101st Motorised Division Trieste
|101st Motorised Division Trieste|
|Country|| Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Royal Italian Army
|Part of||Italian XX Motorised Corps|
|Engagements||World War II
Battle of Gazala
Battle of Bir Hakeim
First Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
|Trieste Division collar insignia|
101st Motorised Division Trieste or 101° Divisione Trieste (Italian) was a Motorised Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The Trieste was formed in 1939 and served in Albania and North Africa where it surrendered to the Allies in 1943.
Formed in 1939, from the 8 Infantry Division Po the 101st Motorised Division Trieste was mobilized for war in 1940. It was initially held as a reserve formation in Italy, until 1941 when it was sent to Albania.
The Trieste was sent to Libya in North Africa in August 1941, as part of the Italian XX Motorised Corps under General Gastone Gambara with the 132 Armoured Division Ariete. The division participated in all the major Western Desert battles from then on; Operation Crusader, the January 1941 Axis counteroffensive, the Battle of Gazala in 1942, the Battle of Bir Hakeim, the First Battle of El Alamein and the Second Battle of El Alamein where it was virtually destroyed. During Operation Crusader the Trieste repelled a strong British breakout from Tobruk on the night of 25-26 November, and taking advantage of the British 4th Armoured Brigade's withdrawal from the Tobruk sector, achieved a notable success on December 1 when its armoured columns moved forward and cut the tenuous link the 6th New Zealand Brigade had established with Tobruk on November 27. On December 13, the 1st Buffs captured Point 204 on the Alam Hamza Ridge, but the Trieste Division successfully defended Point 208. During the Battle of Gazala, the Trieste succeeded in breaching part of a minefield and delivered urgently needed supplies to Rommel, at a time that he was seriously considering surrendering.
At this time the British thought they had Rommel cornered and he himself contemplated surrender, but the Italian 'Trieste' Division managed to open a route through the minefield and get a supply column to him.
The Trieste also played an important part in the destruction of the British 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades south of Knightsbridge on June 12. During the First Battle of El Alamein, the division is reported to have fought well alongside the Trento Division and Italian combat engineers defending Sanyet el Miteiriya and Makh Khad Ridge on 17 July.The Trieste fought well again on on Ruweisat Ridge on 21 Julyand lost two regimental commanders killed in the process (Colonels Gherardo Vaiarini de Piacenza and Colonel Umberto Zanetti),before ceding ground, but delaying the Allied advance long enough to allow German armoured forces to arrive and launch a devastating counterattack.The Trieste armoured reconnaissance force was sent forward to assist the Trento on Ruweisat Ridge on the morning of 27 July, overunning the 2/28th Battalion. Although the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45 states that German tanks counterattacked and captured the Australians,the Intelligence Officer of the 2/28th Battalion maintains that armoured cars had in fact delivered the counterattackand Italian veterans claim that Italian-crewed armoured cars captured the Australians. Australian military historian Mark Johnston admits that "There were some courageous efforts by Italian units against Australians at Alamein. but these have gone largely unnoticed in Australian writings".During the Battle of Alam el Halfa the Trieste, Brescia and 90th Light Division, assisted by tanks from the Ariete and Littorio Divisions, counterattacked in the area of the Munassib Depression the New Zealand 26th Battalion and 5th Brigade and the British 132nd (Kent) Brigade, forcing the attackers practically back to their original positions, after the New Zealanders and British had advanced some 3 miles.The division later fought against the British Eighth Army in Tunisia, first on the Mareth Line, then at Wadi Akarit and eventually on the Enfidaville Line. The division formally surrendered to the Allies on 13 May 1943.
- Lieutenant General Emilio Garavelli, 1 April 1941 to 9 August 1939
- Major General Vito Ferroni, 10 August 1939 to 9 Sep 1940
- Lieutenant General Alessandro Piazzoni, 10 September 1940 to 10 December 1941
- Lieutenant-General Arnaldo Azzi, 11 December 1941 to 29 July 1942
- Major General Francesco La Ferla, 30 July 1942 to 13 May 1943
- Major General Francesco Ronco, May 1943 acting commander
Order of battle
The divisional order of battle changed considerably throughout its history. The OOBs given here apply at the time of Operation Crusader during the El Alamein battles from July to September 1942.
- 65th Infantry Regiment
- 2x infantry battalion
- 1x Anti-aircraft/Antitank (AA/AT) battalion
- Motorised transport column
- 66th Infantry Regiment (as 65th)
- 9th Bersaglieri Motorcycle Regiment
- 3x Bersaglieri battalion
- 1x Bersaglieri AA/AT battalion*
- Medical Section
- 508th AA/AT Battalion (undergoing re-establishment)
- 21st Artillery Regiment
- 4x artillery battalion
- 1x AA battalion
- 52nd mixed engineer battalion
- 90th Medical Section (incomplete)
- 176th Supply Section
- 80th Motorised transport column
- 65. Valtellina Infantry Regiment
- 66. Valtellina Infantry Regiment
- 8. Armoured Bersaglieri Battalion (Armoured Cars)
- 21. Po Artillery Regiment (mot)
- 11. Tank Battalion (Medium M13/40 Tanks)
- 52. Mixed Engineer Battalion (mot)
- 90. Medical Section
- 80. Mixed Motorised Detachment
- 176. Supply Section
- 22. Carabinieri Section[nb 1]
- 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 Legion (Regiment of two Battalions). Each Division had only about 7,000 men, The Infantry and Artillery Regiments contained 1,650 men, the Blackshirt Legion 1,200, each company 150 men.
