Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

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Sheldrake
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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Sheldrake » 08 Feb 2020 09:13

daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
03 Feb 2020 01:07
OTL the Italian 'Allied' army, formed in 1944-45 was not much to look at. A small field corps for fighting the Germans, & some other regiments used for internal security. Part because of slow US & British support and part from the demoralized Nature of the Italian population from 1943 & later.

I suspect that had the Allies prepared a embryonic Free Italia army before the capitulation of September 1943 you would have seen the same tensions and struggle as with the French November 1942-April 1943. Multiple factions fighting for legitimacy & the support of the Allied governments.
I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO but the Americans, British, French, and Canadians - the Poles, even after the 3rd and 5th divisions expanded from two to three brigades each, had a grand total of 10 maneuver brigades, including the Parachute Brigade.

Include the rear area, service, and support troops on the Peninsula, Sicily, and Sardinia, and the co-belligerent air force and navy, and Italy in 1943-45 probably contributed more to the Allied war effort in the ETO/MTO than any of the powers other than the US, UK, and French.
The light Italian divisions or legions fitted into the British Imperial model of "Native Troops", as Italian units and formations had British advisers absent from Free French or Polish forces. The Italian artillery was complemented by the abundant British artillery. In Autumn 1944 the British Army was very short of infantrymen. The two RHA Regiments of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division ended up supporting the Italians. In 1944-45 Italian partisans were an effective distraction for the German and RSI forces in Northern Italy.

The biggest implication of Italy's defection was to force the Germans to replace the Italian Army garrisons and counter insurgency forces across the North Mediterranean and Balkans - around 50 divisions. The fear of Italian defection after the Invasion of Sicily prompted Hitler to cancel Op Ziterdelle. From the German strategic point of view the Italian Campaign was at least a Second Front.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by jwsleser » 09 Feb 2020 00:05

Sheldrake wrote:
08 Feb 2020 09:13
The light Italian divisions or legions fitted into the British Imperial model of "Native Troops", as Italian units and formations had British advisers absent from Free French or Polish forces. The Italian artillery was complemented by the abundant British artillery. In Autumn 1944 the British Army was very short of infantrymen. The two RHA Regiments of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division ended up supporting the Italians. In 1944-45 Italian partisans were an effective distraction for the German and RSI forces in Northern Italy.
I found this to be a very odd statement. I have tried to ponder what this really means. I offer my comments here with the understanding that I really don't know what Sheldrake was trying to highlight.

The gruppo di combattimento was basically the binary divisions as used in 1940-1943. The original plan had three regiments, each with two battalions and mortar company. Division troops were a btg. mtr., a btg. c.c., btg. genio, and a rgt. a. df. with 5 gruppi and a btr. c.a. The final design was two regiments, each with three btg. f., cp. M., and a cp. c.c. The rgt art. has 4 gr. da 87mm and one gr. c.c. (17pdr). A btg. genio and other support troops rounded it off.

This design was based on having artillery support from corps and army (just like the US and UK armies) , as it was also under the R.E. Support from the ragg. art. d’corpo e d’armata was normal. It had less artillery because it was a smaller formation (9500 men compared to a 16,000 man UK division ). In all, a very Italian organization.

The unit didn’t have British advisers. It had a nucleo di ufficiali inglesi per istruzione e collegamento (detachment of English officers for training and liaison). These units were going into combat with entirely new/different weapons, so some training experts were assigned. All the Allied forces had liaison detachments placed where the foreign units integrated with their US or UK Allied higher headquarters. Given that the Italian co-belligerent forces didn’t have a corps or higher structure, and the supporting assets needed were at those higher echelons (like artillery and air), each gr. di combattimento required a liaison section to coordinate for those assets. I am not aware of any UK officers advising on the tactical maneuver of the units.

So the term ‘advisors’ and ‘British Imperial model’ doesn’t ring true to my ears. I might be misunderstanding what Sheldrake was trying to say. I don’t see anything different from any other foreign allied unit that was integrated into a UK corps/army structure.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Feb 2020 01:50

jwsleser wrote:
09 Feb 2020 00:05
The unit didn’t have British advisers. It had a nucleo di ufficiali inglesi per istruzione e collegamento (detachment of English officers for training and liaison). These units were going into combat with entirely new/different weapons, so some training experts were assigned. ........
So the term ‘advisors’ and ‘British Imperial model’ doesn’t ring true to my ears. I might be misunderstanding what Sheldrake was trying to say. I don’t see anything different from any other foreign allied unit that was integrated into a UK corps/army structure.

