Italy invading Malta in 1940

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jwsleser
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 16 Nov 2018 17:58

Takao
Of course, with Bletchley Park very likely giving an early tip-off of Italian intentions(they had made good inroads on the new Italian codes in July, 1940, and were providing a steady stream in August, 1940...I'd be very curious to see what surprise the British would prepare for these unwitting Italians.
What is your source for this? Cites? This runs pretty much counter to everything I have read. Sadkovich in his The Italian Navy in World War II has a fairly detailed discussion of this issue (main discussion is pp. 126-127 including fns). Bottomline, the British were never able to read the Italian naval cyphers unless they had captured a code book. For our time period, the British captured several books in June 1940, but these had all been changed by 5 July and the UK couldn't read anything. The British had cracked the C38m by September 1940, but it took 4-10 days to decipher the messages. This doesn't matter in this 'what if' as this is after our timeframe and the fact that the R.M. routinely use cable and code books (not C38m) to pass messages negates the value of this effort. Both sides extensively used signal intelligence, but the problem here was that you knew something was happening, but not what or where.

All

I have not discussed secrecy and surprise because keeping the invasion a secret was unlikely and surprise would only be limited to the exact timing of the sorties by the invasion fleet. That is why I have stressed the timing of the UK sortie and the fact they can't hang around Malta. The best outcome for the UK is to catch the invasion fleet as sea before they reach Malta. That requires a decision 25-37 hours prior to the Italians actually sailing. If the Italians have built flex into their schedule for just this situation (see mitigation in the previous e-mail), then they can negate this decision. Once the Italian invasion ships sail, it is all down to math (speed/distance). If the Italians can successfully get 5-6,000 troops ashore in 24 hours, it is all over.

Hats Convoy. Hats historically sailed on 30 August. For these additional warships to be a factor we would need to know when they arrived at Gibraltar so be available for a sortie to Malta.

Timeline. I understood 28 August as D-Day. The prep would be 23 August (D-5) to 27 August (D-1). If the timeline is something else, then we need to pin it down.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by LColombo » 16 Nov 2018 18:24

jwsleser wrote:
16 Nov 2018 17:58
Takao
Of course, with Bletchley Park very likely giving an early tip-off of Italian intentions(they had made good inroads on the new Italian codes in July, 1940, and were providing a steady stream in August, 1940...I'd be very curious to see what surprise the British would prepare for these unwitting Italians.
What is your source for this? Cites? This runs pretty much counter to everything I have read. Sadkovich in his The Italian Navy in World War II has a fairly detailed discussion of this issue (main discussion is pp. 126-127 including fns). Bottomline, the British were never able to read the Italian naval cyphers unless they had captured a code book. For our time period, the British captured several books in June 1940, but these had all been changed by 5 July and the UK couldn't read anything. The British had cracked the C38m by September 1940, but it took 4-10 days to decipher the messages. This doesn't matter in this 'what if' as this is after our timeframe and the fact that the R.M. routinely use cable and code books (not C38m) to pass messages negates the value of this effort. Both sides extensively used signal intelligence, but the problem here was that you knew something was happening, but not what or where.
I concur with this. “ULTRA” started working “at full capacity” in the Mediterranean only in the second half of 1941. For instance, the first destruction of an Axis supply ship caused by ULTRA decrypts only happened in July 1941, and remained an isolated case until that autumn. The interception of Italian messages related to the operation that led to the battle of Cape Matapan, in late March 1941, also gave very vague information; the British knew that there would be some big Italian naval operation in the Eastern Mediterranean and learned which was “day X”, but had no idea about the forces that would participate, the objectives (even an amphibious landing was considered as a possibility), etc.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 16 Nov 2018 19:04

Gooner1 wrote:
16 Nov 2018 17:52
MarkN wrote:
16 Nov 2018 12:09
Whilst wargames' fantasy role play game has the British expecting an Italian invasion on 28 August 1940, in reality they were not expecting one at all.

