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Rommel decides to halt on the border

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  • Rommel decides to halt on the border

    Late June 1942, Tobruk, Libya.
    The fortress has fallen and General Auchinleck has ordered the 8th Army to retreat into Egypt. The Italo-German army gives pursuit but at Mersa Matruh the British armour launches an aggressive if uncoordinated riposte that brings the German and Italian mobile forces up short before falling back to El Alamien. Rommel has second thoughts about continuing the pursuit, realising the British army is not as wounded as he thought. Taking stock of the situation he confers with his staff and is brought to realise that the captured supplies and equipment might get him to the next British position but cannot propel his army to Alexandria while he cannot be supplied in the desert so far from his main ports of Tripoli and Benghazi.

    Rommel decides to halt his army’s main body west of Sidi Baranni and go over to the defensive while asking for Malta to be taken to help alleviate his supply situation. Malta is invaded by sea and air with the Italian Folgore parachute and La Spezia airlanding divisions leading the attack supported by a German parachute brigade and the understrength 21st Air Landing division. The battle lasts 10 days and casualties are initially heavy but the island surrenders in mid July.

    The German army in Africa is reinforced by the 164th Light division as well as the weak 21st Airlanding division, cobbled together from the German parachute force left after Malta. Likewise, La Spezia and Folgore are folded together into one parachute division and sent to Africa.

    By the end of August the Italo-German army has the following OoB:

    15th, 21st Pz divisions, Ariete and Littorio armoured divisions
    90th Light and Ariete Motor divsions
    21st Airlanding and Folgore Parachute divisons
    164th Light, Trento, Brescia, Pavia, Bologna infantry divisions

    The captured stocks are saved while the axis truck fleets are used to bring supplies to stock depots between Tobruk and Bardia

    The combined Italo-German army is deployed thus:

    Sidi Baranni (early warning line): The reconnaissance battalions from 15th, 21st Pz and 90th Lt divisions are formed into reconnaissance reg’t, reinforced with light tanks and AT guns, deployed along the coast road and responsible for the coastal zone between Mersa Matruh and Sidi Barrani.
    The reconnaissance battalions of Ariete, Littorio and Trieste are formed into a second similar regiment and deploy out on the desert flank south of Sidi Barrani – their kit is actually more suited to open desert and they tended to be more flexible at reconnaissance than the Germans.

    Halfaya Pass and the Frontier (seven divisions): The Italian infantry divisions, the German 164th Light division as well as the parachute forces are deployed in a series of fortified positions from Halfaya pass curving in an arc to the west to include the older Italian border forts, ending near Bir El Gubi. Italian infantry formations are corset laced with German infantry and parachute forces and each box is wired and mined (many coming from the Gazala Line).

    Mobile Reserves (six divisions): deployed forward of the frontier line but behind the two reconnaissance regiments are the six mechanised divisions organised into 2 mixed corps. However, the main combat strength is based on a two battle groups made up of German/Italian armour and mech infantry supported by the available tank destroyers and self-propelled artillery. The remainder of the two corps are deployed to support the flank and rear of the two battle groups.

    The other side of the hill

    After the fight at Mersa Matruh at the end of June the British and CW forces withdraw to Alamein where there is a brief tussle with German and Italian reconnaissance forces. Auchinleck reforms 8th Army as best as is possible and in mid-July, during the fight for Malta, launches a hasty and ineffective counterattack but manages to re-establish forward British recce positions at Mersa Matruh at the cost of more armour and battered formations.

    Auchinleck is relieved by General Gott, who is killed by a stray artillery shell during a reconnaissance sweep in mid-August while launching another counterattack aimed at driving the axis from Sidi Barrani. The British armour, apparently learning little since June, is roughly handled by the Italian and German tanks and AT gunners. The counter attack falls apart as the British withdraw but they manage to tighten their grip on Mersa Matruh.

    At this point Churchill makes his visit to Egypt where Alexander and Montgomery are assigned to take command of the Mid-East and 8th Army respectively. Montgomery begins his build up as per the OTL. Unlike the OTL, in this scenario the German and Italian forces are better placed to execute mobile operations, with Malta occupied the sea lanes to Libya are more secure and axis air power is better placed to be supported from Crete. Supply depots in Libya are better stocked but the supply situation is just a touch above tolerable as opposed to the OTL.

