godaddy web
stats

Italian Divisional Organizations tipo Africa Settentrionale (A.S.)

Italian Divisional Organizations
Tipo Africa Settentrionale (A.S.)

by Jeffrey W.S. Leser

(Updated 14 Sep 2016)

Prior to World War II, the Italian Army had developed a series of unit organizations that reflected the strategic requirements of nation; the doctrine, tenets and procedures of the army itself; and the strength and weaknesses of Italian society and its economy. Within this organizational design, the army broadly recognized two armies: the metropolitan army that would serve in Europe proper, and a colonial army that would secure Italy’s overseas territories.

The bulk of the overseas forces were stationed in Ethiopia and Libya. In Ethiopia, the Italian military forces were organized as the Forze Armate dell’Africa Orientale Italiana (A.O.I.). This organization was, at its core, a colonial force. The majority of the military forces stationed in Ethiopia (29 brigades) were raised from the local population. These units were supported by two divisions organized from Italian nationals. In Libya, the Italian military forces were organized under the Comando Superiore Forze Armate Africa Settentrionale (A.S). This headquarters controlled two armies; the 5th Armata in Tripolitania facing Tunisia, and the 10th Armata in Cirenaica facing Egypt. Lacking a large indigenous population to create colonial formations, a total of 12 Italian divisions were stationed in the colony in 1940.

Libya presented challenges for the operation of large military forces. The lack of infrastructure (roads, railways, power grid, etc.) made an army total depended upon itself. Where pack and draught animals could support military operations in a European setting, the lack of water and forage precluded any use of animals in Libya. Motorization was the answer, and this was the direction taken by the Italian army in designing the organizations of units serving in Libya. However, Italian industry and the nation’s finances limited what could be accomplished. Completely motorizing the entire force in Libya, in addition to the vehicles required by the metropolitan army, was beyond Italy’s means.

Given the limitations mentioned above, the army compromised and developed modified divisional organizations for use in the desert that could be equipped within Italy’s limited means. These organizations were called tipo Africa Settentrionale (tipo A.S.).

Note that the organizations discussed below indicate what was planned, not necessarily what was seen on the battlefield. Shortages of equipment and supplies limited the actual level of motorization in these formations. The information presented is designed to give the researcher an idea of what the unit structures should have been and how the Italian Army attempted to adapt to the realities of the European war. All units began the process of transition to each new TO&E, but the lack of equipment and combat losses normally left the process incomplete.

The North African Army in 1940

Three general types of units comprised the forces under the Comando Superiore Forze Armata Africa Settrionale (A.S); Indigenous natives comprised the bulk of the forces stationed in A.S. after the First World War, supported by a small number of Italian ‘volunteer’ units and and finally carabinieri units. This remained the situation until 1937 when the events set in motion by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia caused the Italian military to increase its forces in Libya. Four new Metropolitan divisions were raised and stationed in Libya, organized into two corps (XX Corpo d’Armata with the Sabratha and Sirte divisions; XXI Corpo d’Armata with the Cirene and Marmarcia divisions). The number of Libyan units was increased at the same time. In January 1939, a new plan was developed for the defense of Libya that would increased the number of Metropolitan divisions to 8. When the war began in September 1939, the Italians mobilized and transported the four additional divisions to A.S. (Bologna, Savona, Brescia and Pavia). At the same time, four Militia (Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, commonly known as Blackshirts) divisions were formed using units from Italy and sent south. Additionally two Libyan divisions were formed in Feb 1940 using existing units in A.S.

The tipo A.S. was basically a standard metropolitan ‘divisione autotrasportabile’ (auto-transportable) organization. The divisione autotrasportabile had limited manning and equipment changes from the divisone fanteria to better meet the requirements of desert operations. The divisione autotrasportabile was a semi-motorized unit that provided vehicles for the divisional artillery and services component in the place of draught and pack animals. No additional transport was provided for the infantry component; the division remained a foot-mobile infantry unit that still employed animals for the infantry heavy weapons. The tipo A.S. variation of the divisione autotrasportabile increased the number of vehicles in the supply services and the infantry heavy weapons, but left the infantry on foot. The intent was that the corps autogruppi (transportation group) would be increased in size to provide additional truck support. When properly outfitted with trucks, the corps autogruppi could provide limited transport for part of the infantry within the corps (similar to the pre-war British infantry division structure). Firepower was slightly increased due to a higher allocation of automatic weapons (262 Breda 30 fucili mitragliatori instead of 220 found in a metropolitan division). A replacement battalion was included as the units in A.S. would have limited access to the depots in Ialy.

Note that no armored divisions were stationed in A.S. in 1940. The divisions officially designated as Autotrasp. A.S. were Bologna, Bresica, Cirene, Marmarica, Pavia, Sabratha, Savona, and Sirte.  Catanzaro was created in 1940 using the artillery and services component of the disbanded 3rd divisione Camicie Nere « XXI Aprile ».

