60th Infantry Division Sabratha

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The Italian 60th "Sabratha" Infantry Division was an Italian division during World War II.

"Sabratha" was mobilized in October 1939 for service in Libya. On 13 September 1940, the division took part in the invasion of Egypt. Corporal Nazzareno Ganino, 86th Infantry Regiment, "Sabratha" Division, later described the patrol actions his section carried out during the initial fighting:[1]

I held the rank of corporal and was in charge of a small squad of about eleven or so men, our job was to go on night patrols into enemy held ground, either cutting wire or reporting on enemy activities or positions. Because of the nature of the work there was nearly always casualities, where one or sometimes more would not make it back to camp, either through capture or even death. We faced fear and sometimes lost our way in the darkness and featureless landscape, but I always tried to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

In December, during Operation Compass, part of the division was destroyed near Derna after initially helping bring to a halt the Australian advance.[2]

"Sabratha" was reformed early 1941 and was again sent to Libya. The reformed division met with mixed fortune during the balance of the Western Desert Campaign. The Sabratha took part in the Battle of Gazala and played an important role in the capture of 6,000 Allied soldiers at Gazala on 16 June 1942[3] after the Trieste and 15th Panzer Division had defeated the British 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades.[4] During the protracted fighting in the First Battle of Alamein 835 Italian troops of the division were taken prisoner by the Australian 2/48th Battalion (under Lieutenant Colonel H. H. Hammer) on 10 July 1942 at Tel el Eisa. The Italians had initially resisted, but were unable to maintain their positions after being heavily shelled from 100 Allied artillery pieces supporting the Australian battalion.[5] General Enea Navarini, commander of the Italian XXI Infantry Corps, reacted vigorously and the 46th Artillery Regiment from the "Trento" Division and a company of tanks from the "Trieste" Division were ordered to the affected sector[6] to assist the 7th Bersaglieri Regiment in retaking the position. These forces fought well and retook part of the Australian position.[7]Second Lieutenant Edgardo Torelli and Sergeants Pasquale Rota and Adolfo Bottoni of the Sabratha would win the Medaglia d'Argento al Valore Militare for their role in the counterattacks.

In the meantime the Sabratha had recovered from the initial blow and Colonel Angelozzi's 1st Battalion 85th Infantry Regiment of the "Sabratha" Division, launched a fierce counterattack on the Australians deployed along Tel el Eisa on 14 July and succeeded in recapturing the position.[8]Sergeant Luigi Caiffa of the Sabratha would win the Medaglia d'Argento al Valore Militare for his role in the counterattack.

On 16 July, the Australian 2/23rd Battalion attempted to retake Tel el Eisa, but were forced to retreat after suffering heavy casualties.[9][10]Second Lieutenants Melchiorre Tommasi of the Sabratha, would win posthumously the Medaglia d'Argento al Valore Militare for his leadership in the defence of the position.[11]


  • 60 Infantry Division Sabratha
    • 85th Infantry Regiment
    • 86th Infantry Regiment
    • 42nd Artillery Regiment (later 3rd Articelere Artillery Regiment)
  1. ^ Ganino, Nazzareno (26 July 2006). "A few memories of a POW and the Empress of Canada". Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  2. ^ "During January, after the fall of Tobruk, the 6th Australian troops advanced to the edge of the Jebel Achdar, or Cyrenaica Bulge, and had been halted at Derna. This check to the Australian advance at Derna was due to elements of the Italian XX Corps, numbering about 5,000 men made up of a battalion of Libyan paratroops, 2nd battalion 86th regiment of the Sabratha, the 18th Libyan battalion, an ad hoc battalion of the Marmarica and some Italian naval 102mm guns." Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-November 1942, Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, p. 85, Da Capo Press, 1999
  3. ^ "The Italians finished mopping up the Gazala Line on June 16, capturing 6,000 prisoners, thousands of tons of supplies, and entire convoys of undamaged vehicles in the process". The Rise of the Wehrmacht: The German Armed Forces and World War, 2 Volumes, p.564, Samuel W. Mitcham, Praeger (30 June 2008)
  4. ^ "on June 12 .... the Afrika Korps and the Italian Trieste Motorized Division crushed the British 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigade. " Rommel's Lieutenants: The Men who Served the Desert Fox, Samuel W. Mitcham, p. 98, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007
  5. ^ "The advance to the next triangulation point on the ridge, Point 23, 2,000 yards further on, was not so easy against the now alerted defence but soon the rifle and machine-gun fire of the Italian defenders was drowned out by the drone of hundreds of shells. The guns of all three Australian field regiments and both South African field regiments as well as the 7th Medium Regiment, amounting to more than 100 25-pounder field guns, 4.5-inch and 5.5-inch medium guns in all, began firing their artillery programme in support of the attack". Pendulum Of War: Three Battles at El Alamein, Niall Barr, p.105, Random House, 15 Dec 2010
  6. ^ "That afternoon Italian tanks counter-attacked both Australian battalions in an attempt to retake Hill 33 near the coast. Maj. Gabriele Verri, commanding 11th Armd. Bn. of the Trieste Motorised Division, sent a company of M13 and M14 tanks into the assault under Capt. Vittorio Bulgarelli." War in the Desert, Neil D. Orpen, p.367, Purnell, 1971
  7. ^ "At approx 2000 hours enemy tanks–number unknown– and inf attacked D Coy front. They overran psn and enemy inf forced D Company to withdraw and occupied their psn"' (2/48th Battalion War Diary)
  8. ^ "La controffensiva inglese premeva a Nord, dove la Divisione Sabratha si battè in una serie di assalti e contrassalti. Ad essa, oramai allo stremo, fu affidato il compito di riconquistare la quota di Tell el Elsa: l'azione fu condotta dal solo battaglione operativamente valido, il I dell'85°, comandato dal colonnello Angelozzi: la quota, dopo aspra battaglia, fu riconquistata. Fu l'ultima azione della Sabratha, che fu sciolta."'. http://www.carabinieri.gov.it/Internet/Arma/Ieri/Storia/CC+nel+900+italiano/Fascicolo+30/01_fascicolo+30.htm
  9. ^ Later, recounting the 2/23rd Battalion attack, Australian historian Mark Johnston wrote that "“On 16 July, they were ordered to retake it and the rest of Tel el Eisa Ridge. After initial success, they suffered nearly 50 percent casualties and had to withdraw.”"
  10. ^ In his papers, Rommel writes:"“Next day, the 16th July, the British attacked again, but this time only locally. After intensive artillery preparation, the Australians attacked in the early hours of the morning with tank support and took several strong-points held by the Sabratha.“"