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Albino Gelci, my great-grandfather

Albona

New Member
Hi,

I am trying to find more information about locations and 'war path' of the unit my great-grandfather was a part of.
I have his military papers (matricola) which I am attaching in this message.
He was born near Labin, Istria, Croatia then Italy. Matricola was obtained from archivio di stato di Trieste.
As I understand it, he was a part of 28th infantry regiment, 2nd bridge company, he was captured in may 1943 by Allies and was POW in England, please correct me if I am wrong. Haven't been able to find much information about location during the war of his infantry unit and none on the company. From the stories of my grandmother (his daughter) he was in some sort of aviation unit, but not as a pilot.

I would be grateful if someone can direct me to source of information on the internet or a book about war diaries of Italian units in North Africa (preferably in english).

Thank you!
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Buongiorno and welcome to the forum.

Hummm, the copy of the foglio matricolare isn't attached. If you need assistance with that, please PM me.

There is a disconnect in the information you provided. The 28º reggimento fanteria «Pavia» (28º reg. f.) was part of the 17ª divisone fanteria «Pavia». This division fought in most of the battles in Africa settentrionale (North Africa). If captured in May 1943, your bisnonno was likely captured in Tunisia with the surrender of the 1º Armata.

The disconnect is the 2ª Bridge Company. The 28º regg. f. doesn't have a bridge company. I checked to see if there was a 28º regg. genio (engineer) or pontieri (bridge), but there wasn't such a unit. Your comment about being part of an aviation unit also doesn't match the other information. If he was part of an aviation unit, he would have been part of the Regia Aeronautica (RA), not the Regio Esercito (RE).

Providing his foglio matricolare and any other papers will answer many questions.

I hope this helps.

Pista! Jeff
 
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Albona

New Member
Sorry, here is a link to matricola and documentation regarding capture: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1R3zdOyELMUkMGPB-yGKcAzklto35aTtT/view?usp=sharing
So, I actually need help reading his matricular papers. From matricola it is visible that he was in 28th regg. fant. from october 1940 and then on 8. february 1942 says:
Tale ______? 2a Comp. Pont____ (Pontieri?) __ P' A.S. Mob. (Africa Settentrionale Automobilitata - Type of mobile unit?)
I thought it says "pontieri" because in papers regarding his time as POW it is stated:
Prigion. (prigioniere) - Bty Pontieri 2a comp. (battalione pontieri?).
If somebody can corrent me regarding above parts of matricola that would be greatly appreciated.
He was captured in Tunisia because command of his unit is Akarit.
Confusion maybe comes from the fact that "Pavia" division was destroyed in the second battle of El Alamein if I am not mistaken and the rest of soldiers were transferred to other units. I can't read from the papers in what unit he was between disintegration of "Pavia" and capture.
Regarding aviation, that was stated by my grandmother and is posibly false for war period. I think he was in aviation while serving regular army training (not during the war).
My apologies for disconnection in information, I haven't described the problem well enough.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Albona

Thank you for posting. Your bisnonno had a varied career.

I will start by saying that I hope one of our Italian natives will offer their thoughts. The challenge for me is deciphering the handwriting, especially when it is faint.

Okay, what I think I am reading. The first page of the foglio matricolare is missing.

He was mobilized for his regular military conscription service (leva) in April 1933, possibly at the Carabineri depot at Brindisi.
Transferred to the RA in Sep 1933, assigned to the III Zona Aeree Territoriali (Z.A.T) and then to the airport at Brindisi. In July 1935, he is transferred to the IV ZAT. He is released from service in the RA in Jan 1937. In 1938, he is transferred back to the RE still under his released status. Congedo (leave of absence) means his is not in active service but can be recalled per the mobilization laws.

Recalled to service for training in October 1940, he is initially assigned to the 74º regg, f., then to the 28º regg. f. Here is gets tricky due to the faint handwriting. I think he was assigned to the 2ª compagnia portuale (stevedore, or dock workers) in Feb 42 and flow to AS in April 42, landing at CastelBenito (the main airport south of Tripoli). I can't read the last line on that page. The portuale is a guess based on the typed Port. on the fourth page and the writing on the third page. Pontieri doesn't make sense as I don't believe any of those units served in AS.

