Author: Vollketten (US server) Hello everyone, there is this notion sometimes being thrown around that Italian tanks didn’t fight as hard as their allied/other axis counterparts. This is obviously not true, Italian armor saw plenty of action in WW2 and despite being overshadowed by their German “cousins”, Italian tankers gave the Allies a run for their money on more than one occasion. In this case, Vollketten will be talking about the M13/40 tank action. I hope you enjoy it. SS Vollketten: Tank Battles of the M13/40 Just to be clear: I did not write this, this is a piece of work from NA player Rivit who did all the work and who deserves all the credit. My assistance is with some minor editing and formatting for the purposes of putting it onto FTR. It appears in full on the NA forum as a thread here and if you have further information I’m sure Rivit would appreciate it. Enjoy. From the pages of the British war diaries and the official histories of three nations, comes the forgotten story of the battles of Italy’s Fiat Ansaldo M13/40 from Derna Mechili and Beda Fomm, to Operation Crusader, the Gazala battles and El Alamein, through El Guettar Valley and to the hills of Sicily, the M13/40 and its brothers were there. For the men who fought and died, lost and won, and lived their lives within its hull, all that can be offered is the always incomplete, always forgotten, and always surprising tank battles of the M.13/40. Chronology Operation Compass – 9/12/1940 – 7/2/1941 Derna – Mechili tract – 24/1/1941 Beda Fomm – 5/1/1941 – 7/1/1941 Operation Brevity – 15/5/1941 – 16/5/41 Operation Scorpion – 26/5/1941 – 27/5/1941 Operation BattleAxe – 15/6/1941 – 17/6/1941 Siege of Tobruk – 10/4/1941 – 5/12/1941 Operation Crusader – 18/11/1941-1/6/1942 First battle of Bir El Gubi – 19/11/1941 Battle of Totensonntag (Sunday of the Dead) – 23/11/1941 Rommel’s dash to the wire and Sidi Rezegh – 24/11/1941 Sidi Rezegh retaken – 29/11/1941 2nd Battle of Bir el Gubi – 1/12/1941-4/12/1941 The Axis withdraw, from Gazala and beyond – 8/12/1941 – 21/1/1942 Rommel’s advance to Gazala – 21/1/1942 – 11/2/1942 The Gazala Battles – 26/05/1942 – 7/7/1942 Southern flanking attack – 27/5/1942 -29/5/1942 The Cauldron battles – 30/5/1942 – 6/6/1942 Fall of Bir Hachiem – 10/6/1942 – 11/6/1942 Battles South of Knightsbridge – 10/6/1942 – 12/6/1942 Fall of Tobruk – 20/6/1942 – 21/6/1942 Mersa Matruh – 25/6/1942 – 28/6/1942 1st El Alamein – 1/7/1942 – 10/7/1942 El Alamein, British counterattack – 10/7/1942 – 12/6/1942 Alam Halfa – 31/8/1942 – 4/9/1942 El Alamein, Montgomery’s attack – 23/10/1942 – 4/11/1942 Supercharge begins – 2/11/1942 Rommel begins withdraw – 4/11/1942 German and Italian reinforcements land in Tunisia – 9/11/1942 Coxen’s Farm – 25/11/1942 Rommel’s withdraw reaches Tunisia – 12/2/1942 Djebel el Hamra – 21/2/1943 – 22/2/1943 El Guettar valley/ Djebel el Mcheltat – 29/3/1943 – 8/4/1943 Axis surrender in Tunisia – 13/5/1943 Favarotta, Sicily – 11/7/1943 Canicatti, Sicily – 11/7/1943 – 12/7/1943 24/1/1941, Derna-Mechili tract Although small numbers of M13/40s were present at both Bardia and Tobruk, no tank battles were reported. The first tank battle of the M13/40 occurred along the Derna-Mechili tract. A squadron of Mk.VI light tanks stumbled into a group of M13/40s and retreated under-fire. Six Mk VIs were knocked out and the pursuing M13/40s fell into an awaiting ambush. In the ensuing battle, a single A9 cruiser tank was knocked out, while nine M13/40s were destroyed.[1] Outcome/Losses: 9 x M13/40s / 7 x British tanks (6 lights and 1 cruiser) 5/1/1941-7/1/1941, Disaster at Beda Fomm O’Conner cuts off the Italian retreat from Cyrenaica and wipes out the remaining Italian armor force. Only four Italian Medium tanks and about thirty lorries manage to break through the southern roadblock. Sent in piecemeal, often attempting to fire on the move, the M13/40s were destroyed one group at a time. Sources vary over the number of Italian medium tanks (M13/40 and M11/39s) knocked out from tank vs tank fights. Osprey’s ‘Operation Compass’ claims between twenty to forty[2] and ‘Australia in the War of 1939-1945’ places the number at around sixty.[3] The rest were knocked out, captured, or abandoned from engagements with antitank guns, portees (truck mounted AT guns), and artillery. Outcome/Losses: 112 x M13/40s and M11/39s [4] / 8 x Cruisers from breakdowns and artillery Map of Operation Compass: 10/4/1941, Siege of Tobruk, multiple dates / multiple battles 10/4/1941 to 11/4/1941, During a long range tank battle along the Tobruk perimeter, one M13/40, a German medium tank, and three light tanks (L3s) are knocked out for the loss of two British medium tanks. [5] Outcome/Losses: 1 x M13/40 / 1 x British Med. 17/4/1941 Antitank rifles and AT guns, later joined by cruiser tanks, capture one M13/40 and four light tanks. That evening, it appears the cruisers knock out three more tanks, until the Rommel papers reveal a friendly fire incident in the same location at the same time.[6] Outcome/Losses: 1 x Italian Medium tank captured / 0 British tank losses recorded 13/12/1941, The Relief of Tobruk, Point 204, Late Operation Crusader Nine “I” tanks, three cruisers of 1RTR, and a troop from the 31st Field Regiment, RA help repulse an attack, at midday, by ten to twelve tanks (wrongly reported as German) and claimed to put three of them out of action. Fifteen Italian tanks renew the attack and overrun a troop of six 25-pounders.[7] This is one of the only tank engagements I have been able to find between the British ” I” tanks (Matildas/Valentines) and the M13/40. Outcome/Losses: 3 x Italian tanks (claimed only) / 0 British tank losses recorded Map of Operation Crusader: 19/11/1941, Bir el Gobi(Gubi) The opening move of Operation Crusader found the 22 Armoured Brigade launching an attack against the Ariete’s fixed positions at Bir el Gobi. Before long, truck mounted artillery claimed about fifteen cruiser tanks. Meanwhile, Ariete’s M13/40s launched a counterattack into the tanks of the 22 Armoured Brigade. The tank losses for the Italians are widely known and accepted. Thirty-four M13s are knocked out and fifteen more suffered repairable damage and mechanical breakdowns. Eight M13/40s were reported in base workshops at the start of the battle. The British losses are still debated to this day. While British war diaries reveal accurate losses for the 6RTR and 4CLY, the losses suffered by the 3CLY are not completely revealed in their war diary. One squadron reports four tanks lost, but other squadrons seem to vanish from the pages for several days. Correlli Barnett’s, ‘The Desert Generals’ places the British losses at fifty-two[8]. The British retrieved some of their knocked out tanks during the night, further Continue reading →

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