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Should the Axis have tried harder to take Malta?

Discussion in 'Naval War in the Mediterrean, Malta & Crete' started by 3ball44, Jul 22, 2007.

  1. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    What sort of 9.2" are were acrually at Malta? the info I have, but it's third hand, talks about Mk.X naval guns not field pieces though they were manned by the army. The Mk XI was 50 calibers had a muzzle velocity of 881mps and was reported having excessive dispersal due to the high velocity sacrificing accuracy for range. the Mk X was 47 calibers and muzzle velocity with standard charge was 838mps but with supercharge it rises to 872mps that is very similar to the MK XI.

    AFAIK There is no single instance in ww2 of naval guns causing more than a temporary setback to a determined attack, Wake and Oslo are probably the biggest successes but the attack nonetheless was successful. IMO their immobility dooms them unless a relieving force arrives. Wake, Corregidor, the Japanese island fotresses, the Atlantic wall all ultimately failed, IIRC one French battleship won a duel against a german battery equippen with guns salvaged by the Germans from one of her sisters duiring the inavsion of southern France. Possibly one success was at Tobruk in 1942 but it was a raid, not a landing, and IIRC while the coastal batteries chased away Zulu and Sikh the actual landing force was repulsed by a group of MZ not shore batteries.
    I think the definitive source on the Littorios is Bagnasco's book, (that's where that drawing comes from), the bomb damage was apparently minor. The report on the torpedo damage details mostly agrees with you source, flooding was 1950t (including the 250 voluntary) the fllodoed comparments between "ordinate" 181 and 199 contained foodstores, (mostly flour) and the ship's brig, so nothing that needs extensive repairs besides replacing the plates, there were no personnel losses and the repairs, that lasted two months, were condubùcted in a rather leisurely way, they only docked her after Mussolini's visit and could probably have been hurried in case of need.
     
  2. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    TOS, I’ll expand on what I stated earlier, the standard and most used British Army Coastal heavy/medium artillery piece used in WWII was the Mk 10 9.2/46.7cal., barrel length 442.35”, on Mounting Mk 7, which could rotate 360 degrees, elevate -5 to +35 degrees, muzzle velocity 2,700 ft/sc., good for 36,700 yards. They were Army guns, not naval cast offs. As far as Mks. go, the earlier Mk 8 was shorter and 40 cal, and had been replaced, there were only a few Mk 9s built before the design was upgraded to Mk 10, the definitive Army Mk. The Army did not use the Mk 11 9.2”/50.

    Since you prefer the Navy, this is from navweaps.com

    Britain
    9.2"/50 (23.4 cm) Mark XI

    “Used as secondary armament on Pre-dreadnought battleships and as the main guns on Armored Cruisers. When these ships were scrapped following World War I, some of their guns and mountings were retained for possible use on small monitors. However, all of the mountings were scrapped in 1938. When World War II broke out, the remaining guns were offered to the Army, but it was determined that they were not easily adaptable to the existing coastal artillery mountings for the 9.2" (23.4 cm) Mark X. The guns were then scrapped in 1943-44.”

    And considering the Mk 10 and Troubridge:

    "Of built-up construction and wire-wound. Suffered from "steel choke" and too large a propellant grain. In Army guns a smaller grain propellant was eventually adopted and a tapered inner "A" tube was gradually introduced, thus bringing them up to modern standards. A total of 112 guns were made for the Navy of which 12 were later transferred to land service and a further 170 guns were built for the Army. Actual bore length of all guns was 46.66 calibers."

    I don’t know what else to tell you, these were very good guns. As for the rest, I'm not sure what you're saying???

