The Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 (English: 47 mm L.32 Cannon Model 1935), commonly known as ‘Elefantino’ (English: Little Elephant) by Italian troops, was the main support/anti-tank cannon of the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army) before and during Second World War.
The Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 was produced under license and derived from the Infanterie-geschütze M.35 (English: Infantry cannon Model 1935) produced by the Austrian company Böhler. It replaced the old Cannone da 65/17 Modello 1913 (English: 65 mm L.17 Cannon Model 1913).
It was used by the Regio Esercito until 1943 when, due to the Armistice with the Allies, the Italian soldiers joined, on the one hand, the new Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (English: National Republican Army) and the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana (English: National Republican Guard) allied with the Germans, and, on the other hand, the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano (English: Italian Co-Belligerent Army) allied with the Allied forces.
Dozens of guns were also used by the Germans, Commonwealth troops, Chinese, and Israeli armies during and after the war.
1930s: The Regio Esercito and the Search for an Anti-Tank Weapon
At the end of the 1920s, the Regio Esercito had to replace the outdated 3.7 cm Infanteriegeschütz M.15 (English: 37 mm Infantry Cannon Model 1915), which the Italians called Cannone 37F or Cannone da 37/10 (English: 37 mm L.10 Cannon). It was an Austro-Hungarian light cannon captured by the Italians after the First World War and used as an infantry support cannon. The Italians even made a copy.
Due to economic problems, the Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito (English: General Staff of the Royal Army) decided to adopt the Cannone da 65/17 Modello 1913 as an infantry support cannon, which had been used as mountain artillery during the First World War. This was then replaced by the Cannone da 75/13 (English: 75 mm L.13 Mountain Cannon), which was the Austrian 7.5 cm Gebirgskanone M.15, thousands of pieces of which had been captured by the Italians after the end of the First World War and reemployed.
The adoption of the Cannone da 65/17 was considered only a temporary measure pending the acquisition of something better. In the early 1930s, a study began for the adoption of two guns, one for infantry support and one for the anti-tank role.
In 1933, the Direzione del Servizio Tecnico (English: Technical Service Management) presented a 50 mm cannon, 20 of which were produced in order to be tested for infantry support, while another weapon, a 47 mm semi-automatic gun, was being studied.
All plans were abandoned due to the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and the felt risk of a war with Great Britain, which prompted the Regio Esercito to choose a ready-made weapon and abandon the studies in progress in favor of the 47 mm gun produced by the Austrian company Böhler: the Infanterie-geschütze M.35.
This was a piece that was well suited for both infantry support and anti-tank fire and was light, maneuverable, and had good armor penetration capabilities.
Thus, the Regio Esercito adopted the Böhler gun as the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 in 1935.
The Cannone da 47/32 was a semi-automatic cannon. Its semi-automatic breech-block had a peculiar feature: it would close automatically when the cartridge was inserted, but the opening had to be done manually.
The Cannone da 47/32 was equipped with a steel barrel, a transverse wedge-shaped bolt, and a double-trailed carriage. Each trail piece was independent, allowing for better adaptability to different types of terrain.
For transport, it was equipped with two solid wheels that could be removed in battery position. The wheels had lightning holes to lower the total weight of the gun. The gun could, however, also fire while on the wheels.
The Cannone da 47/32 was not equipped with a gun shield to protect the crew, although some options were studied during the development of the gun, but never accepted by the Regio Esercito.
The Cannone da 47/32 was originally equipped with the Alzo panoramico per cannone da 47/32 (English: Panoramic elevation for 47 mm L.32 cannon) produced by San Giorgio.
In 1942, a new sight was adopted, the Alzo ottico mod.42 (English: Optical lift mod.42), a more simple and cheap sight which was also more suited for the anti-tank role.
The Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 was a light weapon, weighing 277 kg in battery position. This was 150 kg lighter than the Cannone da 65/17 Modello 1913. It was also short, only 88 cm in height when being towed, which made it difficult for the enemy to detect.
The Cannone da 47/32 could be transported in different ways. There was mechanical transport (only for the Modello 1939), although the weapon had some problems with the suspension which limited it to short distances and small speeds, towing by animals, and, finally, on the backs pack animals after dividing the piece into four parts.
In 1935, it was one of the best infantry support guns of the time, thanks to its rapid dismountability and good accuracy in direct fire up to a distance of one kilometer. It was capable of penetrating 40 mm of armor, which was sufficient for taking out any armored vehicle of the period. It had a muzzle velocity of 630 m/s with an armor-piercing shell.
The Cannone da 47/32 had a crew of five soldiers (gunner, shooter, loader, carrier [in charge of carrying the cannon], carrier’s helper) but it was normally used by three although in exceptional cases it could be used by a single soldier.
The Cannone da 47/32 used various types of wheels. The first Böhler cannon that arrived in Italy in 1935 for testing was equipped with spoked pneumatic wheels. The Dutch Böhler cannons delivered to the Regio Esercito by the Germans during the Second World War also had these wheels.
From 1935 to 1939, the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 and the early examples of the Modello 1939 used six-hole wheels with semi-pneumatic tires.
In 1939, both models were equipped with elektron wheels with semi-pneumatic tires, but this type of wheel had limited success and was replaced in 1940 by seven-spoke iron wheels with semi-pneumatic tires.
During the war, two types of wheels were produced for use on soft terrain: eight-hole iron wheels with semi-pneumatic tires and sheet metal wheels with five holes and semi-pneumatic tires.
During the war, disc wheels without holes, tracks for sandy terrain (never officially adopted), and skis for transportation on snow were also produced.
The Cannone da 47/32 could fire a wide variety of ammunition.
|Ammunition for the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935|
|Name||Type||Muzzle velocity (m/s)||Weight of complete ammunition (kg)||penetration in mm|
|500 m||750 m|
|Cartoccio Granata Modello 1935||High-Explosive||250||2.860||//||//|
|Granata Perforante Modello 1935||Armor Piercing||630||2.035||25||//|
|Granata Perforante Modello 1939||Armor Piercing||630||2.055||40||35|
|Granata Effetto Pronto||High Explosive Anti-Tank||//||//||//||//|
|Granata Effetto Pronto Speciale||High-explosive anti-tank||//||//||//||//|
|Granata a codolo da 47/32||Finned rodded-bomb||110||8.6||//||//|
During the Second World War, the Cannone da 47/32 was supplied with E.P. and E.P.S. (English: Ready Effect and Special Ready Effect) ammunition, which were special hollow charge rounds used by the Italians for various calibers of weapons (47, 65, 75, 100, 105 and 149 mm).
The E.P. projectiles were so unsuccessful that, in April 1943, a circular issued by the Services Office of the General Staff of the Royal Italian Army called for this type of ammunition to be used not as anti-tank ammunition, but as ordinary HE.
In 1943 the Regio Esercito officially adopted the Granata a codolo da 47/32 (English: Finned rodded-bomb for 47 mm L.32 Cannon), which was developed by Germany upon Italy’s request and was essentially a Stielgranate 41 for the Cannone da 47/32. Around 200,000 of them were ordered, but due to the Armistice, no projectiles were delivered to the Kingdom of Italy, and it was likely not used by the Wehrmacht either.
Shortly before the Armistice, the Granata da 47/32 Tracciante (English: Tracer grenade for 47 mm L.32 Cannon) was being tested, but was never adopted.
Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1939
In 1939, a new version of the Cannone da 47/32 was introduced, designed for mechanical transport, in particular with the SPA CL 39 trucks. It included an improved suspension, which was made more robust and saw the addition of a swing arm with silent blocks for each of the two leaf springs. In addition, the wheels were modified to make them sturdier and spoked, and the gun was also modified to make replacement easier.
Although specifically designed for mechanical towing, the problems with the suspension were never resolved. Circular no. 10310 of 7th September 1942 entitled Divieto di Autotraino del Cannone da 47/32 Mod.39 (English: Prohibition of Mechanical Towing of the 47 mm L.32 Gun Model 1939) stated that the experience of the previous months had shown that the gun could not be towed due to the low strength of the axle spindles.
Cannone da 47/32 per carro M13
The Cannone da 47/32 also became the main cannon used on Italian armored vehicles. The infantry support cannon was modified by Ansaldo with a revised recoiling system and a new vertical sliding breech block now completely semi-automatic.
The new gun became the Cannone da 47/32 per carro M13 – Carro Armato M13/40 – (English: 47 mm Cannon L.32 for M13/40) which was intended to arm the new M13/40 medium tank.
The cannon, sharing a mantlet together with an 8 mm Breda Modello 1938 coaxial machine gun, weighed 108 kg and was 1,525 mm long. The Cannone da 47/32 had a firing elevation from -15° to +25°, while the horizontal traverse was 360° when the weapon was mounted in a turret. The weapon had the same muzzle velocity as the field gun and had a firing rate of 25 rounds per minute thanks to the, now, completely automatic breech-block.
The Cannone da 47/32 per carro M13 not only armed the Carro Armato M13/40, but also the Carro Armato M14/41, the Littorine Blindate (English: Armored ‘Littorine’) – armored draisines equipped with two M-type tank turrets – the Semovente L40 da 47/32 (English: 47 mm L.32 Self propelled gun L40), and a version of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo AB41 armored car.
Cannone da 47/40
After 1940, an improved version of the Cannone da 47/32 was studied. This new weapon, called Cannone da 47/40 (English: 47 mm L.40 Cannon Model 1938), was eight calibers longer than the previous version, allowing a muzzle velocity of 755 m/s with an armor-piercing shell. The breech was larger to allow the firing of longer rounds to increase accuracy and penetration.
The Cannone da 47/40 was used in the turret of the Carro Armato M15/42, which entered service in 1942 with the Regio Esercito, and the Autoblindo AB43 ‘Cannone’. Ansaldo and Breda produced 300 Cannoni da 47/40.
Cannone da 47/32 Munito di Attrezzatura di Circostanza (English: 47/32 Cannon Fitted with Training Equipment)
With circular no. 4120 of 20th April 1943, the Ministero della Guerra (English: Ministry of War) reported that, in order to train gun crews in anti-tank fire, training equipment was to be used to fire 6.5 mm caliber cartridges.
The Moschetti Modello 91 per Truppe Speciali (English: Muskets Model 1891 for Special Troops) were modified for the purpose, leaving them with the barrel uncovered and eliminating the forestock and barrel cover. The latter were modified to fit inside the muzzle of the Cannone da 47/32.
Each gun was equipped with one hundred rounds of 6.5 mm caliber for training purposes. During the tests, the gun crews fired at a target made of wood and canvas, on which tank silhouettes were fixed and moved by ropes, at a distance of 30-35 m. FIAT-Revelli Modello 1914/1935 medium machine guns were also used instead of rifles.
Cannone da 47/32 per Semovente da 47/32 su scafo L3
The Semovente da 47/32 su scafo L3 (English: 47 mm L32 self-propelled gun on L3 hull) was a prototype of an anti-tank self-propelled gun developed in 1939 on the hull of the L3/35 light tank. It was intended to equip the Regio Esercito with a gun armored vehicle capable of withstanding machine-gun fire.
The Semovente was armed with a Cannone da 47/32 with an experimental installation, where the trunnion was mounted at the front of the vehicle. Unlike the field gun, it was equipped with a removable shield to protect the gun crew and had a traverse of 15° on both sides, while the elevation was from -18° to +30°.
Cannone da 47/48
In 1941, Ansaldo began the study of a new version of the Cannone da 47/32, but with a 48 caliber barrel and with a shield like the Cannone da 37/45.
The Cannone da 47/48 had a muzzle velocity of 815-820 m/s but it was very heavy compared to the original model. It weighed 740 kg in battery position, which allowed only mechanized transport. The Ispettorato di Fanteria (English: Inspectorate of Infantry) suspected that this gun had a low penetration, which in the end was 70 mm. The Inspectorate considered the adoption as anti-tank gun of the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937, but the project remained under consideration until 1943, when it was abandoned after the decision was made to adopt the Cannone da 75/43 Modello 1940, i.e. the https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/germany/at-guns/7-5-cm-pak-407.5 cm PaK 40.
Cannone 75/21 IF
Shortly before the Armistice of 8th September between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allies, the Cannone da 75/22 was developed. This was an anti-tank gun built by using the carriage of the Cannone da 47/32 while the barrel, 22 caliber long, could fire the same ammunition of the Obice da 75/18 model 1934 and Obice da 75/13 model 1915 (English: 75 mm Howitzer L18 model 1934 and 75 mm Howitzer L13 model 1915).
After the war, this design was revised and the Cannone da 75/21 IF was born. This gun weighed 287 kg in battery and had a muzzle velocity between 248 and 274 m/s.
In the 1950s, the new anti-tank gun was designed to arm the bunkers of the Vallo Alpino Orientale (English: Eastern Alpine Wall), the Italian defense line along the border with Yugoslavia, built in the 1930s as part of the larger Vallo Alpino del Littorio (English: Littorio Alpine Wall). It was used after the war to protect the eastern borders from a potential attack by Yugoslavia.
The gun used parts of the Cannone da 47/32 and 47/40 mounted on candlestick carriages. The Cannone da 75/21 IF fired hollow-charge ammunition and could be transported both mechanically and by pack animals, but the field version was not very successful and was abandoned as a project. It remained in service in bunkers until the 1960s.
Production began in 1935 and the Cannone da 47/32 was the most produced artillery piece coming from Italian factories, with production ending only in 1945.
During these ten years, the piece was produced by different companies: Ansaldo of Pozzuoli and Genoa, Arsenale Regio Esercito di Napoli or AREN (English: Royal Italian Army Arsenal of Naples), Arsenale Regio Esercito di Piacenza or AREP (English: Royal Italian Army Arsenal of Piacenza), Arsenale Regio Esercito di Torino or ARET (English: Royal Italian Army Arsenal of Turin), Breda, Cogne, and Costruzioni Elettro-Meccaniche di Saronno or CEMSA (English: Saronno Electro-Mechanical Constructions).
By June 1940, 928 pieces had been built out of an order of 2,783 and another 643 “per carro M13” were on order. The Direzione Generale d’Artiglieria (English: Artillery Directorate General) stated on 1st June 1942 that 3,203 Cannoni 47/32 Modello 1935 and 1939, 1,321 “per carro M.13” and 221 for Semovente L40 were available in the Italian armed forces.
After the Armistice between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allies on 8th September 1943 and the consequent German invasion of the country, the Germans continued the production of this cannon; 101 Cannoni da 47/32 were produced from 1st October 1943 to 31st October 1944. A total 1,929 Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1939 pieces had been produced until 31st December 1942 and another 636 were planned.
|Production of the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1939|
|Factory||Number of cannons produced||Number of barrels|
|Breda||795 (in 1941)||//|
Operational Use in Italy
The Cannone da 47/32 was the most used gun of the Italian armed forces. It was used by the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army), Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (English: Voluntary Militia for National Security) or Camicie Nere (English: Black Shirts), Polizia dell’Africa Italiana (English: Police of Italian Africa), Regia Marina (English: Royal Italian Navy), and Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali (English: Royal Colonial Troops Corps).
