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The Tank Battles of the M13/40


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rivit #1 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:34

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Tank Battles of the M13/40 

 

From the pages of the British war diaries and the official histories of three nations, comes the forgotten story of Italy's Fiat  Ansaldo M13/40. For the first time, on the English speaking side of the internet, a compilation of the tank battles of the M13/40. 

A journey from Derna Mechili and Beda Fomm, to 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 M13/40.

 

Chronology

Spoiler

 


Edited by rivit, Mar 21 2014 - 13:46.


rivit #2 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:35

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1. 24/1/1941Derna-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 M13/40s / 7 British tanks (6 lights and 1 cruiser) 

 

2. 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 breakthrough 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)  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 M13/40s [4] / 8 Cruisers from breakdowns and artillery

 

3.10/4/1941Siege of Tobruk,  multiple dates / multiple battles

10/4/1941-11/4/1941, 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 M13/40 / 1 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 Italian Medium tank captured / 0

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.[7This 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 Italian tanks (claimed only) / 0 

 

 

4. 19/11/1941Bir 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 complicating any accurate counts. Although the battles importance should not be exaggerated, it was the first time the British faced a full fledged Italian tank division.      

Outcome/Losses...................29 M13/40, 5 Light tanks / 52 British cruiser tanks

 

5. 21/11/1941, Area around the aerodrome at Sidi Rezegh

During the morning, 6RTR launches an attack from the southwest corner of the Sidi Rezegh aerodrome. 

The 6RTR war diaries claim five Mk.II German tanks, one M13, and several guns destroyed. However, Agar- Hamilton, and Turners, The South African Official History claim these were actually L3 tankettes/light tanks.[9]    

Outcome/Losses.........................? / ?

 

6. 23/11/1941Battle of Totensonntag (Sunday of the Dead), Sidi Rezegh [10][11 ]

After spending the next several days in the area of Bir el Gubi, Ariete finally comes under German command (the first time during Operation Crusader). Meeting the 15th PZ. Division coming from the northeast, Ariete falls behind (the 3CLY war diaries reveal they were refueling). While the tanks of the 15th PZ. Division plunge into the guns of the 5th South African Brigade, Ariete clashes with a composite regiment of "some thirty" British tanks (remnants of previous battles)[12 ], including eight from 3CLY. The tank battle erupts at 800 yards when, for some unknown reason, Lt. Col. WG Carr orders his tanks to assault from left to right across the path of Ariete's sixty M13/40s. The composite regiment is left with only four battle worthy tanks, down to one towing another the next day. Later, they were joined by two more tanks from a separate leaguer.

Outcome/Losses.........................No losses reported / 24 British tanks knocked out 

  

Following the Battle of Totensonntag, over the next several days, the British began receiving replacements  from a reserve of about two-hundred tanks. By November 27th the 22nd Armd. Bde. had been rebuilt to a strength of forty-two Crusaders and 4th Armd. Bde. rebuilt to seventy-seven tanks[13 ].                                                          

 

Edited by rivit, Apr 28 2014 - 23:00.


rivit #3 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:36

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7. 30/11/1941The area of Pt.175 (north of Bir Reghem)

Keeping a corridor open for the New Zealanders and the 1st S. African Brigade, tanks of the 4th Armoured Brigade then advance north. Twenty-six Stuart tanks fell on an Italian tank group, knocking out thirteen M13/40s and five light tanks, for no loss to themselves.[14]

Outcome/Losses...................13 M13/40s / 0

 

8. 1/12/1941, Pt.175

The next day, the 11th Hussars war diary states that the 4th Armd. Bde. was having "a very rough time", while engaged by approximately ten M13/40s. No British losses are given and the RHA(Royal Horse Artillery) eventually engaged the M13/40s with "marked success". 

Outcome/Losses...................? / ?

 

9. 12/12/1941, Area NW of Mtgataat el Adam

2RGH war diaries report one M13/40 knocked out by H squadron when it returns from "Currie" Column, somewhere NW of the unit leaguer.

Outcome/losses..................1 M13/40 / 0

 

10. The Gazala battles and the Cauldron  

Unfortunately, for the beginning and middle of the Gazala Battles, including the Cauldron, the British war diaries cease. The war diaries of Individual British units are unavailable online, or missing altogether. A useful tool for determining the whereabouts of the M13/40 can be found here:

General Major Alfred Toppe, German Experiences in Desert Warfare During World War II:

http://www.theblackvault.com/documents/wwii/marine1/1296ii.pdf

Although useful for both the Crusader and Gazala Battles, be warned, the mentioned tank losses on a specific date are only for the British. Italian armor engaged in several tank battles on various dates and served in "The Cauldron".                 

