Italian Fleet used by the Allies post Sept'43

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Andy H
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Italian Fleet used by the Allies post Sept'43

Post by Andy H » 11 Dec 2004 22:44

To start with I'm not aware of the specifics regarding the Italian fleet in the Armistace of Sept'43, so this WI maybe somewhat strained in plausability.

The Italian fleet that surrendered numbered
5 Battleships (exc the Roma)
7 Cruisers
12 Destroyers
33 Submarines
and some 13TB's and numerous other small craft.

Options:
1. The BB's Vittorio & Italia stationed at Scapa to watch the Tirpitz etc, whilst other BB's and CL's provide cover on the Convoy routes in the Atlantic

2. Italian DD's provide escorts for Med traffic

3. Submarines used against remaining Axis shipping in Med and European coastline

4. A heavy task force for employment in the Indian ocean (BB's and CL's etc)

5. Various units used for shore bombardment during DDay and the landings in Southern France

Manning would be a problem potentially if the Italian crews weren't forthcoming, but did the Allies miss a trick with the Italian fleet?

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Re: Italian Fleet used by the Allies post Sept'43

Post by Tiornu » 11 Dec 2004 23:24

I'm not excited at the prospects of moving Italian designs beyond their Mediterranean environment, but I think they could have served to relieve the burden on RN units.
I also suspect there would have been little difficulty getting Italian crews. After three years of straining at the leash of severe oil shortages, these men would have had prospects for an active participation against the Germans. Major morale boost.
Another role for these men would be interdiction of coastal traffic by MAS and similar vessels.

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Post by Andy H » 12 Dec 2004 01:21

I'm not excited at the prospects of moving Italian designs beyond their Mediterranean environment
I understand this concern regarding the DD's, but was this problem also cause for concern in the BB's and the CL's?

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Post by Tiornu » 12 Dec 2004 01:50

I don't want to find out.
There can't be any logistical bonus to spreading the Italian ships out.

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Post by Andy H » 12 Dec 2004 02:12

There can't be any logistical bonus to spreading the Italian ships out.
Logistically I agree, but for propoganda purposes and in the case of say the Italian BB's at Scapa, a military one as well.

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Post by Major Major » 12 Dec 2004 04:31

As I recall, some of the cruisers were deployed to the South Atlantic.
Italian ships in general were short-ranged, had poor AA, and were wet (checking Richard Worth's Fleets of World War II), so might not have been of much use beyond that.
There may have been some use for the destroyers, but again Worth says that few of them survived. I have heard that the rule was that the smaller an Italian vessel, the more effective she was, so while the battleships mostly stuck to port, the MAS, chariots, etc. performed prodigies of valor.

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Post by Tiornu » 12 Dec 2004 07:06

That Worth fella, he's one smart cookie.
The Italians had the potential for some very good AA systems. The 90mm gun (or mount, to be more precise) showed great potential, though its complexity gave rise to bugs that were not ironed out before war's end. And there were some nice cannon coming online.

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Post by DrG » 12 Dec 2004 15:47

Part of this "what if" is, instead, real history:
- the use of DDs and TBs as escorts in the Mediterranean, but also for attacks, usually in the Ionian Sea (Andy's option 2)
- the use of submarines for attacks, again usually in the Ionian Sea (but given the limited traffic, moreover along the coast, this was not a great option; instead some subs were used, as some MTB and TB, to transport agents in German-held Italy and the Balkans, some subs instead were used for training of Allied units in the Atlantic, losing one by collision with an American DD) (Andy's option 3).

