Giovani Fascisti (GGFF) – 136th Armored Division

Background on the GGFF

Contrary to popular belief, the “Giovani Fascisti” (Young Fascists, or GGFF) were not part of the MVSN (Fascist Militia) but were instead a Regular Army unit whose members had been recruited from the GUF (Gioventu’ Universitaria Fascista) – which was, however, a Fascist Party sponsored organization.

About 19,000 GUF members volunteered and were organized into 24 battalions, however in the course of the power struggle between the Army and the MVSN, most of these were disbanded (probably due to fears about their true loyalties). Only 3 battalions remained and this was later reduced to two. Consequently, these units had a very high Espirit de corps and competent commanders, as they were able to retain the best of the original 19,000 volunteers.

Giovanni Fascisti (GGFF) in North Africa. The photo appears to be taken in the winter.

GGFF in North Africa. The photo appears to be taken in the winter.

The two battalions were organized as the Gruppo di battaglioni GGFF and transferred to Libya in July 1941 (in time for the November Commonwealth Offensive – “Operation Crusader“). The Group was consequently placed under the command of RECAM (Raggruppamento Esplorante del Corpo d’armata di’manovra), the Reconnaissance Group of the Mobile (later XX) Army Corps. The Group participated in the action around Bir el Gubi, Point 174, and Point 182 during November and December 1941.

Gruppo di battaglioni GGFF – Giovani Fascisti (at Bir el Gubi, November 1941)

GRUPPO GGFF HEADQUARTERS COMPANY
GRUPPO GGFF MG COMPANY COY HQ
3 MG PLATOONS (each 3 x MMGs)

AUTODRAPPELLO COMPANY (Transport/Trucks)
GRUPPO GGFF MORTAR PLATOON (4 x 81mm Mortars)
GRUPPO GGFF GUN PLATOON (4 x 47mm ATG)
1st GGFF BATTALION

BTN HQ
3 RIFLE COMPANIES, each with:
COY HQ
3 RIFLE PLATOONS2nd GGFF BATTALION:

Organized the same as 1st GGFF Battalion

ATTACHMENTS UNDER COMMAND (at Bir el Gubi):

From III/32nd LIGHT TANK BTN

1 LIGHT TANK COMPANY (HQ & 3 Sections with a total of 16 x L3 Tankettes)

From 8th BERSAGLIERI REGIMENT

1 ATk COMPANY, with:

COY HQ
4 GUN PLATOONS (each 2 x 47mm ATG)

1 MG PLATOON (4 x MMG)

From 9th BERSAGLIERI REGIMENT

1 GUN PLATOON (2 x 47mm ATG)

The 2 GGFF Battalions had, in total; 27 LMG & 15 20mm Solothurn heavy ATk Rifles (exact distribution of ATRs not known). I believe the Gruppo’s MG Company, and Mortar & Gun Platoons were “created” once the unit reached Libya and suitable heavy weapons had been acquired! Hence, they do not sometimes appear in OOBs.

By January 1942 it had been decided to form the 136th “GGFF” Armoured Division, using the GGFF combat group already in Libya (which was expanded to a full Regiment), and adding armor and artillery as it became available. During the Gazala and 1st Alamein campaigns, before anything further had been done, the unit operated as an independent Infantry Regiment first under the direct command of Supreme Headquarters, Italian Forces North Africa, and later attached to the 102nd Trento Motorized Division.

Giovani Fascisti firing a Cannone da 47/32 M35.

Giovani Fascisti firing a Cannone da 47/32 M35.

Raggruppamento GGFF – Giovani Fascisti (Gazala – 24 May 1942)

GGFF REGIMENT

REGIMENTAL HQ (100 men, including M/cycle Section, etc.)
1st GGFF BATTALION

BTN HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each with: (141 men total)

COY HQ
3 RIFLE PLATOONS (each 4 x LMG)
1 MG PLATOON (3 x MMG)

2nd GGFF BATTALION

The same as 1st GGFF Battalion

IV GRENADIERS OF SARDINIA ATk BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 ATk COMPANIES, each with: (121 men total)

COY HQ (3 x Trucks)
4 ATk PLATOONS (each 2 x Trucks, 2 x 47mm ATG)

9th INDEPENDENT INFANTRY BATTALION

BTN HQ
3 COMPANIES, each with:

COY HQ
3 RIFLE PLATOONS

3rd PROVISIONAL “AS” BATTALION, SAN MARCO MARINE REGIMENT

BTN HQ
4 RIFLE COMPANIES
1 MORTAR COMPANY (81mm)
1 ATk COMPANY (47mm)

291st GaF ARTILLERY BATTALION (3 Batteries, each 4 x 77/28 Guns)
332nd GaF ARTILLERY BATTALION (3 Batteries, each 4 x 100/17 Howitzers)
RAGGRUPPAMENTO CELERE “AS” (Miscellaneous Cavalry Detachments*)
12th AUTODRAPPELLO BATTALION (Transport/Trucks).

