The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: July 2008 (page 1 of 7)

Game Report Balkan Front 1: Jun I 41

Axis Player Turn

The 5th Mountain is flown to Khania and Rethymon is seized by the Germans with Ground Support (3:1 -1 = DR) – the RAF Hurricanes are lost in air combat.

Allied Player Turn

With only a few units left, Eraklion is held by the Allies and the only fighting is over who gets the last beer.
With the game ending here, the VPs were calculated and the Allies won with a marginal victory – mainly due to the successful evacuation of the Greek and Yugoslav governments and the holding of Crete.

Lessons learnt:

  • 1. A pile of brigades and regiments does not a divisional ZOC make.
  • 2. The 395R regiment is officially classed “Hero’ of the game for the AH result on the 16th Motorised Division.
  • 3. Yugoslavia is a dead duck when it comes to a well thought out attack.
  • 4. When bringing reinforcements into play, remember to use all of them – at game end I found that I had forgotten to deploy 50% of my Nov I units. They sat for all the game on the reinforcement track staring at me and I completely forgot about them. Naturally my opponent was well aware of this and had a dirty grin on his face throughout the game (the beer and port could have contributed here).
  • 5. Despite the loss of Yugoslavia and Greece by game end, I was ahead in Victory Points courtesy of Italian RE losses. Bless ’em.

Game Report Balkan Front 1: May II 41

Axis Player Turn

The Germans withdraw most troops from the region leaving an Infantry Corps to attack the 19th Motorised Division and 43rd Palestine Construction Brigade guarding the road to Athens (9:1 -1 = DE). More units of the 7th Para arrive at Khania while German mountain trrops attack and destroy the 21st Greek Mountain brigade defending the approaches to Patrai (4:1 -1 = DH).

Allied Player Turn

The Australians abandon Athens and with the 1st Armoured sailing from Korinthios land at Eraklion on Crete. The RAF Hurricanes transfer to the island where the MNDBO deploy to Rethymon. The Greek Government sails to Alexandria and Greek troops on the mainland begin to surrender.

Generalstab Updates, 17.7.2008

Yes, I admit, its been a while. Finishing university (after all those years), getting a job and all that kept me way too busy to think about updates for a long time. But in the end my interest in military history never left me, so here we’re back, and I hope to be able to revive the Generalstab a bit.

Doing the redsign you see here took most of the spring time, and even yet its not halfway finished, which you will easily be able to tell if you try to access this page with the Internet Exploder. So bear with me, my friends, till I’ve sorted out the troubles or most beloved browser has with standard CSS. In the following weeks I hope to be able to bring in some new material as well, even though I did little writing on military subjects in the last years. Others, however, have, and I’m counting on the Europa-community that has contributed so much for this website to provide more articles and comments!

Additional Libyan Divisions

When the British intelligence officers went through the papers of General Pescatori of the 2nd Libyan Division, they found much information on the organization of and plans regarding Italy’s colonial forces. Amongst these documents were studies on a proposal to raise two additional Libyan divisions regarding its technical, manpower and financial aspects. These the British authorities excerpted/summarized, copies of which were in the file I looked at the PRO.

There were real constraints on the availability of Libyan manpower for employment in military units. Of the estimated Libyan population of 786,000, there were some 100,000 men of military age. Only about 65,000 of these men of military age could likely be enrolled in the military. Political reasons (the antipathy of the population of Cyrenaica to the Italian colonial government, economic reasons (raising food) and the impossibility of getting the men of nomadic groups reduced the available manpower pool.

The war establishment of a Libyan Division consisted of a headquarters element, two groups of artillery (each with 12x 77/28 field guns), two 20 mm AA batteries (should have been 8 guns in each but there were only six in the winter of 1940/41 due to shortages), six Libyan infantry battalions organized into two raggruppamenti (equivalent to regiments in this case), a small mixed engineer battalion, and service units. At “normal distribution”, there was enough organic transport to lift almost two battalions. There was an augmented establishment provided for these divisions, which gave them the transport capacity to lift up to four of the infantry battalions.

The division was quite small, barely being over 7000 men in strength. With only 24 field guns, even though the Libyan gunners were good, these divisions did not have enough organic artillery to be rated as anything but self-supporting. Furthermore, the 1940 Ordinamento had merely ratified the provisional 1938 organizational schemes for formations in North Africa. Thus these Libyan divisions had no mortars and had only the weaker six gun AT battery found in all the North African type divisions. Simply put the Libyan divisions were short on firepower. It is clear from these documents that any additional “Libyan” division(s) would have been organized as per the establishment laid out above. The “Libyan Armoured Division” is a mirage. An additional Italian armoured division may well have been formed in Italian North Africa in 1941, but that’s another story.

The time factor was considered as well for raising these divisions. The Italian army estimated it required two full months to get Libyan troops with previous military experience functioning at a minimal acceptable level of military efficiency. With completely untrained manpower, it would take an additional three months intensive training to get them to a similar acceptable level of military efficiency. It was also estimated that it would take two months to collect the transport and draft animals necessary for these proposed divisions. This could partially overlap the period of raising the troops. No estimate was given about the time necessary to obtain the required equipment from the Italian mainland.

3rd Libyan Division (3a Divisione libica)

The 3rd Libyan Division was to be raised from existing non-divisional units (3460 Libyans), from trained men (3250 Libyans) not already called up in Italian North Africa, and a cadre of Italian officers and technical troops from the usual sources. The army in North Africa had the resources to clothe the troops, give them a rifle, provide most of the draft animals, and provide some of the other equipment. The rest would have to come from Italy. The total financial cost to the taxpayers of Italy, always an important consideration, for raising a third division was estimated at 60 million lire. My guess, not including the initial preparations of gathering equipment, provisions and draft animals, is that it would have taken four months to raise this division from the reservists and existing units..

4th Libyan Division (4a Divisione libica)

The 4th Libyan Division would have been more difficult to raise. The forming of the Third Division would have scraped the bottom of the barrel of trained reserves. There were a few thousand trained men left (3500 Libyans) could be utilized, but this was effectively the training reserve and if these were taken up then the reports state it would be impossible to provide any more replacements (complementari) for the existing formations. This factor, not surprisingly, was seen as a great obstacle to raising this division. Drawing upon the existing reserve stores would have brought down the cost of the raising of the Third Division, but the entire complement of weapons, equipment and other stores for the Fourth Division would have to have been provided by the metropolitan army in Italy. Total cost for raising this division was placed at 90 million lire. My estimate is that it would have taken nine months to a year to form this division from start to finish.

