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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Military/History Related Hobbies > Alternate Timelines

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Alternate Timelines The plausible "what if's" of military history.

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  #61  
Old 09 Mar 17, 02:07
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Originally Posted by Merkava188 View Post
With Hitler, Mussolini had no choice but to go to war.
Why? Was Hitler threatening to invade Italy if Mussolini didn't go to war on the German side? I think not.
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  #62  
Old 09 Mar 17, 10:58
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
The British had built a double track rail line to the Egyptian border pre-war.
That is incorrect. The New Zealanders built the Western Desert railway extension during the war. It went from Mersa Matruh to Tobruk.
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  #63  
Old 09 Mar 17, 13:35
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Originally Posted by AdrianE View Post
That is incorrect. The New Zealanders built the Western Desert railway extension during the war. It went from Mersa Matruh to Tobruk.
That's what I thought.
But what we can do for Italy is expand Tobruk, have some light rail in place, and pre-register a bunch of shallow-draft light cargo ships and boats so that they can be transferred to that front at the outset.

The larger question is; can Italy mass it's half dozen BBs, a like number of Heavy Cruisers and twice that many Light Cruiser plus dozens of DDs in such a way as to confront the RN in the Eastern Med with overwhelming force?
I am still wondering why the didn't.... so I will leave that question to you guys.


Moving on to what I promised; Italian East Africa.

Historically, after a somewhat eventful Summer (for some of them) the Italians in this theater backed off, dug in and awaited the inevitable doom of their isolated Empire.... with inevitable results. The first British counter-attacks didn't kick off until November, and things didn't start getting serious until the end of the year. Meanwhile, the long wait had the same effect on Italian morale' that the Phony War had on the French; it was ruinous.

It didn't have to be that way, and half a dozen well-informed staff officers from all three services could have sat down at the end of 1939 and come up with something much better.

Additional materials-
I said before that I would fight with the forces available, and what was on hand is sufficient. However, a few basic items of support are needed.

With 839 artillery pieces, you really can't ask for more than that, but there are only 24 x 20mm AA guns. If each of the two Regular Infantry Divisions have their allotment, that only leaves 8 for the rest of the region. With all the down-sizing of the other Divisions, another 24 should be freed-up, so send that many more.
And, we will ask for a like number of 90mm guns.
Panic, madness, you can't have that many of our newest and best guns!
Okay, fine How about 20 of these?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7.5_cm_kanon_PL_vz._37
Ain't they just sweet? They even come with AT rounds.
And they are Skoda, so you know they work.

The Navy should have a stockpile of 500-1000 mines in addition to what their ships can carry. Since the DDs, dedicated minelayer and CL can carry about 500 at a time, this is very reasonable.

And about that Light Cruiser I mentioned before; no need for a modern one, there were two German-built WW1 cruisers owned by Italy and converted to "Colonial" cruisers in the mid 1930s.
So, why wasn't one of them in the freaking Colonies?
I don't buy the usual excuses, one or the other should have been re-fitting back home at a given moment, but never both of them. No, we just won't accept that. Barri or Taranto, I don't care which, has to be down there. They both have what matters; 5.9" guns, and stowage for 120 mines.
Yippie-Kiy-Yay!

As for the Air Force... there is one thing that makes me wonder. Their Depot-level maintenance was capable of reconditioning 15 motors and 15 airframes per month, and of recycling certain key materials. It has been a long time since I was involved in aviation at that level, but I don't think this is going to be sufficient.


Higher strategy;
Priority ONE- close the Southern end of the Red Sea, and at least appear to be threatening the Persian Gulf.

Priority TWO- Link-up with Libya and cut the Nile River & Railroad link Egypt has with the rest of Africa.

All other objectives are of vastly less importance, including raids into Kenya and other parts of Sudan, such as a possible strike at Socotra Island and Port Sudan.

Priority ONE will include mining the Red Sea in the hours just prior to the declaration of war, the invasion of British Somaliland, and the landing at Aden.

Priority TWO is a little misleading. Even if contact is established, running supplies to Khartoum overland from Libya is not going to be very effective, considering the needs of an army of over 300,000. But what it will do is add a new dimension to the threat to Egypt, isolating it as Ethiopia had been isolated. If the RailRoad and the Red Sea are both cut, then the RN will have to evacuate, and the British Army won't be far behind.

