Saturday, 10 September 2011


I rate them higher than germans. sorry but Germans formation were not supermen, to be quite honest the bersaglieri regiments, especially the one in the Ariete and Trieste divisions were more effective than the german schutzen.
 Also not every DAK formation was the same, the idea of the Germans being supermen at all levels is  untrue.
 The ariete consistently bested Commonwealth formations (only to be changed TO A german unit in some histories).
I want  to point out several things that people easily forgot…

 there was no "italian infantry" like there was no such thing like "german infantry". The unitys in 1940 were colonial infantry with very few metropolitan formations in the group. Plus they surrendered when water was running low, to my mind a sensible conduct in the desert.
The australan at Bardia got as good as they gave. Surrender after water supply were exhausted was the norm in the desert. The germans defender of Halfaya did the same and still they are considered "supermen".
2) Italian infantry division varied a lot. Some were good some were bad. Same for German and Commonwealth
In prepared position the italian units tended to be
Solid Morale (at least until after Tunisia)
sometime they were well led.
Also italian infantry in the 1941-42 battle was much better than in 1940 (more regular metropolitan units). According to Patton even in 1943 a well led infantry unit like the Livorno division was much more capable than a german poorly trained panzer division (the Hermann Goering).
According to german after action review at Gela the supposedly elite Goering division was indeed a mess. SO I would be very very very very careful in generalization. There is nothing to suggest DAK infantry was so good and a lot to suggest that units like the 164 Afrika division were poor performers and in several cases even the 90th Leichte was not so good (look at how these units were formed).
there is a  myth about italian battalion officers and above being poor. That myth originated in italy in post war period for a lot of reasons and was propped up by selected memories. In reading after action reports, analysis and other primary sources I have never found proof of that.
Also germans commanders tended to put a lot of blame on THE ITALIANS  for every failure (but if you read them everyone has to be blamd, allies, hitler, weather never them or never the superior german soldier…)
Actually, if there was a weak point in leadership often was in company level officers (reserve officers hastily recalled in 1940) and sometime that was shown.
Italian infantry was not trained for attack but for defensive operation in the italian proto-blitzkrieg theory.
Now going to the bersaglieri:
they were trained as shock troops and the training was good and realistic, especially for the regiments shipped to africa.
Bersaglieri had more regular, opposed to reserve, company level officers and their organization was designed to be flexible in explotiation operations. Cooperation with artillery was excellent.
so I will rate them at the top level (again I have no proof that the commonwealth units performed along quality lines, and I think the Maori battalion was ovverated, during the crusader battles a combined arms column from ariete captured a New Zealand strongpoint (point 175) almost without a shot…
In November 1941 the Ariete division was a veteran outfit, well equipped confident well led (even Rommel said that) and well trained. I am   italian but probablY between crusader and gazala the Ariete was the best Axis (if not best overall) division in the FIELD.


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