Looking for information on Italian units during the battle of Amba Alagi 1941

Discussion in 'Axis Units' started by GatoGato123, Nov 1, 2021.

  1. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    Hello everyone,

    I am looking for information on the Italian units that fought in the battle of Amba Alagi in 1941. I know for a fact that elements of the 65th Infantry Division 'Granatieri di Savoia' were present, but I'm not sure about any others. Any help is appreciated!
  2. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member


    On the Issuu app there is an account the Biblioteca Militaire, which has published a large number of volumes on Italian Military History, which may be worth a look.

    The account description is:
    I have used it for the Italian account of El Alamein for which there are a number of account in English.

    I wish you luck in your research.
    stolpi and 4jonboy like this.
  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Forgotten Fights: The Battle of Amba Alagi 1941 by Author Andrew Stewart, PhD | The National WWII Museum | New Orleans
    The defending garrison of around 9,000 men consisted of the last three remaining regular battalions from the Savoia Grenadiers, along with a few other odd detachments of troops. They had around 40 artillery pieces and a battery of naval anti-aircraft guns but there were no aircraft to support them.

    AMBA ALAGI 1941 on JSTOR

    Memoir '44 | Days of Wonder
    Beginning in early April of 1941, the Italian forces in East Africa suffered a series of critical defeats. Massawa, the Eritrean port city on the Red Sea, was taken on April 8 and the capital of Abyssinia, Addis Ababa, had been taken two days earlier. Italian regular infantry, colonial troops, and a mix of air force and naval personnel retreated from the joint British-Indian-Free French-South African advance to the final holdouts at Gondar and Amba Alagi. Amba Alagi, a range of several steep peaks and ridges in northern Abyssinia, was defended by some 7,000 Italian troops and artillery and contained many stashed motor vehicles and munitions. Among the Italian forces under the Duke of Aosta and General Valetti-Borgnini were elements of the Savoy Grenadiers, two battalions of the 211th Regiment of the Africa Division, two groups of the 60th Artillery, and a battalion of Carabinieri. The defenders prepared several fortified high-altitude positions that guarded the roads that cut through the heights at Falaga Pass and Fort Toselli. In late April Major-General Mayne's Fifth Indian "Ball of Fire" Division, composed of Indian and British troops, drove south from Eritrea and began to position its self on the approaches to the north of Amba Alagi. Some days later the First South African Brigade under General Pienaar advanced from the south after having taken the city of Dessie.
    Heavy fighting commenced in the first week of May as the Indian division began assaulting the Italian hill positions they dubbed "Pyramid, "Whaleback," and "Elephant" on the Italian left flank. While these operations were carried out by commandos and the Royal Garhwal Rifles, The 3/12 Royal battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment attacked the heights around Falaga Pass. The 9th Indian Infantry Brigade invested the center of the position from the north, negotiating sharp ridges and a perilous line of communications against well dug-in Italian infantry. To the south, the South African Natal Carbineers regiment secured "Khaki Hill" as allied artillery began to answer the Italian batteries that fired upon the allied forces to its north and south. The Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles and the First Battalion of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment were tasked with scaling the ridges the led to the Italian positions at the summit of Amba Alagi and Mount Corarsi. Also active against the Italian defenses were elements of the Abyssinian patriot forces led by Leul-Ras Seyoum, which constantly harassed and raided their former occupiers with small arms fire and grenades.
    The two-week long battle was characterized by intense artillery fire, deadly machine gun fire, painstaking climbs, cool wet weather, and a reliance on pack animals for supply and communication. On May 15 the only source of Italian drinking water was polluted by an oil tank that had been hit by a British shell. Finally, on May 17, the Duke of Aosta radioed Rome, reporting: "I meet my destiny comforted in the knowledge of having fulfilled my duty. Amedeo di Savoia." His forces surrendered after a negotiated cease fire two days later. Amba Alagi was the penultimate Italian stand in Africa. The Italian presence in East Africa would cease some six months later with the fall of Gondar.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2021
    CL1, stolpi, Chris C and 2 others like this.
  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Andrew Stewart's thesis (Post 3 refers) became a book and Post 12 on this thread refers, with my review: The East African Campaign

    There is an Italian book, in English, on the Italian side of the war, see Post 1: Mussolini's War series

