Volunteers in the Italian Armed Forces

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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kevin
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Volunteers in the Italian Armed Forces

Post by kevin » 02 Nov 2003 21:23

Much has been written about the large numbers of volunteers in the German armed forces, but what about volunteers in the Italian side. For example, I am aware that a number of Maltese men who happened to be in Italy when the war started joined the Italian Army. One was captured in Malta on an espionage mission and executed in 1942 and several more were arrainged in the Maltese Courts after the war and charged with treason only to be liberated. But what about other volunteers from other nations?

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Italians

Post by JLEES » 02 Nov 2003 21:34

kevin,
Yes, good god there was a lot of them. There was an Indian unit recruited from POW camps, Croatians and African units in the Italian military too.
James

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Re: Italians

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 03 Nov 2003 16:01

JLEES wrote:kevin,
Yes, good god there was a lot of them. There was an Indian unit recruited from POW camps, Croatians and African units in the Italian military too.
James

Principally Lybians. The "monkeys" (like racist Aussies of 10th div. learnt hardly at Giarabub) were really great warriors. The long-time siege of Giarabub was the result of their own strength of will and the Aussies of Wavell paied an high price to those intrepid muslim warriors.

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tyskaorden
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Post by tyskaorden » 04 Nov 2003 21:47

On the Eastern Front the Italians recruited a Cossacks Unit. Formed in September 1942 at Squadron strength it was increased to battalion stregth as the Gruppo Autonomo Cossacchi Savoia (GACS). After the Soviets had crushed the Italian Forces on the Don, the GACS went with the surviving Italians back to Italy. In Italy it was absorbed into the German Cossacks units allready transferred to Tolmezzo.

//Tyskaorden alias Marcus Karlsson

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 05 Feb 2004 23:23

Cossacks

(text from: Italian Cossacks)

The volunteer cossack units of the German armed forces are very well known. What is not that well known is, that the Italian army had its own cussack unit, the “Gruppo Autonomo Cosacchi “Savoia””.
The first cossack volunteer sotnia (a Cossack term referring to a cavalry formation of 120- 160 men) was set up by the command of the 8th Italian Army in Millerovo, a city on the Don river, on 25 September 1942. Its name would indicate, that the unit was in some way attached to, or part of, the Savoia Cavalleria Regiment, that itself again was part of the “Barbo” Cavalry Brigade at the time.
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The formation of this unit was initially met with some resistance according to the testimony of one of its officers, Vladimir Leonow, above all due to the language difficulties. Any doubts were soon overcome, though, and the mission of training the unit was given to capitano Stavro Santarosa. In a document signed by colonel Golovko and Starshi Captain Maligin, respectively president and secretary of the rejoined circle of the Kuban and Don anticommunist armies, it was affirmed that, that the Italian 8th Army formed its first volunteer cossack sotnia (a cossack term for a cavalry formation of 120-160 men). This happened on 25 September 1942 in the town of Millerovo on the river Don.

According to the same document the commander, Captain Santarosa, was enlisted as honorary cossack of the Kamiscevatskaja stanitsa (i.e. cossack village) of the Eisk's Departement, Kuban's District.

The very first actions by the sotnia raised esteem and entusiasm in the italians. The unit wore italian uniforms with regular collar's stars. Subsequently they were nevertheless gotten cossackian uniforms and the Group could finally present himself complete with Shashqa and Kubanka (saber & busby), as a proper cossack formation. The command was assegn. to Maggiore Count Ranieri di Campello, who were to be decorated by Generale Gariboldi with the Military Gallantry Medal in silver for ''having issued, being wounded, wise dispositions to escape the encirclement of his unit'' the 15-19th Jan. 1943 at Rossoch-Nikitowka.
After the fall of Stalingrad, mixed with the fleeing italians, germans, rumanians, ungarians as well as the Ostreiter units, the cossacks confronted themselves with the inner controversity of partisans' attacks, and the cohesion of the formation began to waver. Count Ranieri himself was saved by some captain Vladimir Ostrowsky, which swiftly managed to stop the arm of a cossack who had came close to the count to shoot him point-blank with his pistol.