 

11. 10/6/1942, South of Knightsbridge, Semovente 75/18 vs the Grant [15][16]

In his Book, Italian Armored Vehicles of World War Two,Squadron,2004, Nicola Pignato  briefly describes a battle at Bir Hakeim (Hacheim) between Semovente 75/18s and about forty Grants, leaving twenty British tanks destroyed.

 

Actually, the battle in question occurred between Bir Hacheim and Knightsbridge, on the 10th of June 1942.

Lined up abreast thirty Grants and ten Stuarts, from both the 6th and 1st RTR, launched an attack on a position held by the Ariete. On the British right, 6RTR came under fire from some tanks and truck mounted guns, while on the left (1RTR), a tank attack was reported at 10:30. When it is over three Grants and two Stuarts from 6RTR are knocked out and twelve Grants and three Stuarts from 1RTR are lost. Later that night, tanks from the 15 and 21 PZ. Div. arrive and shoot up several trucks and five or six more tanks. Author Liddell-Hart claims the British only lost sixteen, but appears to only be counting the losses from 1RTR. 

Outcome/Losses...............2 M13/40s / 20 total, 15 Grants and 5 Stuarts       

 

12. 12/6/1942, South of Knightsbridge, Trieste's M13/40s and the Grants

Capt. Buxton and his Crusader from 3CLY are sent out to meet a squadron of ten Grants from the 4th Hussars. Together they attempted to engage a group of eight armored cars and nine M13/40s of the Trieste Mot. Division. Ten tanks were overwhelmed by a large number of Italian tanks and destroyed, minus a single Grant which managed to escape. Capt. Buxton and his crew were captured and remained prisoner until they managed to escape the following day. The war diaries of the 3CLY report Capt. Buxtons version, while the 4th Hussars war diary claims it was twelve Mark IIIs and eight Mark IVs supported by eight 88 millimeters and 50mm guns. It is possible the single frantic Grant believed German tanks must have done the damage, but Capt. Buxton was captured and remained in the area, making him a far more reliable witness. 

Outcome/Losses..................0 / 10 total, 9 Grants and a Crusader      

 

13. 30/6/1942, Alam el Tamr, The Grant strikes back

Following the the Gazala Battles and the fall of Tobruk, Grants from both the 6RTR and 3rd County of 4th County of London Yeomanry engage in two separate battles with a surprised Italian column that wandered too far east. 

The 6RTR claimed two M13/40s knocked out while the 4CLY destroyed ten.

Outcome/Losses......................12 M13/40 /  0 

 

14. 15/7/1942-16/7/1942, Area of El Ruweisat

Although the 9th Lancer's war diaries are unavailable, their actions are included in the 2RGH and 6RTR war diaries for July 15th.

Two tanks from the 9th Lancer were destroyed(according to the 2RGH war diaries from AT guns, but according to 6RTR diaries it was a tank attack) and one Crusader from the 6RTR was knocked out. One M13/40 was knocked out on the 15th and either a M13/40 or a captured Grant was knocked out on the 16th. July 15th was the day the New Zealand Div. grabbed around 200 prisoners and several guns from the Ariete. 

 Outcome/Losses.......................1 M13/40 + 1 M13/40 or captured Grant  / 3 Crusaders

 

15. El Alamein and the long retreat 

 

16.2/11/1942, Tel el Aqaqir

From the war diaries of the 11th Hussar and 4CLY, fifty enemy tank losses are reported as a result of battle with the 22nd and 8th Armd Bde.

The 15th Pz.Div. and Littorio participated in a counter attack on this day.

Outcome/Losses.............................50 German and Italian tanks / ?

3/11/1942, El Alamein 

 By November 3rd the 15th  PZ. Div had ten tanks left, The 21st Pz .Div only fourteen and The Littorio Armour Div. had seventeen tanks.[17

4/11/1942, Ariete's last signal[18]

On the day Ariete was overwhelmed, only twenty-nine tanks fell during its last broadcast. Another forty tanks were captured in their repair workshops. The rest of Ariete was destroyed the next day after clashing with the 7th Armour Division.[19]

4/11/1942, West of Dier Murra

Again reported from the 11th Hussars and 4CLY, the 1RTR, 5RTR, and 4CLY engage and knock out 10 M13/40s for no loss to themselves.

Outcome/Losses..........................10 M13/40s / 0

5/11/1942, Escape from El Alamein

A Sqn, 11th Hussars . captured five M13/40s and knocked out two more. "B" Sqn witnesses twenty German and Italian tanks attack Calal from the east and are all destroyed.

Outcome/Losses........................25 German and Italian tanks / 0

 

17. 14/12/1942, El Aghelia

A Sqn, 11th Hussars witnessed a battle between M13/40s and the Sherwood rangers, the 3RTR and the Staff Yeomanry. Seven M13/40s are seen brewed up. Regimental HQ claims twelve M13/40s destroyed. 

