The Maletti Group (Raggruppamento Maletti) was an ad hoc "mechanized" unit formed by the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) in Italian North Africa (Africa Settentrionale Italiana, or ASI) during the initial stages of the Western Desert Campaign of World War II. The group was formed in June 1940 and was destroyed in December of the same year.
Western Desert Campaign
The Maletti Group was commanded by General Pietro Maletti and was part of the Libyan Corps, also known as the "Royal Corps of Libyan Colonial Troops" (Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali della Libia). The group itself was composed of six battalions of Libyan infantry and of two battalions of armor. The 2,500 Libyans were "mechanized" in that they were transported in trucks. One armor battalion had thirty-five L3/33 and/or L3/35 tankettes. The other had thirty-five M11/39 medium tanks.
During the very early stages of the North African Campaign, the Maletti Group took part offensively in the Italian invasion of Egypt and defensively during the British counterattack known as Operation Compass. In September 1940, the group acted as a flank guard and led the Italian advance from Libya into Egypt. By December, the group was in defensive positions at the Nibiewa Camp near Sidi Barrani. Many of the armored vehicles were "dug in" and acted as stationary pillboxes.
The Maletti Group was earmarked for early destruction by the British. During the initial attack, Matilda infantry tanks of the 7th Royal Tank Regiment along with the 11th Brigade of the 4th Indian Division, exploited a hole in the Italian defensive positions and attacked the Nibiewa camp from the rear. The Maletti Group was destroyed and General Pietro Maletti was killed in action while trying to stop the sudden attack
The Operation Compass attack on Maletti Group was supported by 25 pounder artillery and Bristol Blenheim light bombers and was centred on the advance of the Matilda tanks. Within an hour of the onset of combat Italian General Pietro Maletti was dead and 4,000 Italian soldiers (most of them Libyan colonial troops) had surrendered. Within three days, the attacking forces then moved west along the Via della Vittoria, through the Halfaya Pass and captured Fort Capuzzo, Libya.
- First Italian offensive in Egypt (in Italian)
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