    12 October 1942 – Mersa Matruh - 8th Army, with much the same strength as in the OTL, is ready to launch the offensive aimed at destroying the Italo-German army in Egypt prior to operation Torch.

    What happens next?
    The Purist

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

  • #2
    Tell me what happens for Torch. Either way your going to get flanked and crushed eventually. Speaking of which what happens when the Axis eventually lose any control in the Med. Army Group Africa starves to death. Regardless of what happens the Axis lose but they get to spill more Allied Blood

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    • #3
      I guess the real question is which Monty will be doing the leading? Monty at 2nd Alamein was content to let Rommel burn out, and then start a grinding offensive back. Monty at Goodwood started a grinding offensive, but arguably without letting the Germans burn out first. Monty at Market Garden was aggressive and ambitious, and it bit him in the arse.

      If he's content to wait for Torch, he will probably convince Rommel to attack. Rommel isn't one to wait too long, even though his best operational victories in theater always occurred on the tail of a futile Allied attack. Once Rommel's logistics are in place, there won't be anything to hold him back from attacking.

      If it's the Monty of Goodwood, then it'll be a grinding mess against the superior German AT guns, not to mention experienced AT gun crews. Rommel will hide behind his AT shield and let the British tanks wear down, especially the newer Grants and Shermans, and then he'll counterattack with the full weight of his armor and mobile infantry, his reinforcements allowing him to hold all of his mobile units back until time to land that killing stroke.

      If he's like Market Garden, it all comes down to whether the British have learned anything from Rommel about armored operations in the Desert. If they go piecemeal and/or unsupported like they were won't to do early on, then they'll get slaughtered and Rommel will start to try and get a hole through the Alamein line. If they go like they should, then it'll be an awesome tank battle. Personally, if Rommel's not depleted first, he'll win because he's got more experience and feel for this kind of fight, but it'll be gruesome either way.
      Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

      Comment


      • #4
        Then you've got the new German situation. Rommel has some interesting units, which bring their own set of problems. If the Airmobile divisions bring air transport, then he has an asset that is uniquely prepared for his sort of warfare. Imagine not needing to truck the infantry around, but dropping off battalions as needed right behind or with the armored divisions? That'll cut down on his logistics problem somewhat on the advance. If no planes are available, then he'll have to pick which units to use where.

        One thing is certain, he'll keep mostly Germans facing the Brits, but he might send some smaller units, along with a Division of Italians, to cover his flank once the idea of Torch becomes possible for the Allies.
        Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

        Comment


        • #5
          Gents,

          Let's not give the axis anything they did not have. In the OTL the axis army had both Folgore and Ramke's para bde of about 5 battalions. They did not have air transport in OTL or ATL.

          Rommel is not planning to advance, he realised/was convinced he could not bounce the Alamein position earlier at Mersa Matruh and did not continue to Alamein and strand himself. He pulled back within the maximum throw range of his logistics and dug in. He then repelled two British operations in July and August.

          It is Sept now, he depots are better off if not perfecrt since he did not get pinned to Alamein. malta is axis occupied. the axis army has 13 instead of 12.5 divisions but everything else is as the OTL. Stalingrad is grinding away, the battle of the Atlantic is in full bloom, Torch is coming.

          Montgomery is in command of 8th Army and must no conceive of a battle plan to destroy the axis army so it cannot be used against Torch. He will seek "the last victory of the Britsh Empire" before the US gets involved in the war.

          What are the otions open to Rommel? What are the options open to Montgomery?
          The Purist

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

          Comment


          • #6
            Strong Artillery Preparation in true British Fashion. Maybe heavier attacks on the mobile reserves.

            Comment


            • #7
              Von Arnim unconditionally surrenders in 1943, in other words nothing changes.

              Comment


              • #8
                Just to be clear if anyone is wondering where the main deployments are.

                As of Oct 12 the British mass is at Alamein and points west towards Mersa Matruh. British light forces are based at Matruh and operating between it and Sidi Barrani, sparring with Italian and German light forces, fighting for information and screening 8th Army.

