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Isbuscenskij Charge Post by Arturo Lorioli

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Posted 14 May 2003 - 12:15 PM by Jim H

1)- NAME: the correct name of the battle should be Isbuschenskij. It’s
sometimes reported in English sources as Chebotarevsky (I guess that the
correct spelling should be Tscherbotarewskij, but with Russians names ...
who knows!) but that location was actualy 6kms south of the batterfield, and
was the location of the Italian HQ in that sector. Strange how both the
references in English I have found use this name, that I have never found in
any Italian source.

2)- OOB: the russians were the 812th Fusiliers Rgt. (guess that it was a
Siberian unit, and it proved to be a very combattive one). The CD2 TO&E; for
the Italian Cavalry Rgt. shoud be slightly corrected, as follows:
- The MG Squadron (5th Squadron) did not carry its MGs on carts. The MMGs
and their ammos were carried on pack horses, so it should be better to give
them 4 x"MMG Cavalry Stands" (must dismount to fire).
- The AT battery was attached only later in the year.
- Each Squadron was organized either on 4 platoons (30 men each), or on 3
platoons, (39 men each ). This latter organization was implemented during
the war, but I do not have any definitive source on how the Savoia was
organized at the moment of the batlle. In both cases each Squadron should be
*possibly* better represented by 3 x Cavalry Stands instead of 2.

3)- THE BATTLE: the russian Rgt. had approached during the night to a short
distance in front of the Italian lines, where it waited in "light
entrenchments" to start an attack . Their position was quite concealed from
view by the very high grass present in the zone, and by several folds of the
ground. At dawn pickets of the Savoia noticed the presence of the enemy
forces, and the commander of the "Savoia Cavalleria" Rgt., Col. Bettoni,
ordered an immediate charge.
The formation of the Rgt was, at the moment, on two lines (first line – left
to right - 4th and 3rd Squadrons : second line - left to right 1st, 5th and
2nd Squadrons). The 5th Squadron (MG Squadron) moved forward, dismounted,
and "fixed" with its fire the front line of the Russians., while the 2nd
Squadron started to move in a large circle to the right , apparently away
from the Russians, in coloumn of platoons. But as soon as it had gained a
slightly advanced position it performed a quick left wheel by platoons, and
charged with good elan in the middle of the Russian formation in line
formation, crossing all their position diagonaly, accompained by a section
of MMG of the 5th Squadron that, having found no time to dismount, charged
swords in hand with the rest.
Having reached the back of the Russian lines, the Squadron quickly reformed
and charged back along the same line. Albeit utterly surprised and haevy
disrupted by the quickness and violence of the charge, the Russians reacted
immediatelly and very creditably, moving forward against the Italian main
position with decision while severly engaging the now hard pressed 2nd
Squadron. To extricate the 2nd Squadron and break the impetus of the Russian
advance Col.Bettoni launched the dismounted 4th Squadron in a frontal
"dismounted charge" (cavalry slang!) that managed to stall for a few moment
the Russian assault. At this critical point the 3rd Squadron was launched in
a mounted charge too, diagonaly like the 2nd, while the dismounted 1st
Squadron started a turning movement on the left flank. A vicious
hand-to-hand fighting followed, until the Russians broke the field. As proof
of the bitterness of the fight and the remarkable "pluck" of both sides the
losses of the Savoia were 39 KIA and 79 WIA (about 20% of the engaged
force), while the Russians reportedly lost about 150 KIA and about 900
prisoners (over 300 of them WIA), plus 4x76mm field guns, 10x82mm mortars
and about 50x MGs. Immediately after the end of the fighting, the chivalrous
Col.Bettoni ordered a mounted "march past" of the Squadrons on the
battlefield with lowered swords, "in honour off all the fallen on the field
of honour".

