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Weapons of World War Two

The Massacre at Cephalonia (Sep 1943)

Marine Fahr Prahm

Marine Fahr Prahm

As it has been previously mentioned, a series of fortuitous causes led the Allied navies to having to solve the problem posed by amphibious landings and operations, both from the theoretical standpoint, because nobody had experience in this new kind of operations, and from the practical standpoint, because the equipment which would have allowed to effectuate them did not materially exist. In the Axis side, naturally, there were similar problems, but at least initially there was a lack of a mindset, or better said a will, which had the true intention to solve them. There was a big difference between the German and the British way of doing things. In 1940, when Great Britain was not in the best conditions, the British requested Lord Mountbatten to study a plan to invade the continent. The German, victorious in every front, did not want to take any decision in favor or against their own landing, and in the end, after a certain time had passed and the Battle of Britain had been lost, the "Seelowe" operation was left as a dead letter. On the Italian side sufficient preparations had been carried out for the landing in Malta, but Mussolini was stopped by Hitler, and the invading force was sent to the attrition in the sands of El Alamein. But technically speaking, from the perspective of the Navy... What had been done? In the Italian side, little, but there was a reason for it. The coasts of Malta, the only point which could have been of interest for a landing, were not suitable for the utilization of elements of the LCT type, and the technicians had resorted to other more or less artesanal solutions. But the German had more favorable beaches in the British coasts, and they tried other solutions. The first one, which was the hastiest and most adventurous one, consisted of reuniting a large number of barges and pontoons, which were sufficiently lightweight and low of draught, and installing in a frame in their stern an aircraft engine fitted with a propeller. This would have given as result a sort of flying hydroskis which should have allowed the troops of the Wehrmacht to cross the English Channel rather fast and to land directly on the beaches. Naturally, this was a momentary solution and the designers of the Kriegsmarine returned to the subject matter as soon as they had a chance, because apart from the "Seelowe" operation they required elements which allowed amphibious movements of troops. Between 1942 and 1944 they were built 2000 MFP (Marine Fahr Prahm or Navy's Motor Barge), in two different series which differed from each other in some constructional dimensions only. They were units built with a structurally simple but very robust iron hull, suitable for the transportation of troops, cars and armored vehicles. Their load capacity ranged from 150 to 170 tonnes, depending on the series. The vehicles were embarked through a gate in the prow which allowed as well to disembark them directly on the beach. Propelled by three Diesel engines, the MFP had an operational range of 1500 to 1600 kilometers. They were used almost entirely as barges of light and medium cabotage, but also as minesweepers, minelayers and workshop ships. A more heavily armed version was developed as well for being used as anti-aircraft battery or auxiliary gunship, fitted with two 100-millimeter cannons, two 37-millimeter cannons and eight 20-millimeter cannons. They were in overall constructions of rather satisfying prestations, which perfectly accomplished their duties.

Year: 1941 (built between 1942 and 1944)

Length: 50 meters

Width: 6.5 meters

Draught: 1.8 meters (MFP 1st series); 2.5 meters (MFP 2nd series)

Displacement: 200 tonnes (MFP 1st series); 280 tonnes (MFP 2nd series)

Engines: Three Deutz Diesel of 505 horsepower actuating on three propellers

Maximum speed: 10.25 knots (MFP 1st series); 8 knots (MFP 2nd series)

Operational range: 1600 kilometers (MFP 1st series); 1500 kilometers (MFP 2nd series)

Armament: One 88-millimeter cannon; one 37-millimeter cannon; two 20-millimeter cannons

Crew: 21

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