Malta 1940

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Shortround6, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    There can be a big difference between being "in commission", "declared operational" and actually being operational. HMS Rodney had had ONE practice shoot with it's 16in guns in the year before it fought the Bismark.

    How many practice shoots did the new Italian battleships have when they were declared "operational"?

    As near as I can figure Malta had seven 9.2in coast defense guns and 10 6in coast defense guns plus some smaller. This could be in error and I welcome correction.

    There were a few bigger antiques around but of no practical value.

    For a 1940 attack (June through August?)to work the Italians would have had to start preparations before they declared war on France, at least for the June/July scenarios. The Italian forces (aside from the navy) seem to be committed elsewhere and a rapid shift to Sicily doesn't seem likely. You can fly a few hundred bombers to Sicily pretty easily but getting the needed fuel, spare parts and hundreds of tons of bombs there may take a little more doing, likewise the several thousand support staff, (living in tents?) and their rations. What was the Sicilian rail and road network like in 1940? Granted there was the rail ferry across the straits of Massina.
     
  2. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    #2 DonL, Mar 18, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
    There is only an option end of August beginning September, when no Italian troops are involved at other frontlines and most BB's were action ready

    5 BB's were operating at end of august.
    British
    Also see Vincenzos post nr. 88 in the other thread.
    Both VV and Littorio had 750sm sea training before HATS at 31.08.1940
    How many shots and training did POW before she did engage Bismarck?

    Form Sicily were operating roundabout 700 a/c's March 1941 and 500 at Januar 1941. So do you think 4-5 month before it is unimpossible?
    Also look at post nr. 55 from Vincenzo at the other thread. I think there is no problem to operate 300-500 a/c's at August/September from Sicily.

    For Malta:

    Fort Bingemma: 1 x 9,2'' Mk.X
    Fort Madalena: 2 x 9,2'' Mk.X
    Fort San Leonardo: 2 x 9,2'' Mk.X
    Fort Benghisa: 2 x 9,2'' Mk.X

    Fort Delimara: 2 x 6'' Mk.VII
    Fort San Rocco: 3 x 6'' Mk.VII
    Fort Tigne: 3 x 6'' Mk.VII
    Fort Campbell: 2 x 6'' Mk.VII

    Bing Maps - Driving Directions, Traffic and Road Conditions

    Also a footnote:
    The german Vizeadmiral Eberhard Weichold, chief of the german navy for cooperation at Italy, had tried to get the interest of the Italians to invade Malta with plans from the KM and help from german troops and LW already at July 1940.
    The first german LW Korps (X Fliegerkorps) was stationed at Sicily December 1940.
     
  3. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    The full moon days were:
    19th july ( i think too early)
    18th august
    16th september
    16th october (only if not greek campaign was to start)

    i don't think was realistic german deployement, italian never would recquired it and german deployement had the trouble that germans use enigma...
     
  4. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Vincenzo, Why are you suggesting full moon days?
    I would have thought that from an Axis point of view, a daylight landing would be most advantageous. The Axis aircraft would be able to try to engage the RN forces that we assume would be sent to contest theses landings. Given the advantage that the RN had in night engagements , I would expect the landings would be during daylight.
     
  5. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    To speak with parsifals words, it is hot air to imply the RN would be at Malta when a invasion would be started.
    30 hours minimum to arrive.

    When you attack at the morninglight, you have full moon for the navigation.
     
  6. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    just because was common landing in full moon. The RN forces... Gibraltar is almost 2 days from Malta, Alexandria is a little more near... so hours of the landing are not the hours of the engaging (ever if RN came, and i'm not sure that RN try to defend Malta)
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It was harder than that. it needed to be a ful moon or near full moon, and a high tide coinciding. Anyone have the almanac for malta in 1940. We need to check both to determine optimum date.
     
  8. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    high tide i don't think is important in Malta, how many can be in Malta 50 cm?
     
  9. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Historically it seems that Malta was at it weakest in June, July and August of 1940.

    Unfortunately for the Italian position this apparently coincides with the Italians being rather weak or out of position, as in no dive bombers-no torpedo bombers, many troops tied up in other places, some major ships still working up/completing.

    The RN may very well be 48 hours from arriving if not a bit longer if the Italians can achieve complete surprise.

    What other aircraft were on Malta besides the fighters? Recon planes? Can the Radar detect surface targets?