                The Germans main deployment it along the frontier from Halfaya and curving in an arc back to Bir El Gubi inside Libya.

                The two mobile corps are east of the frontier but west of Sidi Barrani, deployed to intercept any British move out in the desert or up the coast road

                Operating from Sidi Brrani towards Matruh are the two reconnaissance regiments foment from the German and Italian mobile division recycle battalions. like the British they patroll between the two forward outposts both seeking information and screening their own armies from enemy reconnaissance.

                No space bats, the only difference is Rommel did not strand himself at Alamein and Malta is now Italian occupied. The British will not be facing minefields ten miles deep and the Axis supply situation is improved (Roammel doesn't have to worry about the next gallon of gas for today at least).

                The Purist

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

                Comment


                • #9
                  It may well buy them a few months before the invasion of Italy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Just to be clear if anyone is wondering where the main deployments are.

                    As of Oct 12 the British mass is at Alamein and points west towards Mersa Matruh. British light forces are based at Matruh and operating between it and Sidi Barrani, sparring with Italian and German light forces, fighting for information and screening 8th Army.

                    The Germans main deployment it along the frontier from Halfaya and curving in an arc back to Bir El Gubi inside Libya.

                    The two mobile corps are east of the frontier but west of Sidi Barrani, deployed to intercept any British move out in the desert or up the coast road

                    Operating from Sidi Brrani towards Matruh are the two reconnaissance regiments foment from the German and Italian mobile division recycle battalions. like the British they patroll between the two forward outposts both seeking information and screening their own armies from enemy reconnaissance.

                    No space bats, the only difference is Rommel did not strand himself at Alamein and Malta is now Italian occupied. The British will not be facing minefields ten miles deep and the Axis supply situation is improved (Roammel doesn't have to worry about the next gallon of gas for today at least).

                    Means nothing, Rommel is in a no win situation, as you have indicated that Torch still goes ahead, which means eventually Rommel is transfered to the Atlantic Wall and von Arnim unconditionally surrenders in 1943 with the loss of over 350,000 axis troops going off into Allied PoW camps.

                    It's like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it sinks!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The major problem with North Africa was there was always an open flank: in Rommel's case his right. If Montgomery is prepared to invest the time and resources in a deep flanking operation, Rommel will have to denude one area to guard against this. However, the 8th army still has the advantage of rail supplying as far forward as Mersa Metruh (or even further). WWI style preparation may be order.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The Malta operation had already been decided against by Hitler and the italians were not really showing much activity either so it is a big supposition that Malta would even have been attacked, let alone captured.
                        Rommel did not strand himself at El Alamein.So, you can see him being called back from there because the high commands would have supposed they could not support him. And Rommel would have left on sick leave earlier in this supposition.
                        At the end, Torch will make it all end the same way. No attack was even necessary against Rommel except to fix him while the whole axis position is completely outmaneuvered by a more daring Torch which includes landing in Tunisia.
                        Last edited by oberst63; 07 Nov 13, 07:07.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                          The major problem with North Africa was there was always an open flank: in Rommel's case his right. If Montgomery is prepared to invest the time and resources in a deep flanking operation, Rommel will have to denude one area to guard against this. However, the 8th army still has the advantage of rail supplying as far forward as Mersa Metruh (or even further). WWI style preparation may be order.
                          No ww1 style preparation needed which is a waste.Torch will make the position untenable so you only do a fixing attack.

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                          • #14
                            The exposed flank may well help Monty if he uses his armour well of course a lot depending on Rommel's response.
                            If Rommel does manage to hold he will be able to pull a lot more of his forces back once the Torch landings occur than he did in actual history.
                            This could see the Americans getting a bigger at Kasserine pass and the Axis holding longer against the British in Tunisia.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                              The captured stocks are saved while the axis truck fleets are used to bring supplies to stock depots between Tobruk and Bardia
                              There is a table in Sadkovich that details the supplies offloaded in Tobruk in August/September 1942. It is surprising in that the Italians offloaded a lot more supply there than is commonly thought. They did a good job at repairing the port.


                              I think Roddoss has it right. There is no meaningful change in the timeline other than a 4 to 6 week delay.

                              Malta gets liberated in August 1943 and Sicily invaded September 1943.

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