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Lybia is very vunerable to the british, the Reggia Marina could easily see themselves on the bottom of the medditeranean now
The Regia Marina COULD have been a force to be reckoned with in the central Mediterranean... technologically the ships were excellent. As long as they had fuel. A-H had oil, Germany had lots and lots of coal... just a matter of getting it to them.
Also the Italians had the advantage of possessing (however tenuously, in the case of Libya) a shore on both sides of the Mediterranean, making for shorter sorties and less fuel usage.
 
Would be Hilarous if Loss,techically Italy is not cutting all their coal too? 90% of italian coal come from britain, we already showed than Italy in CP is a handicap for the CP, as france thanks to nice and savoy can hold it easily and would not cost troops at all.
I once would've agreed... believe I stated on an old thread that Italy would "just be another weak ally for the Germans to prop up"... but now I'm not so sure.
NO major nation in 1914 was less well prepared to enter a major conflict than the Ottomans... yet their presence on the side of the CP bottled up how many British troops and killed off how many of them?
Italy could be much the same. Even if the French regarded the "southeastern front" or "Alps Maritimes" front as basically a nuisance and a diversion, given the terrain it could easily turn into a giant sink-hole for troops that could be better used elsewhere... because it couldn't be simply ignored. This could only be a good thing for the CP...
 
If AH and Italy are cautious with their ships and don't find a way to lose them quickly (and the pattern was for countries to be pretty careful with their expensive dreadnoughts), then Britain will have a long term problem with needing to put a lot more forces in the Mediterranean. Which makes it that much harder for the British to consistently maintain numerical superiority in the North Sea, opening up possibilities for the Germans to do interesting things there. There's lots of ways this could all blow up in the faces of the Central Powers, but also definitely ways it could go very well for them. Italy changing sides is a big deal for the naval war.
 
The Regia Marina COULD have been a force to be reckoned with in the central Mediterranean... technologically the ships were excellent. As long as they had fuel. A-H had oil, Germany had lots and lots of coal... just a matter of getting it to them.
Also the Italians had the advantage of possessing (however tenuously, in the case of Libya) a shore on both sides of the Mediterranean, making for shorter sorties and less fuel usage.
If AH and Italy are cautious with their ships and don't find a way to lose them quickly (and the pattern was for countries to be pretty careful with their expensive dreadnoughts), then Britain will have a long term problem with needing to put a lot more forces in the Mediterranean. Which makes it that much harder for the British to consistently maintain numerical superiority in the North Sea, opening up possibilities for the Germans to do interesting things there. There's lots of ways this could all blow up in the faces of the Central Powers, but also definitely ways it could go very well for them. Italy changing sides is a big deal for the naval war.

Thank you to both of you for taking an interest in this thread.
I can reveal that the British will be significantly more strained as regards the allocation of their naval resources, especially in the Mediterranean.
 
Lybia is very vunerable to the british, the Reggia Marina could easily see themselves on the bottom of the medditeranean now
If it was Italy vs. Britain, I'd agree in a heartbeat; but Germany exists, and Britain cannot afford to grant them a lot less than its undivided attention - the Hochseeflotte was some of the tinder in the WW1 tinderbox, after all. I expect the actual Mediterranean situation to be AH and Italy vs. France and maybe some British reinforcement.
 
Chapter 2: The First Shots
Chapter Two: The First Shots

"So, the total amount of land retaken since yesterday is...?"
"Seventeen square feet, sir!"
- Blackadder Goes Forth, "Private Plane"

"Ah, but a man's reach should be longer than his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
- Robert Browning

