5th Infantry Division Cosseria
|5th Infantry Division Cosseria|
|Active||January 1, 1935 - September 12, 1943|
|Engagements||World War II|
The 5th Infantry Division Cosseria was an Infantry Division of the Italian Army during the Second World War. It was mobilized in January, 1935 in Imperia city. It was made up almost totally of Ligurians and Montferratians.
The 5th Division "Cosseria" participated in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, with parts of it forming 105th Division Cosseria II. In August–September Cosseria was moving to Benghazi, where it stayed until December, 1935. Casseria was transferred to Adi Quala in Eritrea in the beginning of January, 1936. It was mostly tasked with population control and supply lines protection behind the front-line. In March, it started to advance to Addi Onfito, reaching Axum in April, 1936 and spreading in Adwa area. It has returned to Italy in September, 1936, and was reorganized as a binary division 25 March 1939.
10 June 1940, it was deployed on the French border, in the strip from Cima Longoira to the sea. 20 June 1940, the Cosseria division has started assault on French positions at bridges of Via Aurelia (Corso Francia) and Ponte San Luigi over Ro San Luigi river near coast, and mountain pass San Paolo near I Colletti, in Ventimiglia commune. Although the thrust through the bridges over Ro San Luigi river was initially repulsed, Cosseria has succeeded in taking over pass San Paolo 22 June 1940. As result, the French forces defending bridges over Ro San Luigi and Menton area were outflanked, with Italians capturing rural areas between Castellar and Roquebrune. Cosseria has remained in the occupied territory until middle of August, 1940, than it was transferred to coastal defence duties in Western Liguria.
Deployment in Russia
The division was one of the twelve divisions that served on the Eastern Front as part of the Italian Army in Russia. The Cosseria division has received orders to move from Liguria to Russia in June, 1942, accordingly arriving to Horlivka in the beginning of July, 1942. It was used initially as the reserve of 35th Army Corps. Following attacking forces, Cosseria has arrived to Donetsk 15 July 1942, and in Luhansk 25 July 1942. It crossed Seversky Donets River at Stanytsia Luhanska. In the first half of August, the Cosseria fas transferred to the front-line at the Don river, on the north of 3rd Mountain Infantry Division Ravenna, taking positions between Novaya Kalitva and Verhny Mamon. From 20 August until 26 August 1942, the Cosseria has repelled a Soviet assault without giving up any ground. Further Soviet attack at Krasno-Orehovo and Derezovka 11 September 1942, succeded in pushing back the Cosseria troops, but all losses were recovered by Italian counter-attack 12 September 1942. Soon after, the division was moved back to the reserve.
By mid-November 1942, German intelligence had spotted the massing of the tanks of the Russian 5th Tank Army across the Don River, yet a German officer attached to the Cosseria wrote, that the morale of the division and neighbouring Ravenna was confident considering all the difficulties. From 13 December 1942 until 16 December 1942, the Cosseria defensive lines was nearly pierced by Soviet offensive near Orobinskij, resulting in heavy losses. The severely (9:1) outnumbered Cosseria and Ravenna divisions has resisted all Russian attempts to break their lines from 11 December 1942 until 19 December 1942, winning praise from the attached German officers, but eventually had to retreat after German reinforcements showed up late and nearby Ravenna division has been broken under a relentless assault by Soviet 63rd army. The Cosseria division was in complete rout by 24 December 1942. The division was relieved of front-line duty by German units. The remains were partly used to reinforce the Ravenna division, and partly used to protect supply lines around Rovenky. But rapidly deteriorating situation has forced the Cosseria remnants to retreat to the south-west, first maintaining front-line, and then in several columns. The street fighting has began in Rovenky 2 January 1943. The soldiers of Cosseria then reached Izium, where they linked with other Axis forces. The further retreat route was through Kharkiv, Okhtyrka, Romny, Pryluky, Nizhyn, finally reaching Novobelitsa at the southern outskirts of Gomel at 7 March 1943. The division was removed from duty and moved to the Tuscany province of Italy during late April - early May, 1943, where it started to re-form. The brief tour to Milan was done at 25 July 1943, and after Cosseria was assigned for the police duties at Sesto San Giovanni. The division has ceased to exist 12 September 1943, with troops mostly surrendered to German in the aftermath of the Armistice of Cassibile.
Order of Battle October 1935
5th Infantry Division "Cosseria"
- 41st Infantry Regiment "Modena"
- 42nd Infantry Regiment "Modena"
- 29th Artillery Regiment (2 x 75L13 bns)
- 505th MMG Battalion
- 5th Engineers Company
- 5th Replacements Battalion
- Each Army Division in the Ethiopian Campaign had a Pack-Mules unit of 3000 mules and three Regimental Trucks units (20 light trucks each).
- Cosseria Division was organized in Ethiopia as a Binary Division (2 Infantry Rgts only)
Order of Battle June 1940
5th Infantry Division "Cosseria"
- 89th Infantry Regiment "Salerno"
- 90th Infantry Regiment "Salerno"
- 5th 81mm Mortar Battalion
- 10th 81mm Mortar Battalion
- Antitank Gun Battalion
- 135th Antitank Gun Company (47/32)
- 335th Antitank Gun Company (47/32)
- Semoventi da 47/32 Company
- 37th Artillery Regiment
- 23rd Engineer Company[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.
- David Nicolle, "The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935-36" , p. 41
- "In spite of the unfavourable balance of forces - the 'Cosseria' and the 'Ravenna' faced eight to nine Russian divisions and an unknown number of tanks - the atmosphere among Italian staffs and troops was certainly not pessimistic.... The Italians, especially the officers of the 'Cosseria', had confidence in what they thought were well built defensive positions." All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-43, Jonathan Steinberg, p. ?, Routledge, 2003
- "During this phase, the Germans praised the steadfastness of Italian infantry, who held out tenaciously even in isolated strongpoints but eventually reached their breaking-point under this constant pressure. " The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler's Foreign Soldiers, Rolf-Dieter Müller, p. 83-84, I.B.Tauris, 28 Feb 2014
- "The attack at dawn failed to penetrate fully at first and developed into a grim struggle with Italian strongpoints, lasting for hours. The Ravenna Division was the first to be overrun. A gap emerged that was hard to close, and there was no holding back the Red Army when it deployed the mass of its tank forces the following day. German reinforcements came too late in the breakthrough battle." The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler's Foreign Soldiers, Rolf-Dieter Müller, p. 84, I.B.Tauris, 28 Feb 2014
- Paoletti, p 170