After the Armistice of 8th September 1943 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allies, the Cannone da 47/32 was used by the armed forces of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (English: Italian Social Republic), a puppet state of Nazi Germany, and those of the the “Regno del Sud” (English: Southern Kingdom), in practice the Kingdom of Italy collaborating with the Allied forces for the liberation of the Italian Peninsula.
Use during the Spanish Civil War
The first use of the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 was during the Spanish Civil War, when Mussolini decided to support General Francisco Franco’s forces by sending an Italian contingent called the Corpo Truppe Volontarie.
The production number of the Cannoni da 47/32 Modello 1935 was not very high at that time, so only 30 were sent to Spain to form an anti-tank section of the Comando Reparti Specializzati or CRS (English: Specialized Units Command). This became the Raggruppamento Carristi (English: Tanks Grouping) on 25th September 1937, while two Cannoni da 47/32, together with four Cannoni da 37/45, i.e. 3.7 cm PaK 36, equipped the anti-tank company of the 4a Divisione d’Assalto ‘Littorio’ (English. 4th Assault Division).
The circular Relazione sulla battaglia di Catalogna (English: Report on the Battle of Catalonia) praised the Cannone da 47/32 as an accurate and effective weapon, as well as its lightness and small size. This made it less visible than the Cannone da 65/17, although the lack of a shield to protect the gun crew and the very fragile carriage were also mentioned as serious flaws of the gun.
Use in the Vallo Alpino del Littorio
At the beginning of the 1930s, the Kingdom of Italy began to fortify the border in the Alps with the aim of creating a defensive wall, called Vallo Alpino del Littorio (English: Alpine Wall of Littorio). In order not to use men from the infantry or Alpine regiments, a new corps was created in 1934 with the aim of defending the Italian and colonial borders, the Guardia alla Frontiera (English: Border Guard), which was divided into three specialties: infantry, artillery, and engineers.
For the defense against the tanks, the Cannoni da 47/32 and Cannoni da 57/43 Regia Marina (English: 57 mm L.43 Cannon [for] Royal Navy, an old naval gun now used as an anti-tank weapon) were installed in casemates without wheels, resting on the ground or on a metal support. When installed in a metal casemate, the gun rested on a special dovetailed support designed by the Direzione Superiore del Servizio Tecnico di Artiglieria (English: Higher Directorate of Artillery Technical Service).
By 1st June 1940, however, only 30 Cannoni da 47/32 were available out of the 300 required. According to circular no. 13500 of 14th August 1941, the Cannone da 47/32 was intended only for anti-tank flanking fire, while the Cannone da 75/46 and the Cannone da 90/53 were designed to fire against the new type of tanks.
Use during the Second World War
In 1940, every infantry, motorized, Celere (English: Fast), armored, and Autotrasportata (English: mechanized) division had 8 Cannoni da 47/32 in the divisional anti-tank company, except for the Alpine divisions, which were not equipped with anti-tank guns. In the Divisioni Libiche (English: Libyan Infantry divisions), the number of anti-tank pieces was the same as in the standard infantry division, as well as in the four CC.NN. (English: Black Shirts) divisions sent to Libya in 1940 and destroyed during Operation Compass in December 1940 – January 1941.
The Cannone da 47/32 was supposed to replace the Cannone da 65/17 in the regimental support batteries (the infantry divisions had two support batteries with 4 Cannoni da 65/17 each, while the mechanized divisions also had two, but with 8 pieces each) but the production of Cannoni da 47/32 was slow. In a communication, dated 1st May 1940, from the Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito (English: General Staff of the Italian Royal Army) to Benito Mussolini, Head of Government and Duce of Italy, it was stated that, in the infantry divisions, with the sole exception of the 52a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Torino’ (English: 52nd Infantry Division), there were still support batteries made up of old Cannoni da 65/17.
|Divisional anti-tank company staffing in 1940|
|Cannoni da 47/32||8|
|FIAT-SPA CL.39 Light Truck||10|
Italian invasion of France (10 -25 June 1940)
The first wartime action of the Kingdom of Italy was the attack on France, known in Italy as the Battle of the Western Alps. From 10th to 21st June, there were only minor border skirmishes, but on the 21st, the Italian 1a Armata (English: 1st Army) and 4a Armata (English: 4th Army) attacked across the entire frontline.
The attack lasted until 25th June 1940 and it was a hard battle for the Italian forces, which brought few results (summarized as the capture of Menton and the occupation of some villages across the border).
The Cannone da 47/32 was present in the Italian divisions that attacked France, but also in bunkers or in battalions of the Guardia alla Frontiera – G.a.F.- (English: Frontier Guard). The cannon was used in few actions, partly due to the absence of enemy armored units.
On 22nd June, some Cannoni da 47/32 of the G.a.F., positioned in the Petit St. Bernard Pass, opened fire on the French. On the same day, the 53° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Umbria’ (English: 53rd Infantry Regiment), supported by the 17° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Sforzesca’ (English: 17th Artillery Regiment), crossed the border with a company of Cannoni da 47/32 and two 81 mm mortar companies and was immediately hit by heavy machine gun and artillery fire. The Regiment managed to penetrate the Bois de Sestrieres with heavy losses.
North Africa Campaign (June 1940 – May 1943)
On 10th June 1940, the day Italy entered the war on the side of Germany, there were 127 Cannoni da 47/32 in Libya, reinforced in the following months by 74 Cannoni da 47/32, of which 18 were unusable due to the lack of carriage parts and, of the rest, only 25 had optics. Even the forces of the Guardia alla Frontiera (deployed in Libya on the border with Tunisia and Egypt) had a serious shortage of Cannoni da 47/32. A document dated 1st June 1940 points out that, out of the 390 required guns, 292 were missing.
After the advance of the Italian troops to Sidi el Barrani in September 1940, General Rodolfo Graziani ordered the construction of a series of fortifications near the village. The British forces organized a counter-offensive to drive the Italians out of Egypt, an attack that was launched on 9th December 1940. One of the first targets of the advance was the Nibewa camp, where a Cannoni da 47/32 anti-tank company was stationed.
The attack was launched with Matilda tanks, an unexpected novelty for the Italian soldiers, which was very difficult to penetrate with the Cannoni da 47/32. During the battle, the Italian gun crews fought hard, being shot down by enemy machine guns due to the lack of shields on the Cannoni da 47/32, and only managed to damage five Matildas by hitting the tracks and penetrating the side armor of another one. General Pietro Maletti was also killed in this clash, as he was directing two Cannoni da 47/32 gunners nearest to the Matilda tanks.
In other actions of Operation Compass, such as the Battle of Bardia and Tobruk, the Cannone da 47/32 was once more outclassed by the Matilda tanks, although the Italian gun crews tried to position the guns in front of elevations in the terrain so that they could fire at the ventral part of the tank. The gun was however an excellent weapon against the lighter Cruiser tanks, although the low training and lack of a shield made it difficult to fire at armored vehicles at close range.
After 1941, independent anti-tank battalions using pack animals or transported on lorries were created. These were equipped with 24 Cannoni da 47/32 and assigned to divisions or army corps. A new gorget patch was created for these units, consisting of a blue rectangle with three white lines.
|Independent anti-tank battalion composition|
|Cannoni da 47/32||24|
After 1942, platoons of Cannoni da 47/32 were included in the staff of the Bersaglieri, infantry, and Guastatori (English: Sappers) battalions. Each platoon consisted of two Cannoni da 47/32 squads, each with one cannon.
