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Could proper planning have won WW2 for Italy?

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  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    1943?!
    I can't think of any way to win for Italy in a war that lasts that long. 1940, yes, 1941... a long shot. After that, I'd just forget it.
    There is one way - stay neutral and then jump in on the Allied side when Germany starts losing.



    I wonder if the UK would stop the war before it got that far.
    The Germans just wanted terms, and not very outrageous ones. Churchill wasn't about to give in and just walk away, but if some of the most valuable territory in the Empire was being over-run and a permanent change in the shape of things became possible, maybe he would have made a deal.

    And losing enough land to make that linkup happen could be the straw that breaks the Camel's back.
    Egypt wasn't really part of the Empire in 1940. Britain had great influence, but Egypt was sufficiently independent to get Britain to withdraw troops (except for the canal zone) in 1936. The real value of Egypt was the Suez Canal, which Britain did control. Unless coming to terms gets that back then fighting on makes more sense.

    Losing the Suez Canal would probably mean losing control of Palestine/Transjordan & other parts of the Med, but those are either protectorates or not that valuable. The Persian Gulf is much harder to threaten and if worst comes to worst the Russians & Americans won't allow it. The important parts of the Empire are intact. As long as Britain has US support, and especially with the US in the war in late 1941, there is little incentive to come to terms unless it means the return of territory I don't think Mussolini is going to give up.

    Losing Malaya Singapore in early 1942 was a huge blow to Britain. Those colonies were more valuable than Sudan or influence in Egypt. Britain hung in there.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
    Interesting premise in the OP. A decade or so ago I took a look at designing a game for this subject. The goal would be for the Italian player to place himself in a better position for negotiated peace by mid 1943. At the time I did not see a game leading to a Italian victory as 'realistic'.
    1943?!
    I can't think of any way to win for Italy in a war that lasts that long. 1940, yes, 1941... a long shot. After that, I'd just forget it.

    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    ...

    The only way around that is they hold out long enough to allow Britain to be defeated in Egypt and their colonies in East Africa now have a direct sea, land, and air route between them and Italy. Even then, the sheer scale of the area they occupy will make a victory unlikely.
    I wonder if the UK would stop the war before it got that far.
    The Germans just wanted terms, and not very outrageous ones. Churchill wasn't about to give in and just walk away, but if some of the most valuable territory in the Empire was being over-run and a permanent change in the shape of things became possible, maybe he would have made a deal.

    And losing enough land to make that linkup happen could be the straw that breaks the Camel's back.

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  • Pruitt
    replied
    I think ME Oil was more important than that. There were also refineries to make gasoline. Why ship around Africa to Egypt from the US if you can pipe it to Palestine or Syria? When the Japanese took the Dutch East Indies, the Mid East became more important.

    The British bought oil from a number of countries and they seem to have preferred that tactic. If they would have had to depend on just Trinidad they would have been in trouble.

    Pruitt

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  • ljadw
    replied
    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    If the Italians & Germans do somehow manage to take the Suez canal the Eastern Med will become a backwater. Britain will relocate its forces to Aden & the Persian Gulf and some troops in Kenya. When the Americans arrive in force they will make sure the oil is secure & then may choose to avoid Nth Africa & Southern Europe entirely.
    The importance of the oil of the ME was very small in WWII and, the Germans capturing the canal does not mean that the oil would be in danger .

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  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    A long term Italian victory given the original resources, even used in the most effective way possible, is not in the cards for Italy in East Africa. Even if the British and Commonwealth don't finish them, once the US enters the war, they're doomed.

    The only way around that is they hold out long enough to allow Britain to be defeated in Egypt and their colonies in East Africa now have a direct sea, land, and air route between them and Italy. Even then, the sheer scale of the area they occupy will make a victory unlikely.
    If the Italians & Germans do somehow manage to take the Suez canal the Eastern Med will become a backwater. Britain will relocate its forces to Aden & the Persian Gulf and some troops in Kenya. When the Americans arrive in force they will make sure the oil is secure & then may choose to avoid Nth Africa & Southern Europe entirely.