Divisione autotrasportabile di fanteria tipo A.S. [1]

Division command (comando di divisione):
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)

Two Infantry Regiments (regg. fanteria)
Each regiment consists of:
-Regimental Command Company
-Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
-Infantry Support Battery (batteria d’accomagnmento) 4 x 65/17mm infantry support guns.
Three infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Three infantry companies and one Heavy Weapons Company (compagnia armi d’accompagnmento).
-Each infantry company has a command platoon and three infantry platoons.
The infantry platoon has two squads (squadra), each with a gruppo fucilieri (rifle group, 11 men) and a gruppo fucili mitragliatori (light machinegun group with 9 men and two Breda 30 f.m.)
-Each Heavy Weapons Company has a command platoon, two heavy machinegun platoons (two squads with 2 heavy machineguns each) and two assault mortar platoons (three squads with three 45mm Brixia mortars each)

Divisional Machinegun Battalion (btg. mitraglieri)
Six companies of 12 heavy machineguns each.

Divisional Anti-tank Company (cp. cannoni controcarro) (8 x 47/32 anti-tank guns)

Divisional Light Tank Battalion (btg. carri leggeri) (46 light tanks)
Battalion Command group (1 L tank)
Three companies with:
One Command Platoon (1 L tank and 2 L tanks in reserve); three Platoons each with 4 L tanks.

Motorcycle Company (Cp. Motociclisti) [2]
Platoon command  23 men
-3 Motorcycle Platoons of 4 squads (6 men) with one fucile mitragliatore (Breda 30) each
-1 Motor-machinegun Platoon of 4 squads with 9 men with one heavy MG (Breda 37)
Total: 28 motocycles, 44 motorcycles with side car, 9 trailers, 4 small trucks, 2 radios, 133 men

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns) [3]
One group of 100/17 Mod. 14 T.M. (three batteries of 4 guns)
Two batteries of 20mm Mod. 35 (each with 8 guns)

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio) [4]
Battalion Command Group
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal (Communications) Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Services (Servizi)
One Medial section (sezione di sanità)
One Supply Section (sezione di sussistenza)
One Mixed Transport Section (autosezione mista)

Divisional Replacement Battalion (btg. complementi) [5]

Division Totals: 453 Officers; 594 NCOs; 9,931 soldiers. 9,025 rifles and carbines; 262 light machineguns; 232 heavy machineguns; 111 – 45mm mortars; 12 – 81mm mortars; 16 – 20/35 c.a.; 8 – 47/32 c.c.; 8 – 65/17; 24 – 75/27 guns; 12 – 105/17 howitzers; 46 light tanks; 398 light cars/trucks; 249 medium/heavy trucks; 36 tractors; 180 biciclette/motociclisti

Militia Division (Divisione di Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale – MVSN) [6]

Division command (comando di divisione):
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)

Two Infantry Legions (legioni fanteria) [7]
Each legion consists of:
-Regimental Command Company
-Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
-Infantry Support Battery (batteria d’accomagnmento) 4 x 65/17mm infantry support guns.
Three infantry battalions (Coorte fanteria), each consisting of:
Three infantry companies and one Heavy Weapons Company (compagnia armi d’accompagnmento).
-Each infantry company has a command platoon and three infantry platoons. The infantry platoon has two squads (squadra), each with a rifle group (gruppo fucile) (11 men) and a light machinegun group (gruppo fucili mitragliatori)  with 9 men and two Breda 30 f.m. Each Heavy Weapons Company has a command platoon, two heavy machinegun (mitraglieri) platoons (each with two squads with 2 heavy machineguns each) and two assault mortar platoons (three squads with three 45mm Brixia mortars each)

Divisional Machinegun Battalion (btg. mitraglieri)
Three companies of 12 heavy machineguns each.

Divisional Anti-tank Company (cp. cannoni controcarro) (8 x 47/32 anti-tank guns)

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
One group of 100/17 Mod. 14 T.M. (three batteries of 4 guns)
Two batteries of 20mm Mod. 35 (each with 8 guns)

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)
Battalion Command Group
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal (Communications) Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Services (Servizi)
One Medial section (sezione di sanità)
One Supply Section (sezione di sussistenza)
One Mixed Transport Section (autosezione mista)

Initially four militia divisions were raised in the fall of 1939,  1st divisione Camicie Nere « XXIII Marzo » 2nd divisione Camicie Nere « XXVIII Ottobre » ;  3rd divisione Camicie Nere « XXI Aprile » ; 4th divisione Camicie Nere « III Gennaio » . The 3nd Division was disbanded in 1940 and used to form the 64th divisione Cantanzaro.

Libyan Division (Divisione Libica) [8]

Division command (comando di divisione):
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)

Two Libyan Infantry Groups (raggruppamento di fanteria libica) [9]
Each group consists of:
Command group
Three infantry battalions, each consisting of:
-Three infantry companies each with a command platoon and three infantry platoons. The infantry platoon has two squads (squadra), each with a gruppo fucile (rifle group, 11 men) and a gruppo fucili mitragliatori (light machinegun group with 9 men and two Breda 30 f.m.)