The Cannone da 47/32 was the only artillery piece given to the artillery regiments of the Divisioni Paracadutiste (English: Parachute Divisions), because it could be easily dismantled and transported, even by soldiers.
In southern Libya, the Comando Sahara Libico (English: Libyan Sahara Command) had to defend itself against attacks from the Long Range Desert Group and General Leclerc’s French units.
In March 1941, the motorized columns in Tagrifet, Zella, Murzuch, and Sebha each had four Cannoni da 47/32. The units then took the name Compagnie Sahariane (English: Saharan Companies), so the unit in Tagrifet became 1a Compagnia Sahariana, the one in Zella 2a Compagnia Sahariana, the one in Sebha 4a Compagnia Sahariana, and the one in Murzuch 5a Compagnia Sahariana, and the latter was reinforced by the 60a Compagnia Cannoni da 47/32 (English: 60th 47/32 Company).
In September 1941, the Comando Sahara Libico sent a letter to the Italian Libya Command requesting the dispatch of 86 Cannoni da 47/32 to reinforce and form a new Compagnie Sahariane, but due to low gun production and the consideration of southern Libya as a secondary front, no new reinforcements were sent. By January 1942, there were only 16 Cannoni da 47/32 in the Comando Sahara Libico.
At the end of March 1942, the units were modified. The Compagnie Libiche da Posizione (English: Libyan Position Companies) were equipped with 2 to 4 Cannoni da 47/32, while the Compagnie Sahariane were equipped with three Cannoni da 47/32 (one platoon).
In November 1942, the 3a Pattuglia di Vigilanza Terrestre Avanzata (English: 3rd Advanced Land Surveillance Patrol) was created and assigned to the 2a Compagnia Sahariana. The patrol consisted of eight Camionette Desertiche SPA-Viberti AS42 ‘Sahariane’, one of which was armed with a Cannone da 47/32.
At the end of 1942, the Comando Sahara Libico had 72 Cannoni da 47/32 at its disposal.
The Cannone da 47/32 equipped a special unit of the Regia Marina, the 1° Reggimento di Marina ‘San Marco’ (English: 1st Marine Regiment). The unit fought for the defense of Tobruk during Operation Agreement in September 1942 and then fought in Tunisia in 1943 until the surrender of the Axis forces in May.
After the Second Battle of El Alamein (October 1942), the long Axis retreat to Tunisia began, where their forces held out until May 1943.
Here too the Cannone da 47/32 was the main Italian anti-tank weapon, although now powerless against British and American medium tanks. On 6th April 1943, during the Battle of Uari Akarit, the British 50th Infantry Division, the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade, and the 152nd Highlanders Brigade attacked the 80a Divisione di Fanteria ‘La Spezia’ (English: 80th Infantry Division). Despite strong resistance and counterattacks, the unit was destroyed and reduced to one and a half companies.
Prominent among the Italian soldiers was Staff Sergeant Vinicio Rossi, assigned to the LXXX Battaglione Controcarro da 47/32 (English: 80th Anti-Tank Battalion), who was killed after capturing three enemy tanks with his piece and was awarded the Gold Medal for Military Valor.
East Africa Campaign (June 1940 – November 1941)
On 10th May 1940, a month before the entry into the war, the Viceroy of Ethiopia, Amedeo d’Aosta, Duke of Aosta, requested the dispatch of six companies of Cannoni da 47/32, plus six spare guns, complete with vehicles, personnel, and a lot of ammunition, but nothing was sent from Italy.
Out of all these colonies, only one battery of Cannoni da 47/32 was deployed in Amhara. It was used for the first time in the Battle of Cheren (February-March 1941). After the battle, the rest of the battery was deployed, in May 1941, in the Ablati sector in the Galla-Sidamo region, where it was probably destroyed.
Curiously, in document no. 1222 dated 25th August 1940, written by General Claudio Trezzani, Capo di Stato Maggiore del Comando Superiore Forze Armate dell’Africa Orientale Italiana (English: Chief of Staff of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces in Italian East Africa), he mentions the capture of some ‘47 Breda’ guns in British Somaliland (invaded by Italian troops in August). This is difficult to explain, as there was no large number of Cannoni da 47/32 in Italian East Africa. Perhaps these were Bohler guns or guns captured in North Africa and sent to Somaliland (although, at that time, there had been no major clashes between Italian and Commonwealth troops in North Africa).
Dodecanese Campaign (June 1940 – October 1943)
In the Dodecanese Islands, in the southeastern Aegean Sea, the Regio Esercito could count on the entire 50a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Regina’ (English: 50th Infantry Division), which had two companies of Cannoni da 47/32 and garrisons on the various islands of the archipelago.
On 28th February 1941, the 13a Compagnia di Fanteria (English: 13th Infantry Company) and a section of Cannoni da 47/32 landed and captured the island of Kastellorizo, previously occupied by British forces during Operation Abstention.
On 28th May 1941, an Italian expeditionary corps, composed of two infantry battalions, a company of sailors, a company of 81 mm mortars, a company of light tanks, a battery of Cannoni da 65/17, and a company of Cannoni da 47/32, landed in Sitia, on the island of Crete, to support the German troops during Operation Merkur. The Italian action was practically useless, however, as the fighting on the island had already come to an end.
The 1a Compagnia Cannoni da 47/32 (English: 1st 47/32 Gun Company) could count on 1,500 rounds per gun. After landing, the Italian troops advanced towards Jerapetra, which was reached on May 31st, after a 60 km march.
On 8th September 1943, the day of the Armistice between the Allies and the Kingdom of Italy, the 50a Divisione di Fanteria “Regina” had the 1a Compagnia Cannoni da 47/32 (English: 1st 47/32 Gun Company), with 27 guns and 300 men, and the 2a Compagnia Cannoni da 47/32 rafforzata (English: 2nd 47/32 gun reinforced company), with 500 men. Both companies were stationed on the island of Rhodes to defend the city of the same name, while a small number of Cannoni da 47/32 were stationed in Psithos.
During the clashes between Germans and Italians near the city of Rhodes, a company of Cannoni da 47/32 tried to destroy a German battery of 8.8 cm FlaK.
On the island of Kos, garrisoned by the 10th Infantry Regiment, there were four platoons of Cannoni da 47/32.
On the island of Leros, there was a battery of Cannoni da 47/32 along Gurna Bay and a section at Mericcia. The battery was completely captured by German paratroopers on 12th October.
Occupation and Anti-Guerrilla Warfare in Yugoslavia (April 1941 – September 1943)
In April 1941, Wehrmacht units invaded Yugoslavia in the so-called Operation 25. Italian forces also participated in the invasion, with the 2a Armata (English: 2nd Army) deployed on the Yugoslav-Italian border and the XIV° Corpo d’Armata (English: 14th Army Corps) deployed in Albania.
In April, one of the most difficult areas for the Italians was the city of Zadar, which had been specially reinforced out of fear of Yugoslav attacks. The units deployed in the city took the name of Truppe di Zara (English: Zadar Troops) and, at the beginning of April, numbered 7,121 men, 95 artillery pieces, and one L3 light tank company. The fortress could rely on only five Cannoni da 47/32, which, together with other Italian artillery, participated in the bombardment of the Yugoslav border forces on 11th April.
