This is a discussion on World War II: Germany vs Britain (minus USA) within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; That was WW1... in WW2, Germany declared war on the US....
How much would losing the Suez canal effect the shipment of Oil from the middle east? At that stage of the war was much coming through the Suez Canal?
Taking North Africa and the Suez Canal would turn the Med into a German Lake.
In turn this would force the British to strongly reinforce the Middle East in order to protect there oil and deny the Germans.
With the Med out of action how difficult would it have been for the British to conduct a defense of the Middle East?
Malta was the key to the North African campaigns of Germany/Italy and the United Kingdom/Commonwealth. In fact, Kessering and Rommel disagreed about the need to invade Malta. In hindsight, Kessering was correct. With Malta secured, the British won the Mediteranean.
World War II: Germany vs Britain (minus USA)- Not really, it should be
World War II: Germany vs Britain (minus Yugoslavia)
Britain was almost busted, till April 1941 condition of Britain AA and AD was
pathetic, economy even worse, they trying to resist in every possible way,
Americans bigger involvement was still far away. They didnt have many option,one of them is to find some way to turn away Germans by making new front or trouble for them. Balkan was best place !!!
Once after 25 march, when Yugoslavia joined to Axis, (Serbian) people showed discontent all over country. No one except few people in the Government and The Regent, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia( discussable ) was OK with that. And the following events are interesting for this.
Many books, stories, peoples, even my history pro, even some official documents says that main organizers for mass protests and for coup d'etat which was launched on March 27, 1941 by anti-Axis Serbian military officers,when King Peter II of Yugoslavia was placed on the throne to replace Prince Paul were British secret agents, which were all over Balkan in that period.
But Hitler didnt take it serious, because he know that this is in bigger
part British trick. It is almost proven.
But when Hitler answered on his home phone on 2 April, voice in a rough
Serbian language swear at his mother. That upset him very much
and he launched the attack when waves of Luftwaffe heavy bombers and Stuka dive bombers bombed Belgrade, killing an estimated 2,274 civilians during the initial April 6-7 bombardment. It was all without a declaration of war, and the name of operation ( Operation Punishment was the code name for the German bombing) show that operation was simply product of Hitler
anger and frustration over Serbs.
And also German Field Marshal von Kleist said during his trial after the war: "The air raid on Belgrade in 1941 had a primarily political-terrorist character and had nothing to do with the war. That air bombing was a matter of Hitler's vanity, his personal revenge." The bombing without a declaration of war become one of the prosecution's charges which led to the execution of the commander of the Luftwaffe formations involved, General Löhr.
Further, when I said that voice was in a rough Serbian language, there is
books and stories, which my pro back there in college pointed to all the time
but I was not really interested and didnt put attention to that, so eventually
forget, especially book about Gestapo, written by some ex Gestapo officer
where he describes at some part how Gestapo taped Hitler telephone
conversation and said how the voice on the other side could hardly be
Serbian, and he suspect it was British agent, again. It was never proved
of course, but stories and books pointed to British involvement again.
So for many people and for me, April war, Germans invasion of the
Balkan in summer 41, and first of all military commitment of big part of Luftwaffe in Yugoslavia instead in Britain in very critical period is main reason
why Britain survived Germany invasion, no USA. They are responsible
for success and victory over Axis, and so are several others, but
for me main reason why Britain was not occupied was military commitment of big part of Luftwaffe in Yugoslavia, and later all over Balkan.
Britain would for sure lost other way.
I agree with all those who claim that Britain couldn't have been defeated by invasion, even straight after Dunquerque and that the invasion of Russia put that result beyond doubt.
The combination of the RAF and RN defending home territory would have made it too big a gamble, even for Hitler. The Luftwaffe wouldn't have been able to create and sustain the bases it would need in southern England to support such an enterprise and their fighters lacked sufficient range to fully cover it from France.
Failure in that enterprise with its resultant loss in men and material would have critically weakened the resources Hitler needed to consolidate his conquests to date in Europe. It is more credible that Sealion was a ploy to get Britain to the bargaining table than a serious invasion plan.