How can we bo so bold?
Lets take asymmetrical warfare and stand it on it's head. Let's use poorly-armed irregulars as an offensive force.

The bulk of the Italian Colonial forces were equipped with little more than rifles and a few MGs. They were ferocious, but few of them knew what to do when they were being pounded by artillery or strafed by aircraft. So the only option is to make the most of them before much of that arrives on the British side.

Send out a wave of 100,000 of them for the Summer campaign, and replace them with another 100,000 for the Autumn offensive. On horse or camel, they will need very little logistical support, and will be encouraged to live off the land. Just turn them lose, they can swamp the enemy and enrich themselves with booty at the same time. Tell them that there is one item that they have to turn over; Gasoline. They can even keep their captives, but only until the end of the war.

Yes, there may be some war-crimes here and there, but Italy did side with Germany, after all.

And here we have an opening for the Officers side-lined by the reorganization of the army back home. All these irregulars are going to need some supervision.
Right?
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  #64  
Old 09 Mar 17, 14:16
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On AA guns, the Italians had a large number of 75mm AA guns of various sorts in service prior to the war. These included the:

Cannone da 75/46 M34... About 100 in service. Used North Africa, Russia, Italy
Cannone da 75/40 M40... About 20 in service. Static version, used in Italy
Cannone da 75/50 M33... About 150 in service. Used everywhere
Cannone da 76/40 CA... Static gun, used in Italy and North Africa
Cannone da 76/45 CA... Static mount, used in Italy
Cannone da 77/28 CA... Ex-Austrian WW 1 piece used in some numbers. Obsolete.

The Czech piece you mentioned only became available to Italy through Germany in late 1940 - early 1941.
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  #65  
Old 10 Mar 17, 10:31
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You are forgetting about the French presence in Djibouti. They must have had something there, that the Italians of the time needed to worry about.
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  #66  
Old 10 Mar 17, 13:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AdrianE View Post
You are forgetting about the French presence in Djibouti. They must have had something there, that the Italians of the time needed to worry about.
From French Somaliland in World War II:

Quote:
Italy's declaration of war on France and Great Britain came on 10 June 1940 and the next day, 11 June, Legentilhomme was named supreme commander of all Allied forces in the so-called Somaliland theatre.[12] In his own Somaliland he had a garrison of seven battalions of Senegalese and Somali infantry, three batteries of field guns, four batteries of anti-aircraft guns, a company of light tanks, four companies of militia and irregulars, two platoons of the camel corps and an assortment of aircraft.
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  #67  
Old 10 Mar 17, 13:51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
On AA guns, the Italians had a large number of 75mm AA guns of various sorts in service prior to the war. These included the:

Cannone da 75/46 M34... About 100 in service. Used North Africa, Russia, Italy
Cannone da 75/40 M40... About 20 in service. Static version, used in Italy
Cannone da 75/50 M33... About 150 in service. Used everywhere
...

The Czech piece you mentioned only became available to Italy through Germany in late 1940 - early 1941.
Google gives me no results for that gun.
But whatever the case, I am saying that 75mm would be better for that theater. More shots per ton, about 50% more I think, and no opposition that would require the larger gun.
But they really did need some sort of heavy flack there, and something that could threaten a tank like a Matilda. Whatever type it is does not really matter.

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Originally Posted by AdrianE View Post
You are forgetting about the French presence in Djibouti. They must have had something there, that the Italians of the time needed to worry about.
As noted earlier, the Italian attack on British Somalia was delayed because they included forces that were originally earmarked for the invasion of French Somalia ... Djibouti.

Quote:
The governor of French Somaliland (now Djibouti), Brigadier-General Paul Legentilhomme had a garrison of seven battalions of Senegalese and Somali infantry, three batteries of field guns, four batteries of anti-aircraft guns, a company of light tanks, four companies of militia and irregulars, two platoons of the camel corps and an assortment of aircraft.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French...n_World_War_II

The French collapse came about before the offensive started, and so this happened instead;
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italia...ish_Somaliland
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  #68  
Old 10 Mar 17, 15:42
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The Cannone da 75/50 M33 was similar to the 75/46 M40. The later was simply the former's replacement. The only difference between the two was the slightly shorter barrel that lowered the velocity slightly to extend the barrel life and that the M33 was designed for mobile use while the M40 was a static gun.



