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Organization of the Eritrean and Somali Battalions in A.O.I.

jwsleser

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Staff member
This was copied from the Organization of the Libyan units thread.

Frederico wrote on 1 Dec 2019


Were the Eritrean and Somali Battalions of AOI similarly organized [as the Libyan units]? [jwsleser comment to clarify the question]

jwsleser wrote on 1 Dec 2019

I would need to research to determine if they are the same. Given what I know of the Italian military, I would say similar but not necessarily the same.

Frederico wrote on 1 Dec 2019

I imagine their battalion would not have had the 47/32 cc. element.

jwsleser wrote on 2 Dec 2019

Le operazioni in Africa Orientale tomo I p. 41 states the battalions have three cp. fucilieri and a cp. mitr. with a total of 18 f.m. and 6 mitr. No other details are provided.

I have done a literature search to see if there is a similar book for the units in the A.O.I. to the one I have that addresses the Libyan units. I didn't find any books that might answer this question.

diciassette2000 wrote on 2 Dec 2019

Jeff is right, the TOE of the colonial battalions in AOI was that and many times especially in the case of the battalions formed for mobilization after Italy entered the war did not even reach those schemes. However, it is significant to understand the state of the art in AOI to remember that there were no 47/32 anti-tank guns and only 31 37mm guns that were used in company-level formations by non-colonial troops. Some Pb Boys rifles were also used in spizzichi as well as the ubiquitous 65/17 in "counter version" (with the usual very few effects especially in Keren against the few Matilda (a company) lined up by the British .......

All the best
Maurizio

Frederico wrote on 2 Dec 2019

While not much, it's still more information than I had before.

Assuming everything is distributed evenly, that's 6 f.m. per cp. fuciliere, as opposed to the Libyan's 9 per company. Could we assume that the Btg. Eritreo/Somalo had fewer platoons, i.e. two platoons per company?

jwsleser wrote on 2 Dec 2019

Another guess is two sq. f., with each squad having one f.m. Two sq. f. was the 1940 organization.

Or it could be three sq. f. and one sq. f.m. with two f.m. That was an earlier TO&E. In a colonial setting, keeping the f.m. as a separate unit/asset makes more sense as the pl. cmdt. had great control over a limited asset. The colonial units were operating against a reduced threat when compared to the expected threat metropolitan units were organized to counter.

I feel two pl. would be very unusual given the need for these colonial units to operate over a wide area.

It is not unusual for colonial organizations to continue using older organizations due to various reasons, including a lack of equipment or simply not seeing a need to change.

The Italians used a wide range of different squad/platoon/company organizations such that any combination is possible.

This is only conjecture. We need better information to make a firm determination.
 
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jwsleser

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Staff member
diciassette2000 wrote on 3 Dec 2019

Unfortunately very few historical journals and accounts of the time have come down to us and in my long research experience I have never found complete accounts of the status of colonial forces in AOI. It is known that the type of AOI type colonial battalion was the following:

-Command with a commanding officer, an assistant officer, 1 nurse, 1 medical officer and a non-commissioned officer of majority

-Company command with a command platoon, a service platoon and a baggage department

-3 companies riflemen each on 2 half-companies in turn each formed by 3 buluch (the buluch was nothing but the translation in Eritrea of the platoon that was commanded by a colonial non-commissioned officer = Buluchbashi)

- accompany machine-gunners on three platoons each of 3 teams for a total of 9 weapons

The theoretical total battalion was of 17 officers, 1 non-commissioned officer, 2 national radiotelegraphers (considered non-effective) and 1024 colonials with about 100 quadrupeds (mostly Abyssinian forklifts). The armament consisted of Mannlicher rifles (not all equipped with bayonet), rotating model 89 guns, 9 Schwarlose machine guns of the Austrian PB of the 1st World War, 18 submachine guns. The means of connection were represented by flags and some field telephones. It was also planned to assign a radio for battalion even if it was often missing and was not part of the standard staff. The clothing supply included a uniform of canvas and coat and cape, sandals, haversack, water bottle, tent and two camp blankets.

In reality, the battalion staff rarely exceeded 800 men in war assets and even more rarely surpassed them in those battalions conscripted after Italy entered the war. At brigade level

an example we find it both in the 3rd colonial brigade and on three battalions and a battery someggiata began the campaign with 2700 men and also in the 19.a brigade that always on three battalions and a battery began the campaign with 2750 men.

Sources:
Rome SME Archive (various documents)
Diary of the Maraventano Column
War without Hope (Gazzera)

All the best
Maurizio
 

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Maurizio

Isn't a buluch a squad?

From your description, it does appear that the colonial units in A.O.I. only had two platoons (half companies) in each company as Frederico speculated, with three squads in each platoon.

Are the nine f.m. a completely separate platoon within the company? IBWs, each company had two pl. f. and one platoon f.m. Each pl. f. had three sq. f. Each pl. f.m. had three sq. f.m.

Jeff
 
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jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Le operazioni in Africa Orientale tomo I p. 41 also states that a brigade consisted of 3-5 battalions and a gruppo artiglieria with one or two batteries. The guns were usually someggiate da 65/17.

Jeff
 

Frederico

New Member
Are the nine f.m. a completely separate platoon within the company? IBWs, each company had two pl. f. and one platoon f.m. Each pl. f. had three sq. f. Each pl. f.m. had three sq. f.m.

Jeff
I think Maurizio was referring to the mitragliatrice pesante Schwarzlose, not the f.m.
 

jwsleser

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Staff member

diciassette2000

New Member
Hi
The "buluch" is an untranslatable term in Italian, in fact it was a cross between the team and the platoon like the "half company". The Italians were masters in creating terms that they wanted to say and they didn't mean (example: self-transportable division) ....
Excuse the faulty translation .....
"accompanying machine-gunners on three platoons of 3 teams for a total of 9 weapons" is to be read as:
- a company of three platoons each with 3 Schwarlose heavy machine guns of Austrian war prey (1st world war)
All the best
maurizio
 
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