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Malta, or 'the Blitz'?

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by Martin Bull, Jun 12, 2004.

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  1. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Although 'what ifs' aren't really my forte, it's interesting to speculate about Malta and the Luftwaffe.

    In much the same way, although on a smaller scale, as the Bomber Offensive against Germany is now criticised for lack of military effectiveness, the 'Blitz' on Britain in the winter of 1940/41 - although tragic for the civilian population, had little impact on Britain's ability to wage war.

    At the same time, the Luftwaffe's Fliegerkorps 10 was ordered to neutralise Malta. This, with only 250 bombers and additional Italian aircraft,it commenced to attempt from January 10th 1941 - and failed. Malta remained central to the fighting in the Mediterranean and North Africa until the end.

    What if the Luftwaffe had been able to divert some of their strength from Britain to Malta at that crucial, early stage......?
     
  2. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Or as me fried were discussing, they launched 'Herkules'?

    The neutralisation and capture of malta early, say instead of Crete, could in my view allowed a better supplied and equipped DAK to operate in North Africa. With hindsight the moving of aircraft to concentrate on Malta rather than GB seems a good proposition to me. DOne early enough and with an airborne operation in support the island could have been captured and possibly secured the Med early on for the Axis forces.
     
  3. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Am I going mad or has a 'quicj reply' box appeared overnight???

    Its cool... :)
     
  4. FramerT

    FramerT Ace

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    Must have been overnight Red Baron,the log-in part,too.
     
  5. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Will have to log-out to see that... :eek:
     
  6. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, I guess that if instead of having only Geißler's X Fliegerkorps, the Germans would have deployed a whole Luftflötte like they did in 1941 they could have completely smashed Malta.

    It was not until the end of the Battle of Britain that the RAF could spare enough Spitfires to defend this crucial island, on which the outcome of the whole Mediterranean campaign depended on.

    But still, they couldn't have neutralised Malta only by air attacks. An airborne invasion was still needed to effectively do this. With Malta captured, it would have meant the Axis having air bases in the whole Central Mediterranean… Sicily, Malta and Tunisia, thus making it absolutely impossible any sea or air communication between Alexandria and Gibraltar and giving the Axis a 95% secure communication line between Italy and North Africa.

    This was completely possible in spring 1942 with Spitfires already there. In spring 1941 with only a couple of Hurricanes it would have been very easy and Rommel could have pushed the British maybe all the way to Suez in winter 1941-1942 thanks to the Japanese 'Blitzkrieg' in the far east.
     
  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    I do think der Führer had too many things in his basket, and even with the failure of BoB and possible emmenense for the invasion of Malta, the Austrian had his eyes keenly set on Russia and was preparing to gather as much of the Luftwaffes force for this struggle on the opening days. Nothing was going to set his mind wandering.........preparations were in order for months.

    E
     
  8. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Erich is right. By early 1941, the three Luftflöttes for 'Barbarossa' were being built up and there was no way they could be re-deployed.

    However, if I get this right, Martin is referring to the Luftwaffe forces which were bombing Great Britain until May 10th 1941. What if these very foces were transfered, first to Malta and once Malta had fallen, sent to the east, right?

    :confused:
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Yes, I was referring to the period roughly from the end of the Battle of Britain ( October 1940 ), to, as Friedrich rightly says, April/May 1941. I am quite certain that Malta would indeed have fallen under such an aerial onslaught - there is no way any extra defending forces could have been moved from the UK.
     
  10. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, still an invasion —airborne or amphibious— was needed to secure the island and build some air fields and naval bases. Once this has been made, the Axis strategical position in the Mediterranean is 10 times more favourable and suddenly they get huge posibilities of actually kicking the British out of Egypt and maybe establish at Syria and Palestine.

    But all is still depending on the outcome in the east… :rolleyes:
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    An invasion wasn't really necessary at all. Malta could have been rendered irrelevant by a combination of a sustained air supression campaign and a far better appreciation by Rommel of logistics and Engineering.
    On the later, Rommel needed to clear Bengahazi and Tobruck harbors to allow more supplies to arrive at those ports shortening the trip to the front and, to improve his methods of moving supplies forward.
    As the table below shows, these two things would have solved most of his supply problems.




    SHIPPING OF MEN AND MATERIAL TO NORTH AFRICA 1940 - 43


    Time period and outline of events

    Men
    Material (tons)
    Monthly averages of supplies arriving


    Landed at destination
    Failed to arrive
    Landed at destination
    Failed to arrive


    6 - 9/40 Little Allied naval opposition. Italians make offensive move into Egypt
    13,619
    0
    148,817
    0
    37,204

    10/40 - 1/41 British begin to interdict sea lanes. First British offensive
    27,925
    0.9%
    197,742
    3.9%
    49,435

    2/41 - 6/41 First air offensive against Malta. First German offensive in N. Africa
    82,491
    5.1%
    447,815
    6.6%
    89,563

    7/41 - 12/41 British begin major attempt to interdict sea traffic. British counter attack Rommel’s offensive
    48,303
    16.4%
    356,294
    26.8%
    59,382

    1/42 - 6/42 Second air offensive against Malta. Blockade of Malta. German offensive in N. Africa
    9,009
    15.2%
    441,878
    6.2%
    73,646

    7/42 - 12/42 Second major effort to interdict Axis sea traffic. Defeat of Germans at El Alamein
    7,851
    15.1%
    337,409
    35.5%
    56,209

    11/42 - 2/43 Allies land in Vichy Territories. Air-naval offensive against Axis Tunisian sea traffic
    60,783
    5.4%
    225,189
    21%
    56,297

    3/43 - 4/43 Axis defeat in North Africa

    11,508
    14.7%
    81,532
    42%
    40671

    Totals for all operations
    261,444
    8%
    2,236,487
    16.3%

    As you can see (even though the table came out crappy) that interdiction of Malta by air caused losses of supplies in transit to drop to miniscule amounts.
     
  12. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Thanks for the table, T. A. —though I really didn't quite understand it that way… :confused:

    But I think that an invasion was needed. In early 1942 marshal Kesselring had actually managed to neutralise the island and cut effectively the communications between Alexandria and Gibraltar, thus reducing to almost 0 the RN's naval operations from Malta. Therefore, a whole bunch of supplies to reach Rommel's forces and in great; this, added to the major setbacks suffered by the British in the far east allowed Rommel to take the offensive and reach El Alamein.

    But not having invaded the island and having re-deployed Kesselring's squadrons in North Africa, gave the British a rest and a chance to re-build the RAF in Malta and by November 1942 almost 400 Spitfires had been deployed in the island, compared to only 12 operative planes in May.

    Without invading Malta, the Germans needed many bombers and fighters permanently stationed in Sicily to prevent the RAF and the RN from operating in the centre of the Mediterranean. With the island captured, the Germans could use Malta's air fields and bases to defend the centre of the Mediterranean from the very centre and they could even spare a couple hundred planes to re-deploy them in the frontline at North Africa.
     
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