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WW2 Italian AT Weapons

Breda 20/65 Modello 1935

Kingdom of Italy (1935-1945)
Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Gun – 1,088 Built in 1940, Total Number Unknown

The Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 was the main Italian light anti-aircraft gun during the Second World War. The gun was developed as an anti-aircraft gun but was also used against light armored vehicles, especially if mounted on the numerous Italian autocannoni (truck mounted artillery), both on captured trucks and Italian produced vehicles. It was the main armament of the Carro Armato L6/40 light tank and of many models of the AB armored car series.

The name Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 means 20 mm L.65 Automatic Cannon [produced by] Breda, Model 1935. The gun was used by the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army), Regia Marina (English: Royal Navy), and Regia Aeronautica (English: Royal Air Force) until 1943, and the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (English: National Republican Army), Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (English: National Republican Air Force), and Marina Nazionale Repubblicana (English: National Republican Navy) from 1943 to 1945.

The automatic gun was also used by Commonwealth troops, in particular during the North African campaign, and the German Army after the Italian surrender in 1943. Many guns were also used by Italian and Yugoslav partisans.

After the war, many guns were deployed by the newborn Esercito Italiano (English: Italian Army), by the Italian police, by the Israeli Defense Forces in the first years of Israeli existence, and Finland.

Origin and Development

Starting in the 1920s, the Italian Regio Esercito was looking for a heavy weapon intended for anti-aircraft and anti-tank use. In fact, until the late 1930s, the Italian Army still considered even the 8 mm armor piercing rounds fired by medium machine guns as capable of dealing with enemy armor. The reason for this was because the 8 mm Breda Modello 1938 machine guns with Armor Piercing rounds were capable of piercing 11 mm of vertical armored plate at 100 m. Whilst arguably an adequate performance in the 1920s, it was totally useless in the 1930s, when modern tanks were well protected.

To seek a solution to this problem, in the late 1920s, the Italian Regio Esercito opted to adopt an automatic weapon that had greater caliber in order to improve the anti-tank capabilities.

Prototype 13.2 mm experimental machine gun of the Meccanica Bresciana Tempini (English: Tempini Brescian Mechanics) presented in 1931.
Source: Facebook via Roberto Malaspina
Project for a 12 mm or 14 mm FIAT machine gun.
Source: Andare contro i carri armati
Various installations for a SAFAT 12.7 mm machine gun.
Source: le armi della fanteria italiana

Various weapons were tested, such as a 12 mm and 14 mm caliber FIAT machine gun (derived from the FIAT-Revelli Modello 1914), a 12.7 mm caliber heavy machine gun developed by Società Anonima Fabbrica Armi Torino or SAFAT (English: Weapons Factory of the Turin Limited Company), a 14 mm Breda heavy machine gun, a 13.2 mm Brixia heavy machine gun, and a 12.7 mm Vickers heavy machine gun, but none were satisfactory.

Project for a 12.7 mm Vickers machine gun.
Source: Andare contro i carri armati

In 1932, the Società Italiana Ernesto Breda per Costruzioni Meccaniche (English: Ernesto Breda Italian Society for Mechanical Constructions), or more simply, Breda, proposed the prototype of a 20 mm automatic gun to the Regio Esercito. This gun was tested until 1935. During the Breda’s gun trials, other 20 mm automatic guns from Lubbe, Madsen, Oerlikon, and Scotti, among others, were tested. The first three guns were not pursued, mainly because the Italian Fascist regime had a policy of Autarky and wanted to equip the armed forces only with guns developed and produced in Italy. The Scotti was abandoned due to its complex mechanisms.

Without competition, the Breda automatic gun came out victorious and was adopted as the Cannone-Mitragliera da 20/65 Modello 1935.

Prototype of the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935. Note the old artillery style wheels, not adopted for the production series guns.
Source: italie1935-45.com

Versions

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 for Regio Esercito

The Breda was a gas-operated automatic gun, with a sliding shutter, fed by 12-round strips (8-rounds strips on vehicles) loaded on the left side. In the field carriage version, the gun was mounted on a 360° rotating platform on a three-tailed carriage. The gunner fired sitting on a seat attached to the rotating platform.

The barrel was fitted at the end with a flame-quenching sleeve, fitted in the center with the gas circle crimped at the height of the vent hole that connected it to the cylinder containing the recuperator spring. At the rear, the barrel was screwed into the carriage that contained the movable assembly on which the breech was placed. The latter was pierced to allow the firing pin to pass through. The barrel had a service life of 7,000 to 8,000 rounds.

When transported, the two rear tails were folded and two wheels were mounted. For equine transport, the gun could be divided into four parts: receiver, barrel and wheels (100 kg), rotating platform and cradle (105 kg), carriage (95 kg), and central tail and ammunition (90 kg).