Pista!
Well you say Toe-may-to and I say toe-mar-toe. One mans Training experts are another mans military advisers.

I am basing my comments on Richard Lamb's "War in Italy- a Brutal Story". He served in the Eighth army with the Italian Co-belligerent forces. On p187 He wrote.
'British Liaison Units were appointed to supervise staff work and training teams to give individual instruction. The problem was summed up in an Eighth Army report. "We are trying to train convert and raise to British standards Italian formations which of an army which has always been weak on officers and discipline."

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 09 Feb 2020 04:04

Sheldrake wrote:
08 Feb 2020 09:13
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
03 Feb 2020 01:07
OTL the Italian 'Allied' army, formed in 1944-45 was not much to look at. A small field corps for fighting the Germans, & some other regiments used for internal security. Part because of slow US & British support and part from the demoralized Nature of the Italian population from 1943 & later.

I suspect that had the Allies prepared a embryonic Free Italia army before the capitulation of September 1943 you would have seen the same tensions and struggle as with the French November 1942-April 1943. Multiple factions fighting for legitimacy & the support of the Allied governments.
I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO but the Americans, British, French, and Canadians - the Poles, even after the 3rd and 5th divisions expanded from two to three brigades each, had a grand total of 10 maneuver brigades, including the Parachute Brigade.

Include the rear area, service, and support troops on the Peninsula, Sicily, and Sardinia, and the co-belligerent air force and navy, and Italy in 1943-45 probably contributed more to the Allied war effort in the ETO/MTO than any of the powers other than the US, UK, and French.
The light Italian divisions or legions fitted into the British Imperial model of "Native Troops", as Italian units and formations had British advisers absent from Free French or Polish forces. The Italian artillery was complemented by the abundant British artillery. In Autumn 1944 the British Army was very short of infantrymen. The two RHA Regiments of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division ended up supporting the Italians. In 1944-45 Italian partisans were an effective distraction for the German and RSI forces in Northern Italy.

The biggest implication of Italy's defection was to force the Germans to replace the Italian Army garrisons and counter insurgency forces across the North Mediterranean and Balkans - around 50 divisions. The fear of Italian defection after the Invasion of Sicily prompted Hitler to cancel Op Ziterdelle. From the German strategic point of view the Italian Campaign was at least a Second Front.
What British "native troops" had their own officer corps up to and including general officers? Please enlighten us...

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 09 Feb 2020 04:09

daveshoup2MD wrote:
09 Feb 2020 04:04
Sheldrake wrote:
08 Feb 2020 09:13
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
03 Feb 2020 01:07
OTL the Italian 'Allied' army, formed in 1944-45 was not much to look at. A small field corps for fighting the Germans, & some other regiments used for internal security. Part because of slow US & British support and part from the demoralized Nature of the Italian population from 1943 & later.

I suspect that had the Allies prepared a embryonic Free Italia army before the capitulation of September 1943 you would have seen the same tensions and struggle as with the French November 1942-April 1943. Multiple factions fighting for legitimacy & the support of the Allied governments.
I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO but the Americans, British, French, and Canadians - the Poles, even after the 3rd and 5th divisions expanded from two to three brigades each, had a grand total of 10 maneuver brigades, including the Parachute Brigade.

Include the rear area, service, and support troops on the Peninsula, Sicily, and Sardinia, and the co-belligerent air force and navy, and Italy in 1943-45 probably contributed more to the Allied war effort in the ETO/MTO than any of the powers other than the US, UK, and French.
The light Italian divisions or legions fitted into the British Imperial model of "Native Troops", as Italian units and formations had British advisers absent from Free French or Polish forces. The Italian artillery was complemented by the abundant British artillery. In Autumn 1944 the British Army was very short of infantrymen. The two RHA Regiments of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division ended up supporting the Italians. In 1944-45 Italian partisans were an effective distraction for the German and RSI forces in Northern Italy.

The biggest implication of Italy's defection was to force the Germans to replace the Italian Army garrisons and counter insurgency forces across the North Mediterranean and Balkans - around 50 divisions. The fear of Italian defection after the Invasion of Sicily prompted Hitler to cancel Op Ziterdelle. From the German strategic point of view the Italian Campaign was at least a Second Front.
What British "native troops" had their own officer corps, exclusively, up to and including general officers? Please enlighten us...

