italian army (Africa) – plate B : Libya 1940-41

source : ‘the italian army 1940-45 (2) Africa’ men at arms 349, Osprey publishing

osprey maa 349 plate B

B1 : soldato, 64th artillery regiment, ‘Catanzaro’ infantry division
During the first desert campaign against the british, italian artillery crews earned a reputation for bravery by manning their guns in exposed positions and often fighting to the death. After the ‘Catanzaro’ had been badly mauled between Buqbuq and Sollum on 9-11 december 1940 the rest of the division was cut off in Bardia until its surrender on 5 january. This gunner of divisional artillery is wearing the tropical tunic. Introduced in the mid-1930s. Of light khaki linen, it follows the basic design of the continental wool tunic but without the lining. On the open collar he displays the red and black ‘mostrine’ or patch of this division, overlaid with the single black, yellow-edged flame of the artillery branch, bearing the universal silver star of the house of Savoy. The tropical breeches are worn with a brown leather version of the strapped leggings worn by the artillery in black with continental uniform. His tropical helmat bears the national tricolor cockade behind the brass badge of the artillery with the cut-out regimental number ‘64’. The leather bandolier was standard issue for artillery and mounted soldiers; his M1938TS Carcano carbine is also a type issued particularly to the artillery.

B2: muntaz, 3rd battalion ‘Nalut’, 4. raggruppamento, 2nd libyan division
This muntaz or lance-corporal serves with the libyan division which was destroyed on 7-10 december 1940 after fighting briefly against 4th indian division and the Matildas of 7th RTR in defence of the Tummar camp complex. On his khaki cotton ‘camiciotto Sahariano per coloniali’ jacket he displays the large detachable rank chevrons worn by all colonial troops, with the red star marking two years’ of service. His plain red sash colour shows that he belongs to the 3rd (libyan) battalion. The ‘takia’ cap – worn in combination with the white skullcap characteristic of Libyan male costume – has the blue tassel of all libyan units. It bears the star denoting his rank above the cap badge of colonial infantry. The standard issue grey-green leather belt and brace supports four ammunition pouches instead of the normal two – a habit widespread among libyan troops.

B3: primo capo squadra, 231st legion, ’28 ottobre’ MVSN division
This blackshirt junior grade sergeant has the M1937 grey-green wool tunic and pantaloons worn during the libyan campaign by a large number of troops brought over from Italy as reinforcements in the summer of 1940. He has the divisional shield on his left sleeve, above his rank; although officially out of date these were still worn by many at this time. His tropical helmet is the standard enlisted ranks’ M1935 with the small fasces badge of the italian-based blackshirts on the front. His personal equipment is standard army issue, including the grey-green leather belt with twin ammunition pouches. He is armed with the old 6.5mm Carcano M1891 rifle, and wears on his belt an MVSN combat dagger.

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