What they really needed in East Africa was two things in terms of land warfare:

1. An artillery piece that could tackle a tank. The few Matildas could have easily been taken care of with 75mm or 105mm artillery pieces firing either shot or a heavy wall HE round. Either would have demolished the tank.

2. An early warning system for their air defense. The British sent Wellesley bombers there regularly. These were all but defenseless and being slow and vulnerable could have easily been shot down with proper warning to the fighter defenses. The CR 42 biplane was more than sufficient to take on a Wellesley.



.303 Lewis gun in the rear cockpit. A second .303 amidships in the windows, and a third fixed to fire forward. The "pod" under the wing(s) contains the bomb load.

Last edited by T. A. Gardner; 10 Mar 17 at 15:49..
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Old 11 Mar 17, 02:19
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I want to stay focused on Ethiopia- Air Forces this time

The Cr.42 did remarkably well in many situations, that may be why they kept making more ... they even shot down Ju-86 bombers and their escorts.
Yes, German bombers, sold off to make a profit pre-war.
To South Africa!
The Germans were right, they were obsolete, and only had three light MGs for defense. The trick was intercepting them in a vast front.

The idea of a Chenault-style air warning network is a good one, it is even more important than you might know- there are very few fighters to work with.

Cr.42; There is conflicting information. There were 9 to a squadron, and either two or three squadrons.
About 50 more were brought in over the air-bridge from Kufra in Libya, packed into the excellent Kangaroo transport planes. The 3rd Squadron was probably formed later with these replacement aircraft at some point.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_CR.42

Cr.32; Not nearly as good, 40 mph slower and armed with twin 30-cal instead of the 50-cals on the 42. I was going to make one a dedicated night-fighter unit and the other a ground-attack squadron. However... they can only take on a 100kg. bomb-load. The only way to make that impressive is to load them with the 2kg. anti-personnel bombs. A good supply of those will have to be set up.

SM.79; the best bomber, as already mentioned. There are only 2 squadrons of 6 planes each. Historically, the daylight raid on Aden lost one bomber to flak and another returned as a write-off thanks to flack damage and being intercepted by two Gladiators (one was shot down by the SM.79)
I want to hold the remainder back as torpedo-bombers only, and assign a Cr.42 squadron as their escorts.
This is in keeping with Priority ONE.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_SM.79


SM.81; there are seven 6-plane squadrons, and its not a bad place, with double the guns of the Ju-86.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_SM.81
And check out the bomb-load options-
- 4 × 500 kg (1,100 lb) (stored horizontally)
- 4 × 250 kg (550 lb) (ditto)
- 16 × 100 kg (220 lb) (stored vertically, as all the smaller ones), true weight around 130 kg (287 lb)
- 28 × 50 kg (110 lb) (true weight, around 70 kg/150 lb)
- 56 × 31 kg (68 lb), 24 kg (53 lb), 20 kg (40 lb), or 15 kg (33 lb)
- 1,008 × 2 kg (4 lb) (true weight, around 1,700 kg/3,750 lb)
Incendiary bombs are also an option
These crews are already capable of night operations.

Ca.133, Six Squadrons, of 6 each again. Light Transports doing duty as light bombers, I want 2 Squadrons keeping an eye on the Red Sea, bombing mine-sweepers and dropping flares at night. The rest can raid Sudan and Kenya in the early days (they did, with some success) and later, see below.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caproni_Ca.133

Ro.37; 1 squadron, nine planes, a Biplane Recon plane, its main virtue seems to be its ceiling of 23,600 feet. It can also drop a reasonable bomb load.
I would scatter them in 3 x 3-plane groups to the far corners of the theater, watching for developments from unexpected directions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMAM_Ro.37

There were 183 first line aircraft and another 140 in reserve, of which 59 were operational and 81 were unserviceable. Replacements are at hand, but a lot of these could be used up as sources of parts if more are not sent in.