The documents have no reference to any decision having been taken whether to proceed with the raising of these extra divisions by the time disaster overthrew the Italian Tenth Army in Cyrenaica. The Italian military authorities did rebuild a significant number of the lost Libyan units in 1941/42, but only used them for garrison/security duties. The higher levels of organization: raggruppamenti and divisions were never restored.
Source: P.R.O., WO 208/4807

Could these division have been raised? Yes, especially the Third Libyan Division could have been formed sometime in 1941 if the Italians had not been annihilated in Cyrenaica. Thereafter, the Italian military authorities necessarily always gave higher priority to rebuilding of Italian units (for they had a greater potential combat strength). The Fourth Libyan Division really could not have been raised until the pool of trained manpower had been expanded, otherwise the rest of the colonial army risked being utterly unable to replace any losses. Thus it is possible the Fourth Libyan Division might have been able to formed in1942 if losses up to that date had not been too severe. Reading some of these documents, I am starting to come to the feeling that the original values assigned to Libyan units in WD may have been too generous.

The ID numbers assigned to the Libyan infantry raggruppamenti (shown below) are guesses, but well founded ones. It is possible these new divisions could have been organized in Sirtica or Cyrenaica, but the only remaining manpower and other resources necessary to form these divisions had to come from Tripolitania and therefore it is likely they would have been organized there.

MAY I 1941

Expend: 2 Lib Col RPs and 1 It Inf RP* and Place in Forming (Tripolitania Military Region):
2x 1-6 Infantry III 5 Lib, 6 Lib (Col)
1x 6* Infantry XX HQ 3 Lib (Col)

SEP I 1941

Full; Place in any City in the Tripolitania Military Region:
2x 1-6 Infantry III 5 Lib, 6 Lib (Col)
1x 6* Infantry XX HQ 3 Lib (Col)

Add to Breakdown Display:
1x 2-3-6* Infantry XX 3 Lib (Col)

JAN I 1942

Expend: 2 Lib Col RPs and 1 It Inf RP and Place in Forming (Tripolitania Military Region):
2x 1-6 Infantry III 7 Lib, 8 Lib (Col)
1x 6* Infantry XX HQ 4 Lib (Col)

SEP I 1942

Full; Place in any City in the Tripolitania Military Region:
2x 1-6 Infantry III 7 Lib, 8 Lib (Col)
1x 6* Infantry XX HQ 4 Lib (Col)

Add to Breakdown Display:
1x 2-6* Infantry XX 4 Lib (Col)

Options:

1. Increased mobility:

The Libyan divisions were always intended to become celere type formations. The 1st and 2nd Libyan
Divisions had been given sufficient additional resources by the fall of 1940 to achieve this status. It is possible that the 3rd and 4th Divisions could have been similarly enhanced.

Convert: 1x 2-3-6* Infantry XX any (Col) and: 1x SMP to:
1x 1x 2-3-8* lt Infantry XX any (Col)

Convert: 1x 2-6* Infantry XX 4 Lib (Col) and: 1x SMP to:
1x 1x 2-8* Infantry XX 4 Lib Col)

2. Increased artillery:

All Italian divisions that survived the winter of 1940/41 eventually saw their organic artillery substantially increased. This could have happened to the Libyan divisions, though the additional guns would have been less than those given to the metropolitan divisions.

Convert: 1x 1x 2-3-6* Infantry XX 3 Lib (Col) and 0.5 Italian RP to:
1x 1x 3-6 Infantry XX 3 Lib (Col)

Convert: 1x 1x 2-6* Infantry XX 4 Lib Col) and 0.5 Italian RP to:
1x 1x 2-3-6 Infantry XX 4 Lib (Col)

* At a Grand Europa level this would probably work out to something like 2.0 Libyan manpower points, 0.5 Italian manpower points, 1.0 Italian equipment point, and 0.5 Italian artillery points.

64th Catanzaro Truckborne Infantry Division

64a Divisione autotrasportabile “Catanzaro” tipo A.S.

The service history of the 64th Catanzaro Division was ill-starred throughout its brief existence. The 64th Catanzaro Division was formed in late May/early June 1940 in Cyrenaica. To form this new division, the 203rd Artillery Regiment and certain other the support and service troops of the disbanded 3rd CC.NN. Division “21 Aprile” were utilized. The majority of the troops however were newly raised and the division’s two infantry regiments (141st, 142nd) were completely green. It should have taken six months to work this division up to level acceptable for a combat formation, but it was not to get it.

On formation, the division was composed of the following elements:

  • 141st Infantry Regiment
  • 142nd Infantry Regiment
  • 203rd Artillery Regiment
  • 64th Machinegun Battalion
  • 64th Mixed Engineer Battalion
  • 64th Antitank Company

After only two months of training, the Catanzaro Division was activated for war service even though it was rated as being not capable of combat operations. In the “great invasion” of Egypt in September 1940, the Catanzaro was placed in reserve at Tobruk. Only after Italian forces had consolidated their positions in the Sidi al-Barrani area was the inestimable Catanzaro Division brought forward. On October 5th 1940, the Catanzaro Division, supposedly a semi-motorized formation, had 105 trucks on strength of which only 39 were working. The 63rd Cirene Division on the same day had 274 trucks on strength of which 192 were working. The situation in terms of weapons and other equipment was similar if not so bad. In true awareness of the unique qualities of this division, the Italian command chose not to deploy any units to reinforce the Catanzaro Division in its positions southeast of Buq Buq in the region of Alam Samalus. It was in these positions, the Catanzaro Division found itself at the start of Operation Compass. Fortunately for the men of the Catanzaro Division, the initial British attack did not fall upon them as had been the case in the original draft of the British operational plan.