Had Germany forced Franco to allow them to attack Gibraltar through Spain, for which they had plans, and concentrated their air and naval forces [including Italian] for an occupation of Malta, Britain would have been unable to control the Med. IMO.
The three keys to Britain's hold on North Africa, such as it was, were Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria [even Tobruk could not have been held during the seige without Naval resupply] and it was naval and air forces operating and supplied from, these bases that prevented Rommel from being strong enough to take Suez and beyond.
The taking of Crete by so few was more of a high command debacle on the defending part, a very fortunate piece of luck for the invaders that Hitler failed to capitalise on. It is said the casualties the paratroops suffered put him off using them again and Malta would have required paratroops but I would argue that it could have been done with Gibraltar in Axis hands.
The Vichy French fleet may have then joined the Axis instead of being nullified by the RN but with or without them Cunningham's ability to operate the RN from Alexandria so effectively would have been greatly diminished, if not extinguished. Malta and Gibraltar were more than vital to him.
After the politically inspired debacles in Greece and Crete British land and air forces in Africa were in dire straits and with fairly secure supply lines [despite Ultra] it is a pretty good bet fully suppled and reinforced Axis land and air forces would have taken Suez. It was primarily command of sea space, above and below, from these bases that narrowly prevented this as it was.
Without her North African holdings, Egyptian transport routes and Middle Eastern oil supplies Britain would be crippled. She may have stripped even more troops from India and Malaya to push back from the South but the Japanese may have complicated that idea.
Germany only needed to use enough assets to keep the RAF and Home Fleet on the defensive while he secured the Med. and Britain had all but conceded losing Gibraltar to any land attack.
The Allies are fortunate that Hitler put more faith in his 'genius' than in strategy or Britain, while not invaded may well have been driven to a treaty with the Nazis.
Last edited by JoeMcFriday; June 23rd, 2008 at 08:24 AM.
The way I read it Stigmata may have been referring to Axis bombers attacking Suez/Alexandria from Malta if the island had been occupied.
British bombers which operated from there would have no reason to attack their own convoys.
You're absolutely right that without strategic bombers [and a long range escort fighter] the Axis couldn't have permanently closed the Canal, or rendered Alexandria unfit for large scale naval operations, from where they were. They certainly couldn't do it with what types they had from their historic positions. History clearly shows us that was the case.
Although having a strategic bomber, even with their copy of the Norden bomb sight, may not have enabled Germany to close the Canal or even heavily disrupt the traffic. I offer the costly early Allied experiences of daylight high level bombing and the difficulty of even hitting targets in support of this position.
There was one way bombing Suez shut would have been possible without strategic bombers and that is by the early taking of Malta when Britain was at its weakest in the region but before Hitler committed his forces to Russia.
The most opportune time would probably have been after the major loss of equipment, personnel and morale the British forces suffered in Greco-Cretan disasters as much of these lost resources had been stripped from Egypt.
These campaigns had critically depleted the British strength in North Africa and they did not have much to offer in the way of supporting Malta from North Africa, or direct from the Atlantic if Gibraltar had also fallen.
Had Malta been in Axis hands, the epic Siege of Tobruk which tied up so much Axis strength would have been a non event, thus releasing those significant air and land forces to concentrate on taking Egypt.
The large Axis air fleets which historically expended so much time and effort on Malta, to no avail, would have been freed to operate from closer North African bases forward of Tobruk. Thus giving the Axis the tactical air superiority they needed, using the aircraft types and superior numbers they already had.
This would leave short supply lines, with air cover, to Axis held ports like Tobruk [for example] flowing largely unhindered and British supply lines stretched many thousands of dangerous ocean miles. Historically, the Axis supply lines were constricted and the British lines were around the Cape but at this time they didn't have much to send and it took much longer to arrive.
The Axis could have used its larger numbers of tactical medium and dive bombers, with ample short range fighter cover, to not only bomb Suez but support taking it.
