CV 33/35 combats in NA?


I have not read any specifics about any combat by the CV 33/3's including those that were upgraded with a solothurn 20mm, does any one have? Did they ever fought the Rolls Royce and other fast British armored vehicles?
I might have the wrong book but if I recall Ospreys Italian Light Tanks 1919-45 mentioned their use as harassment/ambush during Rommel's retreat towards Tunisia. The intention was to obviously try to slow down the British advance. Going from memory it was either Kesselring or Arnim that promoted their use in in this manner. On at least one occasion, the British spearhead advanced past the hiding CV.3 s and they launched a surprise attack out of a Wadi overrunning some supply trucks and capturing some soldiers along the way. I also remember a date given for that particular event but unfortunately cannot recall which day.
I believe it's this book:

During the various battles of no man's land (June 10th - start of Compass) I'm aware of the clash (sorry, don't have the date handy ATM)
when the Italians deployed in "colonial square" against an attacking squadron of Cruisers & probably some lights. This didn't end well for the tankettes and they apparently lost ~17 CVs. That battle is posted in the Warlinks online for the 6th RTR or the 11th Hussars.

Some were lost during the Battle of the Emba Gap along with the 5 x M11s during Nov. 1940. That battle is in the Warlinks as well. It's been awhile since I've read them but it's either the 6th RTR or 11th Hussars war diaries.



Thanks MelaraClubPrez, i am remembering that was also some combat with British special forces when they were deployed in rear for security proposes. But it is still thin for more than 300-400 that were in Africa.
They become even harder to find once the L6/40s come into play. It's very hard to determine if the light tanks mentioned are CVs or the L6s.

I'll try to dig up the page but there's a New York Times article that mentions some use in Stalingrad.
The Pittsburgh Press" of October 13, 1942,4406229&hl=en


If I recall from the old Comando Supremo forum, a supply unit with CV3s was caught in the eventual encirclement in November. It could be the same one.
Here's 2 engagements including the "colonial square" from the Battle of Nezuet Ghirba.
The 1st engagement doesn't say the Boyes AT rifles were mounted, so I assume it was regular infantry.

Operation Compass 1940- Wavells Whirlwind Offensive by Jon Latimer

"...columns, capturing bewildered soldiers whom nobody had bothered to inform about Mussolini’s declaration. By dawn on 12 June, all their patrols had re- turned, bringing with them 70 prisoners and having suffered no casualties. More importantly, they had established a moral superiority over the Italians. Encouraged by this start, plans were made to assault Forts Maddalena and Capuzzo; the attacks were launched on 14 June. Joined by elements of 4th Armoured Brigade commanded by Brigadier J. R. L. ‘Blood’ Caunter (named after his favorite exhortation ‘Buckets of Blood!’) and 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Fort Maddalena fell without a shot being fired, having already been abandoned by all but 18 of the garrison. Fort Capuzzo offered some small resistance, but its 226 men also surrendered without bloodshed. Of some significance was the result of an encounter with six Italian Fiat-Ansaldo L3 Tankettes. These were engaged with a Boyes anti-tank rifle, which knocked one out immediately while the others ran ‘like a lot of little pigs’.

