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The Mediterranean War – Part 1 – Hitler’s Directive no. 18

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3. Italian offensive against Egypt.

The employment of German forces will be considered, if at all, only after the Italians have reached Mersa Matruh. But even then, the use of German air units will only be considered if the Italians will provide the necessary air bases.

The preparations of the Armed Services for operations in this theatre or in any other North African theatre of war will be made on the following basis:

Army: One Armoured Division (composition as already laid down) will stand by for service in North Africa.

Navy: German ships in Italian ports which are suitable as troopships will be converted to carry the largest possible forces either to Libya or to North-west Africa.

Air Force: Plans will be made for attacks on Alexandria and on the Suez Canal to close it to English warships.


Auth. rmk.: As we see, even before the upcoming setback for the Italian colours in the desert, Hitler was looking into the possibility of reinforcing the Italian ground and air forces. A “composition of forces” had already been laid down.


4. The Balkans.

Commander-in-Chief Army will be prepared, if necessary, to occupy from Bulgaria the Greek mainland north of the Aegean Sea. This will enable the German Air Force to attack targets in the Eastern Mediterranean, and in particular those English air bases which threaten the Rumanian oilfields.

In order to be capable of fulfilling all tasks, and to keep Turkey in check, planning and march tables will assume the employment of an Army Group in a strength of about ten divisions. The use of the railway line running through Yugoslavia will not be assumed in planning the movement of these forces. In order to reduce the time required for the movement, the German Military Mission in Rumania will be shortly reinforced to an extent about which I require advice.

In conjunction with the proposed land operations, Commander-in-Chief Air Force will prepare to post air force units to the Southeastern Balkans and to set up an Air Force Signal Service on the southern frontier of Bulgaria.


Auth. rmk.: So, long before the British started arriving in Greece, Hitler had started planning an eventual attack on Greece. Only on February 23rd 1941 did the Greeks, after heavy British pressure, accept the assistance of their forces to stop the Italians and counter the German build-up in the Balkans. Hitler was, as always, worried about the oil supply situation of the Rumanian oilfields. In the back of his head lingered the possibility of reaching out towards the Suez canal to block this important avenue of British supplies.


The German Air Force Mission in Rumania will be reinforced to the extent proposed to me.

Requests by Bulgaria for equipment for its army (weapons and ammunition) will be met sympathetically.

5. Russia.

Political discussions for the purpose of clarifying Russia’s attitude in the immediate future have already begun. Regardless of the outcome of these conversations, all preparations for the East for which verbal orders have already been given will be continued.

Further directives will follow on this subject as soon as the basic operational plan of the Army has been submitted to me and approved.

6. Landing in England.

Since changes in the general situation may make it possible, or necessary, to revert to ‘Undertaking Sea-Lion’ in the spring of 1941, the three branches of the Armed Forces will make every effort to improve in every way the conditions for such an operation.


Auth. rmk.: with other words, Sea Lion was still not off. At least not officially (internal, that was).


7. I await reports from Commanders-in-Chief on the operations laid down in this directive. I will then issue orders on the manner of execution and the timing of individual operations.

In the interests of security, special measures are to be taken to limit the number of those working on these plans. This applies particularly to the undertaking in Spain and to the plans relating to the Atlantic Islands.



So, what’s the essence of all this? There is no doubt here – Hitler wanted Gibraltar badly. He had come a long way since Jodl’s ponderings in the end of June and much groundwork had been done. Preliminary reconnaissance at site (Gibraltar), along the transport route, units and training areas assigned, equipment and supplies in an advanced stage of assembly.

To be continued……

If you have comments, information or questions to the content of this article please post under one of the three following threads – as you find it relevant:

1. War in the Mediterranean – general

2. War in the Mediterranean – Gibraltar

3. War in the Mediterranean – Malta

All posted under: “Units, Battles and Events”

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  1. Interesting stuff. Thanks.

  2. says:

    Great article about a document I didn’t know existed.

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