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A list of Italian Army, Red Cross and Knights of Malta hospital trains?

Sid Guttridge

New Member
Hi,

I am trying to compile a list of Italian hospital trains in WWII. Does anyone know of such a list?

It appears that the Italian Army medical services, the Red Cross and the Knights of St. John numbered their hospital trains in a single sequence.

So far I have the following for 8th Army on the Eastern Font over 1941-43: Twelve hospital trains of the army medical services (3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 23, 24, 34, 25, 36, 41), six of the Italian Red Cross (13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18) and two of the Knights of St. John (1, 4,). There were apparently others sent there in February-March 1943 when 8th Army was evacuated to Italy after very heavy losses.

I understand that there were a number of hospital trains numbered in the 70 series employed in the Balkans.

I also understand that there was a third Knights of Malta hospital train.

Can anyone help fill in the numerical gaps?

Many thanks,

Sid
 

DrG

Active Member
According to page 5 of this article https://www.orderofmalta.int/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Corpo-Soccorso-Militare_Layout-1.pdf during WW2 the Knights of Malta (SMOM) employed three hospital trains: 1, 2 and 4 (in the article they are numbered with Roman numbers: I, II, IV).

Pages 63-65 of this study may be of your interest: https://centrostudistrategicicarlod...pagine-numerate-per-sme-ufficio-storico-3.pdf

Maybe you could find further information in this old booklet (it's only 64 pages long, with 90 illustrations): Benussi, Treni armati treni ospedale 1915-1945, Albertelli, Parma, 1983.

Here there are some beautiful photos of hospital train n. 5, preserved today: https://www.diaritoscani.it/2021/05...glese-visite-ai-centoporte-a-marina-di-massa/
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Good day Sid

It appears that Dr.G beat me to the punch. I was already reviewing Mario Pietrangeli's work when Dr.G posted his reply. A key statement is found on page 63. "A parte i vari treni usati sul territorio nazionale per lo sgombero dai porti dei feriti provenienti dal fronte occidentale, dall‟Africa settentrionale, dall‟Albania, dall‟Egeo, è opportuno indicare i convogli che operarono durante la campagna di Russia e cioè:" This statement implies that the hospital trains mainly operated in Italy (territorio nazionale) from the receiving ports to locations inside the country. The exception was Russia. This might make sense as the rail system in the Balkans doesn't support the use of rail. Albania lacked a rail connection to Italy, while the level and type of combat didn't require the use of such an asset during the occupation.

A bit from Order of Malta article does muddy the water a little. Page 5 states "Durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale entrarono in funzione i Treni-Ospedale I, II e IV che prestarono servizio durante le Campagne di Grecia, Albania, Jugoslavia e Russia." This could mean either they operated in those countries or that they were used in Italy during those campaigns. Albania and Greece both lack a rail system, indicating that the use of the trains was in Italy proper.

The train numbers you do have are from I servizi logistici delle unità italiane al fronte russo, documento 11/sv. Note that while Train 18 is grouped with the CRI and SMOM trains (which are marked as such) in that document, Train 18 lacks any identity markings (all the other trains are marked either RE, CRI, or SMOM). As you noted, SMOM Train 2 is missing from that document.

Pista! Jeff
 
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jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Giving the third SMOM train some thought. Page 44 of I servizi logistici reaffirms that only two SMOM trains were in Russia. I am wondering whether the third train supported the wounded from Russia, but didn't operate in Russia. It is possible the train operated in one of the countries between Russia and Italy or in Italy itself. This is if we assume that the three SMOM trains stated in Pietrangeli and the information in documento 11/sv are both correct.

OR

SMOM Train 2 wasn't in Russia until it was needed to support the evacuation in 1943.

This is just speculation to reconcile the two sources.

Pista! Jeff
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
A theory

I looked at La logistica militare dell'Esercito Italiano vol IV, tomo 1. Pages 208–216 discusses the servizio di sanità. In it it states that the CRI was prepared to man 22 trains, but only 6 were mobilized (pp.213, 216).