(* I have no accurate information, Probably a mix of AB40 & AB41 Armoured Cars and some Motorcycle Troops)

20mm Solothurn ATRs were distributed amongst Infantry units as previously. (Note that GaF = Frontier Guards, the Italian Military equivalent of Customs or the modern US Border Patrol.)

In June 1942, the Italian Army instituted the A.S. (Africa Settentrionale) Reorganization. This involved a major re-arrangement of units, turning companies into self-contained combat groups with an equal share of the battalion’s support weapons. At the same time, the GGFF were placed in the army reserves and continued their reorganization.

Giovani Fascisti riding SPA Dovunque 35 trucks mounted with Breda da 20/65 machine guns.

Giovani Fascisti riding SPA Dovunque 35 trucks mounted with Breda da 20/65 machine guns.

136th ARMORED DIVISION GGFF – Giovani Fascisti (Egypt – 24 Oct 1942)

136th INFANTRY REGIMENT GIOVANI FASCISTI

REGIMENTAL HQ (100 men, including M/cycle Section, etc.)
1st GGFF BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each with: (141 men total)

COY HQ
1 RIFLE PLATOON (6 x LMG)
1 MG PLATOON (3 x MMG)
1 AA/ATk PLATOON (3 x 20mm Breda L/65)
1 ATk PLATOON (3 x 47mm ATG)

2nd GGFF BATTALION

Identical to 1st GGFF Battalion

IV GRENADIERS OF SARDINIA ATk BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each with 121 men

COY HQ (3 x Trucks)
4 ATG PLATOONS (each 2 x Trucks, 2 x 47mm ATG)

9th INDEPENDENT INFANTRY BATTALION:

Probably identical to 1st GGFF Battalion, but there is a small possibility it could still be using the old organization as listed above in Gazala OOB.

3rd “MONTFERRATO LIGHT CAVALRY” RECON GROUP (AB41 Armoured Cars)
25th MIXED ENGINEER BATTALION

BTN HQ 1 ENGINEER COMPANY 1 SIGNALS COMPANY

Total of each GGFF battalion is 491 men with 9 x 47mm ATG, 9 x 20mm Guns, 9 x MMGs, and 18 LMGs. Total for Ragruppamento is 1513 men with 42 x 47mm ATG, 18 x 20mm, 18 x MMGs, and 36 x LMGs!

The formation was now officially re-designated as a Division and placed in Reserve. During the 2nd Battle of El Alamein some of its units (specifically the Sardinian Grenadiers and its intended Artillery units) were detached and saw action providing support for units such as the Italian “Folgore” and German “Ramcke” Paratroopers. Once the withdrawal began, the GGFF became involved as part of the Rearguard and suffered heavy casualties doing so.

Giovani Fascisti in North Africa. GGFF GG.FF

Giovani Fascisti in North Africa.

136th ARMORED DIVISION GGFF – Giovani Fascisti (Marsa el Brega 01 Dec 1942)

DIVISIONAL HQ
136th GGFF REGIMENT

REGIMENTAL HQ (100 men, including M/cycle Section, etc.)
1st GGFF BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each with: (141 men total)

COY HQ
1 RIFLE PLATOON (6 x LMG)
1 MG PLATOON (3 x MMG)
1 AA/ATk PLATOON (3 x 20mm Breda L/65)
1 ATk PLATOON (3 x 47mm ATG)

2nd GGFF BATTALION

Identical to 1st GGFF Battalion

? GaF BATTALION

Exact unit ID and organization unknown, but most probably, HQ & 3 Rifle Companies with no weapons heavier than MGs.

IV GRENADIERS OF SARDINIA ATk BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each: (121 men)

COY HQ (3 x Trucks)
4 ATG PLATOONS (2 x Trucks, 2 x 47mm ATG)

9th INDEPENDENT INFANTRY BATTALION

Presumably the same as 1st GGFF Battalion

? GaF BATTALION

2 RIFLE COMPANIES Only – Again not sure of unit ID, but definitely not complete – No HQ present.

136th ARTILLERY REGIMENT

XIV AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 6517), 1 Section (2 x Cm 20/65)
XV AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 65/17), 1 Section (2 x Cm 20/65)
XVI AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 75/27)
XVII AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 100/17)
13th AUTOPORTATI AA BATTERY: (4 x Cm 20/65)

3 MISCELLANEOUS ARTILLERY BATTERIES (Gun types and numbers not known)
88th ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY (8 x 20mm AA)
25th ENGINEER BATTALION

BTN HQ
1 ENGINEER COMPANY
1 SIGNALS COMPANY

Cm 65/17 is the 65mm Infantry Gun mounted on a captured British Morris CS6 Truck. Cm 20/65 is Breda 20mm AA mounted on a captured British Ford F15 Truck. Cm 75/27 is Italian 75mm Gun mounted on Italian TL37 Light Truck/Artillery Tractor. Cm 100/17 is Italian 100mm Howitzer mounted on Italian Lancia 3RO Truck.