Following the signing of the Tripartite Vienna Accords on 24 February 1915, the Italian delegation returned home to prepare for war. Prime Minister Antonio Salandra didn’t take the idiotic step of announcing what had just been done to the public- that would’ve given the French more than enough time to rush troops to the frontier, or worse, stage a pre-emptive attack. He merely announced that Trentino and Trieste were to be “reunited” with the “fatherland” in a month’s time and publicly thanked Austria-Hungary and Germany for their “willingness to see reason.” None of it was very subtle but people had to be taught to see the Central Powers as, if not friends, then partners. Throughout the first three weeks of March 1915, meanwhile, Italian troops entered Trentino and Trieste. Bureaucrats in Rome made plans for how the new territories would be run, and how much it would cost to integrate them into the Kingdom of Italy, and fresh-faced civil servants eagerly brushed up on their German and Croatian and brought train tickets north. More than a few nationalistic Austrians, meanwhile, disgustedly pulled up stakes and left their ancestral home, not wanting to suffer the indignity of living under Italy which, as they never ceased to remind you, wasn’t even a proper country when their grandfathers were boys. Setting up a civil administrative apparatus for two new provinces in only one month was, as one might expect, not the easiest task in the world, and there were many holes in the system that war would do nothing to patch up. But irregardless, on 23 March 1915- still celebrated as Unification Day in those Italian provinces today- the great deed took place. The Dual Monarchy’s flag was lowered, and the flag of the Kingdom of Italy raised in its place. Many a champagne bottle was cracked opened on that day.

On 24 March 1915, however, Salandra tossed in a rather bitter pill. Mobilisation was to begin within seven days, and both young men and reservists were to be called up to the colours. It was, he hastily added, for the good of the same “fatherland” which had just gained two new provinces- and Trentino and Trieste would be exempt from conscription anyhow.

Of course, none of this was occurring in a vacuum. Entente intelligence was well aware that the Italians had sent a negotiating team to Vienna, which couldn’t mean anything good. Once Salandra started peppering his speeches with the news that Trentino and Trieste would soon be annexed, the men of the SIS and le Deuxieme Bureau had everything they needed to figure out the truth. Biting their lips, they informed their governments to prepare for war against Italy. And, on the twenty-fourth of May 1915, at the same time as Antonio Salandra read out his declaration of war on France, Britain, Serbia and Russia, the Italian guns delivered the same message to the 150,000 (1) newly arrived French troops in their fresh dugouts. The Italian front was born.


A beautiful view- and the last thing many an Italian or French soldier saw.
swissalps.jpg

Prior to the outbreak of war, Italy had been considered a Great Power, but that status was largely honourary. The famed Italian lack of military prowess was something which both the Central Powers and the Entente- everyone, really, except the Italians themselves- were aware of once the ink dried in Vienna. Most recently, Italy’s attempt to seize Libya from the Ottoman Empire, while it had been victorious, had showed the Italian Army’s lack of tactical skill, logistical issues, and poor commanders. That war had also taken a toll on Italian manpower, and in the spring of 1915 only thirty-six divisions- 875,000 men- were available to fight. During and after Vienna, General Luigi Cadorna- the Chief of the Italian General Staff- was tasked with procuring military support from his new allies (a task which had begun at Vienna and would continue for two months afterwards). In Italy, there was a general expectation that substantial Central Powers reinforcements were en route- Antonio Salandra wrote in his diary on the seventeenth of February that “perhaps our allies will furnish us with six to seven good-quality divisions to break through the mountains…”, while Cadorna speculated that as many as ten German divisions could be expected to come under his command within two weeks of war formally being declared. (!) Some even fantasised- there is no other word- about reinforcements for the colonies, and joint Italo-Turkish operations against Egypt.

As it turned out, the Italians were in for a disappointment. Germany was stretched thin as it was, juggling the demands of two fronts, while Austria-Hungary had Galicia buried under a Russian flood while also trying to quell upstart Serbia. Neither had hundreds of thousands of men on standby to rush to the French Alps. Cadorna and his masters were naturally angered by this, but one wonders if the prideful Italians would’ve permitted 100,000 Austro-Hungarian troops to enter their territory even as allies…

