During World War II the Italians proved they were abreast of tactical thinking in the tank-destroyer concept during the late 1930s. At that time they produced an interesting design known as the Semovente L.3 da 47/32 mounting the Böhler 47mm anti-tank gun with a barrel 32 caliber long. The L.3 mounted the gun on an open mounting at the front of a small and low chassis based on the L.3 tankette, with a two-man crew being carried. This early project did not get far as there was virtually no protection for the crew and so the idea attracted little attention. When Italy entered the war in 1940 they soon realized that their much vaunted tank arm was seriously under gunned and lacked protection. This was particularly true of their lighter tanks, in which the Italian treasury had invested to a considerable degree, especially with the L.6series that generally lacked protection and were armed with a short 37mm gun of limited anti-armor capability.
The main combat version, the L.6/40 soon proved to be of little value against the British armor then in use in North Africa and was obviously ripe for the usual limited traverse anti-tank gun treatment. It was not long in coming when Fiat-SPA and Ansaldo combined to use the chassis for the basis of a tank destroyer.
The gun used for the new vehicle was the powerful 47mm license-built version of the Austrian Böhler dual purpose anti-tank/infantry support gun, one of the hardest hitting of all anti-armor weapons of its day. On the new Semovente L.40 da 47/32 it was mounted in a simple box like superstructure built directly onto the light tank chassis. While this simple arrangement worked well enough the slab sides of the superstructure lacked the added protection that sloping sides would have provided. It was better than nothing and went straight into service from 1942 onward. About 280 were produced and in action they proved capable of dealing with the lighter British and other armor on the North African battlefields. Ammunition stowage was 70 rounds.
When the Italians surrendered to the Allies in 1943 the Germans quickly took over as many Italian armored vehicles and as much Italian equipment as they could. The Semovente L.40 da 47/32 was among this booty and was quickly impressed as part of the equipment of German units fighting in Italy.
However the terrain of many of Italian battlefields during the long slog north that lasted through 1944-45 was such that armor could be used on few occasions and the Semovente L.40s often had their anti-tank armament removed and were used instead as mobile command posts for senior commanders mounting an 8mm Breda model 38 machine gun.
|Powerplant||68hp SPA 18D 4-cylinder gasoline engine|
|Length||13ft 1.5in (4m)|
|Width||6ft 3.6in (1.92m)|
|Height||5ft 4.2in (1.63m)|
|Weight||14,330lbs (6500 kg)|
|Speed||26.3 mph (42.3kmh)|
|Fording||2ft 7.5in (1.7m)|
|Trench||5ft 7in (1.7m)|
|Verticle Obstacle||2ft 7.5in (1.7m)|
|Users||Italy and Germany|
|Armament||47mm Bohler anti-tank gun|
Article by JDG