Breda Model 1935 used by Italian soldiers in the Soviet Union.
Source: dieselfutures.tumblr.com
Breda on wheeled carriage for transport. The three trails are closed.
Source: italie1935-45.com

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1939 and 1940 for MACA

The Breda was also used by the Milizia Artiglieria Contro Aerei or MACA (English: Anti-Aircraft Artillery Militia), a militia assigned to the anti-aircraft defense of the Italian peninsula. In this case, a stationary version of the gun was developed in 1939, which was then fitted with a seat for the gunner in 1940.

It was mainly used to protect important targets in the main Italian cities, such as factories, military headquarters, etc. Many others were also deployed for the same purpose in the Italian colonies, mainly in Libya, where many were removed from their fixed positions and mounted on vehicles.

Breda 20/65 Modello 1939 of the Milizia Artiglieria Contro Aerei mounted on a captured Ford F15 light lorry. The manual aiming mechanism is clearly visible.
Source: wikipedia.org

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935, 1939, and 1940 for Regia Marina

The Italian Regia Marina adopted three versions of the Breda, one for capital ships (Modello 1935) and two for ‘minor units’ [Italian term for torpedo boats or similar small, light, and fast boats] (Modello 1939 and Modello 1940).

The ship version went on to replace the antiquated Mitragliera Breda da 13.2 mm Modello 1931 heavy machine guns and consisted of two 20 mm guns mounted on a support positioned on a rotating cradle, with a depression of -10° and an elevation of +100°. The left barrel was positioned on a different axle, a bit higher, so it did not block the feeding port of the right gun.

The Modello 1939 had a limited elevation and depression and therefore was not very successful, while the Modello 1940 was widely used on the Motoscafo Armato Silurante (MAS) (English: Armed Torpedo Boat) and other smaller boats of the Regia Marina.

Two versions were proposed for submarines in 1941, but remained in the prototype stage. One of these, really innovative for its era, could be lowered inside the submarine during undersea operations.

Breda 20/65 twin Model 1935 for Regia Marina ships.
Source: Wikiwand.com
Breda 20/65 Model 1940 for Regia Marina MAS and other light vessels.
Source: wikipedia.org

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 per Truppe Celeri

In 1937, Breda developed a version of the gun intended only for use against land targets, such as fortifications or light armor. This gun was also known by the name Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 per Truppe Celeri (English: 20 mm L.65 Automatic Cannon [produced by] Breda for fast-moving units).

In 1939, the definitive version was developed, which consisted of a wheeled carriage with two openable tails, capable of being towed by vehicles, animals, or by infantry. It could be considered similar to the Solothurn S-18/1000 anti-tank rifle. Its main task was to be towed by armored vehicles or by the Bersaglieri (Italian assault infantry) during assaults, in order to support the attack.

The project was abandoned after seeing the limitations of the gun’s anti-tank use, even if it could be useful in some situations.

Breda 20/65 for Truppe Celeri on wheeled carriage with closed tails. Note the Pirelli solid tires.
Source: italie1935-45.com

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 version for armored vehicles

In 1936, a version of the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 was developed for use on armored vehicles. This was only a light modification, with the removal of the sights on the barrel and of the muzzle brake.

An unknown number of guns were produced for the L6/40 light reconnaissance tank and for the AB series medium reconnaissance armored cars.

Difference between the Breda barrel intended for vehicles (top) and the Model 1935 (bottom).
Source: italie1935-45.com

Ammunition

In 1940, the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 used two types of ammunition: the Cartoccio Granata Contro Aereo da 20 Modello 1935 (English: Anti-Aircraft Shell Model 1935) and the Cartoccio Granata Perforante da 20 Modello 1935 (English: Armor-Piercing Shell Model 1935). Both were derived from the 20 x 138 B mm ‘Long Solothurn’, ammunition common to other weapons of the Regio Esercito and Axis armies, such as the Swiss Solothurn S-18/1000, the Finnish Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifles and the German FlaK 30 and FlaK 38 anti-aircraft guns. This permitted the guns to shoot various kinds of ammunition developed by other countries.

The Cartoccio Granata Contro Aereo da 20 Modello 1935 weighed 320 g and had a TNT charge. The Cartoccio Granata Perforante da 20 Modello 1935 weighed 337 g and had a PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) charge that could penetrate 30 mm of vertical armor at 500 meters. Penetration was reduced to 15 mm with an impact of 60°.

In 1942, a new anti-aircraft round with a steel nose cone was introduced.