However, military support for Italy would still come from Berlin. Two German brigades trained in mountain warfare were assembled and sent to Italy under the command of the Bavarian general Konrad Krafft von Dellmensingen; they quickly became known as the Alpenkorps. Other military advisers, mostly Bavarians more accustomed to the mountainous climate, were also sent off to assist Cadorna… not that he was ever inclined to listen to anyone. In addition to military advisers, they also bequeathed Italy with several useful blueprints and technology transfers. Of course, the usefulness of these was limited at first, given that the units would still need to be produced, but in the coming months and years, the gift would bear fruit time and time again. Specifically, the Italians were granted licenses to build Kleinflammenwerferen, or Klein flamethrower, and the Stielhandgranate, or ‘stick hand grenade’. The former would prove useful at flushing French troops out of well-concealed mountain positions which rifle fire or artillery would have trouble doing maximum damage to, while the latter’s explosive power was enhanced by the hard rock of the Italian mountains, which fragmented in every direction. As a result, many a Frenchman was killed or wounded by flying chunks of rock on this front. The most useful transfer of technology came from a rather unexpected quarter: Austria-Hungary. Despite its disdain for the Italian alliance, the Dual Monarchy was willing to give its partner the license for the 7 cm Gebirgsgeschütz M 75, a highly mobile piece of light artillery which, despite its setbacks (such as the lack of a recoil mechanism!), had the advantage of being small and easy to assemble and disassemble- no small advantage in the cramped conditions and wildly varying altitudes of the mountains. By the start of 1916, license-built versions of all three would become standard fare on the Italian front.

The high, rugged mountains of Savoy are some of the least penetrable terrain in Europe. The natural features which have served as Switzerland’s best guarantee of neutrality since Napoleonic times came to haunt Luigi Cadorna as he tried to find a weak spot in France’s defences. From the Swiss border to the Mediterranean Sea is approximately 240 miles of dense mountains. Cadorna’s problem was compounded by the fact that there was only one French target of any value anywhere close to the frontier- the city of Nice. Yet, there was no axis of approach towards Nice, no valley or mountain pass through which the Italian troops could advance. Furthermore, Nice was a rather obvious target, and had consequently been well-fortified by the French.

Luigi Cadorna considered all of these factors for almost two months, and even- in a move somewhat surprising from the domineering micromanager- seriously consulted with his subordinates over the best plan of action, before… deciding to attack Nice.

The First Battle of Menton- named after the French hamlet it approached- opened on 1 June 1915, after six days of artillery preparation. Two Italian armies- the Second and Third (2), some 225,000 men- advanced towards the tiny French hamlet whose name would become synonymous with “death” over the next few years for many a young Frenchman and Italian…

Cadorna’s initial optimism didn’t quite translate into reality. The artillery barrage which was supposed to have pulverised the French actually served as nothing more than a signal to get their heads under cover, and most of them simply rode out the six-day barrage in their dugouts. Many died, of course, and the rock of the Alps proved prone to splintering and sending fragments off in every direction, but the only discernible difference made by the six days of bombardment was the marked reduction in the Italian Army’s supply of shells. Furthermore, just as on the Western Front, Italian infantry were massacred by French machine-guns as soon as they went over the top. As they staggered across rocky gorges and boulder-strewn hills, companies were melted down into platoons within the span of minutes while the French scarcely gave ground at all. Naturally, the defenders took casualties, but it wasn’t anything compared to the bleeding the Italians were doing. By the end of the fourth day, Cadorna’ subordinates were telling him that they’d get nowhere with this and urging him- as humbly and subtly as they could, given his tendency to brush aside any advice he didn’t agree with- to call it off and try again. But Luigi Cadorna kept on feeding men into the meat grinder, seeing only the promised land of Nice in the distance. Finally, on 15 June, the Italian general gave up. At a cost of 15,000 men (and 10,000 French dead), the eastern half of the village had been returned to the fatherland- an entire tenth of a square mile. The French retained the high position of Saint Paul Hill, from where their artillery could wreak havoc. Yes, there was no doubt that this was an auspicious start to the war for the Italians… and Luigi Cadorna’s dreams had only just begun…

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(1) If this seems unnaturally low, remember that the French are fighting for their lives on the Western Front, and that IOTL, the Austro-Hungarians held the line with only 100,000 men, to start with.
(2) The same units which fought at First Isonzo IOTL... the casualty figures are also transplanted.
 