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  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
    Interesting premise in the OP. A decade or so ago I took a look at designing a game for this subject. The goal would be for the Italian player to place himself in a better position for negotiated peace by mid 1943. At the time I did not see a game leading to a Italian victory as 'realistic'.
    A long term Italian victory given the original resources, even used in the most effective way possible, is not in the cards for Italy in East Africa. Even if the British and Commonwealth don't finish them, once the US enters the war, they're doomed.

    The only way around that is they hold out long enough to allow Britain to be defeated in Egypt and their colonies in East Africa now have a direct sea, land, and air route between them and Italy. Even then, the sheer scale of the area they occupy will make a victory unlikely.

    Leave a comment:


  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    Interesting premise in the OP. A decade or so ago I took a look at designing a game for this subject. The goal would be for the Italian player to place himself in a better position for negotiated peace by mid 1943. At the time I did not see a game leading to a Italian victory as 'realistic'.

    Leave a comment:


  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Yeah... this place sure has a lot of bugs, don't it?

    I find that it helps to switch out, never stay on this site for more than an hour if you can... and never spend too much time on one page, keep flipping around.
    It helps a lot.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    ...
    I don't see how a temporary advance into Sudan or Kenya changes that.
    Oh, oh, okay, I see now!

    This is the same handicap that The Italians themselves were laboring under, and what sapped the energy of their troops. Being flung out there for a temporary gain to make the Generals feel better is always a lousy thing to be involved in. From the middle-management on down, it causes resentment and confusion and just generally uses up the value of the units involved.

    However, that is NOT what this is, except in Kenya.
    This is a deliberate campaign to win the war, and something I didn't mention lately is important in this; protect Italian East Africa by seizing British bases.
    Aden and Port Sudan are especially important for this, but so are Berbera and Khartoum.
    Once those bases are neutralized, the UK's position becomes far more difficult, even defensively.

    Realistically, they can't make it to Egypt, 75% of the effort to make a link-up will have to come from the Libyan side. But, if the Red Sea can be closed, the Army in Egypt will be effectively besieged until they pull back to where they can be supported from the Persian Gulf.


    Originally posted by ljadw View Post
    non-combattants was not the ideal expression :I meant non combat forces .

    The 88000 were

    10000 + men from the air force

    10000 + NCOs at the indigenous units

    20000 + at least from the logistical units

    Thus, not more than 40000 men belonged to the fighting units and they were spread over the whole of Ethiopia,with as result that there was never an Italian numerical superiority : the Italians had to defend everything, Britain could attack everywhere ....
    That is exactly why the Italians must attack, everywhere.
    It is also why I left half of the Colonial Troops out of the attack plans.
    That is the reserve, set aside for the defense of the realm if all else fails.

    Now, that is roughly accurate, there were three Italian Divisions, but there were also a whole mess of Colonials and a temporary advantage in material weaponry... speaking of that, what I posted about armored allocation kinda sucks.
    Here is something that is easier to trace;


    By Location;


    Kenya; 4 x Fiat611 w/37mm, 2 x Fiat611 MG, 4 x Armored trucks, 6 x M11/39 tanks, 4 x 20mm on armored trucks.
    65th Div ; 12 x M11/39 tanks, 12 x CV33 tankettes,
    40th Div ; 12 x M11/39 tanks, 12 x CV33 tankettes, 4 x Lancia a/c
    Aden ; 3 x CV33, 2 x Fiat611, 2 x M11/39 tanks
    Groupo Sudani (along with the Motorized Battalion & Cavalry attachments) ; 12 x CV33, 6 x Lancia a/c, 4 x 20mm on armored trucks.
    So. Sudan ; 3 x Lancia a/c, some armored trucks later on.

    The small and eclectic team sent to Aden is to allow for the expansion of the perimeter as needed, and the previously examined impact of having Axis tanks on the Arabian Peninsula.

    What is sent to Kenya represents the only non-Colonial troops on that front, until the German Company can be formed up and sent there. A Battalion or two from 40th Division can be sent there after Somaliland is secured.
    The problem on this front is the presence of enemy armored cars, to be countered in two ways; The Fiats with 37mm guns are horribly slow but better armed than anything on the British side, they will escort the foot-bound units and remain tied to them by their slow speed.
    The Tanks and trucks will be grouped into fast-moving Fire Brigades, reacting to troubled areas in cooperation with the Somali Cavalry.