Now about the complete "what ifs" (options 1, 4, 5). One of the 5 Italian BBs, the Cesare, had just a limited crew (it was in reserve at the time of the armistice) and there had been an aborted and incruent mutiny on it on 9 Sept. 1943 by officers that didn't want to sail to Malta to surrender the ship. Probably the will of revenge following the sinking of the BB Roma by German remote controlled bombs (Fritz-X), with a large loss of lives, and obviously the loyalty to the King would have prevented further insubordinations, but if I had been an Allied politician/admiral I wouldn't have been very happy of seeing a BB of a former enemy steaming in the Mediterranean with the danger of a mutiny. The other 4 BB (two Littorios and two Dorias) were more modern (certainly the Littorios) and with full and trained crews. But their use was prevented mostly by political reasons: the Allies (expecially UK) had next to nothing to gain in using Italian BBs (certainly they weren't short of BBs, expecially after the Italian armistice), while the political gains for Italy (both for the moment and then during the peace conference) could have been very important. Not surprisingly the two modern Littorios were not only not employed in action (I remember that the Italian govern had proposed to use them against Japan after Italy's declaration of war on that country in Feb. 1945; probably there had been also other proposals before that date, but I don't remember), but strictly kept in the Bitter Lakes in the Suez Channel untill after the Treaty of Paris (Feb. 1947), that forced Italy to give them to the USA and UK (after further negotiations they renounced, but wanted the BBs to be break up). If instead Italy had used them actively during the war, how could the Allies be so selfish and offensive to aks their break up from a country that had helped them? ;) Great Britain didn't want Italy to be a naval power anymore, and the USA partially agreed.
But instead it would have been more interesting (but not really needed) to let Italy use the two Dorias against the coast of Provence in 1944, since those two BBs were then left to Italy after the peace; anyway, during the war it was difficult for the Allies to know if they would have allowed Italy to keep even those two ships, also because USSR was asking, already well before the peace treaty, a share of the Italian fleet (one third!). This last fact is quite important, because it forced the Western Allies to lend (gratis) some units (included the obsolete BB Royal Sovereign, renamed Arkhangelsk) to USSR to stop its claims until the end of the war (it was impossible to force Italy to give its ships to USSR before any treaty, otherwise any Italian cohoperation would have stopped and almost certainly the Italian fleet would have been scuttled). But if instead Italy had employed its battleships along with the Anglo-Americans, they would have been forced to give more of their units to USSR to compensate the help that Italy had given to them (otherwise Stalin would have told that they didn't give him his share of Italian fleet only because they - selfish and greedy capitalists! :D - wanted to use it for their own aims).
Moreover, given the limited range and the wetness of the bows (except for the Roma, but it was sunk) of Italian BBs their use in the oceans was not a great option. About cruisers, instead, historically (Nov. 1943 - April 1944) the Duca degli Abruzzi and Duca d'Aosta (then, very briefly, also the Garibaldi) operated from Freetown (Sierra Leone, West Africa) to search German corsars and blockade runners.
Tiornu wrote:That Worth fella, he's one smart cookie.
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Post by Tiornu » 12 Dec 2004 18:03

Did any Italian ships take part in any world cruises prewar? Did any large ships operate out of East Africa?

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Post by Andy H » 12 Dec 2004 20:10

Did any Italian ships take part in any world cruises prewar?
The Conti di Cavour made the only transatlantic trip, calling at Halifax NS, between 23/07/19 - 11/12/19. The only Italian Battleship to cross the Atlantic.

From Whitley's Battleships of WW2

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Post by Andy H » 12 Dec 2004 20:21

The cruiser D'Aosta undertook a world cruise on 05/11/38, but it was cut short due to logistical and political problems. So after it had visted S.America and the Carribbean, it headed home. Thus it didn't visit its other destinations of USA,Japan,Singapore,East Indies and India

again from Whitley but his Cruisers of WW2

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Post by DrG » 12 Dec 2004 20:30

Andy H wrote:The Conti di Cavour made the only transatlantic trip, calling at Halifax NS, between 23/07/19 - 11/12/19. The only Italian Battleship to cross the Atlantic.
Thank you Andy, I was just going to write about that trip by the Conte di Cavour. :)

Tiornu, several Italian cruisers (Trento, Montecuccoli, Colleoni, Diaz, Duca d'Aosta, Eugenio di Savoia) made oceanic trips in the 1930's, you can see Whitley's "Cruisers of World War Two" for the dates. None of those cruises circumnavigated the world (the world cruise of Duca d'Aosta and Eugenio di Savoia was stopped because of the diplomatic crisis of 1939).

