Blackshirts

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For other uses, see Blackshirts (disambiguation).
MVSN
Milizia Volontaria
per la Sicurezza Nazionale
Fascist Eagle.svg
Mussd.jpg
Blackshirts with Benito Mussolini during the March on Rome on 27 October 1922
Organization overview
Formed 23 March 1923
Preceding organization Fasci Italiani di Combattimento
Dissolved 29 July 1943
Type Paramilitary
Jurisdiction Kingdom of Italy Italian Empire
Headquarters Rome
Employees 1,000,000 members
Minister responsible Benito Mussolini, Duce
Parent organization Italian Fascist flag 1930s-1940s.svg PNF

The Blackshirts (Italian: camicie nere, CCNN, or squadristi) were fascist paramilitary armed squads in Italy during the period immediately following World War I and until the end of World War II. Blackshirts were officially known as the Voluntary Militia for National Security (Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, or MVSN).

The term was later applied to a similar group serving the British Union of Fascists before World War II, to the SS in Nazi Germany, and to members of a quasi-political organization in India.

Inspired by the military prowess and black uniforms of the Arditi, Italy's elite storm troops of World War I, the Fascist Blackshirts were organized by Benito Mussolini as the military tool of his political movement.[1] The founders of the paramilitary groups were nationalist intellectuals, former army officers and young landowners opposing peasants' and country labourers' unions. Their methods became harsher as Mussolini's power grew, and they used violence and intimidation against Mussolini's opponents.

History[edit]

The Blackshirts were established as the squadristi in 1919 and consisted of many disgruntled former soldiers. It was given the task of leading fights against their bitter enemies – the Socialists. They may have numbered 200,000 by the time of Mussolini's March on Rome from 27 to 29 October 1922. In 1922 the squadristi were reorganized into the milizia and formed numerous bandiere, and on 1 February 1923 the Blackshirts became the Volunteer Militia for National Security (Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, or MVSN), which lasted until the Italian Armistice in 1943. The Italian Social Republic, located in the areas of northern Italy occupied by Germany, reformed the MVSN into the Republican National Guard (Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana, or GNR).

Organization[edit]

Benito Mussolini was the leader, or Commandant-General, of the blackshirts, but executive functions were carried out by the Chief of Staff, equivalent to an army general. The MVSN was formed in imitation of the ancient Roman army, as follows:

Basic organization[edit]

The terms after the first are not words common to European armies (e.g., the Italian battaglione has cognates in many languages). Instead, they derive from the structure of the armies of ancient Rome.

These units were also organized on the triangular principle as follows:

  • 3 squadre = 1 manipolo (maniple)
  • 3 manipoli = 1 centuria (centuria)
  • 3 centuriae = 1 coorte (cohort)
  • 3 coorti = 1 legione (legion)
  • 3 legioni = 1 divisioni (field difision)
  • 3 or more legioni = 1 zona (zone - an administrative division)

Territorial organization[edit]

The MVSN original organization consisted of 15 zones controlling 133 legions (one per province) of three cohorts each and one Independent Group controlling 10 legions. In 1929 it was reorganized into four raggruppamenti, but later in October 1936 it was reorganized into 14 zones controlling only 133 legions with two cohorts each, one of men 21 to 36 years old and the other of men up to 55 years old, plus special units in Rome, on Ponza Island and the black uniformed Moschettieri del Duce ("The Leader's Musketeers", Mussolini's Guard) and the Albanian Militia (four legions) and Colonial Militia in Africa (seven legions).

Special militias were also organized to provide security police functions, these included:

Security militia[edit]

Ethiopian Campaign[edit]

During the 1935-36 Abyssinian Campaign seven CCNN Divisions were organized:

The first six Divisions were sent to Ethiopia and participated in the war.

