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  • Operation Granite

    Operazione di Granito

    Good day all, I've tried several false starts on how to present this idea. Finally I've given up and will present it in half-baked form, hoping that you can help me finish it up.

    The assumption:

    Any military has a core of young officers who through talent (hopefully) or treachery (too often) are ranked above their seniority. No doubt the Regia Marina (the Italian navy under Mussolini) had such a core of young lions. Assume that in early 1940 they sense that Italy will soon be joining the war. They wish to strike boldly at the start, after all, they are members of the 4th largest navy in the world, whose shortcomings had not yet been revealed.

    They feel that they can turn the Mediterranean into Italy's private lake with a two pronged strategy. Firstly, at the instant of the declaration of war, they will strike with thunderclap surprise (I've always wanted to use that term) and seize Gibraltar in a daring raid. With their western flank secured, their battlefleet will be able to isolate then eventually attack and eliminate the RN fleet based in the eastern Med.

    The rough plan:

    Perhaps inspired by the German invasion of Norway, the inital Italian proposal is fairly simple. A group of destroyers, each carrying roughly 100 Marines will enter Gibraltar Bay just after night fall on 10 June 1940 (this will need some coordination with the declaration of war). Some will steam through the gap between the South and the Detached Moles and land their troops at the shore end of the jetty. The remainder will come alongside the South Mole's bay side and disgorge their troops there.

    An hour later three cruise ships (Examples: CONTE ROSSO, NEPTUNIA, OCEANA) will come alongside the South Mole and begin discharging most of the 4th Infantry Division (Mountain) or a similar formation. Based on the casualties and rescue figures when these three transports were actually lost in 1941, they had a combined lift capacity in the area of 9000 men: http://members.iinet.net.au/~gduncan/maritime-1.html Most of these troops, unfortunately armed only with what they can carry, will be ashore by morning. The Battle of Gibraltar will truely begin.

    Considerations:

    The defences of Gibraltar at the time would appear to be:

    Three British battalions: 2nd The Kings Regiment, 2nd Somerset Light Infantry and 4th Devonshire
    The 3rd Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery consisting of 4th, 26th, and 27th Batteries with 8 x 9.2-inch guns, 7 x 6-inch guns, and 6 x twin 6-pounders.
    Two AA batteries, the 9th and 19th, consisting of 4 x 3-inch, 4 x 3.7-inch, and 2 x 40mm guns.
    There were no aircraft based at Gibraltar at this time and no facilities for supporting them.
    http://stonebooks.com/history/felix.shtml

    The 13th Destroyer Flotilla consisting of 9 destroyers. http://www.naval-history.net/xDKWW2-...s-Dominion.htm

    Force H, eventually based at Gibraltar with capital units, is not formed until 27 June 1940. http://www.admirals.org.uk/records/a...9-391_7-31.php

    The Italian Navy as it existed at the start of the proposed operation: http://www.naval-history.net/xDKWW2-4006-18ItGrYu.htm
    The invasion will consist at least of the intial group of 9 destroyers carrying troops. The convoy of troop ships and its' escorts, the old battleships CONTE DE CAVOUR and GUILIO CESARE and their escorts and a 'quick reaction force" of cruisers and destroyers. Also a screen of submarines and perhaps some torpedo boats.

    Environmental conditions ought to be good: http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/c...ml?tt=TT003730

    What am I looking for:

    Can we make a plan that looks like it has a chance of succeeding? For example, many troops do those British battalions actually represent and therefore, how many Italians would we need to get ashore? Would the old battleships be considered as a counter to the shore batteries? The Italian air force had a very limited ability to bomb 'the rock' during the war, can it be used to make a difference? What, if any, paratroop capability do the Italians have?

    An "it can't be done" discussion is really not what I'm after. The historical arrival (but likely unexpected in this scenario) of the battleship HMS RESOLUTION at Gibraltar on 10 June would likely cancel the operation anyway.

    Note: I have "sort of" done the intial phase of this for real. In the early 90's elements of the Canadian Navy "seized" the South Mole with their boarding parties as an exercise during work ups for some of the ships.
    Last edited by Roadkiller; 08 Dec 09, 19:47.
    Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

  • #2
    Well, you have more data here than most of us proposing these ideas. I suspect British patrol boats & other naval units would cause trouble, but lests see what any experts offer up...

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi

      You need to add the following naval assets

      The Battleship HMS Resolution arrived on June 10th
      The Light Cruiser HMS Arethusa arrived on June 7th
      The Armed Merchant Cruiser Patroclus was in the vicinity
      The 7th Anti-Submarine Group with 5 armed trawlers
      92nd Minesweeping Group with 2 vessels
      plus half a dozen misc naval craft

      plus the Destroyer HMS Vortigern was being refitted in Gib dockyards, the light cruiser Delhi was due to arrive in Gib on June 11th
      In addition there were 4 French submarines (ARIANE, EURYDICE, DIANE, DANAE) operating of the Gib coast after leaving there base at Oran.

