What was the Italian readiness of war like in 1940
- Italy had 73 divisions with 53 in Italy and 20 in the empire, but only 19 divisions were completed.
- There were 3 armoured divsions, but the tanks were too light or they were obsolete.
- Italy had 3,300 military aircraft withonly 1,800 of them usable and 1,000 that are usable.
- Navy was formidable as they had four battleships, two of which were nearly completed. 7 heavy cruisers, 12 light cruisers, 59 destroyers, 67 motor transport and 115 submarines. However the submarines were slow, noisy, shallow diving and limited endurance. The equipment and the training of the seamen were defective and the generals were self-centred and indulgent..
- Among the ranks, there were little national patrioism.
- Italy was vulnerable to overseas territory as Mussolini was thinking of a 'war of a few months' rather than a war of defence.
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The invasion of Greece and Crete
- Mussolini wanted to expand his Balkan Empire and was upset by the despatch of German forces to protect Romainian oilfields.
- So he invaded on September 1940, but was pushed back by the Greek Army.
- Hitler intervened as this was an embrassement towards the Axis power, but also to stop the British for establishing a base in the Souther flanks that could threaten Romainian oilfields.
- Churchill decided to support Greece to encourage the US and Turkey to support the cause so 60,000 British, American and New Zealand troops arrived in Greece.
- However, they were pushed out by a German invasion in 1941 which left them isolated from Greee and into Crete which had been under British protection for six months, but Britain had failed to fortify it.
- After a ambitious paratroop invasion by the German, Britian was pushed out of Crete as well losing 36,000 men and equipment.
- Britain failed because no air protection, however the Germans lost to by losing a third of their army, 220 aircraft. It prevented the invasion of Russia for five weeks and a operation like Crete was never attempted again.
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Build up to the North African Campaign.
North Africa was strategically important because...
- The Suez Canal which connected the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea was a vital trade route.
- The Oilfields in the Middle East were key to the Allied war effort.
- For the Allies, it provided the soft underbelly of Europe meaning there is access to Italy.
- The Italian decision to enter the war in June 1940 threaten Britain's position in Egypt as the Italian division in Libya and Ethopia outnumbered the 36,000 British troops. The threat became worse when the Italian groups crossed over the border into Egypt through Libya with 250,00 troops. in September 1940.
- The Axis aim in North Africa was to cut off Britain;s supplies from its empire in Africa and Asia which would weaken their war effort. If the Germans were able to occupy Britain's colonies in North Africa, German could starve Britain of their oilfields,cut off the British from India and threaten the Russia southern flanks making the invasion of Italy easier.
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What was some British successes of the campaign?
- Britain conquered parts of Italy's East African empire in Somaliland, Eritera and Ethopia which led to 10,000 troops being taken.
- December 1940- O'Connor attacked Grazani's forces. By end of 1941, British had advanced 1,700 miles, destroyed 10 Italian divions and captured 130,000 and 400 tanks at the cost of 500 killed and 1,500 injured.
- General Wavell with a mixture of troops of India. British, Australia, New Zealand, Polish and French ejected a pro-German government in Iraq in May 1941 and take Syria from French authority loyal to the Vichy government in July 1941.
- This boost morale and increased hope for ultimate victory.
- Wavell was replaced by Auchinleck.
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How did the situation turn when German's got invol
- Hitler sent Rommel to Tripoli with a large German army.
- By April 1941, driven out of Libya, but British managed to hold onto Torbuk on the Allied lines pushed back 340 miles.
- By January- February 1942, pushed to Alamein advancing 570 miles.
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What problems did Britain have to face?
- Further west the British advanced, the more lines of communication and supplies became strained.
- Major battle of dominance in Medittarean where Britain had its naval base Malta. Malta came under intense German and Italian bombing. In March 1942, 2,000 ton of bombing was dropped. In April 1942, 5,000 tonnes was dropped whereas Conventry only had 520 tonnes dropped. Between January-July 1941, few ships could reach Malta and were nearly starved into surrender.
- The loss of the aircraft the Ark Royal between 1941-1942, Britain ships carrying supplies had to travel through Cape of Good Hope and up through the Suez Canal.
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Why did Britain win?
- Allied superiority: The Axis powers constantly attacked and supply ships were sunk as they crossed the Mediterranean. In November 1941, 62% of Axis cargo ships were lost. By October 1942, there is a shortage of food, fuel oil and ammunitions where as the RAF was strong enough to support the Eighth Army supply route.
- Britain broke every enigma code the Germans used in North Africa.
- The British naval command was able to escorst aircraft carrier so able to fliy fighters in Malta/
- Increase in reinforcements led to a great outnumbering between the Allies (230,00 troops and 1,440 tanks) and the Axis (80,000 men and 540 tanks)
- Montgomery tactical skills which came under crticism as being over-cautious due to the fact that Rommel was able to escape to Libya with half of his troop
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What was the outcome of the North Africa campaign?
- German and Italian casualites amounted to 620,00 whereas Britian's were only 220,000 and America 18,500. Able to destroy or neutralise 900,000 troops.
- Created a second front aganst the Axis.
- Removed Axis threat from oilfields.
- Prevented the link up between Axis forces in the Middle East and Ukraine.
- Trapped Germany and Italy in Tunisia who surrendered in May 1943.
- Germany converted considerable resources from the Russia front to North Africa which weakened them in their fight against Russia only for the sake of Italian mistake.
- Allies well placed for an invasion of Italy.
- First major involvement with US troops.
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