Disregarding the defeat, the unit was expanded to form a Gruppo (battalion strength) with two cavalry squadrons, taking the name "Gruppo Autonomo Cosacchi "Savoia"". This name would indicate some sort of relationship with the "Savoia Cavalleria" regiment, that was at this time part of the "Barbo" Cavalry Brigade. Nothing solid is known to me, though.

The unit reached Italy in May 19'43, and was billeted in a farm known as 'Jacur', in the vicinity of Maccaccari Gazzo[Verona, Lombardia, North Italy]. At the time, the unit consisted of two sotnias (a colonel, four officers and about 360 cossacks), and was subordinate to the “Lancieri Novara” Cavalry Regiment, under the the command of marquis Cavarzerani. According to the Podestà (Mayor) of Gazzo Veronese, the cossacks -which usually would be prone to be invovled in cases of rustler and plunder- were not disliked by the local population. Their bahaviour reminded him the atmosphere of traditional cossacks' novels.

In the August of 1943 general Gariboldi reviewed the Group and praised the cossacks. After Italy switched sides on 8 september 1943, the germans, to whom the existence of the Group was known, spared them from internment. In return they agreed, on their word, that the Group would retaining weapons and horses, would not take arms against the Wehrmacht.

Afterwards a number of them moved in Camporosso in Val Canale, the remnants, after having hidden weapons and ammo, scattered themselves, finding shelter in civilian clothes at some farms (it is possible that some of them if not all could have joined bands of partisan, at least to survey -hy ipothesis). Vladimir Leonow, after having remained for some time in Camporosso, is said to have joined the the Special Cossack Corps of general Timofey Ivanovich Domanow, thatmoved into N-Italy and established a "Cossackistan", a new homeland for the many Cossacks that had fled with the Germans, when they retreated from the USSR. A number of other cossacks from the former Italian battalion also seems to have finally ended up here.

The valourous captain Ostrowsky, which with an action probably never recognized with a commendation, saved major di Campello's life, embarked himself after the war on a private fleet flying Panama's flag and dispelled his path. He escaped the deliver to the soviets to die in Argentina, by the friendly Axis' Ratline.

This being told, it also has to be said, that there is substantial disagreement over the specifics of the unit. Various sources tell of them clad in Soviet, traditional cossack or regular Italian uniforms. There is also considerable disagreement as to where the unit went after the Italian switch in 1943.


Arm shield of Gruppo Savoia and of Cossacks:
Image
(from: http://axis101.bizland.com/CossackShields02.htm)
Last edited by DrG on 06 Feb 2004 00:37, edited 1 time in total.

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 05 Feb 2004 23:34

Ukrainians

(text and photos from: Ukraininans in Italian Army)

From the ounset of war in the East, four Ukrainian students who studied in seminary in Rome volunteered to be translators with the Italian Army. On 28th of March, 1942, after passing the military commission they were admitted to ARMIR - Italian Armed Forces. While in service, they were automatically given Italian citizenship (with Italian names) and officer ranks. Once in the army, the students were transfered to Mediolana [??? maybe Milan?] in Lombardy for further training. On 20th of June, they left for Eastern Front. Volodymyr Grabets' (Luigi Gabini) as an officer became member of special unit APPO 300, which was moved to the Donets region in Ukraine. Melentiy Voinar (known as Michaelo del Bosko [this spelling is wrong: the correct should be Michele del Bosco]) served in Southern Ukraine with the Torino division. The other two students were Peter Diachyshyn and Vasyl Vavryk, however it's unknown with which units they served. All Ukrainian volunteers wore standard uniform of an officer of Italian Army.

