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Thread: tripoli-Tobruk railroad

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    Senior Contributor 1979's Avatar
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    tripoli-Tobruk railroad

    I was having a discussion regarding the improving of supply situation of the german afrika corps , one of the solutions proposed by German engineers was building a railroad from TRIPOLI to BENGHAZI in twelve months and another three months for the extension to Derna .
    I have found the suggested timetable overoptimistic (about two miles of railroad build by day ) but the counterargument was that NZ engineers managed even 4 miles per day (on smaller sections) in the opposite direction.
    CHAPTER 9 — The Western Desert Railway | NZETC
    What do you think.?
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    In Russia during Barbarossa German rail teams managed 20 miles a day in some cases granted they were simply replacing track and for the most part using existing rail beds and bridges but... 2 miles a day for a light rail project doesn't seem extreme. At least not early on before the Luftwaffe is overmatched and pushed aside. The real problem is going to be shipping. Locomotives and rail cars are a lot heavier than panzers and trucks. With Malta corking the main Axis supply route the Italian and German merchant marine fleets can't provide the lift.

    Combine railroads with taking Malta and its a whole new ball game.

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    The rail network in SU was built at a rate of 940 km/year.
    About 2miles/day but that was the whole union at work not just a oversea conquest .
    regauging railways it is also much easier than actually building one
    ie: you just pull the pins out ,drill new holes and move the tracks closer together.

    The operating premise for our discussion was that there were enough supply unloaded in ports ,and the problem was getting them to the front lines.
    The distance between Tripoly and El Alamein was 2250 km and no continuous rail existed on Libya .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:We...rea1941_en.svg
    Last edited by 1979; 10 Aug 11, at 10:32.
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    The problem is how do you get the rolling stock and rail supplies there in the first place with Malta in Allied hands?

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    Senior Contributor 1979's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    With Malta corking the main Axis supply route the Italian and German merchant marine fleets can't provide the lift.
    Attachment 25871
    Eliminating Malta would improve the naval routes but there is still a large distance to be covered overland and from Alexandria naval and Tobruk airbases the British can interfere with naval shipments to Benghazi.
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    Senior Contributor 1979's Avatar
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    I'm asuming that the construction begins in May 1941 , in what consisted the Malta defenses than ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1979 View Post
    Eliminating Malta would improve the naval routes but there is still a large distance to be covered overland and from Alexandria naval and Tobruk airbases the British can interfere with naval shipments to Benghazi.
    A locomotive that gets strafed has to be patched to let it hold steam again, but one that is sunk is gone forever. By taking out Malta the Axis gains an uncontested highway to North Africa. Losing malta also makes Royal navy operations in the Gulf of Sirte much more risky since they will be denied RAF cover and have to rely on much less suitable FAR fighters or simply go submarine where the short transit times make interception of the transports difficult.

    In Contrast once the RAF was built up on Malta for interdiction is sank 230 Axis ships in 164 days. Plus who knows how many Ju-52's and other transports. In another example 1/3 of the supplies shipped to North Africa were lost in Sept 41, also lost were nearly 50% of the personnel shipped over!

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    Senior Contributor 1979's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    . Losing malta also makes Royal navy operations in the Gulf of Sirte much more risky since they will be denied RAF cover and have to rely on much less suitable FAR fighters or simply go submarine where the short transit times make interception of the transports difficult.
    There are more than 400 miles from Italy to Benghazi and the Royal Navy owns the night.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1979 View Post
    There are more than 400 miles from Italy to Benghazi and the Royal Navy owns the night.
    How do they own the night? Without air cover the surface vessels have to risk an even bigger threat from submarines and air attack. As it was the Royal navy took a beating in the Med even with air cover. Plus the number of ports and hidy holes along the Sciclian coast make finding axis convoys difficult. Towards the end of the North African campaign when the route to the west and Tunisia was the route taken the ammount of Axis supplies making it through was huge. DAK grew to a full panzer armee and the italian forces were enourmous. Without Malta in allied hands that type of build up in possible earlier. Just cutting what was lost at sea by 2/3rds likely tips the balance and gives Germany Egypt. Post war Fritz Bayerlain claimed as much.

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    Even royal navy destroyers had radar, the Italian navy was lacking in that department. Assuming MALTA falls in yearly 1941 , the merchant ships could have a free ride to Tripoli.
    Problem is the fighting was not around Tripoli, it was 1000 miles east and no rail !

    Btw, what beating ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1979 View Post
    Even royal navy destroyers had radar, the Italian navy was lacking in that department. Assuming MALTA falls in yearly 1941 , the merchant ships could have a free ride to Tripoli.
    Problem is the fighting was not around Tripoli, it was 1000 miles east and no rail !
    With Malta secure though the supplies to make said rail line can be delivered or possibly to Benghazi.

    As for a beating.... 1 battleship (Barnham), 2 carriers (Eagle and Ark Royal), 5 light cruisers (Cairo, Hermione, Manchester, Neptune and South Hampton), 19 destroyers, 38 British and 2 allied submarines.

