Europa Games and Military History

Tag: Artillery

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.

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)