Compass-Beda Fomm

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
quechua
Member
Posts: 38
Joined: 09 Mar 2010 22:22

Compass-Beda Fomm

Post by quechua » 09 Sep 2011 14:25

I recently read a Wiki history of the battle of Beda Fomm between British and allies against Italians. The story went that 500 lightly armed Brits and Commonwealth troops fought off 20,000 Italians. Finding this hard to believe I made a quick search and found a link to Hitler's Italian Allies (see link below) where the author states that the British outnumbered the Italians in every engagement during Compass. See the 3rd paragraph "How had O'Connor managed it?"

http://books.google.ca/books?id=O-tYiGp ... nt&f=false

User avatar
Kingfish
Member
Posts: 2909
Joined: 05 Jun 2003 16:22
Location: USA

Re: Compass-Beda Fomm

Post by Kingfish » 09 Sep 2011 16:13

Bear in mind that a significant portion of the 20K (assuming it was that many) was rear echelon troops - HQ, Logistics, etc. and that the actual fighting elements came in a piece-meal fashion.

Also, 500 seems a bit low for all Allied troops at Beda Fomm. Perhaps it meant just 'Combe Force' blocking the highway.

User avatar
Valerio
Member
Posts: 128
Joined: 26 Dec 2010 20:07
Location: Italy, Rome

Re: Compass-Beda Fomm

Post by Valerio » 10 Sep 2011 20:07

quechua wrote:I recently read a Wiki history of the battle of Beda Fomm between British and allies against Italians. The story went that 500 lightly armed Brits and Commonwealth troops fought off 20,000 Italians. Finding this hard to believe...
Hello, Quechua! :)
You're right: that's an incredible lie...
This is the real history of Beda Fomm:

1) During "Compass", the Italian 10th Army was not mechanized and it was equipped with only few bad tankettes against the British Matilda and Cruiser Mk III: so, the Italian 10th Army was easily routed and after the fights at Nibeiwa, Bardia, Tobruk and El-Mechili, O'Connor formed an ad hoc unit to cut off the retreating Italian Army before the arrival of the British 7th Armoured Division & Australian 6th Infantry Division. The name of this ad hoc unit was "Combe Force".

2) The Combe Force was not formed by only 500 lightly equipped soldiers, but its real composition was:
11th Hussars (armoured cars), 4th RHA (pounder guns), 106th RHA (37 mm anti-tank guns) and 2nd Rifle Brigade.

3) At Beda Fomm, there was only a little part of the 10th Army, because the Italian retreating column was really long (there were also many civilians) and it was echeloned for over 40 Km.

4) At Beda Fomm, the 10th Army had few tankettes that on Febr. 6 were destroyed by the Combe Force anti-tank guns; the last 30 Italian tankettes were destroyed on Febr. 7 by the 7th Armoured Division's tanks and anti-tank guns.
Not only at Beda Fomm, but during all the Operation "Compass", the heavy and medium tanks and the anti-tank guns of the British Army easily destroyed the Italian armoured units because the bad M11 and L3 Italian tankettes were really vulnerable.

That's all about the Battle of Beda Fomm.

Anyway, I would underline that, during "Compass", the Italian units fought with success when they had tanks better than the bad M11 and L3 tankettes: for example, they fought with success at El-Mechili, when they had the M13 tanks of the "Brigata Corazzata Babini".

Ciao :D
"Et fia 'l combatter corto / che l'antiquo valor / nell'italici cor / non è ancor morto"
(Francesco Petrarca)

User avatar
Oasis
Member
Posts: 604
Joined: 29 Jun 2006 17:42
Location: Central Italy

Re: Compass-Beda Fomm

Post by Oasis » 12 Sep 2011 10:37

It wasn't a joke !
Combeforce counted about 2000 men (11 Hussars, one sqdn King's Dragoon Guards, one sqdn armoured cars RAF, 2nd mot. btn The Rifle Bde., 3 RHA a.c. and RHA battery C 4: 37 km north of Agedabia against Balbia.
More at north 7th Hussars and 2nd Royal Tank (26 Cruiser and 50 MK.VI) plus artillery: Sidi Saleh and Beda Fomm.
From Soluch to Balbia, British Support Group (3rd Coldstream Guards, 1st King's Royal Guards, 2nd B. Fusiliers, 1 sqdn 1st RTR and some artillery batteries).
Italian troops were almost totally bottled... some had exit, the majority surrended after some clashes.

valentine III
Member
Posts: 69
Joined: 16 May 2012 12:14

Re: Compass-Beda Fomm

Post by valentine III » 17 Nov 2020 18:21

Sorry to resurrect this old subject and pray excuse my english.

Italian armoured forces during this battle were not "tanketes": They were not L3 light tanks.

They were M13/40's and technically they were not so different from the A13's, A10's and A9's of the british forces. Actually they were quite a good match. At Mechilli they had just fought well enough.

The main disadvantatge was the tactical situation. Italians were in a very difficult position having to force the road in order the army soft vehicles to be able to retreat. They had to attack over a nearly flat terrain against a defensive position with artillery, antitank and tanks....they nearly succeded.

Of course, part of the italian M13/40 crews probably were not fully trained having recently received their tanks and surely attacks could have been better coordinated with their artillery and bersaglieri and better executed, but they tried once and again and fought bravely (as italian tank crews would do again and again: ex:Alamein).

Dili
Member
Posts: 2138
Joined: 24 Jun 2007 22:54
Location: Lusitania

Re: Compass-Beda Fomm

Post by Dili » 20 Nov 2020 16:36

Italian tanks had no radio and not much training and were employed piecemeal.

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”