And the Free French (who were the Fighting French by the time the Italian Campaign opened, actually) and since they were under the FNCL administratively, the US 5th Army operationally, and were sustained by the US Mission in FNA, would not have had British liaison, advisory, or training teams of any type.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by jwsleser » 09 Feb 2020 04:21

Sheldrake wrote:
09 Feb 2020 01:50
I am basing my comments on Richard Lamb's "War in Italy- a Brutal Story". He served in the Eighth army with the Italian Co-belligerent forces. On p187 He wrote.
'British Liaison Units were appointed to supervise staff work and training teams to give individual instruction. The problem was summed up in an Eighth Army report. "We are trying to train convert and raise to British standards Italian formations which of an army which has always been weak on officers and discipline."
Thank you for the cite. Sounds very British.

A guess I read a little bit of 'The White Man's Burden' in those lines. I don't doubt that the British fully intended their 'advisors' to fulfill that role. The word 'convert' is very telling. Things like operation order formats and map graphics certainly need to be synchronized and the Italian officers most certainly needed to adjust to those UK norms. The loser whom wishes to join the group must put up with whatever requirements are placed upon them.

I don't see the Liaison team changing/effecting weak officers and discipline. The number of men assigned would be unable to have any impact along those lines. If that was truly a problem, direct command/assumption of tasks would be required. That is certainly not the case with the Italian units.

What is most interesting is neither the 1º ragg. moto. or the CIL had such 'teams'. The CIL, under Polish command, didn't seem to have the 'problems' identified by Lamb. In fact Anders protested the withdrawal of the CIL from his command (Med & ME vol VI, part II, p. 150).

So I now understand your comment. I will do some more research, but I am reading a distinctly British bias. That being said, I will look for references that either support or refute Lamb's claims.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Feb 2020 11:37

jwsleser wrote:
09 Feb 2020 04:21
Sheldrake wrote:
09 Feb 2020 01:50
I am basing my comments on Richard Lamb's "War in Italy- a Brutal Story". He served in the Eighth army with the Italian Co-belligerent forces. On p187 He wrote.
'British Liaison Units were appointed to supervise staff work and training teams to give individual instruction. The problem was summed up in an Eighth Army report. "We are trying to train convert and raise to British standards Italian formations which of an army which has always been weak on officers and discipline."
Thank you for the cite. Sounds very British.

A guess I read a little bit of 'The White Man's Burden' in those lines. I don't doubt that the British fully intended their 'advisors' to fulfill that role. The word 'convert' is very telling. Things like operation order formats and map graphics certainly need to be synchronized and the Italian officers most certainly needed to adjust to those UK norms. The loser whom wishes to join the group must put up with whatever requirements are placed upon them.

I don't see the Liaison team changing/effecting weak officers and discipline. The number of men assigned would be unable to have any impact along those lines. If that was truly a problem, direct command/assumption of tasks would be required. That is certainly not the case with the Italian units.

What is most interesting is neither the 1º ragg. moto. or the CIL had such 'teams'. The CIL, under Polish command, didn't seem to have the 'problems' identified by Lamb. In fact Anders protested the withdrawal of the CIL from his command (Med & ME vol VI, part II, p. 150).

So I now understand your comment. I will do some more research, but I am reading a distinctly British bias. That being said, I will look for references that either support or refute Lamb's claims.

Pista!
I only quoted part of Lamb's remarks. General Browning, the officer in charge of the liaison organisation commented in November 1944 that the raw material was very good and given British Officers and NCOs, over two years he would make the Italian army as good as any in Europe. His instinct and preference was for a Colonial solution. Lamb also mentioned the arrogance and rudeness of the second rate staff officers assigned to Italian Liaison teams. The training teams were young officers from infantry battalions that had taken heavy casualties and were good.

The 1º ragg. moto. was deployed with mixed results at Monte Lungo - but did demonstrate that the Royalist army meant business. It was deployed in March 1944 on the Adriatic Front under Eight Army command. No idea what the US Liaison organisation was, but there would have been an LO team. At this time they were equipped with Italian and German kit unfamiliar to British or US officers.

