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WW2 French Vehicles in Foreign Service WW2 Italian Tanks

Renault R35 in Italian Service

Kingdom of Italy (1941-1943)
Light Tank – 104 Operated

The Renault R35 was a French light tank that was sent to the Italians by the Germans in 1941 to strengthen the armored component of the Regio Esercito (English: Royal Italian Army). The Italians equipped the CI and CII Battaglione Carri (English: 101st and 102nd Tank Battalions), which fought during the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, with these tanks. However, by that time, the tanks were considered obsolete for modern warfare.

The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, reviews the 131° Reggimento Carri (English: 131st Tank Regiment) in Sicily in January 1943.
Source: digilander.libero.it
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The German Capture of French Armaments and Vehicles and their Italian Use

The surrender of France on 25th June 1940, led the German forces to capture a large number of vehicles and armaments from the Armée de Terre (English: Land Army), which were immediately reused by the Germans. The Germans ordered French factories to continue assembling tanks and building spare parts, as well as modifying captured tanks to meet German needs.

French tanks were repurposed for use in the Heer (English: German Army), and in December 1940, the Beute-Panzer-Brigade 100 (English: 100th Captured Tank Brigade) was formed, fully-equipped with captured vehicles by March 1941. In summer 1941, the Beute-Panzer-Brigade 101 (English: 101st Captured Tank Brigade) was formed, consisting of two regiments. Both units underwent training before their regiments were deployed to other units. Additional armored regiments and battalions were formed using French tanks, which saw action on the Eastern Front or were used for occupation duties in occupied territories.

The significant availability of captured vehicles allowed Germany to propose sending French tanks to the Kingdom of Italy, which, after defeats in North Africa, was severely lacking in armored vehicles. In December 1940, General Wilhelm von Thoma proposed sending 350 Renault R35s, 50 SOMUA S35s, and 50 Char B1s tanks to Italy, along with 500 grenades and 5,000 rounds of ammunition for each machine gun.

The Italians accepted the vehicles, which were to be paid for, and in March 1941, Italian soldiers were sent to Wünsdorf for training on these French vehicles. However, the Germans did not uphold their end of the agreement. In July 1941, they stated that they would not send spare parts, and shortly after, the orders were drastically reduced. Only 104 Renault R35s, 32 (or 33) SOMUA S35s, and 2 Char B1s tanks were delivered.

Entry into Service

The first batch of Renault tanks arrived in Italy in April 1941, and the training of Italian tank drivers commenced at the depot of the 4° Reggimento Carri (English: 4th Tank Regiment). Initially, the plan was to form six battalions, but due to supply constraints, only two battalions were mobilized, comprising a total of 124 tanks. Eventually, the number of Renault R35 tanks available for the Italians was reduced to 104.

A Renault R35 of the 3° Plotone (English: 3rd Platoon) with its crew.
Source: live.warthunder.com

CI and CII Battaglione Carri

The first Renaults assigned to the 4° Reggimento Carri. On 3rd April, the V Battaglione Carri (English: 5th Tank Battalion) in Ladispoli and the VI Battaglione Carri (English: 6th Tank Battalion) in Terracina were equipped with them.

On 9th June, the Battaglioni Reclute (English: Recruit Battalions), which were created to train Italian tank crews on the new tanks, were dissolved. The I Battaglione Reclute (English: 1st Battalion) was disbanded and used to create four tank battalions. The II Battaglione Reclute (English: 2nd Battalion) was also disbanded, and using its personnel, the 7a and 8a Compagnia Carri (English: 7th and 8th Tank Companies) were formed and assigned to the V Battaglione Carri, and the 5a and 6a Compagnia Carri (English: 5th and 6th Tank Companies) assigned to the VI Battaglione Carri.

The Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito (English: General Staff of the Royal Italian Army) mobilized the 131° Reggimento Fanteria Carrista (English: 131st Tank Infantry Regiment) in Siena on 15th August 1941. It was under the command of Lt. Col. Ciccimarra and consisted of a command unit, the CI and CII Battaglione Carri, which were created from the V and VI Battaglione Carri, and the CC Battaglione Carri (English: 200th Tank Battalion), equipped with SOMUA S35 tanks.

Initially, the regiment was part of the 131a Divisione Corazzata ‘Centauro’ (English: 131st Armored Division), but in January 1942, it became independent. In July, the Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito decided to send one battalion of Renault and one battalion of SOMUA S35 tanks to North Africa, but the decision was withdrawn in August, because of the major inadequacies of the units, which lacked transport bogies while the tanks were inadequate to clash with modern enemy armored units.

