Organization of the Libyan units

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
This thread documents the organization of the Libyan units. The intent is document any changes during the war by date. Please comment/correct.

The main source used is:
Struttura, uniformi, distintivi ed insegne delle truppe libiche 1912-1943 by Ales, Crociani, and Viotti - USSME 2012

Elements in italics indicate that the unit’s organization was previously listed.

Ranks. The following is a rough idea of each rank. A definitive source would be welcome.

Scium basci - senior sergeant (or sergeant-major)
Basci - sergeant
Muntaz - corporal
Ascari - soldier

1940

Buluc fucilieri
(infantry squad)
Buluc basci
2 Muntaz
11 ascari fucilieri
1 ascari porta arma tiratori (w/1 Breda 30).
No specific number of ammunition bearers is mentioned, so some of the ascari would carry additional ammunition. The squad would likely operate in two gruppi, a gruppo fucilieri e gruppo f.m.

Buluc pattugliatori e tiratori scelti (reconnaissance and sharpshooter squad)
Buluc basci
2 muntaz
6 ascari fucilieri

Plotone fucilieri (infantry platoon)
Ufficiale subalterno comandante
Scium basci
Two riding animals
Three buluc fucilieri
One buluc pattugliatori e tiratori scelti


Compagnia fucilieri (infantry company)
Plotone commando
-Buluc comando
-Three buluc mitraglieri each with 9 ascari and one mitragliatrice pesante.
Three plotoni fucilieri

Battaglione fucilieri (infantry battalion)
Comando (commander, adjutant, and medical officer)
Compagnia comando ed armi da accompagnamento
-Plotone comando with squadra maggiorità, buluc servizi, zappatori, e collegamenti.
-Plotone mitraglieri with three buluc mitraglieri
-Plotone cannoni da 47/32 with two buluc cannoni, each with one 47/32 cc.
Three compagnia fucilieri

Battalion Total:
19 ufficiali, 5 sottufficiali, 6 nazionali e 661 ascari. One autovettura, nine autocarri pesanti, two motociclette, 2 cannoni, 12 mitragliatrici, 27 fucili mitragliatori.
 
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Frederico

New Member
Thank you for posting this, Jeff -it's very helpful!

I have a couple of follow up questions:

  • When the battalions were organized into Divisions in 1940, did they keep their AT guns or were they put into a separate unit under divisional control?
  • Were the nine autocarri pesanti organic to the battalion, or issued out from a higher unit, like a corps motor pool?

Frederico
 

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Frederico

The cp. c.c. libiche were separate units organized in 1939. AFAIK the 47/32 c.c. in the btg. remained in the battalions. Operationally, the c.c. could have been organized into ad hoc units, but I doubt that happened in practice.

The autocarri pesanti were organic to the unit. Unlike regular infantry, the Libyan units usually operated independently. When the d. lib were formed, the battalions were organized into raggruppamenti, not reggimenti.
 

diciassette2000

New Member
Hi
In the whole of the Royal Army and for the duration of the war only two Libyan 8-piece anti-tank batteries were mobilized each (1.a and 2.a battery). The batteries were assigned to the 1st and 2nd Libyan divisions and both were lost to Sidi el Barrani. In practice the only job that saw the two batteries as protagonists was Barrani's brief fight during Compass which also decreed their end. It should also be noted that the Libyan infantry battalions never received their expected 47/32 pieces due to their chronic shortage. Inside the battalions the two 47/32 pieces provided by the 1940 organic tables were (not in all cases) replaced by 20mm Soluthurn pieces. (example 2. Libyan division) (Source AUSSME folder 264)
All the best
Maurizio
 

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Compagnia cannoni da 47/32
Comando
Plotone comando
Three plotoni cannoni, each with two 47/32 c.c.
Total: 4 ufficiali, one sottufficiale, three nazionali e 790 libici. Seven autocarri pesanti, one leggero, one motocicletta, six 47/32 c.c.

Batteria da 20mm mod. 1935
Comando
Three sezione, each with three 20mm mod. 35
Autocarreggio
Total: Four ufficiali, three sottufficiali, three nazionali e 95 libici. 15 autocarri autocarro FIAT SPA "Dovunque", nine 20mm mod. 35.

