Italian Medium Tanks in North Africa – 1940 to 1942

Background

The list below is based on a post by User nmao on the Axis History Forum at this link.

I am sure (as is he) that it is not fully correct, but it gives a good overview of Italian medium tank deliveries to North Africa nevertheless, and by posting it I am hoping somebody maybe able to help me. The original list seemed to be from the Official History, but with a bit of research it is possible to discover a number of errors in it. Those errors I have identified by checking the unit histories on the Italian Association of Tankers I have corrected, but I am sure they are not all.

Health Warning

Please note the table below is provided ‘as is’, and not a definitive accounting exercise. For example, a delivery of 24 M13/40 tanks in November 1941 is missing on the AHF list (I have added it here), and some battalions, such as 9/132 seem to be far too strong, while 7 and 8/132 also seem overly strong.

What is known is that Ariete as a whole fielded 138 M13/40 on 17 November 1941, but I am missing the RECAM here which also operated medium tanks. So still many open questions.

M13

Italian Medium Tank M13/40 Column in Libya, Date unknown (from Wikipedia)

Regimental associations In terms of regiments, a quick overview is provided below. By mid 1941 4 Regiment had become the training centre in Italy, and any new crews would be affiliated to it before being posted to their destination unit in North Africa. COMPASS

4 Regiment Babini Armoured Brigade

32 Regiment Babini Armoured Brigade

All medium tanks delivered were lost. By early February 1941, 209 light tanks remained operational in North Africa. Prior to CRUSADER many light tanks had been allocated as support to the infantry divisions, while Ariete also held a substantial number. All light tanks were lost in CRUSADER and were not replaced.

CRUSADER

132 Regiment Ariete (Mediums)

32 Regiment Ariete (Carri d’Assalto light tanks)

Gazala

132 Regiment Ariete (Mediums)

133 Regiment (Mediums – initially used to rebuild 132 and give Trieste a tank battalion)

El Alamein

132 Regiment Ariete (Mediums)

133 Regiment Littorio (Mediums) This regiment was used for loss replacement of Ariete in late Dec 1941/January 1942.

Tunisia

135 Regiment Centauro (Mediums) This regiment is not included and I have no numbers for it.

Screen Shot 2020 06 25 at 2 38 05 PM

You can download the PDF file here for better readability. Italian Tank Arrivals

18 thoughts on “Italian Medium Tanks in North Africa – 1940 to 1942

  1. Dear Andreas,

    I take Carro d’Assalto to be a generic term in this context and used for everything from M13s to L3s in the way that the British would use “cruiser tank”, or “infantry tank” for example, and I take it that you know this already, as you say.

    Couldn’t find any primary sources re: Carri d’Assalto in 32 Reggimento, but a quick net trawl brought up this. Don’t know if it helps or adds anything new –

    1. “R. Riccio and other sources indicate the 32 Reggimento Carri d’Assalto was part of Ariete in Nov 41 with two of its battalions (of two companies each) and was equipped with 52 L.3 tankettes. Is there any indication of its presence at Bir El Gubi on November 19th?” http://www.comandosupremo.com/forums/topic/5260-oobs-for-bir-el-gubi/page__st__20

    2. Parri (http://www.paginedid…ri/carristi.rtf)

    I would hypothesise that Carro d’Assolto is just used to distinguish them from the the mediums (M13s and M11s) as listed in your table. So in this case the L3s would be armed with machine guns and perhaps the odd 20mm or flamethrower?

    Kind regards, Chris.

    Like

    • Hi Chris

      Many thanks. I thought they must be L3. Regarding Bir el Gubi, I think the history on Assocarri.it claimed 4th Regiment was there. The relevant scheme for deployment of Ariete shows 5 coys of L3 as sectoral maneuver mass (1/2/2 between sectors) and a regiment of L3 for the divisional mass of maneuver. So my guess is that they were there. 🙂

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  2. Carri d’assalto were the FT17(Fiat 3000) tanks and the L tankettes were called Carri Veloce(CV) But that changed, when M appeared, the CV designation was changed for L(Leggero/Light) and M(medium) . M tanks were also called carri armati.

    But units with L tankettes were called “d’assalto” like these Battaglioni Coloniali Carri d’Assalto

    http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divisioni_del_Regio_Esercito_durante_la_guerra_di_Etiopia#Battaglioni_Coloniali_Carri_d.27Assalto

    Concerning Ariete L’s, they came by ship or were taken from stocks from Africa?

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  3. diciassette2000 answered to my question, but says VIII Bn:

    “The Ariete disembark in Tripoli Harbour from 24 january 1941 and in it’s 32.o reggimento carri have 1.o, 2.o e 3.o battaglione carri L with each 3 coys x 9 carri L each , one for each of Hq battalion and 4 L and 8 L 3/35 flametrowers for the Hq coy (39 carri L for each battalion) and VIII battaglione carri M with 46 M13/40-41 (3 M13-40-41 coys and Hq coy). All the tanks came from Italy.
    32.o tank regiment went on cargo ship “Marco Polo” from Napoli (embark 22/1/1941) and disembark Tripoli 24/1/1941.”

    http://www.comandosupremo.com/forums/topic/6847-arietes-l-tankettes-origins/page__gopid__103137#entry103137

    Like

    • Nice, thanks for that.

      Just for clarity, I would expect that only personnel was on Marco Polo, and tanks on normal freight ships. I’ll correct the list to reflect this.

      Like

    • M.42 was cancelled, M.43 arrived on 22 December, and was supposed to bring the 52 tanks of 12 Battalion, but they were sunk on Fabio Filzi and Carlo del Greco on 13 December. I doubt they brought any. These 24 tanks were brought into Tripoli on 23 November on Fabio Filzi and Benghazi on 1 December on Sebastiano Venier (14 tanks). Venier was torpedoed with 2,000 Empire POW on its return voyage off Cape Methoni in Greece.

      https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2009/02/15/successful-supply-runs-for-the-axis-november-1941/

      All the best

      Andreas

      Like

      • M42 was cancelled!

        I did not know that.

        Does that mean that nothing arrived at either Benghasi or Tripoli (by sea) in December 1941 at all?

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      • Sorry David,my mistake. Never post before first coffee… M.41 was cancelled. M.42 was supposed to bring about 90 German tanks and at least 52 Italian. Of these, 43 and 52 were sunk on Carol del Greco and Fabio Filzi on 13 December. The remainder of the operation went ahead, with Ankara delivering one German tank company to Benghazi, and another German tank company being delivered (I think on Monginevro) to Tripoli. I am away from the Italian Navy OH at the moment, so can’t check the detail, the above all from memory.

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  4. Hello.
    III (3rd) battalion was equipped with M13-40 not the M11-39.
    The tank state is “number of tanks allocated to each bn, including replacements received during the campaign and including also the tanks lost in transit”, so not all available at once.
    The regimental affiliation are a complete nightmare, and most of the time operationally meaningless.
    The (medium) tank component of RECAM was LII (52nd) bn (still forming) with 9? x M13-40.

    Still hoping someone will make sense of all this incomplete (and sometimes incoherent info) 🙂

    regards,
    -nuno

    Like

  5. Pingback: British and US tank deliveries to Egypt July 1941 to January 1942 | The Crusader Project

  6. Pingback: D.A.K. war diary 12 March 1941 – The Crusader Project

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