Axis shipping in the Mediterranean

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Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 14 May 2006 20:48

PattonRules wrote:Where did they land and what ports did they use?
Welcome to the forum, PattonRules. I have taken the libery of merging your topic with this older topic, in which you will hopefully find some of your questions answered.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 15 May 2006 00:37

PattonRules wrote:Where did they land and what ports did they use?
So far as I know, Tripoli would have been the only port where tanks were landed. Does anyone know of any other ports of debarkation for armor? Benghazi?

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Post by Jon G. » 15 May 2006 00:45

For Operation Sonnenblume, tanks were landed at Tripolis, for Benghazi was under British control at the time :) Later on tanks were landed at Benghazi. For example some of the replacement panzers which were originally intended to form part of 190th Panzer Abteilung (a tank component for the 90th Light Division) landed at Tripolis on the heels of Rommel's defeat at El Alamein. Given the totally worn down state of the 5th and 8th Panzer Regiments the tanks ended up as replacement panzers instead.

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Post by Bronsky » 15 May 2006 10:32

Tanks were unloaded at Benghazi as well as Tobruk. The best port was Tripoli, because it had more berthing space and more cranes. Next was Benghazi, with Tobruk by far the worst of the three. But with self-loading ships, tanks could be - and were - unloaded there in the summer of 1942, before RAF attacks forces the Italians to shift most of their transport operations further west.

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 May 2006 20:01

PattonRules wrote:Where did they land and what ports did they use?
Tripolis

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Post by Jon G. » 10 Jul 2006 22:42

Here is a tabulated list over German merchant ships lost in the Mediterranean 1940-1943. I've compiled the list from this excellent German site, which has several tables over German merchant shipping losses by month/theater and strictly chronologically. The table below cross-indexes German merchant ships in the Mediterranean (only) lost by date and cause. Characteristically, the five to seven German merchantmen in the Mediterranean which weren't sunk are hard to account for :)

This list emphatically doesn't include Italian ships, leased Spanish ships and appropriated Vichy merchantmen. It is by no means an exhaustive account of Axis merchant ships lost in the Mediterranean.

Code: Select all

		
Ship            BRT Weight      Loss date       Details of loss

Freienfels      7563            19/12/40        Sunk by mine off Livorno*

Geierfels       7605            19/12/40        Sunk by mine off Livorno*


Ingo            3950            27/01/41        Sunk by mine off Libyan coast 1)

Heraklea        1927            28/03/41        Sunk RN sub off Pantelleria.

Adana           4205            16/04/41        Sunk by RN units off Libya 2)

Aegina          2447            16/04/41        Sunk by RN units off Libya 2)

Arta            2452            16/04/41        Sunk by RN units off Libya 2)

Iserlohn        3704            16/04/41        Sunk by RN units off Libya 2)

Samos           2576            17/04/41        Sunk RAF aircraft near Benghazi

Arcturus        2597            01/05/41        Torpedoed off Libya by RN sub Upholder

Leverkusen      7386            01/05/41        Torpedoed off Libya by RN sub Upholder

Larissa         1819            01/05/41        Sunk by mine off Euboia, Greece

Kybfels         7764            21/05/41        Sunk by mine in the Adriatic Sea

Marburg         7564            21/05/41        Sunk by mine in the Adriatic Sea

Alicante        2140            30/05/41        Sunk by explosion in Piraeus harbour

Tilly L M Russ  1600            11/06/41        Sunk by RN submarine near Benghazi harbour

Sparta          1724            12/07/41        Sunk in Tripolis harbour by air attack 3)

Preussen        8230            22/07/41        Sunk by air attack near Pantellaria

Tirpitz         7970            23/07/41        Sunk by mine off Capo del Axma (?)

Livorno         1829            11/09/41        Torpedoed off Benghazi by RN sub Thunderbolt

Castellon       2086            02/10/41        Sunk by RN sub Perseus off coast of Africa

Yalowa          3750            03/10/41        Sunk by RN sub Tetrarch near Agios Georgios*

Ithaka          1773            10/11/41        Sunk by RN sub Proteus in the Aegean*

Maritza         2910            24/11/41        Sunk in Med. by RN DDs Lance and Lively

Norburg         2392            24/11/41        Damaged by sub off Crete, sunk during towing*

Procida         1842            24/11/41        Sunk RN CL Penelope off Tripolis

Duisburg        7389            09/11/41        Sunk off Libya by RN Force K 

Spezia          1825            22/12/41        Sunk by mine en route to Tripolis

Tinos           2826            22/11/41        Sunk by air attack in the Med.4)


Achaia          1778            17/03/42        Sunk by mine off Libya

Atlas           2297            13/04/42        Torpedoed off Benghazi by RN sub Thrasher

Bellona         1297            18/04/42        Torpedoed off Tobruk by RN sub Torbay

Reichenfels     7744            21/06/42        Sunk in Tripolis harbour by air attack.