Divisional Anti-tank Company (cp. cannoni controcarro) (8 x 47/32 anti-tank guns)

Divisional Artillery Group (raggruppamento di artigleria)
Two groups of 77/28 (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
Two batteries of 20mm Mod. 35 (each with 8 guns)

Libyan Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio Libica)
Battalion Command Group
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal (Communications) Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Services (Servizi)
One Medial section (sezione di sanità)
One Supply Section (sezione di sussistenza)
One Mixed Transport Section (autosezione mista)

237 Officers; 174 NCOs; 460 Italian military, 6,353 Libyan soldiers. 216 light machineguns; 66 heavy machineguns; 16 – 20/35 c.a.; 8 – 47/32 c.c.; 24 – 75/28 guns

Corpo d’Armata in Libia [10]

Armor Battalion (battaglione carri) [11]
Battalion Command group (1 L tank)
Three companies with:
One Command Platoon (1 L tank and 2 L tanks in reserve); three Platoons each with 4 L tanks.

Motorcycle Company (cp. motociclisti)
Platoon command  23 men
-3 Motorcycle Platoons of 4 squads (6 men) with one fucile mitragliatore (Breda 30) each
-1 Motor-machinegun Platoon of 4 squads with 9 men with one heavy MG (Breda 37)
Total: 28 motocycles, 44 motorcycles with side car, 9 trailers, 4 small trucks, 2 radios, 133 men

Corps Artillery Group (Raggruppamento Artiglieria di Corpo Armata)
Group Command
2 groups of 105/28 guns (of three batteries of 4 guns each)
1 group of 75/27 guns (of three batteries of 4 guns each)
1 group of 75/27 C.K. (of three batteries of 4 guns each)
2 batteries of 20/35 c.a. (8 guns each)

Special Engineer Battalion (btg. special artieri)
Construction Engineer Battalion (Battaglione Genio Artieri)
Radio and Telegraph Battalion (Battaglione Telegrafisti e Radiotelegrafisti)
Compagnia Genio Fotoelettricisti

Signal Battalion (btg. collegamenti)
One Mixed Liaison, Telegraph, and Radio Company

Chemical Company (compagnia chimica)

Corps Services (corpo servizi)
One Medical Section
One Field Hospital
Two-three Surgical Detachments
One Delousing Section
One X-ray unit
One Dental unit
One Decontamination section
One Supply Section
One Mixed Truck Unit
One Truck Group

Results of the Italian Losses November 01-February 41

The Italian defeat inflicted by the British Western Desert Force initiated a series of studies by Comando Supremo to modernize Italian units serving in A.S. to better meet the conditions of mobile warfare.

Proposed Infantry Division [12]

Division command (comando di divisione):

Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)

Reconnaissance Detachment

Two infantry regiments (regg. di fanteria)

Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Group
-Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
Two infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Three infantry companies.
-Each infantry company has a command platoon, three infantry platoons, and one 81mm mortar platoon. The infantry platoon has two squads (squadra), each with a gruppo fucile (rifle group, 11 men) and a gruppo fucile mitragliatori (light machinegun group with 9 men and two Breda 30 f.m.). The mortar platoon has three 81mm mortars.
-One company armi d’accompagnmento [13]

One command platoon, one heavy machinegun platoon (four heavy machineguns), one anti-tank platoon (two 47/32 cannoni c.c.)

One battaglione armi d’accompagnmento e controcarro consisting of:
Command company
One mortar company (nine 81mm mortars),
One anti-tank company (eight 47/32 cannoni c.c)
One machinegun company (eight heavy machineguns)
One anti-aircraft company (eight 20/35 c.a.).

Divisional Support Weapons battalion (btg. armi di accompagnmento divisione)

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)

Regimental Command Group
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
One group of 100/17 Mod. 14 T.M. (three batteries of 4 guns)
Two batteries of 20mm Mod. 35 (each with 8 guns)

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)

Battalion Command Group
One Construction Engineer (artieri)
Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal (Communications) Company:
Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Services (Servizi)
One Medial section (sezione di sanità)
One Supply Section (sezione di sussistenza)
One Mixed Transport Section (autosezione mista)

Totals: 6,000 men;  9,025 rifles and carbines; 141 heavy and light machineguns; 40 anti-tank rifles (20mm);  24 – 81mm mortars; 40 – 20/35 c.a.; 56 – 47/32 c.c.;  24 – 75/27 guns; 12 – 105/17 howitzers; 650 trucks.

