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Motorisation of Italian artillery in Operation Crusader November 1941

WAKEN

New Member
Hi all,

At the time of Operation Crusader in November 1941 the German artillery included a number of 'static' artillery units, principally Coastal Artillery Battalions 523, 528, 529 and 533 (equipped with captured French 155mm guns). They were 'static' as there was no intrinsic transport in those units.

How much of the Italian artillery was motorised?

Ariete - presumably fully motorised
Trieste - presumably fully motorised
Trento - presumably fully motorised
Savona - presumably static, i.e. with no intrinsic transport
Bardia Fortress - presumably static, i.e. with no intrinsic transport
XXI Corps - 5 Artillery Regiment??
XXI Corps - 8 Artillery Regiment??
XXI Corps - 16 Artillery Regiment??
Brescia ??
Pavia ??
Bologna ??
RECAM - presumably fully motorised

If anyone has any information on this or an educated opinion please let me know.

Thanks,

Neil
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I read this same question on AHF.

All the Italian artillery ICW their formazione di guerra (TO&E) was motorized in A.S. except those units which are da posizione or costiera. Members such as Andreas can discuss how much of the artillery had the required vehicles on hand during Crusader. If the «Savona» artillery was static, it was because given their assigned mission at the time, their vehicles were pulled to support other tasks.

The authorization of vehicles instead of animals is one of the main differences between the d. autotrasportabile and the d. autotrasportabile tipo A.S.

Pista! Jeff
 

WAKEN

New Member
Thanks very much Jeff. Do you have any information on the Corps artillery units?

I have seen a photo of a heavy truck towing a trailer in which a 152/37 is being carried in summer 1941 outside Tobruk. Whether LII/8 had that transport intrinsic to it or whether that was assigned purely to move the guns into their positions around Tobruk is the question I'm asking. The same query applies to those units with the old 149/35s in 5th Artillery Regiment.

I assume that the modern 149/40s of XXXIII/8 and 149/28s of CXXXI/8 and CLXVII/8 would have had their own instrinsic artillery tractors.

Similarly my assumption is that the GAF artillery units with 77/28s (341/340, 342/340 and 343/340), would not have had intrinsic tractors.

Cheers, Neil
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
According to the Formazioni provvisorie di guerra di alcune unità metropolitane per l'A.S. (Provisional organization for war of some metropolitan units in A.S.) dated May 1940 with updates, all those units have their own trucks/tractors.

G.a.F. artillery can vary. If it is da posizione, it wouldn't have the trucks to make it mobile. Any G.a.F. units that have been assigned to the field forces would have their own transport.

But as I stated, the truck situation in A.S. drove decisions to strip trucks from some units on a temporary basis for other tasks. One significant example was the d. moto. «Trento». Trucks were taken from it during 1941 and then replaced, only to be taken again. By the end of 1941, the division was reclassified as an infantry division.

It is unlikely that the trucks were taken from artillery units. The need to displace to avoid counter fire would make these units vulnerable if the trucks were removed. Artillery was a significant way to reinforce threatened sectors or to reinforce attacks so mobility was an important factor..

Someone who has actually dug into the truck situation during Crusader needs to give a definite answer. On paper, all the artillery units with the field army were motorized.

Pista! Jeff
 

Andreas

New Member
I disagree with Jeff, and my assumption is that most of anything that had wheels was drawn off the units to enable supply to be brought forward.

There was a substantial dumping program going on in the run-up to CRUSADER as the Axis were preparing for their own attack on 21 November. Furthermore, the guns were in a siege situation, with only very weak CB capability of Fortress Tobruk posing a threat (See artillery OOB here: https://rommelsriposte.com/2014/05/08/artillery-order-of-battle-tobruk-fortress-5-november-1941/).

All the best

Andreas
 

WAKEN

New Member
Thanks Andreas. That makes sense and would match the situation with the German artillery, e.g. the coastal artillery battalions with 155mm guns with no intrinsic transport.

Cheers
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Andreas, I was hoping you would join the conversation. Your knowledge of Crusadrer signficantly outstrips mine.

I will play a little devil's advocate. This is not to say you are wrong and I am right or the reverse. It is only to demonstrate that the situation is far more nuanced than a simple 'they didn't have trucks'.

Most certainly creating ammo and supply dumps happened during this period. And most certainly trucks from the artillery units were used as part of that effort. The question is whether the artillery units still controlled their trucks or whether they were fully removed from their command/control. My example of the «Trento» is one where the trucks were fully taken from the unit, not to be returned but magically replaced by replacements from Italy. Artillery units could be tasked to use their trucks to transport supplies to their own dumps. The trucks would still be theirs and available at all times except when they were on the road hauling those supplies. There are multiple examples of divisional level transport ordered back to move supplies forward when the LOC became too long. The unit still retained command of the vehicles. There is nothing different in this example than what normally happened every day (unit vehicles going back to draw supplies) except for the lenght of time they might be gone.

