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The 102nd Motorised Division Trento
102nd Motorised Division Trento
(in Italian: 102ª Divisione Fanteria Trento) was a motorised infantry division of the Italian Army during World War II. It was formed in 1939 and kept in reserve in Italy
Italy
until it was moved to North Africa
North Africa
in February 1941. It took part in Axis attacks across North Africa, following the Allied Operation Compass
Operation Compass
and suffered heavy losses at Tobruk. The division was then reformed and took part in all of the major battles of the Western Desert Campaign
Western Desert Campaign
until it was destroyed during the Second Battle of El Alamein.

Contents

1 North Africa

1.1 Siege of Tobruk 1.2 Operation Brevity
Operation Brevity
and Battleaxe 1.3 Operation Crusader 1.4 Battle of Gazala 1.5 Battle of Mersa Matruh 1.6 First Battle of El Alamein 1.7 Second Battle of El Alamein

2 Order of battle 3 Notes 4 References

North Africa[edit] The Trento arrived in North Africa
North Africa
to reinforce the Italian Fifth Army following the Allied offensive Operation Compass,[1] a counterattack by British and Commonwealth troops of the Western Desert Force in response to the Italian invasion of Egypt. The offensive resulted in the destruction of the Italian Tenth Army and the Allied occupation of the Italian province of Cyrenaica.[2] Siege of Tobruk[edit] Main article: Siege of Tobruk The Trento took part in the Axis counterattack of March 1941 that forced the British and Commonwealth forces into retreat.[3] While the Australian 9th Infantry Division
Australian 9th Infantry Division
fell back to the fortified port of Tobruk,[4] British and other Commonwealth forces withdrew a further 100 miles (160 km) east to Sollum, on the Libyan–Egyptian border.[5] These moves initiated the 240-day-long Siege of Tobruk, in which the Trento was involved. After the failure of an Axis attack on El Adem Erwin Rommel, the German officer commanding Axis forces in North Africa, decided to attack the western sector of the Australian perimeter at Tobruk
Tobruk
on 15 April, around Ras el Madauar. Rommel used the 132ª Divisione corazzata "Ariete" (132nd "Ariete" Armoured Division) along with the 62nd Infantry Regiment (Sicily) (it) (62nd "Sicilia" Infantry Regiment) of the Trento division.[6] The Australian 2/43rd Battalion War Diary reported that "The Italians attacked our 48 Bn and whilst withdrawing [the Italian] were fired upon by German tanks believed to be supporting the attack."[7] The Australians sent out Bren-gun carriers to find and attack the Italian flank. The extra firepower stopped the Italians and firing ceased. Italian casualties were 24 dead, 112 wounded and 436 prisoners, including a colonel, who was furious at having his unit shot up by German tanks that he reportedly cooperated with Allied interrogators.[8] Journalist Chester Wilmott, reporting on an Australian communiqué in the New York Times (17 April 1941) described the actions: "One of our patrols successfully penetrated an enemy position outside the defences of Tobruk
Tobruk
capturing 7 Italian officers and 139 men. A further attack on the defences of Tobruk
Tobruk
was repulsed by artillery fire. The enemy again suffered heavy casualties. During yesterdays operations a total of 25 officers and 767 of other ranks were captured. In addition over 200 enemy dead were left on the field.[9] A subsequent intelligence assessment by the 2/43rd Battalion concluded that: "Reports from PW indicate that a large-scale attack was to have been launched on the Tobruk
Tobruk
defences on or about 16 April 41. There appears to have been no co-ordination between enemy tanks and inf units. The ITALIANS appear to have been somewhat in the dark as to their actual objectives and the method of co-ordination by means of GERMAN liaison officers working with ITALIAN units has not been successful. PW also state that the spasmodic attacks in different sectors between 14 and 16 Apr, sometimes inf alone, sometimes tks alone sometimes both, were all intended to be a simultaneous assault which apparently went badly astray in its timing.[10] Over the next few weeks, there were a series of minor victories for the Axis. On the night of 30 April, a strong Italo-German force attacks the Tobruk
Tobruk
defences, and a force including the Ariete, Brescia, 8th Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