And there were transports... a pitifully small collection of 25.

S.73 were the best, and so of course there are only 9 of them.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_S.73

Ca.133, again, nine of them and six Ca.148 (a lengthened version of the Ca.133)
Interesting, we have the option of expanding an over-stressed transport fleet by using light bombers of the same type.

And there is one Fokker tri-moter, just one. It was probably a civilian plane requisitioned for this campaign.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fokker_F.VII
It is a very common plane, and not identified with Italy.

This could be useful, if we want to get very bold with a commando raid. Paint it up in some neutral country's colors or Civil aviation line, pack it with a couple of squads of men with Beretta SMGs and then come in for a normal landing pretending to be anything but Italian. This wasn't so hard when radios were optional in most parts of the world, and frequently malfunctioned.
Just choose a field that is undefended in June of 1940, but likely to be built-up and used against Italy in the months to come. One that is somewhat isolated and not on any path that Italian armies will be taking any time soon.
Once the commandos have seized the place, another cargo plane will arrive with a load of Demolitions gear. Not only will the infrastructure be wrecked and the runway mined, but booby-traps will be left hidden all over the place. Colonial troops will probably have a lot of trouble dealing with this sort of thing, and the airbase will be out of the picture for months.
And also, the British will have to detail a lot of men and weaponry to defending their other air bases, a crucial diversion at the very moment when they are being stretched thinnest.


Army next, or Navy?
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Last edited by The Exorcist; 11 Mar 17 at 12:17..
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Old 11 Mar 17, 11:46
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Setting up an air warning system in East Africa, given the usually clear weather would have been relatively easy. All you'd need is stick the observers out in likely direction of flight, as far as possible from the targets, and give them this low tech solution to communications:



Used by observers stationed at high locations and supplied by pack animals and air drops, they could have detected an incoming enemy air raid hundreds of miles from targets and given the defense plenty of time to get fighters airborne to intercept. No need for power to run radios or stringing telegraph / telephone wires. It could have been up and running in a matter of weeks at most.

Given that there are documented cases from the American Southwest Indian campaigns of heliographs sending messages 75+ miles and relayed messages covering as much as a thousand in a matter of and hour or two, this system would have worked. Cheap, easy to set up, and reliable.
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Old 11 Mar 17, 15:26
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
Setting up an air warning system in East Africa, given the usually clear weather would have been relatively easy. All you'd need is stick the observers out in likely direction of flight, as far as possible from the targets, and give them this low tech solution to communications:...
Cheap, easy to set up, and reliable.
People are going to have fun with that, but it does look like something Colonial Italy could go for. There weren't many lines of any kind in Ethiopia at that time (the only major RR ran from Addis Ababa to Djibouti) and.... yes, the Colonial levies could make use of that.
Good call, since 70% of the troops on the Italian side are natives, and with wildly varying levels of quality.


And so, time to talk about the ARMY.

There are only two Italian Divisions there.... okay, yeah, the Blackshorts also assembled a Division, and it even had 6 x Infantry Battalions. The problem is, they are all WW1 veterans well, not all, more on that later). There is even a Battalion of Amputees, so as a Division this is a write-off for our offensive planning. Let them strut around the rear areas and keep the fuzzy-wuzzies in line, Garrison is what they were doing when they were judged to be preforming "credibly".

40th Infantry Division only has 4 Infantry battalions and is newly formed. I would detail it to the invasion of British Somaliland, and after that make it the Strategic reserve of the theater. There has to be something standing by to face enemy landings/offensives.


65th Infantry Division Granatieri di Savoia is a totally different animal, and that is without any of our Alt. Staff work. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/65th_I...ieri_di_Savoia
It has 2 regiments with 2 battalions of Infantry each, plus a Blackshirt Battalion, plus a Cavalry Battalion plus a motorized Infantry Company... and five artillery Battalions. One of those even has the French 105mm guns.
The only sour note is the MG Battalion, I would follow TaG's recommendation on that item, but that is the ONLY reorganization I see being needed here.

This Division is NOT to be broken up, it is to be the core of the drive towards Khartoum, and possibly beyond to Egypt. More on that later.


