101st Motorised Division Trieste

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This article is about the historic Italian 101st Motorised Division Trieste. For for the historic Italian Army brigade, see Trieste Mechanized Brigade.
101st Motorised Division Trieste
Active 1939–1943
Country Italy Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Branch Flag of Italy (1860).svgRegio Esercito
Royal Italian Army
Type Infantry
Role Motorised
Size Division
Part of Italian XX Motorised Corps
Nickname Trieste
Engagements World War II
Operation Crusader
Battle of Gazala
Battle of Bir Hakeim
First Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
101 Motorised Division Trieste collar insignia.jpg
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[1] 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.

North Africa[edit]

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,[2] 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.[3] On December 13, the 1st Buffs captured Point 204 on the Alam Hamza Ridge, but the Trieste Division successfully defended Point 208.[4] During the Battle of Gazala, the Trieste succeeded in breaching part of a minefield and delivered urgently needed supplies to Rommel,[5] 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.[6]

The Trieste also played an important part in the destruction of the British 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades south of Knightsbridge on June 12.[7] During the First Battle of El Alamein, the Trieste put up a tenacious defence on Ruweisat Ridge[8] and lost two regimental commanders killed in the process (Colonels Gherardo Vaiarini de Piacenza and Colonel Umberto Zanetti),[9] before ceding ground, delaying the Allied advance for several hours and allowing German armoured forces to launch a devastating counterattack. 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 Brigaden 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.[10]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.[1]

Trieste starting position 23 October second battle of El Alamein


Trieste 10pm 2 November almost surrounded

Order of battle[edit]

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.[11]

Operation Crusader[edit]

  • 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

El Alamein[edit]

  • 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[1][nb 1]


  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.[12]
  1. ^ a b c Wendel, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Archived from the original on 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  2. ^ "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)
  3. ^ The Bologna Division: 19 November – 10 December, 1941 By David Aldea, Comando Supremo: Italy at War.
  4. ^ Far from the short grass: Kildare men in the two World Wars, By James Durney, Page 153, James Durney, 1999
  5. ^ " 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
  7. ^ "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)
  8. ^ "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
  9. ^ Jim Heddlesten. "First Battle of El Alamein". Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  10. ^ "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
  11. ^ Loi, p. 158 and p. 160
  12. ^ 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

See also[edit]