If the Italians had been attempting an assault, the British would undoubtably have picked up on the prior preparations and build up and readjusted their plans and deployments accordingly. It is impossible to know where the RN assets would be on the evening of 27 August 1940 in this fantasy non-historical narrative. They could have been just 60 mins sailing time from the Sicily coast just waiting to carve through the sails-dyed, stealth sailing boats as they set off. :wink: The idea that they only show up after 48 hours is wargames' deliberate reengineering of the narrative to produce the outcome he wants.
If you want to set up an ahistorical wargames scenario, you're sort of obliged to play a bit fast and loose with history. In that respect this scenario isn't too bad. Gaming the actual landing must be pretty impossible I would think though (1,2,3 on a d6 and the Italians get ashore, 4, 5, 6 and they don't?).
Which leaves the naval element as the fun bit to game - six Italian battleships chasing Warspite and Malaya with Somerville attempting to intercept or variations thereof :thumbsup:

Wargaming and fantasy role play are two different hobbies. :D
One one side there are historical facts, on the other there is (historical) fiction. Fiction can be realistic or unrealistic.

Some posters in this thread wish to have a serious discussion about a realistic non-historical event. So be it. However, the thread originator has made it clear through a series of posts, that the 'what if' he presents here is an unrealistic scenario that he has engineered to produce a preset outcome. An engineering process that has turned the historical strategic decisionmaking on its head and introduced tactical level rules to ensure a specific result. Realistic v unrealistic: never the twain shall meet.

:welcome:

Some posters are clear about what they are posting - be it the realistic or the unrealistic - some seem to have conflated the two, and the thread originator himself seems keen to fool others into believing that his unrealistic scenario holds realistic credentials. :roll:

If one is is to view either the naval or the land clash from a realistic standpoint, one has to backdate the British response to their first intelligence that the Italians were serious about invading. Thus a consideration of what realistic steps they could/would have taken in this fictional narrative to prepare for the invasion reality and only then consider what steps they could/would have taken when it came to pass. I would suggest that giving the British 2 months planning and preparation (ie they picked up intel of Italian intent mid-June) is realistic. In those 2 months, the garrison of Malta could well be quite different to historical fact. Naval dispositions are almost certain to be different to historical reality.

If one is is to view the clash from a unrealistic standpoint, then anything goes!!!! :lol:

I see no value myself in spending time getting into the minutiae of this scenario given the above. Other are free to crack on, but I have no dog in the fight. As a fight spectator, I'm enjoying the comedic spectacle, and commenting on some of the more ridiculous.... :lol:

However, using one's personal helicopter view, I still stand by my original belief that, if they were determined enough to succeed, the Italians would have triumphed. Geography and available manpower resources are on their side. But it would not be a walkover and thus the impact on other operations they had in the pipeline (Egypt and Greece) would be severely affected. Potentially, I suspect, one or both being scrubbed. That changes the dynamic of the war in the Eastern Mediterranean completely - and almost certainly to Italy's detriment. My personal helicopter view shouldn't really come as a surprise, as it seems to be almost a mirror image of the Italian Navy analysis of June 1940 - which was ultimately perceived as the guide to Italian strategic decisionmaking.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 16 Nov 2018 19:10

