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Italian Radios and Communications in the field

#1 User is offline   Alan Hume 

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:10 AM

Dear All,
I am emailing you as I have a question to ask on WW2 Italian equipment which I have
been unable to find an answers to elsewhere.

I do not wish to take up your time any more than I have to but, basically, I am attempting to find out
(at least the basics) information on the Italian army at the moment for a project some friends and I are undertaking. We are endevouring to write a new set of WW2 wargaming rules which we hope to sell to raise money for "The Erskine Trust"

I am attempting to work out an ORBAT and equipment list for the Italians, a very generic one I must admit, I am aiming to cover the basic Italian infantry company and its attachments from 40-43,
I dont really want to write one for Russia, one for North Afrika etc if I can avoid it so I have basically put in disclaimers such as "only in Russia" etc.

The work is coming along very well and I am nearly done, but, however, I have hit a stepping stone that none of my books really covers (in fact two of them contradict each other completely)

Basically, I am trying to learn about Italian radio and communications in WW2, was it good or bad?
did they rely on radios or landline telephones or both?

I really need to try and get some kind of information together for this project,if you know where I could look to find the answers, or, indeed, have the answers yourself I would appreciate the help

Best wishes

Alan Hume
EDINBURGH
UK
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#2 User is offline   FB 

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:44 AM

From what I have understood:

we used both. Preference was given to cable nets if and when possible (a matter that often put the Italians in contrast with the Germans who preferred radios (resistance to jamming/enemy penetration VS speed of the com-net set up).

Do not forget, though, that a third (and very important for Regio Esercito) communication mean was the old "Portaordini" i.e. the guy who brought written-on-papers messages here and there on the battlefield. This was the rule at a small tactical level and not only, especially when engaged portaordini were essential for communications.

Best regards
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#3 User is offline   Lupo Solitario 

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 12:04 PM

basically bad

Troubles in trasmission were an everyday item in italian army. Whenever possible preference was given to cables, as FB stated, also because radio equipment was usually bad.

As a fact it was usual in combined operations to give italian divisions german radio detachments. When they gave up as happened in Russia in 1943, italian forces were substantially cut off

I hope some could give better details
melius esse quam videri

#4 User is offline   Alan Hume 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 10:48 AM

Many thanks guys,
that helps me a heck of a lot as it answers my basic question stratight off, bad comms and uses both wires and radio, the runners I did not know about so that is a good addition

I think I have enought to go on there but if anyone else has any knowledge they wish to share with me please feel free

Alan
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#5 User is offline   Jeff Leser 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:40 PM

Alan

As you have discovered, information on Italian communication systems is difficult to obtain.

Reading you post, you are looking at the company level. I believe it is safe to say that infantry companies lacked any radio equipment. At that level, field phones and (more likely) runners was the method for communicating. In the mid 30's, the radio net in an Italian division only extended down to regiment (page 35 La radio in grigio-verde). While the RF series of radios were portable, they are large, and their battery requirement made them awkward to handle. All the wartime photographs of Italian radios I have or seen show the radios in a station configuration (dismounted in a set location).

It is possible that radios were provided to infantry battalions during the war, but I don't believe it was, in the main, likely. I do have a picture of a radio in the Monte Cervino battalion, but that unit was an army level asset which merited this resource. Special units (Alpini, bersaglieri, paracudisti) possibly had radios at the battalion level but these radios could only report up. However, this is all speculation as I don't have any sources that details allocation during the war. Unfortunately, if you say companies lacked radios in the Italian Army, you are likely to be correct even if authorized.

I am not sure if Italian radios were necessarily bad. The lack of radios certainly was a problem in combat, but I am not sure the equipment itself was any worst than other nations. All Italian radios used tubes (like everyone else) and tubes don't like to be bounced around the battlefield. The reason tank crews had a radio man was to keep the radio running. I have read many British accounts that highlight problems with keeping their radios operating. The Italians didn't use crystal modulation (developed by the Allies during the war, I don't know if Germany used crystals), so the tubes were the main reliability problem. Power (batteries and generators) was the limitation on mobility. The transmission ranges and frequency ranges given in la radio show the radios had good performance. I feel there is a lack of information to determine whether the Italian equipment was actually bad in comparison to other nations. Of course, someone here might have some excellent sources that can clear this issue up.

Pista!