He was credited with two years of service. He would wear two stars on his Distintivo del period bellico 1940-1943 ribbon. The first page of the foglio matricolare would have listed all his awards.

Again I hope others better versed in reading the handwriting offers their thoughts.

Pista! Jeff
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Albona

I would be great to see the other papers.

He was captured in Tunisia because command of his unit is Akarit
I am not aware of any Italian unit associated with Akarit. Akarit is a wadi just north of of Mareth. There was fighting there, but that happened in April. It doesn't fit the May timeline. 12 May 1943 is the date of the general surrender of all Axis troops in AS. Your bisnonno was captured when he surrendered; he wasn't captured during combat.

Pista! Jeff
 
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Albona

New Member
Recalled to service for training in October 1940, he is initially assigned to the 74º regg, f., then to the 28º regg. f. Here is gets tricky due to the faint handwriting. I think he was assigned to the 2ª compagnia portuale (stevedore, or dock workers) in Feb 42 and flow to AS in April 42, landing at CastelBenito (the main airport south of Tripoli). I can't read the last line on that page. The portuale is a guess based on the typed Port. on the fourth page and the writing on the third page. Pontieri doesn't make sense as I don't believe any of those units served in AS.
Last 3 lines on page 3 reads:
“Partito in volo dall’aeroporto di Castelvetrano li 11/4/1942”
“Giunto in volo all’aeroporto di Castelbenito li 11/4/1942”
“Giunto in terr(itorio) di L.(=Libia?) in stato di guerra li 11/4/1942”
This was read by lady that works in archivio di stato di Trieste but it doesn't tell anything about his unit but tells from and where he landed when sent to africa
 
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Albona

New Member
I also didn't know first page was missing, archive didn't sent it, I guess they don't have it.
I don't have any more papers about his service, what papers could exist?
What could mean Bty Pontieri 2a Comp?
Comando Akarit P.M. 11(that should be identification of command position?)
Also, I don't know if the document on page 1 and 2 was same sort of matricola for time as POW. Dates and numbers on page 1 and 2 could be some sort of compensation (in money perhaps) to be paid for time in captivity. Can someone give an opinion on this?
Thanks for all the clarification above!
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Thank you writing those lines. Yes, no real help in identifying his unit.
“Giunto in terr(itorio) di L.(=Libia?) in stato di guerra li 11/4/1942”
That is the start date for his time in a war zone used to calculate the number of years in combat, hence two stars (42, 43).

There is no occupation listed and his education is only to level 5 elementary.
What could mean Bty Pontieri 2a Comp?
I was just studying that entry. It is actually Btg. (Battaglione) Pontieri 2ª Cp. The P.M. is Postale Militare (unit postal code). 11 seems to be too low of a number for such a minor unit. However, I am not well versed on how the Italian P.M.s work. I will need to check to see if any btg. pontieri were sent to AS.

A thought is that pontieri were sent to AS to operate barges and the like in harbors or costal traffic. That is merely speculation. My concern is that the Btg. Pontieri 2ª Cp. is a much later entry than the one on page 3 fourth line from the bottom (the one above “Partito in volo dall’aeroporto di Castelvetrano li 11/4/1942”). That was written at the time and would be accurate to his assignment. I just can't see pontieri in that line, while portuale is possible. However, I have never read of a reparti portuale, but anything can be new during war.
Also, I don't know if the document on page 1 and 2 was same sort of matricola for time as POW. Dates and numbers on page 1 and 2 could be some sort of compensation (in money perhaps) to be paid for time in captivity. Can someone give an opinion on this?
Yes, it is a record of pay. POWs and soldiers held by the Germans after Sept 43 were considered still in service. This is a later reconstruction of his records as soldiers records were held by the unit. His were lost when the unit surrendered.