After the destruction of the Italian forces in the military camps in and around Sidi al-Barrani, the remaining Italian forces in Egypt were ordered to withdraw back into Libya. While the Cirene Division (deployed to the south of the Catanzaro Division in the Sofafi area) was able to side slip the advancing Commonwealth forces using its greater mobility, the slow moving 64th Catanzaro Division was confronted by the 7th Armoured Brigade (plus some troops from the support group) as it began its retreat. The British 7th Armoured Brigade caught the Catanzaro a few miles west of Buq Buq. The divisional artillery engaged the tanks, either in a desultory manner or to some effect depending upon the sources you read. When the tanks closed, the mass of the division quickly surrendered showing its ill trained men (and bad officers) had no desire to fight. The lead elements of the retreating columns of the division managed to escape the collapse, and passed into the fortress of Bardia. These remnants showed they were of like mind of their former comrades, and played no role, that I know of, during the battle for Bardia. When the last troops in the fortress surrendered on January 6th 1941, the sorry history of the 64th Catanzaro Truckborne Infantry Division finally ended. There were no plans ever conceived to reform this miserable division.

As you can see below, I accept the current rating of the 64th Division in WitD. However, the rating given for the other 60 series division is not, I think, as accurate as it could be. The 60th to 63rd Divisions had been existence for some time, and were the best equipped of any of the Italian divisions at least in terms of transport. They had an Achilles heel, which was the fact they were still organized under the 1938 organizational scheme, and thus were woefully short of close support weapons even as compared to a standard Italian infantry division of 1940. Thus I give this class of divisions a 3-8 rating. The Catanzaro Division lacking training, transport, and anything resembling leadership amongst its officers is doing well to receive a 2-6 rating. The higher rating of the 60 series divisions is available to the Catanzaro on the assumption that further training would have allowed the Italian command to remove from the division of its cadre of misfits and incompetents and set up a proper training programme for the division

As for the Dec I 1940 Scenario, the 64th Catanzaro Division was deployed not in Buq Buq itself (eg. 19A:0519) but to the southeast of it in (19A:0619).

MAY II 1940

Place in Forming (Cyrenaica Military Region):
2x 1-8 Infantry III 141, 142
1x 8 Infantry XX HQ 64 Cat

AUG I 1940

Optional: Remove from Forming (Cyrenaica Military Region)
2x 1-8 Infantry III 141, 142
1x 8 Infantry XX HQ 64 Cat
and place instead in any City in Cyrenaica Military Region:
1x 2-6 Infantry XX 64 Cat

DEC I 1940

If not received in Aug I 1940 as optional reinforcement, then
Full; Place in any city in Cyrenaica Military Region:
2x 1-8 Infantry III
1x 8 Infantry XX HQ 64 Cat
Add to Breakdown Display:
1x 3-8 Infantry XX 64 Cat

Dec I 1940 Scenario Deployment

19A:0619:
1x 2-6 Infantry XX 64 Cat
(no other units in the stack)

Corpo Spedizione in Russia

I don’t have the information as to arrival times of Italian units on the Eastern Front an hand any more, but seem to recall that it was difficult to justify them all being available on the Jul I 1941 turn — some I think arrived after the 15th. But I can not confirm this. You may wish to consider historical alternatives. The Italian High command also considered other options as to the troops to be sent to the Eastern Front. They considered sending (1) a corps of two celere divisions and one armoured division or (2) a corps consisting of two armoured divisions and one celere division in addition to the option they finally chose.
I have suggestions as to the ratings of Italian units during the period of Total War.

9ª Divisione Autotrasportabile «Pasubio»
52ª Divisione Autotrasportabile «Torino»

These two divisions were part of the Italian army’s regular establishment and were complete at the start of the war. They had only a minor involvement in the Western Alps campaign of June 1940. During the period July 1940 to March 1941, they were were involved in hard training in northern Italy. This paid off in the Yugoslav campaign in the spring of 1941, were the divisions were considered to have performed very well.

It was on the basis of this performance and their intrinsic mobility they were chosen for service on the Eastern Front. These two divisions were re-organized in late June and early July 1941, as they prepared to be sent to the Eastern Front. The 9th Pasubio Division received the 5th Cosseria Division’s Mortar Battalion and an AT company from one of the Bersaglieri regiments. Its artillery regiment was fully motorized.

The 52nd Torino division got the 26th Assietta Division’s Mortar Battalion and the AT company from the Bersaglieri regiment of the 1st Eugenio di Savoia Celere Division. Its artillery regiment was also fully motorized. It is also reported that at sometime in 1941, 81 mm mortars replaced the 45 mm ones in the support company of each battalion of this and the Torino Division. This would be easy to dismiss this but there are some numbers to support it. There were 144x 81 mm mortars in the two divisions (72x in each) according to their establishments listed below, 9x 81 mm mortars in the 63rd CC.NN. Legion for a total of 153 mortars in active service in these formations.

CSIR is supposed to have had 189x 81 mm mortars in active service in the summer/fall of 1941 according to an annex in the logistical history of the Eastern front. The Celere division had none. It is possible that some of the chemical warfare units with CSIR converted into support units in the field as sometimes happened, but they normally became flamethrower units. So it could be possible. It should be noted that a fully equipped 1940 type autotrasportabile division had 45 of these mortars, a 1940 infantry division had 30, and a North African autotrasportabile division had but 12. As mortars were one of the most important killers on the World War Two battlefield, the great increase in the divisional holdings of these weapons must be reflected in the divisional combat ratings.

Leaving aside the question of the question whether the battalion support company had converted to 81 mm mortars, the two divisions had the following establishments during the period of Total War:

Pasubio Division

  • 6x infantry battalion
  • 2x mortar battalion (54x 81 mm)
  • 2x regimental mortar company (18x 81 mm)
  • 2x divisional AT company(16x 47/32)
  • one group of 100/17 howitzers (12x 100 mm)
  • 2x group of 75/27 field guns (24x 75 mm)
  • 2x battery of 65/17 infantry guns (8x 65/17)
  • 2x battery of 20 mm AA guns (16x 20 mm).

Torino Division

  • 6x infantry battalions
  • 2x mortar battalions (54x 81 mm)
  • 2x regimental cannon company (12x/later 16x 47/32)
  • 2x regimental mortar company (18x 81 mm)
  • 2x divisional AT company (16x 47/32)
  • one group of 100/17 howitzers (12x 100 mm)
  • 2x group of 75/27 field guns (24x 75 mm)
  • 2x battery of 20 mm AA guns (16x 20 mm).