Regiment and 32º Reggimento Genio Guastatori "Alpino" (32nd "Alpine" Combat Engineer Regiment) capture seven Australian strongpoints (R2, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7 and R8).[11] When, on the night of 3 May, the Australians counterattack, the Italians in the form of the Trento and Pavia Divisions, repel them.[12] and the attackers are only able to recapture one strongpoint from the defending Italian troops.[13] On the night of 16 May, the Brescia Division attacks with the help of two platoons of the 32nd Combat Engineer Battalion and breaches the defensive perimeter of the Australian 2/9th and 2/10th Battalions. With these obstacles removed, the Brescia troops involved, who bring flame-thrower parties and tanks, capture the S8, S9 and S10 strongpoints.[11] The Australians fight back and the Commanding Officer of the Guastatori, Colonel Emilio Caizzo is killed in a satchel attack and wins a posthumous Gold Medal for valour. Although the Australian Official History admits losing three positions, it claims the attackers were 'Germans'.[14] Australian military historian Mark Johnston states there was an "unwillingness to acknowledge reverses against Italians" in Australian official accounts.[15] An Italian account records: "With great skill and speed the Guastatori open three lanes in the mines and obstacles to let the Brescia Fucilieri through. Side by side with the Brescia assault troops they inflict heavy losses on the enemy and take out further strong points with explosives and flamethrowers."[16] The Australian commander, Major-General Leslie Morshead
Leslie Morshead
is furious at the loss of the strongpoints, and orders the Australians to be far more vigilant in the future.[17] Among the objectives initially selected during the planning of Operation Brevity
Operation Brevity
was the recapture of strongpoints S8 and S9, but this was abandoned under the belief that the Australians had, or would soon, recover them.[18] On 24 May, the Brescia Division which has taken over the western front of Tobruk, repels an attacking infantry force, supported by tanks. On 2 August, an Australian attack is launched to recover the lost strongpoints, but the attacking 2/43rd Battalion and 2/28th Battalions are defeated. The Trento in the form of its 7th Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
Regiment soon arrives to replace the weary Italian forces defending the captured stronpoints, and the Australians continue to fight hard to recover them. On 2 August, the Australian 2/43rd and 2/28th Battalions, in a final attempt to recover the lost strongpoints, carry out a determined attack, but are repulsed with heavy loss of life.[19] After much fierce fighting, the Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
troops are finally ordered to move back to Gazala to rest and refit.[20] Operation Brevity
Operation Brevity
and Battleaxe[edit] The British XIII Corps launched Operation Brevity
Operation Brevity
on 15 May 1941. The objective of the operation was to clear the Halfaya Pass
Halfaya Pass
and secure several footholds to create advantageous conditions from which to launch Operation Battleaxe.[21][22] The principle Axis opposition was Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
von Herff, positioned on the desert plateau, which included up to 50 German tanks and the 5th Motorised Infantry Battalion, Trento, as well as supporting arms. The front line area around Halfaya Pass
Halfaya Pass
was defended by two companies of Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
with artillery support.[23][24] After a day of inconclusive fighting the operation was abandoned and British forces took control of the pass. Total Italian casualties during the operation are unknown, though at least 347 men were taken prisoner during the operation.[25][26] On 5 August 1941, Colonel von Herff praised the Bersaglieri, who he said had defended Halfaya Pass "...with lionlike courage until the last man against stronger enemy forces. The greatest part of them died faithful to the flag."[27] The division next saw action during the Allied attack codenamed Operation Battleaxe
Operation Battleaxe
in mid-June 1941. The division was deployed forward with three infantry battalions and one artillery regiment stationed in the Sollum-Musaid-Capuzzo area. The rest of the division was located at Bardia.[28] Operation Crusader[edit] Operation Crusader
Operation Crusader
was launched by the British Eighth Army
British Eighth Army
between 18 November–30 December 1941, with the objective of relieving the siege of Tobruk. Trento was now part of the Italian XXI Corps with the 17 Infantry Division Pavia, the 25 Infantry Division Bologna, and the 27 Infantry Division Brescia.[29] The attacks of the British 70th Division were checked for a time by the Trento, but the attackers were able to lift the siege of Tobruk
Tobruk
on 10 December. Battle of Gazala[edit]

Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala
lines of attack

The Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala
was fought May–June 1942. The plan was for the armoured and motorised divisions to perform a right flanking attack while the Italian XXI Corps and the Italian X Corps, which included the Trento, would advance parallel to the coast road.[30][31] The Trento played an important role in the capture of 6,000 prisoners at Gazala on June 16.[32] Battle of Mersa Matruh[edit] During the Battle of Mersa Matruh
Battle of Mersa Matruh
on 26–30 June 1942, Trento, with the 46th Artillery and 7th Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
Regiments attached, played an important part in the capture of 6000 defenders of the Xth British Corps, along with large quantities of supplies.[33] First Battle of El Alamein[edit] During the First Battle of El Alamein, elements of the Trento put up a tenacious defense on Miteiriya Ridge, delaying the Allied advance for several hours and allowing an Italian armoured reconnaissance force to launch a devastating counterattack.[34] Second Battle of El Alamein[edit]

Division locations before the Second Battle of El Alamein

Allied forces break through:7am 4 November; Trento', Bologna and Ariete Divisions destroyed- Axis forces flee

Before the start of the Second Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
the Trento was positioned along the Miteirya Ridge. On 24 October they came under attack from the 2nd New Zealand Division supported by 10th Armoured Division. By 25 October the Allies had broken through the minefields and were positioned on top of the Miteiriya Ridge. Italian casualties from incessant artillery and air attack had been heavy, particularly in the north. The Trento had lost half its infantry and most of its artillery.[35] According to author Walter S. Zapotoczny (a graduate of the U.S. Army Sergeant Majors' Academy), the 61st and 62nd Infantry Regiments of the Trento Division had fought well, including the anti-tanks gunners of Captain Vigano and engineers of Colonel Randi that were attached to the division.[36] On 2 November Rommel ordered the X and XXI Italian Corps and 90th Light Afrika Division
90th Light Afrika Division
to stand firm while the Afrika Korps would withdraw approximately six miles west during the night of 3 November, with XX Italian Corps and the Ariete Division conforming to their position.[37] Order of battle[edit]

61. Sicilia Infantry Regiment 62. Sicilia Infantry Regiment 7. Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
Regiment 46. Artillery Regiment (mot) 51. Engineer Battalion 161. Mining Company 51. Medical Section 22. Motor Transport Section 297. Motor Transport Section 9. Mixed Motor Transport Section 37. Heavy Motor Transport Section 68. Field Bakery 160. Carabinieri
Carabinieri
Section 180. Carabinieri
Carabinieri
Section 266. Carabinieri
Carabinieri
Section 109. Field Post Office [38][nb 1]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes

^ An Italian Infantry Division normally consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions each), an Artillery Regiment, a Mortar Battalion (two companies), an Anti Tank Company, a Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Legion (Regiment of two Battalions). Each Division had only about 7,000 men, The Infantry and Artillery Regiments contained 1,650 men, the Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Legion 1,200, each company 150 men.[39]