Ammunition Cartoccio granata contro aereo da 20 Mod.35 Cartoccio granata perforante da 20 Mod.35
Weight (g) 320 337
Charge TNT PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate)
Penetration at 500 meters Unknown 30 mm
A Camicia Nera (English: Black Shirt) reloads a 12-round belt charge from a Breda gun.
Source: le armi della fanteria italiana
Italian soldiers in North Africa using a 20 mm Breda gun.
Source:

Production

Production of the Breda 20/65 cannon began in 1935. At the end of 1938, a total of 276 were in service with the Regio Esercito, and as many as 138 were sent with the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV) (English: Volunteer Troop Corps) to fight alongside Franco’s forces during the Spanish Civil War.

As of June 1940, the month of Italy’s entry into the Second World War, there were 1,088 Breda Modello 1935 and 116 Modello 1939 in active service. With the entry into the war, the monthly production increased continuously, passing from 160 guns per month in November 1941 to 320 guns in March 1943.

As of September 1942, 2,442 guns were in service in the Regio Esercito, while the MACA had 326 Modello 1939 and 80 Modello 1935.

Due to low production and combat losses, in spring 1943, there were only 1,655 Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935s in service in the Army.

In 1941, the Regio Esercito also adopted the Scotti-Isotta Fraschini da 20/70 Modello 1939, one of Breda’s old competitors from 1932. This gun was chosen by the Army because it was easier to maintain than the Breda, but introduction to the Army was slow. In 1942, there were only 16 active guns in the Regio Esercito. As a result, it was mainly used for the defense of airfields in the Italian peninsula.

In July 1943, there were 330 Scotti-Isotta Fraschinis in service with the Regio Esercito. There were two gun models, the Modello 1939, on a candle carriage used for the defense of airfields, and the Modello 1941 on a wheeled carriage.

A Scotti-Isotta Fraschini da 20/70 quad gun was mounted on a Carro Armato M15/42 medium tank, creating a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun destined to remain a prototype and named M15/42 Carro Contraereo or Quadruplo (English: Anti-Aircraft or Quadruple).

Use as an Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Tank Gun

The Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 originated as an artillery piece for low-altitude anti-aircraft defense and was allocated to infantry divisions, with a battery of six Cannoni da 20/65 for each artillery regiment. The first four batteries were allocated to the 7a Divisione di Fanteria “Leonessa” (English: 7th Infantry Division), 9a Divisione di Fanteria “Pasubio” (English: 9th Infantry Division), 10a Divisione di Fanteria “Piave” (English: 10th Infantry Division), and 11a Divisione di Fanteria “Brennero” (English: 11th Infantry Division) in 1935. After the 1935 summer exercises, new batteries were created for the remaining 26 infantry divisions.

The Breda 20 mm gun’s baptism of fire came during the Spanish Civil War. The Cannone da 20/65 proved themselves and demonstrated they were essential for the defense of trucks and other logistic vehicles when mounted on the FIAT 618 and Ceirano 50 trucks. In Spain, it was also used for the first time against armored vehicles. A report entitled Osservazioni, Considerazioni e Proposte sulle Armi Anticarro dell’Esercito Nazionale (English: Observations, Considerations and Proposals on National Army Anti-Tank Weapons) from 20th January 1938 claimed that the weapon was not very effective against armored vehicles, as it could not make accurate shots beyond 400 m. From that distance, the gunners were exposed to return fire from the 45 mm guns of the Republican T-26 or BT-5 tanks. The report Relazione sulle Armi Anticarro dell’Esercito Nazionale (English: Report on the National Army’s anti-tank weapons) from 24th January 1938 reported the same findings, while the report Materiali Impiegati in O.M.S. [Oltre Mare Spagna] dal Corpo Volontario (English: Materials Deployed in [Overseas Spain] by the Volunteer Corps) from 20th September 1937 reported that the Cannone da 20/65 was only usable against aircraft with a speed of less than 300 km/h, while in the anti-tank role it was effective, but limited by the fragility of its structure.

During the Second World War, the Cannone da 20/65 was widely used carried by SPA Dovunque 35 and SPA-38R trucks, which had 34 boxes of anti-aircraft ammunition and 10 of anti-tank ammunition. Some were carried by captured British trucks. Nonetheless, the number of anti-aircraft batteries was always very low and they could not defend an entire division. This aspect is particularly emphasized in the report Dati d’Esperienza Circa Impiego Divisioni Motorizzate e Corazzate (English: Experience data on the employment of motorized and armored divisions) from 11th August 1941, written by the Command of the 132a Divisione Corazzata “Ariete” (English: 132th Armored Division). Usually, formations attached to divisions consisted of a battery of eight Cannoni da 20/65 along with a 60 cm telemeter.