Savona          2120            28/06/42        Collided with wreck near Benghazi and sunk

Brook           1225            11/07/42        Sunk in Mersah Matruh harbour by air attack

Delos           2589            30/07/42        Sunk in Tobruk harbour by air attack

Wachtfels       8467            07/08/42        Sunk by Greek sub Proteus off Sicily

Thessalia       2875            11/11/42        Sunk in Tobruk harbour by air attack

Hans Arp        2646            16/11/42        Sunk off Benghazi by RN sub Safari

Süllberg        1660            09/12/42        Torpedoed off North Africa by RN sub Umbra

Macedonia       2875            13/12/42        Torpedoed off Susa by RN sub Umbra 5)


Ankara          4768            18/01/43        Torpedoed by RN sub Rorqual near Bizerta

Ruhr            5954            22/01/43        Torpedoed NW of Cap Bon by RN sub Rorqual

Galilea         1927            23/01/43        Torpedoed off Tripolis

Lisboa          1799            31/01/43        Torpedoed off Susa

Trapani         1855            10/11/43        Sunk off coast of Greece*

Lorenz L M Russ 1448            ??/11/43        Sunk by air attack near Athens*

Menes           5609            03/12/43        Torpedoed off Crete*

* Denotes ships which did not sail on the routes to North Africa at the time of their sinkings.

1) One source credits this sinking to the RN sub HMS Upholder

2) All four ships sunk near Kerkennah, Libya, by the RN DDs Jervis,Nubian, Mohawk and Janus from Force K.

3) Raised in 1943, planned re-built as 'Sperrbrecher 123'

4) The Tinos is recorded as sunk in Benghazi harbour on 22/12/41 and as blown up by a munitions explosion ibidem on 06/07/42. Another source gives the date of loss as 22/11/41

5) Torpedoed again by RN sub Unseen on 04/03/43 while the wreck was being salvaged.
Last edited by Jon G. on 03 Dec 2006 10:55, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Wargames » 19 Nov 2006 06:30

As a wargamer, I'd like to compliment those who have contributted to this thread. It demonstrates familiarity with the problems by all. I also disagree with Full Monty's position in that he selectively eliminated the connection between increased supply interference from Malta and Romell's defeats while, at the same time, I agree with Full Monty's assessment that Rommell was reaching the limits of Axis supply lines each time he reached El Alamein.

An Axis wargamer must find the most efficient means possible to supply Rommell whereas an Allied wargamer must find the most efficient means possible to interfere with Rommell's supply. Further, the Axis wargamer must divide his supplies into three groups since they require three different types of transport ships. They are "hard" transport (food, ammunition, and vehicles) carried by cargo ships, "soft" transport (troops carried by liners), and fuel transport (oil tankers). As soon as one runs out of one of these types of ships, one runs out of the means to deliver its particular cargo characteristics. In the actual war, Italy ran out of liners and oil tankers, a situation that led to the inability to add forces as well as fuel the existing Panzers. Thus Full Monty's argument that supply was not a problem fails on two different levels. It fails on the first level in that Rommell is out of supply (in general) during each British offensive. It fails on the second level in that Italy simply ran out of the means to transport troops and fuel, which significantly dictates Axis offensives.

Again, Full Monty is correct when he states Rommell had reached the limit of his supply lines at Alamein. It took ten gallons of gas landed at Tripoli to deliver one gallon of gas at El Alamein. Either a more efficient supply system had to be installed or Rommell has gotten as far as he is going to get. Thus, the Axis wargamer must solve this problem or lose the war.

The Allied wargamer must find an efficient means to disrupt Axis supply so that the above problem is not solved. "Efficient means" is defined as "more Axis men and material are sunk than Allied men and material are destroyed in sinking it."