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Coulsdon Eagle

Monthly Donor
If AH and Italy are cautious with their ships and don't find a way to lose them quickly (and the pattern was for countries to be pretty careful with their expensive dreadnoughts), then Britain will have a long term problem with needing to put a lot more forces in the Mediterranean. Which makes it that much harder for the British to consistently maintain numerical superiority in the North Sea, opening up possibilities for the Germans to do interesting things there. There's lots of ways this could all blow up in the faces of the Central Powers, but also definitely ways it could go very well for them. Italy changing sides is a big deal for the naval war.

Would point out that, even allied with the British & the French, the Italian fleet (especially the dreadnoughts) rarely ventured out of port, or at least near anywhere there was a chance they might run into trouble. IIRC they did send their oldest dreadnought out to bombard some islands as Austria-Hungary's collapse was underway, but even then kept it well away from any potential clash with A-H light forces or subs.

I can't see them being any less cautious with the RM & MN as enemies with major bases near to their ports.
 
Wilhelm if you look it up in your last post the Italians have a lack of incompetent commanders.

And if all AH military has to leave the area given to Italy just where do they harbor the fleet?

Apart from that the war might be over in 1915. With no Italy AH can crush Serbia and(!) attack the Russians which were in dire straits August 15. So the Austrian plan is simple. Crush Serbia until May (meaning full mobility to the OE) then use your full army to help the German attack against Russia negotiate Romania to join the CP and wait for Russia to ask for terms in September.

And then France is toast.
 
Wilhelm if you look it up in your last post the Italians have a lack of incompetent commanders.

And if all AH military has to leave the area given to Italy just where do they harbor the fleet?

Apart from that the war might be over in 1915. With no Italy AH can crush Serbia and(!) attack the Russians which were in dire straits August 15. So the Austrian plan is simple. Crush Serbia until May (meaning full mobility to the OE) then use your full army to help the German attack against Russia negotiate Romania to join the CP and wait for Russia to ask for terms in September.

And then France is toast.

Zadar will become the Dual Monarchy's main naval port following the war, and will be massively expanded. However, many Austro-Hungarian ships will spend the war in Italian ports, closer to the enemy.

The war will continue into 1916, although by the end of 1915, a Central Powers victory will be clearly imminent.
 
Chapter 3: War in the Mediterranean and The Italian Colonies
Chapter Three- War in the Mediterranean and The Italian Colonies

"If we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and some African colonies, I would do it. But the only way to win is by showing the Kaiser that he cannot beat us!"
-Winston Churchill in a speech to Royal Navy officers at Eastbourne, 27 July 1915.

"Mine is the only command filled by men."
-Luigi Cadorna, commenting on the cautious approach taken by Italian naval commanders, and the lacklustre performance of Italian colonial forces, contrasting them with his aggressive tactics.

Italy’s entrance into the war changed little save tying down some 150,000 French troops and that didn’t look likely to change soon. In the Mediterranean, however, Italy’s declaration of war on Britain and France brought the Central Powers tangible, immediate results. When war was declared on 24 May, the Kingdom of Italy had thirteen battleships, twenty-four cruisers, and thirty-seven destroyers. Following the conclusion of the Second Vienna Conference, the Italian navy put to sea, commencing patrols in the Tyrrhenian Sea and south of Sicily. During the two months prior to Italy’s joining the war, there were several “incidents” as French destroyers tried to intimidate their Italian counterparts and vice versa, but none of these mini-skirmishes ended with loss of life. Meanwhile, as soon as war was declared, the Austro-Hungarian Navy left Trieste for Palermo, where they would spend much of the war as a “fleet in being” designed not to send Entente ships to the bottom while mounting offensive operations but simply to deter the British and French from trying to attack Sicily or send a huge chunk of the Regia Marina to the bottom in a pitched battle. The Austro-Hungarian fleet at Palermo totalled twelve battleships, sixteen cruisers, and twenty-four destroyers, as well as numerous torpedo boats and submarines. In addition, throughout the spring and summer of 1915, the Germans railed small numbers of U-Boats down the Italian peninsula to raid Entente shipping. (2) The constraints of the rail network, the relative smallness of the Italian submarine force, and the German focus on Atlantic shipping meant that this programme never crippled the British and French in the region, but it certainly was just one more thing to worry about, and put a crimp in many an Allied sea captain’s day…