That's why many of us who highlight Malta as the key factor in the Med/North African theatres, do so because its retention denied the Axis the freedom to use its tactical Air Forces in the successful massed blitzkrieg formations, against the very weakened British defenders of Egypt.
When Hitler withdrew a vast amount of combat resources for Russian use [the lack of a strategic bomber certainly hurt them there too] the greatest pressure was relieved and allowed the British to build up overwhelming strength, all while strangling the Africa Corps supply routes, striking out in large part from Malta, with supplies from Egypt via the Canal.
An escorted strategic heavy bomber would have been useful to the Axis but I feel that it wouldn't have changed much, the fall of Malta would have changed everything. Possibly the outcome of the war.
The way I read it Stigmata may have been referring to Axis bombers attacking Suez/Alexandria from Malta if the island had been occupied.
British bombers which operated from there would have no reason to attack their own convoys.
Can one admit an error without violating the forum prohibition on one-line posts?
Perhaps if I argue that the Axis occupation of Malta was not due simply to an oversight. Perhaps it had something to do with the lack of resources for a conventional amphibious invasion (Did the Germans or Italians ever undertake a successful operation of this type?), the high cost of the invasion of Crete, and the noted lack of success of the initial Axis bombing campaign against Malta. They were a little tied up with preparation for Barbarossa at the time..... and the launching of that op was a little time-critical. Even given that they underestimated the severity of Russian winters, the Germans were aware that they had a limit period in which to conduct their major offensive, unless they were prepared to put it off for the best part of twelve months.
Last edited by Cooch; June 25th, 2008 at 08:12 AM.
Reason: I think slowly :)
No worries mate, I was only guessing that's what he meant anyway.
Your right that not attempting to take Malta was more than a simple oversight, I agree completely and hope I didn't give that impression. It was a bad tactical and strategic decision about an island considered vital by many planners and not so vital by others obviously.
Without it he could not control the Med. hence he would not win Egypt or the Middle Eastern oil he could have used once he invaded his main oil supplier, the USSR, his then ally. We're also lucky he didn't know about the untapped oil deposits in Libya as well or he may have been keener to neutralise Malta.
In the context of the question posed for this thread, I proposed in an earlier post that instead of fighting the Battle of Britain as he did, as a prelude to invasion, Hitler should have released forces 'pretending' to invade and taken Malta as part of a strategic move to secure Egypt and beyond, thus crippling Britain without invasion.
I believe he would have had time for this after the fall of France and before preparing to invade Russia, I also believe he had sufficient forces in theatre to accomplish it even after Crete.
The 'high' cost of invading Crete was not really to the paratroops but to the surface vessels carrying reinforcements [the main invasion force] which the British naval forces destroyed in the Aegean Sea, in an engagement they could not afford to repeat as German air cover got its act together.
The German tactics on Crete were simple, paratroops capture the airfield and ports then gliders, transport planes and vessels bring in heavier reinforcements to secured points. The topography of Crete and the presence of the British Navy, precluded a major seaborne invasion and the proximity to Alexandria allowed the British Navy to operate forcefully, although at great cost in ships and damage. It was further from Italian ports and the Italian fleet was very reluctant to travel far from them for fear of Cunningham's main battle fleet based in closer Alexandria.
With their main support convoy shredded with heavy loss of life, the paratroops were doomed until some incredible bungling at Command level basically gifted them the airfield, from which they were quickly reinforced. With close air cover and supplies guaranteed they retook the initiative and the islands' northern ports. There was tough fighting by the un-resupplied defenders but the result was now inevitable. Where possible the British forces then crossed the island to try to be evacuated by sea leaving all but small or light arms behind.
Malta's topography also precluded a fully seaborne invasion but it had more airfields/landing fields to choose from than Crete that were closer together, for consolidation after landing and were very close to Axis air fields, for cover and many repeat para drops in the same day.