Malta provides the single most efficient means for the Allied wargamer to disrupt Axis supply. It does it primarily by aircraft. Malta was an "unsinkable" aircraft carrier. It could launch a fuel efficient airplane over a long distance to attack Axis shipping. Doubling the problem for the Axis wargamer is that he has no aircraft carriers himself and, therefore, cannot provide fighter cover for his convoies. Tripling the problem for the Axis wargamer is that his A/A weapons are largely ineffective. This simplifies the Axis wargamer's strategy two different ways. First, he doesn't have provide fighter escort for his attacking aircraft. Second, due to the ineffective A/A fire, his aircraft can execute their attacks at low speed for maximum accuracy. The result was the Swordfish torpedo plane, an outdated antique, could fly from Malta on minimum fuel, exact maximum damage, and return with minimum losses. This airplane, as outdated as the Caproni bombers, had free reign over the seas around Malta. And, if he selectively targets liners and tankers over cargo ships, he will limit Axis firepower in North Africa.

If the Axis wargamer doesn't do anything about this then he will, ultimately, lose the war. He's going to end up stopped at El Alamein, unable to continue the advance, against even token opposition. Any serious wargamer is going to look at capturing Malta (Capturing Gibralter is meaningless.).

If he can do this, the Allied wargamer must either rely on submarines or surface ships (Force K) to intervene with Axis convoy traffic. Submarine attacks while successful, lack the efficiency of Swordfish attacks. They cover less area and are much more easily destroyed (50% of all British subs in the Mediteranean were sunk.). The same occurs for surface ships in that they are subject to attack by Italian (and German) submarines as well as by minefields. Without Malta, the war becomes suddenly much more inefficient (costly) for the Allied wargamer while more efficient for the Axis war gamer.

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Post by Jon G. » 20 Nov 2006 12:25

I'm not one to scoff at war/board games as a viable way of playing out various historical scenarios. But even the best thought-out, well-designed game can't realistically create a simulation in which all variables are accounted for.

For example,
Wargames wrote:...An Axis wargamer must find the most efficient means possible to supply Rommell whereas an Allied wargamer must find the most efficient means possible to interfere with Rommell's supply. Further, the Axis wargamer must divide his supplies into three groups since they require three different types of transport ships. They are "hard" transport (food, ammunition, and vehicles) carried by cargo ships, "soft" transport (troops carried by liners), and fuel transport (oil tankers). As soon as one runs out of one of these types of ships, one runs out of the means to deliver its particular cargo characteristics. In the actual war, Italy ran out of liners and oil tankers, a situation that led to the inability to add forces as well as fuel the existing Panzers [...]Again, Full Monty is correct when he states Rommell had reached the limit of his supply lines at Alamein. It took ten gallons of gas landed at Tripoli to deliver one gallon of gas at El Alamein. Either a more efficient supply system had to be installed or Rommell has gotten as far as he is going to get. Thus, the Axis wargamer must solve this problem or lose the war...
Most liners were too big to be of any use on the North African routes anyway. The ports of Libya could not accomodate them. Personnel was shipped in by various means, including by air - on occasion in late 1942 the number of Axis personnel sent to North Africa by air was larger than the proportion of soldiers sent by ship. Fuel was also sent by air on occasion. The amounts were tiny compared to what was sent by sea, but it goes to describe that other means of delivery could be found.

You're right that fuel delivered by tanker to Tripolis is a wasteful proposal due to the overland distance to the front - but fuel was regularly delivered to Benghazi, closer to the front, which could accomodate tankers. The Italians built oil tanks at Benghazi in 1942 for that purpose. When the Italians began running low on tanker space they began shipping fuel in drums instead - sometimes aboard warships. On other occasions fuel was delivered directly to Tobruk and Mersah Matruh (too small and too vulnerable for tankers) by simply dropping the fuel barrels into the sea and letting the tide take care of the rest. That wasn't a perfect delivery system either, but it eliminated the need to burn lots of fuel in order to deliver the remainder where it was really needed: at the front line.

This thread is highly related:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=93416
...Malta provides the single most efficient means for the Allied wargamer to disrupt Axis supply. It does it primarily by aircraft [...]f he can do this, the Allied wargamer must either rely on submarines or surface ships (Force K) to intervene with Axis convoy traffic. Submarine attacks while successful, lack the efficiency of Swordfish attacks. They cover less area and are much more easily destroyed (50% of all British subs in the Mediteranean were sunk.). The same occurs for surface ships in that they are subject to attack by Italian (and German) submarines as well as by minefields. Without Malta, the war becomes suddenly much more inefficient (costly) for the Allied wargamer while more efficient for the Axis war gamer.
Malta-based aircraft accounted for a great many Axis merchantmen losses. Aircraft were the single most important factor in the war against Rommel's supply lines if you go by numbers alone. I've lifted some numbers from Sadkovich's book on the Italian navy (p 230) and put them into this nifty little program

Image

However, if we go by tonnage rather than by number of ships lost, the contribution of submarines in the demise of Axis merchant shipping increases:

Image

Generally tankers are big ships in relative GRT terms, but as I noted above alternative means of fuel delivery existed.

