10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

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lwd
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:10 pm

neil hilton wrote: ... Having said that Force H at that time was pathetic.

Well from what I saw it didn't even exist on 10 June. Not being formed until later that month I believe.
The RM did have a few BBs, enough to provide escort and fire support for an invasion force.

The problem is the French had a few BBs as well and can probably show up at Gibralter in a day or so even without advanced warning. But if the RM isn't at war I'm sure there are consular agents watching it if war is declared thier activity can be curtailed but that's going to place both the British and French on alert.
Radar at Gib at that time was poor and an invasion could well have sneaked in and achieved surprise.

I believe there were some planes based at Gibralter and I think HMS Argent was their at the time. The British and French aslo have a fairly large combined fleet at Alexandria and there are some British ships at Malta.
There's also the problem of where to land at Gibralter and what to land with/from. Somewhere there's a good list of what defences were there over time. I'll see if I can find it.
http://stonebooks.com/history/felix.shtml
has some info on the defences of Gibralter from 1939 through 1941. The 8 9.2" guns would probably constiture a significant threat to the old Italian BBs. Those and the 6" guns would be a serious threat to any landing craft.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:07 pm

neil hilton wrote:First of all the Italian air force was a capable fighting force in ww2, more so than the Italian army or surface navy. The raids on Malta and Maltese convoys clearly attest to this. some of the Italian aircraft designs were contemporary to other nations designs, the Alcione torpedo bomber was roughly equivalent to the Japanese Betty, the Folgore fighter was also capable.


The RA certainly had some good aircraft, such as the SM 79. But the raids on Malta from 11 June 1940 onwards were very ineffective, too few aircraft involved and the bombs dropped were too small, too unreliable. The RA failed to repeat the success they had in bombing Barcelona. That is why the first Stuka raid in January 1941 came as a huge shock to the British and Maltese.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:11 pm

neil hilton wrote:
IMO at the outbreak of war in the Mediterranean (10th June 1940) Italy should have surprise assaulted Gibralter (Italian Alpine troops backed by heavy naval gunnery could have taken The Rock from the small British garrison.


There is one issue here that you have overlooked. Spain. General Franco regarded Gibraltar as Spanish and didn't want the Germans to take it for him. If Italy invades there is the risk of upsetting Spain, especially if Spanish territory and property is fired on.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:15 pm

neil hilton wrote: An airborne assault of Suez isn't possible as the Italians don't have any paratroops


The Italians used paratroops in their April 1939 invasion of Albania. Also by spring 1941 the Italians had two paratroop formations which on paper impressed the Germans. However it was Hitler who vetoed their use for the planned German invasion of Malta.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby neil hilton » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:38 pm

I didn't know the Italians even had any paratroops. Did they have enough to do an airborne assault and take the Suez canal.

Maybe the Italians could cut a deal with Franco regarding Gibralter. The Italians kick out the British and then give it back to Spain with the understanding the Italian Fleet can use it for resupply. With Gib under Spanish control the British then would have a hard time justifying a counter invasion to take it back.

My understanding was that Malta was heavily bombed even before the Luftwaffe turned up, and that the reason their effect was so limited was that Malta was a rabbit warren of tunnels and the whole population could easily get into shelter.
The Italian airforce worked hard and achieved many successes attacking Malta convoys, indeed it was arguably the most intense aerial campaign during the war except for maybe the lead upto D-Day.

How to counter the French fleet would be a problem, if the Italians could postpone declaring war until after the French were defeated by the Germans?

Gibs defences were indeed formidable (they don't call it the Rock for nothing). Any invasion would be a serious risk and I honestly don't think it could have succeeded. But it could have if properly planned and executed and just imagine Italian prestige if they did take it! Landing areas would have to be in the port itself, right at the foot of the Rock, the port wouldn't be as heavily defended as the Rock itself, would it be as difficult as Dieppe? or would it be more like Inchon? don't know. I certainly wouldn't want to try it unless I had a personal force field or something.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:01 pm

Over on the axis history board there are a couple of threads that discuss the possible invasion of Malta. The status of the Italian paratroop units is gone over in some detail in them. If you can't find them let me know and I'll see if I can find and post a link.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Mon Oct 24, 2011 5:45 pm

lwd, could you post the link please?
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:02 am

Its interesting that the thread in the Axis forum on Italy invading Malta in June 1940, while a military necessity from Italy's point of view, fails to discuss the fact that Italy could have got Malta without firing a shot or even declaring war.