Given the additional weaponry, the improvements in command and control arrangements, and the heightened combat readiness due to long training and some battle experience, some increase in the combat rating is required for Total War. At a minimum, this division should be rated as a 4-5-8 for Total War, and perhaps it should go to a 5-8.

2x 4-8 Infantry XX 9 Pas, 52 Tor (1940-1941)
2x 4-5-8 Infantry XX (1-6 Inf Cdr) 9 Pas, 52 Tor (1941-1943)

3ª Divisione Celere «Principe Amadeo Duca d’Aosta»
6º Reggimento bersaglieri
120º Reggimento artiglieria motorizzato

This division was also part of the Italian army’s regular establishment and was probably the best of the celere divisions. It could justifiably be called an elite division. It was part of the Italian army’s mobilization covering force in 1940 and took part in the Yugoslav campaign. It was expanded for service on the Eastern front. Its bersaglieri regiment, which had been a bicyclist unit, was converted to a motorized unit. It received the organic bersaglieri motorcycle companies from both the 1st and 2nd Celere Divisions to join its own. It took the organic AT company from the 2nd Celere Division. The division’s armoured cavalry group (III Gruppo Carri Veloci «San Giorgio») was either brought up strength/reinforced from the other two celere divisions. The Horse Artillery Regiment, as mentioned in a previous posting, was reformed to give it a divisional artillery regiment. The three motorcycle companies would eventually be re-organized as one battalion.

During its service on the Eastern Front during 1941/42, the division fought better than a statistical counting up of its elements would suggest. There was a synergy that accounts for its 5-8* suggested rating.

In the first few months of 1942 (e.g.. during TW) the 6º Reggimento bersaglieri and 120º Reggimento artiglieria motorizzato were sent out as part of a planned re-organization of the 3rd Celere. The rest of the new units did not arrive until the summer of 1942 The 120º Reggimento artiglieria motorizzato was a newly raised unit at the depot of the 20º Reggimento artiglieria divisionale «Piave». The Italian official history of the artillery service says it arrived in Russia on the February 15th 1942 and operationally joined CSIR in the second half of March 1942. It was fully motorized in the Europa sense and consisted of one group of 100/17 (12x 100 mm) and two groups of 75/27 (24x 75 mm).

The 6º Bersaglieri Regiment was detached from the 2nd Celere Division on January 20th 1942 and sent to Russia. The exact date of its arrival can be found in the Italian official history that is just on the CSIR operations, probably sometime in February. While it had been a bicyclist unit, the regiment as sent was now fully motorized. Its organic motorcycle and anti-tank companies were already serving with the 3rd Celere Division. The Feb I 1942 conversion in the SE Axis OB should be scrubbed. The process of conversion formally began on March 15th 1942. It was not completed until July 1942 when the horse borne units of the division were formally detached from the division. I think you are looking at a Jun I or Jul I 1942 conversion date in Total Victory with entirely revised values given to the successor units.

Its war establishment during most of Total War was the following:

  • 2x cavalry regiment
  • 3x  motorized Bersaglieri battalion
  • 3x Bersaglieri motorcycle company
  • 1x armoured cavalry group (61x CV3/35)
  • 1x horse artillery regiment (24x 75 mm)
  • 2x AT company (16x 47 mm)
  • 2x battery of 20 mm AA guns (16x 20 mm).

1x 5-8* Cavalry XX 3 PADA (1941-1942)
1x 6-10 mot Infantry XX 3 PADA (1942-1943)
1x 4-3-8 Cavalry XX Gp RTCR (1942-1943)
1x 2-10 mot Infantry III 6 Br
1x 1-8 mot Artillery III 120

30º Raggruppamento Artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata

This raggruppamento consisted of the following groups: LX (60º), LXI (61º), LXII (62º). Each group was equipped with twelve 105/32 medium howitzers for a total of thirty-six in this formation. The raggruppamento was fully motorized, but I have gone back and forth whether to make it combat/motorized in the Europa sense. On top of this, there is the “stripping” factor I have seen in every FitE/SE game I have played, where useful Axis allied combat units are used to support German stacks the reverse of what happened historically.

I suggest the following two rules in TW to take care of this, at least in part. Only command and control rules would fully take care of it entirely.

1. No artillery unit from Italy or an Axis allied country can provide support for German units. Italian and Axis allied artillery units are halved in strength unless stacked with a division (or equivalent in REs of non-divisional units) from their own country.

2. No Italian combat/motorized non divisional unit with a movement factor of 8 may move in the Exploitation phase unless it begins that phase stacked with an Italian division that is capable of exploitation movement. [This to counter the “stripping” factor and to take into account Italian operational doctrine.]

No additional rules, do not make it combat/motorized.

1x 2-1-8 mot Artillery III 30C

63ª Legione d’Assalto CC.NN.

This regimental sized unit consisted of two M.S.V.N. battalions and one army raised heavy weapons battalion (12?x medium MGs/9x 81 mortars/8x 47/32 AT guns). It appears not have been organically motorized, but usually was by the assignment of corps assets to do so. I would keep the counter as it was in Scorched Earth rather than a 1-6 Infantry III plus 1 RE transport counter.

1x 1-8 mot Infantry III 63 (MSVN)

Battaglione alpini sciatori «Monte Cervino»

No changes from SE Axis OB, keep as a Feb I 1942 reinforcement.

1x 1-8 Ski II MC

CIV Battaglione Mitraglieri di Corpo d’Armata

Italian machine gun battalions should be shown in Europa. They stand for themselves, but also for all the independent flame thrower, mortar, and chemical (converted in the field to the former two types) companies/battalions not presently shown. The 100 series battalions were fully motorized and can be considered combat/motorized for Europa.

1x 1-8 mot Machingeun II 104

IV Gruppo cannoni contraerei da 75/46 autocampali
XIX Gruppo cannoni contraerei da 75/46 autocampali

These two groups were not strong enough to be normally shown at the Europa level. However, I think they should be shown if people agree with the rationale I have come up with on how to represent Italian AA. There was originally a very long explanation of how Italian AA should be rated in this text, but I have cut it out because it was far too long to include in a message ostensibly about the CSIR. So given that other things are factored in, these two groups should be shown as 0-8 lt Anti-Aircraft II’s with AA strength of 1. The 75/46 was a good AT gun when pressed into service, but something has to be lost to give these units an AA factor.