Reinforcing Africa Settentrionale

The arrival of the divisione corazza Ariete between 24 January-26 February at Tripoli introduced the first Italian armored division to Africa Settenrionale. [14]

Division command (comando di divisione): [15]

Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)

Tank Regimnent (reggimento carri)
Each regiment consists of:
Compagnia Comando (Command Company)
Four armor battalions, each with four companies:
Command company (with 1 light tank), three tank companies (each with one command tank and three tank platoons of 5 tanks each)

Bersaglieri Regiment (regg. bersaglieri)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Group
Two bersaglieri battalions, each consisting of:
-Command Company
-Command Platoon (Supply and Transport Squads);
-Signal Platoon (Radio/Telephone Squad, Heliograph Squad );
-Reconnaissance Platoon (with three reconnaissance squads)
Two bersaglieri companies:
One command squad;
Three bersaglieri platoons (with 2 squads);
One machinegun platoon (four heavy machineguns);
One anti-tank section (three 37/45 c.c.).
-One company armi d’accompagnmento
One command platoon;
Two heavy machinegun platoons (two squads with 2  heavy machineguns each)
Two assault mortar platoons (three squads with three 45mm Brixia mortars each)
One bersaglieri motorcycle battalion;
three motorcycle companies:
Platoon command 23 men
3 Motorcycle Platoons of 4 squads (6 men) with one light MG (Breda 30) each
1 Motor-machinegun Platoon of 4 squads with 9 men with one heavy MG (Breda 37)
Total: 28 motocycles, 44 motorcycles with side car, 9 trailers, 4 small trucks, 2 radios, 133 men

Three Anti-tank Companies (each with 8 x 47/32 c.c. guns)

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)(planned)
Regimental Command Group
Two groups of 75/27 (each with three batteries of 4 guns)

Mixed Truck Group (autoreparto misto)
 
Services (serivizi)

1941 Reorganization

The losses suffered by the Italian Army during the British winter offensive (Operation Compass) between November 1940 and February 1941 demonstrated that the A.S. divisional organizations had significant weaknesses. The main problem was the lack of organic transportation within the Italian formations. The limited mobility of their units, adequate in Ethiopia, left them at the mercy of the fully motorized British forces. A second weakness was becoming apparent during this same period: the lack of firepower. However, in the initial assessment of Compass, the firepower issue was hidden by the mobility problem and the Comando Supremo’s first efforts were to correct the latter shortcoming.

In May 1941, the General Staff assessed the requirements for the reconquest of A.S. Part of this assessment involved current unit organizations and availability of equipment. The divisione fanteria tipo A.S. was basically eliminated. In its place, the infantry divisions were divided into two types, divisione motorizzata tipo A.S. and divisione di occupazione. This structure recognized that the Italian forces in A.S. required a mobile striking force, but Italy lacked the resources to fully motorize all the divisions currently in A.S. Additionally, the divisione corazzata was redesigned, but this change affected all Italian armored divisions regardless of the theater, so is not A.S. specific (this change reflected the availability of the M13 medium tanks and lessons learned). Also note that only the divisione corazzata was authorized a bersaglieri regiment. The bersaglieri units traditionally associated with the divisione motorizzata became corps assets.

The following units were planned: [16]
Divione corazzata: Ariete,
Divisone motorizzata: Pavia, Bologna, Trento, Trieste, Savona, Brescia, and Piave.
Divisione occupazione: Sabratha, Pistoia. There was a discussion of creating two additional divisions using Guardia alla Frontiera and other units currently in A.S.

Achieving this plan was to prove beyond the resources of the Italian nation. In June 1941, the Comando Supremo assessed the required material to complete the plan.[17] The first priority was to transition the X Army Corps: D. cor. Ariete and the D. mot. Trento, Pavia, and Bologna. The required personnel and material was: 50,000 men, 6,500 motor vehicles of various sizes/types, and 125 guns of various types. The second priority was to transition the XX Army Corps: D. mot. Brescia and Savona, and the D. occ. Sabratha. These units required an additional 5,000 men and 2,500 vehicles.

In the end, none of this plan was completed. Shipping limitations (Trieste and numerous anti-aircraft batteries competed for shipping with the additional personnel and equipment for the new structure[18]) and the battles in the summer, fall and winter of 1941 prevented the full execution of these changes. Of the first priority units, the Pavia and Bologna had started the conversion, but were incomplete at the start of the British Crusader offense.[19] Due to the lack of trucks, Trento kept its bersaglieri regiment.[20] Of the second priority units, there is no evidence that Bresica, Savona and Sabratha had begun the conversion.[21] In fact Brescia was ordered in July to maintain its infantry division structure.[22] In another twist, Montanari states in his conclusion to volume II that Brescia and Savona were ordered to assume the organizational structure of a « divisione di occupazione » ‘as soon as possible’.[23] I have not found any other reference to this order, so I can’t determine whether this was true, when it was ordered, and what situation likely triggered this change to the plan.

Divisione corazzata A.S. [24]

Comando di divisione:
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)
Movement Control Detachment

Reconnaissance Battalion (btg. autoblindo)
Battalion Command Group
Two Reconnaissance Companies (47 Autoblindo 41)

Two maneuver brigades (each with an armor and bersaglieri regiment) [25]

Medium Tank Regiment (reggimento carri medi) [26]
Each regiment consists of:
Compagnia Comando (Command Company)
Two Reserve Tank Platoons (each with 5 tanks)
Three medium tank battalions, each with:
Batalion Command
Three medium tank companies each with:
One command tank
Three tank platoons (5 medium tanks each)

