19th Infantry Division Venezia

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Insignia of the Venezia Division prior to joining the Partisans.

Originally, the 19th infantry division of the Italian army was created in 1934 to serve in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War under the name Gavinana division. It was demobilized and reduced to the brigade in July, 1936, but again mobilized 15 April 1939, under the "19th Infantry Division Venezia" name. In October–November 1943, it has gradually get transformed into the partisan Garibaldi division fighting together with Yugoslav Partisans against Axis.[1]

Action[edit]

Second Italo-Ethiopian War[edit]

The Gavinana division was staying in Eritrea near Ethiopian border in the Adi Quala and Enda-Ghergis. 3 October 1935, it crossed Mareb River as part of the Italian II Corps, thus beginning the invasion. On that day, it crushed an Ethiopian fortified position at De’āro Teklē. 4 October 1935, the Gavinana division have captured the Ādī Ābun town, and 6 October 1935, has captured an important road junction at Adwa town. The advance than largely stopped, as several battles were fought around Adwa, particularly at Inda Mīka’ēl to the south of the town. After the eventual Ethiopian counter-attack was stalled, the Gavinana division has participated in the Second Battle of Tembien, starting from 26 February 1936 an attack around Shire, Ethiopia. 2 March 1936 it destroyed a large Ethiopian formation near Mai Nebri, Eritrea, and 3 March 1936 was in pursuit of shattered Ethiopian troops along the Tacazze River, returning to Inda Silasē near Shire, Ethiopia 4 March 1936. 5–7 March 1936, it reached Indabaguna town. 9 March 1936, the Gavinana division have occupied Debarq, and 2 April 1936, have stopped at Dabat. It was relieved from the front-line duties 22 April 1936 and sent to Axum. For the rest of war, it participated in mopping-up operations around Mendefera.

Occupation of Albania[edit]

The reformed "Venezia" division was mobilized for the occupation of Albania, landing in Durrës during 25–30 April 1939. It was responsible for the cities of Elbasan and Pogradec.

Greco-Italian War[edit]

10 June 1940, the Venezia division was close to Yugoslavian border in the valley of Drin, the Bulqizë and southern shores of Debar lake. 26 October 1940, it got the orders to transfer to the Greek border to Korçë area. 2 November 1940, the Venezia division was relocated to the south of Lake Prespa to parry an anticipated Greek attack. Its defence stretched along Zaroshkë-Bilisht-Kapshticë line. 3 November 1940, the Greek forces have attacked the division right flank. Although the Venezia division initially held the position, during 4–5 November 1940, it was pushed out of Kapshticë, Bilisht and Bitincke towns, falling back to the Devoll river. Consequently, Greek have shifted the focus of their attacks on centre and left (northern) flank of the Venezia division, but without much success despite heavy fighting 8–15 November 1940. Meanwhile, the Venezia division was outflanked on south by Greek breakthrough to Ersekë 16 November 1940. It tried to rectify the frontline by pulling out the southern flank from the Devoll river valley, while Greek intensified their attacks on retreating Italians 17–19 November 1940. 21 November 1940, the contact with neighbour Italian forces on the south flank was lost, as the division had made a stand at the PogradecBuçimasBregu i Zervaskës line on southern tip of Lake Ohrid. The Greek resumed their attacks 26 November 1940, but the Venezia division have started to retreat to Shkumbin river valley only 29 November 1940, after again being outflanked from the right. Rearguard have fought a fierce delaying battle 1–7 December 1940, in the outskirts of the city of Pogradec and southern shores of Lake Ohrid, from Kalasë to as far to south as pass of Qafa e Vashës. The outstretched southern flank of Venezia division was retreating to the north, but rapid Greek advance have resulted in some elements of the division being stranded by 9 December 1940 on mountaintop of "Breshenihcut" surrounded by Greek forces until being rescued 23–24 December 1940. At the beginning of the 1941, the division was reinforced by the 72nd blackshirts militia legion (regiment). Despite the reinforcement and severe weather, the division positions continued to crumble, resulting in failure of the "Kungullit" mount defences 7 January 1941. Unexpectedly, it was a last major loss for the Venezia divisio, as the fighting intensity had begun to decrease during January–March, 1941. 7 April 1941 was recorded a last Greek attack on Qafa e Vashës.

14 April 1941, the Italian forces began a general offence. The Venezia division have participated by advancing first to Pogradec, and than turned south to Maliq and Korçë, capturing it 15 April 1941, without meeting a severe resistance. 18 April 1941, the Venezia division have reached Ersekë

Operations in Yugoslavia[edit]

In July, 1941, the Venezia division was transferred to the Montenegro coast near Shkodër, quartering in city of Podgorica, and towns of Berane and Kolašin Municipality. It was tasked with mopping-up and anti-partisan fighting. In 1942, the division was reinforced by 383rd infantry regiment and continue to operate in the same area. In 1943, the partisans encroachment on the city of Podgorica become apparent, resulting in more fighting. Fortunately, the cooperation with the Chetniks have saved the Venezia division from severe losses.

Transformation to the Garibaldi brigades[edit]

With the onset of the Armistice of Cassibile 9 September 1943, the 118th Jäger Division (Wehrmacht) and soon Chetniks have demanded the Venezia division to disarm, but were refused as division command was able to consolidate the forces and maintain discipline. But cooperation with Chetniks have deepened from early October, 1943, resulting in fights against Germans starting from 13 October 1943. The area of fighting included Berane, Kolašin Municipality, Brodarevo, and Murina, Montenegro (Murino). During these battles, the division was reorganized into the 6 brigades, from Venezia I to Venezia VI. Further reorganization happened 1 December 1943, resulting in 3 brigades: Garibaldi II, Garibaldi III and Garibaldi IV, with some additions from the other Italian units. Garibaldi I is mostly unrelated brigade, despite some personnel flow to it.

Order of battle[edit]

19th Infantry Division "Gavninana"

  • 70th Infantry Regiment "Ancona"
  • 83rd Infantry Regiment "Venezia"
  • 84th Infantry Regiment "Venezia"
  • 19th Artillery Regiment
  • 519th MMG Bn
  • 19th Replacements Bn
  • 19th Engineers Coy[nb 1]

References[edit]

Footnotes
  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.[2]
Citations
  • Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9. 

Notes[edit]

  • Each Army Division in the Ethiopian Campaign had a Pack-Mules unit of 3000 mules and three Regimental Trucks units (20 light trucks each).