetings to both brother Richard Anderson and the community as a whole. Howdy Richard! Well sir, in respect to your posting of Friday - November 09, 2018 - 11:13am, old yours truly is wondering where your sense of adventure has gone! Now, whether any one cares to admit to this or not, the suggested use of Bragozzi fishing vessels as potential "troop haulers" by the Regia Marina is absolute genius! So, from my narrow perspective anyway, the British Commonwealth defenders of the Island of Malta will either LAUGH THEMSELVES TO DEATH or they will drop their weapons and pull out their cameras to chronicalize the grand spectacle of the Bragozzi Armada as it plies into Maltese waters. It will be one THE greatest COUP-DE-MAINS in the annals of military history - all without firing a single shot! It's just some light food for thought. Cioppino anyone? Well, that's my latest two Yankee cents worth on this expansive topic of interest - for now anyway. As always, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day up in your neck of the woods of the Evergreen State of Washington.

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :) :P :lol: :wink: 8-) :thumbsup:
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Nov 2018 22:32

jwsleser wrote:
09 Nov 2018 22:10
Richard

Yes, they were. The plans state motopeschercci (motor fishing boats). The convoy speed in the plan was 10 knots. Here is a picture from 1942 of a motobragozzo.
Thanks again for the details. They actually are very similar in appearance to the smaller peniche planned for use in SEELÖWE and actually make much more sense than either the sailing bragozzi or the vaporetti.

Of course, what happens when they face the 40-odd pillboxes around the bays and the 6-inch guns of Campbell (and the 18-pdr beach guns, the 12-pdr battery, and the 6-inch howitzers) remains to be seen. :D

Cheers!
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 09 Nov 2018 23:46

One should consider a few points:

These are fishing vessels, and as such are considerably more seaworthy than landing craft. These aren't the Rhine river barges the German were planning in using for Seelöwe.

Landing craft would have the same issues against pillboxes and 6" guns as these motobragozzo, yet the the former were able to conduct successful invasions. The Gallipoli landings used rowed boats against a defending enemy and still managed to land their troops.

Please don't overreact to my comments. I am pointing out that in many ways, purpose-built landing craft and these motobragozzi aren't much different. They will do the job if given a chance.

The plan and its execution (by both sides) is what will matter.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 10 Nov 2018 00:14

I certainly agree that Italy wouldn't attack Malta, but this is a what if...

The strategic and operational situation in the summer of 1940 overwhelmingly favors Italy. Strategically the UK had already written off the island; the fact that the island was held was mainly due to the Italians deciding not to attack.

Operationally, the UK can do little once the Italians landed enough troops on the island such that the UK couldn't push them back off. Hence getting enough troops ashore to hold a piece of the island will result in a win. I believe that the Italian plan in 1940 has a good chance in getting enough troops on the island.

-The RN could certainly sortie but they can't stay.
-Hindsight tell us that damaging the RN ships would be difficult for the R.A., but give them enough chances, they will get hits.
-Italian submarines will definitely be a threat. Again how many chances to you give them to score hits?
-The RN terminated several operations when the AA ammunition ran low. Just running attacks against the fleet will force them to withdraw.
-While the Italians might have limitations as soldiers/airmen/sailors, they are brave. Once in the fight under these conditions, they will fight hard.

If the Italians persevere, they will win. This is 1940, and the UK isn't doing that well. If the UK doesn't completely defeat the invasion in the first 24 hours (meaning the Italians get several thousand troops ashore), they have lost. Once established, the UK lacks the means to force them off.

Just some initial thoughts.

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RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by Robert Rojas » 10 Nov 2018 07:11