Photos:
Volodymyr Grabets' (Luigi Gabini)
Meeting of two Ukrainian translators. M. Voinar from the Italian Army, with O. Hordynsky of the German Wehrmacht.
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DrG
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Post by DrG » 06 Feb 2004 00:33

Maltese

(sources: [url=http://www.marina.difesa.it/storia/movm/Parte06/MOVM6019.htm]Carmelo BORG PISANI Sottocapo Manipolo Milizia Artiglieria Marittima
[/url];Carmelo Borg Pisani "Un eroe dimenticato"; Acta nr.46;Carmelo Borg Pisani e l'irredentismo maltese; "Profili. Per il Re e per la Patria" by prof. Giulio Vignoli, "L'Italiano", 1984, n.2; prof. Giulio Vignoli "Gli Italiani dimenticati", Giuffrè, 2002 review of the book)

Malta was a colony of Britain, it had a constitution since 1921, but it was abrogated in 1933 and the parliament was closed. In fact the indipententism was growing, and there was also a pro-Italian movement led by Enrico Mizzi (1885-1950), that had 21 out of 33 deputies in the parliament. In 1934 Italian was banned as offical language and replaced by Maltese, along with English, and in 1936 the Italian institute of culture was closed. In 1940 50 pro-Italy nationalists (Enrico Mizzi, deputy; Arturo Mercieca, deputy; prof. Giulio Cortis, teacher in the University; mons. Alberto Pantalleresco, teacher in the high school; Vincenzo Bonello, director the Museum of Malta; Alberto Laferla, Herbert Ganado, Berto Gauci, Alberto Baiona) were deported in Uganda.

Meanwhile in Italy there were many Maltese students; among them Carmelo Borg Pisani who had founded the "Circolo amici della storia di Malta" that published the review "L'Archivio storico di Malta" and then took an active part in the war against UK. Some of those students made propaganda during WW2, and 34 joined the "Centro G".

The "Centro Militare G" was created by the SIM (intelligence service of the Army) to train the Maltese guides to be used during the planned invasion of Malta (Operazione C.3). Its commanders were Col. Edmondo De Renzi and Cap. Lamberto Negri. There were 34 Maltese volunteers: 12 officers, 3 NCO's and 19 soldiers. The instructor was Cap. Cardenio Botti, former director of the Phylarmonics of Malta before having been expelled because of his fascist faith in 1933.

Carmelo Borg Pisani was born in Senglea, Malta, on 10 Aug. 1915; he attained the Italian school Umberto I and then the school of painting Carnana Dingli. In Oct. 1936 he went to the Accademia delle Belle Arti of Rome.
On 30 May 1940 he offered his support to the coming Italian war against Britain in a letter to Mussolini, and 3 days after the declaration of war of 10 June he volunteered. But he was rejected because of his myopics; nevertheless he joined the 112a Legione CC.NN. of the MVSN on 16 April 1941 and then was chosen for an espionage mission in Malta. In the night of 17/18 May 1942 "Caio Borghi" (the false name chosen by Borg Pisani) was landed by the MAS 214 in a beach closed by a rugged cliff in front of the small island of Filpola. Borg Pisani was unable to climb the cliff and lost most of his equipment because of the stormy sea. He was discovered by a British patrol boat, but they tought he was a survivor of a shipwreck. When he was in the military hospital a doctor and an old friend of him, Tom Worrington, discovered his true identity and denounced him. Borg Pisani was kept in home imprisonement for 4 months (the Britons wanted to look kind to persuade him to collaborate), and, after his refusal to betray Italy, he was put on trial on 12 Nov. and sentenced to death on 19 Nov. He was hanged on 28 Nov. 1942 in the jail of Corradino di Paola, near la Valletta; on 4 May 1943 he was awarded the Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare (Gold Medal for Military Valour).
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Gyenes
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Post by Gyenes » 06 Feb 2004 00:40

I can tell you there were some Hungarians in the Italian army as well. Not real positive on the numbers, but they were there and should be mentioned.

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 06 Feb 2004 01:01

Gyenes wrote:I can tell you there were some Hungarians in the Italian army as well. Not real positive on the numbers, but they were there and should be mentioned.
Very interesting, I didn't know. Can you provide us more information, please?