Gruppo artiglieria autoportata
Comando
Three batteria, each with four guns.
Reparto M.V.A. (munizioni, viveri, acqua).
Total: 19 ufficiali, 26 sottufficiale, 23 nazionali e 352 libici, 26 autieri (drivers) nazionali, 92 autieri libici. Six autovetture, 76 autocarri (of which twelve are gun carriers).

Battaglione misto del genio libico
(Only Libyans are provided in the breakout below. Nationals are listed in the total, but no breakout is provided)
Comando with nine libici, four of which are drivers and motorcyclists.
Compagnia artieri
-Comando with nine libici
-Plotone operai (Work platoon) with one attendente and two drivers
-Plotone artieri with 47 libici (of which 20 road repairers and unskilled workers) and four specialist graduali
-Plotone idrico (water drillers and transporters) with 20 libici including specialists.
-parco autocarrato (vehicle park) with 21 libici including drivers and mechanics.
Compagnia trasmettitori
-Comando
-three plotone trasmettitori with 53 libici, including 41 operators and 9 heliograph operators.
Reparto fotoelettrici with nine libici of which three are drivers/mechanics.
Total: 17 ufficiali, 27 sottufficiali, 211 nazionali e 334 graduati e soldati libici. No equipment is provided.
 
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diciassette2000

New Member
Jwsleser
The ones you listed are organic theoretical tables issued by the SME before the start of the war. Unfortunately, the Libyan units never had those staff and they had to resort, among other things, to the aid both of the GAF departments and of some organic units to other divisions to reach the minimum number of staff. It must be remembered that at the beginning of the campaign the average endowment of a Libyan battalion did not exceed the number of a truck each. For the first phase of the campaign (attack on Sidi Barrani) both Libyan divisions had to be amply supplied with trucks belonging to the Army and Army Corps groups. In Sidi el Barrani during the Compass, in the ranks of the two divisions, both the 203. anti-tank company of Catanzaro and two detachments of GAF from 47/32 were present. I still made a mistake in writing because the two only companies (batteries) of 47/32 with Libyan personnel had 6 pieces instead of 8 as written by me ..... an error ....
all the best
Maurizio
 

Frederico

New Member
Maurizio,

I had been wondering about establishments versus reality. When the 20mm Solothurn were used in lieu of the 47/32, what was the ratio? Did they receive one 20mm for every 47/32 they didn't receive, or did they get more?

the average endowment of a Libyan battalion did not exceed the number of a truck each.
I'm not sure I understand. Do you mean, the only trucks the Libyans had, were those already in their battalions?

Frederico
 

diciassette2000

New Member
Hi Frederico
Unfortunately at the beginning of the war the Royal Army did not have enough 47/32 pieces in Libya to satisfy all the organic tables relating to all the units present in the territory. But it had a fairly (relatively) large number of Soluthurn rifles (around 100). They were used to subrogate the anti-tank pieces of some units as well as being in some cases given surplus to others. In the case of the Libyan battalions, only the organic battalions of the divisions and the Maletti Group (only the units at Sidi El Barrani) received 2 pieces each. According to my research, however, it seems that the 1st Libyan division did not actually have these pieces or had much less but unfortunately I do not have certainties about this last possibility. As for motor vehicles, the scarcity of these was also endemic at the beginning of the conflict. Therefore, in order to back up many of the Great Unities presently present in Libya, they resorted to the aid of the Army and Army Corps parks. The Libyan units (not the Maletti that was motorized on their own) received many of these trucks while the battalions were actually very few or very few.
All the best
Maurizio
 

Frederico

New Member
Hi Maurizio,

In the case of the Libyan battalions, only the organic battalions of the divisions and the Maletti Group (only the units at Sidi El Barrani) received 2 pieces each. According to my research, however, it seems that the 1st Libyan division did not actually have these pieces or had much less but unfortunately I do not have certainties about this last possibility.
When, you say pieces, do you mean the 47/32 or the Solothurn Rifle? Sorry for my confusion.

Frederick
 

diciassette2000

New Member
Remember also that the 1st and 2nd Libian division have each a coy (libian) of 47/32 at guns (6 pieces each)....The coy was deployed (at Barrani) in almost three detachment each.....
 

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Maurizio

Thank you for the additional information.

Yes, the information I am posting are the authorizations (TO&E). The reality on the ground, especially with the Italians, can be different. But the authorizations are a starting point as they give us what they should have on-hand.