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Post by Bronsky » 20 Nov 2006 15:54

Wargames wrote:Further, the Axis wargamer must divide his supplies into three groups since they require three different types of transport ships. They are "hard" transport (food, ammunition, and vehicles) carried by cargo ships, "soft" transport (troops carried by liners), and fuel transport (oil tankers). As soon as one runs out of one of these types of ships, one runs out of the means to deliver its particular cargo characteristics. In the actual war, Italy ran out of liners and oil tankers, a situation that led to the inability to add forces as well as fuel the existing Panzers.
To expand on Jon's correction, not only are liners not the only way to ferry troops - for such trips such as these, cargo ships and warships will do (the latter being better-equipped to provide large numbers of people with food and sanitary accomodations). Air transport works well, too, and is what was used in the second half of the period.

Fuel can also be ferried in cargo ships, in containers. Less tonnage-efficient than tankers and more accident-prone, but it can be done.

More to the point, the Axis never ran out of means to insert troops to the theater (look up the reinforcement of Tunisia) and Italy only ran out of tankers in the weeks prior to 2nd El Alamein so one can't point to that as the reason for the Axis fuel shortages. Lack of tonnage was becoming a serious problem by mid-1942, but it wasn't the worst.
Wargames wrote:Again, Full Monty is correct when he states Rommell had reached the limit of his supply lines at Alamein. It took ten gallons of gas landed at Tripoli to deliver one gallon of gas at El Alamein.
...and such an inefficient ratio was, I argue, a direct result of Malta's action. Which is why Malta was so important. Full Monty hasn't bothered to address these facts.
Wargames wrote:Malta provides the single most efficient means for the Allied wargamer to disrupt Axis supply.
I don't see what wargames have to do with this. Depending on the game, Malta will be important or it won't be. Some games make Malta very important like "Barbarossa to Berlin" or "Europe Engulfed", others like "WWII-ETO" or its "AETO" sequel don't: the Axis can easily neutralize it as an offensive base but is crippled by thoroughly inadequate port capacity.

A wargame incorporates the assumptions of its designer. If you believe that Malta was important and design a game, Malta will be important in that game. If Full Monty designs a WWII wargame, then the Axis is going to have a serious supply problem in North Africa regardless of whether Malta is active, neutralized or under Axis control.

There is therefore no point in summoning "the Allied wargamer" because such a generic creature does not exist, and will be constrained by the design of the game he is playing. In 3R, Malta is important but the Allies are best served by deploying fleets there, not air assets (this is from memory and could be wrong, I can think of at least one other game where it's true so the point stands).
Wargames wrote:Tripling the problem for the Axis wargamer is that his A/A weapons are largely ineffective.
Axis AA was largely ineffective? Please...
Wargames wrote:The result was the Swordfish torpedo plane, an outdated antique, could fly from Malta on minimum fuel, exact maximum damage, and return with minimum losses.
If things were so easy, why did 105 Squadron (flying Blenheims, i.e. less outdated than the Swordfish) lose 12 planes with another 11 damaged over 4 months of Malta-based operations (July-October 1941)? Its claims were 5 cargo ships, a gunboat and a few attacks on ground targets. Personnel losses were 28 KIAs and 5 POWs. Not sure if losing the whole squadron over 4 months counts as minimum losses.
Wargames wrote:Without Malta, the war becomes suddenly much more inefficient (costly) for the Allied wargamer while more efficient for the Axis war gamer.
Removing Malta helps the Axis, in my opinion. But it doesn't necessarily make the war less costly to the Allies. Keeping Malta in operation was hugely expensive.

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Post by Wargames » 21 Nov 2006 04:02

Jon G. wrote:
Most liners were too big to be of any use on the North African routes anyway. The ports of Libya could not accomodate them.
Evidently, Italy disagrees with you. Luxury liners were converted to troop transports due to their high passenger capability. Some of their sinkings became sensational news, due to the amount of soldiers that ended up in the water - And, BTW, their port of destination was Tripoli.

A few liner names that were sunk enroute to Tripoli:

Neptunia and Oceania (7,000 Italian troops)
Conte Rosso (2,729 Italian troops)
Vulcania (?)

