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Camicie Nere (The MVSN & CCNN Combat Units)

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Other Special Militias

The University Militia was primarily responsible for pre military training, and it was the main source of Junior Officers for Fascist units. A Legion of University Militia fought in Ethiopia, and many members of this Militia served in Spain.

The Anti-aircraft and Coast Defence Command was an HQ that controlled 2 militia organizations, the units would be assigned to local Military command and issued equipment from army stocks. This was one of the most powerful Fascist organizations, and although not of a very high (military) quality they still controlled a large quantity of weapons and equipment (The bulk of which was handed over to the Germans in September 1943). All males between 18 and 37 years of age who were unfit for normal military service were drafted into these 2 Militias.

The Anti-aircraft Artillery Militia was responsible primarily for the general AA defence of the country; they were a sort of second line force, equipped with antiquated and/or obsolete weapons (including the 75/27 and 75/46) lacking modern fire control. In mid 1943, attempts began to re-equip these units with a new generation of Italian AA weapons, including 37mm, 102mm, and 105mm weapons. Typically, each Legion would have 64 Guns and 32 HMG, divided into 2 battalions (each of 4 batteries). Total strength of this force was about 60,000 men.

The Coast Defence Militia staffed coastal batteries (other than those in port areas which were manned by the Navy). Strength unknown, but possibly around 20-30,000 men.

The Railway Militia primarily were responsible for railway security and provided guard detachments for trains and stations, however on occasions they also supplied personnel to operate the trains as well. Strength 30,000 men.

Forest Militia was responsible for logging and forestry, but also for protection of these resources (such as fighting forest fires). In Ethiopia and Greece, some specially trained Forest Militia units served as Combat Troops. Strength 5,000 men.

The Frontier Militia were used to assist the GaF (Frontier Guards) and the GdF (Finance Guards) in securing the borders, collecting customs and taxes, and so on. All members were mountaineers with a good knowledge of Italy’s wilder frontiers. Strength was about 2,400 men.

Finally, there were 3 minor militias: Post and Telegraph, Roads, and the Ports Militia. The names pretty much describe the function, and all 3 combined contained less than 3,000 men.


I highly recommend Victor Madeja’s Italian Army Order of Battle for anyone starting out on researching units of the Italian Army in WWII, while Rex Trye’s book provides an excellent starting point for the Italians in general. Finally special thanks to Rex Trye (New Plymouth, New Zealand) and Arturo Lorioli (Rome, Italy) who have helped me with my Italian research and especially Arturo who has been a great source of information himself!

Italian Army Order of Battle 1940-44 – Victor W Madeja
Italian Army Handbook – Victor W Madeja
Handbook on the Italian Army – Terrence Wise
Italian Order of Battle WWII (3 Volumes) – George F Nafziger
Mare Nostrum, Italian Army Handbook (2nd Edition) – Jack Greene
Mussolini’s Soldiers – Rex Trye
Rommel’s North African Campaign – Greene & Massignani
Miscellaneous other publications & Articles

Article by John Moher

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  1. Hi!
    I have a Round Copper Pendant that I think was from the Black Shirts. It is about 1″ Diameter with a Chain Hole at the Top. On one Side it has a Palm Tree, a Knife “X” on the handel on Top of (3)-Spears, and the Words “270 LEGIONC CCNN LIBICA INVINCIBILC”. On the other Side, it has a Map with (3) Places called “TRAPANI”, “AGRIGENTO” & “CNNA”. Around the Perimeter it has “VAMPA”FRECCE” & “LPVI”. The Map has (2) Arrows to the Right Side and (2) what looks like to me, “Long Dog Heads with their Mouths Open”.
    I have been trying to find out what this is since I have had it. It was in with some things that my Father had and was past down to me when he Past. My Dad was in WWII so, if that helps please let me know!

  2. In the text about the “M” battalions it reads; “For further reading on the M units see the separate article on this website.”

    But I can’t find this article anywhere?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Glenning – This was John Moher’s article and it probably pertained to his website. I no longer have his email address to assist you. The text has now been deleted.

  3. Dan Montagano says:

    I would like to note that there is an omission in the list of CCNN units that served in Yugoslavia. The 81st CCNN battalion was active there and took part in battles fought against the Udarne Brigade at Dolnij Poloj during October of 1942. Incidentally, this was also the setting for the last Cavalry charge ever mounted by the Italian Army. And finally, the 81st battalion was designated a “M” battalion shortly before being sent to Yugoslavia.

    • I have discussed this RedShirt issue here before.The wife says that this is the name that the M Battalion soldiers identified themselves as.They were proud of it.