Yes, there was a significant shortage of trucks. Note the trucks listed in the authorizations were to move heavy equipment, supplies, etc. They were not assigned to make the units 100% motorized. How many of these trucks were actually present, and of that number, how many were requisitioned for other uses (motorizing the ragg. Maletti, supporting the LOC, etc.) is unknown to us. Some trucks had to remain in the battalions, or these units would not have been able to move at all. While weapons like the 47/32 c.c. and the Solothurns could be pulled by manpower, boxes of ammunition and other supplies could not. With only nine trucks authorized, most of those trucks would be needed so those units could function.

100 Solothurns were purchased and flow to A.S. after 10 June. The rifles were organized into sezioni and compagnie. Struttura is unclear who received these weapons. The btg. in the ragg. Maletti did received Solothurns for its battalions. Maurizio has info that the 2º d. lib received the weapons.

Struttura states there were three cp. c.c. One was organized in August 1939, and two more in November 1939 (pp. 60-61).

Jeff
 

diciassette2000

New Member
Hi
In fact, the first supply of 20 mm Solothurn pieces arrived in Libya in late August 1940 but certainly Libyan troops were in charge of replacing the expected 47/32 pieces and in particular the Maletti Grouping (only the moving part) in the it had 10 plus 5 initially mounted on mobile platforms behind the transport trucks (with 30,000 piercing strokes in tow) while the 2nd Libyan division initially had 18. The Libyan 1st probably also had such pieces but over the years I could not find certain confirmation of their number and position. Remaining Libyan units before the battle of Sidi el Barrani (Compass) could deploy the following anti-tank weapons:
Maletti Grouping
- An anti-tank company (provisional) of 8 pieces of 47/32 in the stronghold of Nibewa
- A counter-tank company (provisional) of 6 pieces in the stronghold of Alam el Iktufa
-9 teams each armed with 1 Soluthurn 20mm rifle at Nibewa
- 4 armed single teams with 1 Soluthurn rifle in Alam el Iktufa
1. Libyan division
-1.a Libyan anti-tank company armed with 8 pieces of 47/32 (6 own pieces and 2 received from the GAF of Tobruk) in the stronghold of Wadi Maktila
-203.a anti-tank company of the Catanzaro division (received as a reinforcement by the Catanzaro division) armed with 8 pieces of 47/32 in the stronghold of Wadi Maktila
- ?????? Soluthurn rifles ?????
2. Libyan division
-2.a 47/32 anti-tank company armed with 8 pieces of 47/32 (6 own pieces and two received from the GAF of Tobruk)
- GAF provisional company (attacked)
The two anti-tank companies had been divided into detachments (platoons) and positioned as follows:
-5 platoons (10 pieces) in Tummar West
-1 platoon (2 pieces) in Tummar East
-3 platoons (6 pieces) in Ras el Day
-6 rifle squads with a piece each in Tummar West
-2 rifle squads with a piece each in Tummar East
- 4 rifle squads with a piece each in Ras el Day
(from SME fondo L23)
All the best
Maurizio
 

jwsleser

Member
Staff member
Maurizio

The two anti-tank companies had been divided into detachments (platoons) and positioned as follows:
-5 platoons (10 pieces) in Tummar West
-1 platoon (2 pieces) in Tummar East
-3 platoons (6 pieces) in Ras el Day
-6 rifle squads with a piece each in Tummar West
-2 rifle squads with a piece each in Tummar East
- 4 rifle squads with a piece each in Ras el Day
I assume these are all fucile controcarri S da 20mm?

Pista! Jeff
 

diciassette2000

New Member
HOOPs a my big mistake.....!!!!!
The two anti-tank companies had been divided into detachments (platoons) and positioned as follows:
-5 platoons (10 pieces 47/32) in Tummar West
-1 platoon (2 pieces 47/32) in Tummar East
-3 platoons (6 pieces 47/32) in Ras el Day
note) The Gaf provisional coy was 10x47/32
-6 rifle squads with a piece each in Tummar West (20mm Soluthurn)
-2 rifle squads with a piece each in Tummar East (20mm Soluthurn)
- 4 rifle squads with a piece each in Ras el Day (20mm Soluthurn)
excuse me for the hodgepodge....
All the best
Maurizio
 
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