What if the Germans invaded Malta in 1941 or 1942

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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Mar 18, 2022
Could the Germans have taken Malta at this time, and if they took it, could that have then improved their situation in North Africa?

Here is the old thread about the possible invasion of Malta in 1940

 

Thumpalumpacus

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Big ifs:

1) the Germans are willing to commit airborne troops, and

2) The RM finds enough oil to put battleships on bombardment duty for several days, and

3) the Axis can find the airpower to support the landings, cover the battleships, escort the airborne forces, and fend off Royal Navy countermeasures.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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Mar 18, 2022
From the other thread -

I never said there were 20 or 25,000 troops on Malta, somebody else made that claim. I would guess it was more like somewhere between 10-15,000, but I haven't seen any hard numbers yet so it's just speculation. Anyway a "reinforced division" isn't going to be 20,000 guys.

Corregidor had a month of preparatory artillery bombardment, yes. Malta got plastered to a similar degree with air attacks several times. If there is an invasion, for sure there are more air attacks (and probably one or more attempts to relieve it with a convoy) and probably naval bombardment as well. I also don't think the difference in size between Corregidor vs. Malta is that significant because the important parts of Malta are pretty small - Valetta, the airfield, the port. If anything it means more room for paratroopers to land.

No attack can obviously take place on Malta until and unless the air force there is neutralized. Apparently they came very close to that right before Pedestal. If Pedestal was completely (instead of just mostly) destroyed, that was probably their chance.

Most of the shore guns and fortifications IMO will be vulnerable to air attack.

Yes the RN is still a threat, but it has taken a beating since Crete, if we are assuming a date around the time of Pedestal. Malta is also 100 miles closer to Axis air bases, that means more Axis aircraft and an ability to loiter longer than at Crete, which was close to the extreme maximum range for some of their planes. Any fleet trying to rescue Malta is going to be in for a lot of air strikes.
 
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Wild_Bill_Kelso

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Mar 18, 2022
Big ifs:

1) the Germans are willing to commit airborne troops, and

As I said in the other thread, the 'if' part of this is do they decide to try to take Malta. If they make that decision, they have to use airborne troops, though probably an amphibious landing of some kind is also possible.

2) The RM finds enough oil to put battleships on bombardment duty for several days, and

I think that may be a problem, but maybe they can send some of their heavy cruisers (during Pedestal they mobilized 3 heavy and 3 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, 23 PT boats and 21 submarines). Between these ships and the Luftwaffe and RA air strikes, they could probably do it.

3) the Axis can find the airpower to support the landings, cover the battleships, escort the airborne forces, and fend off Royal Navy countermeasures.

Well they rounded up about 600 warplanes for Pedestal, which is about the same as they put together for the invasion of Crete.

Malta being so much closer they could probably bring more aircraft to bear if they sent some more down. I say take some from the English channel for a few weeks. 5 or 6 more squadrons would probably be enough. They also still have Pantelleria which is a good base at this stage.

Though it would all be easier if they had some improved aircraft. That's a separate "What If"
 

EwenS

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Oct 19, 2021
A 1942 Malta invasion has been done to death over the years on a variety of sites. From the following is an Order of Battle at July 1942 that was put together by one (Maltese?)researcher back in 2005.

“According to my researches, this is the OOB of Malta ground forces as per early July (probable landing date):


INFANTRY


1939:
The Malta Brigade
- 2nd Btn, Devonshire Rgt
- 1st Btn, Dorsetshire Rgt
- 2nd Btn, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Rgt
- 2nd Btn, Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) Rgt
Independent
- 1st Btn, King's Own Malta Regiment


1942 (early July):

Southern Command
- 2nd Btn, Devonshire Rgt
- 1st Btn, Dorsetshire Rgt
- 1st Btn, Hampshire Rgt
- 3rd Btn, Kings Own Malta Rgt
3 KOMR defended Wied iz-Zurrieq and the perimeters of Luqa, Hal Far, Krendli.

Northern Command
- 8th Btn, Manchester Rgt
- 2nd Btn, Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) Rgt
- 1st Btn, Kings Own Malta Rgt
- 2nd Btn, Kings Own Malta Rgt
1 KOMR defended the areas north of Bajda Ridge, Mellieha Ridge, Mellieha Bay, Marfa Ridge.
2 KOMR defended Ghajn Tuffieha, Gnejna, St. Paul's Bay, Bugibba, Bahar ic-Caghaq.