During the occupation of the country, there was a very tough partisan guerrilla war that kept the entire 2a Armata busy. During anti-partisan actions or assigned to village and town garrisons, the Cannone da 47/32 was obviously present, although not much data is available until the Armistice of 8th September 1943. A whole Bersaglieri regiment was deployed in Zadar with a platoon of Cannoni da 47/32, while in the Susak area, the 800 strong Battaglione Garibaldi (English: Garibaldi Battalion) was created by the Italians, which began to collaborate with the partisans and included a company of Cannoni da 47/32 under the command of Sub-Lieutenant Botticelli.
Eastern Front (July 1941 – January 1943)
On 10th July 1941, the Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia – C.S.I.R.- (English: Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia) was created. It was composed of two infantry divisions, the 9a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Pasubio’ (English: 9th Infantry Division) and the 52a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Torino’ (English: 52nd Infantry Division), and by the 3a Divisione Celere ‘Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta’ (English: 3rd Fast Division) in addition to the various Army Corps departments.
The infantry divisions were reinforced with two anti-tank companies of Cannoni da 47/32, while the Army Corps had an entire anti-tank battalion on its staff, the II° Battaglione Cannoni da 47/32 (English: 2nd 47/32 Battalion). The CSIR also had the 63a Legione CC.NN ‘Tagliamento’ (English: 63rd Blackshirts Legion), which included a company of Cannoni da 47/32.
A year later, the CSIR, having fought well, was reinforced and became the 8a Armata (English: 8th Army), also called ARMIR – ARMata Italiana in Russia (English: Italian Army in Russia) – which could count on 297 Cannoni da 47/32. The II° Corpo d’Armata (English: 2nd Army Corps), the unit that was hit by the Soviet attack during Operation Little Saturn in December 1942, had 16 Cannoni da 47/32 in the 5a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Cosseria’ (English: 5th Infantry Division), 16 in the 3a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Ravenna’ (English: 3rd Infantry Division), 6 in the 38° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Ravenna’ (English: 38th Infantry Regiment), 16 in the Raggruppamento Camicie Nere ‘23 Marzo’ (English: ‘March 23rd’ Black Shirt Group), and 24 in the 32° Battaglione Anticarro di Corpo d’Armata (English: 32nd Anti-Tank Battalion).
The Cannone da 47/32 equipped the anti-tank company of the Legione Croata (English: Croatian Legion), a small regiment made up of Croatian volunteers that fought on the Eastern Front, firstly alongside the 3a Divisione Celere ‘Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta’ and then as a reserve of the 8a Armata.
Coastal defense in Italy (June 1940 – September 1943)
After 1941, the Cannone da 47/32 played an important role in the coastal and territorial defense of Italy. For the defense of airfields, with Circular of 31st July 1941 entitled Difesa degli aeroporti contro attacchi in massa di paracadutisti (English: Defense of Airfields against Mass Attacks by Paratroopers), motorized groups were created at the level of a regiment, including an anti-tank company of Cannoni da 47/32.
In 1942, the first circular for the anti-tank defense of the coast was issued, entitled Sistemazione Difensiva delle Frontiere Marittime. Organizzazione della Difesa Contro Carro (English: Defensive System of Maritime Frontiers. Organization of Defense against Tanks), which explained the use of Cannoni da 47/32 placed in coastal defense bunkers, against the light armored vehicles and light landing craft used by the Allies. The Italian commanders knew the limited effectiveness of these guns against Shermans, the main backbone of the British and American armored forces, and so, in 1943, with the circular Difesa delle Frontiere Marittime (English: Defense of Maritime Frontiers), provided for the use of large minefields to compensate for the lack of anti-tank guns. In reality, even this move proved ineffective due to the severe shortage of anti-tank mines.
Sicily and Calabria Campaign (July – September 1943)
In order to defend Sicily against Allied invasion, in July 1943, the Regio Esercito deployed the 6a Armata (English: 6th Army) composed of five coastal divisions (202nd, 206th, 207th, 208th, and 213th), two coastal brigades (18th and 19th) and four Italian infantry divisions: 4a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Livorno’ (English: 4th Infantry Division), 26a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Assietta’ (English: 26th Infantry Division), 28a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Aosta’ (English: 28th Infantry Division), and 54a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Napoli’ (English: 54th Infantry Division), as well as numerous independent and army corps troops.
The Cannone da 47/32 was the main anti-tank weapon in the Italian bunkers and was the main gun of the various battalions and anti-tank companies deployed on the island, although now completely obsolete against Allied medium tanks.
On 10th July 1943, the Gruppo Mobile ‘E’ (English: Mobile Group), an Italian military unit created to support the defense of the airfields and to counterattack any landed enemy troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Conti, received orders to counterattack toward the city of Gela, occupied by U.S. troops.
The Gruppo Mobile ‘E’, 700 men strong, was composed of a company of Renault R.35 tanks, a company of infantry, a company of Bersaglieri, a section of 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, a battery of Obici da 75/18 (English: 75 mm L.18 Howitzers), and a company of Cannoni da 47/32. The 2a Compagnia Contro Carro da 47/32 (English: 2nd Anti-Tank Company 47/32), belonging to the CII Battaglione (English: 102nd Battalion), under the command of Captain Luigi Ferrari and was composed of 8 Cannoni da 47/32 (with 759 armor-piercing and 194 ordinary rounds), 5 trucks, 4 officers, and 112 enlisted men and non-commissioned officers.
|Gruppo Mobile ‘E’|
|1a Compagnia of the CII Battaglioni Carri R.35 (English: 102nd Renault R.35 tank battalion)|
|2a Compagnia of the CII Battaglione controcarro da 47/32|
|4a Compagnia of the 501° Battaglione Costiero (English: 501st Coastal Battalion)|
|155a Compagnia Motociclisti (English: 155th Motorcycle Company)|
|9a Batteria da 75/18 (English: 9th Battery 75 mm L.18 Cannon) of the III Gruppo/54° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Napoli’ (English: 3rd Group of the 54th Artillery Regiment)|
|Section of the 326a batteria da 20 mm ‘Assietta’ (English: 326th 20 mm battery)|
At 6 a.m., the Mobile Group began advancing toward Gela, and the anti-tank company took up position on Strada Statale 117 (English: State Highway 117) awaiting orders. Shortly after, they received orders to support the attack of the 155a Compagnia Bersaglieri (English: 155th Bersaglieri Company). Captain Ferrari ordered the 3rd and 4th Platoons to deploy about a kilometer from the outskirts of Gela, while the rest of the company waited on positions located on State Highway 117.
At 6:30 a.m., the two platoons moved toward the Bersaglieri unit, but mortar and machine gun fire hit the gun crews carrying the guns by hand, causing casualties among the ranks of the two platoons, each of which managed to move in to support the Bersaglieri attack.
At this time, the Renault tank company also attacked the town, penetrating and holding until 10 a.m. under fire from U.S. forces.
At 11 a.m., the two platoons of Cannoni da 47/32 had to withdraw to State Highway 117, where the rest of the company was still located, and then again to Poggio del Mulino, where they were assigned to the defense of the Ponte Olivo airfield, where they repulsed an attack by enemy patrols during the night of 10th-11th July.