Outcome/losses...................7-12 M13/40s / ?  

18.11/11/1942 , Fort Capuzzo and the road to Bardia

  Several M13/40, Semovente 75/18, and L6s totaling eight tanks are found abandoned by elements of the 4CLY. Two Cruisers are reported lost from artillery and anti tank fire.

Outcome/Losses.............................. Not all of the Italian tanks were lost at El Alamein.

 


Edited by rivit, Apr 08 2014 - 14:15.


rivit #4 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:36

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25/11/1942, Coxen's farm

The Chieftain's Hatch already covered the following battle:

http://forum.worldoftanks.com/index.php?/topic/72635-chouigui-pass/

At Coxen's farm two Semovente 47/32s are knocked out by Stuarts. One Stuart is lost by AT fire.

Outcome/Losses......................2 Semovente 47/32 / 1 Stuart

 

21/2/1943, Djebel el Harma

The American 9th Infantry and 13th Armored Regiment halt the Centauro and 15th Panzer Division.  

This battle is widely known, but finding losses for the Centauro's M14/41s has proven difficult.

The Italian tank losses were most likely twenty-three M14/41s incorporated into a DAK assualt group.

Outcome/Losses...............Most likely 23 M14/41s / 0

Sources:

Spoiler

 

                     

30/3/1943 - 10/4/1943 - Djebel Berda , Djebel el Mcheltat (El Quettar Valley), Centauro and Benson Force

For over eight days the Centauro and Bersaglieri held back Benson Force and the 9th Infantry Division. During the first assault, Benson Force loses five M3 Lees to mines and enemy fire. During the next attempt on the 31st, nine M3 Lees and two half-track tank destroyers are knocked out from AT-fire, mines, and a flanking attack from Centauro's sixteen remaining tanks, including two Semovente. Six M14/41s are lost during the counter-attack.

Outcome/Losses....................6 M14/41s / 9 M3 Lees

 

Sources:

Spoiler

 


Edited by rivit, Mar 30 2014 - 20:10.


rivit #5 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:37

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10/7/1943, Position 9147, Invasion of Sicily

Still investigating (unconfirmed)

Between midnight on July 10th and midnight on July 11th, the 15th Infantry Division advances north along Highway 123. Running into position *9147, two Semovente da 90/53s and a light tank are discovered abandoned after an artillery strike.

*Position 9147 doesn't match any elevation in the area. Most likely, it's the fire designation numbers used while calling for fire. This area possibly matches Monte Morotta.

Outcome/Losses.............................2 / ---

Sources:

Spoiler

 

 

11/7/1943, Favarotta, Sicily

Still investigating (unconfirmed)

After landing at Licata, The Americans begin to advance north as part of the plan to provide a guard for Monty's flank. They reach Favarotta and a four hour battle ensues.

Outcome/losses..............................Several armored vehicles and tanks(claimed) / 2 Semovente da 90/53 (claimed by half-tracks) 

Sources:

Spoiler

 

.............................................................................................................................................................................................................

11/7/1943-12/7/1943, Canicatti, Sicily, Captain Perkins and the Semovente da 90/53

       On the 11th of July, three M4 Shermans are lost while attempting to advance down the forward slope of ridge "A". Before nightfall, a combined artillery/tank fire-for-effect on a village forces the loss/abandonment of four Semovente 90/53s. On the 12th, Two more Shermans are lost outside Canicatti.  

Outcome/Losses..................4 Semovente da 90/53 / 5 Shermans

Sources:

Spoiler

 

...............................................................................................................................................................................................................

Although there are plenty of other tank battles, especially during the Gazala period, these are the tank battles that are available and accessible online. The compilation will always be incomplete. For those interested, Ian Walker's Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts provides a thorough account of Italian tank battles.

Book review: http://stonebooks.com/archives/040516.shtml   


Edited by rivit, Mar 30 2014 - 19:55.


rivit #6 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:37

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Sources:

[1] Jon Latimer, Operation Compass 1940: Wavell's Whirlwind Offensive, Osprey, 2000, pg.65

[2] ibid, pg 80

Gavin Merrick, Australia in the War of 1939-1945,Series I - Army, Vol.1 To Benghazi,  pg.270:

 http://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1070233--1-.PDF 

[3] ibid, pg. 270-271 

[4] ibid, pg 272

[5]Barton Maughan, Australia in the War of 1939-1945,Series I-Army, Vol.III, Tobruk and El Alamein, (1st edition ,1966)

Chapter 4, At Bay - the Easter Battle, pg 134:

[6] ibid, pg. 168

http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/second_world_war/AWMOHWW2/Army/Vol3/