    You can join JSTOR for free and currently you can access full articles, I think up to 100 per month. A great resource. The cited article is from 1989, so Stewart's book is many years later.
  5. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    Many thanks for the replies everyone, it helped massively. I was able to find out what the uniform of the Granatieri di Savoia division looked like, but I can't seem to find anything about the 211th 'Pescara' Infantry Regiment/Cacciatori d'Africa division. Is anybody able to provide any good sources for this?
  6. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

  7. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    I know what the uniform itself was, but I am left clueless on certain other details, such as whether or not they would have had their divisional shield on the arm, as is the case with the Granatieri di Savoia. Another one is whether or not they had the regular Italian infantry pith helmet badge, or a colonial infantry one. The pith badge part is particularly hard for me to figure out.
  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    If you ask about uniform (Post 5) and then reply 'I know what the uniform itself was' and clarify you seek the divisional shield - it would help to be clearer, so at least I do not waste my time.
  9. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    I do not 'seek the divisional shield', I seek to know whether or not it was used on their uniform, like the Granatieri di Savoia did. It almost seems as if you're wasting your own time by not reading my posts correctly.
  10. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    Anywho, to further add onto this, were any Blackshirts present at the defence of Amba Alagi? I cannot find anything about it in any orders of battle, but I did hear in a particular British Pathé video on the surrender of the Duke of Aosta; "the pick of his troops, including many companies of Blackshirts were driven to this (referring to Amba Alagi), their final Abbysinian stronghold by the South Africans".
  11. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    CL1 likes this.
  12. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    I managed to find this newspaper article (shown below) which mentions Indian troops attacking the Blackshirts at Amba Alagi, thus, insinuating that Blackshirts were present at the battle. Unfortunately, it doesn't mention which Blackshirt units the Indians were attacking, but I am presuming it would've been either the 11th African CC.NN. Legion attached to the Granatieri di Savoia division, or any of the three CC.NN. battalions attached to the Cacciatori d'Africa division.

    Attached Files:

  13. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    What does the Italian official history say?

    I suggest a post-war historical narrative has greater credibility than random guesses by anonymous posters on the internet or contemporary reporting by outlets selling stories.
  14. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    I have no clue if it is 'official' or not. But, I've attached a picture below if you're curious.

    Attached Files:

    • OOB.png
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  15. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    No, I am not curious. If I was, I would seek out the official histories myself. They are easy to find - especially when somebody has already pointed the way (see post #2 by BFBSM).

    From your words, I suspect you have missed the point of my previous post.

    You have a dilemma. Some sources say X, other sources say Y. Which is correct?

    In the absence of one or more primary documents providing the answer, the next best option is the official history since that is based upon primary documentation - not dilemmas thrown up from internet searches.

    If you "have no clue if it is 'official' or not" then all you are doing is adding to your dilemma.

    Getting to grips with and solving your dilemma is best served by sifting the wheat from the chaff not trying to amass as much chaff as possible. Best start point is to pin down the official history.
  16. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Contemporary newspaper articles aren't reliable sources for military history even if they may be right. They are important for social history though and they can give important pointers as in this case.

    The official Italian history is on the internet, on Issuu.com. It notes the following for Amba Alagi (p.336).

    Southern front:
    2x Nationals battalions (=Italians) 2 colonial battalions and 2 colonial companies, 1 irregular band; 5 artillery battalions
    It footnotes these as the National Battalions being CC.NN. as they were Italian colonists residing at Dessie who had been recalled to the colours.

    Eastern Front:
    1 battalion nationals (navy), 1 colonial battalion and 1 colonial company. 2 artillery batteries.

    Limited reserve in the lines: 2 engineer companies (Artieri) of the XVIII Battalion

    General reserve at Dessie: 2 battalions nationals (not footnoted but reasonable to presume same as southern front); 1 battalion of national squadrons (presume cavalry)

    Western sub-sector of Dessie:
    1 battalion CC.NN. of Africa (XIII) and about 16,000 armed peasants.


    All the best


    Attached Files:

  17. MarkN

    MarkN Banned


    Isn't that relevant to the battle of Dessie the previous month?

    But your link makes it even simpler for gatogato123 to find the information themselves. :)
  18. GatoGato123

    GatoGato123 Member

    Greetings Andreas, thank you for your input. However, I don't think this is necessarily related to the battle of Amba Alagi. On page 60-61 of the same source you provided, you can see what, I hope and believe to be, the order of battle for Amba Alagi.(which I also posted a picture of on post #14)
  19. MarkN

    MarkN Banned


    So you now have confirmation that that information, that excerpt, comes from the Italian official history.

    It is now down to you to decide whether you trust the veracity of the Italian official history or not.

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