Consideration of the Use of the Cannone da 47/32 In the Italian Armed Forces from 10th June 1940 to 8th September 1943
The Cannone da 47/32 was an excellent anti-tank weapon in the Italian armed forces, although it had to compete with well armored enemy vehicles, such as the British Matilda. The rest of the Allied armored vehicles could be stopped by this gun, but with the appearance of the first Allied medium tanks, the Sherman and Grant in Africa and the T-34 in the Soviet Union, it quickly became obsolete. Even with E. P. or E.P.S. ammunition, the gun could only penetrate the armor of these vehicles at close range, leaving the gun crews vulnerable to machine gun fire from the tanks.
Use in the Repubblica Sociale Italiana
The Repubblica Sociale Italiana was a puppet state of Nazi Germany created on 23rd September 1943, after the Armistice between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allies. The new state had its own armed forces and some of these used the Cannone da 47/32, such as the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana (English: Republican National Guard), the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (English: National Republican Army), the Brigate Nere (English: Black Brigades), and the Xa MAS (English: 10th Flotilla MAS), a Marina Nazionale Repubblicana (English: National Republican Navy) unit whose soldiers were widely used in infantry operations.
Most of the units of the RSI were used for anti-partisan operations. In most cases, the Cannone da 47/32 was used as an infantry support cannon rather than as an anti-tank gun.
|Cannoni da 47/32 in some RSI units|
|Name of the unit||Number of the Cannoni da 47/32|
|Gruppo Squadroni Corazzato ‘San Giorgio’||2|
|Raggruppamento Anti Partigiani||2|
|l° Battaglione Bersaglieri Volontari ‘Mussolini’||1|
|Gruppo Corazzato ‘Leonessa’||5|
The Cannone da 47/32 was also used by other Bersaglieri units, the I° Battaglione Bersaglieri Volontari Difesa Costiera (English: 1st Battalion Bersaglieri Volunteers Coastal Defence), which defended Genoa and had some Cannoni da 47/32 in fixed fortifications, each company of the II° Battaglione Bersaglieri Volontari Difesa Costiera (English: 2nd Battalion Bersaglieri Volunteers Coastal Defence) had one piece, while the V° Battaglione Bersaglieri Volontari Difesa Costiera (English: 5th Battalion Bersaglieri Volunteers Coastal Defence) had some to replace the weak Cannoni da 25/72 – (captured Canon de 25 mm semi-automatique modèle 1934 or 1937).
The Cannone da 47/32 was also used by the Reggimento Alpini ‘Tagliamento’ (English: Alpine Regiment), the Raggruppamento ‘Cacciatori degli Appennini’, and the 1a Brigata Nera ‘Ather Capelli’ (English: 1st Black Brigade).
Use in the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano (English: Italian Co-Belligerent Army)
After the Armistice of 8th September 1943, part of the Regio Esercito decided to remain loyal to King Victor Emmanuel III and started to collaborate with the Allied forces for the liberation of Italy, fighting against the German and RSI forces. Thus, the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano (Italian Co-belligerent Army) was born.
The first unit to be created after the Armistice was the 1° Raggruppamento Motorizzato (English: 1st Motorized Grouping), which contained the V° Battaglione Controcarro (English: 5th Anti-Tank Battalion), with two companies armed with Cannoni da 47/32.
In 1944, the Raggruppamento was transformed into the Corpo Italiano di Liberazione (English: Italian Liberation Corps), which was equipped by the Allies with Cannoni da 57/50 – (Ordnance QF 6 lb) – but the Cannone da 47/32 remained operational, equipping the Battaglione Bersaglieri ‘Grado’ (English: ‘Grado’ Bersaglieri Battalion) and the Battaglione di Marina ‘Bafile’ (English: ‘Bafile’ Marine Infantry Battalion).
In July 1944, the Gruppi di Combattimento (English: Combat Groups) were created. These were units of around 10,000 men consisting of two infantry regiments and one artillery regiment, fully equipped by the British Army with Cannoni da 57/50, Cannoni da 76/55 (Ordnance QF 17-pdr), and Obici da 88/27 (Ordnance QF 25 pdr Mk2). This saw the disappearance of the Cannone da 47/32 from the ranks of the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano.
Use by Italian Partisans
The Italian partisans, who operated in the areas of the Italian Social Republic from September 1943 to May 1945, often used weapons captured from the fascist forces and the Germans.
On 24th August 1944, 200 soldiers of the Scuola Sottufficiali di Novi Ligure (English: Novi Ligure Non-Commissioned Officers’ School) of the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana attacked the partisan forces of the Brigata Volante Balilla (English: Balilla Flying Brigade) near the village of Pertuso, in Piemonte.
The fascist soldiers were supported by fire from some Cannoni da 47/32, but were repelled by partisan forces, who also captured one of the cannons and re-used it in later clashes against Axis forces.
Another Cannone da 47/32 was reused by the partisans of Barcis, in Friuli Venezia Giulia. On 8th (other sources say 10th) August 1944, after attacking a German tank – probably an Italian M tank – they removed its cannon, together with 78 47 mm rounds, and mounted it on a makeshift carriage on a Fiat 508 ‘Balilla’ car. The fate of the vehicle is unknown. During an anti-partisan action in April and May 1944 in Val di Lanzo, Piedmont, the 1a Compagnia of the Gruppo Corazzato ‘Leonessa’ (English: Tank Group), along with the 3rd Company of SS-Polizei-Regiment 14. (English: 14th SS Polizei Regiment), captured considerable booty from the defeated partisan forces, including a Cannone da 47/32.
A Cannone da 47/32 taken from a fortification of the Vallo Alpino del Littorio on the French border was repaired by a partisan from Val Varaita, Piedmont, in January 1944. It was reused against the Germans although, due to the few rounds available, it was not very successful.
Five Cannoni da 47/32 were captured and reused by the partisans of Pontegrosso, near Parma. The partisans destroyed a German truck with one of the cannons and then supported the attack of other partisans against a German machine gun post.
Partisans in the Dermonte and Gaiola areas, in the province of Cuneo, created an armed train consisting of a locomotive and a wagon that was armed with a Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1939 and a 57 mm Gun M1.
There were probably other examples of the use of Cannoni da 47/32 by the Italian partisans, but the sources are not very numerous and the information has probably been lost.
China purchased 100 Cannoni da 47/32 Modello 1935 after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, but probably only a dozen were delivered.
Unfortunately, there is little information about their use or effectiveness in China.
During the Winter War of 1939, Finland acquired 12 Cannoni da 47/32 Modello 1939, called 47 PstK/39 by the Finns.
The Cannoni da 47/32 reached their destination after the end of the war, but in 1941, they were tested by the Panssaripataljoona (English: Tank Battalion), that did not like the gun very much. They considered it too complicated for Finnish use and disliked its low penetration. The test ended with the idea of using it as a bunker gun in a simplified form.
During the Continuation War, they were quickly removed from the frontline and used as coastal artillery along Lake Ladoga, before being handed over to the Finnish Navy in 1942, where they remained in storage until the end of World War II, before being sold off in the 1960s.
Romania acquired 275 Cannoni da 47/32 in 1941. The Romanians used these guns as infantry support guns, together with 545 other Bohler guns.
As an anti-tank weapon, they used the 47 mm Schneider Mle 1936 (English: 47 mm Schneider Model 1936) built under license in Romania.
In April 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia possessed 48 M40 47 mm cannons, which were the local designation for the Cannoni da 47/32. During the war of liberation, the Allies sent Tito’s partisans 180 Cannoni da 47/32 with 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
British Empire and Commonwealth
Commonwealth forces captured a large number of Cannoni da 47/32 during Operation Compass, the Allied counter-offensive in Egypt and Libya against the Italians that led to the occupation of Cyrenaica by February 1941.