    Ian Hogg, Master Gunner is quite clear; as seaborne vs. coastal gun battle goes, the latter has a great many advantages, immobility, stable fire control and knowing the bearings and ranges for its complete firing zone is one of them. Dakar was one example, Malta another, there would've been many more except attacking forces either bypased them, or assaulted them from a landward or blind side to silence them to prevent their repelling amphibous assaults. Anything else and I'd say take it up with Hogg, but he died fairly recently. I used Lt. Cmdr. Bagnasco when I said 3 months the 1st time up.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Bagnasco states the ship was dry docked on June 26 and refloated on August 26, by his description the repairs were rather simple, a dent in the hull caused by a second bomb that was a near miss was discovered in the dock but not fixed completely as it would have entailed excessive work. According the Bergoni and Gay the bomb casualties were due to the armoured cover of the rangefinder being left open allowing some bomb fragments to enter the turret, but I couldn't find this detail in the later Bagnasco book.
    With all respect to Ian Hogg, my point is that WW2 costal artillery didn't usually prove enough to stop a determined opponent that had control of the air and was not in a hurry, the coastal batteries were disabled by raids, bypassed or eventually overwhelmed by big guns of the ships, not being able to move offset all their other advantages in a protracted engagement. IMHO they usually worked better as a deterrent than in practice.
    Apart from the very brief engagement during the channel dash, where no hits were scored, where there other engagements involving the Mk.X ? AFAIK the night raid on Malta was repulsed by the 6lb and by the fall of the St.Elmo bridge that obstructed the entrance to the following boats, it's possible the 9.2" fired on RN Diana and the two MAS, no hits were reported,but as the attackers were 1 man 4 meter long boats filled with explosives the 9.2" were definetly not the right tool.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Just remembered this:
    US and Japanese doctrine during WWII was to engage at long range specifically for this purpose. Indeed the US "Super Heavy" shells were designed with deck penetration in mind. Indeed USA 16"/50 (40.6 cm) Mark 7 states
    Battleships: United States Battleships, 1935-1992 - William H. Garzke, Robert O. Dulin - Google Books
    also talks about reduce propellant charges to increase the probability of deck penetration as does the first reference. The implication is that the effect was well known and understood. The British should also have a pretty good idea of what the armor was on the old Italian battleships and Hood had demostrated rather graphically how spectacular deck penetrations could be.
     
  5. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    That a reduced charges at higher elevation will get you the same range, and that for a given charge you achieve maximum range at 45 degrees elevation, is basic balistics but low velocity was not usually considered an advantage as the longer flight times reduce the chances to score a hit on a moving target and the biggest problem of naval gunnery is hitting. The US evidently had a lot of confidence in their FC systems but he introduction of supercharges for the British 9.2" seems to indicate they were going for high velocity flat trajectories not plunging fire. AFAIK British naval doctrine was to engage between 15.000 and 20.000 yards, firing beyond that was considered ineffective, but don't know if army coastal batteries had a different doctrine.
     
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    "Oslo" isn't a great example; the German attack was not successful...as the action in Drobak Sound delayed the Germans' attempted "coup de main" decapitation strike long enough for the King and government to leave Oslo. It also wasn't a "typical" shore battery action in that Oscarborg's 28cm Krupps only had the chance to fire two rounds, one each....although they DID both hit the Blucher and did considerable damage! The fortress' 15cm and 57mm secondar and tertiary batteries ALSO did considerable damage to her...

    ...but of course it was two torpedoes from it's undersea tubes that finally sank the Blucher!
     
  7. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    At the risk of adding insult to injury, the 25 pdr's of course featured gradient type charges, and the 9.2's actually could be used against soft targets, such as landing craft; a shrapnel shell had been produced, filled with a couple of thousand lead balls - nasty stuff.
     
  8. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I knew Blucher was sunk by torpedoes, and it was far from a typical engagement as initial range was very short, but it was one of the very few instances coastal defences achieved a positive result in WW2 even if the final result was still a German victory, IMO the last major victory for coastal defences was the Dardanelles, in most WW2 instances they where either bypassed or overwhelmed by massed naval firepower, there were a lot more successful landings than coastal defences success.

    I would expect the 9.2" to have HE or other anti landing craft shells, preventing a landing was the reason they were there in the first place and 9.2" AP is definetly overkill for a landing craft even assuming the thin plates would trigger a fuse that is designed to explode after punching throug armour. AFAIK standard shrapnell is good against troops in the open, once armour, or even mild steel plates, come into play it's effectiveness is much reduced and HE is better, but if the shell was designed specifically to counter landing crafts it would probably take that into account (or the idea was to use it against the exposed troops on the beaches not the landing craft). Most guns have multiple charges, for mountain warfare high angle fire is a big requirement as you often have to hit targets immediately behind a crest.

    But what we were discussing is naval guns deliberately going for high angle shots sacrificing accuracy for the chance of a hit on the less well protected decks and the chances of the 9.2" surviving unsuppressed long enough to actually fire at the landing craft. I still see no reason to believe the 9.2" would do better than the German guns in Normandy that were probaly a lot better protected if the 9.2" were emplaced for 360 degrees fire.