Other than that, there isn't very much in the way of organized Divisions fit for offensive work, the rest of the Italians are either smaller units or rear-echelon support and the Natives are mostly in Bande formations.
There were exceptions, the Somali Corps was one, and one of those Divisions can be included in the invasion of Somaliland, along with some of these guys-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubats
-who are exactly the sort that I would also send into every border region to wreck havoc. Their zone would be Kenya, and I would have a few Italians along with them that know how to call for an airstrike.


Armor and Mechanized units;

All 24 of the M11 tanks went to Brit Somaliland and Historically were next seen in Eritrea. I stay with the first part, and split them in half for the 2nd part, the other half going northeast instead of due north, and the remainder South to Kenya along with the unit I am pairing with this "medium" tank force; the German Motorized Company already spoken of.

Wait, what about the Motorized Battalion, you ask?
No, these tanks are so valuable that they should only be sent in with a Regiment worth of Infantry, like from 40th Division. They don't get tankettes, they dont' need them, the Mot. Company is there to help them exploit any sudden opportunity that may open up for the tanks. If they can make a sudden lunge, those 140 Germans will be needed to support them.
There will also be a dozen AB-40 armored cars with them.

There are 39 x cv.33 Tankettes in the whole theater. Make 3 x Companies of 12 each. With TaG's armament suggestions, that will mean two with 45mm mortars and four with 13mm Heavy MGs, the other six per Company will have the twin MGs.
1st Co; attached to 65th Division
2nd Co; attatched to the Mot. Battalion
3rd Co; South or strategic reserve.

Armored Cars;
There area about 126, and that is a huge number considering what was built in Italy up to that time.

Lancia IZ cars date from WW1, and were very good cars for that time. I would prefer it to the Rolse-Royce (also still in use at that time) but only 120 were ever made. Considering wastage and combat loses in the last 20 years we can't see all of them in East Africa, we can't even put all of the survivors there, I just saw a pic of the Germans using a commandeered one in Yugoslavia in 1943!
So, the absolute maximum here would be 60 of these old beasts, and beasts they were at 4.5 tons and a crew of five with 3 x MGs.
Save a dozen for reserve, and give all the rest of them to the Colonial units. Favor the Eritreans and Somalis, but loyal Ethiopian Princelings must be included.
They can even take them out campaigning, losing them to bad driving or enemy fire isn't a total lose since all of the MGs can be dismounted and used like normal medium machine guns.

Fiat 611...
(some of you may be wondering if I have many "why do I bother?" moments, this car is one of them)
The 1933 Armored car is a great example of what didn't work for Italy under Fascism. It was well-armored and armed, it looks formidable and with 3 axels and ten wheels it should have had good mobility.
It also had a 45hp engine for a 7-ton vehicle, not even a diesel.
I found that out when I dug deeper, thinking the top speed of 17mph had to be a typo. It wasn't.
Only 46 were made, but they were always very prominent in Ethiopia. Guessing that there were 30 present, I would give half of them to the Air Force to use for Air Base Security. These things should be able to handle trundling around a flat airfield, and one tank-full of fuel should see them through for the duration, with any luck.
There were also 5 with a 37mm gun, and 2 x MGs instead of four. Take the other 15 and group them with two MG cars escorting a cannon car. Parcel them out to 4 locations of high value and population... and leave the last three for Aden.


AB-40; I didn't believe it at first, even with a pic, but it does appear that a lot of these had been sent in time. There are our last 36 Armored Cars, enough for 3 x Companies of 12.
One is with the Meduim tanks, another is with the 65th Division, and the last will be with a special task force;

Groupo Sudan;
One Motorized Battalion plus 1 x Co AB-40, 1 x Co Tankettes, 4 x 20mm AA + 4 x 75mm AA, and liaison units linking them with air force and Eritrea Cavalry groups.

Not every bit of the forces sent out in the first wave will be Colonial Bandes, this group is to head northwest from the Eritrea/Etheopian/Sudan border area. Opportunism is the word for this crew; they can help surround a town being stoutly held, or out-flank a blocking force on the way to Port Sudan or swing west to help with the drive to Khartoum. This group will need to have a good logistic support unit assigned to it... but we will get some breaks elsewhere.