Bersaglieri Regiment (regg. bersaglieri)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Group
Two bersaglieri battalions, each consisting of:
Command Company with: Command Platoon (Supply and Transport Squads); Signal Platoon (Radio/Telephone Squad, Heliograph Squad ); and a Reconn-aissance Platoon (with three reconnaissance squads)
Two bersaglieri companies, each consisting of:
One command squad; three bersaglieri platoons (with 2 squads); one machinegun platoon (four heavy machineguns); one anti-tank section (three 37/45 c.c.).
One company armi d’accompagnmento
One command platoon, two heavy machinegun platoons (two squads with 2  heavy machineguns each) and two assault mortar platoons (three squads with three 45mm Brixia mortars each)
One bersaglieri motorcycle battalion with three motorcycle companies each with:
Platoon command 23 men
3 Motorcycle Platoons of 4 squads (6 men) with one fucile mitragliatore (Breda 30) each
1 Motor-machinegun Platoon of 4 squads with 9 men with one heavy MG (Breda 37)
Total: 28 motocycles, 44 motorcycles with side car, 9 trailers, 4 small trucks, 2 radios, 133 men

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)(planned) [27]
Regimental Command Group
Two groups of semoventi da 75/18 (20 semoventi)
Two groups of 105/28 (each with three batteries of 4 guns)
Two groups of 90/53 c.c (each with two batteries of 4 guns, and two batteries of eight 20/35 c.a.)

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)
Battalion Command Group
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, one Company Field Park

Medical Section (10 light trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)
Supply Section (5 trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)

Divisional Transportation Group
Command Group
One Truck Group with four Light Truck Sections
One Mixed Truck Group:
Two Light Truck Sections; Two Heavy Truck Section; Two Heavy Petrol sections

NOTE: This organization was never fully implemented due to the lack of equipment. Ariete was organized with one medium and one light tank regiment, one bersaglieri regiment, one artillery regiment (with two gruppi of 75/27, one gruppo 100/17, and one gruppo 47/32 c.c.), one mixed anti-aircraft gruppo, and one mixed engineer battalion.

Divisione motorizzata A.S. [28]

Comando di divisione:
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)
Movement Control Section

Motorcycle Company (Cp. Motociclisti)

Two infantry Regiments (regg. di fanteria)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Group
Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
Two infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Three infantry companies.
Each infantry company has a command platoon, three infantry platoons, and one 81mm mortar platoon. The infantry platoon has two squads (squadra), each with a gruppo fucilieri (rifle group, 11 men) and a gruppo fucili mitragliatori (light machinegun group with 9 men and two Breda 30 f.m.). The mortar platoon has three 81mm mortars.
One company armi d’accompagnmento [29]
One command platoon, one heavy machinegun platoon (four heavy machineguns), one anti-tank platoon (two 47/32 cannoni c.c.)
One battaglione armi d’accompagnmento e controcarro consisting of:
Command company
Mortar company (nine 81mm mortars)
Anti-tank company (eight 47/32 cannoni c.c),
Machinegun company (eight heavy machineguns)
Anti-aircraft company (eight 20/35 c.a.).

Divisional Artillery (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
One group of 100/17 Mod. 14 T.M. (three batteries of 4 guns) or a group of 75/27-06 T.M. (if the 100/17 are not available)
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
One anti-tank battery (six 47/32 cannoni c.c.)
One group anti-aircraft (two batteries of eight 20/35 cannoni c.a. each) [30]

Anti-tank and support battalion (btg. armi controcarro ed accompagnmento divisionale) [31]
Command Company
One mortar company (with nine 81mm mortars)
One anti-tank company (with eight 47/32 cannoni c.c.)
One anti-aircraft company (eight 20/35 c.a.).

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)
Battalion Command Group
One Construction (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Medical Section (10 light trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)
Sustainment Section (5 trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)

Divisione occupazione A.S. [32]

Division command (comando di divisione):
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)

Two Infantry Regiments (regg. fanteria)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Company
Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
Batteria d’accomagnmento (4 x 65/17mm infantry support guns)
Three infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Three infantry companies and one compagnia armi d’accompagnmento.
Each infantry company has a command platoon and three infantry platoons. The infantry platoon has two squads (squadra), each with a gruppo fucilieri (rifle group, 11 men) and a gruppo fucili mitragliatori (light machinegun group with 9 men and two Breda 30 f.m.)
Each compagnia armi d’accompagnmento has a command platoon, two heavy machinegun platoons (two squads with 2 heavy machineguns each) and two assault mortar platoons (three squads with 3 45mm Brixia mortars each)

Divisional Machinegun Battalion (btg. mitraglieri)
Three companies of 12 heavy machineguns each.

