3rd Infantry Division Ravenna
|3rd Infantry Division Ravenna|
3rd Infantry Division Ravenna Insignia
|Country|| Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
|Branch|| Regio Esercito
Royal Italian Army
|Ravenna Division collar insignia|
The 3rd Infantry Division (Ravenna) was a mountain infantry division of the Italian Army during World War II. 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. The Ravenna Division was mobilized for war in October 1939 in Alessandria.
They were part of the Italian III Corps, First Army during the Italian invasion of France. It reached a village of Fontan by 24 June 1940. In April, 1941 the Ravenna division was transferred to Yugoslavian border to Kobarid and Most na Soči. They took part in the Invasion of Yugoslavia as part of the Italian XI Corps. It performed the mop-up duty in city of Škofja Loka from 14 April 1941 until 17 April 1941, before handing it over to German forces. Also, mop-up operations were performed near Mirna village. The Ravenna division was transferred to Pivka in early May, 1941 and then to Alessandria where it remained until 1942. The division was one of the twelve divisions that served on the Eastern Front as part of the Italian Army in Russia. First it was assigned positions at rear area of 35th corps, near Lozova. At middle July, 1942 Ravenna has arrived to Donetsk. 25 July 1942 it arrived to Luhansk. In August 1942, the Ravenna division took a defensive positions at Don river between Verhny Mamon and Boguchar. On these positions, Ravenna has beat off the Soviet assault from 20 August until 1 September 1942, recovering all initially lost positions. Extending to north, the Ravenna division has repelled another assault by Russian forces on Solonets, south of Voronezh, at 11 September 1942. 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. At 11 December 1942, the Russian forces have started a new offense. Under intense pressure, some sub-units of Ravenna division near Verhny Mamon have surrendered, piercing the Axis frontline. By 17 December 1942, the Soviet forces have reached Chertkovo on the far rear of Axis forces, resulting in success of Operation Little Saturn, the Red Army's offensive operation which consisted of a pincer movement which threatened to cut off the forces attempting to reach Stalingrad. The 1st Guards Army and the 3rd Guards Army attacked from the north, encircling 130,000 soldiers of the Italian 8th Army on the Don and advancing to Millerovo. By that time, the bulk of Ravenna division forces was back to Luhansk. Nearby, the severely (9:1) outnumbered Cosseria divisions have resisted all attempts of Soviet 63rd Army to penetrate their lines from 11 December 1942 until 19 December 1942, winning praise from the Germans, but eventually had to retreat after German reinforcements turned up late. The German 298th Division, located between the Ravenna and Pasubio Divisions, retreated without authorization  as well as the German liaison officers attached to the Italian 29th Corps Headquarters, completely abandoning the fight and leaving the Italians alone to contain the Soviet attacks. The Italian defense continued north of Luhansk at Donets river in Veselaya Gora - Stantsiya Lugansk area from 22 December 1942 until 30 December 1942. Elements of Ravenna division were also separated at Chertkovo, where it fought along with other German and Italian units until 23 December 1942. That surrounded detachment reached back to the frontline by 15 January 1943, and escaped encirclement to the village of Belovodsk north of Luhansk 17 January 1943. From 1 January until 6 January 1943, the bulk of Ravenna division was defending west bank of Donets river, now subordinated to German army corps. The Ravenna division was effectively shattered 24 December 1942, than multiple breaks were developed in its combat formations, and remnants have fled to the south, reaching the Rovenky area from 27 December until 29 December 1942. The remnants of Ravenna division were back to Tuscany province of Italy in April, 1943. It performed the role of the mobile reserve of the Italian II Corps. The division was reforming, when Italy surrendered on 8 September 1943, it then surrendered to the Germans.
Order of battle
- 37. Infantry Regiment
- 38. Infantry Regiment
- 121. Artillery Regiment
- 7. Mixed Carabinieri Section
- 8. Motorized Carabinieri Section
- III Mortar Battalion
- 3. Anti-Tank Company
- 154. Anti-Tank Company
- 51. Flak Company
- 303. Flak Company
- 71. Anti-Tank Battery
- 3. Engineer Battalion
- 18. Medical Section
- 7. Supply Company
- 3. Transportation Section
- 3. Transportation Unit
- 53. Field Post Office[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.
- Jowett, Philip S. The Italian Army 1940–45 (1): Europe 1940–1943. Osprey, Oxford – New York, 2000, pp. 5–6, ISBN 978-1-85532-864-8
- "Invasion of Yugoslavia (6 April, 1941". Commando Supremo. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- "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
- '"Further down the Don River, the Russians made progress against the German 298th Division, which was deployed between Ravenna and Pasubio. The Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 154, Lulu, 2013
- '"The German 298th Division stopped taking orders from the Italian 35th Corps and began taking orders from the German staff of the Italian 29th Corps. The division retreated from its positions, and did not bother to inform General Francesco Zingales, the Italian commander of the 35th Corps. The Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, pp. 156-157, Lulu, 2013
- '"Germans efforts to cut themselves loose from the Italians and escape on their own, brought little success: abandoning joint defense eased the Russian task of encircling Axis forces. The German 298th Division and the German staff of the Italian 29th Corps Headquarters still ended up behind enemy lines with their Italian comrades-in-arms. The Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 157, Lulu, 2013
- Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Mulholland, John. "Axis Order of Battle 10 June 1940 – The Italian Invasion of France". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- Paoletti, p 170