Need info on Italain Alpini units-have photos

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Lt Bull
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Need info on Italain Alpini units-have photos

Post by Lt Bull » 19 Oct 2002 10:26

Hello,

I am looking for information on Italian Alpini units. I am trying to detrmine from some photos if it is at all possible to identify the unit. They feature my grandfather.

I have been searching the web the last week or so and have come across some helpful sites. One site in particular .[http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/9891/priminig.htm] features the sleeve insignia of the 2nd "Tridentina" Alpini Division and it looks basically the same as what you can make out from the photos. However, I have reason to believe that the unit in the photos is the 3rd "Julia" Alpini Division.

More later

Cheers

Lt Bull

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 26 Oct 2002 22:41

Bull, it should be simpler if you show the photos.....If you can't place them on internet, send me privately at legnano@hotmail.com.
I grant nothing but you'll have certainly an answer

Lupo

Lt Bull
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Post by Lt Bull » 27 Oct 2002 06:21

OK, I have reduced the size and resolution of the photos I have. The originals are of much larger size and very high resolutiuon.
My guess is that the large photo is of a battalion (probably the Udine Alpini Artillery Battalion) of the 3rd Alpini Artillery Regiment of the 3rd "Julia" Alpini Division taken just before Italy engaged in WW2 (1935-1940). My grandafather was from Trieste and I think Trieste would have been one of the regional cities from which the "Julia" division recruited from.

My search of the web has found a source that apparently names all the commanders of the 3rd "Julia" Alipini Division, down to battery commanders:
http://www.freeport-tech.com/WWII/019_italy/42-08_08-alp-3alp.htm
Perhaps some of the battery and battalion commanders are featured in this photo.

Lt Bull
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Lt Bull
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...but could this be the "Julia" Division?

Post by Lt Bull » 27 Oct 2002 06:30

But first, I need to confirm that the insignia patches you can see on the the sleeves of some of the soldiers is the same as what the "Julia" divisional insignia was like. I have not found a reference for the "Julia" insignia looked like.

I have included a zoomed up shot of the insignia patches soldiers. You can see that they are similar in form to those I have found that belong to the "Tridentina" Alpini Division. Did the "Julia" division have a similar insignia to the "Tridentina" division with just the name "Julia" (instead of "Tridentina").

Lt Bull
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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 27 Oct 2002 18:51

Bull, your supposition are almost all right.
Italian alpine division had all the same sleeve shield with the sword in green field. Only division number and name changed.
In the pic with the howitzer, some character seem wear the pre-1935 uniform and others the next one so it should be taken in the transition period.
Trieste and Venezia Giulia were enrolement area for the "Julia" division.
Sleeve shields were employed only between 1935 and 1940.
I have no way to tell which unit is effectively shown in photos

bye

Lupo

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Post by Lt Bull » 28 Oct 2002 04:45

Thanks Lupo for your information. I am now very confident then that the unit is part of the "Julia" division based on what you are telling me.

I agree with you about the pre-1935 uniforms in the early gun crew photo. However, I do have a photo which looks more recent. In it, they all have the "updated" uniforms and my grandfather has attained the rank of corporal major.

The howitzer in the photos does not look very "modern" even for those times. Can anyone confidently identify that howitzer. I assume it is some kind of 75mm variety (if not, then a 105mm). I have a feeling that they would have been replaced by more modern ones by the time the "Julia" division was sent to Russia.

These webpages have a great breakdown off all the artillery of the alpini by date but not enough to identify the howitzers in the photo.
http://www.vecio.it/obici.htm
http://digilander.libero.it/webmau/storia.htm

Lt Bull
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FB
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Post by FB » 28 Oct 2002 09:08

Hi Lt. Bull,

The gun in your interesting pics is a 75/13 pack howitzer. It looks different from other photos of it you might have seen because in your pictures the shield is dismounted from the gun.

Btw, your first picture, is not that of the whole Artillery Group (the correct name of the artillery battalion size unit in the Italian Army) rather, I think, that of a Battery.

If you have other photos and/or you can enlarge them in order to show the area of the hat where the feather is attached to it (the "Nappina"), being this an Alpini Artillery unit there should be a number there: that of the Battery. With this you will be positively able to identify your grandfather's unit.