I am suggesting, in this alternative view of history, that even if Hitler went ahead with his already delayed launching of Barbarossa his forces had plenty of time to take Malta, if he'd been so inclined and acted quickly.
Malta had next to no air cover at the time, no radar, no reserves, it's anti air guns and troops were spread very thin, some army AA guns were even manned by sailors from ships undergoing repairs in Valetta. Its nearest friendly ports were very distant. Axis Tripoli was about 220 miles away to the south, Sicilian airfields less than 100 miles away to the north and the nearest British reinforcements were 1000 miles away to the East, recovering after being evacuated from Crete and the entire Italian Navy was in its home waters with massive air cover available to it.
Bombing Malta without invading only wasted bombs, petrol, planes and annoyed the very brave, stoic Maltese population, it also amazed the British.
An airborne invasion should have succeeded, learning the recent lessons of Crete, it could even be argued that it should have been done instead of Crete which would have posed little threat to Axis control of Greece for some time and none if Egypt had fallen.
Using the 'classic' airborne tactics of securing landing fields and the hinterland to allow for resupply by JU52s, gliders, operations by fighters and dive bombers on a limited scale, intensive bombing of Valletta Harbour, uninhibited Naval bombardment by the Italian battle fleet, to secure whatever coves or harbours they could and land increasingly heavier units.
Malta is much smaller than Crete, where the RN owned the sea at night and was relatively close to its base, Malta under the nose of the many Axis air bases and between three large Axis naval bases, if one considers Tripoli as such would have been a very different story.
The RN were very keen to bring the Italian Fleet to battle but not under the noses of massed air power less than 30 mins flying time from its bases.
I seriously doubt the RN would or could have risked its fleet to support Malta under those conditions, so one must assume escorted surface convoys of reinforcements from the Italian mainland would have got through this time.
I hesitate to put a time scale on a hypothetical campaign but a British relief force, even if could have been mounted, which had to sail over a thousand miles through increasingly contested waters could not have made it in time, in strength nor been able to even evacuate people due to the topography much less land them. No further air support could be provided either.
With hindsight we know for sure just how weak the defenses of the island were at that time, no matter how determined the defenders, it is safe to assume the Germans had a pretty good idea too, they were flying over it all the time taking pictures.
The reality is as you say though, it didn't happen but I proposed, in the spirit of this thread, as a matter of strategy to bring down Britain minus the USA, it should and could have happened before the invasion of Russia. Fortunately, Hitler was not good at listening to his strategists and launched into Russia, when it would have been wiser to secure British oil fields, the Suez Canal and the Med. There would have been no 'soft underbelly of Europe' either.
Yes, you're right, even though the resources for a conventional amphibious assault were not needed, it wasn't an oversight, it was discussed, decided against and therefore, given the strategic benefits I propose would have followed on from it, an extremely bad one for the Axis and a fortuitous one for Britain.
Have to disagree with your Crete observations. The highest loss of life occurred amongst the paratroopers and airmobile infantry. Germany lost over half of its entire air-transport fleet dropping and landing troops on Crete, which subsequently had a major impact upon the war in Russia. The lost Junker transport planes were never replaced, they could have theoretically kept the Stalingrad pocket supplied for much longer, and could have made a difference for the trapped 6th Army until a relief force finally broke through.
The Allied ground Commanders obsession with a German seaborne landing caused him to deploy troops away from the airfield / likely drop-zones to cover potential seaborne landing areas, even though he had received ultra transcripts from British intelligence clearly showing that the main invasion force would arrive by air. This decision coupled with the failure to order immediate counter attacks in force against deploying Para’s before they could consolidate and reach their containers caused the balance to tip in Germany’s favour.
Also remember the heavy losses endured by the Para’s and transporters on Crete resulted in Hitler ordering that no other such operations would ever be conducted again. Highly ironic considering the battle of Crete convinced Churchill of the need to form his own Parachute / Glider Divisions, which went on to perform with distinction on and after D-Day.
