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German Naval Strength Goes to Italy.

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by Gromit801, Oct 21, 2011.

  1. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    What if in May 1941.....


    The Bismarck and Prinz Eugen make a reverse Channel Dash, under heavy Luftwaffe coverage, refuel quickly, pick up the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Breast, and along with escorts, take a route along the French coast, staying under a Luftwaffe umbrella. U-Boats precede them through Gibraltar to join the Italian fleet. The Axis ships were faster and more modern than what the RN has in the Med at the time.


    Would such a combined fleet turn the tide in the Med? A total of 9 modern BB's against the RN's 4 OBB's at the time?


    And let's say the combined fleet is under German direction, and of course Germany sends a LOT more fuel oil and raw materials to Italy to support this fleet.


    The main problem the Italians seemed to have was lack of fuel, and lack of secure intelligence information. Their fleet was no joke, but being forced to use a German cipher was an open book to the RN. Since the combined German/Italian fleet would still have that cross to bear, would that be offset by superior warships and a widely roaming U-Boat force. Remember, once the U-Boats became active in the Med, they took out the Ark Royal and the Barham.


    I believe the convoys to Libya would not suffer as much from the RN as they actually did, more material to Rommel. Enough to finish off Egypt?


    So what do you think would have happened if Hitler allowed his existing capital ships to work with the Italians (leaving the Deutchland class in the Baltic) before going after Russia?
     
  2. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Enough to finish off Egypt ? Of course not ,because,in your IF situation,more supplies could reach .....Tripoli,which is 2000 km from Alamein,but these "more" supplies never could reach the front(the rail/road infrastructure in Libya was totally insufficient)
     
  3. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Convoys could have also gone to Bengazi. Malta might have been taken out, with that kind of superiority.
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Italy practically decommissioned her 4 old battleships because of lack of fuel, it was not hulls they were lacking.
    Possibly no German partecipation at all, which would negate ULTRA, both sides recovered codebooks from enemy sunk ships but, outside of ULTRA, it was a close match, could better the Regia Marina's performance, as it was they were fighting blindfolded against an opponent with sight.
    What would have benefitted Italy would be lots of German planes in 1940, and a few radars to cover the main naval bases. With that kind of support you would get no Compass and probably no Taranto, if Rommel starts his offensive with working ports at Tobruk and Bardia, and with an undefeated 10th Army to support him once it gets to static warfare round El Alamein, he may actually break trough to Alexandria in 1941 efferctively kicking the RN out of the Med.
     
  5. fuser

    fuser Member

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    and with that kind of transfer of naval asset to med by Germany, it will also prompt Britain to transfer her assets to med, effectively minimizing any superiority of axis power there.
     
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  6. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Say the new Axis fleet gets the upper hand. The Tirpitz is still working up in the Baltic, the Pocket Battleships and some cruisers are still an Atlantic Convoy threat. I don't think the RN would be able to send much more to the Med.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well at that point they are going to be out from under LW aircover when they transit the straits of Gibralter and force H is there not to mention a fair few British subs I believe. I wouldn't be surprised if force H takes fairly heavy casualties but would expect most if not all the German ships to sustain some damage and then they are bottled up in the Med. The British really don't even need to keep BBs with home fleet after that do they?
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    They wouldn't be picking up Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The latter had been torpedoed on April 6 and hit by four bombs (two duds) a few days later. Scharnhorst's boiler superheater tubes were under repair until July; their high-pressure engineering plants were the Achilles' heels of German warships. Incidentally when repaired she was promptly bombed, July 24, five hits, three of which were duds but exited the ship below the waterline, causing extensive flooding. Prinz Eugen was also bombed, July 1-2, with over 100 personnel casualties, so I expect the physical damage was fairly severe. Bismarck after a Channel dash would be a priority target; she and PE would definitely want to make it a fast stop!

    Hugging the French coast doesn't get them to the Med....bombers and long-range fighters could provide some cover until they passed Cape Finisterre, the northwest tip of Spain, but then they're on their own. Force H and Ark Royal would be likely to have a go between there and Gibraltar. The Germans might deploy their U-boats in that area, but subs were least effective against fast-moving naval forces in open ocean.