That got me thinking. Trains are rather expensive things to keep around. I don't believe that the CRI and the SMOM maintained their own trains. I believe the military/state maintained the trains and the various medical services manned them. I then examined the train numbers we know were used in Russia. None of the numbers are repeated. Given the highest number listed is 41, at least 41 trains existed. The question is how many were mobilized.

1 - SMOM
2 - SMOM
3 - RE
4 - SMOM
5 - RE
6 - RE
7 - RE
8 -
9 -
10 - RE
11 -
12 - RE
13 - CRI
14 - CRI
15 - CRI
16 - CRI
17 - CRI
18 - CRI
19 -
20 -
21 -
22 -
23 - RE
24 - RE
25 -
26 -
27 -
28 -
29 -
30 -
31 -
32 -
33 -
34 - RE
35 - RE
36 - RE
37 -
38 -
39 -
40 -
41 - RE

Sid, where did the information for trains numbered in the 70s come from?

Pista! Jeff
 

Sid Guttridge

New Member
Hi DrG and jwleser,

Thank you very much indeed.

I posted more in hope than expectation. It is good to see that Comando Supremo still has such depth of expertise. I was a member a good decade or more ago and was a bit surpised to be a "New Member".

I am following this subject after seeing a quote to the effect that the SMOM's Corpo Militar may be a unique example of the army of one sovereign state being integrated within the army of another.

DrG: Thanks particularly for the first article. I don't know how I missed it in my internet searches. It is the best text I have seen.

jwleser: Thanks for your researches, which go beyond mine. I think I saw the trains numbered in the 70s in the Balkans mentioned during my Googling a couple of days ago, probably within the text of an Italian-language article. Unfortunately, as it wasn't the focus of my search, I took no note of the source and can't dig it up again. As my Romance language is Spanish, not Italian, I would not quote me on it!

It seems that the Corpo Militar first became associated with Italian military hospital trains in 1877. This might explain why its trains received such low numbers. There were four in WWI and three in WWII, which might explain why the serial "3" was given to an army hospital train in 1940. It would appear that manning hospital trains was the Corpo Militar's particular speciality. Perhaps its medical staff may have been in a more advanced state of readiness than most other hospital trains, which I guess were also all part of the Italian Army's reserve forces.

My impression was also that the Corpo Militar's hospital trains largely operated in Italy between receiving ports for sick and wounded and hospitals in major cities and that the Russian Front was the most obvious exception. I suppose it was easily possible to operate in occupied southern France in 1942-43, but casualties were non-existence there. On the other hand, there was a growing stream of sick and wounded in Yugoslavia, but almost all Italian troop movements to and from the Balkans were by sea across the Adriatic.

I have seen nothing about the Corpo Militar being mobilized during any of Mussolini's overseas adventures in the 1930s in Libya, Ethiopia, Spain or Albania. Only Ethiopia saw mobilization of the reserves of which the Corpo Militar was part, but there was no railway system to use there. Perhaps the field hospital was deployed or Corpo Militar personnel used on the hospital ships running regularly from there in the second half of the 1930s?

I was also wondering whether there wasn't more than one sort of hospital train used on the Eastern Front - one type acting as a specialist triage hospital behind the front and the other for repatriation of recuperating men?

Many thanks,

Sid.















 

DrG

Active Member
Dear Sid,

this forum is somewhat forgotten, but we are always willing to help, if we can! I moved here from the AH Forum due to my bad temper and the abundance of noise there, but I am still active. Maybe you have the title of "new member" because this forum should be a new version of the old one, which got deactivated years ago.

Anyway, returning to your questions, I am surprised to notice a relative lack of historical information about the Corpo Militare dell'Associazione dei Cavalieri Italiani del Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta (please note that you misspell "militare": while "militar" can be used in certain cases in poetic or aulic language, it is not standard Italian). Maybe there is a book or two somewhere, and probably I even read its title years ago, but I have not found anything.