Instead, the two battalions of Renault tanks were sent to Sicily to strengthen the island’s defenses, reporting to the 6a Armata (English: 6th Army), while the battalion of SOMUA S35s was sent to Sardinia, to be employed by another tank regiment.

The 131° Reggimento Carri thus remained with only the two Renault battalions, consisting of 58 officers, 616 non-commissioned officers and troops, 55 motor vehicles, 45 motorcycles, and 104 Renault R35 tanks.

131° Reggimento Carri on August 1942
Officers 58
NCOs and troops 616
Motor vehicles 55
Motorcycles 45
Renault R35 104

However, the regiment had several problems. The tanks were not in ideal condition, there was a lack of transport trailers, spare parts, and also a shortage of trucks. As soon as they arrived in Sicily, the regiment had 102 Renaults divided into six companies and three command platoons.

Each company was supposed to have 16 tanks, while the command platoons were supposed to have two tanks. However, the actual numbers varied greatly. The companies were subdivided within the various Mobile Groups, which were units created for the defense of airfields and placed under the authority of the XII Corpo d’Armata (English: 12th Army Corps) and XIV Corpo d’Armata (English: 14th Army Corps).

The CI Battaglione Carri (English: 101st Tank Battalion) was assigned to the XIV Corpo d’Armata, while the CII Battaglione Carri (English: 102nd Tank Battalion) was assigned to the XII Corpo d’Armata.

Tank Company Gruppo Mobile Location Commander of the Gruppo Mobile Commander of the Compagnia Carri and Command units
1a Compagnia Carri E Niscemi Captain Giuseppe Granieri Captain Giuseppe Granieri
2a Compagnia Carri F Rosolini Major Stefano Argenziano Captain Andrea Da Conto
3a Compagnia Carri
Command of the CI Battaglione Carri
D Misterbianco Lt. Col. Massimo D’Andretta Compagnia: Lt. Franco Rodriquez
Command: Unknown
4a Compagnia Carri A Paceco Lt. Col. Renato Perrone Captain Ottavio Mannelli
5a Compagnia Carri
Command of the CII Battaglione Carri
C Portella Misilbesi Major Vincenzo Finocchi Compagnia: Captain Pagliuca
Command: Captain Serra
6a Compagnia Carri B S. Ninfa Lt. Col. Vito Gaetano Mascio Captain Gabriele Servillo
1° Plotone of the 2a Compagnia G Comiso Lt. Col. Porcù Unknown

The Allied Invasion of Sicily: Operation Husky

After the Axis forces surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943 and the subsequent expulsion of Italo-German forces from North Africa, the new objective for the Allies was to penetrate into Europe to dismantle Axis forces. The chosen target was Sicily, a large island in the center of the Mediterranean, part of the Kingdom of Italy and considered the “soft underbelly of the Axis.”

The invasion took place on 10th July 1943, although during the night between the 9th and 10th, paratroopers were dropped on the island to strike enemy communication lines and carry out sabotage. For the invasion, 181,000 personnel, 600 tanks, 14,000 vehicles, and 1,800 cannons were deployed, supported by about 3,500 aircraft and naval fleets.

To defend the island, there were approximately 260,000 personnel, both Italians and Germans, with more than 500 cannons and about 200 tanks, of which only about a hundred were German tanks suitable for combat. There were also around 1,500 aircraft.

The Sicilian coasts were defended by Brigate Costiere (English: Coastal Brigades) and Divisioni Costiere (English: Coastal Divisions), large Italian units tasked with defending the Italian coasts. However, these units were poorly armed and equipped, composed of older soldiers, and often afflicted by illnesses, especially malaria.

Their sole mission was to resist in place indefinitely to allow mobile units, formed by Gruppi Mobili (English: Mobile Groups) and Gruppi Tattici (English: Tactical Groups), as well as Italian and German divisions, to reach the coast and repel the enemy back to the sea.

The Allied landing took place in two sectors: the US 7th Army landed in the central-southern part of the island, while the British 8th Army landed in the eastern zone.

The Allied landings in Sicily in July 1943
Source: liberationtrilogy.com

The resistance of the Italian coastal units was overcome within 48 hours, and counterattacks by Axis mobile forces were repelled. After a tough struggle lasting more than a month, Allied forces occupied the entire island by mid-August 1943.

