Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
Francis Marliere
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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Francis Marliere » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:22 pm

RF,
sorry, I missed your post. I agree that the distances between Tunisia and Tripoli are quite shorter than Egypt and Tripoli. However, the British and German armies that fought in the desert were motorized while French army was not. Trucks were scarce and most guns and supplies were moved by horses. I am not sure that the French army could have invaded Libya before French industry produced enough trucks.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:55 pm

Keith Enge wrote:Francis -

The worst ASW was the Germans. Incredibly, not one German destroyer during the whole war destroyed an enemy submarine with depth charges.
no destroyer but
sunk by german ASW
Seahorse 07.01.1940
Undine 07.01.1940
Starfish 09.01.1940
Tarpon 14.04.1940
Sterlet 18.04.1940
H49 18.10.1940
Splendid 21.04.1943
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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Francis Marliere » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:20 pm

Keith,

some points :

The reasons why no German DD ever sank a British sub in WWII were IMHO :
- as you said the German navy was not very ASW oriented ;
- there were very few German DD, especially after the heavy looses in Narvik ;
- there was not so many subs to sink neither.

In the Mediterranean :
- there were very few British submarines in 1942 ; that's the reason why only two were lost (there weren't many more to loose) ;
- the RM had 3 or 4 times more DD and escorts than the RN in the Mediterranean and sank 25% less submarines. I should add that British submarines were concentrated in a narrow area with shallow waters (central Med.) while the Italian ones operated in a wider and deeper one. That doesn't sound so well for the RM.
- I don't think that the Italian would have done better without the German. The Lybian army was routed in 1940 and Libya would have been lost without the Afrika Korps. The RA and RM sank or damaged very few major warships. Ark Royal, Eagle and Barham were sunk by U-boats ; Illustrious, Formidable and Indomitable were damaged by the Luftwaffe. The bulk of air attacks that crippled the Medietrranean Fleet during the evacuation of Greece were German.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by RF » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:38 pm

Francis Marliere wrote:RF,
sorry, I missed your post. I agree that the distances between Tunisia and Tripoli are quite shorter than Egypt and Tripoli. However, the British and German armies that fought in the desert were motorized while French army was not. Trucks were scarce and most guns and supplies were moved by horses. I am not sure that the French army could have invaded Libya before French industry produced enough trucks.
My thinking was that the existence of the Mareth Line does provide the French with a starting point. Forces of the Foreign Legion could be the spearhead, with light infantry in support. I don't think large forces would be required either - flanking attacks on the Italian border positions could induce Italian forces to retreat/surrender, leaving their supplies intact for the French. This is how the Allied forces advanced into Somaliland and Ethiopia in the spring of 1941 - they covered large distances without motorised equipment or lorries, but because they were relatively small forces (they were easily outnumbered by the Italians) their logistical requirements were managable.
It all depends really on how strong a fight the Italians would put up. Experience from 1940 in WW2 suggests not very much. I think capture of Tripoli would be feasible.
With respect to armour, with no Germany in this war then presumably at least one of the French armoured divisions could be sent to Tunisia?

Incidently, in WW2 small Free French forces operated in southern Libya using Chad as a base, and made their presence felt in thwarting German efforts to acquire airfields in that region.
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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Keith Enge » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:35 pm

RF -

As someone already pointed out, I specified British subs lost to German destroyers.

Seahorse and Starfish were sunk by minesweepers; Sterlet by an ASW trawler; Tarpon likely by a "Q" ship; Undine by auxiliary minesweepers.

Two other subs were also lost in the September 1939 to May 1940 "phony war" period. Thistle was torpedoed by a U-boat and Seal was mined and then captured.


Francis -

I think that the damage to Formidable was done by the Italians. I assume that you mean the damage that resulted after the May 1941 Scarpanto attack. The planes were Ju 87B Stukas and C.R.42 Falcos. The latter are definitely Italians and, I believe, the former were among those provided by the Germans for the Italians.

As far as sinking very few major warships, my database has the following list. I limited it to destroyers (or DEs) and larger which is a generally accepted definition of "major warships".

heavy cruiser York
light cruisers Bonaventure, Cairo, Calypso, Manchester, Neptune
destroyers Bedouin, Defender, Escort, Fearless, Foresight, Hostile, Hyperion, Imperial, Jersey, Juno, Khartoum, Lance, Legion, Mohawk, Nestor, Pakenham, Quentin, Zulu
destroyer escorts Eridge, Kujawiak, Southwold, Ibis, Erica, Marigold, Matapedia, Samphire

That is 32 major warships. Meanwhile, the British sank 38 Italian major warships, not a great disparity.

