When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

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TheMarcksPlan
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When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Sep 2020 14:36

At some point between Alamein and Tunisgrad, 8th Army presumably began receiving supplies from the west rather than the east. Can anyone describe how this unfolded or point me to a book/resource that has detailed description of the matter? I guess I'm particularly curious at what point the British stopped sending Monty's supplies around the Cape. Was it months before the linkup in Tunisia, in anticipation of that link-up occurring? Or did the British play it safe and continue dispatching supplies the long way, so 8th Army wasn't left dry in case the link up got delayed?
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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 22 Sep 2020 17:12

I don’t think 8th Army met the forces from the west until around April 1943. So convoys would have continued to go round the Cape long into 1943.

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 22 Sep 2020 22:04

I’m away from my books at the moment but I’m doubtful whether 8th Army was ever supplied from the west during the Tunisia campaign. I’ll dig out some sources at The weekend if no one else has posted a response by then.

Regards

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by EwenS » 23 Sep 2020 10:40

The first convoy to sail through the central Med from Gibraltar to Egypt after 1940, was GTX1 which left 24 May 1943 and arrived in Alexandria on 4 June. So 11 days after the German surrender in North Africa. The first return convoy left Alexandria on 3rd June and arrived in Gib on 17th June 1943. An awful lot of minesweeping had to go on in the Sicilian Narrows to make that possible.

Pantelleria, Lampedusa and Linosa, Italian islands in the Sicilian Channel, didn’t fall until 11/12 June 1943.

The fast WS troop convoys continued to go around the Cape until Sept 1943.

It is also worth remembering that a good part of the Op Husky invasion of Sicily was mounted out of Egypt.

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by EwenS » 23 Sep 2020 11:34

If you look over on Convoyweb you will be able to see which convoys stopped in Algeria and which ran all the way through the Med.

KMF/KMS series, which were the main series of convoys from the U.K. to the Med from Nov 1942, terminated at Algiers until August 1943 when they began to run all the way through the Med to Egypt with ships then going on to the Far East.

Full list of convoy designations here
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of ... _by_region

Convoyweb here
http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/hague/index.html

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 Sep 2020 17:58

Ewen,

Thanks for those extra details. I’m going to assume they answer TMP’s question. 👍

Regards

Tom

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 23 Sep 2020 23:39

EwenS wrote:
23 Sep 2020 11:34
If you look over on Convoyweb you will be able to see which convoys stopped in Algeria and which ran all the way through the Med.

KMF/KMS series, which were the main series of convoys from the U.K. to the Med from Nov 1942, terminated at Algiers until August 1943 when they began to run all the way through the Med to Egypt with ships then going on to the Far East.

Full list of convoy designations here
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of ... _by_region

Convoyweb here
http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/hague/index.html
Thank you! Question fully answered.
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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 23 Sep 2020 23:49

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
22 Sep 2020 22:04
I’m away from my books at the moment but I’m doubtful whether 8th Army was ever supplied from the west during the Tunisia campaign. I’ll dig out some sources at The weekend if no one else has posted a response by then.

Regards

Tom
Ok not to undermine my thanks but on reflection I'm wondering whether it's true that 1st Army shared no part of its supplies with 8th after they linked up. It's at least conceivable that some of the Alexandria-bound convoys were designated for Husky buildup and that the Wallies judged the Tunisian buildup sufficiently established to finish things there, even with the addition of 8th to the logistics calculus.

Regardless EwenS's evidence establishes that the UK took the prudent course and ensured Monty would be supplied in the event that linkup was delayed. Or they judged overland supply from the West less practical than the long sea route.
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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Sheldrake » 24 Sep 2020 09:23

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
23 Sep 2020 23:49
Ok not to undermine my thanks but on reflection I'm wondering whether it's true that 1st Army shared no part of its supplies with 8th after they linked up. It's at least conceivable that some of the Alexandria-bound convoys were designated for Husky buildup and that the Wallies judged the Tunisian buildup sufficiently established to finish things there, even with the addition of 8th to the logistics calculus.

Regardless EwenS's evidence establishes that the UK took the prudent course and ensured Monty would be supplied in the event that linkup was delayed. Or they judged overland supply from the West less practical than the long sea route.
C20th armies were dependent on a chain of communications from the battlefield, men, equipment and supplies go up from whatever base is supporting the operation while wounded, broken vehicles and salvage go in the opposite direction. Eighth Army's base was in the Nile Delta and Palestine where the British had established many of the facilities only found in the UK, e.g. workshops to overhaul aircraft and tank engines. 80% of supplies by weight would have been fuel and ammunition. There would have been stocks of both in the Middle East.

Military logistics are not just the matter of dumping supplies at a port. While it is conceivable for ammunition and fuel to have been landed at Algiers. I don't think First Army had the transport to supply Eighth Army as well as their own troops. If you want to move supplies in bulk sea and rail is far better than trucks. I suppose convoys could be routed overland, but the most usable route goes via the Kasserine Pass. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... unisie.svg

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by EwenS » 24 Sep 2020 10:12

There are a number of things to bear in mind.