    Force H vs. Bismarck and PE would be an intriguing matchup, aircraft and destroyer torpedos vs. heavier gunpower.

    For all the emphasis placed on speed, it's mainly significant if one side is trying to avoid action. It's of minimal value if fleets are actually trying to accomplish a mission like escorting or intercepting convoys. So I wouldn't be so quick to discount ships like the Nelsons or modernized Queen Elizabeths whose combat power was comparable to Bismarck or Vittorio Veneto.
     
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  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I also have to disagree with "9 modern BB's against the RN's 4 OBB's". Four of the Italian ships - Cavour and Doria classes - were reconstructed WWI veterans comparable to the British Queen Elizabeth class, at least temporally; their armament and armor were distinctly lighter.

    Barham was the least modernized of the QEs, but had received the most essential improvement, 5" deck armor over magazines.

    Cavour was never returned to service after Taranto. Littorio was also torpedoed there but was repaired by the time of our current scenario, however Vittorio Veneto was torpedoed at Matapan and out of action until September.

    On the flip side, Warspite was sent to the allegedly neutral United States for repairs after Crete. IIRC she was hit by one bomb which wrecked her starboard secondary and AA batteries, not sure if that could have been repaired locally if she was felt to be desperately needed. She had done a lot of steaming and shooting in the war thus far and probably needed other repairs and upkeep.

    Speaking of bombs, the scenario "if Hitler allowed his existing capital ships to work with the Italians ... before going after Russia?", i.e. a deferral of Operation Barbarossa which historically kicked off about the time Bismarck would be arriving in the Med, might allow more German air power to remain in-theater and support both naval and land operations.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    The Tirpitz is still working up in the Baltic, the Pocket Battleships and some cruisers are still an Atlantic Convoy threat. I don't think the RN would be able to send much more to the Med.

    That's basically the situation they were facing in late 1941, when they dispatched Prince of Wales and Repulse even further from home than the Med. At that point they had King George V operational and Duke of York commissioning in November; for a brief period they were willing to make do with just one operational modern battleship in home waters.

    The RN had deployed battle cruisers to hunt for pocket battleships in 1939, when they could easily afford to - France was an ally, Italy neutral, and the twins were the only German capital ships in service - but when pressed they were willing to use 8" gun cruisers. The covering forces for convoys like PQ-17 or -18 comprised 3-4 8" cruisers, which were considered adequate to deal with anything smaller than Tirpitz.

    Getting back to our current scenario, they could send PofW, Repulse, and Hood to join Force H and still have everything that they did historically to deal with Tirpitz and the rest, including the three ships in Brest. In fact until Tirpitz was operational they could even send KGV. Nor would there be any urgent duty elsewhere for Nelson, or Rodney after her US overhaul.

    Nor does sending ships "to the Med" make them completely unavailable for duty in the Atlantic; Force H operated in either sea as needed.

    A more critical decision would be to send additional ships to the Mediterranean Fleet based in Alexandria; this might be a role for the Nelsons which could operate with the modernized Queen Elizabeths - just have to look out for those Italian frogmen! Nor can we totally discount the R class, though they were not the first choice to go up against modern battleships.
     
  11. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Though impossible, Seeing as its a 'What-if' ill go along with it, The one way the German force would have any decent chance of getting around Spain, Past Gibraltar and into the Med would be by using an advance U-boat force and a planned link up between the Kriegsmarine ships and the Regia Marina near Gibraltar.

    An advanced u-boat force could theoretically locate and provide warning of RN surface ships to allow course changes, or perform attacks on them while they are still moving at a low speed. Also having U-boats in the area tended to make RN ships want to be else where.

    Linking up with the Regia Marina near Gibraltar would provide larger force that would be able to better counter anything the British threw at them, The combined forces would more then likely deter there surface units, Though cant say if it would deter there submarines. At the same time, Both forces combined, Larger then any fleet the RN would have in the area, May be able to inflict severe damage on Gibraltar, Or even better provide covering fire for a landing force. Would more then likely fail or succeed with Very High casualties among the attacking infantry, But taking Gibraltar for them selves or knocking it out of use would be worth it. Would be there best time to launch an attack against Gibraltar even in a possibly damaged state, Wait until the ships reach Italy to be rested, repaired and resupplied and by that time the RN has launched new vessels, Fielded greater surface and submarine force there and has bottled up the majority of the European Axis surface units in the Med.