The Cannone da 47/32 was then widely used by Commonwealth forces, both mounted on vehicles and as an anti-tank gun.
A document dated 17th February 1942 from the British XIIIth Corps listed the Italian and German guns in use by the unit. These included 47 Cannoni da 47/32, of which 12 were with the French forces, 8 with the New Zealand Brigade, 6 with the 38th Brigade, 6 with an armored division, and 17 with the 4th Indian Division.
Some Cannoni da 47/32 were sent to Malaya with the 4th Anti-Tank Regiment of the 22nd Australian Brigade and also to the 27th Australian Brigade that fought against Japanese forces.
Some Cannoni da 47/32 were captured from Italian troops and used by France Libre (English: Free French) units in North Africa.
After the Armistice of 8th September 1943, German forces captured many Cannoni da 47/32, renamed 4,7 cm PaK 177 (i), and continued their production. Between October 1943 and October 1944, this amounted to 101 units.
The Cannone da 47/32 was used by the 29. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (English: 29th SS Division) formed from Italian soldiers, which had 29 pieces on 9th April 1945.
The Division came into existence in January 1945 and was preceded first by a brigade, the Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade der SS (italienische Nr. 1) (English: 1st Italian SS Brigade) also armed with some Cannoni da 47/32. Italian SS units were only used for anti-partisan fighting and saw little fighting against the Allies at Anzio in 1944.
The Cannone da 47/32 was also used by the Polizeiregiment ‘Bozen’ (English: Police Regiment) formed by South Tyrolean soldiers. It operated in Italy and Yugoslavia with anti-partisan duties.
After the Armistice of 8th September 1943, some Cannoni da 47/32 captured by the Germans were handed over to the armed forces of the Nezavisna Država Hrvatska (English: Independent State of Croatia), a puppet state of Germany.
After the Second World War, some Cannoni da 47/32 were recovered from old British stores and some were even donated directly by the British Army. Some of them took part in the 1948 Palestine War. One Cannone da 47/32 was used in the Beit Shemesh area of Israel to fire at the Israeli police of Artuv, hitting Israeli supply vehicles trying to supply the small settlement.
An Israeli Army diary entry from 12th November 1948 mentions a captured 47 mm gun, probably a Cannone da 47/32 captured from the Egyptians.
The same diary, in an entry dated 20th December, reports the arrival of 12 47 mm cannons from Europe. The model is not specified, but they were probably Canons de 47 mm semi-automatique mle 1937 (English: 47 mm semi-automatic cannon model 1937) purchased from France on 26th June 26 1948.
However, there are photographs showing Israeli units using a Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 and Modello 1939 captured from the Egyptians.
Use on Vehicles
M tank series
The Cannone da 47/32 per Carro M13 was the main armament of the Carro Armato M13/40 and Carro Armato M14/41. Each tank had a capacity of 87 47 mm shells, which from mid-1942 were supplemented with E.P. ammunition, which gave unsatisfactory results. Until 1942, the Cannone da 47/32 was still effective, but with the appearance of the new Allied tanks armed with 57 and 75 mm cannons, they were rendered obsolete by the greater range and penetrating power of the new enemy guns.
In order to have any chance of penetrating the Allied tanks, the Italian tanks had to get too close to the enemy vehicles, and this caused the Italian armored units to suffer very high losses.
A new tank was also introduced in 1942, the Carro Armato M15/42, which was armed with the Cannone da 47/40. Although it was a more powerful weapon than the gun on earlier tanks, it was still obsolete for the time, when other belligerent states were already using much more powerful guns.
An example of the performance of the Cannone da 47/32 is represented by a photo taken after the Second Battle of El Alamein, which shows a destroyed Churchill tank surrounded by 4 or 5 destroyed Carri Armati M13/40 or M14/41. It is clear from the photo that the Italian tank drivers, in order to try to penetrate the new enemy tanks, had to narrow the distance, coming within a few tens of meters of the enemy vehicles and becoming easy prey to enemy fire. The report of the Kingforce, the company of six Churchill tanks, shows that Major King’s tank was hit eight times without being penetrated. Lieutenant Appleby’s tank, which is the destroyed tank featured in the photo, was hit as many as 50 times and only 3 shots penetrated the armor and killed the four crew members.
Of the other four Churchills, one was hit 30 times, suffering only a broken track, and two others suffered turret damage. The Carri Armati M13/40, together with the Italian artillery, unloaded as many as 100 rounds against the six enemy tanks, managing to damage 2/3 of them at the cost of 5 destroyed M13/40s.
Carro M Celere Sahariano (English: Saharan M Fast tank)
In early 1941, the capture of several British Cruiser tanks led the commands of the Regio Esercito to call for the development of a tank for use in the desert, with a lower profile and faster than the Carro Armato M14/41.
In June 1941, Ansaldo proposed a 1:10 scale mock-up armed with Cannone da 47/40 and named Ansaldo Fossati Carro Medio Celere 1942 (English: Ansaldo-Fossati Medium Fast Tank Model 1942). At the same time, the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione was developing a Carro Armato Veloce (English: Fast Tank) and the two projects were merged together. On 13th August 1941, the construction of a prototype was authorized.
The prototype was completed in spring 1942 and photographs indicate that it was armed with the Cannone da 47/40, but the project was abandoned in July 1942 in favor of the construction of the Carro Armato M15/42.
Semovente L40 da 47/32
The Cannone da 47/32 was the main armament of the Semovente L40, the most produced self-propelled artillery piece made by the Kingdom of Italy during the war.
The vehicle entered service in 1942, when it was already obsolete, and was intended to equip the anti-tank units of the Bersaglieri regiments, the reconnaissance units of the infantry divisions, army corps, and armored divisions, and to support armored car units.
Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo AB41
In 1942, due to the insufficient armament of the AB40, 41, and 42 armored cars, the Ispettorato Truppe Motorizzate e Corazzate (English: Motorized and Armored Troops Inspectorate) commissioned Ansaldo to study an armored car armed with a cannon. Ansaldo designed an armored vehicle based on the AB42 hull.
The vehicle was armed with a Cannone da 47/32 mounted on a pedestal carriage, protected by a large shield and with an ammunition reserve of 100 47 mm rounds. No secondary armament was present.
The prototype was presented in December 1942, but it was not adopted due to the excessive height of the silhouette.
Autoblindo AB43 ‘Cannone’
This version of the armored car was presented to the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione (English: Center for Motor Vehicle Studies) in May 1943. It was armed with a Cannone da 47/40 in turret with a coaxial Breda Modello 38 machine gun.
It was officially adopted in the Regio Esercito in August 1943, one month before the Armistice between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allied forces.
Only one prototype was produced.
In 1938, the South African government initiated the development of two armored car models, but as the country’s industry was rather poor, the parts needed to assemble the vehicles came from the United States and Great Britain.
The first models, Mk I, entered service in May 1940 and were armed with .303 Vickers machine guns.
The Mk I and II models were distributed to South African and British units in the Middle East, the latter being armed with a Bren machine gun and a Boys anti-tank gun.
The production of this agile vehicle continued until 1944, culminating in the Mk VIII model. During operations in North Africa, it was common for this type of vehicle to be armed with cannons captured from Axis troops, such as the 2 cm Flak 38, 3.7 cm Pak 36, and Cannoni-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935. Among the artillery pieces mounted on the Marmon-Herrington armored cars were some Cannoni da 47/32
FIAT-SPA Autoprotetto S.37 (English: FIAT-SPA Auto-protected S.37)
The FIAT-SPA Autoprotetto S.37 was officially adopted on 4th February 1942 and consisted of a FIAT-SPA Trattore Leggero 37 Libia (English: FIAT-SPA Light Tractor 37 Libya) with armor added. It was meant to allow the transport of eight armed and equipped men without the risk of enemy small arms fire.
