Trento motorized in North Africa?

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mfy4444
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Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by mfy4444 » 06 Dec 2017 21:00

Hello all. I was under the impression that, for much of the North African campaign, Trento Division was a motorized unit in name only. I thought that sometime fairly soon after arriving in Libya, most of its actual motor transport was commandeered to bring other units already in the theater (principally Ariete at that time, I would suppose) back up to full strength, and that Trento fought most of the North African campaign, and certainly all of its 1942 component, as in fact a regular infantry division. It also seems that 7th Bersaglieri Regiment was detached from the division at an early date, and operated more as an independent unit (in this case, retaining its motor transport) even if perhaps administratively it was still considered part of Trento (I think this essentially happened to 9th Bersaglieri and Trieste as well-- I know both regiments were eventually assigned to X and XXI command independent of their "owning" division-- each getting one).

So am I right about this? Trento wound up part of XXI Corps and being used as regular infantry alongside Bologna Div. Fully motorized units were worth their weight in gold in the desert war-- especially on the Italian side where they were rare-- I think Trento would have been used in a more mobile role if it still had the capacity to transport itself without help from higher headquarters motor pools. Yet after mid-1941 it never seems to have been used or deployed differently than Bologna, Brescia, or Pavia Divisions, none of which were motorized... Whereas 7th and 9th Bersaglieri Regts, which were fully motorized, were generally used independently during offensive operations, and in the first wave along with Ariete, Trieste, and later Littorio (for instance, at Mersa Matruh/1st Alamein in 1942). Of course, the advent of the AS 42 divisional organization scheme would have muddied those waters, as in theory all Italian divisions in the theater now became light motorized units. But I've read that the "motorization" of the actual divisions under AS 42 (at least the ones actually in North Africa at the time) extended no further than the artillery and heavy weapons components (among the combat elements), and in reality the AS 42 units were more "motor-transportable," that is, still relying on motor assets outside the division for transport.

Thus, my question is two-fold:

1. Would you say my understanding above is generally correct?
2. If so, when did Trento lose its status as an actual motorized division (in terms of the real situation on the ground, not what it was called)? My impression was that it happened at some time prior to Crusader in November 1941, is that right?

Regards and thanks

Mike Yaklich

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jwsleser
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by jwsleser » 08 Dec 2017 00:26

Mike

Basically true, but....

Trento's trucks were taken to support the Intendenza dell'A.S., not other units. IBW, Trento's trucks were part of the 6-10,000 trucks used to supply the Axis forces in A.S.

The reggimento bersaglieri were removed from the motorized divisions under the A.S. 42 reorganization. This organization also changed the corps structure, with each corps assigned a reggimento bersaglieri. In A.S., the X and XX corpo d'armata received the regiments from the Trento and Trieste under A.S. 42. Up until then, these two regiments still operated as part of their parent divisions.

All the infantry divisions stationed in A.S. in June 1940 in A.S. were tipo autotrasportabile A.S. These had motorized artillery and logistics with some trucks in the divisional pool. Trento and Trieste arrived as tipo motorizzata, with Trento losing its trucks. In May 1941, the Pavia, Bologna, Trento, Trieste, Savona, Brescia, and Piave were designated as tipo motorizzata A.S. and the plan was to fully equip them with motor transport (which never happened). 
 Sabratha and Pistoia were designated as divisione occupazione A.S. In January 1942, all the infantry divisions were designated as tipo A.S. 42, which was a smaller infantry division that was to be fully motorized. As you can see, Trento remained a divisione motorizzata until the transition to tipo A.S. 42. Even though it lacked trucks, it still retained its reggimento bersaglieri and its different motorized regimental structure until January 1942.

Pista! Jeff
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mfy4444
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by mfy4444 » 08 Dec 2017 21:15

Thanks, Jeff! That squares with what I thought about the situation, although I was not aware that the trucks were transferred to the Intendenza. Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense that they would be added to the general theater motor pool (always short of the required number of vehicles) rather than other front-line formations, as among the motorized combat units already in-theater I would assume that Ariete was somewhat depleted after participating in Rommel's first offensive in April, but Trieste didn't even arrive until what, August?

Thanks also for pinning down the date of the transfer of 7 and 9 Bersaglieri from Trento and Trieste to XXI and X Corps direct control, or at least the approximate date, with the implementation of AS 42 organization scheme at the start of 1942.

Could you give me some good sources in case I wanted to investigate this further? English or Italian ones are fine.

Regards

Mike Yaklich

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jwsleser
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by jwsleser » 08 Dec 2017 23:55

Mike

RE: Sources. Much depends on what info you are seeking. My information on the changes in A.S. were compiled from multiple works. I have yet to find a single volume that takes the reader through all of the organizations and their changes over time. Below are just some of my sources for A.S.:

USSME L'esercito e i suoi corpi 3 volumes in 4 books.
Pignato e Cappellano Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell'esercito italiano volumes 1 e 2.
Ceva e Currami La meccanizzazione dell'esercito fino al 1943 (2 volumes).
USSME Operazioni in Africa settentrionale This is the first series of A.S. history (the tan books) 6 volumes.
USSME Operazioni Italo-Tedesche in Tunisia (same as above). 2 volumes.
Montanari Le operazioni in Africa settentrionale This is the second series of A.S. history (the green books).
TME 30-420 Handbook on the Italian Military Forces

I hope this is what you were asking for for. If not, tell me what you are specifically looking for.

Pista! Jeff
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mfy4444
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by mfy4444 » 12 Dec 2017 19:43

Thanks again, Jeff. I'm not surprised that your response was pieced together from many sources, as I would say the same thing for my own understanding of the situation. I appreciate you adding a couple more pieces of the puzzle to my understanding, such as the fact that the vehicles were transferred to the Intendenza, and also the dates for that and the detachment of 7 Bersaglieri from Trento.

Regards and thanks

Mike Yaklich

valentine III
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by valentine III » 29 Dec 2020 18:41

It's an old topic but my question is about Trento division. Did Trento division at any time have an Antiaircraft gruppo, like Trieste had first with 75/27 AA during Crusader and with 75/50 for Gazala and Alamein??

I've seen different orbats and in some it appears a gruppo with 75/50's at el Alamein with Trento!?

Thanks

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David W
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by David W » 29 Dec 2020 19:40

They had V Gruppo 46th Reggimento D'Artiglieria. Raised 17/11/1941. 412nd, & 414th Batteria. 8x 20/65 Each. But no larger calibre guns.

I think the 75/50's were only short term attachments to the Divisions, and never truly part of them.

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jwsleser
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Re: Trento motorized in North Africa?

Post by jwsleser » 29 Dec 2020 20:54

Under the A.S. 42 organization, «Trieste» was authorized a gruppo c.a. da 75. Whether or not it had it present is, well, this is Italy in A.S. :D

One must remember that «Trento» was considered a regular infantry division pretty much after it arrived in A.S. Under the tipo A.S. 42 design, «Trento» was organized as an infantry division, not motorized.
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