jwsleser wrote:
15 Nov 2018 16:25
Lift of the paracadutisti. Yes, all can be carried in one lift. The primary aircraft was the SM81. 1,000 paratroopers can be carried by ~85-90 aircraft. Over 500 are in the inventory in 1940. I only mentioned the SM82 as they were coming available in 1940 and could carry more. I have about 50 SM82 available in the summer of 1940, but that is from sources I have not validated and might not be correct.
I guess I'm getting confused, but where are these aircraft? As of 10 June 1940, the Servizi Aerei Speciali consisted of 8 SM.83, 12 SM.82, 13 SM.75, 3 S.74, and 13 S.73, plus the militarized aircraft and personnel of Italy's three air lines, 10 SM. 83, 8 G.18, 1 G.12, 1 DC-2, 6 C.94, 4 C.100, 4 Ju52/3m, 4 Cant.Z.506/C, and 1 Ro.10, a total of 88 aircraft of various types. SM.81 was a bomber I thought?
Fort Campbell. We can agree to disagree. The vulnerability of the fort in my opinion is not necessarily its construction (but it does have weaknesses), but its location and the fact it is one of a very few critical targets. It would be a main target during the prep and landings for the reasons mentioned here, and there are very few other critical targets competing for those same resources. It is easy to identify from both the air or sea, hence an easy target to TRY to hit. If the naval bombardment does nothing else, taking out Fort Campbell is important.
Actually, no Fort Campbell was specifically designed for minimum vulnerability to naval gunfire and for minimum visibility from sea and air. It is relatively easy to see today, because none of its active camouflage is present, no netting scree, and much of its painted passive camouflage is gone as well, so only its passive camouflage, its construction material and setting are present. Its vulnerability to naval gunfire is due to its height above water, glacis, and barbette mounting; any flat-trajectory round from the sea is likely to hit short and do no damage or graze and then explode beyond the gun pit...high angle plunging fire - the most difficult for a naval vessel to achieve accurately.

Visibility in terms of air bombardment would be as bad if netting was in place, since the battery positions then would blend into the hillside. In that case, extreme accuracy was needed, or large numbers of pattern bombing in order to achieve a direct hit doing damage to the gun, which meant, almost quite literally, a bomb striking and exploding on the gun (large guns are very resilient to fragment and blast damage. Again, the experience of the much more numerous and intense Allied operations versus similar defenses in Normandy tends to demonstrate just how sanguine the Italian expectations probably were.

I am also unclear where the 500 (or 300) bombers intended to execute the 5-day prep were to come from? The 2d Air Corps (Squadra Aerea) 3d Bomb Division and 11th Bomb Brigade (Brigata Aerea) in Sicily only had 147 SM.79 as of 10 June 1940 and its 96° Gruppo Tuffatori were converting to Ju 87, so were not available until later in September. Adding the 4th Air Division from Novaro (97 B.R.20) 5th Air Division from Viterbo (88 SM.79), and 6th Air Division from Padova (27 B.R. 20 and 4 Cant.Z.1007) gets 363, but did they really plan on massing all their Metro air assets in Sicily? Were there sufficient airfield space and facilities there? Otherwise, the commitment of the units in North Africa (27 SM. 81 and 96 SM.79) appears to get the numbers up to - possibly - 486, but 500 seems unobtainable for the R.A.? Otherwise, the Italians would have to strip units from Albania and Sardinia, which seems unlikely. And, yes, I am aware that new aircraft were arriving, but the pace of build-up was woefully inadequate.

Overall, I think that your figure of 300 is possible, but only by a massive concentration of aircraft into the available air bases.
I am unclear about the 18pdrs. How many were on the island, where were they located and how were their positions designed? The term anti-boat has a significant meaning, which implies the sites have limitations. Positioning guns for direct-fire/anti-boat/anti-armor work is not ideal for using these same guns as general support artillery. It also implies individual placement, which then requires extensive communications and centralized fire control to mass effective indirect fire. So I am getting mixed messages on the purpose and associated placement of the 18pdrs.
Well, we know that at least four were already on Malta, the Saluting Battery at Valletta. Those four were removed early on and placed as part of the "beach defenses". I am still trying to track down the origin of the figure of "60" 18-pdrs, but a large number were part of the reinforcement sent in 1939, which included the personnel of the soon to be misnamed 26th "Antitank" Regiment RA. It was split and provided trained personnel to man the 18-pdr "beach guns", and the "mobile guns" present, the 12-pdr 20cwt battery, the 3.7" howitzer battery, and the 6" howitzer battery. If we assume the "60" figure is correct, then the logical places for them are the Northern Brigade Sector, which was assessed as the greatest landing threat, and then the Marsaxlokk Sector, which unlike Valetta was not protected by the 6-pdr batteries and other weapons (including all 8 of the Bofors present until a few were relocated to the airfields). Given the relative threat I would guess probably a 40:20 or 35:25 split. And yes, all would likely be sited as direct fire, in field fortifications, sometimes integrated into the existing pill boxes, covering likely landing spots and sea approaches.