Central Command
- 2nd Btn, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Rgt
(D Coy was part of the Northern Command at some unspecified time)
- 11th Btn, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 10th Btn, Kings Own Malta Rgt
- 1st Btn, Cheshire Rgt
- Military Police Coy
1 Chesire was an MG battalion with 3 coys x 3 platoons x 4 Vickers MG, plus 4th company x 4 platoons x 4 4.2" mortars (after Niehorster).

Western Command
- 4th Btn, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Rgt)
- 1st Btn, Durham Light Infantry
- 8th Btn, Kings Own Royal Rgt



TANK

1st Independent Troop, 44th Royal Tank Rgt, composed of:
- detachment of 7th Royal Tank Regt (4x Matilda II)
- detachment of 3rd (King's Own) Hussars (2x Vickers VIc)



ARTILLERY ETC.


1939 (with evolution => 1942):

16th Fortress Company RE
24th Fortress Company RE
4th H Rgt (6th, 10th, 23rd H Bty) RA => 4th Coast Rgt (6th, 10th Coast Bty) RA
7th HAA Rgt (10th, 13th HAA Bty) RA
26th AT Rgt (15th, 40th, 48th, 71st AT Bty) RA => 26th Defence Rgt (15th/40, 48th/71st Def Bty RA, 13th Def Bty RMA)
(1942: 30x 3.7" & 6" howitzers; 18-pdr guns according to HPS)
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th H Bty, RMA => 1st H Rgt, RMA
5th, 6th HAA Bty, RMA (6th might have had Bofors, see below) => 2nd HAA Rgt, RMA (?)
7th Searchlight Bty, RMA => 4th Searchlight Rgt, RA/RMA (1942: 64 searchlights)


Additions 1940-42:

12th Field Rgt (1939: 6th/23rd, 49th/91st, ?th Fld Bty) RA (1942: 24x 25-pdr)
4th HAA Rgt (1939: 16th, 18th, 23rd HAA Bty) RA
10th HAA Rgt, RA
11th HAA Rgt, RMA
14th HAA (Relief) Bty, RMA
32nd LAA Rgt (1939: 55th, 98th, 103rd LAA Bty) RA
65th LAA Rgt, RA
74th LAA Rgt, RA
3rd LAA Rgt, RMA
225th LAA Bty, RA



ORGANIZATION OF THE COAST ARTILLERY

1) Outer Fire Command - 4th H / Coast Rgt RA

East coast:
- Fort Bingemma (1x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 1939: ?, 1942: 10th Coast Bty ?
- Fort Madalena (2x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 1939: ?, 1942: 10th Coast Bty ?

West coast:
- Fort San Leonardo (2x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 23rd H Bty until April 1942, then 6th Coast Bty
- Fort Benghisa (2x 9.2" BL Mk X) - 1939: ?, 1942: 6th Coast Bty ?

2) Inner Fire Command - 1st H Rgt RMA

- 1st Bty (East coast):
Fort Delimara (2x 6" BL Mk VII)
Fort San Rocco (3x 6" BL Mk VII)

- 2nd Bty (West coast):
Fort Tigne (3x 6" BL Mk VII)
Fort Campbell (2x 6" BL Mk VII)

- 3rd Bty (Center):
Fort St. Elmo (12x 6pdr 10cwt QF Mk I)
Fort Ricasoli (6x 6pdr 10cwt QF Mk I)

- 4th Bty: ?
(Maybe Fort Ricasoli ? Maybe converted to AA ?)



ORGANIZATION OF THE AA ARTILLERY

In september 1939 there were 34 HAA guns and 8 Bofors.

At some unspecified time during 1942 there were 112 HAA guns in 29 troops (27 x 4 + 2 x 2):
3" 20cwt - 3 troops x 4, 2 troops x 2, total 16
3.7" - 21 troops x 4, total 84
4.5" - 3 troops x 4, total 12 (1st - Fort San Giacomo, 2nd - Spinola Battery, 3rd - ?)

