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Italian Folgore at El Alamein: Unbreakable

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The divisional artillery disbanded the 2nd battalion and was split among the Tactical Groups , together with the other divisional assets.

To overcome the lack of field artillery (the divisional artillery regiment had only 47L32 AT/IG), formed up was the “Folgore” Tactical Artillery Group under Colonel Boffa, formed by the following units :

2nd Battalion/26th Artillery Regiment “Rubicone” (75/27 mod.06 – from the “Pavia” Division)

4th  Battalion/26th Artillery Regiment “Rubicone” (100/17 mod.16 – from the “Pavia” Division)

1st  Battalion/21th Artillery Regiment “Po” (100/17 mod.16 – from the “Trieste” Division)

3rd  Battalion/1st “Celere” Artillery Regiment  (75/27 mod.06 – from the “Brescia” Division)

21st  Battalion/132nd  Artillery Regiment “Ariete”  (88/55 FlaK 37 – from the “Ariete” Division)

3rd  Battalion/132nd  Artillery Regiment “Ariete” (90/53 mod.41 – from the “Ariete” Division)

Provisional Battalion/ 155th  Artillery Regiment (8,8cm Flak 37, 10cm K18  and 21cm K38 – from the Geman 21st Panzerdivision)

Notes :

The Italian battalions were numbered using roman numerals (IV, IX, XXI etc). In the OOB those numbers have been “translated” in standard Arabic numerals, to avoid confusions.

The Italian artillery battalions were actually named “Gruppo” (Group). The composite, regimental-sized  Artillery group commanded by Col.Boffa was actually named “Raggruppamento” (that still means Group in Italy). To avoid confusions, the battalion-sized artillery units have been called “battalion”, and the composite group as “group”.

The “Carabinieri” are the Italian Military Police Corps. It is still unclear if the company attached to the “Folgore” division was parachute-trained, or not (like the other non-combat divisional support units).

The “Guastatori” were troops trained in assault tactics against enemy trench-works and fortifications, and were the equivalent of the German Assault Engineers. The Italian Army did have  both Engineers “Guastatori” units and Infantry “Guastatori” units, sharing much of the same training. The 8th “Guastatori” Parachutist battalion was an infantry “Guastatori” unit.

General Enrico Frattini

General Enrico Frattini

The northern sector on the far left of the Italian position, which butted up against the line held by the German Ramcke Fallschirmjager Brigade, was manned by the 187th Regiment.  The The 2nd and 9th  Battalions provided the backbone of the defense with support from the 185th  Artillery Regiment.  The perimeter locations in this sector were manned by the 4th Battalion.

The southern sector, which was flanked on the right by the Italian Pavia Division, was held by the 186th  Regiment.  Additional support in this sector was provided by allocated mortar and gun platoons, as was heavier firepower in the form of attached Italian 75mm and 88mm guns.  The 88’s were manned by the highly skilled soldiers of the heavy AA/AT  AT  artillery battalion battalion of the “Ariete” Armoured Division.

The center section of the Italian line was anchored by the 7th  and 8th “ Guastatori”, and several detachments of infantry provided by the Pavia Division. Dispatched from the 186th Regiment was a 47mm ATG company to accompany two gun and two mortar platoons, who assumed positions in the center of this section.   The 185th Artillery was dispersed among all the Tactical Groups, the 88s (and the similar 90/53) were not attached to any specific Group, but used as mobile assets dispersed to the various Groups  during  different phases of the battle.

The Battle of El Alamein is considered by many military historians as one of World War Two’s critical turning points, the 8th Army’s victory here helped to lead to ultimate Allied triumph.  By the eve of Second El Alamein, Rommel had already shot his bolt over the course of the previous months of battle, and his material and fuel starved army had gone as far as they would, or realistically could, in the Desert War.  It would be under the immense historical spotlight of this great encounter that Italian forces would deliver one of the most epic performances of the entire conflict; a performance that would earn the respect and recognition of the Folgore’s enemies and its own hard-to-impress ally.

On October 23rd Montgomery began his much anticipated Allied offensive.  The first step known as Operation Lightfoot, was initiated with an artillery bombardment the like that had never before been witnessed during the entire North African Campaign.  While the main thrust of Montgomery’s plan was aimed at the northern section of the whole Axis front, the fighting in the south would be just as intense.  A main focus for the Allied assault on the southern part of the Axis line during the Lightfoot operation was directed at the supposedly “weak” Italian-held areas.  After the opening artillery bombardment, soldiers from the 1st Free French Brigade, 1st Greek Brigade, plus armor and infantry from the 7th Armoured division, slammed into the Folgore’s positions in an attempt to overwhelm it’s defenders and break into the rear of the Axis line.

The Allies surrounded or smashed some of the forward Italian positions at the onset of their attack, but were stifled as they approached the main line of the Italian defense.  The fighting raged into the early morning of the 24th as each side fought hard in this ferocious encounter.  The Italian Folgore would hold its ground and proved victorious with the attackers only able to gain a minimal amount of ground.

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  1. Interesting and deepened article,
    my father was a soldier of Folgore and captured in El Alamein the 9th of november 1942 and imprisoned in
    British camp 309 and 305 located in Egypt.
    I should like to have more informations about these camps and some suggestions in order to contact the right authority (British Army, Red Cross, others)

    Thank you in advance for eventual tips.

    Enrico Dall’Osto

  2. Div132Ariete says:

    folgore fatal truth deserve to be called lions (although, in general, the entire Italian army fought like lions)

  3. Outstanding article!

  4. Epic description of iron men stubbornly fighting endless adversities. The article succesfully balance a rigorous historical approach with emotional emphatize with incredible soldiers. Compliment to the author.

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