I am sorry if I gave the impression I expected the 18-pdrs to be part of an effective indirect fire plan, the existing "mobile" 12-pdr 20cwt battery, the 3.7" howitzer battery, the 6" battery, the fixed 6-inch and 9.2-inch batteries, and the "emergency" 4" and 4.7" guns would have that role.
To compare the actual Italian summer 1940 bombing campaign with its limited objective and resources to what the Italians would do if they decided to tackle the invasion is truly a stretch. It is quite possible that an actual 1940 invasion air campaign will be just as ineffective as the historical bombing campaign, but with the increased resources and the clear objectives, the results will likely be better. How much better, I don't know. If the R.A. can interfere with UK troop movements during the actual landings, then that is a very good plus.
I agree, just given the extensive wartime and postwar ordnance studies on bombing effects done at Aberdeen, I suspect the Italian expectations for the results of the 5-day prep were a tad over-enthusiastic and would likely be as ineffective as the historical bombing campaign.
I will once again note that the Italian invasion was based on mass, not finesse. Get enough stuff ashore and the garrison will lose. A comment was made that the 5 day prep might give away the main landing area. The 1940 plan was to land at multiple locations. Strip other sites of their defenders and success can be had at those locations. 38 motobragozzi were held in immediate reserve to support success.
Agreed.
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 16 Nov 2018 20:06

I would suggest that giving the British 2 months planning and preparation (ie they picked up intel of Italian intent mid-June) is realistic. In those 2 months, the garrison of Malta could well be quite different to historical fact. Naval dispositions are almost certain to be different to historical reality.
Completely agree. However the same rules in effect as for the Italians: what is available, what can't be changed, and what doesn't get done. Of course, the big decision is whether the UK commits to saving Malta.
However, using one's personal helicopter view, I still stand by my original belief that, if they were determined enough to succeed, the Italians would have triumphed. Geography and available manpower resources are on their side. But it would not be a walkover and thus the impact on other operations they had in the pipeline (Egypt and Greece) would be severely affected.
Total agreement.

I will comment at this time that I am one who feels Malta's impact on operations in the Med are overstated. Strategic decisions on both sides shaped the events in A.S. to a far greater degree than Malta. Given A.S. place in both German and Italian strategy, not invading was the best course. Unless Italy was planning to make decisive moves in A.S., Malta really wasn't much of a problem and the cost would not justify the gained advantage. Occupying Tunisia was simpler and solved the Malta problem, which is what the R.M. really wanted to do.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by jwsleser » 16 Nov 2018 21:45

Richard
I guess I'm getting confused, but where are these aircraft? As of 10 June 1940, the Servizi Aerei Speciali consisted of 8 SM.83, 12 SM.82, 13 SM.75, 3 S.74, and 13 S.73, plus the militarized aircraft and personnel of Italy's three air lines, 10 SM. 83, 8 G.18, 1 G.12, 1 DC-2, 6 C.94, 4 C.100, 4 Ju52/3m, 4 Cant.Z.506/C, and 1 Ro.10, a total of 88 aircraft of various types. SM.81 was a bomber I thought?
My guess is that you are pulling your data from Dunning's book Courage Alone, pp. 185-187. Note that almost all of the 500+ SM 81s are missing from his list. I can't really explain why, but I offer this comment by Dunning on p. 185:
... - but these lists apply only to the day noted. For example, 7 Gruppo is often listed as being available for operations on 10 June 1940, but did not actually enter the front line until 19 June when it transferred to Squadra 1.
My assumption is that any squadre not committed to frontline units are not listed. Hence, transport squadre not assigned to a frontline HQs are not listed. Not all the combat aircraft are listed.

The SM 81 was developed as a bomber but was mainly used as a transport during the war. It was used as a bomber only in the A.O.I. See Dunning p. 222, Arena Folgore (I will need to get pages at home).

