Grabbed_by_the_Spets wrote:the eyetie were not very well regarded by the ANZAC forces, often calling them dirty, cowardly and disorientated, quite the opposite to how the regarded Germans.
"eyetie"? What is it? A nickname for the Italians?
They are universally not well regarded, not only by ANZAC forces. Propaganda of the time has stuck to them, and their battle records doesn't really speak for them, espcially if you consider that some of their most celebrated battles during WW2 are ... glorious defeat (battle of Keren and the Folgore's defense of the El Munassib position during Second El Alamein).
But this bad propaganda tended to be self-propagating, since most Italian successes were usually credited on the Germans: all long range tank kills in the desert were attributed to German 88mm guns, while some were actually hit by Italian 90mm guns. Both were very similar in shape although a the Italian gun was a bit better than its German counterpart (yet, far less widespread on the frontline than the latter).
At Second El Alamein, some of the Italian paratroopers' heroic deeds are still today sometimes credited on Ramcke's Fallschirmjäger brigde.
The WW2 Italian army didn't lack courage nor skill, but their command structure was usually even more outdated than the 1940 French Army's one in terms of doctrine and communication assets. And unlike the French Army, their tanks were real crap, and if their 47mm AT gun was quite good early in the war, they never replaced it even when it was completely outdated. Italian troops also usually lacked motorized transports.
Those factors taken into account, you understand why the Italian Army failed in most of its endeavour over the course of the war: conquest of Greece, of the Alps (at Menton, 9 men
held thousands of Italian at bay from June 20 to 25, only stopping their resistance when informed of the armistice), of Egypt, ... Yet, failure at the political/strategical levels does not imply failure from the soldiers themselves. Just like the campaign of France in 1940, even though the high command displays several limitations, the ranks & files nonetheless put ut some superb fights when well led.
For the Italians, it was the case during the first stage of the East Africa campaign, and especially the battle of Keren
Keren was as hard a soldiers' battle as was ever fought, and let it be said that nowhere in the war did the Germans fight more stubbornly than those Savoia battalions, Alpini, Bersaglieri and Grenadiers. In the [first] five days' fight the Italians suffered nearly 5,000 casualties – 1,135 of them killed. [Lorenzini], the gallant young Italian general, had his head blown off by one of the British guns. He had been a great leader of Eritrean troops.
The unfortunate licence of wartime propaganda allowed the British Press to represent the Italians almost as comic warriors; but except for the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma no enemy with whom the British and Indian troops were matched put up a finer fight than those Savoia battalions at Keren. Moreover, the Colonial troops, until they cracked at the very end, fought with valour and resolution, and their staunchness was a testimony to the excellence of the Italian administration and military training in Eritrea.
At Second El Alamein, the Folgore entered History by putting such a stiff resistance that their destruction was honored not only by a word of praise from the BBC:
The remnants of the Folgore division put up resistance beyond every limit of human possibility.
but also by no less than another praise from Winston Churchill during a speech at the House of Commons:
The last survivors of Folgore have been gathered without forces in the desert, no one of them surrended, no one left his weapon"
We really must bow in front of the rest of those who have been the 'LIONS' of the Folgore Division.
Another example is one of the last, if not the last axis victory in the West, won by a force made up in majority of Italians, under Italian tactical & strategical command (with one German commander between those two levels), the battle of Garfagnana
A total of 9,100 Axis troops (of which 66% were Italians), with 100 artillery pieces but no tanks, attacked 18,000 Allied troops which were equipped with 140 artillery batteries and 120 tanks, as well as support from 160 P-47 Thunderbolts of the Allied XXII Tactical Air Command.
While German General Fretter-Pico would be the overall commander, Italian General Carloni would lead the attack operationally. All the offensive was under leadership of Italian Marshall Rodolfo Graziani, who promoted the attack with Mussolini.
All the objectives of the offensive were attained: the US 5th Army was tactically tripped out; Allied reserves were moved to a secondary sector; Italian Social Republican troops' morale was boosted by the success; the Axis gained a slightly better defensive situation on the Western Apennines, and indeed, the new front line stayed more or less intact until the April 1945 Axis collapse.
Italian defeats have nothing to do with Italian soldiers inability to fight or cowardice, but mostly with an obsolete or inadequate equipment, save for a few gems among it (Semovente
Another problem is that, if professional soldiers (Folgore, Bersaglieri, armored or colonial units, ...) were strong troops, as demonstrated by some of the battles mentionned above, most Italians draftees didn't believe in the fascist regime they were supposed to fight for ... It didn't help convincing them to die for Mussolini ... thus why some Italian units tented to surrender easily later in the war.
fighting for such a regime you didn't believe in really an act of cowardice?
That's all those unfair legends, combined with very "exotic" (not to say crappy) equipment, compared to the overseen German one, which made me take a keen interest in the Italian army.