How certain are you in the assertion that the 1st CIL not having advisers? IIRC that this was the Fruli Division, which came into the line in early Feb 1945. The Italian forces had no independent role, or command higher than division, Eighth Army insisted that all orders to the Italian Divisions from corps should be passed through the British Liaison Teams, in this case headed by Colonel Southerby. The Poles refused to speak to the British, as a protest at what they saw as the betrayal of Poland in the post war settlement, but that is not how it was supposed to work. This is the formation supported by 1 and 2 RHA after the disbandment of the 1st Armoured Division. I know about this as a (long post war) veteran of L and N Batteries.

These were formations organised by the Bagdolio government. There were other Italian units serving with the British Eighth army outside the Royalist Army. F Recce Squadron raised from Italian officers and men who for political reasons did not want to serve in the Royalist Army and the Maiella Brigade from Abruzzo partisans operated under Eighth Army command with British equipment. Both were regarded as tough and courageous fighters.

Back to the thread topic. There are two problems with the idea of forming a Free Italian Army in the absence of a co-belligerent agreement.

1. It would need a national Italian structure to recruit a sizable force from scratch, drawing on Italian Officers and NCOs. Without a substantial political anti facist movement outside Italy recruitment from Italian PW would be limited. Maybe there might be an "Italian Brigade" but not six divisions in 1945. ?

2. Providing the equipment for an Italian army would be at the expense of the build up for Op Overlord. In 1943 the US shipped the equipment for three divisions and supporting services to re-equip the French Expeditionary Corps, formed from existing French units. This was three divisions less in the UK.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 10 Feb 2020 01:06

Agree that in a situation as outlined in the OP, the result would not have been the equivalent of the six light divisions (each with two brigade group/RCT equivalents) in the historical Allied OOB. However, with Anglo-American support, presumably something of a "Italia Libera" government led by Sforza and the Mazzini Society anti-fascists could have been created, which gives any forces then raised legitimacy.

With the exiles, Italian diaspora (from the Western Hemisphere, especially), the civilian populations under AMGOT of the former Italian colonial empire, POWs, and any Italian "metropolitan" territory occupied along the way (Sardinia, Pelagians, etc), presumably a respectable amount of manpower would have ben available as a recruiting pool. Randolfo Pacciardi certainly seems to have been a capable enough officer, and the obvious choice to lead a brigade group or regimental combat team-sized force that could, presumably, have grown into a US style square brigade or British light division along the lines of those organized historically.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by jwsleser » 10 Feb 2020 04:39

Sheldrake

Again thank you for the cites. I am hoping that a copy of Lamb's book is available in CARL so I can do a quick read.
Sheldrake wrote:
09 Feb 2020 11:37
How certain are you in the assertion that the 1st CIL not having advisers?
Pretty certain. Where the nucleo di ufficiali inglesi per istruzione e collegamento is specifically mentioned/discussed in I gruppi di combattimento (the Italian official history), no such organization is indicated in Il raggruppamento motorizzata italiano (1943-1944) or Il corpo italiano di Liberazione (aprile - settembre 1944). Of course, there were LO Teams, but those didn't not have the wide-ranging function stated by Lamb for the British assigned to the gr. di combattiment.

I agree that this is not the best thread to continue this discussion. I will open a new thread once I have finished some additional research.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 10 Feb 2020 04:46

I have Lamb's book as well. My recollection of the chapter on the Italian CB forces as they were reorganized in 1944-45 is he was very sympathetic to the Italians (officers and men) and less than supportive of how the British from 15th AG/AAI on down regarded the Italians, and had a negative opinion of some of the British officers assigned to the effort.

Given the circumstances of the Italian volte-face in 1943, one wonders if an "emigre" force organized under the aegis of an anti-fascist exile movement as suggested in the OP may have met with more support from the Anglo-Americans then the CB Royal forces did, historically.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Sheldrake » 10 Feb 2020 10:49

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 Feb 2020 19:17
So, could a "Mazzini Brigade" be formed in 1942-43? Can it be expanded into the "Italian 1st Division" in 1944-45? Absent an active campaign on the Italian Peninsula in 1943-45, where could it best be employed? With 6th Army Group in southern France? Attached to the French 1st Army?
This is the big issue with the OP postulate. If there was no Italian campaign, why would the Western Allies recruit and support an Italian anti facist front? There were plenty of things for the Western Allies to consider before reconciling squabbling Italians.