    That front also has a squadron of Cr.32 fighters, a squadron of Ca133 bombers and a pair of Ro.37 recon planes assigned solely to them, with Cr.42s and Sm.81s headed their way within a week or two of the opening day.

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  • ljadw
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Okay, I'll get this one first.

    How can you call 88,000 guys a bunch of soldiers and non-combatants in the same post?

    Also; the British Army came close to admitting that on a one-for-one basis, the Soldiers on the other side were tougher than their own guys; the Japanese in Burma, German Paratroops in the mountains of Italy, and the Eritreans they faced at the battle of Keren.

    So, some Colonial troops were crap, but some were most definitely not.
    non-combattants was not the ideal expression :I meant non combat forces .

    The 88000 were

    10000 + men from the air force

    10000 + NCOs at the indigenous units

    20000 + at least from the logistical units

    Thus, not more than 40000 men belonged to the fighting units and they were spread over the whole of Ethiopia,with as result that there was never an Italian numerical superiority : the Italians had to defend everything, Britain could attack everywhere .

    The quality of these forces was also low:their mission was to protect law and order in a still not submitted colony .

    It was not much different in Libya.

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  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    So good you had to say it twice?

    Might want to delete one of those.
    For some reason my ISP hates this site. Strange things happen with trying to connect, sometimes for months on end.

    And, this isn't politics, you don't have to play the Brick wall routine here.
    No idea what you are talking about Exo. Just offering an informed opinion.

    Basic points; 250,000 Italian troops vs 30,000, plus air superiority, those are the odds at the outset.
    I get that, I just don't see the parts of your plan that I think are doable achieving what you think they will. A simple disagreement.

    Morale' is important, and in response to your inquiry I made my case for how to build it up. Fighting Ability is a separate topic.

    I don't agree with your assessments of those battles and can find lots of testimony, from the British side, that say the exact opposite of what you are saying.
    I'm sure some of those troops fought bravely, but they lost to inferior forces on ground that favored the defence - sometimes insanely so. Not just one battle, but consistently. Even when they won it was far from impressive - just like the invasion 5 years earlier. Nine months to conquer a nation with antiquated equipment, a dozen tanks & fewer aircraft. And even then they had to use gas.

    I don't see how a temporary advance into Sudan or Kenya changes that. Conquering Somaliland didn't.

    Now, back to basics;
    And the priorities for the Italians are #1; close off the Red Sea, eliminating the value of the Suez Canal. #2; regain contact with Libya via a land campaign down the Nile, #3 take and hold enough territory to cause maximum consternation among the British Colonial hierarchy.
    I'll leave you to it.

    Now, if Ethiopia is such terrible country for every conceivable form of human movement, then I submit that 90 million people cannot possibly exist there.
    There weren't 90 million in 1941 and even now most people live in small towns or villages and walk everywhere - even between towns. The top 10 cities combined hold about 5% of the population - city number 10 is barely 100,000, which means most people live local. Trust me on this Exo, in the 40s it would have been a nightmare to travel around with an army. The flip side is that properly trained, armed & led army could, with some foresight, make it very, very difficult for an invader.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    So good you had to say it twice?

    Might want to delete one of those.

    And, this isn't politics, you don't have to play the Brick wall routine here. Basic points; 250,000 Italian troops vs 30,000, plus air superiority, those are the odds at the outset.

    Morale' is important, and in response to your inquiry I made my case for how to build it up. Fighting Ability is a separate topic.

    I don't agree with your assessments of those battles and can find lots of testimony, from the British side, that say the exact opposite of what you are saying.

    Now, back to basics;
    And the priorities for the Italians are #1; close off the Red Sea, eliminating the value of the Suez Canal. #2; regain contact with Libya via a land campaign down the Nile, #3 take and hold enough territory to cause maximum consternation among the British Colonial hierarchy.