The CI and CII Battaglione Carri during the Allied Invasion of Sicily (July 1943)

1a Compagnia Carri

At 3:15 a.m. on 10th July 1943, General Carlo Rossi, commander of the XIV Corpo d’Armata, issued an order for Gruppo Mobile ‘E’ to make itself available to the XVIII Brigata Costiera (English: 18th Coastal Brigade), responsible for defending the city of Gela and the surrounding coastline. The Gruppo Mobile ‘E’, led by Captain Giuseppe Granieri, was organized as follows:

Gruppo Mobile ‘E’
Italian Name English translation
1a Compagnia Carri – CI Battaglione Carri 1st Tank Company of the 101nd Tank Battalion
2a Compagnia – CII Battaglione Controcarro da 47/32 2nd Company of the 102nd Anti-Tank Battalion
4a Compagnia – 501° Battaglione Costiero 4th Company of the 501st Coastal Battalion
155a Compagnia Motociclisti 155th Motorcyclist Company
9a Batteria da 75/18 – III° Gruppo – 54° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Napoli’ 9th Battery of the 3rd Artillery Group of the 54th Artillery Regiment
Sezione della 326a Batteria da 20/65 20 mm Section of the 326th Battery

Gruppo Mobile ‘E’ initiated its advance to provide assistance to the 429° Battaglione Costiero (English: 429th Coastal Battalion), which was surrounded by US forces. By 7:00 a.m., they reached the railroad crossing near Gela. However, they faced heavy fire from the USS Boise light cruiser and aerial bombardment.

Out of the 12 Renaults, only five remained operational. These tanks entered the town of Gela and engaged in a fierce battle with the Rangers of Force X commanded by Lt. Col. Darby. The American forces responded to the Italian assault with a few 37 mm cannons and bazookas. As a result, two of the Renaults were destroyed, while the others retreated to Monte Castellucco at 11:55 a.m.

The attack toward Gela of the Gruppo Mobile ‘E’ on 10th July 1943.
Source: Le operazioni in Sicilia e Calabria
A Sicilian boy observes a wrecked Renault R35 just outside Gela.
Source: invasionofsicily.blogspot.com

One of the tanks destroyed belonged to Second Lieutenant Angiolino Navari and tankman Carlo Cuschini. After Cuschini’s death, Second Lieutenant Navari continued to advance alone and reached the city center, coming within 300 m of the Gela beach. He continued fighting until he was wounded. Despite his injuries, he attempted to exit the tank and engage the enemy with a machine gun, but he was shot in the head. For his bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Medal for Military Valor.

Second Lieutenant Angiolino Navari in the turret of a Carro Armato M13/40 (English: 13-tonne Model 1940 Medium Tank).
Source: il tirreno.it

An Italo-German offensive was planned for the 11th towards the city of Gela. The 4a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Livorno’ (English: 4th Infantry Division) and the Panzer-Division “Hermann Göring” (English: Armored Division) were to participate in the attack. The remnants of Gruppo Mobile ‘E’ were assigned to the left column of the offensive, under the command of Colonel Martini. The left column consisted of the following units:

Colonna Sinistra
Italian Name English translation
Gruppo Mobile ‘E’ Mobile Group ‘E’
III° Battaglione – 34° Reggimento Fanteria ‘Livorno’ 3rd Battalion of the 34th Infantry Regiment
I° Gruppo – 28° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Livorno’ 1st Artillery Group of the 28th Artillery Regiment
Compagnia Mortai da 81 81 mm Mortar Company

The attack was launched from Monte Castelluccio at 6:30 a.m. The Renaults advanced along State Road No. 117, positioned to the left of the Italian deployment. Around 8:30 a.m., the Italians managed to break through the first line of US defenses, but suffered heavy losses in the process. At 9:00 a.m., the light cruiser USS Savannah began a naval bombardment, further complicating the situation. It was not until 11:00 a.m. that the second line of US defenses was also breached.

Despite facing intense enemy fire, the Italians continued their advance, resulting in significant casualties. However, by 5:45 p.m., the Renaults were forced to retreat. The infantry forces persisted in their advance until 8:00 p.m., but the Italian battalion was left with only 250 men. At 11:00 p.m., they were withdrawn to their initial positions with only 150 men remaining. The following day, the Italian forces were overwhelmed by a subsequent US attack.