Jeff
btg. sciatori Alpini « Monte Cervino » (reenacted)
19° reggimento fanteria « Brescia » (reenacted)

#6 User is offline   Alan Hume 

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:02 PM

Thanks Jeff,
You are right, getting information on Italian communications is like looking for a needle in a haystack

you have certainly given me a lot to think about there
so I will go and think about it :D

you guys are really helping me here
thanks

Alan
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#7 User is offline   arturolorioli 

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 02:08 PM

Just to add two cents to the thread, here are a few sketchy data about Italian radios effectiveness :

RF.1 (Infantry regimental radio net) : km.2 voice, km.5 morse
RF.2 (artillery regimental radio net) : km.8 voice, km.15morse
R.2/3 (divisional radio net): km.30 morse
R.F.3A (divisional radio net) : km.35 voice, km.60 morse
RF.3C ("Celeri" div. and rgt.radio net): km.20 voice, km.30 morse
R.F.C.A.1 (tanks and semoventi) : km.2 voice
R.F.C.A.2 (command tanks and semoventi): km.10 voice
R.F.3M (AB.41 armoured cars): km.80 voice, km.120 morse

This distances are (of course) approximated, for stationary radios and over flat terrain. If moving, the distances were *very* severely reduced, expecially for voice transmission (that is several cases become impossible), and even apparently minor obstacles (like woods or buildings) could hugely cut radio efficency.

Today we are used to pick up our cellphone, and talk with a chap on the other side of the world : as a fact, and war movies notwithstanding, WW2-era radio communications were hugely difficult, time consuming and inefficent. Every army (none excluded) tended to use field-telephone lines and runners whenever possible. Probably the only dedicated (and proficent) radio users were recon units and artillery forward observers (both of them usually having dedicated radio links and with high-quality signal specialist available) and AFVs cres (for lack of anything better!!!).

Besides the abovementioned problems (common to every army), the Italians had also a limited number of radio allocated (and an even lesser number of trained and proficent specialists to operate/mantain them) and a noticeable technical inferiority in most models.
Aighe-va

Arturo F.Lorioli
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#8 User is offline   Jeff Leser 

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 06:29 PM

I found this website that discusses WWII Italian radios. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but it is better than nothing.

http://www.qsl.net/ik0moz/ The Gray-green Radio site

There are some pictures missing. I wonder if the owner still has them.

Pista!

Jeff
btg. sciatori Alpini « Monte Cervino » (reenacted)
19° reggimento fanteria « Brescia » (reenacted)

#9 User is offline   Oasis 

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 04:42 AM

Just a curiosity

in N.Africa 1st Celere Artillery radio conversations were often in "friulano" (spoken "ladin" language of north-eastern Italy region Friuli V.G.) as the majority of men were originary from that region and it was impossible for british to understand without the help of a POW ("furlan"-friulano, naturally!). ...Italian windtalkers...

"mandi, zovins"

Toni
"Igne Celerrime Diruo"
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#10 User is offline   Dili 

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 04:18 PM

Interesting.



R.F.3M (AB.41 armoured cars): km.80 voice, km.120 morse

Was this some kind of special PC AB.41 version?
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#11 User is offline   arturolorioli 

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 05:19 PM

Dili said:

Was this some kind of special PC AB.41 version?


??? I'm afraid I lost you ... What's a PC version???

Anyway, AFAIK all operational versions had the same RF3M radio set, that is :
- AB.40
- AB.40 Ferroviaria
- AB.41
- AB.41 Ferroviaria
- AB.42
- Autoblinda Comando 42
- Autoblinda Cannone 42
- AB.43
. AB.43 Ferroviaria
- AB.43 con servofreno
- Autoblinda Cannone 43

The "driving school" version had - of course - no radios.
Aighe-va

Arturo F.Lorioli
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#12 User is offline   Dili 

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 12:31 AM

Sorry i latinised Command Post... :oops:

I asked because it has much more range than the others.
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#13 User is offline   Carl Schwamberger 

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 01:55 PM

Oasis said:

Just a curiosity

in N.Africa 1st Celere Artillery radio conversations were often in "friulano" (spoken "ladin" language of north-eastern Italy region Friuli V.G.) as the majority of men were originary from that region and it was impossible for british to understand without the help of a POW ("furlan"-friulano, naturally!). ...Italian windtalkers...

"mandi, zovins"

Toni


This relates to my research project. Can you recomend a source where I can find details, on the British difficulty and the use of Friulano dialect?
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#14 User is offline   Oasis 

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Posted 10 November 2008 - 08:41 AM

Carl Schwamberger said:

Oasis said:

Just a curiosity

in N.Africa 1st Celere Artillery radio conversations were often in "friulano" (spoken "ladin" language of north-eastern Italy region Friuli V.G.) as the majority of men were originary from that region and it was impossible for british to understand without the help of a POW ("furlan"-friulano, naturally!). ...Italian windtalkers...

"mandi, zovins"

Toni


This relates to my research project. Can you recomend a source where I can find details, on the British difficulty and the use of Friulano dialect?