Divisional Anti-tank Battalion (btg. cannoni controcarro divisionale)
Command platoon
Three batteries (each with 6 x 47/32 anti-tank guns)

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
Two groups of 100/17 (three batteries of 4 guns)
Two groups of 75/27-06 (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
One group anti-aircraft (two batteries of eight 20/35 cannoni c.a. each) [33]

Engineer Battalion (btg. genio)
Battalion Command Group
Two Construction Engineer (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons

Medical Section
Sustainment Section

1942 Reorganization

1940 and 1941 saw the Italian military involved in combat operations in France, Greece, Albania, and North Africa. By early 1941, these campaigns had resulted in a significant loss of material that Italian industry was unable to rapidly replace. Simultaneously, the Italian senior leadership recognized that the pre-war organizations were in inadequate for modern maneuver warfare. In September 1941, the Comando Superiore Forze Armate A.S. began examining options to increase the combat power of Italian formations in North Africa, yet at the same time reducing them in size so to be easier to equip and support. The losses suffered by the retreating Axis forces during Operation Crusader in November-December 1941 provided a window of opportunity to affect a reorganization of the divisions. The Comando Superiore Forzes Armata A.S. on 2 January 1942 issued instructions for the reorganization of all Italian Divisions in North Africa as the A.S. 42 series divisions.

The significant change in the organizations was the creation of combined arms platoons. Support weapons were decentralized to the platoon level, while the infantry element was reduced. The provision of automatic weapons created units that were smaller, yet reflected an increase in firepower. Because of the losses in Nov-Dec 1941, the transition was planned for two phases. [34]

The first phase was to reorganize the units using existing assets in Africa. Regiments would initially reorganize with only two battalions; battalions would reorganize with only two companies.

The second phase would bring the divisions up to the tipo A.S. 42 standard using reinforcements and replacements from Italy. The reality was none of the units were completed, losses both in transport from Italy and combat losses in Africa precluded the completion of theA.S. 42 reorganization.

Divisione di fanteria A.S. 42 [35]

Comando di divisione:
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters )

Two infantry Regiments (regg. fanteria)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Company
Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
Three infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Four infantry companies, each with four platoons. The four platoons are:
One command squad; one infantry platoon (with 3 squads); one machinegun platoon (3 x 8mm MG); one A.T. platoon (3 x 20mm or 25mm A.T. infantry weapons); and one A.T. platoon (3 x 47/32 A.T. guns) Total for each company is 5 officers; 13 NCOs; and 111 soldiers. Weapons are 6 x Breda 30; 3 x Breda 37; 3 x 20mm Solothurn c.c. (or 3 x 25mm Hotchkiss c.c. guns); 3 x 47/32 c.c.
Transportation Section: 16 light trucks; 40 heavy trucks.

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
One group of 88/52 c.c./c.a. (three batteries of 4 guns)
Two group of 100/17 Mod. 14 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
Two batteries of 20mm Mod. 35 (each with 8 guns)
190 Trucks of various sizes.

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)
Battalion Command Group
One Special Construction Engineer (speciali artieri) Company
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Platoon: One Water Distribution (idrici) Platoon;   One Combat Engineeer (pl. di arresto) Platoon; Company Field Park (Parco di compagnia).
One Signal Company: Three Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Medical Section
Supply Section

Divisione motorizzata A.S. 42 [36]

Comando di divisione:
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)
Movement Control Section

Reconnaissance Battalion (btg. autoblindo)
Battalion Command Group
Two Reconnaissance Companies

Tank Battalion (btg. carri)
Battalion Command Group
Three tank Companies

Two infantry Regiments (regg. di fanteria)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Group
Mortar Company (9 x 81mm mortars)
Two infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Four infantry companies, each with four platoons. The four platoons are:
One command squad; one infantry platoon (with 3 squads); one machinegun platoon (3 x 8mm MG); one a.t. platoon (3 x 20mm or 25mm a.t. infantry weapons); and one a.t. platoon (3 x 47/32 a.t. guns) Total for each company is 5 officers; 13 NCOs; and 111 soldiers. Weapons are 6 x Breda 30; 3 x Breda 37; 3 x 20mm Solothurn c.c. (or 3 x 25mm Hotchkiss c.c. guns); 3 x 47/32 c.c.
Transportation Section: 16 light trucks; 40 heavy trucks.
[4 and ½ Light truck sections and ½ heavy truck sections are needed in addition to transport each regiment. The heavy trucks are for the 81mm mortars. These sections are in the Divisional Transportation Group]

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
One group of 88/52 c.c./c.a. (three batteries of 4 guns)
Two group of 100/17 Mod. 14 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
Two batteries of 20mm Mod. 35 (each with 8 guns)
[1 and ½ light truck sections are needed to transport the personnel, baggage, and equipment.]

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)
Battalion Command Group
One Special Construction Engineer (speciale artieri) Company
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Platoon: One Water Distribution (idrici) Platoon;   One Combat Engineer (pl. di arresto) Platoon; Company Field Park (parco di compagnia).
One Signal Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Medical Section (10 light trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)
Sustainment Section (5 trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)

Divisional Transportation Group
Command Group
Two Truck Groups: Each with Five Light Truck Sections
One Mixed Truck Group:
Three Light Truck Sections; 1 Heavy Truck Section; One Heavy Petrol Group
Total 69 Heavy Trucks, 314 Light Trucks, 3 Heavy Shop Vans

Divisione corazzata A.S. 42 [37]

Comando di divisione:
Comando (Command Group)
Stato Maggiore (General staff)
Quartier Generale (Headquarters)
Movement Control Detachment