- "When the New Zealanders attacked again after the onset of darkness, they were able to take Balhamed in the course of the night. Early in the morning of 26 November, a portion of the Tobruk garrison, supported by 50 tanks, broke out once again. A crisis arose when El Duda fell. It was only through a bitter and bravely conducted immediate counterattack by the Bersaglieri of the Trieste Division that the positions in the north could be held." Das Afrika Korps: Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941-43, By Franz Kurowski, pg. 117, Stackpole Books (March 2010)
- The Bologna Division: 19 November – 10 December, 1941 By David Aldea, Comando Supremo: Italy at War.
- Far from the short grass: Kildare men in the two World Wars, By James Durney, Page 153, James Durney, 1999
- " The Afrika Korps was reduced to a water ration of a half a cup per day and was in real danger of annihilation." The Rise of the Wehrmacht (Vol. 2), Samuel W. Mitcham, p. 561, ABC-CLIO, 2008
- BATTLE OF GAZALA AND THE CAULDRON (May-June 1942)
- "Bismarck and Nehring struck on June 12 and their timing was perfect. The distinguished British historian Correlli Barnett called the ensuing battle the greatest defeat in the history of the British armor. When the British XIII Corps commander, General Norrie, realized what was happening, he sent the 22nd Armoured Brigade to rescue the trapped 7th Armoured. The 22nd, however, was pinned down by the Italian Trieste Motorized Division and was taken in the rear by Bismarck and the 21st Panzer. It retreated with heavy losses. Bismarck then returned to the Battle of Knightsbridge, where he, Nehring, and Rommel crushed the 7th Armoured." Rommel's Lieutenants: The Men Who Served The Desert Fox, By Samuel W. Mitcham, Page 98, Praeger (November 30, 2006)
- "Again the Italians bore the brunt of the attack. Trieste and Trento Divisions suffered heavily but resisted bravely, while the 32nd Battalion, African Combat Engineers fought with such determination that only two officers and fourteen men survived unwounded out fo a strength of one hundred. " The Early Battles of Eighth Army: Crusader to the Alamein Line, 1941-42, Adrian Stewart, p. 130, Stackpole Books, 2010
- "A mixed German-Italian combat team held on and proved that not all Italians had lost the will to fight. Many of these men resisted to the last bullet. Their heroic stand gave Rommel time to concentrate his Afrika Korps against the 23rd Armoured Brigade." Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr, p. 122, Stackpole Books, 2007
- '"Colonel Gherardo Vaiarini of Piacenza, commanding the 65th Trieste Infantry, was killed; he met his death with such gallantry that he was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal ... The Trieste's other infantry colonel, Umberto Zanetti, commanding the 66th, was also killed - on July 22nd. "' Alamein 1933-1962: An Italian Story, Paolo Caccia Dominioni de Sillavengo, p. 83, Allen & Unwin, 1966
- Jim Heddlesten. "First Battle of El Alamein". Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- "The 24th Australian Brigade was given the task of establishing its 2/28 Battalion on Miteiriya Ridge, after which 2/43 Battalion, supported by 50 Royal Tank Regiment, was to exploit north-west. The objective was won at 2.50 a.m., but as the minefield had been imperfectly gapped the supporting weapons and ammunition could not be sent forward. From three o'clock onwards the battalion was under heavy fire mainly from machine guns. At 9.45 the Germans counter-attacked with tanks and overran the battalion." [CHAPTER 33 — Reorganisation http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Egyp-c33.html]
- "The Bn was completely surrounded by armored cars which worked forward under cover of fire from enemy tanks further back, while 20mm, MMG and mortar fire kept the heads of our own troops well down. In this manner the enemy was able to cut off and dispose of sections and platoons one by one, until at 1030 hrs Bn HQ area was occupied by several armored cars and surviving personnel taken prisoner. An effort had been made to hinder the enemy armored vehicles by bringing Arty fire to bear on them before they dispersed. Unfortunately the only communication with Bde was by one wireless set WT repaired by Sigs, after about eight hours work. Messages reporting the situation were sent immediately once this set was capable of functioning, i.e., about 0930 hrs onwards. Last message was “All up, overrun!” " July 1942 Diary by Lieutenant S. A. Walker
- '"The names of certain units were on everyone’s lips up and down the line following particularly brilliant actions, among them the reconnaissance Group of the Trieste. It had been set up some time previously: it was hardly a homogeneous unit on the German pattern, but did reflect admirably the Italian genius of improvisation. They had no more than nine vehicles–Morrises, Fords, Dingos and Jeeps, all captured from the enemy–armed with small caliber guns and machine-guns of all descriptions, British, Italian and German, together with two British 88 guns and their carriages, and two small supply lorries. "' Alamein 1933-1962: An Italian Story, Paolo Caccia Dominioni de Sillavengo, p. 79, Allen & Unwin, 1966
- Fighting the Enemy: Australian soldiers and their adversaries in World War II, Mark Johnston, p. 12, Cambridge University Press, 2002
- "During the early morning hours, the New Zealand Division, composed of the two New Zealand brigades, which occupied the box, assisted by a brigade of another infantry division, laid down an artillery barrage and followed with an infantry attack. This attack advanced south and along the trails in square 88-27. The attack advanced 3 miles, but with the coming of daylight the Trieste, Brescia, and the 90th Light Division, supported by the Ariete, and Littorio Divisions, in a series of three counterattacks, forced the attacking troops back nearly to their original positions." The Afrika in Combat, Bob Carruthers, p. ?, Pen & Sword, 2013
- Loi, p. 158 and p. 160
- Paoletti, p 170
- Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9.
- Loi, Salvatore Aggredisci e Vincerai - Storia della Divisione Motorizzata "Trieste", Mursia, Milano