[7]From W.E. Murphy, The Official History of New Zealand in the second World War 1939-1945, Chap. 26 - Gazala and Beyond  pg.499

[8] Correlli Barnett, The Desert Generals, pg. 97

[9] Agar-Hamilton and Turner, South African Official History, no page number

[10 Andreas,The Crusader Project, Ariete's Contribution to the Battle of Totensonntag(Sunday of the Dead) Sidi Rezegh:

http://rommelsriposte.com/2013/08/10/arietes-contribution-to-sidi-rezegh-di-nisio-column/

[11] War diaries of the 3CLY

[12] Agar-Hamilton and Turner, South African Official History, pg 231

[13] Ibid,'' ''

[14] 7th Armoured Division, Engagements 1941 http://www.desertrats.org.uk/battles1941.htm#Crusader

[15} 1RTR site (war diaries unavailable online):http://www.1rtr.net/frontpage.html 

 >click on 1RTR 1955 Handbook on bottom right. June 10th , 1942:

Spoiler

[16] War Diaries of the 6RTR:

Spoiler

 

[17] David Irving, The Trail of the Fox, pg.277

[18] 7th Armoured Division, Engagements 1942

http://www.desertrats.org.uk/battles1942.htm

[19Playfair I.S.O: and Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C. & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1966]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume IV: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in AfricaHistory of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-068-8. pg.78-79

...............................................................................................................................................................................................................

2RGH War Diaries: http://www.warlinks.com/armour/2nd_rgh/index.php

3CLY War Diaries: http://www.warlinks.com/armour/4_cly/index.php

4th Hussars War Diaries: http://www.desertrats.org.uk/WarDiaries/4th_Hussars/index.htm

6RTR War Diaries: http://www.warlinks.com/armour/6th_royal_tank/index.php

11th Hussars War Diaries: http://www.warlinks.com/armour/11_hussars/index.php

Montecuccoli's war reports of the Italian High Command "Ballettini di guerra"

www.panzer-archive, The Italian Army in WW2 pg.9:

http://forum.panzer-archiv.de/viewtopic.php?t=3653&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=120

 

Edit history: Removed M11/39s from Disaster at Beda Fomm 


Edited by rivit, Apr 29 2014 - 12:26.


rivit #7 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:38

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                                                                          MAPS

Operation Compass from WIKI, Italian maps from igmi.org, Splitting of 7th Armd. Div. from Vollketten, Bir el Gobi from Comando Supremo, and El Alamein from the Axis History Forum.

Operation Compass: 

Spoiler

Italian map of Beda Fomm:

Spoiler

 

Italian map of Tobruk:

Spoiler

 


Edited by rivit, Apr 18 2014 - 15:14.


rivit #8 Posted Mar 07 2014 - 19:39

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Operation Crusader:

 

Bir el Gobi:

19411119BelGobi_zps107aee32.jpg

Map of the Gazala battles:

Spoiler

 


Edited by rivit, Apr 18 2014 - 15:11.


rivit #9 Posted Mar 09 2014 - 14:46

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El Alamein:


Edited by rivit, Mar 28 2014 - 11:45.


rivit #10 Posted Mar 15 2014 - 16:48

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Map from Hyperwar

El Guettar Valley:

Spoiler

 

Map from 6thcorpscombatengineers.com

Invasion of Sicily: 

 

Map from hyperwar

Favarotta and Canicatti,Sicily:

Spoiler

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by rivit, Mar 28 2014 - 11:52.


Vollketten #11 Posted Apr 06 2014 - 17:07

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Posted here so I can find it more easily. Bookmarked for reference. Nice work Rivit.

rivit #12 Posted Apr 07 2014 - 17:04

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View PostVollketten, on Apr 06 2014 - 12:07, said:

Posted here so I can find it more easily. Bookmarked for reference. Nice work Rivit.

Thanks Vollk. 

 


Edited by rivit, Apr 29 2014 - 13:37.


Anlushac11 #13 Posted Apr 07 2014 - 23:09

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Looking forward to seeing Italian vehicles in game. I want to play with a Semovente 75/18, a M13/40, and a Semovente 90/53.

 

Too bad armored cars are not in game, would have been fun to play with a Autoblinda AB41.



rivit #14 Posted Apr 07 2014 - 23:21

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View PostAnlushac11, on Apr 07 2014 - 18:09, said:

Looking forward to seeing Italian vehicles in game. I want to play with a Semovente 75/18, a M13/40, and a Semovente 90/53.

 

Too bad armored cars are not in game, would have been fun to play with a Autoblinda AB41.

Hopefully, we'll see some Italian tanks by early 2015.



Vollketten #15 Posted Apr 09 2014 - 13:56

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