A Tragic Mistake – Friendly Fire in the Desert

There’s no such thing as ‘friendly fire’…


The following is from the war diary of the Italian Corpo di Armata di Manovra, the motorised corps comprising the Ariete armoured and Trieste motorised division. The diary entry is from 18 December, when C.A.M. brought up the rear of the Axis retreat through the desert.


Italian M13/40 medium tanks on the march. Unknown date and time.

The War Diary

At 16.30 hours, a formation of Stukas, despite the display of the national signs and flags, and the launch of recognition signals, violently bombarded the column in error, provoking damage that in the first instance appeared to be not grave, but on further investigation became noteworthy:

  • Command C.A.M.: 33 dead, 35 wounded, 3 vehicles destroyed and about ten damaged so heavily they could not be repaired.
  • Division Trieste: 11 dead, 21 wounded, and about ten vehicles damaged
  • Division Ariete: 3 dead, 5 wounded, 4 vehicles destroyed and many damaged.

The Result

In total, 47 dead, 61 wounded, 17 vehicles destroyed or damaged beyond repair, and another 10+ vehicles damaged. Probably one of the more effective dive-bombing attacks of the campaign. Losses the already hard hit C.A.M. could ill afford.

Many thanks go to Michele for digging this war diary out.

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