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Posted 22 January 2004 - 02:42 PM
Posted 23 January 2004 - 03:43 PM
It seems that Ansaldo projected by its own initiative the mounting of a 90/53 gun on an Alfa Romeo lorry and presented it to the army on 7.1.1941; the study was approved on 12.1.1941 but using a Lancia lorry. A document of the the army dated 20.1.1941, states that it was planed to build a "pezzo controcarro mobile di grande potenza" ( = mobile heavy antitank gun): for the moment using a standard lorry ("autocarro unificato") or using a "dovunque coloniale" lorry and then finally a self-propelled one (they meant on a tank chassis, I suppose). Consequently, Ansaldo had the order of studying in the same time the mounting of the gun on Lancia and Dovunque chassis and than to consider the "self-propelled" (=on a tank chassis) installation. Prototipe on Lancia chassis was ready early in February.
A first order for 30 autocannoni on Lancia 3/Ro was issued on 10.3.1941. Then as usual orders were reduced, increased, canceled, issued again, etc. with an intricated series of communications. To be concise: the initial order was reduced to 10 Lancia 3/Ro on 1.4.1941, enough to form 2 batteries and hold 2 autocannoni as reserve; they were in production on 24.5.1941 but in the meanwhile also 70 autocannoni on Breda 51 were ordered. By 18.9.1941 the order for Breda was reduced to 50 but other 20 Lancia 3/Ro were ordered, together with 64 ammo carriers, 16 command lorries and 16 "carri attrezzi". Ansaldo documents states that a last communication on 2.12.1941 increased the order to 90 autocannoni on Breda and 96 ammo carriers, but reduced the command lorry to 12.
In the meanwhile these vehicles get the official designation of "Autocannone da 90/53".
As concern actual production, all 30 autocannoni on Lancia 3/Ro and 20 autocannoni on Breda 52 were deleivered to the army during 1941. Last autocannone Breda was delivered to the army on 1.5.1943 for a total of 120 autocannoni. It is not clear to me if this number (120) refers to autocannoni Breda only or to both types. If we no other orders were issued after 2.12.1941 we had a global order for 30 Lancia and 90 Breda, so 120 would be the total production. This is supported by the fact that only 12 command lorries were ordered, so that 12 batalions were schedules (for a total of 120 autocannoni). The book by Pignato-Cappellano is not very clear in this point, because two pages earlier in the technical description of the Breda 52 thay wrote that "notwithstanding production of this autocannone was 4 times more than that of Lancia, it is less known because entered service later ...". In this case 4x30=120 autocannoni Breda.
Then, let us turn on formations that used the autocannoni:
During 1941 (31.3.1941) an order was given to form a batalion on autocannoni with the name of "IV Gr. Autocannoni anticarro da 90/53 di grande potenza" to be attached to "132^ Rgt.art. per div.cr." (that is, the artillery regiment of the Ariete division). This batalion had 2 batteries (4 autocannoni each) and ammo and supply units. Each battery had
4 officers/7 NCO/105 artillerymen/31 drivers
1 recon lorry
6 heavy lorries (4 of which carried ammo: 210 projectiles each)
3 light lorries
3 L39 (or sahariana in A.S.): 2 for patrols, 1 for machinegun
2 light tractors (to tow "gruppi eletterogeni")
1 heavy tractor (to tow "centrale Gamma")
6 two-seat motocicles
This batalion was trained at Nettunia and on 25.10.1941 attached to the 133^ artillery regiment (Littorio division) and absorbed the 2 20mm antiaircraft batteries of the division. It became now the "IV Gr. misto Autocannoni da 90/53". During summer/autumn a total of 3 batalions were formed, giving a 4th mixed group to 131^, 132^ and 133^ artillery regiment (i.e. the artillery regiments of Centauro, Ariete and Littorio) [but in a document on the re-organization of armoured division (summer 1941) these three batalions are called IV, V and VI]. These were renamed DI, DII, DIII on 14.5.1942 and assigned to divisions Ariete, Centauro and Littorio respectively. These 3 batalions used all Lancia 3/Ro.
The DI (Ariete) and DII (Centauro) were sent to northern Africa. DI arrived surely before the first half of May 1942 because it appears to be present on 25.5.1942 (it is reported in an oob I found somewhere for the battle of Gazala, maybe the only one in which Ariete was at "full strenght"), but not before the counter-offensive in January 1942, because in that occasion only the semoventi 75/18 M40 are cited as "new and powerful weapons"; it is possible that DII arrived in the same moment or just after and that it was also attached to Ariete, given the habit to strip units from divisions in Italy to bolster those at the front.
Batalion DIII (with 10 autocannoni) remained at Monterotondo (near Roma). I think it spent there its entire life and that was used in AA role. In fact, in 1943 it appears that the Lancia chassis were deforming for the stress of firing and was decided to reinforce them; so it was scheduled to send its vehicles in a facility in Roma.
Other batalions were formed (using autocannoni on Breda 52) later.
On 1.12.1941 the formation of following units was ordered:
DIV Gr. for the "3^ Raggr.art.C.A." (504th batalion for the 3rd army corps artillery grouping) - this batalion was sent to Tunisia between 10 and 20 January 1943;
DV Gr. - it fought is Sicilia in July/August 1943;
DLVI Gr. - I don't have information about its war employment;
On 27.2.1942 also DLVII (attached to 20^ Rgt.Art. of Piave division) and DLVIII Gr. were ordered to be formed.
On 26.7.1942 the formation of five independent batteries (240^, 241^, 242^, 243^, 244^) was issued.
On 20.2.1943 the 242^ battery and a new one were joined in the DXI batalion.
I think that the low production rate slowed down a lot the formation of these units and consequently many of them never saw (land) combat.
In conclusion, we have: 3 batalions with autocannoni Lancia 3/Ro (DI, DII, DIII) and an equivalent of 8 batalions with autocannoni Breda 52 (DIV, DV, DLVI, DLVII, DLVIII, DXI, and 240, 241, 242, 243, 244 batteries). If we assume that each batalion had 10 autocannoni (2 batteries with 4 a.c. each + 2 a.c. as reserve), the Lancia 3/Ro were barely enough to equip the 3 batalions, while an excess of 10 or 40, depending the on exact interpretation of production, Breda remains. It is possible that remaining a.c. Breda were used to replenish the autocannoni lost in combat, but I don't have information about losses nor about when depleted batalions were disbanded. (And italian army used to form new armoured/artillery units instead of reforming/re-equip those bad mauled). 2 a.c. were sent to an artillery school.
I hope this would help you. I hope that somebody else would be able to complete that (and/or to give a better translation).
P.S. Information about "Autocannoni da 90/53" and their employment is mostly taken from the book "Gli autoveicoli da combattimento del Regio Esercito", vol. II (1939-1945) by N.Pignato and F.Cappellano.
Posted 25 January 2004 - 07:41 PM
http://mailer.fsu.edu/~akirk/tanks/Ital ... cia3RO.JPG
http://mailer.fsu.edu/~akirk/tanks/Ital ... _small.JPG
http://www.ww2photo.mimerswell.com/tank ... /05805.jpg
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