Citations

^ Bauer, p.121 ^ Playfair (1954), pp. 362 – 366, 371 – 376 ^ Playfair (1956), pp. 19–40 ^ Latimer, pp. 43–45 ^ Playfair (1956), pp. 33–35 ^ Playfair (1956), p. 38 ^ "Appendix No. 30:(Unreadable) Summary No. 2, entry for 16 Apl" (PDF). 2/43 Infantry Battalion War Diary, April 1941. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 2008-06-10.  ^ Tobruk
Tobruk
1941: Capture-Siege-Relief, p.564, Chester Wilmot, Angus and Robertson Ltd, 1944 ^ "The Text of the Day's Communiques on Fighting in Europe and Africa: British". New York Times (18 April 1941). Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 2008-04-12.  ^ "Appendix No. 31: Bash Intelligence Summary No. 3. General" (PDF). 2/43 Infantry Battalion War Diary, April 1941. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 2008-06-10.  ^ a b XXXII BATTAGLIONE GUASTATORI ^ The Forgotten Axis: Germany's Partners and Foreign Volunteers in World War II, J. Lee Ready, p. 310, McFarland & Co., 1987 ^ That magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of The 9th Australian Division, Mark Johnston, p. 38, Allen and Unwin, 2002 ^ Maughan (1966), p.250 ^ Fighting the Enemy: Australian soldiers and their adversaries in World War II, Mark Johnston, p. 13, Cambridge University Press, 2002 ^ GUASTATORI IN NORTH AFRICA. The XXXI and XXXII Guastatori Battalions in the North African Campaign ^ Maughan (1966), p.251 ^ Tobruk
Tobruk
1941, The Desert Siege, Timothy Hall, p. 183, Methuen Australia, 1984 ^ North Africa
North Africa
1941–1942 Second AIF Veterans Support and Advocacy Service Australia Inc. ^ (in Italian). Associazione Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
della Regione. I Bersaglieri website. ^ Chant, p. 21 ^ Playfair (1956), pp. 159–160 ^ Playfair (1956), p. 160 ^ Jentz, pp. 128–129 ^ Erskine, p. 79" ^ Hastings, p. 70 ^ New York Times article, Italians' Bravery Praised By Nazi Chief in Africa. 5 August 1941 ^ Playfair (1960), p. 164 ^ Clifford, p. 123 ^ Playfair (1960), p. 223 ^ Mackenzie, p.541 ^ The Rise of the Wehrmacht: The German Armed Forces and World War, 2 Volumes, p.564, Samuel W. Mitcham, Praeger (June 30, 2008) ^ Aldea, David. "Mersa Matruh". Commando Supremo: Italy
Italy
at War website. Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-04-26. [dubious – discuss] ^ Aldea, David. "First Battle of El Alamein". Commando Supremo: Italy at War website. Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-04-26. [dubious – discuss] ^ Playfair (1966), P. 50 ^ Italy's North African Misadventure. By Walter S. Zapotoczny ^ Playfair (1966), p. 73. ^ Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Archived from the original on 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-07-04.  ^ Paoletti, p 170

World War II
World War II
portal

References[edit]

Bauer, Eddy; Young, Peter (general editor) (2000) [1979]. The History of World War II
World War II
(Revised ed.). London, UK: Orbis Publishing. ISBN 1-85605-552-3.  Chant, Christopher (1986). The Encyclopedia of Code Names of World War II. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7102-0718-2.  Erskine, David (2001) [1956]. The Scots Guards 1919–1955. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84342-061-9.  Hastings, R.H.W.S. (1950). The Rifle Brigade in the Second World War 1939–1945. Aldershot, UK: Gale & Polden. OCLC 6190324.  Jentz, Thomas L. (1998). Tank Combat in North Africa: The Opening Rounds, Operations Sonnenblume, Brevity, Skorpion and Battleaxe, February 1941 – June 1941. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0226-4.  Mackenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic: September 1939 – March 1943 Defence. I. London: Chatto & Windus. OCLC 59637091.  Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9.  Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C. & Toomer, Air Vice-Marshal S.E. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1956]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume II The Germans come to the help of their Ally (1941). History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-066-1.  Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C. & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1960]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume III: British Fortunes reach their Lowest Ebb (September 1941 to September 1942). History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-067-X.  Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C. & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1966]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume IV: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-068-8. 

v t e

Italian Divisions in World War II

Armoured

131st Armoured Division Centauro 132nd Armoured Division Ariete 133rd Armoured Division Littorio 134th Armoured Division Freccia 135th Armoured Division Ariete II 136th Armoured Division Giovani Fascisti 136th Armoured Division Centauro II

Cavalry

1st Cavalry Division Eugenio di Savoia 2nd Cavalry Division Emanuele Filiberto Testa di Ferro 3rd Cavalry Division Principe Amedeo Duca d'Aosta

Alpine

1st Alpine Division Taurinense 2nd Alpine Division Tridentina 3rd Alpine Division Julia 4th Alpine Division Cuneense 5th Alpine Division Pusteria 6th Alpine Division Alpi Graie

Infantry

Mountain Infantry:

