23rd Infantry Division Ferrara
|23rd Infantry Division Ferrara|
23rd Infantry Division Ferrara Insignia
|Country|| Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Royal Italian Army
|Engagements||World War II|
|General Licurgo Zannini|
The 23rd Infantry Division Ferrara was a mountain infantry division of the Italian Army during World War II. It was formed as division Murgia 28 March 1939. The name was changed to Ferrara 24 May 1939. The only difference between line infantry divisions and mountain infantry divisions was that the latter's artillery was carried by pack mules instead of the standard horse-drawn carriages. Italy's real mountain warfare divisions were the six alpine divisions manned by the "Alpini" mountain troops. After the Italian surrender to the Allies in September 1943, the Division surrendered to the Germans. Its men were drafted in Bari and in the Murge.
The than Murgia division has participated in the occupation of the Albania as part of the Italian 11th Army, XXV Corps., landing partially in Durrës 7 April 1939 and spreading to Vlorë, Fier, Tepelenë, Patos-Marinza Oil Field and Kuçova oil field by 9 April 1939. 25 April 1939, the division headquarters were relocated to Gjirokastër with separate detachments in Berat, Tepelenë, Këlcyrë and Përmet covering the southern Albanian border.
At the beginning of Greco-Italian War 28 October 1940, the Ferrara division was stretched from Aoös valley to Mal Stugarë mount. It was expected in the case of the war to act offensively, advancing at Gjirokastër-Kalpaki-Ioannina direction. 30 October 1940, the division has entered few hundred meters into a Greek territory near Kakavia (border crossing) and stopped at Fitóki Potamós stream (tributary of Drino). Advancing by road, it was able to capture a railroad junction at Kalpaki, but failed to dislodge town garrison immediately. Greek resistance, initially weak, has grown rapidly, and Ferrara division was fought to halt, both because of enemy resistance and adverse weather turning a few passable roads and trails into the muddy traps. On the right flank, 1–3 November 1940, a battle was fought for the control of mountain chain near Mesovuni mount. But then the outnumbered Greek have retreated to the Thyamis river. The Italian forces have fought their way across Thyamis into the town of Chrisorrachi few kilometres south of Kalpaki 5 November 1940. But at the critical road junction of Kalpaki Italians were halted just 500 metres from city centre 6 November 1940.
The Greek, reinforced by aviation and artillery, counter-attacked during 6–7 November 1940. 10 November 1940 the defence of Ferrara division have failed on several points. 14 November 1940, parts of division were nearly surrounded, and started a retreat 16 November 1940. The division then rapidly rolled back to the Delvinaki-Fitóki Potamós stream line. Attacks and counter-attacks continued with the increasing odds against Italians, until the entire left flank of the Ferrara division was defeated 20 November 1940. At this point, the remnants of division held only a small sliver of Greek territory near Vesania and were ordered to retreat from increasingly untenable positions to Pontikates area. But these positions were abandoned too 26 November 1940, and the remnants of the Ferrara division were pushed south, out of Greece to the Drino river, making a stand at Radat and all along the way. The Ferrara division suffered a severe defeat at Radat 27 November 1940, and was relieved from the front line duty as 37th Infantry Division Modena has come as reinforcements 3 December 1940. The Ferrara division was temporarily relocated to Gjirokastër, but soon was forced back to fight as rearguard of defeated Modena division. 6–7 December 1940, it fought a defensive battle south of Tepelenë, at the confluence of the Aoös and Drino rivers. 14–16 December 1940, the Greek were able to capture a dominant height of Maja e Buzë Derrit, forcing the Ferrara to perform a costly counter-attacks until the height was re-captured. Until 10 January 1941, the fighting remained dynamic, although no particular gains were recorded on either side. Following a successful skirmish 10 January 1941, the Greek have renewed their onslaught 21 January 1941. By the 27 January, when the 58th Infantry Division Legnano has arrived to the Italian side, a number of positions were lost, but Italian reinforcements have stabilized the situation, resulting in gradual reduction of military activities during February, 1941. 7 March 1941, Greek forces have tried to attack at Lekël, but were repulsed.
16 April 1941, the Ferrara division have started a general advance near the Maja e Buzë Derrit. The division has quickly captured positions in the Drino valley, reaching soon the Gjirokastër-Libohovë line where it stayed until August, 1941. Afterward it was transferred to Vlorë-Tirana-Elbasan area. In the beginning of January, 1942, the Ferrara division was tasked with coastal defence duty in sector from Seman River to Durrës. In April, 1942, it was transferred again, this time to Montenegro, with headquarters in Nikšić (later moved to Cetinje), and detachments in Danilovgrad, Podgorica, and Šavnik.
Form 14 May 1943 to 16 June 1943, it together with German troops has participated in the fighting with Yugoslav partisans. A particularly bloody clash was recorded 16 May 1943 near Župa, in border region of now Bosnia and Herzegovina. The division disintegrated following the Armistice of Cassibile 8 September 1943, and was officially dissolved 25 September 1943.
Order of battle
- 47. Ferrara Infantry Regiment
- 48. Ferrara Infantry Regiment
- 14. Murge Artillery Regiment
- 82. CCNN Legion (Blackshirts)
- 23. Mortar Battalion
- 23. Anti-Tank Company
- 23. Signal Company
- 58. Pioneer Company
- 127. Medical Section
- 9 Supply Section
- 3 Field Bakery[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 of two Battalions was sometimes attached. 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.
- Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- "Italian Invasion of Greece". Commando Supremo. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
- Paoletti, p 170