2x 0-8 lt Anti-Aircraft II (AA=1) 4, 19

The following is my recommendation for Total War (an asterisk following the unit’s combat values means it is self supporting):

Suggested Italian Historical Force Pool for Total War:

2x 4-5-8 Infantry XX 9 Pas, 52 Tor
1x 5-8* Cavalry XX 3 PADA
1x 2-10 mot Infantry III 6 Br
1x 1-8 mot Infantry III 63 (MSVN)
1x 1-8 Ski II MC
1x 2-1-8 mot Artillery III 30C
1x 1-8 mot Artillery III 120
1x mot Machingeun II 104
2x 0-8 lt Anti-Aircraft II (AA=1) 4, 19

Suggested Italian Optional Force Pool for Total War:

1x 5-8* Cavalry XX 1 EdS
2x 4-8* lt Armour XX 131 Cen, 133 Lit

The Artillery of the “Celere” Divisions

The celere divisions are another interesting subject. But since I have received a number of requests for information, I can only give a brief answer now. The 1º, 2º, and 3º Reggimenti artigleria per divisione celere in 1940 each consisted of three groups. The I and II groups were motorized and the III Group was horse drawn. However, each group had only two batteries of four guns (75/27). Thus the division had only 24 artillery pieces, which would make the division only self supporting in Europa. When disaster struck the 10th Army in North Africa, orders went out to strip these regiments from their divisions. They were chosen because they were fully trained to participate in the kind of mobile war Italy now faced in the desert. The horse artillery groups were left behind due to the obvious difficulties in supplying them with fodder and water in the desert.

The Italian high command issued a new war establishment for these regiments making them three groups strong, each with twelve guns. But it took some time before this was accomplished. For the first three or four months they were in the desert, these regiments were only 16 to 20 guns strong. Another thing, except for the 3º Reggimenti artigleria celere, these units did not serve as independent units during the Desert War. They replaced the artillery regiments stripped from the Tripolitania based divisions in the failed effort to save the 10th Army. As these regiments, even when expanded, remained fully motorized even in the Europa sense, their incorporation into a division made the latter a much more mobile force (than is shown WinD) How should be shown in WinD? Probably, initially as replacement factors with the present counters being place into the replacement pool. This allows the Italian player the historical option of either effectively incorprating them into his divisions (as replacements) or having them as independent units.

As for the three celere divisions, they each served in the Balkans Campaign with only their eight remaining horse artillery guns, though they were given fire support from other units. After the campaign the 3rd PADA Division was re-organized completely for Barbarossa. The 1st and 2nd Celere remained as they were until 1942 when the remaining batteries were combined under the 1st EdS Division. The 2nd EFTF was returned to Italy to convert to an armoured division. When that conversion was revoked, the division was left without any artillery at all. This remained the case up to September 1943, when the 2nd EFTF Division engaged the Germans in a running fight in Savoy.

The 5-8 rating for these divisions is probably too strong unless other units are being factored in.

Reggimento artiglieria a cavallo

The original Horse Artillery Regiment was formed in 1831 and served with the Italian army’s cavalry formations until October 1934 when the regiment was reorganized into the 3º Reggimento Artiglieria Celere «Principe Amadeo Duca d’Aosta» with two its former groups being transferred to the newly formed celere artillery regiments of the 1st «Eugenio di Savoia» and the 2nd «Emanuele Filiberto Testa di Ferro».

The horse artillery groups continued to serve with the celere artillery regiments up to the first months of 1941 when these were transferred to the desert as stated in my earlier posting (plus a significant number of these divisions’ support weapons too). The horse artillery groups continued to serve with the celere divisions. There is a bit of discrepency in what follows, but this is exclusively administrative in nature. The horse artillery groups were either reunited in a single administrative regiment in February-March 1941 or on July 1 1941. In any event, as can be confirmed by the Italian official history, each celere division had only one horse artillery group of eight guns when they took part in the Yugoslave campaign. What is clear that on the date cited above, the three horse artillery groups plus a newly organized command element were formed into a new tatical unit: 3º Reggimento Artiglieria di Cavallo «Principe Amadeo Duca d’Aosta».

At that point, both the 1st and 2nd Celere Divisions had no organic artillery whatsoever. I remember seeing amongst the captured Italian documents held by the Yugoslav government that these divisions had some batteries with them later but these now must have been batteria di formazione. There was never a 1st or 2nd Horse Artillery Regiment formed during the war thar I can find any trace of. The new 3º Reggimento Artiglieria di Cavallo «Principe Amadeo Duca d’Aosta» went to war in Russia with is three horse artillery groups still only having two batteries per group. This meant a strength of only twenty-four guns as the organic artillery strength of the division.

The heavy support weapons holdings of the re-organized 3rd Celere Division had been significantly augmented however. All this can be confirmed by looking at the documents reproduced in the volumes of the Italian official histories concerning the Russian front. In late spring of 1942, the 3rd Celere Division was again re-organized, this time as a divisione bersaglieri in form if not in title. The last units of horse artillery were removed from the division until July 1942. The Third Horse Artillery Regiment became an independent unit directly under the command of the Eighth Army HQ. It seems at this time, the regiment simply became the Reggimento Artiglieria di Cavallo at this time without name or number.

For much of the rest of the summer into the fall of 1942, the Horse Artillery Regiment (still 24 guns strong) served mainly in a battlegroup formed by it, the Raggruppamento a Cavallo, and miscellaneous other combat units. The Raggruppamento a Cavallo consisted of the former cavalry regiments and armoured cavalry group of the 3rd Celere Division. The Horse Artillery Regiment was destroyed in the Soviet winter offensive of 1942/43, but unlike some other unitsin the Eighth Army, it had a significant number of its survivors that were withdrawn from Russia in 1943.

In the summer of 1943, the 3rd Celere Division was rapidly being re-formed in northern Italy, far in advance of other formations destroyed in Russia. The Italian army seems to have reverted to the 1940 organizational scheme for celere divisions to rebuild it for horses and bicycles were far more available to it than trucks and gasoline in the summer of 1943. I have not been able to confirm it, it seems like however that at least the 3º Reggimento Artiglieria Celere «Principe Amadeo Duca d’Aosta» would have been reformed as it was in 1940.