American troops and Italian civilians pass by a completely destroyed Renault R35, probably hit by large-caliber artillery.
Source: invasionofsicily.blogspot.com

The last three Renaults retreated to Caltagirone and placed themselves under the command of the XVIII Brigata Costiera. From there, they withdrew to Belpasso on the 14th. On 18th July, the XVIII Brigata Costiera was disbanded, and the Renaults came under the control of the XIX Brigata Costiera (English: 19th Coastal Brigade). The XIX Brigata Costiera was attempting to retreat towards Messina.

On 8th August, the Italian tanks, along with the 435° Battaglione Costiero (English: 435th Coastal Battalion) and the 29th Panzergrenadier Division, were defending the Monte San Fratello area. During the night, elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division landed behind them, and in the morning, the Axis positions came under attack from the US 7th Infantry Regiment from the west and the 2nd Battalion from the east. In an attempt to break through the enemy lines, the three remaining Renaults, accompanied by two Panzer IVs, launched a counterattack. However, they were destroyed in the ensuing fighting.

An American soldier observes an abandoned Renault R35 near Gela.
Source: Facebook via Giovanni Pede

2a Compagnia Carri

The 2a Compagnia Carri, under the command of Captain Da Conto, had 10 Renaults and was part of the Gruppo Mobile ‘F’, under the orders of Major Stefano Argenziano.

Gruppo Mobile ‘F’
Italian Name English translation
2a Compagnia Carri – CI Battaglione Carri 2nd Tank Company of the 102nd Tank Battalion
1a Compagnia – CII Battaglione Controcarro da 47/32 1st Company of the 102nd Anti-Tank Battalion
2a Compagnia – DXLII° Battaglione Bersaglieri 2nd Company of the 542nd Bersaglieri Battalion
3a Compagnia Motomitraglieri 3rd Machine Gun Motorcyclists Company
2a Batteria da 75/06 – CXXVI Gruppo 2nd Battery of the 126th Artillery Group

On the morning of 10th July 1943, the Gruppo Mobile ‘F’ received orders to move from Rosolino to Pachino. They arrived at approximately 1 p.m. and encountered the 51st (Highland) Division. A fierce battle ensued, resulting in the loss of five Renaults for the tank company. At 3 p.m., the Group withdrew towards Rosolini.

An hour later, the Scots, in collaboration with the 231st ‘Malta’ Brigade, launched an attack on the positions held by the Gruppo Mobile ‘F’. As a result, the group had to retreat to Bonivini-Modica, a position held by a platoon of the 243° Battaglione Costiero (English: 243rd Coastal Battalion). Unfortunately, all the Renaults were destroyed by 5:30 p.m.

The advance of the Gruppo Mobile ‘F’
Source: Le operazioni in Sicilia e Calabria
An abandoned Renault R35 belonging to the 2° Plotone (English: 2nd Platoon).
Source: live.warthunder.com

3a Compagnia Carri and Command of the CI Battaglione Carri

The 3a Compagnia Carri, with 16 tanks, and the Command unit of the CI Battaglione Carri, which had two tanks, were part of the Gruppo Mobile ‘D’ commanded by Lt. Colonel Massimo D’Andretta.

Gruppo Mobile ‘D’
Italian Name English translation
Comando CI Battaglione Carri Command of the 101st Tank Battalion
3a Compagnia Carri – CI Battaglione Carri 3rd Tank Company of the 101st Tank Battalion
1a Compagnia – CIII Battaglione Controcarro da 47/32 1st Company of the 103rd Anti-Tank Battalion
7a Compagnia – 76° Reggimento Fanteria ‘Napoli’ 7th Company of the 76th Infantry Regiment
2a Compagnia Motomitraglieri 2nd Machine Gun Motorcyclists Company
10a Batteria da 75/18 – IV Gruppo – 54° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Napoli’ 10th Battery of the 4th Artillery Group of the 54th Artillery Regiment
Sezione da 20 mm della 354a Batteria 20 mm Section of the 354th Battery

On 10th July 1943, the Gruppo Mobile ‘D’ moved from Misterbianco to Solarino, where significant forces were assembled under the command of Colonel Ronco. They were preparing for an offensive towards Syracuse. At 6 a.m. on 11th July, the Italian tanks, along with Colonel Ronco’s units, departed from Solarino towards Floridia. However, after covering a few kilometers, they encountered the 13th British Brigade, sparking a clash that lasted until 1 p.m.