      Obviously the crew of these ships could also double up as naval infantry etc

      Regards
      "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

      "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

      Comment


      • #4
        Well one piece of data I forgot was a map

        I haven't been able to find anything on line representative of 1940. This one seems basic enough that it shouldn't cause too much confusion. Dockyard, the drydocks, the moles, etc are all in the correct spots. Just remember that in 1940 there was no airfield.

        http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/europe/gibraltar.jpg

        As for the RN torpedo boats and other light forces, they shouldn't interfere with the intial attack because it should be a surprise. The idea is that on the evening of either the 9th or 10th, Mussolini has his declaration of war delivered. "Simultaneously", Operation Granite commences when the troop carrying destroyers enter Gibraltar Bay, ostensibly on a visit to Spain. Instead they turn hard right into Gibraltar Harbour.

        There's going to be a heck of a small unit naval engagement in the harbour concurrent with the troops going ashore once the surprise wears off!

        And Italy did have paratroopers. Now whether the transport aircraft had the range to reach Gibraltar I don't know. Hopefully some experts can help out there also



        http://nembo.tripod.com/nembopage.html
        Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Andy H View Post
          Hi

          You need to add the following naval assets ...
          Thanks.

          I believe the Italians only have two operational battleships, CONTE DE CAVOUR and GUILIO CESARE, at this point. Both are WW1 generation although both had been massively reconstructed in the mid 30's.

          I imagine RESOLUTION's arrival would be a nasty shock and might cancel the operation. Heck maybe it did historically and secret Italian records remain to be uncovered

          With perfect 20/20 hindsight I will schedule the operation for the night of 9/10 June so that the army can launch its' historical attacks on the 10th while I avoid having RESOLUTION in Gib at the start of the operation.

          I will consider what the Italians would have known (i.e. the submarine deployments would be unknowable at the time) and try to come up with an ORBAT that makes sense. FWIW the Italians proved to be pretty good sub hunters during the war.

          Perhaps the intial force of destroyers (with the secret passengers of marines) will start with a port visit to Spain on the 8th, allowing them to recce Gib and have the final go/no go say.

          Regards
          Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

          Comment


          • #6
            This is reminding me of Operation Reservist @ Oran harbor in November 1942. The fate of the Blucher in April 1940 pops up as well.

            Comment


            • #7
              Operation Terminal, Operation Villain ...

              Yes these sorts of operations tend to walk a pretty fine line. Even successful ones, and I would categorize the German invasion of Norway as a large scale version of this, seem to come with a high casualty list.
              Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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              • #8
                Orbat

                Rapid Seizure Force
                Will Use two WW1 era destroyers to ram any anti-torpedo nets strung near the harbour entrance. A force of 4 destroyers will then charge the South Mole, two navigating through the gap leading to the harbour. In all landing 500 marines to capture the landward end of the jetty
                2 x WW1 era Destroyers from Brindisi/Bari
                8th Destroyer Division (4 x destroyers)
                San Marco Battalion (500 marines embarked on units of 8 DesDiv)

                Strike Force:
                Concurrent with the Rapid Seizure Force, Strike force will enter Gibraltar Bay and destroy any RN units there, alongside Gibraltar or in the harbour proper.
                1st Cruiser Division (3 x Heavy Cruisers)
                7th Destroyer Division (4 x destroyers)

                Cover Force:
                To react to any movement by the French navy, bombard Gibraltar or provide other heavy support as necessary. Positioned to the east of Gibraltar.
                5th Battleship Division (2 x battleships)
                8th Cruiser Division (3 x light cruisers)
                15th and 16th destroyer divisions (8 destroyers)

                Screening Force:
                Proceeds through the Straits of Gibraltar about the 7th of June and remains in the Atlantic approaches to warn of any approaching RN units.
                4th Cruiser Squadron (2 x light cruisers)
                9th Destroyer Division (4 x destroyers)


                Invasion Force:
                Once the South Mole is secured, which is projected to take an hour, the transports come alongside and unload.
                3 x troop transports
                13th Destroyer Division (4 x destroyers)
                Elements of the 4th Infantry Division (Mountain). Heavy parts of the formation (vehicles, artillery, etc) will follow on with the Supply Force.

                Supply Force:
                Well east of Gibraltar.
                10 x Merchantmen including at least one transport.
                8th and 10th Torpedo Boat Squadrons (8 x "boats" displacing about 800 tons. Commonly used during WWII as ASW escorts.)