    Still a bit confused about the Mk.X, there seems to be a lot of variation under that designation besides all being wire wound 9.2/47, some variations is expected, "same model" Italian guns of OTO and Ansaldo manufacture often were quite different, so something similar may be happening here especially as we have two different armed forces as customers but it makes me wary about being too specific about what they could do.

    I think we are discussing on insufficient data, half the fun of what ifs is researching and there is a lot of important data that should be out there we haven't found yet, do we have any pics or maps of the guns? IIRC there is an Osprey on Malta forts thay should reasonably have some, does anyone have that book? What info did the Italians actually have on the gun positions? What damage, if any, had the guns suffered from the previous bombing?, What was British doctrine and/or what orders did the guns have? What was the actual plan timetable? from what I know the naval landing would come after the para drop but without a map of the gun positions we don't know what chances the paras have of capturing or suppressing them.

    We are also moving far from the OP that was "should there be an attack" to "would it be succesful", IMO a 1942 attack was too late to change things.
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    My reading was that they wanted increased range. Note the use of both howitzers and mortars as coastal defence guns.
    That depends on what you consider a success. There's no question that such guns were considered a signifcant threat by naval planners and most chose not to challenge them unless they were sure they could be overwhelmed.
    As stated it was US and IJN naval doctrine and the prevalance of low velocity high angle coastal defence guns in US service makes it pretty clear that the US army also considered it practicle. I would be very much surprised if the British army didn't but It's possible.
    Well the Axis hadn't succeeded in knocking them out historically and had given up dive bombing due to the losses being sustained. Without dive bombing planes aren't likely to take out those guns and the Italians didn't have near the firepower supperiority at Malta that the allies had at Normandy.

    Part of the problem seems to be that the guns and/or their mounts were upgraded and super charges added many of the data sources don't seem to have kept very good track of just what variants they were discussing or if they did they didn't make it clear to their readers.
    Indeed that's what justifies them on some boards, they can actually result in a better knowledge and understanding of what happened historically.
    I did run across some while looking for information. Here's what I got in a quick google search:
    Fort St. Elmo; Valletta, Malta | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    Victorian Forts and Artillery:Artillery Gallery 1 (only one on this page from Malta and it's a 100lber but potential links to more)
    http://www.avalanchepress.com/guns_for_malta.php (no 9.2's again but several types of gun on Malta)
    Avalanche Press (This one has a picture of a large coast defence gun on Malta but I don't know what it is)
    This thread has a number of links to coast defence guns but not many on Malta: Coastal Defence Guns - World Naval Ships Forums
    This one has a nice picture of a 9.2" gun on Gibralter in 1942 BL 9.2 inch gun Mk IX
    Project Gaia - integrated coastal zone management some drawings and pictures of Malta's fortifications
    Here's someone elses analysis of the issue we're discussing (I haven't read it all yet)
    The Levant and the Balkans WWII: HERKULES: MILITARY CHRONICLES COUNTERFACTUAL ARTICLE
    Bunch of pictures here but most don't tell where or what Coastal gun Stock Photo Images. 156 coastal gun royalty free images and photography available to buy from over 100 stock photo companies.
    This one also concentrates on the 100 ton guns but lots of detailed pictures Military Architecture of the 100-ton Gun Batteries | Architectural History
    From contents 1 the following issues might be relevant:
    a review of British Military Architecture in Malta, by S. C. Spiteri - 84 in CDSG Journal Volume 11, Issue 4, November 1997
    Italian Boat Raid on Malta, 1942 - 78 CD Journal Volume 17, Issue 2, May 2003
    The Fortifications of Malta: 1530-1945, by Charles Stephenson - 93 CD Journal Volume 19, Issue 1, February 2005
    http://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/coastal_defense.html (100+ images not sure if any are on Malta.

    http://www.fsgfort.com/uploads/pdfs/Public/British Coastal Artillery P.pdf Some 9.2" pictures but not on Malta
    THE BRITISH ARMY ON MALTA 1942 | Imperial War Museums a 4.5" AA gun firing (Malta 1942)


    I think you are correct on both counts but I'm still learning things so unless there are strenous objections lets continue.
     