The Cannone da 20/65 was one of the main guns used by the Batterie Volanti (English: Flying Batteries) born in the summer of 1941 and were composed of Italian or captured trucks on which various artillery pieces were mounted. The Cannoni da 20/65 were installed on Ford 15A trucks and formed two batteries, 12th and 14th, assigned to the Raggruppamento Batterie Volanti da 65/17 (English: 65mm L.17 Flying Batteries Regroupements) part of the Raggruppamento Esplorante del Corpo d’Armata di Manovra or R.E.C.A.M. (English: Exploring Regroupements of the Maneuver Corps) who took part in the first battle of Bir el Gobi in November 1941. In May 1942, the 13a Batteria da 20/65 (English: 13th Battery) was assigned to the 136° Reggimento Artiglieria (English: 136th Artillery Regiment) of the 136th Armored Division fighting during the Tunisian campaign.

Also in Libya, in January 1941, the Comando del Sahara Libico (English: Libyan Sahara Command) ordered captain Francesco Mattioli to form a motorized column to control the area between Cufra and Maaten Bisciara and prevent attacks by the Longe Range Desert Group. The unit, called Colonna Mobile Mattioli (English: Mattioli Mobile Column), consisted of 43 men armed with rifles, a FIAT-SPA A.S. 37, 4 FIAT 634N trucks armed with Cannoni da 20/65 and 4 machine guns of various types. On 28th January, the unit set out on a patrol, operating in close cooperation with Ca.309 ‘Ghibli’ planes of the 29° Squadriglia (English: 29th Squadron). On the 31st, the planes spotted 11 vehicles near Maaten Bisciara, which moved toward the Gebel Sherif depression to escape aerial sighting. The Italian unit arrived in the depression and ran into three ‘T’ Patrol vehicles, which immediately opened fire on the Italian vehicles. The Cannoni da 20/65 quickly destroyed three Chevrolet trucks, while the others retreated. The Italians began to pursue the enemy and, soon after, captured a Ford V8 damaged earlier by a 20 mm round, along with Major Clayton and two New Zealand soldiers. In the clash, the Italians suffered six killed and two wounded, while a FIAT truck was abandoned because it was badly damaged.

The Colonna Mobile Mattioli continued to operate to defend Cufra from the incursions of General Leclerc’s French forces and was destroyed during the capture of Cufra by the French on 1st March. The entire Italian garrison in Cufra was captured, consisting of 12 Italian officers, 47 non-commissioned officers and Italian soldiers, 273 Libyan soldiers, four Cannoni da 20/65, 53 machine guns, eight FIAT-SPA A.S. 37, two FIAT 634 and four FIAT 508.

During the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, the I° Battaglione (English: 1st Battalion) of the 33° Reggimento di Fanteria “Livorno” (English: 33th Infantry Regiment) had a battery of Cannoni da 20/65 mounted on FIAT-SPA CL39 trucks. On July 10th, as the unit was being moved toward Gela, it was attacked by U.S. planes near Butera and the Cannoni da 20/65 shot down two planes.

The Cannone 20/65 was an excellent anti-aircraft weapon against low-flying aircraft even on the Russian front, although, there, it was completely unsuitable against tanks.

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 in a photo taken in Spain during the Civil War. The Breda da 20/65 was used by Italian troops supporting Francoist forces.
Source: E. Finazzer
Autocannoni da 20/65 su SPA Dovunque 35 used by 136a Divisione Corazzata “Giovani Fascisti” (English: 136th Armored Division).
Source: comandosupremo.com

Use on Italian Armored Vehicles

Carro Armato L6/40 Light Tank

In December 1937, Ansaldo and FIAT began a study for a new reconnaissance tank, and in 1939, the M6 tank was presented, armed with two 8 mm Breda Modello 1938 medium machine guns in the turret.

The vehicle was rejected, but attracted the attention of General Manera of the Centro Studi Motorizzazione (English: Motorization Study Center), who advised the designers to mount at least one 20 mm gun in a new turret to engage aerial targets too. Ansaldo immediately proposed a new M6 prototype with a 37/26 cannon and an 8 mm caliber machine gun in a single-man turret and another with a 20 mm cannon and a coaxial machine gun in the same turret.

M6 prototype armed with two 8 mm machine guns.
Source: tankarchives.ca

The latter version was chosen and designated the L6 tank, although in 1942, it was renamed L40. The first vehicle was delivered on 22nd May 1941.

The vehicle was fitted with an octagonal turret, positioned to the left of the centerline of the hull. The Breda had a semi-cylindrical gun mantlet and an elevation from -5° to +15°. To the left of the gun was the coaxial 8 mm Breda Modello 1938 machine gun. Aiming was carried out by means of a sight placed to the right of the gun and was fired by using pedals and wires, on the right for the machine gun and on the left for the gun.

The turret could rotate 360° through a handwheel operated by the commander, who sat on a seat. For observation, the commander used a periscope, positioned to the left of the gun.

