02 November 2011

Operation Herkules

Operation Herkules was the German plan to invade and occupy the fortress island of Malta.  Originally planned for 1942, the operation was cancelled due to the competing requirements for resources in Russia and North Africa. But if it had been executed in September '41, prior to the British force build up in late '42, the situation could have been very different…

Source: Hitler: The Victory that Nearly Was, Bruce Quarrie, Chapter 1.

Scenario: The German campaign in the Balkans in support of the Italians has delayed the execution of Op Barbarossa sufficiently that Hitler has postponed that operation until Spring 1942. In the interim, the gains made in securing Crete and Greece will be followed up by seizing Malta. This would secure the Eastern Mediterranean, bolster the faltering supply lines to the Afrika Korps and keep the British off balance in that theatre. Having learned some lessons from Op Mercury (the invasion of Crete), the Axis plan is a more robust combined arms operation.

Axis Forces

Naval Forces
Vichy French Battlegroup: Battleship Richelieu (skeleton crew) and 9 Destroyers – diversionary role from Toulon
Italian Task Group: Light Cruisers Luigi Cadorna and Giuseppe Garibaldi, and 8 Destroyers
Italian Troop Transports (converted Liners) – Marco PoloVictoriaEsperia
Assorted flotilla of landing barges and MFPs etc - recycled from Operation Sealion

Ground Forces (assembly area in Sicily)
Commander, General Kurt Student
First Wave: 7th Flieger Division, Generalmajor Richard Heidrich: Airborne insertion from Palermo
Fallschirmjager Regiment 1(FJR 1), Oberst Bruno Bruer
1/FJR 1, Major Erich Walther
2/FJR 1, Major Harry Hermann
3/FJR 1, Major Karl Shulz
Fallschirmjager Regiment 2(FJR 2), Oberst Alfred Sturm
1/FJR 2, Major Hans Kroh
2/FJR 2, Major Erich Pietzonka
3/FJR 2, Major Josef Barmetler
Fallschirmjager Regiment 3(FJR 3), Oberst Ludwig Heilmann
1/FJR 3, Major Freiherr von der Heydte
2/FJR 3, Major Karl Becker
3/FJR 3, Major Hans Lehmann

Second Wave: 5th Gebirgsjager Division, General Julius ‘Papa’ Ringel
85th Infantry Regiment – to be airlanded by Ju 52s at Ta’Qali
100th Infantry regiment– to be airlanded by Ju 52s at Luqa
95th Artillery Regiment – seaborne insertion
Motorcyle Battalion – seaborne insertion
Pioneer Battalion – seaborne insertion
Anti tank Battalion – seaborne insertion
Reconnaissance Battalion – seaborne insertion

Third Wave: Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment, Generalmajor Eugen Meindl: glider insertion from Calabria
1st Battalion, Major Walter Koch
2nd Battalion, Major Edgar Stentzler
3rd Battalion, Major Horst Trebes
4th Battalion, Major Walter Gericke

Total Ground Force; approx 20,000

In Reserve: Italian 2nd Folgore Division (Approx 7,500 men)

Air Forces:
Fleigerkorps X and elements of Fleigerkorps II, including:

At Calabria:
KG 606: JU88s
KG 806: JU88s
Regia Aeronautica 37o Stormo: Breda 20s

At Comiso/Cassibile/Gela/Biscari
I/St.G 3 (Ju 87)
II/St.G 3 (Ju 87)
III/St.G 3 (Ju 87)
2/JG3 (Bf 109)
I/JG 53 (Bf 109)
II/JG 53 (Bf 109)
III/JG 53 (Bf 109)
II/ZG26 (Bf 110)

At Gerbini/Comiso:
I/KG54: JU 88s
II/KG77: JU 88s
III/KG77: JU 88s

Allied Forces

Naval Forces:
Force ‘H’, Admiral Sir James Somerville: Gibraltar
HMS Nelson
HMS Rodney
HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Ark Royal
Force ‘X’, Rear Admiral Harold Burroughs: Gibraltar
5 Cruisers
9 Destroyers
In Grand Harbour, Malta:
HMS Aurora, Capt W.G. Agnew, RN (Light Cruiser)
HMS Penelope, Capt A.D. Nichol (Light Cruiser)
HMS Lance, Lt Cmdr R.W.F. Northcott (Destroyer)
HMS Lively, Lt Cmdr W.F.E. Hussey (Destroyer)

Ground Forces
1st Malta Brigade, Colonel Ivan de le Bere
1st Bn Royal Hampshire Regt, Lt Col H.C. Westmoreland: based in Gudja to defend Luqa
1st Bn Cheshire Regt (MG), Lt Col Edward J Newall: in Vittorosia, defending Grand Harbour, (detachments at Luqa)
1st Dorset Regt, Lt ColA.T. Grimley: Zabbar
2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt, Quormi (central Malta)
2nd Bn Devonshire Regt, Lt Col A.W. Valentine: Zetjun (adj to Marsaxlokk Bay)
Royal Artillery
Royal Engineer
Royal Signals troops
King’s Own Malta Regt
Roya Malta Artillery
Malta Volunteer Defence Force (Home Guard)

4 Heavy AA Regts (2 British, 2 Maltese): 6 troops, each of 4 guns
4 Light AA Regts (3 British, 1 Maltese): 9 troops, each of 4 guns

Total Ground Force; approx 11,000 (about half being trained, regular forces)

Air Forces:
Ta’Qali Airfield – 126 Sqn (Hurricanes), 249 Sqn (Hurricanes)
Luqa Airfield – 105 Sqn (understrength)(Blenheim bombers), 107 Sqn (understrength)(Wellington bombers)
Hal Far Airfield – 185 Sqn (Hurricanes), 830 Sqn Fleet Air Arm (Swordfish, Marylands)
Radar network providing effective coverage to the Sicilian coast

Total: 69 Hurricanes, 18 Blenheims, 17 Wellingtons, 12 Swordfish, 17 Marylands (123 aircraft)


  1. Would have been interesting to see how that turned out.

  2. Two recent developments on the Topic of Malta and gaming:
    1) Victory Point Games has produced a new board game titled
    "Malta Besieged: 1940 - 1942"
    2) There is a new Alternate History novel titled "OPERATION HERKULES"
    available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.