If the Vucania was carrying 3,000 troops (similiar to the others), then these four liners were carrying the equivelent of an entire infantry division to Tripoli when sunk.
Personnel was shipped in by various means, including by air - on occasion in late 1942 the number of Axis personnel sent to North Africa by air was larger than the proportion of soldiers sent by ship. Fuel was also sent by air on occasion. The amounts were tiny compared to what was sent by sea, but it goes to describe that other means of delivery could be found.
The use of Italian liners as troopships had ceased in 1942 due to losses in 1941. The SM.81 aircraft was used to transport troops at that point but it only had a troop carrying capacity of 18 men. It could carry replacement troops but that's about all (It would take 170 SM.81's to transport just 3,000 men (what the liners carried) and they would arrive without equipment. Thus, by 1942, the Italians had a significant problem in transporting additional troops to North Africa. Then you have to supply the ones already there. The SM.81's capacity to carry fuel was about 600 gallons or 4 short tons of supplies. Compare this to the monthly supply requirements of the DAK alone and calculate how many SM81's you need and then look and see how many you have (And then only about 50% of them are ever operational).

Supplying North Africa by air is ten times more difficult than supplying Stalingrad by air.
When the Italians began running low on tanker space they began shipping fuel in drums instead - sometimes aboard warships.
They attempted this once and it was a disaster.

When you lose your tankers Rommell's tanks stop moving. When use lose your liners the infantry brigades cease coming. You can load fuel barrells on airplanes and cruisers all you want and not provide the front with a drop in the bucket. It's a matter of logistics: Needs versus carrying capacity.

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Post by Wargames » 21 Nov 2006 06:23

Bronsky wrote:
To expand on Jon's correction, not only are liners not the only way to ferry troops - for such trips such as these, cargo ships and warships will do (the latter being better-equipped to provide large numbers of people with food and sanitary accomodations). Air transport works well, too, and is what was used in the second half of the period.
To expand on my correction of Jon, cargo ships will transport 500-1000 troops, depending upon size, or about 25% of an average liner. Warships will not transport troops. Air transport, to move 3,000 men would require approximately 170 SM.81's, which would require a force of 340 SM.81's to provide that number of operational aircraft.

Italy did not have 340 SM.81's.
More to the point, the Axis never ran out of means to insert troops to the theater (look up the reinforcement of Tunisia)
Tunisia demonstrates that, given a shorter supply line, Italy could reinforce North Africa. The distance from Sicily to Tunisia is quite short. Otherwise, the further away the Italian Army got from Italy by land and sea, the smaller it got due to the limited amount of supplies that could reach such a distant front as El Alamein. The Luftwaffe could keep ships and airplanes away from the Sicily/Tunis run for awhile (but not submarines and mines). Yet when the Allies could challenge the Luftwaffe over the Sicily/Tunis run, losses mounted even further. In the last month of the Tunisian campaign, Italy was trying to supply Algeria using submarines - an act of desperation since it is impossible to do.
...and Italy only ran out of tankers in the weeks prior to 2nd El Alamein so one can't point to that as the reason for the Axis fuel shortages.
Running out of tankers was Italy's second problem. Having them sunk on the way to Lybia, with full tanks, was the first. Running out of tankers (and having to keep track of their number) demonstrates the problem of losses and of fuel oil not arriving. When the war begins, Italy has lots of tankers. When the war ends, she has none. As the Italian tanker fares, so does Rommell's gas tanks.
Lack of tonnage was becoming a serious problem by mid-1942, but it wasn't the worst.
Italy's transport situation had reached the point where the average transport of 1942 weighed only 500 tons, down from 2,500 tons, so shipping was becoming very scarce.
Axis AA was largely ineffective? Please...
Sorry. Axis A/A capability in the Mediterannean is next to zero. An ancient swordfish biplane could attack an Axis convoy passing Malta with impunity - And then deliver its torpedo with devastating accuracy. Jon posted a table on the Axis shipping losses from aircraft. Tell him how wrong his table is.
If things were so easy, why did 105 Squadron (flying Blenheims, i.e. less outdated than the Swordfish) lose 12 planes with another 11 damaged over 4 months of Malta-based operations (July-October 1941)? Its claims were 5 cargo ships, a gunboat and a few attacks on ground targets. Personnel losses were 28 KIAs and 5 POWs. Not sure if losing the whole squadron over 4 months counts as minimum losses.
Those are losses of one plane a week. Compare the losses of German aircraft flying over Britain per week one year earlier. Unless the Luftwaffe mounted an air offensive against Malta, which they only did while on R&R from the Russian front, Malta will inflict convoy losses on the Axis as has been historically demonstrated.
Removing Malta helps the Axis, in my opinion. But it doesn't necessarily make the war less costly to the Allies. Keeping Malta in operation was hugely expensive.
One thing that wargaming the scenario shows is that supply is not a factor for the Allies. You must measure Italian shipping. You don't have to measure Allied shipping. You must measure Axis oil supplies. You don't have to measure Allied oil supplies. You must measure the Axis supplies landed in North Africa. You don't have to measure the Allied supplies landed in Egypt. The only Allied measure is in reinforcements. It's not even necessary to measure Allied supplies to Malta - just Malta reinforcements. The only time "expense" becomes a factor to the Allies is when men and machines are lost. Britain can send supplies all the way around Africa and the cost is inconsequential. There is never a shortage.