More later.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 16 Nov 2018 22:11

I managed to find a bit more on the 18-pdr beach guns and general beach defense deployment as of 19 September, so probably similar to that earlier in August.

Five infantry battalions were engaged in beach defenses, with 16 British companies and one company of the 1st KOMR. Each battalion covered an average 15 miles of coastline. Another eight companies covered the defense of the three airfields. In addition, the airfield defenses provided the Fortress reserve battalion for launching a counterattack, but that would leave the airfields partially undefended. It also means that the six nominally four-company battalions deployed an extra company, which was probably from the 1st KOMR (it was over-strength until drafts were sent to the 2d and 3rd Battalions early in 1941). The under-strength 2nd and 3rd Battalions KOMR were used to guard other vulnerable points.

So if we count 17 company-size beach commands covering 75 miles of coast, then on average each company covered 4.4 miles, which is excessive except that much of the coastline was simply two rough to be a practical landing zone. In turn, each of the three rifle platoons in the company were expected to man two beach posts (in pill boxes if constructed) and a third, supporting, "depth post". In effect, each post was occupied by a rifle section with its Bren and, if in a pillbox, with an additional Vickers.

Assuming the "60" 18-pdr beach gun figure is correct, that means each company averaged 3.5 guns, but I would suspect that the weighting was towards the four battalions of Northern Brigade (2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, 8th Bn Manchester Regiment and 1st and 2nd Bn King's Own Malta Regiment). For a position such as the 14 pillboxes along the southern side of St. Paul's Bay, that indicates that it would be held by around 7 platoons or two companies...and six to eight 18-pdrs.
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Richard Anderson » 16 Nov 2018 22:28

jwsleser wrote:
16 Nov 2018 21:45
My guess is that you are pulling your data from Dunning's book Courage Alone, pp. 185-187. Note that almost all of the 500+ SM 81s are missing from his list. I can't really explain why, but I offer this comment by Dunning on p. 185:
Sorry, I meant to say, but it is Niehorster as drawn from Enrico Tagliazucchi and Davide Pastore.
My assumption is that any squadre not committed to frontline units are not listed. Hence, transport squadre not assigned to a frontline HQs are not listed. Not all the combat aircraft are listed.
I believe Niehorster's list is complete, but suppose something could be hiding somewhere?
The SM 81 was developed as a bomber but was mainly used as a transport during the war. It was used as a bomber only in the A.O.I. See Dunning p. 222, Arena Folgore (I will need to get pages at home).
Yep, 27 operational SM.81 as I noted in North Africa and 42 in East Africa, plus 16 in repair and 1 in reserve. Another 20 were in the Aegean command, 18 in Albania, and 25 with the 4ª Zona Aerea Territoriale in Lecce. So 132, dispersed with bomber units here and there. Given the number in repair in East Africa, you could posit 43 more plus some reserves, but it would be a stretch to get much more.
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Kingfish » 17 Nov 2018 01:33

Gooner1 wrote:
16 Nov 2018 17:52
Which leaves the naval element as the fun bit to game - six Italian battleships chasing Warspite and Malaya with Somerville attempting to intercept or variations thereof :thumbsup:
I don't envision much chasing on the part of the Italians. Once they are ashore the RM is essentially fixed in place, and that would have led to the mother of all naval engagements once Cunningham and Sommerville crashed the party.
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Ironmachine » 17 Nov 2018 09:28

Wargames wrote:The Italians cannot effectively assault the island on June 29, 1940 which is why I had to change the invasion date to August 28.
Wargames wrote:Why August 28? Because there are enormous problems with a June invasion. First, the entire invasion was waiting on whether Spain would invade Gibraltar (Which Italy believed nullified any need to invade Malta at all as it could then not be resupplied from Britain.).
Is this ignoring the fact that Malta could be supplied from Egypt, or is it supposing that the Italians have already conquered Egypt by that date? The latter case I find impossible (in OTL the invasion did not began until 9 September IIRC and everybody knows how it ended) and the former is such a display of ignorance that I can't believe the Italians would think that. And if the Italians are waiting for Spain to invade Gibraltar, then they are going to wait for a long, long time, because Spanish stance on Gibraltar was to make nothing at least until the Suez Canal was under Axis control.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by John T » 17 Nov 2018 10:26