Pista! Jeff
 

Albona

New Member
There is no occupation listed and his education is only to level 5 elementary.
For occupation I think it states Ormeggiatore, moorer in english. So, "portuale" would make sense. I don't know what "portuale" in regards to unit designation means, was that company in charge of logistics in port? (eg. unloading supplies)
Yes, it is a record of pay. POWs and soldiers held by the Germans after Sept 43 were considered still in service. This is a later reconstruction of his records as soldiers records were held by the unit. His were lost when the unit surrendered.
But he was held by the English, or are you just writing facts and not referring to my bisnonno?
So he was in service until 21/04/1945 as stated on page 1 and 2 but was in war zone 2 years (1942 and 1943)?

Thank you for other information stated above!

Kind regards, Antonio
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Antonio

RE: Ormeggiatore. My bad. I was looking at the cognizione extra professionali instead of arte o professione. Yes, a harbor worker, likely more working with tugboats/berthing ships than as a stevedore. Pontieri now makes more sense. I am not aware of any military unit called a portuale, but the very last line on the last page has 2ª Compagnia Port. The official abbreviation for pontieri is p. i.e. 2ª cp. genio p. At this point I believe the Port. is a typo.
But he was held by the English, or are you just writing facts and not referring to my bisnonno?
He still would receive his military pay from the RE. The first page is the calculation from the last time he was paid (before the surrender) to when he was release from service. He received a total of 2.527 lira in back pay according to this paperwork.
So he was in service until 21/04/1945 as stated on page 1 and 2 but was in war zone 2 years (1942 and 1943)?
Yes. he received his congedo illimitato (final release/unlimited leave) on 25 July 1946. He no longer had any military obligation and could not be recalled to the colors.

Pista! Jeff
 

Albona

New Member
I have learned a lot from you and I thank you for that!
But there is still problem with identifying his company. How rare is to have missing first page of matricola, maybe archive in Trieste forgot to scan it?
When I contacted archivio di stato di Trieste they sad they can sent me the scan of fascicolo di foglio matricolare (which I opted for) and ruolo matricolare, would there be more information about the unit or his service in ruolo matricolare?
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Antonio

With family, I always obtain as many documents as I can. I don't know the cost, but you never know what you will find.

The ruolo matricolare is the conscription information for the leva. It normally lists: Name; location of birth; class; date of birth; registration number; individual's service number number; and any notes. It is unlikely to provide any service information once the individual has been drafted. It is mainly used to obtain an individual's place and date of birth because Italian military records are organized using that information. The soldier's service number is not unique; numbers are reused each year. As you have discovered, place of birth determines in which centro militare/archivio the records are held.

Class is normally his year of birth and determines when the individual is liable to be drafted/called up. An individual's class can be changed based on several factors, usually things that delay his call-up (such as attending college, multiple siblings serving in the military, father of a large family, etc.). These can delay any call-up or even permanently defer any service.

I will say that incomplete military records are not uncommon. Missing documents can be a problem when researching. Even if the documents are present, they aren't always completed (filled out) correctly. It is the nature of the beast.

Here is an example of the front page of the foglio matricolare so you know what it can offer.
Foglio Example copy.jpg


Pista! Jeff
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
RE: Unit. L'Esercito Italiano verso il 2000 Storia dei Corpo dal 1861 vol I tomo II states that the XXXII btg. pontieri pesanti served in AS. That battalion was part of the 2º regg. pontieri. I am a little unsure of this information, as the book lists two XXXII btg.; one leggeri and one pesanti. I have not found this battalion listed in any of the books on the campaign, but it is an unusual unit so often not included.

The USSME has a series of books on the engineers. Unfortunately the last book published ends at the start of 2GM.

At this point, the best I can say is that your bisnonno was in the 2ª cp., XXXII btg. genio pontieri when he was in AS. But that is more of a guess than a proven fact. It is possible that the 2ª cp. was from a different battalion, but sent to reinforce the existing units in Africa. I would assume that his unit either help operate a port or the costal barge/ship traffic between ports.

Pista! Jeff
 
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Albona

New Member
RE: Unit
Thank you for research, it is greatly appreciated!
Do you think that maybe his unit in april 1942 was 2ª cp., XXXII btg. genio pontieri and port is a typo, or is it unclear or unknown with current information?
Besides this I can get his ruolo matricolare but I can't think of anything else...is there some other source worth looking?
If not it looks like my search has reached an end.
Thank you again!
 
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