The war in the Mediteranean was a war of supply. One side had it. The other didn't.

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Post by Jon G. » 21 Nov 2006 09:22

Wargames wrote:Jon G. wrote:
Most liners were too big to be of any use on the North African routes anyway. The ports of Libya could not accomodate them.
Evidently, Italy disagrees with you. Luxury liners were converted to troop transports due to their high passenger capability. Some of their sinkings became sensational news, due to the amount of soldiers that ended up in the water - And, BTW, their port of destination was Tripoli.
Huh, Italy disagrees with me?! :) Note that my point simply is that other means than liners were used to deliver troops to North Africa - not that liners weren't used, just that most liners were too big for the North African routes. Once you run out of passenger liners, other means of transportation can be used.

Bragadin, who fairly can be said to represent Italy, notes that 26 transatlantic liners were too big to be of any use on the North African routes. Put together, these 26 liners amounted to 352,051 GRT, or ~16.5% of the merchant ship tonnage that Italy had in the Mediterranean on June 10th 1940. Some of these liners were decommissioned, others were used as hospital ships.
...
Personnel was shipped in by various means, including by air - on occasion in late 1942 the number of Axis personnel sent to North Africa by air was larger than the proportion of soldiers sent by ship. Fuel was also sent by air on occasion. The amounts were tiny compared to what was sent by sea, but it goes to describe that other means of delivery could be found.
The use of Italian liners as troopships had ceased in 1942 due to losses in 1941. The SM.81 aircraft was used to transport troops at that point but it only had a troop carrying capacity of 18 men. It could carry replacement troops but that's about all (It would take 170 SM.81's to transport just 3,000 men (what the liners carried) and they would arrive without equipment. Thus, by 1942, the Italians had a significant problem in transporting additional troops to North Africa...
This ignores that the Italians regularly used other means than passenger liners to deliver troops to North Africa. You're making it appear as if the Italians were left with a choice of air-delivered troops (by SM 81 only) or troops shipped in on liners. That is a false dilemma. Maybe the wargame you allude to decided to just keep it simple?
Then you have to supply the ones already there. The SM.81's capacity to carry fuel was about 600 gallons or 4 short tons of supplies. Compare this to the monthly supply requirements of the DAK alone and calculate how many SM81's you need and then look and see how many you have (And then only about 50% of them are ever operational)...
Well, I am not suggesting that the Axis should, or could, have shipped in all fuel by air. I simply brought it up as an alternative means of fuel delivery which was tried on occasion - for example in April 1943, when 65 tons of fuel was delivered to Tunis by 52 (fifty-two) Ju 52s.
When the Italians began running low on tanker space they began shipping fuel in drums instead - sometimes aboard warships.
They attempted this once and it was a disaster...
The Italians most certainly shipped fuel in drums to North Africa more than once. Indeed, for Axis-held destination west of Benghazi (or west of Tripolis in 1941), drums was the only means to deliver fuel to Axis-held ports.

True enough, fuel shipped aboard warships was a risky proposal. I suppose the submarines delivering fuel right from 1940 and onwards qualify as warships too...

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Post by Bronsky » 21 Nov 2006 13:32

This is getting off-topic, I would suggest that Wargamer look up the other threads on North African logistics or Axis shipping so as not to repeat here stuff already treated elsewhere.
Wargames wrote:A few liner names that were sunk enroute to Tripoli:
Neptunia and Oceania (7,000 Italian troops)
Conte Rosso (2,729 Italian troops)
Vulcania (?)
If the Vucania was carrying 3,000 troops (similiar to the others), then these four liners were carrying the equivelent of an entire infantry division to Tripoli when sunk.
Conte Rosso, sunk May 24, 1941 by Upholder. 1,291 out of 2,732 lost (troops and crew).
Neptunia and Oceania, sunk September 18, 1941 by Upholder. 384 out of 5,818 killed (troops and crew).
Vittoria, sunk January 24, 1942 by 803 Squadron Swordfish. 249 out of 1,400 lost (troops only).