This is my reckoning of the formations that horse artillery units served in during the war:

3x 5-4-8* Cavalry XX 1 EdS, 2 EFTF, 3 PADA (1939-1941)
3x 4-8* Cavalry XX 1 EdS, 2 EFTF, 3 PADA (spring 1941)
1x 5-8* Cavalry XX 3 PADA (summer 1941-early 1942)
1x 4-3-8* Cavalry XX Group RaC (early 1942-ealry 1943)
1x 5-4-8* Cavalry XX 3 PADA (summer 1943 – forming only)

Brigata Corazzata Speciale

The Brigata Corazzata Speciale had its origins in the Italian army in North Africa attempts to better co-ordinate and more effectively use their limited armoured forces in the summer of 1940. Armoured units in Italian North African were placed under the largely administrative control
of the Comando carri armati della Libia as of August 29th 1940. It does not seem to have played no operational role, but rather acted in an advisory capacity to the senior headquarters in North Africa on the use of these armoured vehicles. Under its authority were formed two raggruppamenti carristi were each formed from one medium and three light tank (eg. tankette) battalions. It is this Comando carri armati della Libia that seems the origin of the belief that there were plans to create a “Libyan armoured division”.

The one odd thing about this entity is the use of the term Libia in its name. Libia had been banished from the official lexicon of the Facist State when Libia was formally incorporated as part of Italy in November 1939. There was supposed to be no official recognition of its existence even as a geographical entity thereafter. So its use in this context is surprising and may in part account for the confusion spoken about above.

After the ‘advance’ to Sidi Barrani had been completed, plans were laid about creating an operational armoured formation in North Africa. This was to become Brigata Corazzata Speciale. Before speaking about its history, it is necessary to under something about italian armoured doctrine of this period (late 1940). The official war establishment of an Italian armoured division was revised after the Fall of France in 1940 and enacted early in 1941 was the following: headquarters, a reconnaissance unit, two armoured brigades, two artillery regiments and service units. Each armoured brigade was to consist of a medium tank regiment, a motorized bersaglieri regiment and a mixed AT/AA battalion. One of the artillery regiments was to be composed of two groups of M14 da 75/18 semoventes and two groups of 105 mm medium guns. The other artillery regiment was to consist of two groups of mixed 90/53 and 20mm anti-aircraft guns. The 90 mm guns were to be used in the anti-tank role as well.

However, even under the most favourable scenario for Italy, it is difficult to see how this kind of formation could have been fielded in the period 1941-42. Indeed, the Italian army came up with a provisional organization for a much smaller, but still useful armoured division early in 1941. This provisional war establishment consisted of one medium tank or ex-French tank equipped regiment, one light tank regiment (equipped mainly with tankettes), one motorized bersaglieri regiment, one artillery regiment with two groups (I, II) of 75/27 field guns, one group (III) of 100/17 howitzers, and mixed group (IV) of anti-aircraft guns plus minor support and service units. The schemes for Italian armoured formations were much more balanced than many other nations at this date. They may even have had some operational utility had they ever been deployed as planned, but this was not to be.

The Brigata Corazzata Speciale was to be formed in light of these plans. Both the Ariete and Centauro Divisions had started out as brigades, and only were later expanded into divisions. The Italian army still used the term brigade in its original meaning as a formation consisting of a number of regiments. The creator of the binary division in the Italian army admitted that these formations weren’t really divisions at all, but brigate mixta or mixed brigades. Thus the Brigata Corazzata Speciale should not be thought as the counterpart of a commonwealth brigade, but in Europa terms as a divisional group. Its organization was never finalized so total precision here is impossible, but was include at least one medium tank regiment, one motorized bersaglieri regiment, a motorcyslist bersaglieri battalion, some artillery units (at least two groups perhaps to be expanded into a regiment) and other units. Light tank (eg. tankette) units were certainly involved with this unit, but I have not been able to discover whether they were to be included in its permanent organization.

The organizing and intial training of this armoured brigade began in late November 1940 after some units to be incorporated into it were withdrawn from Egypt. At this point (1.12.1940), the brigade consisted of the I and III Medium Tank Battalions, XXI and LX Light Tank Battalions, one motorcycle bersaglieri battalion (probably formed from ex-divisional companies), one group of 75/27 field guns and one group of 100/17 howitzers (both stripped from the Savona Division). It was deployed in the Marsa Lucch and la Littoranea area. By early January 1941 the Brigata Corazzata Speciale had the following organization: HQ, one raggruppamento carrista (III and V Medium, LX Light Battalions), 12th Artillery Regiment <<Sila>> (ex-Savona Division with different TOE), one motorcycle bersaglieri battalion, one AT company and miscellaneous support and service units. The 10th motorized Bersaglieri Regiment was under orders to join the brigade, at which point the intention was to start calling it an armoured division. However, the worsening events never allowed the uniting of these two units.

If the brigade had been used vigorously at this point, even its disorganized condition, the rout of the Tenth Army might have been contained, but it was held back in reserve positions as something to valuable to use and lose. In the final battle at Beda Fomm, the Brigata Corazzata Speciale had the following untis assigned or attched to it (as of Feb. 5, 1941):

  • III and V Battaglione carri M13/40 (20 to 30 tanks each)
  • VI Battaglione carri M13/40 (45 tanks)
  • 12oReggimento artiglieria <<Sila>> (one
    group of 100/17 howitzers, one group of 75/27 field guns)
  • 1x battery of 105/28 (20th Corps Arty)
  • 1x battery of 75/27 AA guns (20th Corps Arty)
  • LXI Battaglione carri L3/35 (12 tankettes of which only 6 were runners)
  • one platoon of a motorcycle battalion
  • four armoured cars (no ID available)

As is well known to these circles, the italian forces were unable to push through the Commonwealth blocking forces and surrendered to them including the Brigata Corazzata Speciale. Had it not been destroyed at Beda Fomm and survived until mid 1941, this brigade would likely have been expanded to the provisional armoured division organization mentioned above. What it would have been called is pure speculation, but I think it would likely have been designated the 134 Divisione corazzata
<<Frecchia>>
(following in the number series for armoured divisions).

