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Organization of the Libyan units


Staff member
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.


Staff member
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.
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


Staff member
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.
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.
Rome SME Archive (various documents)
Diary of the Maraventano Column
War without Hope (Gazzera)
All the best

Invia commenti





Staff member
I have copied the discussion of Eritrean and Somali Battalions to a new thread. This will make the info easier to search. Please continue any discussion of the units in A.O.I. in that thread. Let's keep this thread focused on the Libyan units.


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


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.
Actually saw the divisional equipment table i don't think that the divisional btl follow this organization.
there was not 47/32 in the infantry "raggruppamento" the table show only 8 47/32 and the division had a AT coy where this weapons belong
the division table give 216 fm and this is right for a 36 weapons for each rifle btl
give also 66 mtg this is right for the 12 in artillery and 9 for each rifle btl


Staff member

Thank you for the comment. Which divisional equipment table are you reading? The two I have read agree that there was only eight 47/32 c.c in the d. lib.

The detailed information Struttura, uniformi, distintivi ed insegne delle truppe libiche 1912-1943 clearly show the two guns in each battalion. It also states that the two divisional cp. c.c. were raised for the divisions. It doesn't state that the divisional battalions had a different organization than the separate battalions.

So how can I explain the difference? Without access to the original documents, it is hard to reconcile the various bits of information.

-Where did the second cp. 47/32 c.c. come from for each of the d. lib. in Dec?
-2º d. lib had 18 47/32 c.c. in Dec (see La prima offensiva britannica in A.S. pp. 94-95). Where did these 2 extra guns come from.
-Where did the 14 47/32 c.c. with ragg. «Maletti» come from?

It could be that while the organization table for the d. lib. indicated a change in the battalion structure, the battalion table itself had not been changed. Given the early loss of these divisions, the table for divisional Libyan battalions was never formally changed.

Just some thoughts.

Pista! Jeff


That on "Storia delle forze armate in italia" by Lucio Ceva, pg 444
Also infantry rgt would have a cmp of 47/32 but they have a 65/17 btry
the take units from divisions in the west frontier and sent in the east frontier, here at example for the July 25th
unlucky the original source regioesercito.it not working fine

p.s. i find a working link on the original page http://www.regioesercito.it/reparti/artiglieria/odbart.htm

we have also the actual equipment for the 1st Division at 1st june, this show
208 fm, 156 mg and 28 pieces
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Very interesting discussion ... but I would like to say ... equally unfortunate in the subject ... also because unfortunately it lacks many first-hand or archival evidence over time ..... in my opinion unfortunately even the official sources have sometimes made a bit of confusion handling the few official data of the time with a lot of superficiality and lack of official "anchors" always instead in my opinion to be mentioned. In any case, the certain data in this case is that repeatedly cited by the secondary sources of the existence at the outbreak of the war of only 2 companies of 8 pieces each of 47/32 of colonial composition, that is the 1st assigned to the 1st Libyan division and the 2nd assigned to the 2nd Libyan. Therefore, the great mystery of the ..... multiplication of undercarriage pieces assigned to divisions during Compass remains as Jeff rightly sees. For the 1st division some references exist in the SME sources and also in perhaps the most authoritative treatise of Montù (vol 22) which reports assigned to the division in reinforcement the 203.a 47/32 company of the Catanzaro division even if the mystery of the pieces that are 10 at 25/7/1940 (Montu) and then suddenly move to 16 at Sidi el Barrani (SME vol 1 Sidi el Barrani) .. Similar hindrance then also for the 2nd division which results at 25/7 / 1940 (Montu ') with as many as 18 pieces in charge and then down to 16 in Sidi el Barrani (SME vol 1 Sidi el Barrani). In this second case, the SME volume specifies the belonging of the second (reinforcement) company to the GAF .... Finally, as regards the colonial battalions it is established that they did not have any 47/32 piece in charge of their own having replaced with 20mm Soluthurn counter-tank guns the planned battalion counter-tank armament ... Lastly, the Maletti Group. There should be no doubt about that .. since the 1st volume SME on the Italian offensive by Sidi el Barrani explicitly declares that the Grouping and the armaments belonging to it derived exclusively from Tripolitania and from the South it seems almost obvious that the two 47/32 tank destroyers were armed with personnel and vehicles from the Tripolitania GAF.
All the best


Maurizio, the 2 only libyan coy with 47/32 had 8 pieces each or would had 8 pieces each for your source?
actually i don't see nothing of strange of changing the guns number overtime, they can get new guns from supply line or get also get new attached unit, as they can lose guns for warfare or accidents or give to other unit
yes 8 pieces ...initially.....
yes it is true and I am not surprised but for me the thing a bit incredible is that the 2nd Libyan division has gone from 8 to 18 pieces in the space of two months and then back to 16 .... most likely the pieces that the division had in July were pieces "loaned" by other units .....
All the best


I don't see that strange, it is possible that they lost 2 guns so it is 16. The others like you said were given by other units due the particular mission of that division. I always found the RE very flexible in moving units around.