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  • Churchill takes the initiative and invades Sicily

    Churchill wasted a lot of time, equipment and men reacting rather poorly to the German offensives in France, Greece, Malta and North Africa. The Germans always mobilized much more and better planes much faster than the British. The British kept sending few and doomed Gladiators and Hurricanes to face formidable forces. So RAF kept losing hundreds of unfortunate pilots without anything to show away from Britian but debacles.

    After O'Connor's brilliant campaign Winston ruined everything by sending O'Connor's troops and other fresh troops to the Sudan and Greece with very few planes. The Greek campaign and Crete were disastrous for the British pilots, ships and troops and for British morale.

    Mussolini had invaded Greece at the worst possible time, he was taking a beating in Libya but still had lots of troops in Tripoly, he had licenced 700,000 to go home for the harvest and had very few troops, tanks and planes in Sicily. Germany had sent about 800 planes to Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Romania to invade Greece.

    Sicily is the ideal scenario for and invasion, with a huge coast with many areas suitable for landing and is very close to Malta. Most Sicilians hated Mussolini.

    Had Winston sent O'Connor with the troops he sent to Greece and Sudan and additional planes to invade Sicily in 5 locations, the Italians and Germans would not have had time to mobilize their forces and the island would have fallen. Without Sicily the Italian troops in Tripoli would have starved and died of dehydration. They certainly did not present a threat to Egypt, since they had lost practivally all their tanks, artillery, planes and vehicles to O'Connor. Without Tripoli the Italians would have had a difficult time supplying Greece, East Africa and Sardinia and British bombers from SIcily would have inlficted major losses to Italian naval and commercial shipping, factories, railroads, etc,

    On the other hand, capturing Sicily rendered Malta immune to attack, so that hundreds of planes and ships would not be lost defending and supplying that tiny island. Capturing Sicily rendered Sardinia very vulnerable to air attack and invasion and difficult to supply and reinforce. Accordingly, axis planes there would have a very difficult time attacking British ships and even surviving attacks from both Sicily and Gibraltar.

    The Italian navy did not have Radar (Hitler made a major mistake in not providing them with it), so by attacking it at night, in fog or behind a smoke screen it was helpless against the British navy.
    Last edited by Draco; 07 Sep 12, 21:23.

  • #2
    Taking Ethiopia, and in particular the naval harbor at Massawa, was a vital necessity. The Italians had a squadron of naval vessels there that threatened the British / Allied supply line from South Africa and into the Atlantic.

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    • #3
      I cant see the Brits being able to sustain this logistically in 1941. REsources were just spread too thin for much of the year. In 1942 a early Gymnast operation, followed by this Sicillian adventure might net something, if other battlefields are neglected.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
        I cant see the Brits being able to sustain this logistically in 1941. REsources were just spread too thin for much of the year. In 1942 a early Gymnast operation, followed by this Sicillian adventure might net something, if other battlefields are neglected.
        Its worse than that. All the Italians have to do initially is keep the Straight of Messina held and the Germans could have thrown a panzer division or two onto the island along with paras and infantry. The British are doomed if that happens.
        It also puts them well within range of the Luftwaffe from mainland Italy and out of useful support range for their own aircraft.

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        • #5
          The Germans already have hundreds of planes attacking Greece, if the British arrive in Sicily first then the Germans will have to relocate their planes. If the British arrive in Greece they will certainly be doomed.

          It is far easier to supply Sicily from Gibraltar than it is to supply Greece.

          If the Italians lose Sicily, Massawa becomes irrelevant, for the British will have guaranteed supplies for Egypt through the much shorter western Med route and Indian, Anzac and SA troops and supplies can always arrive by railway through Persia and Palestine.

          If the axis has to fight in Greece and Sicily simultaneoulsy, it will have a much more difficult time than if it only fights in Greece. The more time troops and equipment spend relocating, the less time they spend fighting.
          If Britain has plenty of planes established in Sicily the RN will be able to shell any paratroopers or tanks arriving there near the coast (the LW will not be able to kick them out after inflicting heavy losses, like in Greece and Crete.
          The British can supply Sicily much more easily than they can supply troops attacking Libya from Egypt if the axis controls Sicily, which they had to do by going around SA, an extremely long route.

          Britain was well within range of the LW in France, yet German planes had a short range and were defeated. The British are much better at defending an Island with plenty of planes and their excellent navy than they are at attacking an established LW.