Sure, there might have been some political merit in having an "Italian Brigade," But a distinctly Italian character might not be seen as an asset, given the reputation of the Italian army in 1940-41. Recruits to a Free Italian Army would have to be rigorously vetted.

Italian manpower did help the allied war effort. Substantial numbers of Italian PW replaced British labour in agriculture and industry.

Why would large numbers of Italian PW put their lives at risk if not for the liberation of their own country?

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 11 Feb 2020 06:23

For the same reasons the Allies agreed to equip the Free/Fighting French, the Poles, the Chinese X Force, the Brazilians, X Troop of No. 10 Commando, etc. The manpower was available and willing to fight.

Given the British disbanded three combat divisions (1st Armoured, 50th, and 59th infantry) in 1944 because of a lack of infantry replacements, presumably they'd welcome a brigade or division of Free Italians.

Why did large numbers of German POWs (~90,000) declare themselves to be Poles and join up with the Polish forces in the West?

Why did 50,000 volunteer for the International brigades in the Spanish Civil War?

Anti-facism was - and is - a thing.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Berto » 11 Feb 2020 10:46

daveshoup2MD wrote:
11 Feb 2020 06:23
For the same reasons the Allies agreed to equip the Free/Fighting French, the Poles, the Chinese X Force, the Brazilians, X Troop of No. 10 Commando, etc. The manpower was available and willing to fight.
All of these examples are about people from Allied countries. Italy was not.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
11 Feb 2020 06:23
Why did large numbers of German POWs (~90,000) declare themselves to be Poles and join up with the Polish forces in the West?
Because they were Poles, conscripted into the German Army. Same story as the Slovenes and Croats in the Italian Army.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
11 Feb 2020 06:23
Anti-facism was - and is - a thing.
Yes. But anti-fascists wouldn't have been in the Italian Army to begin with.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 12 Feb 2020 06:57

X Troop's personnel were from Allied countries? Okay.

There's a long history of European volunteers, including former POWs, joining up to fight an government "at home"; the extreme example would be the ROA, which numbered about 45,000 at the surrender, and the Germans had been able to raise more than 110 battalions of Hiwis in 1942-44, but given the realities of the Central and Eastern European borderlands - consider how many Russians and Germans in 1918 became Poles and Czechs in 1919, for example the Polish Gen. Rommel comes to mind, as does Adm. Unrug... loyalties shift; it's hardly an unknown occurrence.

So given that pool of 300,000+, even if only 10 percent step forward, that's more than the equivalent of the 24 infantry battalions the British needed in 1944 to keep the 50th and 59th infantry divisions and the 1st Armoured Division in the field.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Sheldrake » 12 Feb 2020 20:17

daveshoup2MD wrote:
12 Feb 2020 06:57
X Troop's personnel were from Allied countries? Okay.

There's a long history of European volunteers, including former POWs, joining up to fight an government "at home"; the extreme example would be the ROA, which numbered about 45,000 at the surrender, and the Germans had been able to raise more than 110 battalions of Hiwis in 1942-44, but given the realities of the Central and Eastern European borderlands - consider how many Russians and Germans in 1918 became Poles and Czechs in 1919, for example the Polish Gen. Rommel comes to mind, as does Adm. Unrug... loyalties shift; it's hardly an unknown occurrence.

So given that pool of 300,000+, even if only 10 percent step forward, that's more than the equivalent of the 24 infantry battalions the British needed in 1944 to keep the 50th and 59th infantry divisions and the 1st Armoured Division in the field.
The allies were unwilling to use the measures that the Germans adopted to recruit Poles and Hiwis. In the the former case the choice was to join the master race or become a slave and lose your house and possessions to inbound Ost-Deutch. In the latter case the options were to fight for the Germans or starve as a PW.

Returning to the point I made in #26. Without a commitment to liberate Italy with err an Italian Campaign there was neither an incentive for Italians to join the allies in any numbers nor a task the Allies could set for a Free Italian Army.

What did the Soviets do? The Soviet Union recruited Italians on an ideological basis. Communists with a loyalty to Moscow were at the centre of many of the Italian and French partisan groups.

The Soviets organised German and Polish forces and were certainly short of manpower by 1945. They capture quite a few Italians in 1942-43. Did the Red Army deploy a Free Italian Corps?

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