Reconnaissance Battalion (btg. autoblindo)
Battalion Command Group
Two Reconnaissance Companies
(47 autoblindo 41)

Self Propelled Anti-tank Battalion (btg. semoventi da 47/32) (19 semoventi da 47/32)

Medium Tank Regiment (Reggimento carri medi) [38]
Each regiment consists of:
Compagnia Comando (Command Company with 6 medium tanks)
Three Reserve Tank Platoons (each with 9 tanks)
Three medium tank battalions, each with:
Batalion Command
Three medium tank companies each with: [39]
One command tank
Three tank platoons (5 medium tanks each)

Bersaglieri Regiment (reggimento bersaglieri)
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Group
Two infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Three bersaglieri companies, each with four platoons. The four platoons are:
One command squad; one infantry platoon (with 3 squads); one machinegun platoon (3 x 8mm MG); one a.t. platoon (3 x 20mm or 25mm a.t. infantry weapons); and one a.t. platoon (3 x 47/32 a.t. guns) Total for each company is 5 officers; 13 NCOs; and 111 soldiers. Weapons are 6 x Breda 30; 3 x Breda 37; 3 x 20mm Solothurn c.c. (or 3 x 25mm Hotchkiss c.c. guns); 3 x 47/32 c.c.
Anti-Tank Battalion with 3 c.c cp di 47/32
Transportation Section: 16 light trucks; 40 heavy trucks.

Divisional Artillery Regiment (regg. di artigleria)
Regimental Command Group
Two groups of 75/27-06 T.M. (each group of three batteries of 4 guns)
Two groups of semoventi da 75/18 (20 semoventi)
One group of 105/28 (two batteries of 4 guns and one section of 20mm mod. 35)
One group of 90/53 c.c/c.a. (two batteries of 4 guns, and two batteries of 8 20mm Mod. 35 each)
[1 and ½ light truck sections are needed to transport the personnel, baggage, and equipment.]

Mixed Engineer Battalion (btg. misto del genio)
Battalion Command Group
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Company with three engineer platoons
One Signal Company: Two Telephone Line Platoons; One Radio Platoon, Company Field Park

Medical Section (10 light trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)
Sustainment Section (5 trucks from the Divisional Transportation Group are needed to move the unit)

Divisional Transportation Group
Command Group
One Truck Group with four Light Truck Sections
One Mixed Truck Group:
Two Light Truck Sections; Two Heavy Truck Section; Two Heavy Petrol sections

Corpo d’Armata

Bersaglieri Regiment (reggimento bersaglieri) [40]
Each regiment consists of:
Regimental Command Company
Three infantry battalions, each consisting of:
Four infantry companies, each with four platoons. The four platoons are:
One command squad; one infantry platoon (with 3 squads); one machinegun platoon (3 x 8mm MG); one A.T. platoon (3 x 20mm or 25mm A.T. infantry weapons); and one A.T. platoon (3 x 47/32 A.T. guns) Total for each company is 5 officers; 13 NCOs; and 111 soldiers. Weapons are 6 x Breda 30; 3 x Breda 37; 3 x 20mm Solothurn c.c. (or 3 x 25mm Hotchkiss c.c. guns); 3 x 47/32 c.c.
Transportation Section: 16 light trucks; 40 heavy trucks.

Corps Artillery Regiment (reggimento artiglieria) [41]
Regimental command Comando
3 groups of 105/28 guns (of three batteries of 4 guns each)

Engineer Battalion (btg. genio artieri)
Battalion Command Group
Two Special Construction Engineer (speciali artieri) Company
One Construction Engineer (artieri) Platoon: One Water Distribution (idrici) Platoon;   One Combat Engineer (pl. di arresto) Platoon; Company Field Park (parco di compagnia).

Communications Battalion (btg. collegamenti)
One Telephone Line Company
One Radio Company

Corps Sustainment Detachment (nucleo di sezione sussistenza per corpo armata)

Mixed Transportation Group
Command Group
One Light Truck Section
One Mixed Heavy Fuel Truck Section
One ambulance section

Endnotes

[1] This organization is primarily taken from La Preparazione al conflicto l’avavzata su Sidi el Barrani fn. 1 on page 61; l’esercito italiano tra la 1° e la 2° guerra Mondiale 184-5; and Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. 1 Sidi el Barrani page 47 and allegato 48 (pages 596-601)

[2] Niehorster states none of these companies were formed, but no source is provided (see World War II Armed Forces website http://niehorster.orbat.com/019_italy/40_organ/div_autotrans_40as.html ). Info provided here is from http://digilander.libero.it/fiammecremisi/dopoguerra1/moto.htm

[3] La Preparazione al conflicto l’avavzata su Sidi el Barrani states three gruppi of 75/27 guns (fn 1, page 61). All other sources list only two gruppi, the same as all the other divisional artillery regiments. Two gruppi is reflected here.

[4] The Artieri were qualified construction engineers able to execute stonework, brickwork, grading, fortifications, etc. (i.e. bridges, road embankments, buildings, etc). As such they are not combat engineers in training and equipment.