The reaction to the addition of a third hostile navy to the Mediterranean was to concentrate on defence of two areas: the southern coast of France, and the maritime approaches to Egypt. From the Entente perspective, just as the Italians and Austro-Hungarians had no incentive to try to sink the French fleet (because the losses would make it a Pyrrhic victory), neither did the French or British have any plans to go steaming into Rome because it wasn’t practical. (1) Despite their numerical superiority, no one in Paris or London wanted to suffer the humiliation of losing much of their fleets, even if it meant taking out the Italians and Austro-Hungarians… the Ottoman Empire sat not so far away, while the British need to blockade Germany from a distance, attempt to combat the U-Boats in the Atlantic, and keep the German Baltic Fleet bottled up meant that they were in no position to provide mass reinforcements to the Mediterranean. As long as Gibraltar, Corsica, and Malta remained safe, and the naval supply lines to Egypt remained reasonably secure, that was enough for the Entente. Keeping those supply lines open would involve a substantial number of destroyers, including several from Australia, New Zealand, and even Japan. (3) Additionally, the island of Malta acquired considerable importance as the midpoint between Egypt and Gibraltar. It became a useful refuelling station and centre for British and French sailors to take leave on. Two squadrons of fighters were stationed on the island from September 1915 to patrol the waters for enemy submarines, an endeavour which yielded moderate results at best. Malta was protected by multiple rings of mines on all sides to keep the Central Powers from having any funny ideas… even if the odd local fisherman did meet his doom sailing back home one day…

Malta was not the only place where mines posed a threat to the unwary; both sides deployed them quite liberally. Obviously, all the main harbours of the combatants were heavily mined once Italy came in: Montpellier, Marseilles, Toulon, Cannes, Nice, Algiers, Gibraltar, Malta, Palermo, Rome, Naples, Genoa… the list goes on. However, throughout June 1915, the French came up with a “first”- the mine chain. It required no great imagination, of course, but approximately 145 km of mines were laid in a straight line from Nice to Corsica. After six submarines in two months struck this chain, the Central Powers figured out what had been done, and begun plans for a “chain” of their own- this one to stretch from the small island of Lampedusa to Tripoli. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but this chain made getting Entente shipping to Malta an absolute nightmare, and required liberal usage of minesweepers at great cost in both money and life. A similar chain was later set up between Ancona and Zadar to discourage anything so foolish as an amphibious landing in Trieste.

The naval stalemate in the Mediterranean would largely continue until the Battle of Malta in 1916… more on which will come in another update.


Map43Mediterranean.gif


At the same time as the naval war was opening, war commenced in Italy’s colonial empire. Having only unified in 1861, Italy was naturally a late arrival on the colonial scene. In the 1880s, it acquired two small strips of East Africa, and then in 1896 was humiliated as it tried to conquer Ethiopia. Victory in the Italo-Turkish War of 1912 brought Libya under its flag, but three small colonies weren’t enough to justify being a “Great Power.” And, in the two months following Vienna, there were many fears that the British and French would sweep in from Egypt and Tunisia, and that would be game, set, match for the Italian Empire. However, such fears weren’t about to play out. Libya was defended by some 80,000 men (5) which, while a small army by European standards, was nothing to sneeze at, especially considering France’s manpower shortages and the British need to defend Siani. Approximately 175,000 Algerians were fighting under the French flag in the spring of 1915, but not many could be withdrawn to fight in north Africa owing to France’s two-front commitment. Thus, the forces opposing the Libyans from the west were mostly conscripted Tunisians and Algerians. These forces were not first class soldiers and suffered from supply and morale issues. Of course, the Italian forces- themselves largely Arab, and thus very similar ethnically to the men pointing the guns at them- were no better. In the east, Britain had few forces to spare from the Sinai trenches, and relied upon conscripts from western Egypt to pad the thin front lines. All this to say: the war in Libya was going nowhere fast. The front lines were notoriously fluid, resembling nothing so much as the fighting in German Southwest Africa. Trenches were a rarity, ground was gained in miles, not yards, and- what an anachronism!- cavalry was used in actual battles. Many a soldier transferred from Libya to Europe found himself in for an unpleasant shock once he reached the trenches… Throughout the summer of 1915, cross-border raids were the norm, with neither side having the strength to conquer and occupy so much open space. French advances throughout 1915 were minimal, and not until the Central Powers gained a decisive edge in spring 1916, and France needed every man it could find on the Western Front, would any serious Italian advances be made.