Blackshirt Division organization[edit]

Organization of Blackshirt Divisions (3 October 1935)[edit]

  • Divisional HQ
  • 3 x Legions each with:
    • 1 Legionary Machine Gun Company with 16 Machine Guns
    • 2 Legionary Infantry Battalions, each with:
      • 1 Machine Gun Company with 8x8mm Breda Machine Guns and
      • 3 Infantry Companies each with 9 Light Machine Guns and 3x45mm Mortars
      • 1 pack-artillery battery with 4x65mm L17 each.[3]
  • 1 x Artillery Battalion (Army) with 3 batteries (65/17)
  • 1 x Engineers company (mixed Army and Blackshirts)
  • 2 x Replacements Battalions (1 Infantry, 1 Mixed)
  • 1 x Medical Section
  • 1 x Logistics Section (food)
  • 1 x Pack-Mules unit (1600 mules)
  • 1 x Mixed Trucks unit (80 light trucks)

The Blackshirts Rifle Battalions had three rifle companies but no MMG company. The rifle companies had three platoons (three squads with one LMG each). Each Legion had a MMG company with four platoons of three weapons each (plus two spare ones). The Blackshirts replacements battalions were organized as the Blackshirts Rifle Battalions, but its platoon were overstrength (60 men each) and with only 1 x LMG in each platoon.[4]

Organization of Blackshirt Divisions (10 June 1940)[edit]

  • Division Command
  • 2 Black Shirt Legions - each
    • 3 Battalions
    • 1 81mm Mortar Company
    • 1 Accompanying Battery 65mm/17 Mtn guns
  • 1 Machine Gun Battalion
  • 1 Artillery Regiment:
    • 2 Artillery Groups
    • 1 Artillery Group
    • 2 AA Batteries 20mm
  • 1 Mixed Engineering Battalion
    • 1 Ambulance Section Sanita
    • 3 Field Hospitals (Planned when available)
    • 1 Supply Section
  • 1 Section Mixed Transport[5]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

Three CCNN Divisions were sent to participate in the Spanish Civil War as part of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie. The Blackshirt (Camicie Nere, or CCNN) Divisions contained regular soldiers and volunteer militia from the Fascist Party. The CCNN divisions were semi-motorised.

The 3rd CCNN Division was disbanded and consolidated with the 2nd CCNN Division in April 1937 after their defeat at Guadalajara. After the campaigns in Northern Spain in October 1937, the 2nd CCNN Division was consolidated with the 1st CCNN and renamed the XXIII de Marzo Division "Llamas Negras".

World War II[edit]

In 1940 the MVSN was able to muster 340,000 first-line combat troops, providing three divisions (1st, 2nd and 4th - all three of which were lost in the North African Campaign) and, later in 1942, a fourth division ("M") and fifth division Africa were forming.

Mussolini also pushed through plans to raise 142 MVSN combat battalions of 650 men each to provide a Gruppo di Assalto to each army division. These Gruppi consisted of two cohorts (each of three centuriae of 3 manipoli of 2 squadre each) plus Gruppo Supporto company of two heavy machine gun manipoli (with three HMG each) and two 81 mm mortar manipoli (with 3 Mortars each).

Later 41 Mobile groups were raised to become the third regiment in Italian Army divisions as it was determined through operational experience that the Italian arm's binary divisions were too small in both manpower and heavy equipment. These mobile groups suffered heavy casualties due to being undermanned, under equipped and under trained. The three divisions were destroyed in combat in North Africa. The MVSN fought in every theater where Italy did.

Ranks[edit]

With translated material from the corresponding Italian Wikipedia article

Benito Mussolini as First Honorary Corporal of the MVSN.

Mussolini as Comandante Generale was made Primo Caporale Onorario (First Honorary Corporal) in 1935 and Adolf Hitler was made Caporale Onorario (Honorary Corporal) in 1937. All other ranks closely approximated those of the old Roman army as follows.

Officers[edit]