Trieste was indeed an area from where draftees were sent to the "Julia" Division but being these pictures from the period 1935/1936 it could be that this Battery was one of those used to form the "Pusteria" Division that was sent to East Africa in this perod.

This Division had two Artillery Groups:

The "Belluno" Group with Batteries 1, 11 and 24 respectively coming from "Susa", "Mondovì" and "Belluno" Groups and

The "Lanzo" Group with Batteries 5, 13 and 21 respectively coming from "Aosta", "Conegliano" and "Vicenza" Groups.

If you have the possibility to see tha number on the hat, that would be a good way to identify you grandfather unit.

I hope this helps

Lt Bull
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Post by Lt Bull » 28 Oct 2002 13:45

Hello FB,

Thanks for the information. Yes with more careful examination, I can see that the guns are in fact the 75/13 pack howitzer with the shield plate removed.

There are 117 men in that large photo. I do not think it is a photo of the battery as there are too many men. I was thinking that an Italian battery would have 3-4 guns and the artillery battalion (or "group" as you point out) would have 3 batteries = 3 x 3 (or 3 x 4) guns = 9 or (12 guns) per battalion. If the each gun had a crew of 6-7 then that makes between 59 and 84 men. If you then add the officers and staff, then this would be close to the 117 men you see in the photo.

Perhaps you have better information on the size (number of guns) of an Italian alpini battery from 1935-1940.

Unfortunately, I can not distinguish a number on the nappina. I have included some zoomed up shots of the hats anyway. Maybe someone can see something that might give a clue.

I was unaware of the "Pusteria" Alpini Division and it's history. Why do you think the photos are from 1935/36 precisely, rather than say 1939?

My family have told me that there was a fear that my grandfather was going to be sent to (and die in) Africa. This is where things are more confusing. I have been told that he never went (I don't know if this also includes the unit he was with in the alpini) and he never saw front line action. Instead, I was told that he was sent to a "battalione speciale" that did labour work within Italy, away from the front lines.

The reasons surrounding why my grandfather didnt see frontline action despite having gained the rank of corporal major in the alpini artillery is the ultimate piece of information I want to find out. He was born in 1914, making him 36 at 1940. Was he too old? I wouldn't think so. I would think that a 36 year old alpini NCO would have been rather sought after. This just seems odd.

I do know that he was not 100% behind the "Italian cause". He was educated at a Slovenian school and his sister was involved somehow with the Yugoslav partisans in some way and surname was Cezar (Cesar).

Before I continue, I would like to know if anyone knows anything at all about the apparent existance of so-called "battalione speciale" (special battalions) that operated within Italy and possibly composed of "dubious allegiance" or considered to be "unfit for frontline duty" for what ever reason.

Lt Bull
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FB
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Post by FB » 28 Oct 2002 14:57

Hi Lt. Bull,

117 men is more or less (more "less" than "more" I would say) the size of a Battery. Each Battery had 4 guns so, if each gun had 7 men manning it, we'd have 28 men only for the Linea Pezzi (Guns Line); to this you have to add the people that worked at the Centro Tiro (those who do all the calculations, converting the info coming from observers into gun data), the Goniometristi (those who are responsible for the correct orientation of the guns) the near-defence team, the people that provided the cable and radio communication, the Observers Teams, the Medic with his team, and, above all when number is taken into account, the Reparto Munizioni Viveri/Salmerie (Ammunition Food Team/Mules) that is the team which had to provide ammo, food and transportation for each Battery. Consider that each 75/13 howitzer needed 7 mules to be transported, and that each mule needed an Alpino to take car of him.

An Alpini Artillery Group during WWII would be around 1.000 men or more.

I guessed, and probably I misunderstood what you and Lupo wrote, the dates due to the fact that in the "early" gun crew there is a mix between before 1935 and after 1935 uniforms, this fact made me think that the pictures were taken when the battery was undergoing the change between old and new unifroms.

It is a pity that you can't see the number in the Nappina, that would really be the ultimate way to identify the battery. There
is something in the nappina of the first picture you posted (Alpini hat 3.jpg) and probably something in the second one. If you can zoom the 1st picture some more, maybe you can guess a number written there in that nappina.

The last one shows what seems to be the hat (and the man of course) of a a Sottotenete or a Tenente (II or I Lt)beacuse of the inverted "V" shape insigna and for the metallic nappina.