          Flying bombers from Gibraltar to Sicily is quite feasible (even bombing Sardinian airfields and naval installations en route), as is transporting fighters by carrier from Gibraltar to Sicily or from Alexandria or Crete to Malta, which can then fly to Sicily.
          Last edited by Draco; 07 Sep 12, 23:11.

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          • #6
            Not a chance.

            It was less than a week between the arrival of British troops at El Agheila and the first arrival of German troops in Africa. At the same time there were five Italian divisions in Tripolitania between Sirte and Tripoli. At the time the British had two divisions in Cirenaica with almost all the armour in workshops. The logistics situation was extremely poor and they could not advance. At the same time the LW had deployed to Sicily to reinfoce the RA and they started the early bombing of Malta and the harassment of Benghazi and the coastal road.

            On the British side the priority had to be East Africa in order to clear the sea lanes for US shipping. Since the Red Sea was declared a war zone US law would not permit its ships to sail into the region carrying cargo for the British, straining British shipping resources. The British also lacked the amphibious shipping and had no land bases of any worth to support the invasion. They lacked a/c, troops, equipment and supplies for projecting an operation from Egypt to Sicily and the sea lanes would have been heavily interdicted.

            Politically, abandoning the Greeks would have sent a bad message to the remaining neutrals, "You cannot count on the Allies for help. Make your best deal with the Nazis". The impact on neutrals such as Spain and Turkey had to be taken into account. Greece was the right move politically. The Levant was also becoming a concern and the British had be concerned about German intervention there and opening a new front in the Middle-East. The fall of Greece would also expose Cyprus to an Axis attack and further unhinge the Syrian situation.

            The British had plenty on their plate and not nearly enough troops to deal with all potential threats. Wavell did an excellent job in dealing with East Africa and Syria even though they took longer than expected but it secured his base. There was little he could have done about Greece,... he simply did not have the troops for a sustained campaign in Greece and once the Greeks collapsed the game there was over. Thankfully, Rommel exceeded his orders and attacked early thus causing the British to divert troops and equipment that were destined for Greece to the Libyan frontier. Had Rommel followed his orders his attack would have struck at a time when the cupboard was completely empty.

            All things considered. Wavell did a very good job in the Mid-East Command up to the summer of 1941.
            Last edited by The Purist; 08 Sep 12, 22:51.
            The Purist

            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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            • #7
              Helping the Greeks by sending 62,000 troops and a few planes and being thoroughly defeated sends a pretty clear message that you cannot count on the British for anything, after Norway, France, Belgium and Greece. Having the RN kicked out of Crete with hellacious losses for lack of air support was disastrous.

              On the other hand helping the Greeks by forcing the axis to react in Sicily sends the message that the British do have initiative and a hell of a navy and air force. Using O'Connor, the only British general that has shown initiative, instead of sending him to hell makes a lot of sense. Using lots of troops idle in Britain for years, while Anzacs, Indians, SAs, etc, do most of the fighting makes a lot of sense.

              After the shameful and quick defeats in Libya, Greece (before he called in the Huns) and Sicily and the anihilation of the Italian navy, Mussolini would have been deposed or at least abandoned to its luck by Hitler, who was anxious to start Barbarossa.

              Sending American supplies to Benghazi through the red sea, when you can send them to Sicily through the Med makes as much sense as operating tonsils through the rectum. Time is the most valuable comodity in war. If supplies arrive in the front 6 weeks earlier and wasting a lot less fuel and ship time, your enemy is going to have a hell of a time fighting you.

              Withdrawing from Cirenaica and reinforcing El Alamein while you invade Sicily makes it imposible for the troops in Tripoly to invade Egypt and even to survive without supplies. On the other hand, sending supplies all the way to Benghazi for Rommel to capture and allowing Rommel to receive supplies from Sicily, while you get yours after months at sea through the red sea is assenine. Having to fly airplanes to Egypt from west and then central Africa when they can fly or be transported in carriers to Sicily is also assenine.
              Last edited by Draco; 08 Sep 12, 11:12.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Draco View Post
                Sending American supplies to Benghazi through the red sea, when you can send them to Sicily through the Med makes as much sense as operating tonsils through the rectum.
                It does when the patient's head is up there....

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                  It was less than a week between the arrival of British troops at El Agheila and the first arrival of German troops in Africa. At the same time there were five Italian divisions in Tripolitania between Sirte and Tripoli. At the time the British had two divisions in Cirenaica with almost all the armour in workshops. The logistics situation was extremely poor and they could not advance. At the same time the LW had deployed to Sicily to reinforce the RA and they started the early bombing of Malta and the harassment of Benghazi and the coastal road.