Following the intense battle, the Italian units retreated to the north of Solarino, where they successfully repelled a British attack at 5 p.m. The next day, at 2 p.m., a group of four Renaults set off towards Solarino. However, they were swiftly halted by a strong British position held by elements of the 69th Brigade. Out of the four Italian tanks, three were destroyed, while the last one managed to break through the enemy lines and rapidly advanced towards Floridia.

Upon reaching the outskirts of Floridia, the Italian tank encountered a Sherman tank blocking its path. The Italian tank crewmember fired a shot at the American vehicle, but realized the ineffectiveness of their 37 mm gun. Eventually, they decided to surrender, and the tank was subsequently destroyed. The remaining Renaults were all destroyed in counterattacks against the British 50th Infantry Division on 13th July.

The Renault R35 of the 1° Plotone (English: 1st Platoon) of the 3a Compagnia Carri that was abandoned in Solarino
Source: live.warthunder.com
An overturned Renault R35 of the 3° Plotone (English: 3rd Platoon). Another abandoned tank is visible in the background.
Source: Facebook via Alberto Moscuzza

4a Compagnia Carri

The 4a Compagnia Carri was part of the Gruppo Mobile ‘A’ commanded by Lt. Col. Renato Perrone

Gruppo Mobile ‘A’
Italian Name English translation
Comando XII Battaglione Carri L Command of the 12th ‘L’ Tank Battalion
4a Compagnia Carri – CII Battaglione Carri 4th Tank Company of the 102nd Tank Battalion
1a Compagnia – CXXXIII Battaglione Semoventi L40 da 47/32 1st Company of the 133rd L40 Self-propelled gun Battalion
3a Compagnia – 448° Battaglione Costiero 3rd Company of the 448th Coastal Battalion
2a Batteria da 75/27 – CX Gruppo 2nd Battery of the 110th Artillery Group
Sezione da 20 mm della 328a Batteria 20 mm Section of the 328th Battery

On 14th July 1943, the Gruppo Mobile ‘A’ was relocated from Paceco to Aragona, with the objective of countering the enemy advance from Licata. However, on the 15th at 5:30 p.m., the unit was redirected to Villalba to protect the flank of the Raggruppamento Schreiber (English: ‘Schreiber’ Group).

A few days later, the Gruppo Mobile ‘A’, along with the Gruppo Mobile ‘B’ and Gruppo Mobile ‘C’, was integrated into the Raggruppamento Mobile Ovest (English: Mobile Grouping West) commanded by Colonel Ricci. Their main task was to defend Villalba, Raffadali, and Chiusa Sclafani, as well as ensure the safe retreat of the 26a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Assietta’ (English: 26th Infantry Division).

During the night of the 19th, the Gruppo Mobile ‘A’ came under attack by the US 157th Infantry Regiment and was forced to retreat to Valledolmo. However, on the following day, the unit was completely destroyed by the enemy forces.

5a Compagnia Carri and Command of the CII Battaglione Carri

The 5a Compagnia Carri and the Command of the CII Battaglione Carri were part of the Gruppo Mobile ‘C’ commanded by Major Vincenzo Finocchi.

Gruppo Mobile ‘C’
Italian Name English translation
Comando CII Battaglione Carri Command of the 102nd Tank Battalion
5a Compagnia Carri – CII Battaglione Carri 5th Tank Company of the 102nd Tank Battalion
2a Compagnia – CIV Battaglione Controcarro da 47/32 2nd Company of the 104th Anti-Tank Battalion
4a Compagnia – 448° Battaglione Costiero 4th Company of the 448th Coastal Battalion
10a Batteria da 75/27 – IV Gruppo – 25° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Assietta’ 10th Battery of the 4h Artillery Group of the 25th Artillery Regiment
Sezione da 20 mm della 78a Batteria 20 mm Section of the 78th Battery

The Gruppo Mobile ‘C’ remained in reserve at Chiusa Scalfani until 14th July, when they received orders to advance to Cammarata. They arrived on the 17th to counterattack along the Valle dei Platani (English: Platani Valley).

On the 18th, the unit clashed with two US infantry regiments of the 3rd Infantry Division south of Casteltermini. The next morning, the group attempted a desperate counterattack, but was repulsed and forced to retreat to Cammarata, where it was destroyed along with Gruppo Mobile ‘B’ on the 20th by the 30th US Infantry Regiment.