Here are my tentative suggestions on how the Brigata Corazzata Speciale
could be treated in an Italian OoB:

JAN I 1940

Special: Optional
Place in Cyrenaica Forming Pool:
1x 1-6 Support Group [III]                  (any)      (IA)
3x 1-8 Tank II                                              (any)      (3M, 5M, 6M) (IA)

JAN II 1941

Special: Optional Upgrade of Units in Cyrenaica Forming Pool:
Convert: 1x 1-6 Support Group [III]  (any)    (IA)

And 3x 1-8 Tank II                                     (any)      (3M, 5M, 6M) (IA)
And 1 Italian INF RP
To 1x 8* Armoured XX Gp                    Cor Sp    (IA)
And 1x 3-2-8 Tank III                              4                (IA)

MAR II 1941

Release from Cyrenaica Forming Pool:
1x 8* Armoured XX Gp                            Cor Sp    (IA)
1x 3-2-8 Tank III                                          4                (IA)

Available for Assembly:
1x 6-5-8* Armoured XX Gp                 Cor Sp      (IA)

JUN II 1941

Convert: 1x 8* Armoured XX Gp        Cor Sp       (IA)
And 1 Italian or German ARM RP
To: 1x 8 Armoured XX134 Fre (IA)

Available for Assembly:
1x 8-6-8 Armoured XX                            134 Fre     (IA)

Breakdown/Assembly Chart:

‘Divisional Breakdown for a 6-5-8* Armoured XX Gp

1x 8* Armoured XX Gp                          Cor Sp           (IA)
1x 3-2-8 Tank III                                        4                       (IA)
1x 2-10 mot infantry III                         10 B                (IA)

‘Divisional Breakdown for a 8-6-8 Armoured XX:

1x 8*Armoured XX                                   134 Fre         (IA)
1x 3-2-8 Tank III                                        4                       (IA)
1x 2-1-8 lt Tank III                                    (any)               (IA)
1x 2-10 mot infantry III                         10 B                (IA)

‘Divisional Breakdown for a 13-11-8 Armoured XX:

1x 8 Armoured XX                                    134 Fre       (IA)
2x 3-2-8 Tank III                                         4, any           (IA)
2x 2-10 mot infantry III                         10 B, any     (IA)
1x 1-2-8 Assault Gun III                         234                (IA)

Italian Artillery Units in “War in the Desert”

When I was at the P.R.O. in London at little over a year ago, I look up a whole raft of captured Italian army documents. These confirmed what I had suspected that the WitD Italian OB. had some significant flaws. My question here is regarding Wavell’s War. Has the Italian OB been substantially revised for both North Africa and the East African territories?

I suppose I should give an idea of the kind of changes I thought were necessary and I hope somebody could give me a response whether these things have been considered before. There is much more than this, but I am only giving some examples.

Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata, tipo A.S

The 1940 Ordinamento or Army Reorganization Scheme laid out the war establishment of a North African corps artillery formation (raggruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata, tipo A.S.) as being two groups of 105/28 medium guns, two groups of 75/27 field guns, one group of 100/17 howitzers and one truck borne 75/27 CK anti-aircraft guns (near useless as AA guns, but having some value as a ground support weapon) …eventually. None were actually ever equipped to this standard, and the war establishment (TOE to Americans) was changed in the spring (?) of 1941 to three groups of 105s. If the Italian Army had fielded corps artillery formations with full establisment then a 2-3-6 rating of the present units in WinD would be justified, though they really should have an 8 movement factor. Below is a list of Italian corps artillery formation present in North Africa in December 1940 and my thoughts on how they should be rated.

10º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata

1x 2-3-6 Artillery III 10C

WitD has this formation starting in North Africa on the Sep I 1939 turn. Actually, it appears to have arrived in North Africa in several echelons during the period October-November 1939. It probably should arrive as a Nov I 1939 reinforcement. The raggruppamento consisted of the XVII and XXV artillery groups of 105/28 medium guns and VII artillery group equipped with 100/17 field howitzers. Italian artillery was probably the best service arm of that army but a 2-3-6 rating seems a little rich for twenty-four 105 mm guns and twelve 100 mm howitzers. This formation was fully motorized, though it did not have the command and control arrangements to be combat motorized in the Europa sense. I suggest a more accurate rating would be a 2-1-8 Artillery III.

20º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata
21º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata

2x 2-3-6 Artillery III 20C, 21C

These were both pre-war formations. The 21º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata was raised on October 1st 1937 and was sent to North Africa shortly thereafter. The beginning of the 20º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata has basically the same story, but exact dates are lacking. Both were deployed in North Africa on the Sep I 1939 as depicted in the WitD OB. In each formation, the artillery groups received numerical identifications organic to the raggruppamento. So the 105 groups were the I and II Groups and the groups equipped with the 75 mm guns were the III and IV groups. The Twentieth also had the 20º Gruppo da 75/27 CK, whose sterling qualities were discussed above. Likewise, the Twenty-First had the had the 21º Gruppo da 75/27 CK. I believe these two formations should be re-rated as 2-8 artillery regiments, but otherwise be deployed as listed in the WitD OB. They should not have any AA value.

22º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata

1x 1-2-6 Artillery III 22C

This raggruppamento was equipped exactly like the 10º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata that is with two groups (XLII, XLIII) of 105 mm guns and one group (I) of 100 mm howitzers. This however rates only a 1-2-6 in WitD. Though listed as a starting unit in North Africa, this was again part of the reinforcements sent to North Africa during the partial mobilization in the fall of 1939. This formation should be rated as a 2-1-8 Artillery III arriving on the Oct I 1939 turn.

23º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata

1x 1-6 Artillery III 23C

This formation never existed, so why does it show up in WitD? Does it get removed in Wavell’s War? The only artillery assets the XXIII Army Corps had available, came from detached units of other artillery regiments and raggruppamenti in North Africa. As many of these units are seemingly overstrength in comparison with their historic war establishments (e.g. TOE) as shown above, I can’t see any reason to have a counter for this hypothetical unit in the Italian OB.