The Italian possessions in Somalia and Eritrea, however, were a different story. Small and isolated, neither was well-defended nor had much chance of holding out. On the eighth of July 1915, a combination of Kenyan conscripts and 15,000 New Zealanders (6) invaded Somalia from Kenya. Within two months, the strip of land had fallen, the only serious resistance at Mogadishu easily being overcome. A mere 1200 Entente soldiers died in the campaign; the Italian colonial forces lost some 2600 men. Eritrea was mopped up in early October with even fewer casualties.

East African humiliations aside, then, the war in the Mediterranean seemed trapped in stalemate, and would remain so for the foreseeable future. Neither side looked to be on the verge of cracking… so the bodies piled up…




  1. Winston Churchill being the exception, I’m sure.
  2. ITTL, Naples, Palermo, and Genoa become the main German U-Boat bases in the Mediterranean (IOTL, their only port for these activities was Trieste.)
  3. The bit about Japanese destroyers is OTL, just a little bit earlier.
  4. Map credits go to Gordon Smith of www.naval-history.net. I couldn't find a detailed one which shows WWI political borders.
  5. This number comes from this Wikipedia article, plus 5,000 reinforcements sent in shortly before war broke out.
  6. The same 15,000 New Zealanders who, OTL, fought and died at Gallipoli. Some of the few Entente forces to have a happier fate ITTL.
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So no Gallipoli in this timeline? Will Ataturk remain obscure in this timeline, or become a war hero (or get killed) on some other front?
 
So no Gallipoli in this timeline? Will Ataturk remain obscure in this timeline, or become a war hero (or get killed) on some other front?
Italy joined before that operation, so most likely the troops deployed to the Italian border were the ones earmarked for that op. This does have a lot of knock on effects- Ottomans are seeing a reduction in fighting which means troops deployed to other fronts. Also with the Med being hostile to shipping (Germans subs were raiding from AH ports OTL, now they have Italian ports along with Italian subs and light ships) that is going to see more shipping sunk and more disruption in supplies. More so since fuel from Iran would need be shipped around the Horn for a longer travel time as they could not afford to risk tankers being sunk (a ship they had low quantities of OTL to the point they were running into trouble with not having enough tankers which is bad news for the RN) more so light forces are going to be more active in the Med which means the Entente is consuming more fuel than OTL.

@Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth what about Bulgaria, are they joining as OTL or does the Italian entrance draw them into the fight earlier? Also what about Romania? With Italian entry, AH troops freed to fight the Russians leading to a better Eastern front and the Ottomans looking stronger any chance they jump in on the CP side for Bessarbia? Potentially even in 1915.
 
Will the Germans and allies send any expeditionary troops to help the ottomans against the British and Russian?
With no Gallipoli and a reduced push up the Sinai probably not. The Russians cannot send as many troops against the Ottomans as OTL thanks to more AH troops (those initially and later deployed against Italy). Romania may join in on the CP side as well stretching the Russians thinner.

As for the British- forces are going to be tied down on the Italian front (because you can't reduce forces against the Germans on the western front unless you want them breaking through) which means pulling forces from elsewhere so all the troops for the Gallipoli campaign and likely some from the Mesopotamian campaign are diverted to Southern France. And with Italian Libya you have to shift some of the Egyptian area troops from facing the Ottomans to facing the Italians all while the Ottomans have troops that were tied down now freed up to throw at those three fronts.

Furthermore shipping through the med should be rougher meaning either more losses or you ship around the Cape which is longer transit times which means less supply throughput which means less support for the Sauds, Lawerence in this time line is not likely to have a good time as even a small increase in Ottoman troops will be able to crack down hard.
 
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