An Italian document from NARA shows the strength of all Italian divisions on 1 Feb 1942, and compares them to their authorised strength. It makes sombre reading and shows the impact of the CRUSADER fighting on the Italian formations, most of which I would presume (but be happy to be corrected about) to have been at pretty close to full strength under the 1940 North Africa (Africa Settentrionale) Tipo AS40 organisation when the CRUSADER battles started. In this document however, the relevant strength level applied to them is the Tipo AS 42 organisation.
The A.S.42 Organisation
A.S. 42 was a divisional organisation that was really more reflective of Italian capabilities in terms of maintaining frontline strength in Africa while building it up significantly in Russia at the same time (where the Expedition Corps was built up to an Army in 1942). Quite simply, Italy took on more than she could handle with the Russian adventure. Between Russia, the occupation of Greece and Albania, and the need to protect the homeland, little if nothing was left for the last remaining colony of the would-be successor to the Roman empire.
It looks as if the conversion to AS42 was ordered around the start of January 42, and it may well have been an organisation type that achieved two advantages for the Italians. First, it significantly reduced the supply needs for the infantry divisions which in the view of commanders on both sides always had a marginal role in Africa (notwithstanding the fact that the Empire infantry divisions together with the British I-tanks won CRUSADER). At the same time, it reflected the very heavy losses suffered by the Italian divisions during CRUSADER. If the strengths at the end of the battle are compared to the AS40 organisation, they do look a lot worse. A.S. 42 replaced manpower with firepower to an extent.
Nevertheless, because the Italian divisions were already weak, what AS42 meant in terms of their combat capability is bleak. They became divisions in name only. In terms of strength, they were closer to an Empire infantry brigade than anything else. So when we are talking about Italian divisions in the desert, this needs to be kept in mind. Essentially, the two Italian infantry corps would have a combat value comparable to, although probably slightly above (depending on what artillery the Corps was furnished with) that of a single Empire infantry division each.
M13/40 tank advancing in the desert, January 1942, colourised by Painting the Past.
Strength of divisions by Corps
X. Corpo Armato (10th Army Corps) – all divisions should have 6,865 men under the Tipo A.S.42 organisation
- Bologna – 3,897 (56% of authorised strength under the AS42 TO&E/36% compared to the A.S.40 TO&E)
- Brescia – 4,108 (59%/37%)
- Corps Troops – 1,522 (no comparison possible)
XXI. Corpo Armato (21st Army Corps) – Pavia and Sabratha divisions should have 6,865 men under the Tipo A.S.42 organisation, Trento should have 10,831 as Div. Ftg. Autotrasportabile or 8,731 as Div. Mot. tipo A.S. (maybe someone can confirm which type this division was? The document seems to indicate only Piave was organised as the latter type)
- Pavia – 4,651 (67%/42%)
- Sabratha – 5,084 (73%/46% – Sabratha was not involved in active combat in CRUSADER, providing only a blocking force at Mersa el Brega; it was however involved in COMPASS and was rebuilding in Tripolitania during the year 1941)
- Trento – 4,518 (52% assuming it was a North African Motorised Division (Div. Mot. tipo A.S.)
- Corps Troops – 3,551
XX. Corpo Armato di Manovra CAM – Mobile Army Corps
- Ariete – 5,707 (62% – as armoured division should have 9,274)
- Trieste – -6,795 (78% – Trieste should have 10,831 as a metropolitan motorised division (Div. Ftr. Autotrasportabile) or 8,731 as Div. Mot. tipo A.S. – but the question is the same as with Trento)
- Corps Troops -555
Various Force Elements
- Western Libya – 4,540
- Eastern Libya – 517
- Divisione Savona – 0 (division lost at Bardia/Halfaya)
This link contains good information about Italian divisions, but in German.
Leo Niehorster’s site has pages on the organisation of the A.S.40 Infantry Division and the A.S.42 Infantry Division.