Ops will be next, that is a lot for one post.
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Army Operations;
As said before, the first wave will be 100,000 Colonials who are sent out to over-run their British Empire equivalents. And they can do it with their 5-1 numerical superiority and support from the air, which Italy had in the first months of the war. This wave is mainly light Cavalry, to be replaced with infantry during the Autumn.

10,000 are going into British Somaliland.
50,000 are invading Kenya, split between Somalis and Ethiopians.
33,000 of the best and most mobile troops, most notably the Eritreans, are going into Sudan along two main axis.
7,000 picked men are going on a special mission; Aden

Somaliland- Only 20,000 total troops will be there instead of the Historical 25,000 for this invasion, but Aden is the reason for this. The British won’t be landing 2 or 3 more battalions in Somaliland if they were destroyed at Aden or had to be diverted to defend Oman.

Kenya; One of the biggest things people fail to do is plan for success.
Okay, what if you close the Red Sea, what happens then?
The answer is easy; all the material that was being sent to Egypt by that route will land sort of there, and be used to mount an offensive aimed at opening it back up again. Logically, they will land at a good harbor like Mombassa, Kenya. If they can’t do that, they will simply land farther down the coast at an even better harbor; Dar es Salam in Tanzania.
… and there is really nothing we can do about that.

However; that in itself will delay the same troops that attacked the Italians in November and December until early 1941. It is possible to delay them even more-
In Kenya, it will be Scorched Earth. The norther part of the country can be left livable, that will be our first defensive belt. The mid-section is to be wrecked, turned into a wasteland, even the grass is to be burned, right down to nothing. The south is to be raided heavily, and we can paraphrase the Japanese in China a give the horse & camel cavalry a new motto; “Shoot all, loot all, burn all.”
Hopefully, they will do it in that order…
No regular Italian Army units will be part of this effort. The Division that takes Somaliland and most of it’s supporting units will be arriving there sometime in September, which is exactly when the whole Sherman’s March approach will have run its course, and these Bande will be replaced by more formal Colonial troopers. It iwas simply a matter of the Natives getting out of hand, don’t you see?
Cynical, yes, but this is Fascist Italy at war.
May as well take advantage of it.

Sudan; This is no raid, this is a serious bit of conquest. Italian East Africa can justify a rescue effort by blocking the Red Sea, but it also has to try to meet that rescue effort halfway.
That halfway point is somewhere north of Khartoum.

12,000 Troops accompany the 65th Division, making that the only front where Italians outnumber native troops.
16,000 head for Port Sudan. Hey, they might get lucky, and these are Eritreans, the fierce ones.
2,000 Camel Cavalry accompany the Groupo Sudani, helping them help the main columns.
3,000 will cross the Ethiopia border with South Sudan, and cut the river and railroad links there, and amuse themselves raising hell in general.

Sudan Logistics;
I can hear it already, but I had the answer before I started this.
The group headed for Port Sudan would have to be the lightest and most mobile troops, what their mules can carry will be it for them. But, they LIVE there, they know what they can do and what they can’t. Groupo Sudani will need a real caravan of trucks to support it, and with what is going on down in Somaliland and then Kenya, that is pretty much the limit of what this theater can provide, right?
So, what about Khartoum?
The Blue Nile, that’s what.
It may seem like going the long way, but not by very much, and your water problem is solved too. But best of all, you have that river, it is navigable and it is flowing the right way. You just raft the supplies down to them, or not even you Italians, but the locals. They have been there for thousands of years, they know what to do. And they will do it, if you PAY them. A kilo or two of tiny gold coins is all it will cost Italy to have the support this offensive needs transported to it.
Just don’t try to pay them in script, or those supplies will be stolen half the time.

Aden; Much of this will be in the Navy section, coming next.
The landing force will need 7,000 native troops, and 1,000 of those will have to be Cavalry of some kind. Those will be about the only troops that will be able to push very far into the interior from Aden.

