55th Infantry Division Savona

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55th Infantry Division Savona
55a Divisione Fanteria Savona.png
55th Infantry Division Savona Insignia
Active 1939 – 1942
Country  Italy
Branch Flag of Italy (1860).svg Italian Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Garrison/HQ Salerno, Italy
Nickname(s) Savona
Colors Black vertical strip on the centre of white field
Engagements World War II
Commanders
Current
commander
Generale di Divisione Fedele de Giorgis[nb 1]
Notable
commanders
Generale di Divisione Fedele de Giorgis

The 55th Infantry Division Savona was a North African type auto-transportable Infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. It was formed in April 1939 in Salerno and was destroyed 17 January 1942 at Naqb al Ḩalfāyah. Its men were drafted from Naples, Salerno and their surroundings. The Savona was classified as an auto-transportable division, meaning staff and equipment could be transported on cars and trucks, although not simultaneously.

Action

The Savona Division was sent to Libya in September 1939. By 10 June 1940, the Savona was staying on Tunisia-Libya border, therefore it was not used in Italian invasion of Egypt. Instead until April 1941, the division was guarding a camp near Tripoli. The Savona Division reportedly took charge of the fortified towns of Sollum-Bardia-Naqb al Ḩalfāya at the beginning of September 1941.[3] By November 1941, the Savona was at the defensive positions at Bardia-Sīdī ‘Umar.

18 November 1941, the British forces have attacked from Bi’r Qirbah to Naqb al Ḩalfāyah. During November 22 and 23 in the initial fighting of Operation Crusader, nearly 1,500 prisoners from Savona were taken after fierce fighting.[4] The Savona has counter-attacked and regained a lost positions though.[5]

On 4 December 1941, as the Afrika Korps prepared to retreat to the Gazala Line, the Savona was given instructions to cover the Axis withdrawal as much as possible by containing Commonwealth forces on the Sollum-Bardia-Naqb al Ḩalfāyah line. During December, 1941, supply situation gradually deteriorated, with food, water and ammunition becoming scarce. Bardia was lost 2 January 1942, finishing the encirclement of Savona and forcing supply to be air-dropped, Sollum - 12 January 1942.

The remains of the Savona division in Naqb al Ḩalfāyah were allowed by Italian High Command to surrender 17 January 1942, due to lack of food and water. The division was never reformed.[6] Of the divisional commander, Rommel is reported to have concluded, "Superb leadership was shown by the Italian General de Giorgis, who commanded this German-Italian force in its two months’ struggle." [7]

Order of battle

  • Divisional Command
    • Motorised company
    • Infantry Command
    • Three platoons Cannone da 47/32 M35
    • Platoon 2cm anti-aircraft machine guns
  • 15th Infantry Regiment Savona
    • Staff
    • One 81mm mortar company (6 mortars)
    • Three battalions (2nd battalion in Bardia)
      • Each battalion staff, three rifle companies with 12 light MGs each, and one support company with 18 45mm mortars and 8 anti-tank rifles.
  • 16. Infantry Regiment (same as 15th Regiment, 2nd battalion in Bardia)
  • Light tank company with 13 L33 tanks (sunk on transport)
  • 4. Genova Cavalleria Armored Car Battalion
  • 155. Machine Gun Battalion
  • 300. Infantry battalion "Oasis" (German)[8]
  • 12. Artillery Regiment Sila
    • 1. battalion (10 cm howitzers) 1st and 2nd batteries (4/5 howitzers, respectively) sunk; 3rd battery of 4 howitzers in Naples.
    • 2. battalion (10.5 cm guns), 3 batteries of four guns each 3rd battery in Naples
    • 3. battalion (7.5 cm guns), 1st battery 6 guns, 2nd and 3rd 4 guns.
    • 8. independent battery with 2 coastal defense guns of unknown calibre
    • 27. independent battery with 6 coastal defense guns of unknown calibre
    • 503. independent battery with 4 coastal defense guns each of unknown calibre
    • 504. independent battery with 4 coastal defense guns each of unknown calibre
    • 55. Field Replacement Battalion with two companies (in Naples)
    • 255.anti-tank battalion with 8 37/54 and 4 47/32 guns
  • Pioneer and Signals Troops
    • 127. Mixed Radio and Telephone Company
    • 55. Specialist Engineers battalion
    • Further signals troops in Naples
  • Administration Services
    • 27. Bakery Detachment (motorised)
    • Motorised V.A. Detachment
  • 155. Mixed Supply Column (motorised)
  • 45. Field Medical Detachment
  • 75. Carabinieri Detachment (motorised)
  • 55. Field Postal Detachment (motorised)

[nb 2][10]

Notes

Footnotes
  1. ^ Author Walther-Peer Fellgiebel lists Fedele de Giorgis as a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 January 1942 as Lieutenant General and commander of the Italian Division "Savona".[1] According to Veit Scherzer his name is spelled Fedele Degiorgis.[2]
  2. ^ An Italian North African Infantry Division of the 1940 structure normally consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions, one mortar, one 65mm gun company each), an Artillery Regiment with one heavy and two light battalions and an anti-aircraft battery, a light tank Battalion with 46 tankettes, an Anti Tank Company, a reserve and a machine-gun battalion. Each Division had 10,978 men if at full strength. In 1942 the North African divisions were reorganised on a much smaller scale.[9]

References

  1. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 461.
  2. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 268.
  3. ^ Inside the Afrika Korps: The Crusader Battles, 1941-1942 (Rainer Kriebel & Bruce Gudmundsson)
  4. ^ The Bologna Division: 19 November – 10 December 1941
  5. ^ http://www.regioesercito.it/reparti/fanteria/rediv55.htm
  6. ^ Orpen "War in the Desert"
  7. ^ Jack P. Greene, Alessandro Massignani (1999) [1994]. Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940 – November 1942. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo. pp. 130. ISBN 978-1-58097-018-1.
  8. ^ http://gregpanzerblitz.com/Crusader/SavonaCrusader.pdf
  9. ^ http://niehorster.org/019_italy/40_organ/div_autotrans_40as.html
  10. ^ http://rommelsriposte.com/2010/06/23/order-of-battle-of-the-italian-55th-infantry-division-savona-%E2%80%93-november-1941/

Bibliography

  • Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9.
  • Jowett, Phillip. The Italian Army 1040-45 (3): Italy 1943-45. Osprey Publishing, Westminster. ISBN 978-1-85532-866-2.
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