L6 tank armed with 20/65 Breda gun and Breda Modello 38 machine gun.
Source: worldwarphotos.info
Breda 20/65 gun and Breda Modello 38 coaxial machine gun. Note the semi-cylindrical mantlet.
Source: italie1935-45
Cross-section of an L6 light tank.
Source: reddit

AB series armored cars

The Autoblinda Modello 1940 (English: Armored Car Model 1940), or simply AB40 armored car, was initially armed with two Breda Modello 38 machine guns in the same turret as the L6 prototype.

After the experience gained during the Spanish Civil War, where, on some occasions, Francoist vehicles armed only with machine guns faced Soviet-built Republican tanks, it was decided to arm the armored cars with a 20 mm Breda gun and a coaxial machine gun.

Beginning with the AB41, the Breda cannon was mounted into the same turret as on the L6/40. Due to the limited interior space, on the rear part of the turret, there was a hatch for the assembly and disassembly of the gun. The gun had an elevation from -10° to +20°. Aiming was done by means of a sight positioned to the right of the weapon, while shooting was done through pedals.

On the AB42 prototype, a new shorter turret was used that retained the rear hatch. The Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 remained the main gun of the AB43, the last vehicle of the AB series, of which about 100 were produced from 1943 until the end of the war.

AB41s armed with Breda 20/65 guns belonging to the Romolo Gessi P.A.I (Polizia dell’Africa Italiana) battalion in Nettunia (Rome) in 1941.
Source: gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’esercito italiano
Inside view of the turret of an AB41. In the center is the Breda gun, to its left, the Breda Model 38 coaxial machine gun and the periscope, with the aiming sight to the right.
Source: italie1935-45.com
Rear hatch of the turret for the assembly or disassembly of the Breda gun.
Source: italie1935-45.com
AB43 armed with 20/65 Breda gun. The turret, as on the AB42, was lower than in the AB40 and 41.
Source: gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’esercito italiano

Carrozzeria Speciale su FIAT-SPA AS43

The Carrozzeria Speciale su FIAT-SPA AS43 was an armored car built on the hull of the Camionetta AS43 by the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (English: Italian Social Republic) in small numbers (2 to 6, depending on the source) and deployed only by the Gruppo Corazzato ‘Leonessa’ (English: Armored Group) of the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana (English: Republican National Guard). It was produced by Officine Viberti of Turin.

The armament consisted of a Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 and a 8 mm coaxial gun, as on the L6/40. In fact, the vehicles shared the same turret. The vehicle had 50 magazines of 20 mm ammunition, 400 rounds in total, and 48 magazines for 8 mm ammunition, for a total of 1,152 rounds. The ammunition was kept in the rear of the hull. Ten 20 mm ammunition boxes were kept at the top, while the 8 mm boxes were kept in the lower part of the hull and to the right left of the driver’s seat.

The Carrozzeria Speciale su FIAT-SPA AS43.

Use on Italian Non-Armored Vehicles

Autocannoni (English: Truck-Mounted Artillery)

At the end of 1937, the Corpo Truppe Volontarie mounted some Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 on Fiat 618 and Ceirano 50CM trucks for the anti-aircraft defense of motorized columns.

During the Spanish Civil War, this solution was judged satisfactory by the Italian troops due to the protection it offered from aerial attacks, but also for their firepower to support infantry during urban fighting.

Two Autocannone da 20/65 su FIAT 618s during the victory parade in Barcelona in 1939.
Source: italie1935-45.com

At the same time, in Italy, the installation of Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935s on trucks, such as the FIAT-SPA 38R light lorry and SPA Dovunque 35 medium truck, was studied. Officially, the two options were abandoned the same year but, throughout the Second World War, out of their own accord, Italian soldiers in North Africa and in the Soviet Union modified some FIAT-SPA 38Rs and SPA Dovunque 35s to carry 20 mm guns.

The Breda gun was also mounted on captured vehicles, such as the CMP Chevrolet F15 and the Ford F15, and also various other Italian trucks, such as the medium FIAT 626 and the heavy duty Lancia 3Ro, two of the most common trucks of Italian units.

Autocannone da 20/65 su SPA 38R armed with Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 during trials in 1938 in Italy.
Source: wikipedia.org
Two Autocannone da 20/65 su SPA Dovunque 35 in Libya.
Source: forum.warthunder.com
Autocannone da 20/65 su Ford F15, a captured truck armed with Breda Model 1939 gun.
Source: pinterest.com
Autocannone da 20/65 su Chevrolet CMP 15 CWT based on a truck captured by the Italians and armed with a Breda Model 1939 gun.
Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com

Camionette AS37, AS42, and AS43 (English: Light Desert Truck)

The first camionetta was the Camionetta Desertica AS37, created by modifying FIAT-SPA AS37s in Libya. The cabin was removed from the vehicle, so as to lower its shape, and the Breda gun was installed on a platform that replaced the cargo bay. The Breda gun had a traverse 360°.