I will point out that the tractors used to move many of the larger pieces were unsuitable to transport supplies. Looking at the FdG of the army and corps level artillery units, they used tractors exclusively for the artillery pieces. They would need trailers to haul any meaningful amount of supplies and those too were in short supply. The number of trailers in the artillery units neatly matches the number of heavy trucks in those units. It was highly unlikely that the tractors were taken away from units. How many vehicles would need to remain with the batteries to conduct fire missions? How far were the dumps from the batteries and how was ammo moved between the two?

How do we define motorized at a specific point in time? If the tractors and the vehicles needed to execute fire missions (FDC, C&C, maintenance, etc) remained with the batteries but the remainder are gone, is that unit still motorized? Understand that completely removing the vehicles means that these units were fixed and couldn't move. Manpower isn't going to transport a 149/35 gun.

I still feel that the complete removal of all the trucks/tractors from batteries was quite unlikely. However I could be wrong.
That makes sense and would match the situation with the German artillery, e.g. the coastal artillery battalions with 155mm guns with no intrinsic transport.

No, it is not the same. The Italian batteries, except those I have mentioned all had vehicle authorizations that made them 100% mobile. Where those vehicles were during Crusader is the question. The German coastal batteries and the Italian da posizione, costiera, and certain G.a.F. batteries didn't have enough authorized vehicles to be mobile on their own. Their movement was entirely dependent on vehicles from other units.

Again just some thoughts. I certainly don't have the details needed to make a determination for each specific unit during Crusader.

If we are discussing the design of a game, a simple rule that allows the surge of transport for supplies while immobilizing the motorized units would simply resolve the issue.

Pista! Jeff
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I will note that this discussion is happening under the presumption that trucks were taken from artillery units for extended periods of time. Is there any data that supports this, or is this a general assumption based on the known Axis logistical challenges?
 

Andreas

New Member
I will note that this discussion is happening under the presumption that trucks were taken from artillery units for extended periods of time. Is there any data that supports this, or is this a general assumption based on the known Axis logistical challenges?
Not much to add, as it is all speculative. I do note Navarini's repeat complaint about the lack of motor vehicles in XXI. CA. here: http://rommelsriposte.com/2018/03/1...-tripolitania-report-by-lt-gen-enea-navarini/

Given this, my starting assumption (!) is that they would have trucks drawn of the units. Not necessarily tractors, but remember that even heavy guns were transported on the back of trucks quite often (similar to the M13 tanks), rather than being towed by prime movers. As these were all-purpose trucks, I see little incentive to not strip them off the units in a siege situation when you are short of MT anyway, and have a dumping program underway.

All the best

Andreas
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Andreas

I don't disagree with with any of your comments. I can only repeat what has been previously stated, that all the Italian artillery was motorized. What the various commands did with those trucks varied over time and situation.

I do note Navarini's repeat complaint about the lack of motor vehicles in XXI. CA. here:

Navarini commanded the XXI Cd'A, a non-motorized formation. His lack of trucks was by design, not due to decisions made on where to use the XXI Cd'A trucks (although those decisions likely made his truck situation worst). Navarini was able to move his corps during Rommel's second offensive. It wasn't pretty, but his corps actually moved in the way Italian doctrine said it would move, by shifts and stages. Even with a full strength autogruppo, the XXI Cd'A could not move all of it units using the assets within the corps in one movement. I will comment that when the X Cd'A retreated from El Alamein, they were able to move their artillery (see Montanari vol. III pp.800-801). The trucks were there, and the logistical situation could be considered worst than around Tobruk during Crusader.

But even my example doesn't matter, it was situational. The status of whether a unit was motorized or not likely changed on a weekly basis. All the Italian units in A.S. (artillery, services, etc.) except for the bulk of the infantry (those not in motorized or armoured divisions) were motorized by the FdGs (TO&E).

Pista! Jeff
 
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Andreas

New Member
Hi Jeff

I don't disagree with anything you say either. I've gone through the XXI C.A. war diary as far as I hold it and there's really nothing that immediately springs out in terms of relevant information. One would need the unit war diaries to come to an informed conclusion. Unfortunately it is a lot easier to access information for the Germans than for the Italians.

All the best

Andreas
 

Kustosz2137

New Member
Thanks very much Jeff. Do you have any information on the Corps artillery units?

I have seen a photo of a heavy truck towing a trailer in which a 152/37 is being carried in summer 1941 outside Tobruk. Whether LII/8 had that transport intrinsic to it or whether that was assigned purely to move the guns into their positions around Tobruk is the question I'm asking. The same query applies to those units with the old 149/35s in 5th Artillery Regiment.

I assume that the modern 149/40s of XXXIII/8 and 149/28s of CXXXI/8 and CLXVII/8 would have had their own instrinsic artillery tractors.

Similarly my assumption is that the GAF artillery units with 77/28s (341/340, 342/340 and 343/340), would not have had intrinsic tractors.

Cheers, Neil
I think I know the photo you are talking about, iirc at least the trailer originally belonged to IX. Battaglione Carri M, not sure about the truck, cause it was barely visible.
 
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