MarkN wrote:
16 Nov 2018 19:04
If one is is to view either the naval or the land clash from a realistic standpoint, one has to backdate the British response to their first intelligence that the Italians were serious about invading. Thus a consideration of what realistic steps they could/would have taken in this fictional narrative to prepare for the invasion reality and only then consider what steps they could/would have taken when it came to pass. I would suggest that giving the British 2 months planning and preparation (ie they picked up intel of Italian intent mid-June) is realistic. In those 2 months, the garrison of Malta could well be quite different to historical fact. Naval dispositions are almost certain to be different to historical reality.
But it does not really fit into my perception of British strategy at the time.
Does that means that the British force disposition august 1940, with minimal air and naval presence was because they considered Malta to be safe?
Not that they wanted to avoid losses in an already lost cause?


And I agree that a lot of the problems with What if
is the commonly error of lack of ability to let both sides change their strategies and only focus on capacity and doctrine.
Or at least clearly differ between physical capacity and the more mental side (training/doctrine/threat perception)
MarkN wrote:
16 Nov 2018 19:04


However, using one's personal helicopter view, I still stand by my original belief that, if they were determined enough to succeed, the Italians would have triumphed. Geography and available manpower resources are on their side. But it would not be a walkover and thus the impact on other operations they had in the pipeline (Egypt and Greece) would be severely affected. Potentially, I suspect, one or both being scrubbed.
Isn't that based on an assumption that the Italian losses would be of strategically important resources?
What losses would Italian air force have against the limited AA of Malta?
What losses to the army units would affect further operations?

The Italian Navy is the only part I see that can be affected in any major way (With hindsight Taranto did that half a year later)

MarkN wrote:
16 Nov 2018 19:04

That changes the dynamic of the war in the Eastern Mediterranean completely - and almost certainly to Italy's detriment. My personal helicopter view shouldn't really come as a surprise, as it seems to be almost a mirror image of the Italian Navy analysis of June 1940 - which was ultimately perceived as the guide to Italian strategic decisionmaking.
But would the Royal Navy consider the risk of exposing force H to the Italians at a time when England's shores where so weakly defended as in August 1940?

Cheers
/John T

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by MarkN » 17 Nov 2018 12:09

John T wrote:
17 Nov 2018 10:26
MarkN wrote:
16 Nov 2018 19:04
If one is is to view either the naval or the land clash from a realistic standpoint, one has to backdate the British response to their first intelligence that the Italians were serious about invading. Thus a consideration of what realistic steps they could/would have taken in this fictional narrative to prepare for the invasion reality and only then consider what steps they could/would have taken when it came to pass. I would suggest that giving the British 2 months planning and preparation (ie they picked up intel of Italian intent mid-June) is realistic. In those 2 months, the garrison of Malta could well be quite different to historical fact. Naval dispositions are almost certain to be different to historical reality.
But it does not really fit into my perception of British strategy at the time.
That's a shame!

What is your perception based upon:
a) reading yourself the primary documentation on advice given by various Chiefs of Staffs Committees, War Cabinet decisions and instructions, etc etc; or
b) reading books where other authors offer you their opinions; or
c) wiki and other internet reading & research?

My comments come from option (a) above.
John T wrote:
17 Nov 2018 10:26
Does that means that the British force disposition august 1940, with minimal air and naval presence was because they considered Malta to be safe?
Safe? No.
Not recognising an actual Italian intent to invade? Yes.
John T wrote:
17 Nov 2018 10:26
Isn't that based on an assumption that the Italian losses would be of strategically important resources?
No.
John T wrote:
17 Nov 2018 10:26
What losses would Italian air force have against the limited AA of Malta?
What losses to the army units would affect further operations?
I have no idea. It didn't happen. However, the Italian Navy at the time considered an invasion of Malta would significantly affect their ability to conduct the other operations Italy was considering/planning (Egypt and Greece).
John T wrote:
17 Nov 2018 10:26
The Italian Navy is the only part I see that can be affected in any major way (With hindsight Taranto did that half a year later)
Good for you.
John T wrote:
17 Nov 2018 10:26
But would the Royal Navy consider the risk of exposing force H to the Italians at a time when England's shores where so weakly defended as in August 1940?
I have no idea what the British response would be as it didn't happen.

