AHC: Peerless Air Ministry

If Malta goes better, then the RN likely has fewer losses too, and North Africa gets off to a more favorable start for the British.
Quite so!

The butterflies would be interesting.
E.g. How a better performance over Malta will affect sending on time the Africa Corps? What if RAF manages to install 2 anti-ship squadrons in Malta and 1 in Benghazi by February 1941? Delay having Rommel ready to attack by a month and the situation is different.
How fully developed airfields in Crete would affect the battle?
How 2 extra carriers affect the war in the Mediterranean in 1940-1941?

It seems for me that holding Crete helps in holding Cyrenaica. Holding both Cyrenaica and Crete makes supplying Malta far easier than OTL.
 
If Malta goes better, then the RN likely has fewer losses too, and North Africa gets off to a more favorable start for the British.
Or they could just send them out on raids over France to beat the Hun up over there? That sounds like a good idea.

Fortunately the Air Ministry is Peerless, but it will be interesting to see how much hindsight is dodged.
 
Yes, the Afrika Corps could have obeyed orders and dug in around Tripoli rather than going on the offensive, capturing O'Connor and driving the Western Dessert Force back into Egypt. If Malta is able to do more than just defend itself and can interdict Italian Sea Lanes into Libya more effectively then that's more likely.
 
Or they could just send them out on raids over France to beat the Hun up over there? That sounds like a good idea.
That's a fair point. And without much hindsight it makes sense. However, the top brass have already saw Fighter Command in the previous posts not taking the bait when few bombers were escorted by a multitude of fighters. Thus, one should have thought "What targets are we going to attack, so that the Luftwaffe will be obliged to respond?" In OTL the answer was airfields and dumps in Normandy, Picardy and Pas-de-Calais - hardly vital targets. Trenchardian dogma would dictate the vital targets are industry targets in Germany, yet the 1940 fighters lacked the range to smash the Luftwaffe over Germany. So, deciding that Normandy didn't have the needed targets is not just based in hindsight but to doctrine as well.
 
That's a fair point. And without much hindsight it makes sense. However, the top brass have already saw Fighter Command in the previous posts not taking the bait when few bombers were escorted by a multitude of fighters.
I'm not so sure it take hindsight to avoid large scale fighter sweeps into France. The RAF high command are all WWI veterans and saw first hand how Trenchard's offensive policy with inadequate aircraft and poorly trained crews led to the life expectancy of aircrew falling to mere days at times, and all to often for no good reason.
 

perfectgeneral

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Or they could just send them out on raids over France to beat the Hun up over there? That sounds like a good idea.

Fortunately the Air Ministry is Peerless, but it will be interesting to see how much hindsight is dodged.
It is logical to note twelve downed pikots recovered from the Kent countryside and sea and then realise that they would be POWs if fighting over France. It is also deducible that enemy flak would cause more damage to them than domestic flak batteries. There is a strategic advantage to fighting over home territory.

Malta could be identified as somewhere enemy aircraft could be drawn into battle. North Africa is just a theatre where air superiority could be established and exploited due to limited logistics for the Axis. With Sicily in Italian hands, so close, Malta would be hard pressed to equal the logistic support available to the enemy, so they are sure to attack there. If only to suppress air and surface action against convoys to North Africa.

Air has a lot to offer the North African campaign. Fighter cover and reconnaissance of enemy dispositions. A well supported ground campaign that made full use of air superiority to establish supporting air bases, close to Malta in Tunis and Tripoli, by pushing east from Alexandria and bomber bases by the oil refinery in Haifa. Marstan punched metal matting forward air strips, piping fuel stores over the beach from ships off the coast and munnition beach landing craft. unloaded by fat tyred fork lift 4x4 trucks are all plausible developments if you are seriously contemplating supplying a rapid advance over hundreds of miles with little infrastructure in place. Needless to say, RAF beach landing and supply craft could be repurposed or the design adopted and improved for invasion landings.

Meanwhile in Malta:
Radar equipment, hardened and expanded airfield facilities and regular support convoys would be required to match or exceed the threat posed by the Sicilian air bases. We start with three Gloster Gladiators and a little road roller. Any changes would, by Peerless Air Ministry rules, have to use existing resources in a sensible manner. Were the right aircraft carriers used to ferry in fighter to Malta in the Med? Armoured deck only should be the rule.