                  On the British side the priority had to be East Africa in order to clear the sea lanes for US shipping. Since the Red Sea was declared a war zone US law would not permit its ships to sail into the region carrying cargo for the British, straining British shipping resources. The British also lacked the amphibious shipping and had no land bases of any worth to support the invasion. They lacked a/c, troops, equipment and supplies for projecting an operation from Egypt to Sicily and the sea lanes would have been heavily interdicted.

                  Politically, abandoning the Greeks would have sent a bad message to the remaining neutrals, "You cannot count on the Allies for help. Make your best deal with the Nazis". The impact on neutrals such as Spain and Turkey had to be taken into account. Greece was the right move politically. The Levant was also becoming a concern and the British had be concerned about German intervention there and opening a new front in the Middle-East. The fall of Greece would also expose Cyprus to an Axis attack and further unhinge the Syrian situation.

                  The British had plenty on their plate and not nearly enough troops to deal with all potential threats. Wavell did an excellent job in dealing with East Africa and Syria even though they took longer than expected but it secured his base. There was little he could have done about Greece,... he simply did not have the troops for a sustained campaign in Greece and once the Greeks collapsed the game there over. Thankfully, Rommel exceeded his orders and attacked early thus causing the British to divert troops and equipment that were destined for Greece to the Libyan frontier. Had Rommel followed his orders his attack would have struck at a time when the cupboard was completely empty.

                  All things considered. Wavell did a very good job in the Mid-East Command up to the summer of 1941.
                  Congratulations on your post, which is quite excellent and effectively introduces an element of reality into the debate. The idea that in early/mid 1941 the British army was in any state to invade anywhere is quite absurd and has no basis in reality.

                  There is certainly room for criticism of Air Ministry policy at this time, when large numbers of RAF fighter and fighter bomber squadrons pottered about South East England, carrying out futile and generally pointless fighter sweeps over Northern France when some of them, at least, could have been far better employed in the Middle East & Mediterranean theatres. I recall Cunningham making this point in his memoirs, when he suggested that a few squadrons could have saved Crete. I believe he was actually referring to Bomber Squadrons, but I suggest that his argument had validity.

                  As to the idea that Churchill would have taken the initiative by invading Sicily, I fear that the whole idea is too laughable to take seriously!
                  Last edited by The Purist; 08 Sep 12, 22:52. Reason: corrected my errors in original quote

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                  • #10
                    That is precisely why the British lost every single battle (except O'Connors Libya) until el Alamein.
                    Had Monty been there in O'Connors place he would not have attacked until he had three times more men, tanks, cannon and planes and then advanced a few miles per day, least he run out of supplies.
                    The notion that despite having the best navy and planes and a huge army, they could not do anything at all is a far cry from the previous centuries, where guts and brains more than compensated for inferior equipment and numbers.
                    It made a million times more sense to invade invaluable Sicily in 1941 than it did to invade the useless Dodecanese against lots of planes in 1943. By the way, the Germans did not sit around complaining that they didn't have enough and adequate landing craft and troops especially trained for amphibious operations to expel the British, they just did. But then again, the British still consider Churchill a brilliant leader. It doesn't matter if his blunders killed thousands and cost billions and lots of prestige and morale in Norway, France, Greece, Crete, Singapore, etc, He could always sweet talk the Brits.
                    Last edited by Draco; 08 Sep 12, 21:59.

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                    • #11
                      The RN of 1941 was already over stretched and 1941 was not 1805. Your views are so whacko as to be almost humourous. You obviously have a very limited grasp of the strategic considerations facing the Mid-East command, the RN globally, the Allies strategically, WWII in general and so on ad nauseum. The fact remains that the intervention on behalf of Greece did have a definite effect on the neutral nation in Europe, in particular Turkey and the United States. They saw the British willing to give battle where ever they could with whatever they could. Churchill was not known as a strategist but he was a good politician and gave the British a moral boost through stern, defiant leadership. That is his claim to fame in WWII. His generals were constantly struggling to intervene to prevent his more loopy ideas on how the war should be fought.

                      In early 1941 there was no way to get to Sicily and no army to go there with. That is a simple fact. Most of the divisions in England could not be used over seas as they lacked equipment. DS has noted that perhaps more aircraft could have been transferred from England but a few more bombers would not likely have saved Crete,... fighters maybe,... if they could be supplied.

                      In any case, if the relatively small Mediterranean Fleet was to suffer fairly heavy losses off Crete while evacuating troops, sinking German invasion attempts and boxing the Italian navy,... what chance would they have had off Sicily, without air cover, under attack from German and Italian aircraft all the way from Sardinia to some beach where the fleet would then be immobile while its supported the invasion. It would have ruined the RN and cost the army all the soldiers sent and all the equipment they carried. FIASCO writ large.