Two Renault R35s abandoned after a fight.
Source: live.warthunder.com

6a Compagnia Carri

The 6a Compagnia Carri was part of the Gruppo Mobile ‘B’ commanded by Lt. Col. Vito Gaetano Mascio

Gruppo Mobile ‘B’
Italian Name English translation
Comando CXXXII Battaglione Semoventi da 47/32 Command of the 132nd L40 Self-Propelled Gun Battalion
3a Compagnia Semoventi – CXXXII Battaglione Semoventi da 47/32 3rd Self-Propelled Gun Company of the 132nd L40 Self-Propelled Gun Battalion
6a Compagnia – CII Battaglione Carri 6th Company of the 102nd Tank Battalion
1a e 2a Compagnia – 448° Battaglione Costiero 1st and 2nd Company of the 448th Coastal Battalion
6a Batteria da 75/27 – CCXXXIII Gruppo 6th Battery of the 233rd Artillery Group
Plotone della 50a Compagnia Motociclisti Platoon of the 50th Motorcyclists Company
Sezione da 20 mm della 78° Batteria 20 mm Section of the 78th Battery

On 14th July, the Gruppo Mobile ‘B’ was relocated to Raffadali in preparation for a planned counterattack towards Agrigento. The group, along with the Gruppo Mobile ‘A’ and ‘C’, became part of the Raggruppamento Mobile Ovest.

However, the planned counterattack did not take place. On the 17th, the units of the Gruppo Mobile ‘B’ engaged in a clash with units from the US 3rd Infantry Division in Raffadali. During the clash, the Italian unit managed to capture some prisoners and a few vehicles, successfully repelling the enemy attack.

However, on the night of the 18th, Gruppo Mobile ‘B’ faced a fierce enemy assault and was forced to retreat to Bivona. The following day, the group, along with the Gruppo Mobile ‘C’, was completely annihilated in an enemy attack.

1° Plotone of the 2a Compagnia Carri

The 1° Plotone of the 2a Compagnia Carri was assigned to the Gruppo Mobile ‘G’ commanded by Lt. Col. Porcù.

Gruppo Mobile ‘G’
Italian Name English translation
CLXIX Battaglione – 173a Legione CC.NN 169th Battalion of the 173rd Blackshirts Legion
3a Compagnia – CII Battaglione Anticarro da 47/32 3rd Company of the 102nd Anti-Tank Battalion
1° Plotone – 2a Compagnia Carri – CII Battaglione Carri 1st Platoon of the 2nd Tank Company of the 102nd Tank Battalion
8a Batteria da 75/18 – III Gruppo – 54° Reggimento Artiglieria ‘Napoli’ 8th Battery of the 3rd Artillery Group of the 54th Artillery Regiment

The Gruppo Mobile ‘G’ was deployed to Comiso and fought at Pachino, but no other information is available. All the tanks were probably lost there.

Tanks of the 1° Plotone in Comiso.
Source: militarystory.com

Conclusion

The Renault R35 was an obsolete tank in 1943 and proved it in the field during the fighting in Sicily. Although the Italian tankers had a lot of courage, it was impossible for them to compete with the tanks or anti-tank weapons used by the Allied forces, such as bazookas. All 102 Renaults were lost in the fighting in Sicily, and none managed to be transferred to Calabria during the retreat of the Axis forces.

Renault R35 of the 1° Plotone (English: 1st Platoon) of the 3a Compagnia Carri.
Renault R35 of the 1a Compagnia Carri.
Renault R35 of the 2a Compagnia Carri. All illustrations by David Broquelet

Sources

Alberto Santoni Le operazioni in Sicilia e Calabria (Luglio – Settembre 1943) Roma 1983

http://invasionofsicily.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-battle-of-gela-part-two-first.html

https://www.modellismopiu.it/modules/news/print.php?storyid=1031

Lucio Ceva and Andrea Curami La meccanizzazione dell’Esercito fino al 1943. Tomo I Roma 1994

Lorenzo Bovi, Antonio Tallillo and Andrea Tallillo Carri armati Renault R35 in Sicilia Lorenzo Bovi 2021

Salvatore Reale and Giovanni Iacono Tre giorni vissuti da eroi. Le voci dei protagonisti. Gela 10-12 Luglio 1943 Torino 2020

9 replies on “Renault R35 in Italian Service”

The comment saying – “They arrived at approximately 1 p.m. and encountered the 51st Scottish Infantry Division.” Should read “51st Highland Division”. My grandfather served in one of the Battalions during World War 2.