Camionetta Desertica AS37 armed with Breda 20 mm gun and Breda Modello 1937 machine gun.
Source: CMPR.it

The Camionetta Desertica SPA-Viberti AS42 ‘Sahariana’ mounted a Breda gun with an unchanged elevation and traverse. Also its improved version, the Camionetta SPA-Viberti AS42 ‘Metropolitana’ or Tipo II, could be armed with a 20 mm Breda gun.

Camionetta SPA-Viberti AS 42 ‘Metropolitana’ of the X° Reggimento Arditi Camionettisti (English: 10th Arditi Truckers Regiment) armed with a 20 mm Breda gun. Source: pinterest.com

The Camionetta SPA-Viberti AS43, developed from the AS37 light desert lorry, was a totally different vehicle, with a more powerful engine and modified bodywork. The Breda gun was mounted in the center of the cargo bay on a universal support for 20 mm and 47/32 guns.

Camionetta Desertica SPA-Viberti AS43
Source: gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’esercito italiano

In early 1943, awaiting the entry into service of the Camionetta Desertica AS43, another type of truck was built, often erroneously named Camionetta Desertica Modello 43 (English: Desert Light Truck Model 1943). The windshield and cab’s roof were removed, while the Breda gun was placed on the cargo bay. A small number were built and fought against the Germans in Rome after the Armistice.

The erroneously named Camionetta Desertica Mod. 43.
Source: wikipedia.org

Autocannone da 20/65 su Dodge WC-51

This US Dodge WC-51 was used by the Italian Police after the Second World War. The vehicle was painted in amaranth red (a reddish-rose color) and the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 was placed on either a Modello 1939 pedestal or in the classic Modello 1935 pedestal in the cargo bay.

Autocannone da 20/65 su Dodge WC-51 of the Italian Police armed with Breda Modello 1939.
Source. flickriver.com

Foreign Vehicle Usage

CV 35 with 20 mm Breda Prototype

The forces of Nationalist Spain did not have tanks capable of countering the T-26s that equipped the Republican armored units, so they decided to arm an Italian CV 35 tank with a 20 mm Breda.

The conversion work replaced the two Fiat-Revelli Mod.1935 machine guns with a 20 mm Breda began in summer 1937 at the Fábrica de Armas de Seville (English: Seville Arms Factory). Even before the conversion work was finished, General Franco’s headquarters requested another 40 CV 35s and some Breda guns from the Italians on August 10th. The request was only partially fulfilled, because General Joaquín García Pallasar, an artillery officer and close friend of Franco, suggested that the same modifications should be done on a Panzer I and then compare it with the Italian prototype.

When both prototypes were finished, they were tested in Bilbao and the Panzer I proved to be more efficient due to having a turret. The CV 35 with the 20 mm Breda gun was delivered to the Italian Raggruppamento Carristi (English: Tank Grouping), which tested it and found some flaws, such as that the new weapon leaving too little room for the commander and obstructing the driver’s left view, as well as making the vehicle too heavy, upsetting the balance.

The vehicle, however, influenced the Italians, who used similar solutions in North Africa in 1940, when they mounted some Solothurn S-18/1000 rifles on CV tanks.

It is worth noting that Italian and Spanish sources on the CV 35 with 20 mm Breda disagree about who built it and downplay the involvement of the other side in the whole development and design process.

CV 35 prototype armed with a 20 mm Breda.
Source: forum.warthunder.com

Panzer I with 20 mm Breda

During the development of the CV 35 with a 20 mm Breda gun, Commander Garcia Pallasar, head of the Artillery Section of the General Staff, suggested the possibility of having a 20 mm gun mounted on a Panzer I, which was requested from a German delegation. The gun was installed by the Fabrica de Armas (English: Army Factory) of Seville.

The Panzer I ‘Breda’ was tested at the end of September in Bilbao, alongside the Italian CV35 armed with the 20 mm Breda and performed slightly better than the small Italian vehicle, thanks largely to the fact it had a turret.

Either 4 or 6 Panzer Is were modified with the Breda gun. German General von Thoma, commander of the Condor Legion’s ground forces, stated that the tank crews refused to go inside the tanks because there was a small uncovered hole in the turret for aiming, which was considered unnecessarily dangerous. Furthermore, in a letter, von Thoma stated that the vehicle’s manufacturers called it a ‘death car’. Because of this letter, modifications to additional Panzer Is were canceled. General Pallasar retorted by asking whether it was appropriate to eliminate the design of the only tank capable of effectively facing enemy tanks or to run the risk of a few men being wounded by a lucky shot through the small hole. Franco’s headquarters responded by suggesting to von Thoma and Pallasar whether it would be possible to fit bulletproof glass in the hole. Pallasar agreed to this and Nationalist Spain bought 4,861.08 Reichsmarks worth of bulletproof glass from Germany. Nevertheless, in the end, no additional Panzer I ‘Bredas’ were modified, in part due to von Thoma’s interference, but more significantly because of the large number of Republican T-26s captured and reused by the Nationalists.