As far as the land battle goes, I was talking about the Germans maybe being more of a hinderance than a help on the navy side, not the army side. As for the distances that the French army had to travel to defeat the Italians, I still think that it is more than you think. I agree that Tripolania is neighboring on Tunisia but the major Italian forces aren't near Tripoli. They are way over in Cyrenaica with the ports of Benghazi and Tobruk. To reach there, the French would have to traverse over Tripolania using bad Italian roads not the better French roads in Tunisia. Note that during the two year North African battle between the British and the Italians (and the Rommel), the battle flowed between El Alamein in the east and the Cyrenaica-Tripolania border in the east. No action was in Tripolania until the end when Montgomery was slowly pursuing the retreating Germans after Torch.

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Francis Marliere » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:42 am

Keith Enge wrote:Francis -

I think that the damage to Formidable was done by the Italians. I assume that you mean the damage that resulted after the May 1941 Scarpanto attack. The planes were Ju 87B Stukas and C.R.42 Falcos. The latter are definitely Italians and, I believe, the former were among those provided by the Germans for the Italians.
Keith, I don't think that the CR.42 did damage the carriers (how could they ?). The German bombers did, as they heavily damaged Illustrious and Indomitable.
Keith Enge wrote:As far as sinking very few major warships, my database has the following list. I limited it to destroyers (or DEs) and larger which is a generally accepted definition of "major warships".

heavy cruiser York
light cruisers Bonaventure, Cairo, Calypso, Manchester, Neptune
destroyers Bedouin, Defender, Escort, Fearless, Foresight, Hostile, Hyperion, Imperial, Jersey, Juno, Khartoum, Lance, Legion, Mohawk, Nestor, Pakenham, Quentin, Zulu
destroyer escorts Eridge, Kujawiak, Southwold, Ibis, Erica, Marigold, Matapedia, Samphire

That is 32 major warships. Meanwhile, the British sank 38 Italian major warships, not a great disparity.
Keith, the comparison between the Italians and British but between the Italian and German. As far as I know, the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine did more damage than the RA and the RM. As I already told, most of heavy units sunk or damaged in the Mediterranean were hit by the German.
From memory, the Germans sank Ark Royal, Eagle, Barham and damaged Illustrious, Indomitable, Formidable and Warspite. The Italians damaged Nelson, Queen elizabeth and Valiant. I do not have time to check but I am pretty sure that the Germans sank more cruisers than the Italians did. I do not mean that the Italian were inepts but that the German forces were better.
Keith Enge wrote:As far as the land battle goes, I was talking about the Germans maybe being more of a hinderance than a help on the navy side, not the army side.
Sorry, my bad, I didn't understand.
Keith Enge wrote: As for the distances that the French army had to travel to defeat the Italians, I still think that it is more than you think. I agree that Tripolania is neighboring on Tunisia but the major Italian forces aren't near Tripoli. They are way over in Cyrenaica with the ports of Benghazi and Tobruk. To reach there, the French would have to traverse over Tripolania using bad Italian roads not the better French roads in Tunisia. Note that during the two year North African battle between the British and the Italians (and the Rommel), the battle flowed between El Alamein in the east and the Cyrenaica-Tripolania border in the east. No action was in Tripolania until the end when Montgomery was slowly pursuing the retreating Germans after Torch.
Yes, desert warfare is difficult. A French attack in Libya would be a logistic nightmare and it would take time (how much - that is a good question) before French army could field a motorized army that could move in the desert. The point is that the French could make a limited initial attack, and later build an army that could invade Libya. The French army may also attack Northern Italy, as could French air force. The italian could not.

Best regards,

Francis

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:13 am

german reports about the battles in the mediteranean sea in 1941 mentions that italian claims on enemy shipping sunk were always wrong, as the "italians count every splash by dolphine jumping as a enemy ship sunk". So italian reports were mostly useless in a realistic assessment of the actual situation.
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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Keith Enge » Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:46 pm

Francis -

The C.R.42 Falco was used as a fighter-bomber and, on those missions, carried two 220 lb bombs under their wings. The damage to Formidable was done by the Falcos and Stukas. However, those German built Stukas were flown by Italian pilots so I consider their damage to be done by the Italians, not the Germans.

As for your question about cruiser losses.
Sunk by Italians
Bonaventure
Cairo
Calypso
Manchester
Neptune
York

By Germans
Calcutta
Coventry
Fiji
Galatea
Gloucester
Hermione
Naiad
Southampton

The six to eight ratio holds true for tonnage totals too.


Thorsten -
Everybody's after action reports were misleading if not outright exaggerated. Air battles were even worse. However, in this discussion, we are using the postwar corrected results so our assessment is valid.