                      Its an idiotic idea.

                      If the main strength of the RN is at Sicily, who is guarding the convoys (DDs are in short supply), who is supporting the Greeks, supplying Malta, clearing the Red Sea, preventing German surface raiders from making sorties?

                      You mentioned US shipping better used at Sicily. That was not going to happen. First of all, US shipping was used in quiet areas to avoid risk of losses, freeing Allied shipping for use in more dangerous zones. With the Red Sea closed it meant British or Allied shipping had to be used to carry British cargo. US ships were not allowed in war zones at this time. Thus clearing the Red Sea eased the British merchant fleet's tasks.
                      The Purist

                      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Draco View Post
                        That is precisely why the British lost every single battle (except O'Connors Libya) until el Alamein.
                        Up to a point...Narvik..East Africa...Crusader

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                        • #13
                          ,... and let's not forget the Battle of Britain. That is the battle won by the fighters of the RAF that were so carefully husbanded by Dowding to protect Britain as the situation in France went from bad to worse to catastrophic. . The same fighters Draco thinks Britain should have given away to the French so they could have been captured or destroyed on their airfields when France capitulated in late June, 1940.
                          The Purist

                          Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                          • #14
                            The RN and merchant fleet were overextended supplying both the British troops and Rommel in a stupid dessert where British naval and air power were secondary to incredibly incompetent army leaders.
                            Had O'Connor been in Sicily with plenty of air and naval support, German tanks and infantry would have been useless 30 km from the very long coast.

                            I've already explained that the battles of Norway and France were lost because of Churchill and Dowding and the BoB was won inspite of Dowding's stupid strategy and tactics and thanks to foreign pilots and a few British aces, including legless Bader (some genius that Dowding, using cripples and Poles and Czechs who had never flown a British plane). Most of the losses in the BoB being inexperienced British pilots in brand new planes, while most of the losses in Norway and France were experienced British pilots in Gladiators and 2 blade Hurricanes.
                            Had dowding had better tactics and sent the better planes to Norway and France in time, there would not have been a BoB or a sickle cut, Norway would not have fallen and France would have remained in the fight at least another month and the LW would have suffered tremendous losses, while British and American planes kept coming out of production. The loss of thousands of German aviators, while fewer experienced British aviators are lost and French aviators keep fighting means that Britain has experienced pilots with excellent planes to defend Britain, while Germany is no position to even attempt bombing it.

                            But forget it, like Russians who grew up in the USSR, you were brought up worshipping your leaders, regardless of how stupidly they acted. Fortunately, Britain had the Soviets to decimate the German army and the Americans to decimate the LW, to give them 32 billion dollars and to defeat the Japanese and the Germans in North Africa, France and Italy. Otherwise, Britain was useless.
                            Last edited by Draco; 09 Sep 12, 10:23.

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                            • #15
                              You are simply wrong.

                              More British fighters in France would not have stopped the Germans invasion. British air doctrine was what it was. Fighter s were not not going to knock out German tanks in 1940 anymore than they did in 1944 (another myth you cling to). Dowding made the right choice because France was going to fall regardless of how many British fighters were present. Furthermore, you have already been told that the majority of losses to Hurricane squadrons in France was because they had to destroy their a/c on the ground because they could be evacuated. Pilot losses were not extreme either. Losses in the air were comparatively small (the Germans lost more ME-109s than the British did Hurricanes) and where you get your ideas is questionable. Your information is not gleaned from history books.

                              Most of the foreign squadrons (the few that were deployed) did not become active until the crisis had generally past. The Czech, Poles, Canadians and others amounted to a small minority of the pilots and the battle did not hinge on them. It was won because the british were shooting down German planes faster than the Germans could replace them while the RAF was slowly growing in strength. It was not nearly as "a near run thing" as the popular history notes.

                              Time for you to grow up and realise your theories are wrong, badly biased and based on very bad information. You will not be taken even the slightest bit seriously as long as you spout baseless information coloured by chauvinism and bigotry. Nor will your time here be all that pleasant as you will be taken to task over every error, every false theory, every baseless fantasy.

                              If you want to learn more about the war you can do that here (everyone learns something on these boards, everyone), you would not be the first to learn something nor the first opinionated or obnoxious member to member to come around and admit they were wrong. Who knows, you may even post something of value one day.

                              Up to you.
                              The Purist

                              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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