    Now, if Ethiopia is such terrible country for every conceivable form of human movement, then I submit that 90 million people cannot possibly exist there.

    This is also not happening in a vacuum; Italy will also be making is move into Libya at a steady pace with a smaller and more mobile force, but there will also be landings on Cyprus.

    The real question is, how many surprises and how much pressure can the UK stand in this theater, given all that is happening?

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  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Understood.
    Makes Cavalry all the more important.
    True, but its still poor horse country.

    There was only one railroad in Ethiopia at the time (might still be the case) that ran from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.
    But there was another one in Eritrea, from Massawa into the interior. It no longer exists because the Brits looted the cables that made it work.
    The railroad to Djibouti continued operating at least until the late 70s, but it was damaged in the Ogaden war & by local militants & wasn't well maintained. I had a look at the old stations in Addis & Dire Dawa when I was there. There is a new railway that has opened recently. it is is especially important given the border with Eritrea remains closed.

    The railway in Eritrea re-opened after the war and only closed due to damage during the Civil war. Sections have re-opened since independence. There was a very short line in Somalia that the Brits ripped & & was never replaced.


    I disagree. Holding the line and conducting a fighting withdrawal are more difficult than going a-raiding in the Tribal tradition. Let's use these Colonial troops strengths instead of setting them up for another fall.

    The idea is to cause enough havoc here and in the Med to make the UK sue for peace within 90 days, 150 at the very most. After that, it probably won't be possible.
    Italy cannot win a war of attrition.

    Look at it from the British side; if (in this order) they lost Aden, Port Sudan, Berbera, Djibouti (an early French collapse takes this off the table, but so be it) and then Khartoum, and at the same time a quarter of Kenya while contact between Kenya and northern Africa is being severed by bands of irregulars... wouldn't they staggered by all that, and have to fear for their Empire?
    Agree to disagree. Don't see anything the Italians can do from E.Africa that is going to force Britain to surrender or even make terms. Irritation & disruption? Sure, but that is it from my POV.


    And occasionally, they did very well. The Battles of Kassala are a good example, and they won in Somaliland and nearly did at Keren.
    The army that won at Kassala got its head handed to it at Adwa 2 years later.

    The hastily assembled British force in Somaliland was about one fifth the size of the Italian force, lacked artillery and armor and was simply inadequate to defend the territory. Neither the Italian attack on British or French Somaliland showed any great competence.

    Keren is actually a spectacular example of how bad the Italians were. Gifted an incredible defensive position they managed to lose it to a force almost half their size while sustaining almost 6 times the deaths and 50% more wounded. It was taken more or less by frontal assault, with many of the troops engaged Indian rather than British regulars. Had the position of the forces been reversed & the smaller British force been defending I would have backed it to hold on a lot longer & exact a MUCH heavier price. Some troops on the Italian side fought bravely, but it boggles the mind how they lost it inside 7 weeks. I recall one British general suggesting that only the Italians could have lost a position like that.


    Who cares about the locals? As was ever the case, the Brits would have done a job of disarming them, only the Police and the military would have been armed.
    Even assuming the British didn't arm local militias (there was heavy recruitment of Africans during the war) they would have been on home turf with their traditional weapons against a bunch of troops who were a long way from home. These are the same people who fought the Sudanese government for 50 years. A few Eritreans aren't going to scare them off. No stories of plunder to be had here I'm afraid.

    It is a side-show within a side-show, the only purpose being to prevent the use of that area as a staging ground by the Brits.
    Although ... cutting communications via rail or river between Kenya and Sudan could also pay off.
    I think you are wildly overestimating what was possible here.



    I hear you, but going on the offensive IS the best improvement I can think of.

    By far, the biggest factor in the morale' of the troops in this; winning. Send them out there to rack up a long string of cheap and easy wins, and they will start thinking that they can do anything.
    Sure worked on the minds of the Germans that way, didn't it?
    A few set-backs later on will be of a lesser influence on their minds, as long as there are only a few.