If Crete had resulted in a lower loss of life and equipment, Hitler may have used the same tactics against Malta, infortunately the former experience changed his tactical thinking for ever. Germany didn't have the seaborne assets to defeat Cunningham and then attempt a D-DAY style landing of Malta using infantry deploying from landing ships/craft or from a combination of the two - sea and air.
No worries about the small disagreements mate, although I'm still of the opinion the greatest, most significant loss of life for the Germans occurred at sea as a result of British Naval action intercepting the main body of invaders, they didn't get to fire a shot. I am happy to debate any issue and to stand corrected at any time, I'll check my references to test my memory.
"Have to disagree with your Crete observations. The highest loss of life occurred amongst the paratroopers and airmobile infantry. Germany lost over half of its entire air-transport fleet dropping and landing troops on Crete, which subsequently had a major impact upon the war in Russia. The lost Junker transport planes were never replaced, they could have theoretically kept the Stalingrad pocket supplied for much longer, and could have made a difference for the trapped 6th Army until a relief force finally broke through."
Mate, I would argue the German airborne invasion of Crete was ill planned and ill executed, against the advice of many experienced German officers but politics, the search for glory and the need to prove the value of the corps pushed them into it. I would also argue that Crete was not of great strategic value, no threat to Axis domination of Greece and would have been ideal bait to keep bringing the British Surface units under constant Luftwaffe and submarine attack, suffering losses they could ill afford, but I guess that's another hypothetical. LOL
As far as Stalingrad is concerned, I don't doubt you are correct but would suggest that was also a politically or ideologically ordered situation the German Army would not have placed itself in and was therefore ill equipped to sustain, especially the promise by Goering that the Luftwaffe could supply them which was absurd.
After so long ignoring advice to withdraw from Stalingrad when they could have, I also seriously doubt that by the time he allowed a relief force to try to relieve Von Paulus they had any hope of success, no matter how many JU52s they had.
"The Allied ground Commanders obsession with a German seaborne landing caused him to deploy troops away from the airfield / likely drop-zones to cover potential seaborne landing areas, even though he had received ultra transcripts from British intelligence clearly showing that the main invasion force would arrive by air. This decision coupled with the failure to order immediate counter attacks in force against deploying Para’s before they could consolidate and reach their containers caused the balance to tip in Germany’s favour."
Rik, That's about it in a nutshell, Freyburg, the New Zealander [I think it was, apologies to him if it wasn't] had all the right advice from junior officers but didn't act on it, re counter attacking etc. Some say he couldn't believe he was up against so few and others that he didn't know the Navy had cut up the supporting waves. The only way more were coming by air was using the airfield which, as you say, he didn't defend adequately, against advice. This is the command bungle I was referring to in my previous posts that 'gifted' the airfield to the paras and without it, they were beaten as most of their airdropped supplies were falling into British hands. He also wasted the light armour he had in very poorly planned sorties instead of keeping it at the airfield.
It is worth noting that, until the Germans started using the airfield, the defending troops and Cretan militia had not lost a fight, yet the island was lost by inept command decisions and WW1 defensive tactics. The same Command mindset may also have worked against the entrenched defenders of Malta.
"Also remember the heavy losses endured by the Para’s and transporters on Crete resulted in Hitler ordering that no other such operations would ever be conducted again. Highly ironic considering the battle of Crete convinced Churchill of the need to form his own Parachute / Glider Divisions, which went on to perform with distinction on and after D-Day."
The adoption of these strike forces by the Allies, as you say, proved the viability and utility of the concept. I suggest that supports my view they should have been used against Malta. The Germans were very adept at using paras [refer Norway Campaign] but, yes, many tactical lessons from Crete were absorbed by the British but not Hitler.
As Hitler ordered a complete army to fight or die where they were in Stalingrad and had put them in the situation they were in, puts some doubt, in my mind at least, that casualty figures alone really concerned him.