1. The link up between First and Eighth Armies occurred on 6th April 1943 between Gabès and Gafsa, just over a month before the German surrender. So even if it was possible, there was little time to reorient Eighth Army’s supply lines.
2. The link up was with US forces on First Army’s right flank. So what is coming down the supply line to them is not necessarily compatible with Eighth Army’s needs e.g. ammunition.
3. Most of the lines of communication in the period stick to the Algerian & Tunisian coasts. Rail links are limited to single track narrow gauge lines. See here. https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/Bea ... erVII.html
4. Tripoli was captured on 23rd Jan 1943. By mid Feb supplies for Eighth Army were being landed there, augmenting those supplies coming forward from Egypt by road. There was a railway that ran from there towards the Tunisian border to help move those supplies forward.
5. The geography of the region does not make overland transport away from main routes very easy.

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Sep 2020 19:30

EwenS wrote:
23 Sep 2020 10:40
The first convoy to sail through the central Med from Gibraltar to Egypt after 1940, was GTX1 which left 24 May 1943 and arrived in Alexandria on 4 June. So 11 days after the German surrender in North Africa. The first return convoy left Alexandria on 3rd June and arrived in Gib on 17th June 1943. An awful lot of minesweeping had to go on in the Sicilian Narrows to make that possible.

Pantelleria, Lampedusa and Linosa, Italian islands in the Sicilian Channel, didn’t fall until 11/12 June 1943.
The ability to send GTX1 was much dependent on the inability of first the Axis air forces, & then the naval forces to interfere. Effectively both were suppressed and the RN was confident significant Axis attacks could not be made.
The fast WS troop convoys continued to go around the Cape until Sept 1943.
I'm wondering what the considerations for continuing this were?
It is also worth remembering that a good part of the Op Husky invasion of Sicily was mounted out of Egypt.
Looking at WGF Jacksons history of the Italian campaign (The battle for Italy) the bulk of the 8th Army embarked in Alexandria. A major exception was the Canadian Division which embarked in the UK. The 7th Army embarked from Algerian ports. The US 45th ID originally embarked in the US, but was administratively loaded. Its transports spent a frantic 48 hours at the docks reloading for a amphib landing. The air forces based out of Malta, Lybia, Tunisia, and Algeria. The smaller short legged landing craft were in part advance collected near Bizerte. Others aboard transports departing from Algeria & Egypt, or the UK.

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Richard Anderson » 24 Sep 2020 19:58

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
24 Sep 2020 19:30
EwenS wrote:
23 Sep 2020 10:40
The fast WS troop convoys continued to go around the Cape until Sept 1943.
I'm wondering what the considerations for continuing this were?
Quite probably the simple understanding that Alan Brooke's long touted "saving a million tons of sea transport" was a political and military conference bargaining tool and proved to be nothing of the sort? :lol:
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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Sep 2020 20:06

Or they judged overland supply from the West less practical than the long sea route.
Less practical is a understatement. It took four and a half months to establish rail and road net sufficient, & then move forward supplies for the 1st Army and the US/French corps to undertake substantial offensive operations. All that was North of Teresa where the southern most major supply depot and airfield group was established from the Algerian ports. South of Tebessa there were unpaved roads & trails, then horse and camel tracks through thinly populated hills, mountains, and valleys. The Axis armies controlled the coastal strip of paved automotive roads and railway in Tunisia. From the coastal railway terminus it would have been inefficient automotive transport 600+ km, mostly across unpaved landscape. there is also a large depression with salt marshes extending from the coast near Gabes two hundred kilometers inland. Delivering 900 or 500, or even 200 tons daily per division slice of the 8th Army this route looks beyond difficult.

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Sep 2020 20:10

Richard Anderson wrote:
24 Sep 2020 19:58
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
24 Sep 2020 19:30
EwenS wrote:
23 Sep 2020 10:40
The fast WS troop convoys continued to go around the Cape until Sept 1943.
I'm wondering what the considerations for continuing this were?
Quite probably the simple understanding that Alan Brooke's long touted "saving a million tons of sea transport" was a political and military conference bargaining tool and proved to be nothing of the sort? :lol:
After the fact perhaps. I suspect that in January the participants at the SYMBOL conference in Casablanca could not have anticipated the relative strength or weakness of the Axis forces in May. Experience in 1941-1942 did not support the idea of sending convoys past a Axis held Sardinia & Sicily.

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Re: When did 8th Army's logistical flow switch directions?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 Sep 2020 20:23

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
The fast WS troop convoys continued to go around the Cape until Sept 1943.
I'm wondering what the considerations for continuing this were?
Maybe Churchill was maintaining the Egypt base to (1) convince Turkey that British forces nearby and could help if she entered, as W.allies were pressuring her to do and (2) to have an argument for his Balkans adventures (the troops are right there Franklin, let's use them there).
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