Legnano Mechanized Brigade
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|Brigata Meccanizzata Legnano|
Coat of Arms of the Legnano Mechanized Brigade
|Active||21 October 1975 - 31 December 1997|
|Part of||1975-1986 Centauro Armoured Division
1986-1997 3rd Army Corps
The Legnano Mechanized Brigade was an mechanized brigade of the Italian Army. Its core units were mechanized Infantry battalions. The brigade's headquarters was in the city of Bergamo in Lombardy. The name of the brigade commemorates the Lombard League victory in the Battle of Legnano in 1176.
World War II
The Legnano was activated as an infantry division on 8 February 1934. Initially the division consisted of the 7th Infantry Regiment Cuneo, 8th Infantry Regiment Cuneo, 67th Infantry Regiment Palermo and 27th Artillery Regiment. On 24 March 1939 the division was split into the 6th Infantry Division Cuneo and 58th Infantry Division Legnano. After the split the Legnano fielded the 67th Infantry Regiment Palermo, 68th Infantry Regiment Palermo and 58th Artillery Regiment.
In 1940 the division remained in Fenestrelle as a reserve force during the Italian invasion of southern France. After the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940 bogged down under stiff Greek resistance the Legnano division was dispatched to Albania in January 1941 to augment the Italian forces under pressure by the Greek counteroffensive.
In November 1942 the division participated in the occupation of Vichy France and remained afterwards in France on occupation duty. In August 1943 the division returned to Italy - first to Bologna and then to Brindisi in the South of Italy. After Allied forces had landed on the Italian peninsula and an armistice between Italy and the Allies had been signed, the division stayed loyal to the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III, who fled with the royal court from Rome to Brindisi.
Already on 26 September 1943 the division formed the Italian 1st Motorized Group, which was to aid in the allied war effort. The 1st Motorized Group consisted of the following units:
- 1st Motorized Group Command (formed with the men of the 58th Infantry Division Legnano Command Group)
- 67th Infantry Regiment Palermo
- I Battalion/67th Infantry Regiment
- I Battalion/93rd Infantry Regiment (from the 18th Infantry Division Messina)
- LI Bersaglieri Training Battalion
- V Anti-tank Battalion (newly formed)
- V Anti-tank Battalion (newly formed)
- 11th Motorized Artillery Regiment (from the 104th Motorised Division Mantova)
- Engineer Company
- 67th Infantry Regiment Palermo
In the next months the division lost all its units, which were needed on the front lines. On 17 February 1944 the division was deactivated after its last units had joined other units. On 24 September 1944 the I Brigade of the Italian Liberation Corps (Corpo Italiano di Liberazione, or CIL), was renamed as Legnano Combat Group. The Combat Group consisted of the 68th Infantry Regiment Palermo, the 11th Motorized Artillery Regiment, the elite IX Assault Battalion and the Special Infantry Regiment, which consisted of the remnants of the 3rd Alpini Regiment and 4th Bersaglieri Regiment. The Combat Group was equipped with British weapons and materiel.
After the war the combat group was garrisoned in Bergamo. When the 67th Infantry Regiment Palermo returned to the combat group on 15 October 1946 the group returned to its old name and became again the Legnano Infantry Division. The division also received the 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group. In 1947 the two infantry regiments changed their name from Palermo to Legnano and the division was augmented with the Horse Artillery Regiment Volòire.
In the next years the division was motorized with American equipment and the 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group was increased to full regiment with three battalions of armoured and mechanized cavalry. The division was the sole major unit of the III Territorial Military Command in Milan until the command became the III Army Corps on 1 July 1957. Subsequently the Armoured Division Centauro in Novara, the Infantry Division Cremona and Alpine Brigade Taurinense both in Turin entered the III Corps.
On 1 May 1958 the 4th Armoured Infantry Regiment joined the division. The regiment consisted of the XX Tank Battalion on M47 Patton and the II Bersaglieri Battalion on M113. At the same time the 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Regiment was reduced to Divisional Reconnaissance Group Legnano. After the four artillery groups of the 11th Artillery Regiment had been re-equipped with M101 105mm and M114 155mm howitzers, the Horse Artillery Regiment Volòire was transferred to the III Army Corps.
In 1975 the Italian Army undertook a major reorganization of it forces: the regimental level was abolished and battalions came under direct command of brigades, which combined units from different arms. Therefore on 29 October 1975 the Legnano Motorized Division was reduced to Legnano Mechanized Brigade. Both of the divisions infantry regiments were reduced to battalions, while the two battalions of the 4th Armoured Infantry Regiment became independent. The 11th Artillery Regiment was reduced to a single group. The brigades authorized strength was 4,733 men (272 Officers, 637 non-commissioned officers and 3,824 soldiers) and it joined the Centauro Armoured Division. After the reform the brigade consisted of the following units:
- Legnano Command and Signal Battalion, in Bergamo
- 20th Tank Battalion M.O. Pentimalli, in Legnano
- 2nd Bersaglieri Battalion Governolo, in Legnano
- 67th Mechanized Infantry Battalion Montelungo, in Monza
- 68th Mechanized Infantry Battalion Palermo, in Bergamo
- 11th Field Artillery Group Monferrato, in Cremona
- Legnano Logistic Battalion, in Presezzo
- Legnano Anti-tank Company, in Monza
- Legnano Engineer Company, in Bergamo
In 1982 and 1983 the brigade provided personnel for the Italian contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. In 1986 the Italian Army abolished the divisional level and the Legnano came under direct command of the 3rd Army Corps. On 30 November 1989 the 68th Mechanized Infantry Battalion Palermo was disbanded. As the Italian Army had begun a massive down-sizing after the end of the Cold War in 1991 the Legnano received and lost units repeatedly over the next years: In June 1991 the brigade received the 4th Tank Battalion and 18th Bersaglieri Battalion from the disbanded Goito Mechanized Brigade. The same year the Legnano received the 52nd Field Artillery Group from the disbanded Brescia Mechanized Brigade, while the 11th Field Artillery Group Monferrato was disbanded on 27 August 1991. In 1993 the brigade provided troops for the United Nations Operation in Somalia II. At the same time the battalions of the brigade returned to use the name regiment or traditional reasons.
In 1995 the Army began a further round of cuts which included the Legnano Mechanized Brigade. Therefore on 5 October 1995 the 67th Mechanized Infantry Regiment Legnano was disbanded. The same year the brigade transferred the 4th Tank Regiment and 52nd Self-propelled Field Artillery Regiment to the Centauro Armoured Brigade. In 1996 the brigade transferred the 2nd Bersaglieri Regiment and 18th Bersaglieri Regiment to the Centauro and on 16 September 1996 became the Legnano Support Units Command. As Support Units Command the Legnano commanded the following six support units of the 3rd Army Corps:
- Lagunari Regiment Serenissima in Venezia-Lido
- 26th Infantry (Training) Regiment Bergamo in Diano Castello
- 121st Infantry (Training) Regiment Macerata in Fano
- 10th Engineer Regiment in Cremona
- 1st Signal Regiment in Milan
- 33rd Logistic Regiment Ambrosiano in Solbiate Olona
However already on 31 December 1997 the Legnano Support Units Command was disbanded and the units came under direct command of the 3rd Army Corps.