    How long will it take to silence the shore batteries? Done by level bombing or by bombardment by ship? A fair number of the Italian cruisers were rather thin skinned. The 9.2in guns were supposed to be able to penetrate 6in of armor at 14,000yds.

    How long will it take to defeat the British troops once ashore?

    Are there any British submarines in the area? The Italians seem to be much better at anti-sub work than they were given credit for during the war but exposing high value ships to submarine attack is a big gamble.

    If the RN can make it to Malta while the situation on shore is still in doubt the Italian landing force may be in big trouble.

    75mm howitzers are the bare minimum for dealing with "field" fortifications in an effective manner. Against Concrete or excavated rock they may be a bit lacking.


    That is an awful lot of "IFs" to declare and easy win one way or the other. Once September arrives new sets of "IFs" come into play.
     
  10. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    is out of doubt as historical preparation/deployement the landing are impossible.
    maybe some recon and some swordfish but i suppose that RA need to work more of that actually did historically so that there was would be destroyed or near in the What If sitation
    navweaps data on 9.2 inch gun give lower capability also if i think are for older shell (and older amor) (for navweaps data give impression that newer shell are only HE).
    The strenght of army in Malta is higher of i thinked before the read the other thread and following my research for it (4+ btls is high concentration of force, the italians had 6 btls (1 div) in all the Eagean island and 15 (2 divs + 1 bersaglieri rgt) in sicily) so the work is not easy but what's the british strenght and ammo reserve?
    For submarine same is true for the eventually RN fleets caming in help.

    the 18th august probably the RM had only 3BBs (Cavour, Cesare back to repair, and Vittorio Veneto) the RN 3 in Alexandria and 1 a Gibraltar (there was also CV Eagle in Alex, and Ark Royal in Gib)
    the 16th september the RM had 5 BBs (as above + Littorio and Duilio), the RN 4 in Alexandria and 1 a Gibraltar (there was th Eagle in Alex, but not carrier at Gib)
     
  11. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    According to Ian Hogg there were 26 'approved' models of shells for the 9.2 at the height of WW II. Since the guns date back to before 1900 this not too surprising but trying to figure out which guns had which shells and in what proportions seems to be impossible. Some mounts had 15 degrees elevation, some had 30 degrees and a few had even more.

    During the war the "shrapnel" shell went out of service, being used up for practice firing. The MK 10A Shrapnel shell contained 2500 lead/antimony balls of 1/2 ounce (just under 13 grams) each. It was supposed to be used against troop transports trying to land troops near the guns. How many in 1940 in Malta?

    Some AP shells were the old 2 caliber radius head type but Campbell gives a few details of a 5/10 caliber radius head shell.

    At any rate these are very dangerous guns for cruisers to deal with.

    Please look at the Japanese vs Wake and Guam for some ideas on what it took to attack a defended Island. How many more attackers than defenders are needed? landing 4-5 battalions to defeat 4-5 battalions of defenders probably isn't going to work. 12-15 battalions of attackers is a more likely minimum. And then they have to be supplied. The 75mm howitzers landed with the force could go through hundreds of shells per day. Some 75-84mm guns in WW I went through over 500 rounds per day.
     
  12. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely critical actually as demonstrated during husky three years later. Actually the ideal tiing is a rising tide before dawn and a setting moon just before dawn, with the LCs approaching from the west to maximise the coover of darkness. In summer in the northern hemisphere you can get away with a an approach from the south as well.We need detailed topo maps of Malta and its coast to determine where this might occur. we need the 1940 nautical almanac to determine when it can occur.

    Small changes in tide are still important, especially when using extemporised landing craft. . Your craft have to come in on a rising tide to avoid underwater obstacles, beach itself, unload the cargo, thereby reduciung the displacement, and decreasing the draft of the vessel. this allows the vessel to to refloat and thenn either reverse under its own power, but more usually for makeshift craft be towed by ocean going tugs back out to the transports for a reload of troops and supplies, waiting for the next change of tide. Without the change of tide, notwithstanding the decreased displacement of the vessel, it wont get off the beach. There are always vessels that get stuck, so there is always a wastage of vessesls just due to the conditions. Without the risng tide, you wont get sufficient "lift" to get the majority of your craft off the beach. And that will be critical in this scenario where you have just FOUR dedicated LCIs the rest being a depressing array of over optimistic conversions and lash ups.