    Btw, what beating ?[/QUOTE]

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    I'll look up those ships, from memory most British loses were to submarines or while trying to resupply Malta.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1979 View Post
    I'll look up those ships, from memory most British loses were to submarines or while trying to resupply Malta.
    The Seige of Malta was the single biggest loss of British shipping and life in one campaign (hulls) and second biggest in tonnage.

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    off topic but we already strayed a bit..

    Would losing Malta be decisive for the Battle of the Med.?

    The way I see it ,these losses could have bean avoided, without the effort to keep the islands.

    1940
    22.12.40
    HYPERION
    Torpedoed by Italian s/m SERPENTE, sunk by HMS JANUS

    1941
    10.1.41
    GALLANT
    Mined and towed to Malta, total loss and wreck stripped
    11.1.41
    SOUTHAMPTON
    Bombed and then sunk by HMS GLOUCESTER and ORION
    2.5.41
    JERSEY
    Mined entering Grand Harbour, Malta
    4.5.41
    FERMOY
    Bombed and destroyed in dock at Malta
    23.7.41
    FEARLESS
    Torpedoed by a/c, sunk by HMS FORESTER
    10.7.41
    CACHALOT
    Sunk by Italian torpedo boat PAPA, while returning from stores op
    13.11.41
    ARK ROYAL
    Torpedoed by U 81 and sank in tow

    1942
    17.1.42
    GURKHA
    Torpedoed and sunk by U 133
    12.2.42
    MAORI
    Bombed and sunk at Malta
    23.3.42
    BRECONSHIRE
    Bombed off Malta, finally sank 27.3
    24.3.42
    SOUTHWOLD
    Mined off Malta
    26.3.42
    LEGION
    Bombed and sunk in Grand Harbour
    26.3.42
    P.39
    Bombed and sunk at Malta
    1.4.42
    PANDORA
    Bombed and sunk at Malta
    1.4.42
    P.36
    Bombed and Sunk at Malta
    4.4.42
    Greek GLAUKOS
    Bombed and sunk at Malta
    5.4.42
    LANCE
    Damaged beyond repair at Malta by bombing
    5.4.42
    ABINGDON
    Bombed and sunk in Malta Dockyard
    6.4.42
    HAVOCK
    Wrecked en route Malta to Gibraltar
    11.4.42
    KINGSTON
    Bombed and sunk in dock at Malta
    8.5.42
    OLYMPUS
    Mined leaving Malta for Gibraltar with passengers, 86 dead
    15.6.42
    BEDOUIN
    Damaged by gunfire and sunk by a/c torpedo
    15.6.42
    HASTY
    Torpedoed and sunk by S 55
    15.6.42
    AIREDALE
    Bombed, scuttled by HMSs ALDENGAM and HURWORTH
    15.6.42
    NESTOR
    Bombed, scuttled by HMS JAVELIN
    16.6.42
    HERMIONE
    Torpedoed and sunk by U 205
    16.6.42
    KUJAWIAK
    Mined off Grand Harbour
    11.8.42
    EAGLE
    Torpedoed by U 73
    12.8.42
    FORESIGHT
    Torpedoed by Italian a/c, scuttled by HMS TARTAR
    12.8.42
    CAIRO
    Torpedoed by Italian s/m AXUM, scuttled
    13.8.42
    MANCHESTER
    Torpedoed by Mas 16 & 22, scuttled
    The Supply of Malta 1940-1942 by Arnold Hague


    As regard to air cover , iirc
    Spit and Hurricane's combat radius does not allow them to reach Benghazi operating from Malta airstrips.

    edit : BARHAM is not on the list because she sunk 80 miles of Sidi Barani (near lybia-egypt border)
    Last edited by 1979; 15 Aug 11, at 09:05.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1979 View Post
    I was having a discussion regarding the improving of supply situation of the german afrika corps , one of the solutions proposed by German engineers was building a railroad from TRIPOLI to BENGHAZI in twelve months and another three months for the extension to Derna .
    The railway would have helped, 1979, but Rommel was the wrong man to be in charge.

    It was the lack of railroads and the low cargo handling capacities of the North African ports (Tripoli was the biggest, at only four ships at a time) that doomed serious campaigning.

    Martin Creveld wrote in his famous monograph Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton that most of the Italian ships got through. Rommel got more fuel in July-October 1942 than he did back in February-June. A third of his stocks during El Alamein were waiting back at Benghazi.

    More railways would have meant less trucks ... Creveld estimates the German equivalent of Eisenhower's Red Ball Express used between thirty to fifty percent of all fuel to cover 1,000 miles of desert either way.

    Rommel was not a man to wait though. As Creveld concludes:

    the problem of supplying an Axis advance into the Middle East was insoluble. Under these circumstances, Hitler's original decision to send a force to defend a limited area in North Africa was correct. Rommel's repeated defiance of his orders and attempts to advance beyond a reasonable distance from his bases, however, was mistaken and should never have been tolerated.
    Last edited by clackers; 15 Aug 11, at 11:14.

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