[5] Niehorster translates this as reserve, but that is incorrect.

[6] This organization is primarily taken from La Preparazione al conflicto l’avavzata su Sidi el Barrani fn. 1 on page 61; l’esercito italiano tra la 1° e la 2° guerra Mondiale 184-5; and Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. 1 Sidi el BarraniVol. 1 Sidi el Barrani page 47 and allegato 48 (pages 596-601).

[7] The CC.NN. used formation names that hearken back to Imperial Rome. Legion for regiment; Coorte for battalion, Centuria for company, etc.

[8] This organization is primarily taken from La Preparazione al conflicto l’avavzata su Sidi el Barrani fn. 1 on page 61; l’esercito italiano tra la 1° e la 2° guerra Mondiale 184-5; and Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. 1 Sidi el Barrani Vol. 1 Sidi el Barrani page 47 and allegato 48 (pages 596-601).

[9] These units were not formed regiments, but tactical groupings of Libyan battalions. As such they lacked the normal staff and much of the equipment that a regular regiment would possess (i.e. field telephones, tentage, etc.), These units were very ad hoc in nature.

[10] l’esercito italiano tra la 1° e la 2° guerra Mondiale 324; Website ‘La struttura delle grandi unitá’ http://xoomer.virgilio.it/ramius/Militaria/struttura_grandi_unita.html accessed 25 Jan 2012.

[11] Ibid. This was planed but not always provided. Normally light tanks

[12] Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk pgs. 28-29

[13] [13] Ibid pg 424 fn 46.

[14] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca page 8 fn 3.

[15] Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk page 228 fn 35.

[16] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca pages159-162; Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk page 262-4.

[17] Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk pages 262-264.

[18] Ibid page 264.

[19] Ibid page 460 fn 2 and 3; page 756. The infantry had been reorganized, but the divisions were still missing their artillery and trucks.

[20] Ibid pages 421 and 756.

[21] The Bresica still had its third infantry battalion in its regiments during Crusader. See ibid page 580 where the III/19° fanteria is listed and page 700 where III/20° fanteria is listed.

[22] Ibid the chart on page 304.

[23] Ibid page 756.

[24] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca pages159-162;  Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk page 262-4.

[25] The two brigade structure was never implemented due to a lack of equipment. The current structure of one armor and one bersaglieri regiment was retained.

[26] This information is mainly from Gli autoveicolia da combattimento dell’esercito italiano volume secondo page 250. The difficulty is that the breakdown provided doesn’t clearly list all the medium tanks to reconcile their numbers with the totals provided.

[27] This artillery structure was never implemented (Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk 263).

[28] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca pages162; Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk page 305.

[29] Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk fn 46 page 454.

[30] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca places the c.a. gruppo in the artillery regiment; (page 162); Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk places it as a separate unit (page 263). Because Tobruk has the c.a. in the artillery regiment on page 305, I have shown it in that configuration.

[31] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca lists this unit (page 162); Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk does not (page 263). Footnote 46 (page 454 of Tobruk) is the basis of the organization above.

[32] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca page 162; Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk page 263.

[33] La prima controffensiva Italo-Tedesca places the c.a. gruppo in the artillery regiment; (page 162); Le operazione in Africa settentrionale Vol. II Tobruk places it as a separate unit (page 263). Because Tobruk has the c.a. in the artillery regiment on page 305, I have shown it in that configuration.

[34] Seconda controffensiva Italo-Tedesca in Africa Settentrionale da El Ahgiela a El Alamein allegato 1.

[35] Seconda offensiva Britannica in Africa Settentrionale e ripegamento Italo-Tedesca nella Sirtica orientale (Roma 1949) allegato 30.

[36] Ibid allegato 31.

[37] Ibid allegato 32.

[38] Gli autoveicolia da combattimento dell’esercito italiano volume secondo page 250; Italian Army Authorized Strength Command, Medium Tank Regiment June 1942 George Nafziger 1995 (National Archives Microcopy No. T-821, Roll 21, American Historical Association Committee for the Study of War Documents, Washington, DC., 1960). Authorized in August 1941, the regimental structure remained unchanged in 1942.

[39] Italian Army Authorized Strength Medium Tank Battalion June 1942 George Nafziger 1995 (from National Archives Microcopy No. T-821, Roll 21, American Historical Association Committee for the Study of War Documents, Washington, DC., 1960

[40] Seconda offensiva Britannica in Africa Settentrionale e ripegamento Italo-Tedesca nella Sirtica orientale (Roma 1949) allegato 33.

[41] Ibid.

Comments

  1. Jeff Leser says:

    I have updated the divisione motorazzata A.S. OB data (added M/C company and info on artillery regiment).

  2. Jeff Leser says:

    I have added new divisional organizations in the 1940 section, and a new discussion of the changes in 1941. I plan to add material to the 1942 section. Jeff

  3. Jeff Leser says:

    If any find an error, please point it out. If the error is context/data, please provide the cite/source for the correction. Grazie!

Would you like to comment on this article?
Get a Gravatar if you want your photo to appear with your comment.