Rank Insignia Royal Italian Army Equivalent (with UK/US equivalent)
Primo Caporale d'Onorario
(First Honorary Corporal of the MVSN)
Rank insignia of primo maresciallo dell'impero of the Italian Army (1940).png First Marshal of the Empire (None/General of the Armies)
Caporale d'Onorario
(Honorary Corporal of the MVSN)
Rank insignia of maresciallo d'Italia of the Italian Army (1940).png Marshal of Italy (Field Marshal/General of the Army)
Comandante Generale
(Commandant General)
MVSN-Comandante generale.jpg Army General (General)
Luogotenente Generale Capo di Stato Maggiore
(Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General)
MVSN-Luogotenente generale capo di manipolo.jpg Corps General (Lieutenant-General)
Luogotenente Generale
(Lieutenant-General)
MVSN-Luogotenente generale.jpg Divisional General (Major-General)
Console Generale
(Consul-General)
MVSN-Console generale.jpg Brigade General (Brigadier/Brigadier General)
Console
(Consul)
Fascist Rank Consul 2.jpg Colonel
Primo Seniore
(First Senior)
Fascist Rank First Senior 2.jpg Lieutenant-Colonel
Seniore
(Senior)
Fascist Rank Senior 2.jpg Major
Centurione
(Centurion)
Fascist Rank Centurion 2.jpg Captain
Capo Manipolo
(Chief Manipulator)
Fascist Rank First Chief Maniple 2.jpg Lieutenant (Lieutenant/First Lieutenant)
Sotto Capo Manipolo
(Sub-Chief Manipulator)
Fascist Rank Second Chief Maniple 2.jpg Sublieutenant (Second Lieutenant)

Other Ranks[edit]

Rank Insignia Army Equivalent (with UK/US equivalent)
Primo Aiutante
(First Adjutant)
MSVN-Primo aiutante.png Marshal-Major (Conductor/Command Sergeant Major)
Aiutante Capo
(Chief Adjutant)
MSVN-Aiutante capo.png Chief Marshal (WO1/Sergeant Major)
Aiutante
(Adjutant)
MSVN-Aiutante.png Ordinary Marshal (WO2/Master Sergeant)
Primo Capo Squadra
(First Squadron Chief)
MSVN-Primo capo squadra.jpg Sergeant-Major (Staff Sergeant)
Capo Squadra
(Squadron Chief)
MSVN-Capo squadra.jpg Sergeant
Vice Capo Squadra
(Vice-Squadron Chief)
MSVN-Vice capo squadra.jpg Corporal-Major (Corporal)
Camicia Nera Scelta
(Select Blackshirt)
MSVN-Camicia nera scelta.jpg Corporal (Lance-Corporal/PFC)
Camicia Nera
(Blackshirt)
N/A Appointee (Private)
Legionario
(Legionary)
N/A Recruit/Soldier (Recruit/Private)

Legacy[edit]

The ethos and sometimes the uniform were later copied by others who shared Mussolini's political ideas, including Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, who issued brown shirts to the "Storm Troops" (Sturmabteilung) and black uniforms to the "Defense Squad" (Schutzstaffel, also colloquially known as "Brownshirts", because they wore black suit-like tunics with brown shirts), Sir Oswald Mosley in the United Kingdom (whose British Union of Fascists were also known as the "Blackshirts"), William Dudley Pelley in the United States (Silver Legion of America or "Silver Shirts"), in Mexico the Camisas Doradas or "Golden Shirts", Plínio Salgado in Brazil (whose followers wore green shirts), and Eoin O'Duffy in the Irish Free State (Army Comrades Association or "Blueshirts"). "Blueshirts" can also refer to Canadian fascists belonging to the Canadian National Socialist Unity Party and to the members of Falange Española, the most influential party within Franco's dictatorship in Spain. The paramilitary fascist Iron Guard members in Romania wore green shirts.

After the Armistice of Cassibile was signed, the Blackshirts were dissolved; in the pro-fascist Social Republic of Italy they were replaced by the National Republican Guard and the Black Brigades.

See also[edit]

General[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bosworth, R.J.B, Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945, Penguin Books, 2005, P. 117
  2. ^ The Blackshirt Division Order of Battle comes from "Storia delle Unità Combattenti della MVSN 1923-1943" by Ettore Lucas and Giorgio de Vecchi, Giovanni Volpe Editore 1976 pages 63 to 116 plus errata.
  3. ^ Italian Army Infantry Regulation of 1939 (Page 472/473)I
  4. ^ The Blackshirts Division TO&E comes from an original document (order sheet "Ministero della Guerra, Comando del Corpo di Stato Maggiore - Ufficio Ordinamento e Mobilitazione . Prot.2076 del 18-06-1935").
  5. ^ The Blackshirts Division TO&E comes from an original document (order sheet "Ministero della Guerra, Comando del Corpo di Stato Maggiore - Ufficio Ordinamento e Mobilitazione. dated 1939").

External links[edit]