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Post by Tiornu » 13 Dec 2004 00:21

My understanding of Mediteranean storms is that, while they may be fierce, they are not usually sustained and they usually give plenty of warning. Is that accurate?

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Post by DrG » 13 Dec 2004 18:40

Tiornu, I cannot help you about Mediterranean storms. :(
Anyway the vast majority of Italian ships was not designed to operate in the open oceans. The only exception were a few submarines and the Capitani Romani class of (very) light cruisers (formerly known as oceanic scouts). During the storm of 23 March 1942 (Second Battle of Sirte) in the Mediterranean there were two losses: the DD Scirocco (by the way, that is the same name of the wind that caused the storm: as the Latins said nomen est omen), but her machenery had a breakdown; and the DD Lanciere. Moreover in that same storm the electric system of the first turret of the BB Littorio was damaged by the water that went down the barbette (probably this wouldn't have happened to Roma, thanks to her different bow).
But as far as I know the 2 (+1) CLs that operated in the Atlantic in 1943-44 didn't sustain any damage caused by the sea.

About the Capitani Romani class, it was the only piece of the "Flotta d'evasione" (it's hard to translate it correctly; roughly it means" "Evasion Fleet", with "evasion" meaning "break through" the jail of the Mediterranean, whose gates were guarded by UK: Gibraltar and Suez) plan, proposed by adm. Cavagnari in late 1935 (or the beginning of 1936; the definitive shape was reached with the proposal of Sept. 1937) that was actually realized. The plan of Sept. 1937 was a large naval program (well, still a dwarf if compared to the wet dreams of Stalin a few years later... Stalin's big fleet program) for the construction of 4 battleships, 2 aircraft carriers, 8 cruisers, 12 explorers (the Capitani Romani), 16 destroyers (I think similar to the Comandanti class laid down during WW2), 16 torpedo boats, 12 submarines and 47 smaller torpedo and anti-submarine units. The new battleships had to be 45,000 tons standard with nine 406 mm (16") guns, similar to the Ansaldo UP41 project then sold to USSR (it inspired the Sovietski Soyuz class); the cruisers were instead the Costanzo Ciano class: standard displacement 9,800 tons, full load 12,000 tons, ten 152 mm guns (Whitley covers this class, but the name of the second ship, Venezia, is certainly wrong).
Most of these ships had to operate from the new naval bases (yet to be built) of Chisimaio in Oltregiuba (Kisimayu in Jubaland, southern Somalia; in my opinion that base was too exposed to any British attack, given the lack of natural defences, but after the pacification of Ethiopia and the raising of the half-million black army planned by Mussolini probably it would have been difficult to conquer it for UK) and Capo Dante (Ras Dante = Ras Hafun; it's the most eastern cape of Africa, in front of Socotra islands, that were British).
With the "Flotta d'evasione" Italian East Africa, instead of being besieged by British colonies, would have closed the straits of Aden and threatened any British and French movement in the Indian Ocean, thus Egypt and maybe also the Middle East would have been besieged by Italian lands (Italy, Libya, Dodecanese, as happened in WW2, and East Africa, that instead in WW2 had just a handful of DD and subs for its own defence).
This plan, of course, was rejected by Mussolini because of financial problems, and thus the naval program of 1938 was of only: 2 BB (of the Littorio class: Roma and Impero), 12 explorers (the Capitani Romani) and 16 submarines.

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Post by JeffreyF » 22 Dec 2004 07:07

Just out of senseless curiousity. How much did the refits on the Navigatori class play into the future Capitani Romani class? I'll have to go back and read again but it seems quite some time was spent refitting many of the Navigatori class sacrificing several knots off the top speed for better handling.

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