Not sure what picking 3 successful attacks over half a year is supposed to prove. Between May 1941 and January 1942, the Italians transported 85,710 personnel to North Africa by sea, of which 72,502 arrived.
Wargames wrote:The use of Italian liners as troopships had ceased in 1942 due to losses in 1941.
What Jon and I have been telling you is that even if your facts were correct (which they're not: e.g. Francesco Crispi sunk in April 1943, over a year after Italy is supposed to have ceased operating liners), so what? The Axis dispatched 19,882 troops by sea to North Africa in 1942. Then add air transport. The reason why more wasn't sent is that more wasn't available and more couldn't be supplied, so liners never were a bottleneck contrary to what you write.
Wargames wrote:Warships will not transport troops.
They must not have been aware of your wisdom because they did.
Wargames wrote:Air transport, to move 3,000 men would require approximately 170 SM.81's, which would require a force of 340 SM.81's to provide that number of operational aircraft.

Italy did not have 340 SM.81's.
And yet, between July and September 1942, 46,000 men were flown in. Yes, at 18 per aircraft that's 2,600 lifts. No, the Axis didn't have 2,600 planes, nor did it need to. Its 250 Ju 52s plus a handful of SM 82s did the job, plus another 1,900 lifts ferrying 4,000 tons of supply & equipment (the troops' individual equipment was part of the personnel lifts).

You're assuming 50% availability rate and each plane can only fly once. Both assumptions are incorrect.

Airlift then provided critical supply deliveries that allowed Rommel's escape. Sure, not as much fuel could be airlifted as could be sent by sea, but it could be sent to the right place rather than 1,000 miles from the front.
Bronsky wrote: More to the point, the Axis never ran out of means to insert troops to the theater (look up the reinforcement of Tunisia)
I stand by that point, and "never" is meant to include both Libya and Tunisia.

The same is true of tankers. It took until mid-1942 for Italy to run out of them. Before then, the problem wasn't the availability of tankers to ship fuel to North Africa, it was the tactical situation, of which Malta was a big part. Otherwise, why send half-loaded tankers? Similarly, deliveries declined in late 1941, and picked up again in early 1942. Did Italy gain access to a new source of tankers in the meantime? No, it didn't. On the other hand, Malta was neutralized and relatively inactive in early '42 whereas it had been un-neutralized and very active in late '41. Feel free to decide which of an hypothetical tanker shortage or Malta was the most important.
Wargames wrote:Italy's transport situation had reached the point where the average transport of 1942 weighed only 500 tons, down from 2,500 tons, so shipping was becoming very scarce.
Another strange claim, like the one where you claimed that an airlift to North Africa was ten times more difficult than to Stalingrad. Would it be too much to ask for a source?

If this refers to the tonnage of the ships available, then the figure is simply false. Even at the time of the armistice, and not counting those ships undergoing repairs, there were still 272 ships with an aggregate tonnage of 748,578 GRT or an average of 2,752 (Bagradin).

If this refers to the average load carried per ship to North Africa, then I need to do more calculations to see if the figure is as wrong as it looks (it looks like less than 50% of the real figure). But it is true that the average load carried per ship to North Africa declined in 1942. The reason is the Italian practice to send ships half-loaded so as to spread the losses and improve unloading times. So nothing to do with a shipping shortage and everything to do with tactical conditions i.e. Malta.
Wargamer wrote: Sorry. Axis A/A capability in the Mediterannean is next to zero. An ancient swordfish biplane could attack an Axis convoy passing Malta with impunity - And then deliver its torpedo with devastating accuracy. Jon posted a table on the Axis shipping losses from aircraft. Tell him how wrong his table is.
Jon's table is about how many shipping losses were to aircraft and say nothing of how dangerous attacking convoys was to the RAF. Operational records and pilots' memoirs disagree with you is all I can say.
Wargamer wrote: One thing that wargaming the scenario shows is that supply is not a factor for the Allies. You must measure Italian shipping. You don't have to measure Allied shipping. You must measure Axis oil supplies. You don't have to measure Allied oil supplies. You must measure the Axis supplies landed in North Africa. You don't have to measure the Allied supplies landed in Egypt. The only Allied measure is in reinforcements. It's not even necessary to measure Allied supplies to Malta - just Malta reinforcements. The only time "expense" becomes a factor to the Allies is when men and machines are lost. Britain can send supplies all the way around Africa and the cost is inconsequential. There is never a shortage.
Wargaming that campaign shows nothing of the sort. Axis interdiction of Allied supply was part of the battle of the Atlantic, convoys to the Middle East were not specifically targetted as such. To the Allies, supply was very much a concern but the bottleneck was always the ability to get the supply from Egypt to the front (same as the Axis most of the time, really) and not the amount of supply in Egypt. Similarly, the huge buildup of Egypt as a logistical base is not simulated: no point in drafting a rule saying that you have to wait until 1941 before you can proceed and refit 200 tanks and 100 aircraft with the numbers doubling in 1942, as the reinforcement schedule precludes that ever being necessary. So rather than clutter the game with useless mechanics, the designer writes "unlimited supply is available in Egypt at no cost".