I am merely highlighting that the historical facts are based upon an understanding that the Italians had no (immediate) intention of invading Malta and thus British dispositions and planning were based around that. If, the Italians had had such an intent, I suggest that British dispositions and planning would have been different. If you change the narrative to reality on one side, its is customary to change the narrative for the other side too. Not so?

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Sid Guttridge » 17 Nov 2018 13:33

Hi Wargames,

The Mediterranean has very little tidal movement. At Malta it is about 30cm/1ft. This is less than the height of typical waves.

An Italian naval landing was unlikely to succeed in August 1940. The Italians had had no specialist landing vessels or troops at the time of their virtually unopposed invasion of Albania in early 1939 and this exposed their limitations at amphibious warfare. They had begun to address this, but they only had a viable amphibious force available by 1942.

The real time delay in the Italians getting a viable amphibious force together for 1942 tells us that if they intended to invade Malta in August 1940, they would have had to start preparing some three years earlier.

Sid.

P.S. If you want to look at Italian amphibious capabilities at this time, you probably need to look at the force they assembled to take Corfu off the Greeks. Planning for this began in August 1940.

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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 18 Nov 2018 04:23

Gooner1 wrote:
15 Nov 2018 14:42
Wargames wrote:
15 Nov 2018 06:00
It wasn't added until 1943. Nice picture though.
Good information, how did you find out?
Conflict Archaeology in the Landscape: A Survey of World War II Defences at Selmun, Malta By Bernard Cachia Zammit November 2015

The barbettes are also made of concrete and not steel. Any near hit would not just penetrate the concrete but turn it to shrapnel, killing the entire gun crew.

However, a concrete barbette was better than no barbette at all.
Considering how important the guns were, how many people worked there and for how long, there doesn't seem to be all that much information, and less pictures!, in the public domain.
I show it was manned by 72-78 soldiers in 1940. It had eight pillboxes in the walls, each one equipped with a heavy table machine gun and, I believe, a LMG, which covered all road approaches to the fort. The rear doors to the pill boxes could also be locked against paratroopers and there were 40mm Bofors (possibly all eight on the island) that had their own crew shelters. It's two feet of concrete I learned from a YouTube clip of someone who measured it and that it was steel reinforced I learned when thieves stole the steel. It was probably the most modern fort of WW2. I certainly wouldn't want to try and take it.

Of course, if you could knock out both 6" guns you don't have to take it. It also goes completely ignored here that both guns were designed to face out to sea to challenge the way to Valletta. As a result they faced to the NE, E, and SE with limited 180 degree traverse, which pretty much eliminates all other directions (As one poster here seemed to believe they could be directed simply by an observer with a radio or "telephone" anywhere he desired.). In addition, their fire control gunnery plotting could not target a moving ship. As a result, they never hit anything in the war though they had several chances.
According to the calculations used at the time it would have taken exactly 500 bombers dropping 1,100 pound bombs on the two feet of steel reinforced concrete of Fort Campbell to have an 80% probability of taking it out.
Those calculations are very interesting, who made them, the Regia Aeronautica?
Since the calculations were based entirely on bombs and not artillery, that would be the logical assumption. They seemed to have used the exact 1940 formula then in general use (There is only one such formula available today for 1940.). During the late 30's bomb versus concrete tests were being widely conducted. At that time, they all came down to the same thing - the longer and narrower the bomb and the heavier it was and the higher the altitude it was dropped, the deeper the penetration.