The vehicle was also designed as an armored car, armed with a Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935. A FIAT-SPA Autoprotetto S.37 captured by the Germans after the Armistice was armed with a Cannone da 47/32, but no further information is available on this variant.
Camionetta Desertica AS37
In early 1943, a new vehicle was developed, the Autocarro Sahariano AS37 (English: Saharan truck AS37).
The armament consisted of the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935 (English: 20 mm Breda L.65 Model 1935 cannon) on the cargo bay and a Breda Modello 1937 machine gun in the driver’s position.
As an alternative to the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935, a Cannone da 47/32 could be mounted.
Camionetta Desertica AS42 ‘Sahariana’
On 1st December 1942, the Camionetta Desertica AS42 ‘Sahariana’ (English: SPA-Viberti AS42 Patrol Car) was officially adopted, also known as the Camionetta SPA-Viberti Modello 1942. The main armament consisted of a Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935 with 1,200 rounds, a Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1939 with 350 rounds, or a Solothurn anti-tank rifle.
Both versions had one to three Breda Modello 1937 machine guns as secondary armament. A second vehicle model was introduced in 1943 and was called Camionetta SPA-Viberti ‘Sahariana II’ or ‘Metropolitana’ (English: Metropolitan), which was more suitable for use in non-desert areas.
Some vehicles armed with Cannoni da 47/32 operated in North Africa with the Reparto Formazione Camionette (English: Truck Training Unit) and in Tunisia and Sicily with the X° Reggimento Arditi (English: 10th Arditi Regiment), in a special unit called Arditi Camionettisti (English: Arditi Truckers). In Italy, on 14th August 1943, two Camionette Metropolitane armed with Cannoni da 47/32 were assigned to Comando Gruppo Formazione ‘A’ (English: Formation Group ‘A’ Command), a special unit formed to operate behind enemy lines in North Africa and the Middle East. Due to the Axis defeat in Africa, it was assigned to Monterotondo, near Rome. This unit fought against the Germans on 9th September 1943 after the Armistice.
Camionetta SPA-Viberti AS43
In summer 1942, a new model of camionetta was tested, derived from the Autocarro Sahariano AS.37, which did not enter service until January 1943, by which time the Italian colony in Libya had been conquered by the Allies.
The vehicle had a universal support for the Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935 or Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1939 mounted on the cargo bay. The Camionette SPA-Viberti AS43 were distributed to 4° and 33° Reggimento Fanteria Carrista (English: 4th and 33rd Tank Regiment) in August 1943. Some were captured by the Germans after the Armistice, who mounted the 2 cm Flak 30 guns while, in the post-war period, they were used by the Italian police.
Autocannone da 47/32 su SPA 38R
The lack of armored cars led the command of the Regio Esercito in Libya to ask the Direzione Artiglierie di Bengasi (English: Benghazi Artillery Directorate) to develop a turntable on which to mount a Cannone-Mitragliera Breda 20/65 Modello 1935. This was destined for the Lancia 3RO truck. Another platform was created for Cannone da 47/32, which was mounted on 12 SPA 38R trucks. By 26th October 1940, 150 platforms for Cannone da 47/32 had been produced.
Autocannone da 47/32 su Lancia 3RO
Similarly to the Autocannone da 47/32 su SPA 38R, some Lancia 3RO were equipped with Cannone da 47/32 on the cargo bay.
This type of autocannon was widely used by Italian units deployed in North Africa. In particular, it was used by the IV° Battaglione Controcarro Autocarrato ‘Granatieri di Sardegna’ (English: 4th Anti-Tank Truck Battalion) assigned to the 132a Divisione Corazzata ‘Ariete’ (English: 132nd Armored Division). After the Second Battle of El Alamein, the remains of the Battalion were first assigned to the 66° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Trieste’ (English: 66th Infantry Regiment) which fought in Tunisia alongside the 136a Divisione Corazzata ‘Giovani Fascisti’ (English: 136th Armored Division) and the remains of the Folgore Division.
Littorine Blindate (English: Armored Railcar)
The Littorine were railcars used on Italian and colonial railways from the 1930s. In 1942, the Ispettorato dell’Arma di Fanteria (English: Infantry Inspectorate) decided to create an armored and armed version to patrol rail lines in areas with a high presence of partisan forces.
The Littorina was armed with two turrets of M series tanks, each armed with a Cannone da 47/32 and a Breda Modello 1938 machine gun, as well as four other Breda Modello 1938, two 45 mm Brixia mortars, and two flamethrowers.
The Littorine were used in Yugoslavia, especially in Slovenia, against partisans, and after the Armistice, eight were used by the Germans.
Treni Blindati (English: Armored Trains)
The first reference to an armed train with Cannoni da 47/32 was in a document of the Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito (English: Royal Italian Army General Staff) of the 6a Armata (English: 6th Army) in Sicily, dated 24th September 1941, which dealt with the creation of armed trains for coastal defense, to be armed with two machine guns and a Cannone da 47/32. The circular announced the formation of four trains, but this did not happen because the situation was changed with the circular of 16th February 1942, in which the constitution of the Treni Blindati Leggeri per Difesa Costiera (English: Light Armored Trains for Coastal Defense) was approved, equipped with a Gr.905 locotender capable of reaching 70 km/h.
The vehicle, abbreviated T.B., was designed to fire on enemy landing craft and newly landed troops. Ten were produced and operated in Sicily and the Balkans.
The Cannone da 47/32 was a good anti-tank gun when it was introduced in 1935 and remained so until about 1941, when the arrival of the new Allied medium tanks on the battlefield made it obsolete, although it still had some potential for penetration at close range.
The Regio Esercito tried to update the gun with the 47/40 and 47/48 versions, although, by 1937, there was an excellent anti-tank gun, the Cannone a Grande Gittata da 75/32 Modello 1937 (English: 75 mm L.32 Long Range Cannon Model 1937), which, however, was built in too small number. The Cannone da 75/43 Modello 1940 was adopted in 1943 but, by then, it was too late because the Kingdom of Italy, devastated by war, signed the capitulation with the Allied forces on 8th September 1943.
The Cannone da 47/32 also continued its service with units of the Italian Social Republic, with those of the Italian Cobelligerent Army, with the Wehrmacht (along with some puppets of Nazi Germany), and ended its operational service during the 1948 Palestine War, used by both sides. In Italy, however, it remained the symbol of the anti-tank forces and is still very much present in barracks and monuments throughout the Italian peninsula.
The Elefantino was distributed in small numbers at the beginning of the war, but during the war, the number of Cannoni da 47/32 increased. In the 1942 model infantry division, 36 guns were meant to be present. An additional problem was the lack of ammunition, especially armor-piercing ammunition, which was a major obstacle for the Italian artillerymen during Operation Compass.
Specifications of the Cannone da 47/32
|Barrel length||1680 mm|
|Weight in battery||277 kg|
|Weight in towing configuration||315 kg|
|Muzzle velocity||630 m/s (for AP only)|
|Rate of fire||8 rpm|
|Elevation||-10° to +56°|
|Horizontal aiming||60° (when placed without wheels)|
|Maximum range||7.000 m|
|Entry into service||1935|
A big thank to Arturo Giusti for his help
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