Hi Carl,

at the moment it derives directly from the memory of a veteran (N.A.) of 1 Celere Artillery whose HQ was near Udine (Friuli, northeastern Italy)
Regards

Toni
"Igne Celerrime Diruo"
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#15 User is offline   Lupo Solitario 

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Posted 10 November 2008 - 11:01 AM

mmm...this not the kind of stuff you can find on a british source... :lol:
melius esse quam videri

#16 User is offline   Carl Schwamberger 

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Posted 10 November 2008 - 12:15 PM

Toni... thanks & graci. That is usefull. Can you explain the nature of this dialect? What made it diffcult for a Brit or other to understand it?

Lupo Solitario said:

mmm...this not the kind of stuff you can find on a british source... :lol:


Not often. I have a few books on British siganls intel but they mostly concern cryptography. The other aspects of radio intel gathering are seldom mentioned.
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#17 User is offline   arturolorioli 

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 06:38 PM

Carl Schwamberger said:

Toni... thanks & graci. That is usefull. Can you explain the nature of this dialect? What made it diffcult for a Brit or other to understand it?.


Carl, it's the first time I've heard about this story ... but I've heard "furlan" enough to answer. Many Italian dialects, Furlan among them, are not just simple variations in accent or phonetics from standard italian, but are almost entirely separate languages with largely different vocabulary, and most definitively not understandable except as a few scattered worlds to anybody speaking italian.

Just as an example, to say "hi girl!" in italian it's "ciao ragazza!", in furlan it's "mandi mula!". For a british radio intercept team, even if they had perfect knowledge of italian, it would be almost impossible to understand what two "furlan" operators would have been talking about on a radio. By the way, italians from other regions would have had exactly the same problem too, and the same would have been true with people speaking in strict Sardinian dialect etc.
Aighe-va

Arturo F.Lorioli
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#18 User is offline   Carl Schwamberger 

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 09:48 PM

"mandi mula!" Which is he greeting & which the femme? If it is 'Mula' then I've seen it used in fiction as a womans name. Conversely 'Mandi' or 'Mandy' is not uncommon here in the US as a womans name. Furlan is a Romanic language or Latin related language ?

Getting back to topic, do you know what other radio security or low level codes that would be used within the communications of the ordinary Italian divsion, like the Ariete for eaxample?
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#19 User is offline   arturolorioli 

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 11:05 PM

Carl Schwamberger said:

"mandi mula!" Which is he greeting & which the femme? ?


Not much relevant to the thread, isn't it? Anyway, "mandi" it's hello

Quote

Furlan is a Romanic language or Latin related language ?


Again not much relevant, but AFAIK Neo-Latin and Romanic means exactly the same group. Furlan is actually part of the Rhaeto-Romanic subgroup.

Quote

do you know what other radio security or low level codes that would be used within the communications of the ordinary Italian divsion, like the Ariete for eaxample?


Standard radio security, calling units and locations by code-names etc. But radio signals were much less a factor for the "ordinary Italian divisions" in NA than for other more mobile armies, as they were mostly deployed in static positions (and as such using much more often field telephones). In this respect (and most others ...) Ariete was most definitively not an "ordinary italian division", as it was one of the few italian mobile division (togheter with the Trieste and - much later - the Littorio), so they did use radio signals more extensively.
Aighe-va

Arturo F.Lorioli
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#20 User is offline   Carl Schwamberger 

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 01:07 AM

Carl Schwamberger said:

"mandi mula!" Which is he greeting & which the femme? ?


arturolorioli said:

Not much relevant to the thread, isn't it? Anyway, "mandi" it's hello


It might be relevant later!

Quote

Furlan is a Romanic language or Latin related language ?


arturolorioli said:

Again not much relevant, but AFAIK Neo-Latin and Romanic means exactly the same group. Furlan is actually part of the Rhaeto-Romanic subgroup.


I understand. Was unsure how you recognzed these so included both terms. I am familar with Rhaeto-Romanic from my circa 1900 map of a survey of European languages. Can you exlapain where that sub group derives from?

Quote

do you know what other radio security or low level codes that would be used within the communications of the ordinary Italian divsion, like the Ariete for eaxample?


arturolorioli said:

Standard radio security, calling units and locations by code-names etc. But radio signals were much less a factor for the "ordinary Italian divisions" in NA than for other more mobile armies, as they were mostly deployed in static positions (and as such using much more often field telephones). In this respect (and most others ...) Ariete was most definitively not an "ordinary italian division", as it was one of the few italian mobile division (togheter with the Trieste and - much later - the Littorio), so they did use radio signals more extensively.


Ok thats clear enough. I wonder if there are any old Italian code documents or operator training manuals still existant. It would be a interesting subject for a comparative study, the details of various armys communications procedures.
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