Italy had just about the worst possible bombs for taking out Fort Campbell. They had not developed a 550 pound A/P bomb but, instead a 550 pound general purpose (HE) bomb. Such a 550 pound HE bomb would have bounced right off it. Even an 1,100 pound HE bomb would have cratered it but without penetrating. So while hitting the guns once would result in a total massacre of their crews, you had to hit the command center twice to take it out when once was hard enough. Probably the safest place to be in an invasion of Malta was Fort Campbell. When it takes 500 bombers to get you, that's a lot.
At the time, Italy flew photo recon flights over a bombed target the next day in order to assess damage. In five days of bombing those recon flights would be flown on the 2nd and 4th day and the equivalent of 500 bombers achieved on day three. Yet the British would have day four and day five to clear the rubble, make repairs, and return the guns to operation in time for day five ("D Day") requiring a third bombing run over the target on day five just "to be sure".
Yes, that's a problem. The guns might seem to be knocked out but Malta has full base facilities with workshops, parts, artificers and armourers.
Also by concentrating bombing on Fort Campbell doesn't that rather give the game away as to which area the landing is going to be?
It would seem the British would figure it out but - No. They wouldn't. On the 2nd and 4th day of the bombing campaign, as the Italians fly recon over Fort Campbell, they would send their bombers somewhere else. To the British, where ever they hit become alternative landing sites. The British maintained strong defenses south, particularly at Marsaxlokk Bay. Although they completely overestimated Italian landing capabilities here, if it were bombed or bombarded in those two days, no British troops there would be moving north in response to Campbell being bombed. Likewise, the British companies at Luqa and Hal Far cannot move north without exposing the airfields to an air landing in their rear (And the Italians did plan one). The British did not even trust a landing in the north to be the "real" invasion but merely a feint for the actual real attack at Marsaxlokk Bay. As result, the British maintained two battalions in the Victoria Line when it was designed to be held by only one. They would send only one of the two north to confront a northern landing while maintaining the second on the line in case of a follow up Marsaxlokk landing. They could then send it south or, if no such landing materialized, then they were already where they were needed.

It's a case of, when trying to defend everything, you end up defending nothing (Rather like the "Dyle Plan"). Still, it was not a stupid plan. Even if the British were wrong in their fears of Marsaxlokk Bay, the Italians were still stuck in the north without yet having crossed the Victoria Line. The British would now react and much more intelligently once they figured out the Italian plan. They could bring one third of the island under artillery fire and pretty much without Italian reply.

But the Italians are now ashore. A battery on the Victoria Line is a hindrance, not a defense, and is quickly and easily removed. If you want to be a dead British soldier, just man the Victoria Line with a battery and wait for your "telephone" calls. If you weren’t killed in the first hour you’d certainly see someone who was.

Wargames
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Re: Italy invading Malta in 1940

Post by Wargames » 18 Nov 2018 06:10

jwsleser wrote:
10 Nov 2018 16:10
Where Italy failed was not thinking though the other possibilities and how Italy gets out of the war if the UK doesn't fold. In better words, they didn't take actions that would create 'operational maneuver space' if things go sour. This lack of strategic understanding is also noticeable when Italy decides to assist in Russia and when they declares war on the US in 1941 for no valid reasons.

As a point of clarification to my comment above, I don't believe Italy should have entered the war in June 1940. Given their strategic needs, they likely could have gotten most of what they wanted by negotiation.
Which is why I argue that, with Mussolini, Italy would not have entered WWII.
For any chance of Italy attacking Malta in 1940, it would need to be embedded in Italy's strategic planning by, at the latest,1938. That is when the first first serious study was undertaken. Italy would need to recognized that gaining Malta was a strategic imperative and an essential objective in any conflict. This postures the military staffs for planning and the subsequent actions based on that plan. That is what is needed to create the ability for rapid operational action.

None of this was in place in 1940.
While I will not argue Mussolini's failures, you have to include them in order for Italy to be at war to invade Malta in the first place and, IMO, the earliest that can be done is August 28, 1940.

And which may still be poor timing (HATS).

Or not.

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