Panzer I armed with Breda 20 mm, belonging to the Nationalist forces of General Franco. Note the captured Republican T-26 tank.
Source: flickr.com

Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937

The Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937 (CCI tipo 1937) was a prototype built at La Naval de Sestao (Bilbao) by the Nationalists of General Franco. The suspension, the tracks, and the location of the two machine guns were copied from or inspired by the Italian CV tanks, while the rear of the vehicle resembled the Trubia-Naval tank. The armament chosen was the 20 mm Breda, as with the CV33 and Panzer I modifications, so as to be able to counter the Soviet-produced T-26 Republican tanks. The gun was installed in a turret similar to that of the Renault FT.

The vehicle fully passed the tests and was intended for production, with a request for 30 vehicles. Nevertheless, as a result of the tank’s weak armor, which could not withstand 7.92 mm hits, the project was canceled and the prototype was converted into an artillery tractor.

Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937.
Source: forum.warthunder.com

British Use

The British captured and reused 20 mm Breda guns by mounting them on the Marmon-Herrington armored cars and also on the vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) (a unit specializing in long-range reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and desert navigation), such as the Chevrolet 30 CWT, naming the Breda Scorpions, because they had a ‘sting in their tail’.

The Breda was much appreciated by the British, because it was a light weapon and took up little space in the vehicle where it was mounted, as well as its capabilities as an anti-aircraft weapon.

Breda 20 mm gun mounted on a Chevrolet 30 CWT.
Source: lrdg.de
Marmon-Herrington armored car armed with 20 mm Breda.
Source: pinterest.com

Other Users

China

China purchased some 20 mm Breda guns to equip the anti-aircraft companies of the 36th, 87th, and 88th infantry divisions.

The 36th Infantry Division used the 20 mm Bredas for air defense at Shijiazhuang. During the war against Japan, the 215th Infantry Regiment was transferred to Shanxi, participating in the defense of the city of Xinxian, shooting down three enemy planes with these guns. The Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 was also used against Japanese armor and enemy infantry.

Chinese gunners using a Breda gun against the Japanese air force.
Source: zh-cn.topwar.ru

Commonwealth

The 20 mm Breda was much appreciated by the forces of the Commonwealth, which reused them in the most varied ways. After Operation Compass (the complete destruction of the X Armata (English: 10th Army) in North Africa between December 1940 and February 1941), many captured Breda guns were reused by Commonwealth forces, equipping the Australian 2/3 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, arming some vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group, and even arming some Allied ships, namely the Australian destroyer HMAS Vendetta and the Australian cruiser HMAS Perth.

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 used by Australian 2/3 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment in Derna in 1941.
Source: wikipedia.org

Ecuador

During the 1930s, the Ecuadorian Army purchased some weapons from the Italian Army. Among them were 12 Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65. In 1940, the pieces were allocated to the Bolivar artillery group, stationed in El Oro province.

During the war with Peru in 1941, some of these weapons armed the aviso Atahualpa and the gunboat Calderón, while others remained in the aforementioned province or were destined for the defense of the city of Guayaquil. During the war, the Ecuatorians lost nine guns.

Ecuadorian soldiers of the artillery group Bolivarc in the province of El Oro with a 20 mm Breda.
Source: guerrade1941.blogspot.com

Finland

Eighty-eight Modello 1935 Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65s were also sold to Finland and named 20 ItK/35. The gun was appreciated by the Finns, thanks to the compatibility of the ammunition with the 2 cm Flak anti-aircraft guns and the Lathi anti-tank rifle. The gun was the primary armament of four MAS or Motoscafo Armato Silurante (English: Armed Torpedo Motorboat) sold to Finland and later designated as the Jymy-class. These MAS were part of the XI Squadriglia MAS (English: 11th MAS squadron) sent to Lake Ladoga in 1942 by the Regia Marina to support the actions of the Finnish navy. After the war, they were used as training weapons until the 1960s, only to be declared obsolete at the end of the 1980s.

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 (20 ItK/35) transported by Finnish soldiers to the frontline. It was also used for direct fire against enemy infantry.
Source: jaegerplatoon.net

Germany

After the Italian Armistice of September 1943, the Germans captured a good number of these weapons, which they named 2 cm Flak 282 (i). They continued production, building 496 guns until January 1945.