The Division suffered heavy casualties as part of the rearguard from El Alamein to El Agheila. Once the retreat reached Tripolitania and the border of Tunisia, the Division became reconstituted using Bersaglieri and other formations (essentially whatever was available). The unit was also officially reclassified as an Infantry Division at this time (Note that it is often mistakenly referred to as a “Motorized” Division throughout this period).

GGFF in North Africa.

GGFF in North Africa.

136th INFANTRY DIVISION GGFF – Giovani Fascisti (Mareth Line 15 March 1943)

DIVISIONAL HQ
136th GGFF REGIMENT

REGIMENTAL HQ (100 men)
1st GGFF BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each with: (141 men)

COY HQ
1 RIFLE PLATOON (6 x LMG)
1 MG PLATOON (3 x MMG)
1 ATk PLATOON (3 x 20mm Breda L/65)
1 ATk PLATOON (3 x 47mm ATG)

2nd GGFF BATTALION

Identical to 1st GGFF Battalion

? GaF BATTALION

Organization not known (as above)

10th VOGHERA CCNN “M” BATTALION

BTN HQ
RECON PLATOON
3 ASSAULT COMPANIES, each with:

COY HQ
3 RIFLE PLATOONS

1 MMG COMPANY

COY HQ
3 MMG PLATOONS (each 4 x MMG)

8th BERSAGLIERI REGIMENT

7th Bersaglieri Battalion
10th Bersaglieri Battalion
57th Bersaglieri ATk Battalion

9th INDEPENDENT INFANTRY BATTALION

Presumably the same as 1st GGFF Battalion.

? MG BATTALION (details not known)
? MG BATTALION (details not known)
136th ARTILLERY REGIMENT

XIV AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 6517), 1 Section (2 x Cm 20/65)
XV AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 65/17), 1 Section (2 x Cm 20/65)
XVI AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 75/27)
XVII AUTOPORTATI GRUPPO: 3 Bty (each 4 x Cm 100/17)
13th AUTOPORTATI AA BATTERY (4 x Cm 20/65)

3 MISCELLANEOUS ARTILLERY GRUPPOS

each with 75/27 Guns (12 each in theory) – Exact numbers not known

48th AA/ATk ARTILLERY BATTALION (Italian 75/46 AA Guns)
88th ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY (8 x 20mm AA)
25th ENGINEER BATTALION

BTN HQ
62nd ENGINEER COMPANY
25th SIGNALS COMPANY

Cm 65/17 is the 65mm Infantry Gun mounted on a captured British Morris CS6 Truck. Cm 20/65 is Breda 20mm AA mounted on a captured British Ford F15 Truck. Cm 75/27 is Italian 75mm Gun mounted on Italian TL37 Light Truck/Artillery Tractor. Cm 100/17 is Italian 100mm Howitzer mounted on Italian Lancia 3RO Truck.

On the 19th March, the Division was holding the Northern (Coastal) section of the Mareth Line and had a strength of 5000 men.

136th INFANTRY DIVISION GGFF – Giovani Fascisti (Enfidaville 17 April 1943)

DIVISIONAL HQ
1st GGFF BATTALION

HQ (68 men)
3 COMPANIES, each with: (141 men)

Presumably the same as the previous organization, although Companies were well below strength and short of equipment, and therefore unlikely to have all the platoon complements listed!

11th BERSAGLIERI BATTALION

Organized same as 1st GGFF Battalion

9th INDEPENDENT INFANTRY BATTALION

Presumably the same as 1st GGFF Battalion.

III BATTALION, 47th (German) GRENADIER REGIMENT
361st (German) PANZER GRENADIER REGIMENT, with:

REGIMENTAL HQ & HEAVY WEAPONS
I BATTALION
II BATTALION

5 MISCELLANEOUS ARTILLERY GRUPPOS (with a total of 41 assorted Guns*)

* Probably the remnants of the 4 Autoportati Gruppos plus attached 75/27 Gruppos.

Note: The 2nd GGFF Battalion at this time was attached to the German 90th Light Division. It would have been organized the same as the 1st GGFF Battalion.

Bibliography

I highly recommend Victor Madeja’s Italian Army Order of Battle for anyone starting out on researching units of the Italian Army in WWII, while Rex Trye’s book provides an excellent starting point for the Italians in general. Finally special thanks to Rex Trye (New Plymouth, New Zealand) and Arturo Lorioli (Rome, Italy) who have helped me with my Italian research and especially Arturo who has been a great source of information himself!

Italian Army Handbook – Victor W Madeja
Handbook on the Italian Army – Terrence Wise
Italian Order of Battle WWII (3 Volumes) – George F Nafziger
Mare Nostrum, Italian Army Handbook (2nd Edition) – Jack Greene
Mussolini’s Soldiers – Rex Trye
Rommel’s North African Campaign – Greene & Massignani
Miscellaneous other publications & Articles

Article provided by John Moher

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I created Comando Supremo: Italy at War in 2000 because of the limited amount of information on Italian forces in WWII that was available online. Thanks to people like you, this site has grown to what it is today. Thank you for visiting and please bookmark us.

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