Perhaps, as the paras were portrayed as icons of Aryan elite and they were shown to not be invincible also influenced him. Maybe this didn't allow for a more astute examination of the tactics and distances for aerial re-supply involved. Such as putting a lightly guarded convoy to sea without ensuring the Royal Navy couldn't intercept and sink them or using airfields as far away as Athens [400+ miles rt] for his lumbering transports and over 300miles [rt] for his air cover. That's a very long time for reloads with a JU52 and JU87.
"If Crete had resulted in a lower loss of life and equipment, Hitler may have used the same tactics against Malta, infortunately the former experience changed his tactical thinking for ever."
You're quite right, historically correct but, with respect, I suggested, in the spirit of alternatives in this thread, that he had learned the lessons on Crete, allowed the tactics to be revised and realised that Malta, being much much closer for him and much much further away for the British, was a completely different prospect with a much higher chance of success.
I think Hitler's record proves, early politics aside, he didn't have much of a grasp on tactics and very little of strategy, so yes, it wouldn't have taken much for him to change his own mind, not many others could it seems.
"Germany didn't have the seaborne assets to defeat Cunningham and then attempt a D-DAY style landing of Malta using infantry deploying from landing ships/craft or from a combination of the two - sea and air."
I agree the only surface units that could have challenged Cunningham were not German and he was keen to do battle with them... preferably away from land based air opposition. The Luftwaffe though, took quite a toll of his ships when it could conduct sustained mass attacks against them, the closer he operated to their bases, the higher the losses. Historically true.
Malta was right under the noses of the Axis air fleets and the Italian Battle Fleets and the nearest British base was a thousand miles away as the crow flies. Neither British fleet base [Gibraltar or Alexandria] was in any position to sally forth in strength to rescue Malta without risking great irreplaceable losses. There simply was not enough naval air cover available to handle the task and losses and damage to cruisers and destroyers off Crete had the Alexandria fleet weakened.
I suggest that the Axis didn't have to have the surface assets to defeat a British fleet at Malta, even if one could have got there before it fell. The Axis air forces would have been the main danger, although the Italian Battle Fleet with extensive air support may have proven better than they'd shown so far.
In my hypothetical, in the time lag before any British fleet could have arrived, I had the Italian Fleet, supported by mine sweepers, bombarding in support of the airborne landings and following waves. The additional weight of their firepower alone would have been immense and was lacking in the Cretan campaign where they risked engaging the Royal Navy.
They wouldn't have been there to engage a British Battle Fleet, maybe a submarine or two but blast a way into or reduce Valletta and the other main harbour [at Birzebugga, I think] plus support landings at any of the many small bays and harbours on Malta. The smaller island of Gozo would have be to taken the same way but perhaps could have been bypassed by initial invasion forces as it would be untenable when Malta fell.
I agree they could not mount a D-Day style landing, the coastline alone prevented that but they could mount a seaborne invasion, especially a second wave. They successfully did this up and down the Norwegian Coast, the Channel Islands, the Greek Islands and many other places in Scandinavia [where they very successfully used paras as the first wave] by using destroyers, barges, transports, gunboats, the coastal fleet, the fishing fleet etc.
The Germans were masters at moving troops and equipment very quickly from one region to another and at this time unhindered by air attack, they had the reserves to call on and put in place quickly.
I propose they had the resources, air, naval and troops, that they didn't need need to fight a major surface battle and yes, they couldn't use a Normandy style approach even if they wanted to so they didn't those resources.
The vastly reduced air time from base to target, compared to Crete, would be the major factor in determining the size of the transport fleet required. To me the quick turn around time for the Axis air arm and the short passage time for the seaborne elements is the force multiplier here and if they could take Norway using much the same tactics, without the support of Capital ships and overwhelming, locally based initial air support they knew how to take Malta.
In the real world they didn't even try, fortunately.
Thank you for your observations on my Cretan memories, I'll try and find the figures of the German losses in the Aegean convoy, they were very heavy.
Edit: 6000 German invasion troops and all of their equipment were lost in the one action I refer to. There were other smaller intercepts by the RN.
Last edited by JoeMcFriday; June 27th, 2008 at 04:23 AM.