The remainder of that landing force will be 3,000 Italians of 3 battalions. One Battalion will be the independent Mountain Battalion, Aden is surrounded by mountains after all. The others will come from the Blackshirt Division.
That isn’t a typo. Yes, they were WW1 Vets putting on an act, but there was a Battalion that was made up of Assault Group veterans. There was also a Machine Gun Battalion without their MGs and an Artillery Battalion without cannon… and both of those were made up of University Students. Take the best of those, combine them and put them under the wing of the Veterans. Those College boys should also be good at making use of whatever captured equipment is found in Aden. If we have smart Privates, might as well make the best use of them. A battery or two of 75mm AA guns will be included in any case.
The three left-over CV-33 tankettes and three of those miserable 611 Armored Cars will be going, too.
A little armor is much better than none, and the propaganda value will be immense. Can you imagine what they will think when words gets out; “Enemy tanks are on the Arabian Peninsula!” The phlegmatic Brits, maybe not so much, but what about the Arabians themselves?

One last bit of cynicism; don’t allow any pics of the tankettes when they are next to the armored cars. Those cars make the tanks look very small and insignificant. It may be best to just take a picture of the tracks they make in the sand, headed symbolically towards he Persian Gulf.
THAT ought to give the Sheiks heartburn.


Next up, the Navy!
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The Navy was sometimes said to be the best of the three Italian services. They certainly got the best of the budget, but what about a theater that Commando Supremo can’t seem to have made their mind up about?
Honestly, what the AIO expendable, or something else?

There were eight big, powerful submarines there, and I will get those out of the way first because they are hunter-killers instead of an integral part of a fleet on the offensive, and I don’t think that Staff Planning will have any chance to help them.
The Italian Subs had a problem with their air re-conditioning systems. Given a rough shock, they would flood the sub with poison gas, and this was not known until they entered combat! In June they went out expecting easy pickings and instead they ran into the RN head-on. Half the Subs were gone by the end of the month, 2 were sunk, one ran aground and had to be scuttled, and another was captured. However, one of them showed some serious back-bone and fought it out on the surface with a RN gunboat and three Destroyers. They managed to sunk the gunboat and damage a Destroyer badly before anyone said ‘abalone ship!’. This isn’t the most incredible thing Italian Subs ever did, some of those things had TWO deck guns, and they were 100mm guns, not the 88mm ones that the Germans liked so much.
The most amazing thing they did was after cowering in harbor until February, they took the remaining four Subs and set out for Bordeaux, France, and ALL of them made it. The Germans said it couldn’t be done, but apparently if there was one thing Italian submariners could do, it was escape and evade.


Destroyers-

3 x Leone Class. 2600 tons, Janes says their speed was “less than 33 knots” by this time, and how much less does not matter. Once you are under 33 knots, you are going to be slower than any RN DDs out there, but look at the armament;
8 x 4.7” (120mm), 2 x 3” AA, 2 x 40mm, 3 x HMG, 6 x TT, 60-100 mines.
Now THAT is one hell of a lot of firepower, and these things date back to 1923. Nobody else in the world had a broadside like that on a DD until the later 1930s, and the only British ones were the Tribal Class… you won’t be seeing any of those in this theater. All of those Torpedoes can be fired to either side, another thing that wasn’t so common back then, and those 3” guns kick out a 14 point shell. The mines are a great thing to have if we are playing to our strengths (and we shall) and you can have up to 100 if you want to live dangerously and have 40 of them sitting out in the open where the Depth charge would normally be.
But, yes, there are problems.
Notice I said Broadside, these are not super-firing turrets. The twin 4.7” mounts are spaced out evenly along the length of the ship. I guess the justification was that no one hit would take out more than one turret, but that means you ca only fire 2 guns dead ahead or directly aft.
And the 4.7” guns only have an elevation of 30 degrees. They can’t do AA fire, which is why the 3” guns are there.
Now, I am sure that RN fans can tell us lots of stories about plucky little RN ships taking on Italian ships with twice their firepower and winning, but these big boys weren’t alone.


4 x Sauro Class.
A decade younger, faster and with the same Torpedoes, they had half as many guns of the same size (minus the 3” AA). These could also carry 30 mines, and that’s going to be important later on.

