“As we have previously mentioned, the Axis had not made any preparations to confront the allied landing in North Africa and there was no concrete plan of action.
Rommel, quite correctly, wanted to abandon the Tripolitis, Libya and rush with his remaining tank units to Algeria to attack the forces of the Allies, before the later could stabilize. Supermarina agreed with this idea and proposed the interruption of sea dispatches off supplies to Tripolitis and the increase of dispatches to their armies in Tunisia. Moussolini, however, being off reality, insisted on holding Tripolitis. Hitler, on the other hand, demanded to continue resistance in El Agheila as long as possible, without however sending new forces to defend Tunisia from the Allies that were advancing from the West.
Because of her strategic position in Central Mediterranean, keeping at any cost Tunisia was a last chance for the Axis that could thus eventually use her as a bridgehead to counter attack in North Africa, in case a positive development in the other fronts would allow undertaking such operation.
The Italians, on the other hand, sent to Bizerta an army unit and installed there a Naval Command with which the French authorities collaborated. The dispatch of Italo-German units for seizing Tunisia followed with some delay.
On September 7, after an ultimatum expiring in half an hour, the French were forced to surrender unharmed to the Germans all the fortresses in Tunisia, ships and military installations. The French forces next converged west and joined the Allies.
After the establishment of the Axis in Tunisia, from November 1942 and onwards, the simultaneous sea supply of its armies in Tripolitis and Tunisia was necessary. In that month 64,000 tons were transported to the Tripolitis, but with 26% losses. As the Allies were closely monitoring these transports, 30,000 tons and 23,000 men were transported during this same period to Tunisia without any loss. Starting in December however, British submarines patrolling near Bizerta and Tunis caused extended damages to the enemy transports towards Tunisia.
As we will see next, the enemy force that had been based in Bone was very disturbing to them.
Besides, with the Allied landing in North Africa a wide action field was opening for the Axis submarines and Air force, which caused large damages to the Bone base and destroyed the supplies stocks. The dispatch of reinforcements and supplies, due to the poor state of the roads of Algeria, was mainly done by sea and the Allies – in order to avoid the risk of air attacks – were using small ships and landing crafts escorted by light units.
In the course of their action along the shores of Algeria, Italian submarines hit about 20 cargo ships and a dozen of escorts, while 8 submarines were lost during these operations. Some other Allied ships were hit by German submarines and the Axis Air force.
Italian attack units executed a very bold operation in the port of Algiers, on December 11, 1942. The Italian submarine RN AMBRO carrying 3 torpedo men and 10 divers with explosive charges succeeded to pass through the barrages and remain on the bottom of the sea inside the port, among the anchored ships. The Italian succeeded to sink 3 cargo ships and to cause serious damages to other 2.
With the seizure of Toulon the Germans acquired a small naval force of surface ships in the Mediterranean. When they initially seized the free French zone, they had agreed with the Italians that the Toulon fortress and the French Fleet anchored there would remain in French hands with the obligation on their side to resist with their ships and their defense installations against any attack by the Allies. Besides, with the exception of a few escorts and supply ships, the French ships weren’t useful to the Axis, since fuel shortage had condemned to immobilization even the large Italian ships. In addition they had agreed the Italians to seize Corsica; she was indeed seized without facing any resistance on November 11, 1942.
When the Germans, in violation to what have been agreed, entered Toulon on November 27 and the French ships were auto-sunk, they allowed the Italians to extend the occupation zone to include this base and in theory, with the exception of a few small units, all the ships remaining in the base passed to the Italian Navy.
In reality, 4 destroyers, 3 escorts and around 20 small auxiliary units were still afloat. 61 ships had been sunk, of a total tonnage of 225,000 tons, among them 3 battleships and 7 cruisers. In addition, the Germans kept for themselves all the small units that could be used after long repairs and had commissioned for service 3 French escort destroyers, 5 corvettes, 2 submarines, 2 submarines and a number of auxiliary ships. From the remaining the Italians tried to repair those that could be repaired, but until the Italian armistice few of them had been commissioned. In Toulon were also seized cargo ships of a total displacement of about 600,000 tons, of which about 1/3 were used by the Italians.”