    Once there in the Med, Assuming all units made it, And are operational within 6 months i see them starting a small joint op to see how they work together.. Knocking out Malta. The biggest problem for the Regia Marina was lack of fuel and radar, With looking after the Regia Marina being in Germany's interest after the Kriegsmarine ships are located in the Med, Fuel would soon become far easier to gain. As for radar, May be provided to the Italian vessels, if not, Then they would group German and Italian ships together, Using the radar from German ships to be able to engage the allied vessels at greater range. With the Western med secured (assuming they took Gibraltar early on) and the Central med safer after neutralizing Malta they would be able to concentrate forces against the RN fleet units based in Alexandria, Know this is when it would start to really get challenging for the British, Any ship damaged would have to take a long route back to Britain for repairs, Either the RN will be worn down in a battle of attrition or the Axis naval forces would be beaten back onto the defensive. Should the Axis forces come out on top, then i see those units being used against the allied land based units in Egypt/Libya, Provided they are supported with adequate air cover then they would provide serious support. With RN forced out of Med then the Allied forces would be forced back to Mid East, Sudan or the Horn of Africa. Combined the allied land force was capable of doing what needed to be done, But if they where forced to split apart to try and defend multiple directions then the Axis could quickly roll over them.

    If the allies don't defend Sudan/horn of Africa then that allows axis forces to establish air bases in those regions,Forcing back RN ships further, Allowing access to the Indian ocean.

    If the allies don't defend mid East then that allows German forces to gain control over it and more then likely cut of British oil supplies from Iraq, Iran etc which at the time i believe were very important.

    try and defend all, And they risk losing it all. If they lose it all, Then once japan comes into the War, the force able to be established in the Indian ocean could be ripped apart by the combined forces, Making the Indian ocean, Along with the Med there own little sea's to be used as they please.
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    "von noobie", the mid-east oil was of little import to the UK by late 1940. All coming out of the area went to the east, not the British Isles, it was cheaper to purchase US oil and ship it to the home islands than ship it around the African Cape. The Suez wasn't used for cargo shipping from pretty early on in the war. I have another post somewhere on this subject, I'll try an locate it for you.
     
  13. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Here is that old post of mine concerning the Med., the Suez, and Mid-eastern oil. It may be boring to others who have seen it before.

    The Persian Gulf was not nearly as significant an oil producer in WWII as it is now. In 1939, the US accounted for 60.4% of global petroleum production, and Latin America another 15.3%. This shows that more than three quarters of the world's petroleum production was in the western hemisphere.

    The USSR accounted for a big chunk of the remainder, 10.6%.

    Iraq & Persia (Iran) combinded; 5.4%.
    the NEI (Dutch East Indies); 2.7%.
    Romania; 2.4%.
    the British Empire; 2.0%

    The Arabian and North African fields had mostly not been found nor developed. UK imports of petroleum early in the war were running around 11-12 million metric tons.

    About half of this could be satisfied from Empire sources (mostly Malaysia, Burma, and perhaps British Borneo, as far as I know.)

    After June, they surely could get as much as they wanted of the NEI production, which could have covered the rest. But the US is a lot closer to the UK, and they can get high quality refined product from there, so they probably got as much as they could afford from the US.

    From:

    Atlas of the Second World War edited by John Keegan:

    In 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 (barrels of oil per year):
    Persia (Iran) : 8 million, 10 million, 11 million, 15 million
    Iraq : 3 million, 4 million, 5 million, 5 million
    Egypt: 1 million, 2 million, 2 million, 2 million
    Saudi Arabia: 1 million, 1 million, 1 million, 3 million

    Latin America meant (then) Venezuela, I believe, but probably also included the Dutch Antilles (e.g., Aruba).

    British empire oil - I presume that would be Brunei (north borneo), as I am unaware of any other locations producing oil. Nigeria wasn't a producer then.