Greetings to both brother jwsleser and the community as a whole. Howdy jwsleser (or Jeff if you so prefer)! Well sir, in deference to your point OR points-of-view as articulated within your respective postings of Friday - November 09, 2018 - 2:46pm and Friday - November 09, 2018 - 3:14pm, old yours truly must concede that I do admire your unbridled optimism in the face of overwhelming odds. However, old Uncle Bob does not quite share your degree of optimism about a positive outcome of Il Duce's projected real estate acquisition in the Central Mediterranean Sea. As I pointed out earlier in this thread, if Fascist Italy is hell bent on storming the Maltese archipelago, then the heirs of the latter day Roman Empire are going to need a little help from its "friends". Benito Mussolini will have to convince Adolf Hitler to detach the Luftwaffe's Seventh Airborne Division AND the Twenty Second Air Landing Division from National Socialist Germany's pending invasion of the British Isles. In addition, it might not be a terribly bad idea if the Regia Marina's ad hoc invasion force was augmented with whatever units that Francisco Franco is willing to clandestinely "LOAN" from his Infanteria Marina. Remember, the Italian Army Units coming ashore are NOT shock troops and I suspect (rightly OR wrongly) that Spain's Naval Infantry will be more than instrumental in the rapid and coherent establishment of the Italian beachhead. If I could have gotten away with it, old yours truly would have also integrated the three battalions of Naval Infantry found within Romania's military establishment into this clearly wanting expedition, but that might be pushing the envelope a bit far. After all, ideological sympathies not withstanding, Romania will not formally align itself with the Axis Alliance until November 23, 1940. Finally, how adept is the Regia Marina with anti-submarine warfare? After all, I believe that it would safe to say that the Royal Navy's submariner force will also be out there looking for its fair share of trouble. It's just some sobering food for thought. Cannoli anyone? Well, that's my latest two Yankee cents worth on this expansive topic of interest - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in your corner of the Sun Flower State of Kansas. CIAO!

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 10 Nov 2018 09:09

Roberto Rojas wrote:Benito Mussolini will have to convince Adolf Hitler to detach the Luftwaffe's Seventh Airborne Division AND the Twenty Second Air Landing Division from National Socialist Germany's pending invasion of the British Isles. In addition, it might not be a terribly bad idea if the Regia Marina's ad hoc invasion force was augmented with whatever units that Francisco Franco is willing to clandestinely "LOAN" from his Infanteria Marina. Remember, the Italian Army Units coming ashore are NOT shock troops and I suspect (rightly OR wrongly) that Spain's Naval Infantry will be more than instrumental in the rapid and coherent establishment of the Italian beachhead. If I could have gotten away with it, old yours truly would have also integrated the three battalions of Naval Infantry found within Romania's military establishment into this clearly wanting expedition, but that might be pushing the envelope a bit far.
I'm afraid I have to disagree. In regards to Spain, I don't see how Franco is going to agree. Nothing to win for him in Malta, much to lose.
But what's more important is that you don't seem to know much about Spanish "Infantería de Marina". The small forces that could be available (3-4 battalions?) were simply infantry forces of the Navy. They were not marines, but infantry in naval uniforms, employed to garrison the naval bases and the ships. They had neither the training nor the experience for amphibious landings, as this was not their mission. Spain's Infantería de Marina were not shock troops either, and there is nothing they could do that could not be done as least equally well by Italian units.

P.S.: Anyway, the problems of coordinating in the field forces of Italy, Germany, Spain and Romania with their different lenguages, tactical procedures, weaponry and equipment could be a nightmare. Just the time needed to obtain the agreements, plan the operation, and assemble the forces would put the timeline just too far away of the window of oportunity. Spanish and Romanian support is not worth the effort, IMHO.

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Re: RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by LColombo » 10 Nov 2018 09:40

Robert Rojas wrote:
10 Nov 2018 07:11
In addition, it might not be a terribly bad idea if the Regia Marina's ad hoc invasion force was augmented with whatever units that Francisco Franco is willing to clandestinely "LOAN" from his Infanteria Marina. Remember, the Italian Army Units coming ashore are NOT shock troops and I suspect (rightly OR wrongly) that Spain's Naval Infantry will be more than instrumental in the rapid and coherent establishment of the Italian beachhead.
Italy already had its own naval infantry (the "San Marco" Regiment). 2,000 "San Marco" troops were planned to be part of the invasion force for "C.3", though I do not know what were the plans in 1940.

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Re: RE: Italy Invading Malta In 1940.

Post by MarkN » 10 Nov 2018 12:28

The Italians clearly had a significant advantage due to geography and in (manpower) resources available. If they had the determination, I do not see how they could have failed to take Malta. However, Malta was never THE strategic goal and thus should not be seen on a stand alone basis. It seems to me that the Naval pessimism was not so much about success in taking the islands themselves, but in the losses that they felt would be incurred in doing so. Losses that would have a significant impact on more important plans and objectives in the pipeline. In hindsight, we can look back and say it probably wouldn't have mattered: they failed in Egypt and they failed in Greece regardless. But that was not how they saw it at the time.

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