                Submarine Force:

                11th, 13th, 21st, 41st, 71st and 72nd submarine squadrons consisting of 7 ocean going and 6 medium submarines. Deployed off French
                naval bases.
                Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                • #9
                  OK, I guess I should have asked the question differently

                  How about:

                  "What if the Italians attempted to capture Gibraltar at the beginning of WWII?"
                  Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
                    OK, I guess I should have asked the question differently

                    How about:

                    "What if the Italians attempted to capture Gibraltar at the beginning of WWII?"
                    I think this is a great what if, although given the level of Italian military competence at the higher echelons in 1940 I can't see it working. Perhaps they should have given you the job .

                    However Italian parachuters seem to be pretty decent troops - no idea what their kit would be though.
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                    • #11
                      My italian isn't up to being C in C, or even deck swabbie

                      Yeah, I guess any paratroop formation will tend to be better than average.

                      Maybe they would be a better choice to land than a "mountain" division? To be honest, I picked it based on its' name I assumed they'd be equiped for fighting on the type of terrain expected.

                      As far as I know, Italian forces suffered (among other things) from a pretty rigid command structure. For naval forces this manifested itself in delays engaging the enemy while permission was sought from ashore to do so, and early disengagements brought about when shore authorities "lost the picture". I've tried to limit the decision points in Op Granite, but it's still pretty complicated.
                      Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Once the Op started, radio silence is paramount, so I'd imagine that once they set sail it's "Hell bent for leather" time.

                        If surprise is achieved, and Mole taken, possible batteries silenced, then yes it could succede. My question is for how long?

                        How long would it take the Royal Navy and Marines (with Commando), to put together a counter attack with Aircraft Carrier support. Does the RN have this ability at that time for that kind of support?

                        What about artillery troops to "man the guns" of the over-run batteries and point them at any RN ship thinking of getting too close? Can floatplanes "move up" to, in the chance of success, harry any RN presence?
                        In Vino Veritas

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                        • #13
                          I'm not sure about the radio silence. Before the proposed operation, Italy and the UK are still at peace, it strikes me that Regia Marina units could be pre-positioned west of Sardinia conducting a naval exercise. On completion of the exercise, some proceed to Spain (read Gibraltar Bay) for a port visit.

                          Some of these units, specifically the "Strike" and "Rapid Seizure" forces, can "talk" back to Italy. The other forces (Cover, Screening, and Invasion Force) remain silent, but can have what they need relayed visually from the "Ship-Shore" communications guard ship in the overt communications forces.

                          I hadn't counted on capturing any of the batteries in functional condition. If we get some, and only those pointing out to sea are important, I suppose we could man them with gun crews from survivors of some of the destroyers we are bound to lose However, the follow on Supply Convoy is bringing the Moutain division's heavy equipment. This'll include their artillery and crews, who can be used to man any batteries we capture.

                          Do the Italians have a decent float plane they can base from Gib? They also proved pretty adept with their MAS boats, bringing up a fistful of them seems prudent.

                          Historically the RN formed Force H on th 27th of June; consisting of of H.M. ships HOOD, VALIANT, RESOLUTION, NELSON, ARK ROYAL, ARETHUSA, ENTERPRISE, DEHLI and ten destroyers ( http://www.admirals.org.uk/records/a...9-391_7-31.php )

                          RESOLUTION was due to arrive in Gibraltar on 10 June, did we manage to sink her or did she turn for home when notified of the attack? With or without her, it's still a substantial force and I imagine the Royal Marines could throw together a significant force at short notice.

                          It's going to be a heck of a battle! I'll put some thought into how I think the Italians might conduct their defence of the rock.
                          Last edited by Roadkiller; 13 Dec 09, 17:45.
                          Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                          • #14
                            Actually, what if the Italians decided not to defend Gibraltar but turned it over (they would say returning it to its' rightful owners) to the Spainish?

                            Then the UK couldn't attack without going to war with Spain. Would the Spainish take it? Would the RN risk adding another nation to the Axis?
                            Last edited by Roadkiller; 13 Dec 09, 18:41.
                            Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Yeah, the real wild card here is Spain, but whatever their reaction is, it won't be favorable to the British.

                              Those French subs probably won't be able to do much damage to the fast-moving convoys, but they could could sound the warnings that would spoil your surprise.

                              That, and one old BB turning up at the wrong time will test the fortitude of your Italians.

                              But here is the real rub- the eye-ties would have had to do some serious planning to even get underway with this. Of all the things they lacked in 1940, this was the most glaring, and inexcusable, shortcoming.

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