According to "British Army in WW2, an organizational history" :
4th HAA Rgt RA - 16x 3.7"
7th HAA Rgt RA - 20x 3.7", 4x 3"
10th HAA Rgt RA - 4x 4.5", 16x 3.7", 4x 3"
2nd HAA Rgt RMA - 16x 3.7"
11th HAA Rgt RMA - 6x (8x ?) 4.5, 16x 3.7", 7x (8x ?) 3"
Parenthesis are my guesses to make the total right with the other source.
According to HPS, 2nd HAA Rgt RMA had 4th (old H ?) and 5th Bty, while 11th HA Rgt RMA had 11th and 12th Bty.

There were also 118 Bofors (at some unspecified time in 1942).
According to "British Army in WW2", each LAA Rgt on Malta had (or had to have) 36 Bofors (2 Bty x 3 Trp x 6 guns ?).
According to HPS, 3rd LAA Rgt RMA had 6th and 7th Bty.”


It is amazing how the numbers build up. For example - 1 Coast Regt Royal Malta Artillery, controlling 1-4 Coast Batteries, had 30 officers and 964 other ranks in 1942 (with 96 seconded to 4th Coastal Regt RA)

There were a few more cruiser tanks around, referred to later in the thread.

Edit:- Then, in the event of a real invasion, think of the RAF ground personnel and RN shore personnel on the island who would have been handed a rifle and told to contribute to the defence. Maybe not trained infantry but more useful than sitting in bunkers doing nothing if they weren’t going to be evacuated.
 
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Shortround6

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Apparently Malta had up to 10 times the number of 3.7 AA guns (any double counting or transfers?) that Crete had 3in AA guns and almost 6 times the numbers of Bofors guns.
Plus some odds and sods of 4.5in guns.
The Main Island of Malta was just about 17 miles long and 8 miles wide. It doesn't matter if the Axis get ashore on the smaller Island/s, they can't swim across and you need regular artillery to cover the over 3 mile gap, no mortars or recoiless guns.
 

EwenS

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There are 24 pages (360 posts) of discusion of invading via Gozo here! Enjoy!!!

And a thread about invading in Aug 1940 which may shed some useful light. Another 14 pages (203 posts)!!!

Popular What If subject invading Malta. Wonder why the Axis never thought of half these clever ideas!!

Edit:- IIRC the first of those has aĺ sorts of stuff about terrain, beaches (or lack thereof) and defences generally.
 
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Shortround6

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There are 24 pages (360 posts) of discusion of invading via Gozo here! Enjoy!!!

And a thread about invading in Aug 1940 which may shed some useful light. Another 14 pages (203 posts)!!!

Popular What If subject invading Malta. Wonder why the Axis never thought of half these clever ideas!!
Possible because they had demoted people with such suggestions to corporal and tasked them with executing solo bayonet charges on the eastern Front?
Haven't past the part of unloading 17 cm Kanone 18 guns on Comino and putting them within range of 4.2 in mortars (which may show up late) but give the idea, Taking rare, high value artillery assets and sticking them where any antique from the first WW I can hit them is not good artillery craft. ;)
 

Thumpalumpacus

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Feb 5, 2021
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I think that may be a problem, but maybe they can send some of their heavy cruisers (during Pedestal they mobilized 3 heavy and 3 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, 23 PT boats and 21 submarines). Between these ships and the Luftwaffe and RA air strikes, they could probably do it.

Better hope the Royal Navy doesn't show up to defend, then?

Well they rounded up about 600 warplanes for Pedestal, which is about the same as they put together for the invasion of Crete.

Again, let's split those between three different tasks, rather than one.

Numbers are rarely the only thing that matters in a battle. You've got intangibles like quality of doctrine, strategy, plans, and troops, then you'll need sufficient supplies (those cruisers are going to burn up a lot of scarce Italian oil) and more importantly a regular supply chain, and so on.

Look again at the order of battle that Ewen posted above, and remind yourself that 3:1 was the preferred attacking ratio, and that airborne troops are of necessity lightly armed, and that the Axis has zero.zero experience launching an amphibious assault, much less one facing Malta's defenses. Taking Malta is a great idea, but it's much easier on paper than in the real world.
 

cammerjeff

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I think the Italians missed their opportunity in 1940 to take Malta, I think they could have taken the Island when GB was busy defending themselves during the BOB. They would have been in no position to reinforce Malta. They had already pull most of the Royal Navy out, and there was little or no RAF equipment there at the time.

After the BOB is over and GB could reinforce the island the chances of a successful invasion goes down. I think not taking Malta was a large Mistake in Italy's part. After the BOB Germany's eyes were set farther east, not south.
 

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