The four cannon fighters would be Devastating in ground attack in North Africa. Get Leigh-Mallory(?) onto that and another Group can apply his BoB experience to defending Malta. The Near East and North African air force should have smaller elements similar to all the home commands. Enough that he doesn't feel slighted being posted to command here. After all this is the new front line.

Park will have to content himself with the less glorious work of co-ordination. Coastal command should be a route up in rank from the FAA as well as RN. A standard joint command protocol that could be applied to Tactical command and ground controllers with the RN, Army or Special Forces.

The RAF needs raw materials, tools equipment and supplies from overseas. The Mediterranean theatre is important to that but the Battle of the Atlantic is the vital supply line. Coastal Command and the FAA have a leading role to play in ensuring success here. Whomever is in charge of Coastal needs to work hand in glove with there opposite number in the FAA. Given these two theatres will see the most action going forward, Training needs to shift from predominantly interceptor pilots and night bombers for the UK to carrier pilots, maritime patrol crews and the full gamut of types for North Africa.
 
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Sure. But the government needs to hit back RIGHT NOW!!! Why go all the way to Africa where the Italians are being neatly rolled up and there are Germans right across the Channel conveniently close to all of our existing infrastructure. Surely our victorious heroes who smashed Jerry over Kent will be just as successful over France?

Look, I know big sweeps over France are a bad idea. But what are the alternatives? The Brits are rip-roaring across Africa and Rommel doesn't show up till February. There is some sense to Malta, but with the Africa campaign certain to finish up really quickly and all the convoys routed south anyway, what is the point other than to annoy/contain Italy.
The RAF is stuck with a bunch of short ranged fighters that are limited in their ability to do much more than point defense. They certainly can't bomb their way across France. Are they just going to sit in England? As for pilot losses over enemy territory. That is the price for going on the offensive. And after victory in the BoB and Blitz, an offensive is expected.

That is why it is an interesting point in the timeline. The Brits are winning. We know the dice are about to be rolled in Greece and Africa again but they don't. It will be interesting how SoP handles it.
 
Why go all the way to Africa where the Italians are being neatly rolled up and there are Germans right across the Channel conveniently close to all of our existing infrastructure.
In September 1940 the Italians are sitting 60 miles inside Egypt where they greatly outnumber the Western Desert Force, they've rolled up British Somaliland and invaded Kenya. They're also in the process of sending an air expeditionary force to Belgium to attack the UK. They need to be dealt with.
 
Well what a wonderful level of discussion and much food for thought on My behalf, most of seem to be reading my drafts! I do not want to give to much away (I will keep my powder dry) but there are Hurricane Mk1's in Malta and in Egypt, The problem for those commands is that they have had no reinforcements since the fall of France. Therefore their operational numbers are falling due to lack of spares and reinforcement. RAF High Command is well aware of this but cannot spare anything whilst the threat of invasion still looms.
 

perfectgeneral

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there are Hurricane Mk1's in Malta and in Egypt, The problem for those commands is that they have had no reinforcements since the fall of France. Therefore their operational numbers are falling due to lack of spares and reinforcement. RAF High Command is well aware of this but cannot spare anything whilst the threat of invasion still looms.
Unbeknown in Britain the threat of immediate invasion was receding quickly
That is 1940 Sept 19th in this time line. Operation Compass starts in 1940 Dec (second week). How quickly could a preparation to support an extended exploitation of that plan be put into place and action? Jumbo Wilson was asked to plan a five day raid in response to the Italian advance that started 1940 Sept 13th. That became Operation Compass. So that is your response time for a plausible combined operations Air-Sea-Land version of Compass.

Given the dread of invasion is a matter of record for 1940 Sept 19th, six days into the planning for Op Compass, we can expect limited resources, Although some Hurricane Mk1's are already in theatre. General theatre preparation and planning that doesn't impinge upon the BoB nor require knowledge of the enemy advance could already have happened behind the scenes of narrative so far:

Logistic storage for the desert. Flimsy measures OTL. This is low hanging fruit so I expect some jam today.