    NEI = Borneo, and possibly Sumatra produced some, as well. That was overrun by Japanese in early 1942.

    Note that all the figures above equals 98.8% - thus this covers essentially the entire world. Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Libya, North Sea - all those places that are big producers now - were nothing back then.

    Do you notice that even those mid-east 30 millions of barrels of oil from '39-'44 were a "drop in the bucket" compared to the oil (both crude and refined) which the UK received and used from the "Americas" (Canada included). When all production combined (30 million barrels) from the mid-east from 1939 to 1944 doesn't even equal the oil production of even Venezuela for some single years in that time frame.

    Between 85/90% of Britain's oil used on the home islands during the war came from the western hemisphere. Even tiny Venezuela was one of the world's leading exporters of crude oil from after "The Great War" (WW1) to post-Korean "conflict", when they fell slightly behind the mid-east states.

    If you wish to convert barrels to tons, then remember that a gallon of light sweet crude weights in at 7 pounds per gallon.

    The standard bbl of oil is measured in 42 gallon sizes, not 55 gallon sizes. This 42 gallon corresponds to the 35 imperial gallons originally used to ship salted fish, and made the standard size a LONG time ago, and adopted by the US petroleum industry in the 19th Century when we (America) were setting the petroleum suppy standards.

    So if you figure a standard barrel of crude is 42 gallons (US), and sweet light crude weighs 7 pounds per, then a barrel equals 294 pounds (not counting the container). A short ton (used in this field is 2000 pounds), an English, or metric ton (not widely used in the petro-world) is 2,204 pounds). Using those standard petro-numbers, a short ton of oil is 6.802 barrels of crude

    The loss of Gibraltar may have made the supply of Malta more difficult, but not impossible. Lastly, not only would the Suez Canal have been of virtually no real import to the UK (they had been shipping around 80-90% of their cargo from the Indian Ocean and western Pacific around South Africa since the opening days of the war), if it was headed to the British Isles, and vice versa.

    That connection was most generally used for military shipments to the troops in Egypt and in the Med., but the Levant area and eastern islands could be as easily supplied through the protectorates of Syria, Persa (Iran), and Iraq without the canal.

    For the UK, British Isles oil imports in 1939 were as follows:

    46.2% - Caribbean - mainly Venezuela, but includes Trinidad and Mexico
    30.8% - Middle East - Persia (Iran), & Iraq
    19.2% - US
    (the rest came from Rumania)

    Then with Italy entering into the war in mid-1940, and the Central Med. a war zone, middle east oil became more expensive since it had to be shipped around the Cape. In consequence by 1942, no middle east oil was sent to the home islands, both Persian and Iraqi oil production/refining was scaled back short term (civil unrest didn't help), and that which was produced was used "in house", i.e. the MTO, plus some sent to India, especially after the loss of the Far East oil producers; NEI, Burma, Borneo and Malaya to the Japanese. So this is the picture for UK petroleum by 1942:

    60.0% - US,
    40.0% - Trinidad, Venezuela and Mexico (Rumanian oil purchases stopped in 1940, but they had accounted for only 4.2% of British imports that year)

    By 1944, 79% of Britain's oil imports would be from the US; 21% from the Caribbean, as those sources could be shipped cheaper. The Suez Canal have been of no import to the UK for supplying the home islands (they had been shipping over 85-90% of all goods around the Cape since the opening days of the war), since Italy was holding Ethiopia and "air-patrolling" the southern entrance to Suez only warships and supply ships for the troops in Egypt used the canal, the UK didn't receive any substantial percentage of their oil from their holdings in the mid-east after 1940.

    The British Isles themselves got most of their oil and petro-products for most of the war from the US, still the world's leading oil exporter at the moment. The US supplied (from our own fields) nearly 75% of all the oil and its products used by ALL the western allies for the entire war. Note how very different the petro-world was then!
     
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  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Lost a longer version of this but ...
    IMO and especially on historical boards such as this "what if" does not equal "anything goes". A useful what if should be reasonable and posible in a historical context. Discussions on a LGM SS disvision are right out.
     