    And let's not give the British too much credit here, or over-estimate the value of rough terrain.
    Operation Camilla was a deception campaign aimed at tricking the Italians into pulling troops out of Eritrea. THe Brits were trying to make them think that an invasion of Somaliland was coming. It backfired, the Italians ended up pulling troops out of the supposedly threatened Somaliland area, and sent them to...
    Yup, you guessed it.
    ... northern Eritrea. Exactly where the real attack came.

    There is such a thing as being too clever, especially where there are Italians involved.
    OK, we have another difference of opinion on the value of all that. Morale is a fragile thing and can be very temporary. Fighting ability is more important, and I struggle to find a single example in the campaign where Italian forces showed they had enough of it to hold anything but the best prepared defences.

    Just one point on Somaliland. That deception enabled the British to re-take Somaliland at next to no cost which in turn made it possible to supply the force advancing toward Addis from Somalia. I'm not sure how much impact those extra troops had in Eritrea. Certainly once Massawa was occupied and Keren taken Britain scaled back operations there to shift troops to Egypt.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Yeah... oh, and they had the Fairey Battle, too!
    Jeez...
    There were some Ju 86 there, on the UK side, believe it or not. Old surplus/obsolete aircraft had been sold to S. Africa for use as airliners, and were de-converted back to bombers.
    The rest were mostly Hawker biplanes and a bare handful of Gladiators.

    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    All you need is Mussolini willing to commit some forces for German use and a bit more cooperation overall. Doable?
    I... am afraid not.

    We are asking Mousey to accept a lot of things here, and it is all for the sake of empowering Italy. Asking for help from the Germans was something the Fascist Government was only prepared to do after failing in Egypt, Greece and the Taranto fiasco.
    That sort of mess is what this plan seeks to avoid.

    The kind of cooperation I would hope for from Germany would be the diversion of ships taken in the Indian Ocean to Somalia before and after Italy's D.O.W. That and the use of German ships in Massawa would be real game-changers.

    You know, there was a German Company down there, not real army men but ex-pats and other refugees that turned up. Germany could have sent them weapons, or even uniforms, and an Officer from the Regular Army to lead them... but they didn't even do that much.
    They self-mechanized, but the only German gear they had were a couple of old MG-08s, probably found those in the basement of some embassy in Adis Ababa.

    ne good thing would be if the Germans could help rig up some drop-tanks for a couple dozen of the Re.2000 fighters Italy had but wasn't really making any use of. THOSE could have assured air-superiority down there until they were worn out. Hurricanes didn't start appearing until the end of the year.


    Okay, speaking of the allocation of scarce resources, I have the Armored "Cars" allocated, as best as I am able;


    Comando Truppe Scioa with:
    -Squadrone carri veloci “Cavalieri di Neghelli” (15xL3) {to Groupo Sudaniminus 3 to Aden}
    -Reparto Autocarri armati PAI (some armaured trucks armed with MG) {Local Garrison}

    Comando Truppe HARAR with:
    -Sezione Autonoma autoblindo Fiat 611 – (5x37mm Fiat611) {one to Aden, 4 to Kenya}
    -Seziona Autonoma autoblindo Lancia IZ – (4xLanciaIZ) {to Somalia}

    Comando Truppe Galla-Sidamo with:
    -Sezione Autoblindo Lancia del Galla Sidamo (Gimma)(3xLanciaIZ) {to So. Sudan}
    -Sezione Autoblindo Fiat 611 del Galla Sidamo (Javello)(3xFiat611mg) {1 to Aden, 2 to Kenya}
    -Compagnia autocarri armati del Galla Sidamo (Gimma)(some armoured trucks with MG) {stays there for anti-partisan duty}
    -Sezione autocarri armati (Uolisciò) (4xarmoured trucks) {to Kenya}

    Comando Truppe Amhara with:
    -Reparto provvisorio autoblindo (Debrivar)(some LanciaIZ) {Home Patrol}
    -Sezione autoblindo Lancia (6xLanciaIZ)(Debra Marcos-Goggiam) {with Groupo Sudani}

    For some reason, when I use the very same color twice in one post, it just vanishes.