I never knew that Italy used so many of them! Ngl The R35 looks awesome in this silver grey colour. French vehicles are really awesome for occupation duties, here you don’t need huge armament, slow speed is okay, because you will be working with infantry anyways and relatively heavy armour for a light tank ensures safety against lightly armed enemy partisans.

The article is written in very chaotic and inconsistent way, it also lacks some information which were stated in one of the source books…
– 1º Plotone of the 2ª Compagnia was commanded by Sottotenente Vittorio Blandini, not “Porcù”.
– The R35 unit assigned to Gruppo Mobile G under Blandini’s command was made of tanks from various companies, not his platoon only and in fact there is more information about it. 3 of it’s tanks were destroyed at Comiso, while remainder, including Baldini’s, at Contrada S. Antonio.
– 5ª Compagnia was divided between 2 Gruppi;
Commander and 3º Plotone remained in Gruppo Mobile B, along with 6ª Compagnia, while 1º and 2º Plotoni were attached to Gruppo Mobile C with Compagnia Comando of the CII. Battaglione.
– The wording used in the text is partially wrong and against Italian military nomenclature.
The CI. and CII. weren’t some “Battaglioni Carri”, they were specifically “Battaglioni Carri R35”. Same with companies – there were multiple “1ª Compagnia”, but only one “1ª Compagnia Carri R35”, etc.
– The command units of the battalions weren’t “command platoons”, they were “command companies” and in addition to 2 R35s consisted of 4 Carri M of which 2 were Centro Radio.

Good afternoon,

I am the author of the article. First of all, I do not believe that it is an article “very chaotic and inconsistent,” but these are personal tastes in the end.

Regarding Lt. Porcù, both in the table and in the text he is correctly indicated as the commander of the Gruppo Mobile ‘G’. You probably misread it.

I do not understand which book you refer to as “book in the sources”; perhaps the one by Lorenzo Bovi? If so, not owning it, I used it only for the illustrations that I sent to the graphic designer.

Regarding the R.35s of the Gruppo Mobile ‘G’, the text “Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’esercito italiano Volume II” states on page 632: “The Gruppo Mobile ‘G’ at Comiso had only the 1st platoon of the 2nd Company and fought at Pachino.” The same source for the 5th Company.

Regarding the wording of the units, I know very well that it must be indicated in full (even though in many official documents it is not), but since it is an article about R.35 tanks, I think it is understandable and I do not see it as such a serious error.

About “Command Compagnies,” I admit I made a mistake and will correct it.

Thank you for your words.

Best regards.

We have talked about it in private, but I’ll add the sources here too for someone else reading this conversation in the future.
Yes, I was referring to Bovi’s book.
The point about Percù was my mistake that I’m sorry for, as he commanded the Gruppo Mobile G, but part about Blandini still remains. Blandini commanded the 1º Plotone of the 2ª Compagnia, which was part of the Gruppo.
His platoon was chosen as a basis for additional R35 company that was supposed to be formed with vehicles from other units. In the Bovi’s book it’s referred to as “Compagnia Carri in Formazione”.
I’m familiar with “Gli Autoveicoli…” and I used it very often for my own research, but it’s worth remembering that this book was released 22 years ago and it sometimes shows it’s age. Some of the information contained is simply outdated. It’s also visible in other Dr. Pignato’s books, even newer ones.

In addition when peeking into “Tracce di Cingolo” by Maurizio Parri (iirc it was released in cooperation with Associazione Nazionale Carristi) I’ve noticed an error in the part talking about formation of the battalions.
According to this book:
There were supposed to be 6 Battaglioni Carri R35:
– I. and II. formed with crews from 18ª and 28ª Compagnia (I. Battaglione Reclute), that were eventually transformed into CI. and CII. battaglioni.
– III. with crews from 38ª Compagnia (I. Battaglione Reclute) that never recived tanks and was transformed into III. Battaglione Reclute.
– IV. and V. formed with crews from 48ª Compagnia (I. Battaglione Reclute) and 78ª & 88ª Compagnia (II. Battaglione Reclute) respectively, later merged into CC. Battaglione Carri S35.
– VI. formed with crews from 58ª and 68ª Compagnia (II. Battaglione Reclute), later reformed into VIII. Battaglione Carri L bis and eventually reformed again into XVII Battaglione Carri M.

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