  15. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    No doubt if the Germans attempted something like this, they would try to cover it with U-boats or some of the Italian submarines operating from Bordeaux. Interception of warships in open ocean was a relatively rare event, but there was always a chance of a lucky encounter. Force H and Ark Royal might be the greatest danger to Bismarck enroute to the straits of Gibraltar, so Donitz might concentrate his submarines off the Iberian coast.

    The Home Fleet could also redeploy once Bismarck was known to be running through the English Channel en route to Brest. Assuming she made it undamaged, the British could guess she would not linger in Brest, although Coastal and Bomber Commands would no doubt put together some major efforts in case she did. They might kill two birds with one stone by giving a heavy escort to the troop convoy WS-8B, at least three of KGV, PofW, Hood, and Repluse plus Victorious, cruisers, and destroyers. If Bismarck managed to evade them and get into the Med, most of these ships might remain with Force H, able to intervene either in the Med or the Atlantic if any of the German ships from Brest made it to sea. PofW might remain in home waters, finish her workups, and be ready for whenever Tirpitz became operational.

    The British Mediterranean Fleet in May 1941 had three capital ships - QE, Valiant, Barham, of which the first two had been thoroughly modernized - against four Italian, Littorio and three modernized WWI ships, with Vittorio Veneto under repair from Matapan. Historically that was enough to hold the Italians in check; indeed they remained in check into 1942 when the British had no capital ships at all, although the extent of damage to QE and Valiant was not known. So I'm not sure adding one or more German ships would change the balance, especially with additional British ships following them to the Med. The Axis would have the advantage of the central position, and the Italians might be more enterprising with German support and example.
     
  16. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Thanks for the info on the oil situation for Britain. Though to clarify, I never intended to make it seem that the Suez was used as a way of getting supplies to Britain, Apologies for any confusion. I meant that the Suez canal, Falling into Axis hands, May allow/encourage them to start making raids into the Indian ocean. And while it seems that the Mid East oil was of no use to GB, I'm sure, That given sufficient time to set up the needed pipe lines that they would become invaluable to the Axis.
     
  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I simply posted an old one of mine, and the Suez was included in the original post. But, in that case one must then put into the mix just how easy it is to "block" the Suez. The dang thing can be turned useless by a few well positioned and scuttled ships, during the many Israeli/Egyptian conflicts it was closed off and on for almost six year by a few well positioned wrecks, and there was no war going on while the things were removed. It is a very vulnerable waterway to "enemy" action if the enemy decides to close it before withdrawing from the area. One must also remember just how easy it is to create havoc with oil transport systems. Look at how long it has been since any of the long pipelines of Iraq have been literally out of the "mix". Only recently, using modern techniques have any substantial pipeline deliveries been made for Iraq's interior. And the "war" was supposed to be over since "Mission Accomplished" under Bush.

    Oil infrastructural systems are too open to delay, destruction, and sabotage if that helps your enemy. And the Axis didn't have the time, nor the expertise to lay and protect pipelines and pumping stations. It is a non-starter as a cost-benefit effort.
     
  18. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    No :it would not become invaluable for the Axis :to transport crude oil,you need tankers,and the axis had none .
     
  19. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Fair enough, Never learn anything unless you ask =). Guess the only real way to secure the Suez would be to hope they move faster then the British.. In any case, If the Brits did scuttle ships there, Would make only location for surface warfare being at Gibraltar but I see a full scale action there, While being Very costly to the allied fleet, Forcing back the Axis forces (maybe Gibraltar holds out?) due to lack of air power from land bases where as the allies had a fleet of carriers to call upon.

    Though point of interest, Even though building the pipe line and such would be highly improbable [I don't think anything is impossible until you try it and fail =)] considering its the Mid East, Would the location not be more convenient to the Axis? Forcing out the British occupiers, Being friendly with Iran, Would seem the population would be more helpful, Would make attempts to sabotage the pipe line by SAS/Commandos close enough to a suicide mission. Wouldnt make any difference in this what-if, But it just a small point of interest for future reference.
     
  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Where would you run the pipeline?

    Also remember that the population density is pretty low in large portions of that area. Not to difficult to send a team in that sets some charges and vacates the area before said charges detonate.
     

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