    There are also 8 more M11/39 than I thought, 2 x to Aden and 6 x to Kenya.
    Each Division rates 8 x 20mm AA, and there are 24 in the theater. I am pinching the ones for the Blackshirt Division (except for 2 Battalions earmarked for Aden, they are ALL staying behind for Home Patrol) and putting them on some of the armored trucks that Gondar makes so many of. 4 to Kenya and 4 to Groupo Sudani.

    Done!
    Last edited by The Exorcist; 21 Jan 18, 00:18.

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  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Now, an interesting twist would be if the Italians invited the Germans to send some troops (and aircraft) to East Africa via Libya. That could have had really big implications for the campaign if you had say a squadron of Me 110 and a couple of battalions of infantry in Ethiopia at the outbreak of the war there. The troops might have arrived via the ships Germany already had there with a little cooperation and foresight.

    That would have ended the British air campaign in its entirety. A handful of Me 110 would have shot down everything Britain had in the theater. If you throw in a squadron of obsolescent bombers like Ju 86, the British ground forces would be in trouble too.

    Given this is the primary British bomber in that theater:



    All you need is Mussolini willing to commit some forces for German use and a bit more cooperation overall. Doable?

    Leave a comment:


  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    My point was simply that going 'cross country' isn't much of an option except on foot.
    Understood.
    Makes Cavalry all the more important.
    There was only one railroad in Ethiopia at the time (might still be the case) that ran from Addis Ababa to Djibouti.
    But there was another one in Eritrea, from Massawa into the interior. It no longer exists because the Brits looted the cables that made it work.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    The problem we have is that I think your plan is actually worse. They could have holed up in northern/western Ethiopia and sucked up British resources for a lot longer than they did. Going on the offense would have been questionable with a decent military.
    I disagree. Holding the line and conducting a fighting withdrawal are more difficult than going a-raiding in the Tribal tradition. Let's use these Colonial troops strengths instead of setting them up for another fall.

    The idea is to cause enough havoc here and in the Med to make the UK sue for peace within 90 days, 150 at the very most. After that, it probably won't be possible.
    Italy cannot win a war of attrition.

    Look at it from the British side; if (in this order) they lost Aden, Port Sudan, Berbera, Djibouti (an early French collapse takes this off the table, but so be it) and then Khartoum, and at the same time a quarter of Kenya while contact between Kenya and northern Africa is being severed by bands of irregulars... wouldn't they staggered by all that, and have to fear for their Empire?

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    The Italians in East Africa only occasionally rose to 'decent'.
    And occasionally, they did very well. The Battles of Kassala are a good example, and they won in Somaliland and nearly did at Keren.

    There were also an abnormally high % of Veterans of the Spanish Civil war there, looking to retire to the good life in the Colonies, I would guess.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    You are going to send 3000 troops into one of the biggest swamps in Africa against local tribes who are not remotely going to welcome their presence?
    Who cares about the locals? As was ever the case, the Brits would have done a job of disarming them, only the Police and the military would have been armed.
    It is a side-show within a side-show, the only purpose being to prevent the use of that area as a staging ground by the Brits.
    Although ... cutting communications via rail or river between Kenya and Sudan could also pay off.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    To be honest, I'm not sure how you improve a military that behaved the way the Italians did - literally bugging out on the basis of rumors and surrendering to much inferior forces either without a fight, or on terrain where a vastly larger force should have been required. Good luck with fixing that.
    I hear you, but going on the offensive IS the best improvement I can think of.

    By far, the biggest factor in the morale' of the troops in this; winning. Send them out there to rack up a long string of cheap and easy wins, and they will start thinking that they can do anything.
    Sure worked on the minds of the Germans that way, didn't it?
    A few set-backs later on will be of a lesser influence on their minds, as long as there are only a few.

    And let's not give the British too much credit here, or over-estimate the value of rough terrain.
    Operation Camilla was a deception campaign aimed at tricking the Italians into pulling troops out of Eritrea. THe Brits were trying to make them think that an invasion of Somaliland was coming. It backfired, the Italians ended up pulling troops out of the supposedly threatened Somaliland area, and sent them to...
    Yup, you guessed it.
    ... northern Eritrea. Exactly where the real attack came.

    There is such a thing as being too clever, especially where there are Italians involved.

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