  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Nice links, the 4.5" if it's truly a 4.5 and not a 4.7 , is interesting I didn't know any were based on coastal intallations, AFAIK the caliber was selected after the 4.7 fixed round proved too heavy for manhandling and was initially deployed only on carriers and some rebuilt battleships tough it became the standard destroyer gun post war.
    The 100t is definetly not WW2 but seems to be the most popular on the net, I also ran into it a lot in my searches, but pictures of the Malta 9.2" are a lot harder to find. do you have the avalanche press game and does it have a bibliography?.
    I have lots of data on the Itallian raid, but it seems the big guns didn't engage Diana, wonder why, Mussolini's yacht should be a high prestige target.
    The 9.2" of the Gibraltar pic certainly doesn't look capable of 35 degrees elevation !
     
  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Just stumbled on this site "Malta War Diary" - its an absolute gold mine (I can't see that anyone has mentioned this before) and signed up for membership. Each day is detailed with what looks like a summary of the various war diaries with an enormous amount on the RAF.

    Flicked through March, April and May 1942 and noticed this one reference to the coastal guns in action. Otherwise it seems pretty obvious that the AA is very effective and is only being marginally damaged and no damage to the tanks or 25 pounders.

    However the April Luftwaffe attacks and cock-up of the 46 Spitfires delivered on 9th April denie the defenders any respite and reduce supplies to the point where further resistance is near impossible.
     
  12. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    You have an Italian account of the air action of same day here with some additional info but no mention of boats. It's likely the "diver" is in fact Carmelo Borg Pisani a Maltese born Italian simpathizer that was later hanged by the authorities.
    http://www.avia-it.com/act/editoriali/Editoriali_giugno_2010/46_Malta_18_Maggio_1942.pdf

    and a istituto luce propaganda clip here
    Giornale Luce - Duelli aerei (Bombardamento di Malta) - 1942 - YouTube
    interesting mostly for what it shows on visibility over the island.
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Courtesy of the Mythory Channel this morning, I discovered at least one successful shore battery action against naval vessels...and in looking for more detail turned up ANOTHER! Both during the Winter War...

     
  14. scipio

    scipio Member

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  15. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    From the links provided, could Italy attack Corsica and Malta as the main targets and southeastern France as minor?
     
  16. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I do believe that Malta could have been taken by Italy in mid-late 1940. It would not be pretty and there was a moderate chance it could fail if they botched the job (they had limited experience in amphibious operations) or if 'luck' went against them.No real need to attack Corsica as they could get it via the peace table after the French surrender. Diplomatically they (and Germany) could gain much by no attack into southern France. The Attack was seen worldwide (read America) as the proverbial stab in the back and it's execution demonstrated that Axis forces were far from unbeatable.

    Not attacking in the French Alps would not improve the overall anemic condition of the Italian armed forces but it would save some 6,000 casualties, loss of equipment and a tremendous amount of 'face'. It also had set the pattern for most Italian military operations that at best were often ill conceived and unrealistic given the state of organization, training, leadership and equipment available. Its possible, though highly unlikely, that Italy might have had time to both curb their ambitions and take some steps to correct their limitations before taking significant losses.

    An Axis capture of Malta would not 'win' North Africa for the Axis, but it likely would delay an Italian surrender by 6 to 9 months (and perhaps if really lucky, by as much as a year) putting it in line with the capitulation of other German allies in Europe. The Anglo-American's would have to take Malta before any landing on Sicily could take place and while it would not be a severe military challenge to them, re-organizing their amphibious forces for a HUSKY would take time and therefor delay the landings on the Italian mainland.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    From the various descriptions I've read the Italians never had the forces to have a decent chance at it. Early on the British were very weak but the Italians didn't really have the resources to launch a successful invasion especially given the British naval strength. The exception to this might be that if the Italians might have been given Malta by the British for staying out of the war. Some have mentioned that it was considered a bit of a liability in 39 and early 40.
     
  18. Wargames

    Wargames New Member

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    One of the obstacles of capturing Malta was Fort Campbell. Does anyone know how thick the concrete roof was on this fort? I found the walls to be only two feet thick from photographs. If the steel reinforced roof was also two feet thick than taking Campbell is very doable. Otherwise maybe not...
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The terrain was a huge obstacle as well. Few beaches which funneled into steep narrow approaches. Fields full of stone walls and obstacles that would both aid the defense and make it dangerous for paratroopers and essentially impossible for gliders except at airports. Some very detailed info on a couple of threads over on the axis history forum.
     

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