This doesn't mean that the cost was inconsequential, just that wargaming it is deemed uninteresting and therefore that the game features it out.

Even in operational games, you may have to resupply Malta which will prove extremely costly. Look up the Harpoon & Pedestal convoys, for example. They were so costly that most games either assume that Malta is automatically supplied (so that the Allied player doesn't decide to let it go) or that North African port capacity is the practical limit (so that even if the Allied player declines to supply Malta, the Axis performance remains more or less historical).

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Post by Wargames » 23 Nov 2006 06:09

Jon G:

My misunderstanding. I thought you meant that all liners were too big for ports in North Africa.
You're making it appear as if the Italians were left with a choice of air-delivered troops (by SM 81 only) or troops shipped in on liners. That is a false dilemma.
It's also not what I intended. Liners were used to move large, division sized units because of their ability to handle both soldiers as well as vehicles. By comparison, cargo ships were usually limited to carrying a battalion. Because the liner represents the fastest, single most efficient way to move a brigade or even an entire division, their availability (or lack thereof) becomes a factor in transporting large units. Since the liner is in limited numbers and often sunk, it is therefore seperated from the cargo merchant marine and its numbers kept track of just as one keeps track of tankers. This is important if you want to land a division in a hurry and the liners have all been sunk. You can still move a division by cargo ships but it's now going to require a major convoy with major escort (or several small convoys in which case it will not get there in a hurry. And, if you're relying on SM.81's, it won't get there at all.).
Well, I am not suggesting that the Axis should, or could, have shipped in all fuel by air. I simply brought it up as an alternative means of fuel delivery which was tried on occasion - for example in April 1943, when 65 tons of fuel was delivered to Tunis by 52 (fifty-two) Ju 52s.
That would be enough to move two panzer divisions 100 miles. While that might be effective in Tunisia, landing that same 65 tons in Tripoli for delivery to El Alamein would only move two Panzer divisions 10 miles. So now you have to fly in 650 tons requiring 520 Ju 52's or ten trips by 52 Ju52's. Then you have to consider how much of the 650 tons would be used by the Ju52's themselves in flying all the way to Tripoli (or Bardia) and back? Because that distance is far greater. Complicating that even further, between 1940-42 there are no Ju52's. Thus, in the very example you used, Germany, not Italy, transported it.
The Italians most certainly shipped fuel in drums to North Africa more than once. Indeed, for Axis-held destination west of Benghazi (or west of Tripolis in 1941), drums was the only means to deliver fuel to Axis-held ports.
I was not challenging your claim of fuel being shipped by drums but your statement "sometimes by warships". That was only tried once and you seem to know how it ended as you note below:
True enough, fuel shipped aboard warships was a risky proposal. I suppose the submarines delivering fuel right from 1940 and onwards qualify as warships too...
Italy did try and land supplies by submarine but their capacity for space is so virtually negligible that no record of any tonnage delivered seems to be available (although I suspect one of Italy's large ocean going boats could have carried perhaps 50 tons? As for her coastal submarines - nothing.). I don't think Italy transported anything by submarine in 1940 to North Africa (I suspect you're thinking of Eritrea) but did in 1943, which demonstrates how desperate things were by then and why a wargame must monitor supply to North Africa. It is a critical factor.

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Post by Andy H » 23 Nov 2006 07:39

Wargamer wrote:
Warships will not transport troops
From January 1943 on, Italy had only some 10 servicable destroyers at any given moment. Warships delivered some 51,935 troops to Tunisia in this period. Given that a DD could only carry around 300, it indicates how hard these vessels had to work.

Source: Bragadin Pg245

Regards

Andy H

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