British Cabinet records from May 1940 show that in the last days of Chamberlains' premiership he proposed to the Italian ambassador in London a deal to keep Italy out of the war. This deal included ceding British territory to the Italians, which specifically included Malta. The ambassador, Bastiani, failed to appreciate the significance of this offer and was slow communicating it to his masters in Rome. Had the Italians moved quickly they could have concluded a treaty with Chamberlain before he resigned as Prime Minister on 10 May. Given that Churchill actually made a somewhat grovelling appeal by telegram to Mussolini to stay out of the war on 15 May it is likely that the British War Cabinet, which at that time included Chamberlain and Halifax, would have had to keep to any treaty or agreement Chamberlain would have made......
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:32 pm

Interesting. Italy would have had to keep out of the war until they took possesion but that would have been a wise move in any case. Would this have been enough incentive to keep Italy out of the war?

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:22 pm

Probably not, particulary as any deal would not include the French. The question is could the deal have been worked in a way that Italy couldn't have entered the war in 1940? Mussolini's reaction to such an offer might well be to become even more greedy and demand Egypt, Kenya and Tanzania as well. Which makes such a deal less likely, especially once Chamberlain ceases to be PM.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby aurora » Mon Nov 24, 2014 10:43 am

RF wrote:I am starting this thread arising from discussions in other threads over the Italian failure to prosecute an aggressive war once Italy entered WW2.

The scenario on 10 June 1940 was that Italy was unprepared for war and had no aggressive war plans. If Mussolini was militarily and politically competant, what should he have done?

Before setting out my thoughts on this I will let other forum members make an initial response.


The emboldened sentence seems to be the real question here; but the trouble is Mussolini was not militarily nor politically competent-so he can only do what his instincts force him to do.Further he was a sick man suffering from a duodenal ulcer and the after effects of syphilis.In May 1940 Mussolini's frustration increased as the German armies struck in western Europe,drove the British off the continent;and brought France to her knees.
It seemed certain to him that Germany would win the war.He had an understanding with Hitler that in the "New Europe" Italy's participation would be rewarded,This is where his naivity and vanity played him false-he threw his hand in with Germany and declared war on 10th June 1940. I honestly do not think that he could have done otherwise; and I know that this is not what asked- but the hypothesis of the "What if"was a stretch of the imagination too much for me.
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Jim

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Tue Nov 25, 2014 9:24 am

aurora wrote:......-he threw his hand in with Germany and declared war on 10th June 1940. I honestly do not think that he could have done otherwise....


Well, he didn't have to - Franco in Spain didn't, at the end of June 1940 the Spanish could have seized the whole of Morocco and taken Perpignan from France, not to mention attack Gibraltar.

Mussolini's declaration of war was a political move and not a military one. My view is that he got it the wrong way round. Italy needed to be a strong military power in order to deal with Germany on an equal basis. A savvy leader would have used the opportunity not to declare war but to do what Stalin did in Poland in September 1939 and in the Baltic states in June/July 1940 - by gobbling up French territory available to the Italians - Nice, Corsica and Tunisia as Vichy wouldn't stop them and the Germans wouldn't interfere. Neither would the British have been able to do anything. If formally entering the war was politically necessary then an immediate strike on Malta was essential.

The problem was that Italy was not a strong military power so inevitably became dependent on Germany for everything. Of all the non-German Axis countries only Japan remained completely independent of Germany - because it was a strong military power and also geographically remote from Germany. Italy was neither. Franco saw that with Spain - Mussolini didn't.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby aurora » Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:15 am

Quote
"Mussolini's declaration of war was a political move and not a military one. My view is that he got it the wrong way round. Italy needed to be a strong military power in order to deal with Germany on an equal basis. A savvy leader would have used the opportunity not to declare war but to do what Stalin did in Poland in September 1939 and in the Baltic states in June/July 1940 - by gobbling up French territory available to the Italians - Nice, Corsica and Tunisia as Vichy wouldn't stop them and the Germans wouldn't interfere.

I understand quite clearly where you are coming from RF-yes Mussolini's move was political-Italy was NOT a strong military power and Mussolini did NOT have savvy, because he was a vain super egotist, who would not listen to those who would have advised caution-despite knowing full well that Italy could not stand shoulder to shoulder with Germany-however he was Il Duce!!
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim


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