    If the currents are unfavourable, you will get many of the craft swinging after beaching, which is highly likley to cause the craft to get stuck....if the swell or the surf is high, you will lose the ship to broaching effect.

    Properly designed LCs have design features to counter tidal and current drift. They have stern mounted anchors that hold the ship in place whilst unloading and can be used to pull the craft off the beach when it comes time for that. it gives the craft greater flexibility to unload and control the vessel in difficult conditions. For extempoprised craft, unless the conditions are spot on, most of them wont get off the beach, and thats a problem when you have 8000 defenders in front of you, and you can sealift roughly 3-4000 men at a time, tops. Foreget the theoretical totals, think tactical loading constraints, and what other maritime nations, with vastly greater experinece in these things, had to do and the numbers of people they could fit into their craft, when loaded for assault operations. Good rule of thumb, if the vessel is theoretically capable of carrying 3000 troops under ideal conditions, in real combat, they can carry about 1/3 of that number. I am sure there are USMC guys here that will confirm that basic planning rule.

    Beyond that the italians will need to have undertaken some kind of beach survey to determine the underwater topography. You cannot have rocky bottoms, or beaches that shelve too little. The ideal situation (and you need nothing less than ideal for extemporised LCs) is a deeper approach and a beach shelving up at more than 15 degrees. Without a proper beach survey, and without a large purpose designed amphibious fleet, you have imediate cause for alarm.
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Nothing wrong with using old guns for coastal defense. Less efficient than modern CA, but BBs historically have a hard time against any sort of heavy coast defence weaponary. The coastal guns cant really hurt the BBs, but they can hurt the invasion forces. This means the BBs have to deal with the CA first, and that means they need HE artillery to do it, which means they are vulnerable to enemy ships. You cannot undertake shore bombardment and be ready to fight enemy ships at the same time with the samer ships, as the Japanese found out in November 1942.

    Moreover, it takes time to reduce well placed coastal defences, a lot of time....days or even weeks in fact.
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Malta had a few really old coast defense guns, the 17.7in RML 100 ton guns but they had been out of service for over 30 years. The 9.2 in guns were not that far off a 1930s 8in gun. The ammo might be a bit dated but 380lb shells can ruin a cruisers whole day. If the gunners thought the 9.2in AP or common shells wouldn't penetrate a target (battleship) they had the option of using HE shells ( also for use against unarmored ships or landing parities) and wrecking the top works. The Bursting charge for a 9.2in HE shell was 33lbs compared to the 18lb charge for an Italian 8in gun.
     
  15. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    In order for malta to be held, and a crushing defeat inflicted on the italians, I think it would be necessary for the garrison on the island to hold out for at least 4 days. however that four days needs to be measured from the time of departure for the italian onvasion forces, not from the point of arrival. The British would almost certainly have wind of italian plans, since they were reading Italian naval ciphers up until they were changed at the end of June, and even some low grade siphers into July. The italians would need to plan something like this well in advance, so the British would know something was coming. Moreover, the embarkation would need to be undertaken fom many ports, similar to the great amphibious assaults undertaken by the allies. It is not possible to emabark quickly enough from just one port, and much of the equipments and supplies would need to come from many distant depots and bivouacs in Italy.

    Next, having embarked it would be necessary for the various elements of the invasion force to concentrate into the one task force at some point, much as the allies had to do for their invasions, and then, once concentrated, the forces would need to organise and begin their journey to Malta. They cannot do this in a straight line, however,, because of the risks of submarine attack. all invasion fleets of WWII had to adopt a zig zag pattern in open waters, as a defensive measure, and that basically doubles the distance needed to be travelled compared to a straight line advance. Whilst the allies also need to approach using zig zag, because of the higher fleet speed compared to the italian Amphiobious fleet, could adopt a shallower less pronounced zig zag patter. a fleet travelling at 20 knots fleet speed in a shallow zig zag patter, can generally cover about 4 times the distance of a 10 knot Task Force convoyusing acute zig zag pattern. There would also be acute difficulties I think for the italians to maintain proper station keeping for the diverse menagerie of ships they would be using, which all adds greatly to the time needed to bring the assault force to the enemy shore.

    Once they arrive offshore, the Italians will need to organise their assault waves, clear minefileds and begin to reduce the dug in coastal guns. The biggest time delay would the mine clearance operations and the suppression of the guns.