25º Rappruppamento artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata

Does Wavell’s War finally give us the counter for this formation? It was quite a powerful artillery formation with four groups of 149/13 medium howitzers. Its artillery groups were the following: CV, CXXX, CXLVIII, AND CL (105, 130, 147, 150 pesenti campale) and it had therefore forty-eight 149 mm medium howitzers. It began disembarking in Tobruk on the 18th of December 1940 and completed its deployment in time to be trapped in the encirclement of Tobruk. It was destroyed when Commonwealth forces took Tobruk in January 1941. This formation should be a Dec II 1940 reinforcement and have a rating of 3-8 Artillery III.

Rappruppamento artiglieria di Manovra

This formation was formed in late(?) November 1940. It consisted of four groups of 100/17 howitzers stripped from the artillery regiments of the following divisions: Bologna (I/10º), Pavia (I/26º), Sabratha (I/42º) and Brescia (I/55º). It does not seem there were any plans to reunite these groups with their parent units at any time in the near future so we are not dealing with a temporary battlegroup. Forty-eight 100 mm howitzers gives you a combat value of almost 2. I think 2-8 rating is more accurate than a 1-2-8. Make them a Nov II 1940 reinforcement in Tripolitania.

5º Raggruppamento artiglieria d’Armata

1x 3-4-6 Artillery III 5A

I have not been able to confirm whether this formation was in North Africa at the start of September 1939. I suspect not. It is more likely its arrival was part of the partial mobilization caried out during the fall of 1939. It was equipped with forty eight of the antique 149/35 medium gun and consisted of the following groups: XIX, XX, XXI, and XXII. Now the the 149/35 had a very low towing speed, so the Italian army preferred to transport in other ways if possible. I believe on the desert that the guns were run up on to the decks of big trucks or trailers. (I have seen a photo of this long ago.) I am fairly certain that they did not have enough these kind of vehicles to move the complete raggruppamento at any one time however. The incremental transfer of this formation to Cyrenaica during the summer of 1941 would tend to confirm this. This formation was effectively destroyed in the Crusader battles. A question I have to those in the know, why is the 5º Raggruppamento artiglieria d’Armata rated as a 3-4-6? I was given to understand that four groups of 150s would work out a combat value of about 3 and that even if one were so generous to round up the combat value to 4, then because these groups were equipped with guns and not howitzers, it would be the attack factor that should be raised. Am I wrong? Is it fudged with something else factored in? Its been a long time since I last saw the Europa artillery algorithm. I suggest it should be re-rated as a 3-6 Artillery III. I thought of giving it a movement factor of fuve but the 3-6 is a better compromise. Best guess is it should be a Sep II 1939 reinforcement.

10º Raggruppamento artiglieria d’Armata

1x 2-1-6 Artillery III 10A

WinD has this formation starting in North Africa on the Sep I 1939 turn. Well, it didn’t exist then. It was mobilized in the spring of 1940 and took part in the Western Alps campaign of June 1940. In early July 1940, it was disbanded A new raggruppamento was raised in Tobruk (without any connection in personnel or equipment to the old one) on July 16 1940. It was commanded by Generale brigata Villanis. It was supposed to be equipped with four groups of 149/35 medium guns like the 5º Raggruppamento artiglieria d’Armata in Tripolitania. It never got them. In fact it never seems to have commanded any artillery units except those detached to it from from pre-existing formations already in Cyrenaica.
The only 149/35 guns serving in Cyrenaica were the sixteen belonging to one of the two Guardia alla Frontiera artillery raggruppamento based at Tobruk (ie. 30º Raggruppamento artiglieria di G.a.F. –> it is not presently shown in WinD). To my way of thinking, the best solution for this unit is for it to go directly into the force pool on the Jul II 1940 turn. Conceivably the Italian army could have sent the requisite artillery groups to North Africa if not forced to repeated reinforce/rebuild units already in this theatre of war. Like the formation above it should be rated as a 3-6 Artillery III.

Aug 43 II

Axis Player Turn

Axis forces retreat up the Italian toe, destroying rail hexes in their wake. A sacrificial 2-3-2 Coastal XX is left in the mountain hex at 26/3922 to delay any Allied advance. Rail damage and harassment prevent significant movement of German ants to WEST. Italian engineers are airlifted to cities in the north that sustained RMY hits in Aug I, and this should help clear the rail. No response is mounted to the capture of Yeu. With two engineers on the island any minor damage would be easily repaired, and a major effort is out of the question as Axis air needs to stay concentrated in SOUTH. With so many Allied fighters guarding their two LC ferries to Corsica the Axis decline to interfere, but prepare their NODL and beach defenses.

Allied Player Turn

The airbase on Belle is augmented, a new one on Yeu is built, and several are placed in northern Sardinia. Allied LC make a mass migration to the ETO and end with 3x TF, 15x LC and ample NTs in the ETO. One LC is set up as a ferry at Yeu. Four British and Canadian Infantry XX and an Armored XX are broken down in Britain. Eight REs of airborne including all the components of the British Airborne XX are in the ETO. A British 8-8 Inf XX is shipped to Yeu, ready to take advantage of that ferry. US troops from Iceland land in the UK. The only weak link is Allied air power (or lack thereof), a measly 14x F, 1x A, 6x B-types are in the ETO now, but all Sep I Allied air reinforcements can go to ETO. Everything with range 15 or better can transfer between theaters using Yeu and Sardinia, possibly during the Axis Sep I player-turn.

Allied attacks net a measly 4 REs of Italians, and that count stands at 27. Allied units attack into Corsica via ferries and advance up the toe, reaching a line 26/3619-3618-3718. Allied air forces continue their anti-rail campaign with both MTO and one ETO strat air forces called up. Tactical air units can now reach the East Coast of Italy from Sardinia and concentrate on breaking rails in the middle of Italy. Allied air in the ETO seems to be isolating the Biscay-Brittany-Normandy region and the limited number of German construction troops will be hard pressed to do much about it. Rail into/out of the coast from Belgium to Le Havre is also kaput, Paris has four rail hits and the lines leading between Italy and France have multiple hits.

Commentary

So far the accountant’s defense is working like a charm. This doesn’t seem to be hindering the Allies much, and has not enticed them into precipitous adventures. But what will the Axis do to meet the threat posed in their WEST theater?

 

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