Two days later, two troops of 11 H were ‘swanning around’ between Sidi Omar and Fort Capuzzo when one troop encountered an Italian column of 12 L3s and 30 lorries, apparently on their way to re-garrison the fort. At almost the same time, the second troop reported another column of 17 L3s and 40 lorries heading to meet the first. Although the squadron commander ordered them to withdraw, the two troops had eagerly charged forward to engage the enemy. During a brisk skirmish, they managed to knock out three of the L3s before retiring behind a slight rise when the column produced a field gun. Combe quickly gathered all the available reserves, including a mixed squadron of Light and Cruiser tanks from 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, and an anti-tank troop of the Royal Horse Artillery from 4 Armd Bde, and rushed to join the action.
When he arrived at the rise, he was staggered to see the column (the second one never appeared) some three miles away on a completely open plain, formed up in square as if fighting colonial tribesmen. Unsure if the Italians had more artillery, Combe sent forward some of the tanks who were fired at by the single gun and charged by the L3s. These were knocked out with one shot each, whereupon the tanks circled the square in Red Indian fashion, shooting up the unprotected infantry and lorries. They made two complete circuits before the Italians revealed hidden guns at each corner. After a bitter but intense firefight in which the gallant gun detachments were shot down to a man, the square broke, only to be promptly rounded up. Barely 100 men and a dozen lorries were left to make the sad journey into captivity. Thus ended the ‘Battle’ of Nezuet Ghirba. Among the dead was Colonello D’A- vanso whose pocket yielded his orders. They were to ‘destroy enemy elements which have infiltrated across the frontier, and give the British the impression of our decision, ability and will to resist’. The free-wheeling continued until the end of July, by which time the Italians were deploying heavy all-arms columns supported from the air. Steadily, their strength was increasing, including support from a few M11/39 tanks and invariably from their efficient and brave artillery. At sea, the Royal Navy shelled a flotilla of minesweepers in Tobruk harbour, an action admired by an 11 H patrol on the beach, only 100 miles (161 km) behind enemy lines! Apart from continuous anti-submarine operations, the RN encountered no surface opposition and bombarded Bardia on 21 June. The Italians retaliated with night air- raids on Alexandria and Aboukir. A week later they attacked Royal Air Force bases at Sidi Barrani and Mersa Matruh, whose Gladiator fighters matched..."

I used to have a collection of L3 engagements from various books and websites, but I honestly don't recall any fights between them and armored cars. That certainly doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Some more from the war diaries. The M11 hasn't arrived yet so the light tanks must be L3s.

Wart Diaries of the 11th Hussars
14/6/40 British: Day/Month/ Year


"Combe force crossed the frontier at 0700 hrs and proceeded NW to SIDI AZEIZ. At 0800 hrs C Sqn acting as advance guard came under heavy shellfire on reaching a point 3 to 4 miles South of SIDI AZEIZ. Estimated number of enemy guns; 9 to 15, appeared to be situated in the proximity of SIDI AZEIZ. C Sqn proceeded round to the West and B Sqn proceeded to the East. One Sqn 7th Hussars and Force HQ followed eastern Sqn. Both Sqns TIVI were drawing arty fire during this flank movement. Enemy Infantry position was located on the ridge astride road running SE from SIDI AZEIZ. 1 Sqn 7th Hussars put in an attack on this position. The enemy (native troops approx 50) fled. The 7th Hussars Sqn pursued but on reaching summit of ridge encountered a minefield. Three light tanks were blown up. Casualties were one OR killed, two ORs wounded. The tanks were subsequently stripped and burnt.

The Sqn TIVI proceeding round to the West was fired on by automatic MGs from B. BU TABEL. Owing to the flat nature of the ground and mirage, it was impossible to locate gun position. An attempt was made by 1 troop 4th RHA to shell SIDI AZEIZ from a point about 12,000 yards to the South but owing to lack of observation this was not successful. The spotting was carried out by TIVI.

The two Sqns TIVI proceeded to the NE and NW of SIDI AZEIZ and one troop took up a position B. EL HAQHEIFA. Although still drawing arty fire it was still impossible to locate the gun position. At approx 1500 hrs a large enemy bomber was seen to land at SIDI AZEIZ. At approx 1630 hrs, Combe Force withdrew, less one Sqn and one troop TIVI. Sqn TIVI proceeded to Pt. 41 and sent patrol to Pt. 132 on BARDIA TOBRUK road. No enemy movement was seen.