There were also 2 x Torpedo Boats of 670 tons and 2 x Gunboats, and I think it would be a mistake to overlook them. Historically, when Massawa fell in April of 1941, the Captain of one of those Gunboats vented his frustration over months of inactivity and went out to pick a fight with the British tank columns coming to seize his home port. He made a mess out of them, and how could he not with a 100mm gun and a couple of rapid-fire 40mm, but eventually had to scuttle his ship.
He ran out of ammunition.

The “Colonial Ship” Eritrea also had 4.7” guns, but other than that it’s only interesting feature was it’s long range; it made it to Japan when it came time to run. Maybe we could sent it out as a Raider, and hope that it brings some good cargo back?

And there is the Colonial Cruiser I mentioned earlier. It needs to be in the Colony it was refitted for… and it isn’t just one of them. How can it be too much to ask to have one of the two of them in the Theater?
Slow, obsolete, but it can carry 120 mines, and it can throw 6” shells at Aden during the landing. After that, it should be sent away, to Mogadishu I think. We know how the RN can get; they look at the biggest ship the enemy have, and they fixate on it. If there is a cruiser hunkered down in Somalia then they will feel bound to keep a cruiser of their own down there, standing by to intercept it. And since they only have three light cruisers in the area… I call that a win.

There were also 5 x MTBs, what the rest of us would call PT boats. 4 out of 5 were cannibalized or just broke down by March 1941. Clearly, somebody needs to have a look at the situation with spare parts, and also have a look at basing these things closer to the strait where they will be most usefully employed.


Aden-
Once Italy takes British Somaliland, the RN and RAF only have two bases within range of the southern neck of the Red Sea; Port Sudan and THIS one.

Since this is so important and there are only two major Operations for the Navy, I will deal with that in the next post.
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On subs...

The Italians were thinking small using them locally against shipping in the Red Sea and adjacent areas. The boats had more range. Sending them against shipping off India, Singapore, South Africa, or possibly Australia would have been a better use.
This way the boats don't face much, if any, ASW initially. They could probably even operate on the surface much of the time, even in daylight. Sinking a merchant ship is sinking a merchant ship. It really doesn't matter where you do it.

That would have forced the British to move naval assets away from Italian East Africa rather than concentrate them there. That's to the benefit of the Italians. Let the surface forces, supplemented by aircraft take on British shipping locally.

The MAS boats (PT boats) are all but worthless. Their best use is as scouts at sea when they can get out there. Sortie them at dusk and let them patrol offshore so long as they have a radio available.

Let the colonial ships along with the torpedo boats and gunboats form the harbor defenses and operate as an inshore squadron supporting the army and escorting merchants with supplies for the same purpose. There are a number of German and Italian merchants in Massawa at the time that could have been used for this purpose.

Mines aren't going to be a big player in the Red Sea or off Africa. The ocean is simply too deep most places to make mines work well. Floating mines were outlawed well before the war and nobody really has any useful ones anyway.
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At best with the MAS boats, you might do a raid on the Canal Zone itself. Send one of the old DD's up there like the Campbeltown, with the MAS boats leeching fuel off of her and acting in support. Hit the canal locks with torpedoes at night and then flee. IF an opportunity presents itself, the DD could be scuttled and blown up right in the canal mouth itself, which would screw up shipping royally for months while the RN fished it out. Forcing the RN to go around Africa on Day One not only makes things more difficult for them dealing with Italian East Africa, but also makes things more difficult dealing with Italy period, as the ANZACs and Indians can't be brought in as effectively to N. Africa, and the Germans can then focus their efforts on the S. Atlantic and Atlantic coastal trade. Aus, NZ, and India can send in troops in large numbers to E. Africa, but at this stage the equipment would be third rate at best, and they'd be mounted cavalry or infantry with virtually no heavy guns or armored support to speak of.

I agree that the subs need to be really sent out. Go to Indian waters and screw with the British there, where the fleet is weak. The other Leones can function as surface raiders along the African Coast. They're too powerful for a DD to easily handle, so the Brits will have to detail a CL apiece, or run hunter packs of DDs, either way tying up valuable assets that could otherwise be strangling Italian shipping or doing ASW escort on Indian Convoys. Give the British bad decisions to make between hunting for surface action or dealing with Subs that will surface and shell ships when not forced to stay down by ASW escorts, and who can take on and beat armed trawlers and such.
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