Yet, do not despair! I am pretty sure that this article, published on "Rivista Militare", 1983, n. 3, can reply to most, if not all, of your questions about the hospital trains and field hospitals of the ACISMOM: https://issuu.com/rivista.militare1/docs/rm3-1983/96

By the way, it is not widely known, but Italian cinema has produced, probably, the only war movie about a hospital train. It is "Il treno crociato" by Carlo Campogalliani: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Il_treno_crociato
Here you can watch it, but it hasn't any subtitle:
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Sid

I am glad you are finding Comando Supremo useful. As for being a new member, the entire CS forum data based was lost between sales. I and others have used the Wayback Machine to try to recover as much as possible but much was lost. My hope is that the site is getting back to where it previously was.

RE: The benevolent organizations were heavily involved in providing medical services in the late 1800s. Back then they actually provided the trains and other medical equipment. I am making an assumption that by WW2 the trains were procured by the government and the charitable organizations equipped and manned them.

RE: Number of SMOM trains. The article Dr.G linked, “L’impegno Dell’Ordine Di Malta durante le Guerre del XX Secolo: Una Gloriosa Tradizione Di Soccorso” states that there were 4 SMOM trains used during the 2GM (p.2). I am thinking that the train numbers were assigned in the order that the trains were mobilized. That is only a guess.

I just read the new article Dr.G linked. It states only 3 SMOM trains.

RE: Types of Trains. I also wondered whether that was the case. All the original sources give the same train composition, but I read that the train composition in the new article is different.

What is interesting/possible is that La logistica militare dell'Esercito Italiano p.216 states that the CRI trains were used to transport the wounded/sick back to Italy. "L’impegno Dell’Ordine Di Malta" makes the same statement for the SMOM trains. None of the sources state/indicate that the RE trains were used to transport the injured back to the madrepatria.

This might make sense. The train composition in "Le Ferrovie Militarizzate i Treni Armati i Treni Ospedale nella Prima E Seconda Guerra Mondiale" has 16 cars which includes an operating room and a separate car for contagious sickness. This a good arrangement for a train used as a field hospital. The composition of the train given in "Bianco Croce" is also 16 cars but replaces the operating room and the contagious ward cars with two additional berth/ward cars. This is a better arrangement for a train used to move wounded/sick from the front back to Italy. Just a thought.

Pista! Jeff
 
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Sid Guttridge

New Member
Hi DrG,

I think I know who might have provoked bad temper in you on AHF. Sorry. I will try to be less of a pain here.

I have now had a chance to look at the "Rivista Militare" link you gave and it has everything I could have wished for. Many thanks, indeed.

The film is very well made compared with most British wartime films. I notice the male lead is Rossano Brazzi, who was the French planter/love interest in the great Hollywood musical of "South Pacific". (However, I think his rendition of "Some Enchated Evening" was dubbed).

It also showed the Italians using satchel charges against concrete emplacements - something they appear to have lacked when trying to attack French Alpine Line fortifications at Menton/Mentone and elsewhere in late June 1940. They got next to or on tne roof of several emplacements but the infantry seem to have no means of gaining entry or knocking them out.

Thanks again for being so helpful here, given our previous friction on AHF. It shows generosity of spirit.

In appreciation,

Sid
 
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DrG

Active Member
:ROFLMAO: No Sid, I did not leave the AHF due to our rather heated exchange of messages about Spellman's mission to Rome (by the way, I have discovered a lot more about secret WW2 Italy-US connections, some of them even based upon freely available documents published in the Documenti Diplomatici Italiani series more than 30 years ago), it was a decision I took later, even though rather than the "fault" of a single member it was more linked to the abundance of quarrells in that forum and my bad habit of nose-diving into them. This forum is more focused and I try to keep a more constructive attitude (not that I am really able to follow this aim, but I try).

Anyway, returning to this topic, I am glad I provided you some useful information and thanks for your remarks about the movie.
 

1089maul

Member
All,
I have found this thread very interesting as my knowledge of Italian hospital train was zero before this thread. So thanks!
I am currently reading a book about Italian prisoners of war in Russia and will update if the trains are mentioned. Will do a book review soon as the book is different from the usual!
Regards to all
Bob
 
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