Sqn withdrew and on passing SIDI AZEIZ, the Fort was seen to be in flames and a white flag was hoisted from the area of the Fort. The Sqn advanced and when within about mile, it encountered very heavy arty fire and then withdrew. Previous to this, 1 Tp TIVI at B. EL HAQHEIFA had observed a lorry enter SIDI AZEIZ by the BARDIA road, and return a short time after. This troop then withdrew SW on observing 24 enemy light tanks approaching him. Six of these tanks pursued him which he engaged capturing one of them. The Tp Ldr burnt the tank and took the crew of two, prisoners.

Meanwhile the Sqn withdrawing East encountered 9 enemy light tanks which pursued them. These were beaten off on reaching the frontier. Previous to the above, 1 troop TIVI proceeded to Pt. 177 East of SIDI AZEIZ. They approached BARDIA defences and saw Infantry dug in positions. Considerable enemy movement at B. SALEH EL GASSUM. The going NW and North of SIDI AZEIZ is hummocky and very slow."

I believe that's the same Sidi Azez from Fallen Eagles, which will later be the scene of the clash between M11s and Cruisers.
It looks like there were 2 "cars" on the battle of June 16th (Battle of Nezuet Ghirba ).

Same war diary:

"Information was then received that 300 Infantry had been seen at 503366 protected by 17 light tanks and 40 MET moving West from that point, and that a second Troop under 2Lt Dier was also in action. This information was passed to Bde with a request for some A/Tk guns, but owing to wireless silence it was not acknowledged and orders were sent to Major Miller to call in all his patrols from the wire and FORT CAPUZZO.

2Lt Gape, although he only had 2 cars, advanced from SE on the column which had 6 light tanks in front and rear, and travelling much faster past the rear guard more or less unobserved, immediately attacked the lorries which halted and dismounted the men. Heavy casualties were inflicted and the tanks attacked. Two were knocked out but he had to retire as they were too numerous for him. Although one car had a slow puncture, he got away and halted. All the tanks came after him and he was not in a good position, as they were trying to surround him, when 1Tp under 2Lt Dier arrived and knocked out one light tank and 2Lt Gape got 2 light tanks. The tanks then withdrew."

Later in the engagement:

"At about 1100 hrs the attack commenced, all Commanders having approved of the plan. One enemy gun soon opened fire at an accurate range, shortly followed by another gun firing at the approaching troop of the RHA, which moved wider to their right and were never under accurate fire again. The 11th Hussars were ordered to press forward on both flanks but not to close in across the Cruisers line of fire. The 7th Hussars were opposed by 7 light tanks which were immediately put out of action and upon approaching the position, went line ahead to the left and encircled the position to the right. By this time 4 guns, one at each corner, were in action. The guns were not silenced until the 7th Hussars had encircled the position 2 or 3 times and ammo lorries were on fire and the crews which had fought very bravely were killed or wounded. The 11th Hussars pursued and destroyed 7 lorries, some ammo and captured about 100 prisoners and 6 lorries."
Posting this one here so I don't lose it.
Same war diary:

11/7/40 B squadron

"At 1135 hrs 5Tp reported 6 lorries stationary at what he thought was BIR DLEUA. 4Tp was sent to join him and reported when he got there that he was 11 miles West of TAIEB EL ESSEM. This proved to be their correct position. 3Tp relieved 4Tp at 1245 hrs and 4Tp went to the South of EL GUBI to take up normal position of observation.
At 1250 hrs 5Tp, in observation of enemy lorries, reported intermittent rifle fire, not directed at them.
At 1651 hrs the two troops in observation of the enemy had an engagement with the enemy and reported they were fire on from moving lorries by arty. The guns were of 1.5 calibre and had a range of about 2,500 yards. The Troops had to withdraw but later the enemy withdrew towards EL GUBI. The Troops were then ordered to break contact and take up their normal positions. It is thought that the enemy force consisted of about 10 to 15 lorries and that it never actually reached TAIEB EL ESSEM, but turned around..."


Many thanks Melara, 16 June combat it seems Cruisers were present. I have 11 Hussars on Rolls armored cars, 7th Hussars indeed have a small number of cruisers (7 A9/A10 in my notes) but i am surprised to see cruisers at front already in 16 June.