3)- "COLOUR" NOTES:
- Colonel Count Alessandro Bettoni di Cazzago, later decorated with the
Military order of Savoy, the highest Italian military award, was one of the
most famous obstacle-jump horseman in Europe: in the 10 years before WWII he
took part to 237 jump-contests winning a staggering 699 prizes. He was also
a fervent monarchist, and when in 1946 the monarchy was abolished in Italy
he "purloined" the old and battle-strained Royal Flag of the Regiment, and
took it to the exiled king in Portugal. For that he was court-martialed,
reduced in rank and "dishonourably discharged" from the Army.
- Another distinghuished horseman of the Savoia Cavalleria Rgt was Cpt.Abba,
that (IIRC!) won a silver medal at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936
(cross-country horse race, again IIRC).
- For You 20mm gamers, note that the Italian Mod.1871 sabres were burnished
(black-plated), but a good number of troopers used "liberated" polished
steel cossak M-1935 "saska"s, that were much appreciated for their
razor-sharp blades and for their resistance to icy weather. All the mounted
part of the battle of Isbuschenskij was fought with sabres and
hand-grenades.
- Again for You 20mm gamers (or the VERY skilled 1/300 ones!) the "Savoia
Cavalleria" was the only rgt. of the Italian cavalry to wear red neck-ties
(in memory of a Savoia trooper that allegedly reported to the Duke of Savoy
the new of a Piedmontese victory at the battle of Torino - 1706, War of the
Spanish Succession - managing to say just "Savoie, bonne nouvelles!" -
Savoy, good news! - before his death for a ghastly and red-blooding wound to
the neck. His last words has been inscribed on the crest of the Regiment
since then). It was also custom of the Italian cavalry to always wear the
parade-dress white gloves before the charges, but as Isbuschenskij was a
rather "surprise" engagement, I doubt that they managed to find the time to
honour this tradition in this battle.
- Actually Isbuschenskij was not the last charge of the Italian cavalry in
WWII. This (dubious) honour goes to the now disbanded "Cavaleggeri di
Alessandria" Rgt. at Poloij in Croazia, on October 17th 1942, when the whole
rgt performed a desperate night charge to break through the encirclement of
a well entrenched Communist partisans "brigade". The charge was successfull,
but with shattering losses and, due to the very broken ground and the nature
of the night engagement, without the tactical finesse displayed by the
Savoia at Isbuschenskij.

Actualy the Savoia performed the charge almost "by the book", following the
1931 Cavalry Regulation, that is:
1)- Frontal engagement of the enemy by dismounted fire-action
2)- Mounted manouver against a flank of the enemy.
3)- Support of the mounted action by dismounted action.
4)- Exploitation of success by further mounted manouver.
The phases were to be enacted by separate Squadrons, "feeded" in the battle
at intervals so that the Rgt. could always count on available tactical
reserves. I apologize for the lenghty description of the battle, but it is
such a nice example of "modern" cavalry tactics that I guess it could be of
good interest for the more "exoteric" minded gamers.


I also faintly remember to have seen a booklet by the Italian Army
Historical Office about the charge, but in case it ought to be an early
post-war work, long out of print.
AFAIK there is not much else of "technical" published about this small
battle.

But I would suggest all the same "Isbuscenskij - L'Ultima Carica" by Lucio
Lami, published by Mursia, ISBN 8842522511.

The title is quite misleading, as the book is not really about the charge
itself (less than 20 pages about that!) but about the whole campaign of the
Savoia Cavalleria Rgt in Russia. It's not even terribly well detailed on the
purely "technical-military" aspect, but it's a magnificent rendering of the
"feeling" of this proud and ancient regiment in war, in its day-to-day
common small stories. If You are interested in gaining a not-bombastic,
not-derogatory impression of the italian soldiers in war this book is well
worth a reading. IMHO, of course.

This post by

Arturo F.Lorioli
Via Cipro 47
00136 Roma (Italy)
e-Mail: [email protected]
 

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A Twitter user stated there was an error in the article Isbuscenskij Charge of August 24, 1942

He referred to the part about "At the end of September, the regiment arrived on the banks of the Dnieper. On 25 October, it took part in the conquest and occupation of Stalingrad with the 3rd Regiment Bersaglieri and the German 11th Army."

Was it the German 6th Army or something altogether different? Please forgive my ignorance. I am more of a webmaster than a WWII historian!
 

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
I believe this is a translation issue. The city should be Stalino, not Stalingrad. The dates and units match. At that time, the C.S.I.R. was operating as part of the German 11th Army. The article was originally written in Italian, then translated into English. The author likely didn't check the accuracy of the translation, or he confused Stalino with Stalingrad.

Pista! Jeff
 

Webmaster

Administrator
Staff member
I believe this is a translation issue. The city should be Stalino, not Stalingrad. The dates and units match. At that time, the C.S.I.R. was operating as part of the German 11th Army. The article was originally written in Italian, then translated into English. The author likely didn't check the accuracy of the translation, or he confused Stalino with Stalingrad.

Pista! Jeff
Thank you, Jeff! I'll fix that now.
 
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