PS When I'll have enough time I'll post what I know about most interesting foreign volunteers, from India to Slovenia, from Arabia to Corsica! Meanwhile, a suggestion for Italian readers: a good article about the MVAC in Dalmatia Le Bande VAC in Dalmazia.

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Kenshiro
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Post by Kenshiro » 06 Feb 2004 06:44

Germans, I know there was a small number of German saylors who happen to be in Eritrea (or Somailia) just when Italy entered in WWII.
As I know they formed a small squadron and fought there unintil the colony didnt surrender.

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K.Kocjancic
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Post by K.Kocjancic » 06 Feb 2004 08:12

DrG wrote:
Gyenes wrote:I can tell you there were some Hungarians in the Italian army as well. Not real positive on the numbers, but they were there and should be mentioned.
Very interesting, I didn't know. Can you provide us more information, please?

PS When I'll have enough time I'll post what I know about most interesting foreign volunteers, from India to Slovenia, from Arabia to Corsica! Meanwhile, a suggestion for Italian readers: a good article about the MVAC in Dalmatia Le Bande VAC in Dalmazia.


I would be very interested to see, what info do you have on Slovenes in Italian army. So far I know, that most Slovenes were mobilized to Army from Primorska region (region of Slovenia, which was given to Italy with London treaty for declaring war on Central Powers in WWI) and most of them went to special labour batallions.

Regards,
2K

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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 06 Feb 2004 09:22

French volunteers :

= Volontari Di Francia (1943 - 1944).

In 1943 after the armistice signed between the allies and Badoglio, 150 French men with italian origins (mainly from Paris) joined the RSI of Mussoloni
In March 1944 : the Longobardo Bataillon is formed with these 150 man. They receive the same formation and training as the San Marco units.
Integrated in the Decima Flottiglia MAS in July 1944.
Forms the 3rd company of the Fulmine bataillon (mainly anti-partisan warfare on the Yugoslavian border where many Tito's partisans are infiltrating).
19th January 1945 they fight against 2000 Tito's Partisans : 1 week battle, 86 KIA and 56 WIA ... but the infiltration is blocked thanks to reinforcements (several POW are decapitated by the partisans).

Also 160 French men from the Nice area in the republican national guard (Blackshirts) = Guardia Nazionale Reppubblicana.

David

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 06 Feb 2004 14:05

K.Kocjancic wrote:So far I know, that most Slovenes were mobilized to Army from Primorska region (region of Slovenia, which was given to Italy with London treaty for declaring war on Central Powers in WWI) and most of them went to special labour batallions.

Those Slovene were in regular Italian units, thus I'll not talk about them. Most weren't voluteers, of course (although I've read that there were two legions of the Blackshirts made only of Slovene and Croats from Venezia Giulia; they volunteered for the Ethiopian and Spanish wars).
Instead I'll talk about the collaborationist formations in the province of Lubiana (annexed in 1941).

PS Today I'm very ill (also yesterday I wasn't well, but not as today), thus probably I'll not be able to post in this forum.

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Post by Folgore » 06 Feb 2004 15:53

But it results to me that at least a certain number of Slovenians were gathered in some only slovenian special labour companies, (i don't know about battallions). After the italian evacuation of Corsica in winter 43-44, 25 of these companies remained in the island to help the Allies in various works. I ignore if also their officers were slovenian.

Regards.

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K.Kocjancic
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Post by K.Kocjancic » 06 Feb 2004 18:26

Yes, they were working for US Army in so-called "Slave Companies". They got food, clothes and even some money (a lot of them didn't get all of it).

DrG, what kind of info do you have on MVAC? MVAC was completly Slovene military organization; there were no Italian officiers in the units; the only relationship with Italian army is that they were supplied from Italian army and fought together against Partisans. But is also true that MVAC was under command of Army, but MVAC was more defensive "army" - they were working/defending there village and fought near-by home-post/base.

BTW. It's Ljubljana not Lubiana. :wink:

Regards,
Kocjo

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