I'm sorry but I do not know anything about "Battaglioni Speciali", but very probably Lupo will help you with this; but it is possible that not so young people and/or people who weren't in perfect physical shape were drafted to second or third line units or even in some sort of militarized workers units.

Regards

Lt Bull
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Post by Lt Bull » 29 Oct 2002 06:23

Thanks again for the information FB.

I guess I had forgotten about all the "behind the scenes" logistics and support crew for the battery. I have included zoomed up pictures of the officers in that photo. There are not wearing the distinctive Alpini hat in those photos. Do you know under what circumstances they would not be wearing their caps?

Identifying the inverted "V" on the officers hat was very insightful. That photo comes from what seems to be a deliberately staged photo that I think really captures the elitism and glamour of the Alpini troops. I have included it below. You can see the piping on the trousers of the officers.

I also noticed that after more careful examination, the name of the artillery piece was actually painted on the side of the howitzer. I have included the zoom of that as well.

Lt Bull
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Napoli
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Post by Napoli » 29 Oct 2002 09:00

Lt Bull wrote:
[/quote]He was born in 1914, making him 36 at 1940. Was he too old? I wouldn't think so. I would think that a 36 year old alpini NCO would have been rather sought after. This just seems odd.

As well as age, possibly the amount of children he had at the time and the amount of responsability might have been a consideration. Both my grandfathers were exempted due to this even though one of them was a vetran of WWI on the Austrian front in the Engineering battalians.
Both grandfathers also being the oldest siblings but their younger brothers all fought on front line duty as they were much younger. [/quote]
Last edited by Napoli on 29 Oct 2002 09:10, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Napoli » 29 Oct 2002 09:02

Would anyone know the criteria to be exepted from war duties or know of a situation like I have given themselves including countries outside of Italy?
Last edited by Napoli on 29 Oct 2002 09:14, edited 1 time in total.

FB
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Post by FB » 29 Oct 2002 09:11

Hi Lt Bull,

first of all let me say that your pictures are really beautiful: I've always loved the black and white photos and yours are really something! Thank you for sharing.

Now I must confess that I haven't got a clue as to why none of the Officers and, if I have seen correctly, none of the people in the "group" pictures seems to be wearing an Alpino Hat.

What also seems "strange" in the "alpini officers.jpg" pics is that the collar badges on theyr uniform (the Mostrine) do not appear to be those of the Artiglieria Alpina, rather they look like those of the "normal" Artillery.

I'll try to post here the two of them in order to show the difference, hoping that they will show up, they come from the Esercito Italiano web site ( http://www.esercito.difesa.it )

Artillery collar badge:


Image


Artiglieria Alpina (Artiglieria da Montagna) collar badge:


Image


In the officers picture the collar badges seems to be those of Artiglieria and the hat they wear, the Bustina, would be that weared by the Artillery units.

In the last picture (alpini.jpg) there could be two "hints" in order to identify the unit: the number, if visible, on the nappina of the first man on the right and the number on the ornament on the hat of the first man on the left. This last one would be the Regimental Number of the unit these men were in. Then if you know the dates when the picture were taken it is possible to guess where they were.

Regards

Lt Bull
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Correction to earlier mis-labelled "Alpini" group

Post by Lt Bull » 29 Oct 2002 14:54

FB,

Your comments have been spot on!! Yes. I have made a mistake in naming a photo. I can now confirm that the large photo of the 117 men and officers (and of the one labelled "alpini officers") ARE NOT from when my grandfather was in the Alpini. They are from AFTER his time in the Alpini when he had been sent to this "battaglione speciale" which I have discovered spent time during the war at a place near Milan called Mede and Lago Majore.

Aparently he was tranfered to this "special battalion" becasue of his slavic surname/background.

I have yet to find any references on this apparently non-combative unit.

Thank you for alerting me to that apparent inconsistency.

Lt Bull

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Another (embarassing) correction

Post by Lt Bull » 30 Oct 2002 13:11

Thanks Napoli for directing my attention to one of my comments. :oops:

Umm, born 1914, that makes him 26 in 1940. :roll: So definitely NOT too old for active military service. He was the youngest sibiling, and had three sisters.

Lt Bull

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