Your last post seems the first use of "autocannoni" albeit adhoc in nature.

It seems the CV tankettes were more of an hindrance, they were penetrated by any heavy machine gun, to not talk about Boys rifles, and with less mobility than a Rolls car in most circumstances.


New Member
Hi Dili
I have many doubts that in Tunisia, especially during front-line actions, L3 cars were used because they had long since been replaced in line by L6-type wagons. The last unit to have used them I think was the 10th light tank company a provisional unit formed for the garrison of Barce airport in 1942 which still had 22 efficient in May 1942.
All the best
Dili, I think he's confusing it with the little L6 47/32 Semovente which appears in some propaganda video about Kasserine/Tunisia.
I would honestly disregard all the Tank Encyclopedia articles dated before 2017.
Okay thank you both.
No problem.

This is from an old Wikipedia article (Siege of Tobruk) with a questionable source I could never really check:

N.Africa- " Two companies get off their motor lorries and extend in battle order. All sorts of light signals go up - green, white, red. The flares hiss down on our own MGs. It is already too late to take aim. Well, the attack is a failure. The little Fiat Ansaldos go up in front with flamethrowers in order to clean up the triangle. Long streaks of flame, thick smoke, filthy stink. we provide cover until 2345 hours, then retire through the gap. It is a mad drive through the dust. At 0300 hours have snack beside the tank. 24 hours shut up in the tank, with frightful cramp as a result - and thirsty!"
Panzer officer of the 5th Light Division Tobruk, April 1941 - 1 May 1941, AFV News, Wikipedia,( Siege of Tobruk)

I considered it questionable at the time because the source was a dead link and eventually removed.
Some quotes from Mussolini Unleashed 1939-1941 (Knox):

"In a latter to Badoglio on 20th June, Balbo pointed out that his tanks had only machine guns. The British armoured cars "riddle them with rounds which merrily perforate the armour". War under these conditions, heconcluded dramatically, had the character of a contest "of meat against iron". He requested fifty German tanks and fifty armoured cars to spearhead the drive into Egypt, "the only [front] in the world where the British can be attacked directly, at a vital point - the Suez Canal - and our certain, shattering success (if we had a few armoured fighting vehicles) would have a moral and material effect of the first importance" ----Balbo to Badoglio 16/6/40 La Preparazione

Comments are probably based on the result of the June 16th battle which was only 4 days prior.


Yep. It also shows that Balbo wake up again but this time too late, and he was one of the less worse in the whole armed forces. Regio Esercito seem to have some periods where it seems be able to reform but then go letargic again. I mean they had hundreds of armored cars in WWI.


Staff member
N.Africa- " Two companies get off their motor lorries and extend in battle order. All sorts of light signals go up - green, white, red. The flares hiss down on our own MGs. It is already too late to take aim. Well, the attack is a failure. The little Fiat Ansaldos go up in front with flamethrowers in order to clean up the triangle. Long streaks of flame, thick smoke, filthy stink. we provide cover until 2345 hours, then retire through the gap. It is a mad drive through the dust. At 0300 hours have snack beside the tank. 24 hours shut up in the tank, with frightful cramp as a result - and thirsty!"
Panzer officer of the 5th Light Division Tobruk, April 1941 - 1 May 1941, AFV News, Wikipedia,( Siege of Tobruk)
This is quite likely to be true. The L3 l.f. continued in use up until 1943. It was a useful vehicle for what it was designed to do: bring a flame thrower into the fight. The machine-gun version was quickly withdrawn from frontline service because they couldn't provide anything useful to the fight except sacrifice their crews.
Here's the original article, now archived on military wiki:

  1. Bradford, George R.. "Firsthand report from a Panzer Officer of the 5th Light Division, April 1941: Tobruk, 1 May 1941". AFV News. Archived from the original on 2009-10-26.[unreliable source?]
Both the 1st and 2nd link takes you to the same diary.