Logistic distribution with only coast road to work with. Trucks to carry the fuel for the trucks that carry the fuel to fuel the trucks that carry the food and water for the drivers of all the trucks. Now for the extra required to move stores of fuel, food, water and ammo for the forces. Something must be done to improve supply to air bases. Especially forward air bases.

Security of forces and stores. Hiding it and protecting it from bombers. Fencing it off from saboteurs and thieves. Keeping things cool enough and away from flies. Keeping the enemy guessing about where and how much you plan to use.

Communication to aircraft from ground units and embedded forward air controllers. Coloured sheets, flags, balloons, flares and smokes, rocket flares and smokes, parachute rocket flares and smokes, arrows and other symbols. Radio.

I can't believe Sommerfeld Tracking is so basic. You know chain link fencing and chicken wire fencing? Just add mild steel rods about as thick as welding rod. Apparently. Patent? Really? Like Marston Mat with the USA, first put into use, by the British, in 1941.
 
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Unfortunately to keep it plausible there cannot really be much change for the start of Operation Compass. Now before the Africa Corps turns up is a another matter. I am still working on that!
 

perfectgeneral

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Could you make a berm from a canvas tent, sommerfeld matting and a desert full of loose sand? Weld or wire twist the matting into a fence around an upside down tent, then fill it with sand? Marston mat box section beams to roofs covered in sommerfeld tent sand berms. Could you bridge with Marston mat box section?
 
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the old mettle flimsy fuel cans used by the British before the advent of the 'Jerry can' was used as an improvised gabion by filling them with sand. Stack enough of the good old sand bags together and you can build reasonably protected dispersal pen. On Malta where getting sand is more problematical Blast pens can be built from the local stone. If such a pen receives a direct hit then the fling rock shrapnel is a hazard. As to the above suggestion I do not have a ken.
 
but with the Africa campaign certain to finish up really quickly
Compass' success was not expected to be as overwhelming as it was. And Compass only finished in early February. Even without a commitment in the Balkans, due to the atrocious logistics, an offensive in Tripolitania couldn't have started before May 1941. So, one could expect that the Libyan Front would be active for some time...

Moreover, another secondary front is the greek one. Specifically protecting Athens from the Regia Aeronautica. At the start of the italian invasion (28th October), RAF allocated a flight of Blehneim night fighters, 2 squadrons of Blenheim bombers and 1 squadron of Gladiators in Athens. The commander of the RAF component in Athens, D' Albiac envisioned his role as using his bombers to strike at the albanian ports of Valona and Durazzo, while his few fighters concentrate on defending greek airspace. In January 23, another Gladiator squadron started to arrive in Greece along with another Blenheim squadron. In late February most of the Gladiators were replaced by Hurricanes. At the same time, the greek pilots while few and lacking in tactics, were well-experienced flyers with about 440 flight hours on average before the war. In contrast, the italian pilots had about 170 flight hours before the war.

A conservative estimation of RA's losses in the Greco-Italian War were 79 destroyed aircraft and 400 damaged and 223 aircrew killed or MIA.
Now imagine a November 1940 RAF expedionary force consisted of 2 Hurricane squadrons, 1 night fighters, 2 Blenheim and 1 Wellngtons. Let's say that an additional Hurricane squadron is operating after January 1941. An even cheaper investment would be to equip the Greeks with machines for 3 Hurricane squadrons. Last but not least, fighting a defensive war over allied territory would result in fewer pilot casualties, while taking a toll on RA.

These small butterflies would totally change the air campaign. I would dare say that the Italians will face a much stiffer opposition and it would be plausible to expect a few hundred losses in the November 1940- April 1941 period.

If one adds the Malta, Western Desert and Greek fronts, then Regia Aeronautica will have a tough time and it will take months to recover- especially in replacing the pilot pool.
 
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As noted earlier by sonofpegasus, some of the impacts to date have been incremental, measured in a few percentage points. But those gains would be similar to the accumulations of compound interest, where the later impact is large.
 
Sand or gravel is always available in a harbour and approaches that need dredging.

Now where can we find idle hands to fill them and load them onto trucks...?
How many find they have urgent business elsewhere when it becomes known they are expected to shovel wet sand into bags, and then lug those bags onto lorries?
 
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