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Mostlyharmless » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:54 pm

Keith Enge wrote:Francis -

The C.R.42 Falco was used as a fighter-bomber and, on those missions, carried two 220 lb bombs under their wings. The damage to Formidable was done by the Falcos and Stukas. However, those German built Stukas were flown by Italian pilots so I consider their damage to be done by the Italians, not the Germans.
....
Several websites and books seem to attribute the attack on HMS Formidable on 27th May 1941 to Luftwaffe Ju 87s from II/St.G 2 (one source says St. G 1) commanded by Major Walter Enneccerus http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j& ... 6Q&cad=rja, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ayon ... 41&f=false, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BNAX ... 41&f=false, http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j& ... RQ&cad=rja.

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Francis Marliere » Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:23 am

Keith,

I think that the Formidable was damaged by the Luftwaffe, not the Regia Aeronautica.


Francis

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by RF » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:37 pm

Keith Enge wrote:
The worst ASW was the Germans. Incredibly, not one German destroyer during the whole war destroyed an enemy submarine with depth charges. The closest they got was a probable kill on the Russian sub K.22

I realize that DDs are not the prime ASW weapons but they did carry 50 DCs in two racks with four throwers. So, they were equipped to kill subs, they just didn't.
I acknowledge as quoted above that you did say destroyers Keith, but my point was aimed at the first sentence as quoted above before you went on to mention destroyers in your next sentence.

With regards to the ineffectiveness of Zestorer ASW I would have thought that the lack of the same level of opportunities to sink a sub as opposed to the Allies is a factor as well. You could also claim that as carriers of torpedoes that Zestorer were equally ineffective - how many Allied ships of heavy cruiser size and larger did Zestorer get into their torpedo sights let alone get hits and sink? That isn't to say these destroyers were useless - they didn't get the opportunities to use these weapons.
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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by Keith Enge » Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:50 pm

RF -

I wasn't claiming that German "destroyers were useless". I was merely providing a somewhat off topic fact that I thought was interesting; I was making no judgements. I merely found it unusual that a complete type of ship in a particular navy didn't manage to sink any subs despite having quite reasonable ASW weaponry. I realize that this was probably mainly due to lack of opportunities. There were, after all, a lot more German U-boats for Allied DDs to sink than there were Allied subs for German DDs to sink and there weren't all that many German DDs anyway. You would think, however, that sometime, at least one of those DDs would have happened upon a sub and sunk it.

As for your other point about German DDs torpedoing heavy cruisers. My database couldn't even find any battles where the two ship types met. German DDs did encounter British light cruisers but not really that many times either. The list that I found is:

10/17/40 Emerald and Newcastle
3/29/42 Trinidad (torpedoed herself)
5/2/42 Edinburgh (finished off the already crippled ship)
12/31/42 Operation Regenbogen had Jamaica and Sheffield
12/28/43 Glasgow and Enterprise
1/28/45 Diadem and Mauritius

This really isn't a very long list. There may be other battles, my database only includes relatively balanced battles unless an unbalanced battle has historical significance. Even if you add torpedo boats to the equation (since German TBs were almost DD sized), only one additional battle is added:

10/23/43 Charybdis and a DE are sunk by torpedo boat torpedoes

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by RF » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:34 pm

Keith Enge wrote: I wasn't claiming that German "destroyers were useless". I was merely providing a somewhat off topic fact that I thought was interesting; I was making no judgements. I merely found it unusual that a complete type of ship in a particular navy didn't manage to sink any subs despite having quite reasonable ASW weaponry. I realize that this was probably mainly due to lack of opportunities. There were, after all, a lot more German U-boats for Allied DDs to sink than there were Allied subs for German DDs to sink and there weren't all that many German DDs anyway. You would think, however, that sometime, at least one of those DDs would have happened upon a sub and sunk it.
Don't misunderstand me, I wasn't thinking that they were useless at all. Maybe if the RN or the US had sent subs into the Great Belt and the Baltic then there would have been opportunity.
As for your other point about German DDs torpedoing heavy cruisers. My database couldn't even find any battles where the two ship types met. German DDs did encounter British light cruisers but not really that many times either. The list that I found is...
Heavy cruisers and battleships -there is of course also the second battle of Narvik, where German destroyers were slaughtered by HMS Warspite. One destroyer (I can't recall which) did get Warspite into its torpedo sights but was blown out of the water before the fish could be launched...
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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by paul.mercer » Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:34 pm

Gentlemen,
A question re this post, if you had to chose between both forces both in moral and fighting capability in an outright battle would you go for the French or the Italians - given roughly even amount of ships?

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Re: Franco-Italian Naval War, 1940-41

Post by RF » Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:38 pm

I would go for the French.
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