    It is very likly that the embarkation organization and transport components of the operation might take 1.5 to 2 days. The minesweeping operations couldnt really be undertaken whilst the coastal guns remain active, so they would mostly have to be done sequentially. The bombardment might not need to eliminate the coastal guns altogether, but given the very limited number of assault vessels at the disposal of the italians, such bombardment would need to be more thorugh than say for that used during Overlord. From memory overlords bombardment was about 6 hours, for this hypothetical operation you might be looking at 12 hours ( I have no idea how the italians would replensh their bombardment forces.....they dont have much at sea replenishment, so I guess they would have to shuttle back and forward from Syracuse to restock ammunition) .

    Once the journey has been made, a channel swept of mines and the coastal guns cleared or at least suppressed, its time for the assault craft to go in. they have to go in on a rising tide, before high tide. This will be very tricky foir the Italians, again because of the very limited over the beach lift capability that they have.....they will need to get their ships on the enmy shore, unloaded and heading back out to sea for reloading, before the change of the tide. Once the assault forces have disembarked, and the qassault craft off the the beach, they need to be reloaded (afloat) and ready for a run back into the beach area before the next change of the tide 6 hours later.

    Moreover the entire islands need to be under Italian control in amatter of hours before the arrival of the RN and reinforcements of the garrioson. Frankly I see no chance of this happening. I see this as a golden opportunity to sink most of the italian fleet actually, something the British time and again tried to do but were stymied by the high speed of the italian ships.
     
  16. stug3

    stug3 Active Member

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    HMS CUMBERLAND in Grand Harbour, Malta
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    Just for clear on italians war book codes break: December 1940
     
  18. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #18 parsifal, Mar 19, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2013
    Which confirms that the british would have known about a planned malta invasion well in advance. The British were reading high level ciphers of all three services up until the italian DoW in June. All three services then changed their cipher codes with the RM cipher code remaining imprenetrable for the entire war, but their lower grade enigma and C-38 codes providing enough intell for the allies to achieve such victories as Matapan and the numerous convoy intercepts.

    But its the compromised security of the other services that ensures the British would know virtually all there needed to be known about a planned invasion. The Army and Air Force (as wellas the italian diplomatic codes) secret codes were broken almost immediately, after the introduction of new codes 10June, as the following excerpt clearly shows

    "Before Italy entered the war, BP had been regularly reading a wide range of Italian high-grade cyphers, including those of their three armed services, and of their diplomatic service. Decrypts gave nearly a month’s warning about the entry of Italy into the war on 11th June 1940. The Italians changed their army and air force high-grade ciphers on 10th June. They also introduced new lower-grade cyphers for all the Italian armed forces but these were soon read, albeit at first with some delay. By July BP was making progress in reading the new high-grade army and air force cyphers, and by August a steady stream of decrypts was reaching Cairo. BP increased the number of cryptanalysts in Cairo to ensure that as much of the traffic as possible would be read locally. So the British had been expecting the Italian attack from Libya into Egypt on 13th September 1940, though the decrypts did not give the actual date. The arrival of Italian air reinforcements in Albania had been revealed by decrypts and so their attack on Greece on 28th October was no surprise; steps had been taken to provide some limited RAF assistance to Greece and to plan for troop transfers to Creteand delivered a wealth of information...."

    Because the proposed italian invasion of Malta would have necessarily have been a tri-service effort, with diplomatic communications to the Germans (to receive the additional equipment from them, as suggested by DonL) it is inconceivable that the british would not have a detailed knowledge of what was coming, in what strength and when. They would have had plenty of time to position their fleets for ambush, which in August included at least 7 BBs and provide additional ground troops for the islands defence, as well as beefing up the defensive minefileds and shoreline defences at the known point of assault.
     
  19. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    Just again for clear you can not intercept the wired comunication.

    on coastal artillery i did some research most of large pieces fired in open so the capability to remain operational is limited
     
  20. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Vincenzo, when you say wired comminication do you mean telephone type communication?

    I still think any sea based invasion will be very difficult.
    As previously posted, the mine fields would either need to be navigated or neutralized - not an easy task.

    I also believe that the British either by aerial recon or by other intelligence gathering - radio etc, would have seen any large sclae build up in Italian ports and been able to react in plenty of time.

    Even if you believe that the RN did not see Malta as worth defending, the opportunity to engae the Italian fleet where it could not disengage would have tempted the RN out.
     
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