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 used by the Germans.
Source: materielsterrestres39-45.fr

Israel

After the Second World War, in 1948, the State of Israel was created and quite immediately, its army was called to defend the country from various Arab nations. In this desperate situation, the Israeli soldiers were forced to deploy all kinds of guns, including First World War era guns.

Some guns and vehicles abandoned by the Regio Esercito during the North African campaign were also deployed. Some other guns were bought on the black market or directly in Italy, where some partisans sold Scotti Isotta-Fraschini da 20/70 Modello 1941s and Breda guns. Others were captured from Egyptian forces.

In total, the Israeli Defense Force deployed 28 Scotti Isotta-Fraschini guns and an unknown number of Cannoni-Mitragliera Bredas. At least one was mounted on a modified US-built M3 Half-track equipped with an armored turret to protect the gunner, but unfortunately, its service and fate is unknown.

A heavily modified M3 Half-track equipped with two machine guns and a Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 in 1948. Source: bukvoed.livejournal.com
A Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 captured in Dir Aban on 1st October 1948. The lack of optics and other parts is clearly visible, probably destroyed by the Egyptians to disable the gun. Alternatively, they could have just broken or were missing, as some of the guns acquired in Italy were in a bad state. It was probably reutilized by an Israeli anti-aircraft unit. Source: bukvoed.livejournal.com
A Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 with its Israeli crew. Note the improvised anti-aircraft sight. Source: bukvoed.livejournal.com

Slovakia

Some Breda guns were given to the Slovakian Army by the Germans after the September 1943 Italian Armistice. No other information is available on the Slovakian Breda guns.

Slovak artillerymen using a Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65.
Source: africaaxisandallied.blogspot.com

Sweden

In March 1940, Sweden bought two torpedo boats from the Kingdom of Italy, Spica and Astore, named in the Swedish Navy as Romulus and Remus. These two ships were each armed with three or five Cannoni-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935s on twin mounts, so six to ten barrels. In the Swedish Navy, the Breda was referred to as 20 mm automatkanon m/38 or 20 mm akan m/38 and used the ammunition purchased for the 20 mm akan m/3, i.e. the 20 mm Flak 38.

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 on twin carriage mounted on the Swedish vessel Romulus.
Source: wikipedia

Yugoslavia

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia purchased 120 Breda guns from Italy, which were named 20mm M36. These were operated by Yugoslav units during the Axis invasion of the country in 1941.

After the Italian Armistice, the Allied forces captured many Breda guns in Corsica, Sardinia, and southern Italy, Of these, 210 guns and 230,000 rounds were given to Tito’s Partisans in Yugoslavia. Some were mounted on boats used by the Partisans to attack German shipping along the Croatian coast. These vessels were of two types: the NB, small gunboats armed with cannons of various calibers, and the PC, patrol boats armed with machine guns and light cannons.

NB 13, named Partizan, with two Breda guns visible in the stern. A Scotti Isotta-Fraschini 20/70 is visible behind them. The boat sank the German armed boat Angelina on 9th October 1944 and captured the Adriana. It was sunk a month later by friendly fire from an Allied air attack.
Source: wio.ru

Conclusion

The Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 was the main light anti-aircraft gun used by the Italian armed forces from the mid-1930s to the end of World War II.

The gun had its baptism of fire during the Spanish Civil War, where its good antiaircraft qualities but limited antitank ones came to light; although it was not an antitank gun it was, however, very useful for firing on infantry, light vehicles, and armored cars, and for that reason it was used on many Italian vehicles.

The Breda was greatly appreciated by the Allied forces, which captured large quantities of them during the North African campaign and even went so far as to mount them on some Australian ships. It also served in South America and China, albeit in limited numbers.

The gun was also used by Yugoslav partisans, who mounted it on armed boats patrolling the coast and ended its service in the Israeli army in the late 1940s. All this success was because of its lightness and ease of transport, although it was particularly fragile.

Thanks to Arturo Giusti for information on the Israeli use of this gun

Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935. Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Specifications of Breda 20/65 cannon

Barrel
Length 1870 mm
Weight 40.8 kg
Rate of fire 240 rpm
Muzzle velocity 830 m/s
Caliber 20 mm
Munition 20 x 138 mm R Long Solothurn
Action Gas operated
Carriage
Elevation -10° to +80°
Horizontal shooting sector 360° on tails carriage, 20° on the right and 28° on the left on wheeled carriage
Weight on tails carriage 330 kg
Weight on wheeled carriage 370 kg

Sources

F.Cappellano and N.Pignato Andare contro i carri armati – l’evoluzione della difesa controcarro nell’esercito italiano dal 1918 al 1945 Gaspari Editore 2007
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http://www.italie1935-45.com/regio-esercito/materiels/item/257-canon-mitrailleur-breda-de-20-65-mod35
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Ministero della Guerra Dati tecnici sulle artiglierie in servizio Roma 1938
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