1st Infantry Division Superga 2nd Infantry Division Sforzesca 3rd Infantry Division Ravenna 4th Infantry Division Livorno 11th Infantry Division Brennero 19th Infantry Division Venezia 23rd Infantry Division Ferrara 26th Infantry Division Assietta 32nd Infantry Division Marche 33rd Infantry Division Acqui 36th Infantry Division Forlì 37th Infantry Division Modena 38th Infantry Division Puglie 53rd Infantry Division Arezzo 59th Infantry Division Cagliari

Line Infantry:

5th Infantry Division Cosseria 6th Infantry Division Cuneo 7th Infantry Division Lupi di Toscana 8th Infantry Division Po 12th Infantry Division Sassari 13th Infantry Division Re 14th Infantry Division Isonzo 15th Infantry Division Bergamo 18th Infantry Division Messina 20th Infantry Division Friuli 21st Infantry Division Granatieri di Sardegna 22nd Infantry Division Cacciatori delle Alpi 24th Infantry Division Pinerolo 28th Infantry Division Aosta 29th Infantry Division Piemonte 30th Infantry Division Sabauda 31st Infantry Division Calabria 40th Infantry Division Cacciatori d'Africa 41st Infantry Division Firenze 44th Infantry Division Cremona 47th Infantry Division Bari 48th Infantry Division Taro 49th Infantry Division Parma 50th Infantry Division Regina 51st Infantry Division Siena 54th Infantry Division Napoli 56th Infantry Division Casale 57th Infantry Division Lombardia 58th Infantry Division Legnano 65th Infantry Division Granatieri di Savoia

Auto-transportable Infantry:

9th Infantry Division Pasubio 10th Infantry Division Piave 52nd Infantry Division Torino 103rd Infantry Division Piacenza 104th Infantry Division Mantova 105th Infantry Division Rovigo

Auto-transportable Infantry - North-African Type:

16th Infantry Division Pistoia 17th Infantry Division Pavia 25th Infantry Division Bologna 27th Infantry Division Brescia 55th Infantry Division Savona 60th Infantry Division Sabratha 61st Infantry Division Sirte 62nd Infantry Division Marmarica 63rd Infantry Division Cirene 64th Infantry Division Catanzaro

Air-transportable Infantry:

80th Infantry Division La Spezia

Motorised Infantry:

101st Motorised Division Trieste 102nd Motorised Division Trento

Garrison Infantry:

151st Infantry Division Perugia 152nd Infantry Division Piceno 153rd Infantry Division Macerata 154th Infantry Division Murge 155th Infantry Division Emilia 156th Infantry Division Vicenza 157th Infantry Division Novara 158th Infantry Division Zara 159th Infantry Division Veneto

Paratroopers

183rd Paratroopers
Paratroopers
Division Ciclone 184th Paratroopers
Paratroopers
Division Nembo 185th Paratroopers
Paratroopers
Division Folgore

Blackshirt

1st Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Armoured Division M 1st Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Division XXIII Marzo 2nd Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Division XXVIII Ottobre 3rd Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Division XXI Aprile 4th Blackshirt
Blackshirt
Division III Gennaio

Libyan

1st Libyan Division Sibille 2nd Libyan Division Pescatori

Colonial

1st Colonial Division Eritrea 2nd Colonial Division Eritrea 3rd Colonial Division 4th Colonial Division 21st Colonial Division 22nd Colonial Division 23rd Colonial Division 24th Colonial Division 25th Colonial Division 26th Colonial Division 101st Colonial Division Somalia 102nd Colonial Division Somalia Colonial Division dell'Harar

Coastal

201st Coastal Division 202nd Coastal Division 203rd Coastal Division 204th Coastal Division 205th Coastal Division 206th Coastal Division 207th Coastal Division 208th Coastal Division 209th Coastal Division 210th Coastal Division 211th Coastal Division 212th Coastal Division 213th Coastal Division 214th Coastal Division 215th Coastal Division 216th Coastal Division 220th Coastal Division 221st Coastal Division 222nd Coastal Division 223rd Coastal Division 224th Coastal Division 225th Coastal Division 226th Coastal Division 227th Coastal Division 228th Coastal Division 230th Coastal Division 231st Coas