Tenth Army (Italy)

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The Tenth Army was an Italian Army which fought in World War I and in Italian North Africa during World War II.

World War IEdit


After the Battle of Caporetto (November 1917) the Italian Army (Regio Esercito) was reorganized by Armando Diaz. In the summer of 1918 (after the Battle of the Solstice) the Command continued to modify these changes and in preparation for the Italian Offensive planned for October 1918, the new 10th Italian Army was formed on 14 October.[1] It was a British–Italian Army under command of the Earl of Cavan.[2] It consisted of

  • 1 Italian Army corps, the XI Corps (Italian) (Corpo d’Armata) of Lt. General Giuseppe Paolini.[3]
    • 37th division of Maj. General Giovanni Castagnola (Brigata Macerata of Brig. General Florenzio Tagliaferri, 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments; Brigata Foggia of Brig. General Raffaele Radini Tedeschi, 280th and 281th Infantry Regiments)
    • 23rd Bersaglieri Division of Lt. General Gustavo Fara (VI Brigade of Brig. General Giovanni Deo, 8th and 13th Regiments; VII Brigade of Brig. General Alessandro Pirzio Biroli, 2nd and 3rd Regiments)
  • 2 divisions of the British XIV Corps of the General James Babington.[4]
    • 7th Division of Maj. General Thomas Herbert Shoubridge[5] (20th, 22nd and 91st Infantry Brigade, 22nd and 35th Field Artillery Brigade, 2 batteries of trench mortars plus a pioneer battalion).
    • 23rd division of the Maj. General H.F. Thuillier[6] (68th, 69th and 70th infantry brigades, a group of cavalry squadrons, the 102nd and 103rd field artillery brigades, 2 batteries of trench mortars and another pioneer battalion).

At the same time General Jean César Graziani of France was asked to command another new Italian Army (joint), the 12th Army consisting of I Corps (Italy), the 52nd Division – Alpini (Italy) and 23rd Division (France).[7]

The Final BattleEdit

The newly constituted 10th Army participated in the victory of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (October–November 1918). The Army was inserted between the Italian 8th and 3rd Armies at the Piave River.[8] The 8th Army was to cross the Piave River and advance to Vittorio in order to split the Austro-Hungarian Trentino Army from the ones defending Piave. The 10th Army was to protect their right flank. They were also expected to cross the Piave by breaking the Austro-Hungarian defenses at Grave di Papadopoli, a large island in the river.

The Tenth Army was augmented by the addition of the following Italian troops prior to the battle:

  • XI Reparto d'Assalto (Arditi).
  • A squadron of cavalry of the 11th Cavalleggeri di Foggia.
  • Three battalions of engineers: two bridge building units and one sapper unit.
  • 10th and 14th armored car squadrons.
  • Artillery: 2 field artillery regiments and a bomb group.
  • Fifty Sailors (18th Pontieri Company[9])

The pontieri played an important preparatory role by transporting a contingent of British soldiers by boat to the island to surprise the Austro-Hungarian garrison there and gain control of the island before the commencement of the battle.[10]

The 10th Army provided one of the early successes in the Battle as it established a bridgehead on the left bank of the river, despite high and fast waters (floods) in the river. In fact, elements of the 8th Army had to improvise and use the 10th Army's crossings in order to initially get across the river and then achieve the capture of Vittorio.[11] The 10th Army proceeded to speed across the Italian countryside crossing the Tagliamento River towards 1) Tolmezzo (the XIV Corps) and 2) Udine (the XI Corps) as the Austro-Hungarian Army rapidly retreated and then collapsed.

The 10th Army was subsequently joined in the Battle by the 332nd Infantry Regiment (United States), as part of the British XIV Corps; the American regiment forming the advance guard of the corps.[12] On 4 November, when the Italian armistice came into effect, the line of the Tenth Army was Basagliapenta-Meretto di Tomba-Coseano-S. Daniele-Pinzano.[13]

World War IIEdit

In 1940, the 10th Army was based in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) and faced the British in the Kingdom of Egypt, a British ally. The 5th Army, was based in Tripolitania (western Libya) opposite French Tunisia.

When Italy declared war on 10 June 1940, the 10th Army consisted of five divisions and the 5th Army consisted of nine. After the Fall of France at the end of June, several divisions were transferred from the 5th Army to strengthen the 10th Army, which was increased to ten divisions.

Italian invasion of EgyptEdit

On 13 September 1940, about four divisions of the 10th Army conducted the Italian invasion of Egypt. Four infantry divisions and the Maletti Group marched 100 kilometres (62 mi) in four days and stopped at Sidi Barrani. The Maletti Group included most of the M11/39 medium tanks in North Africa and numerous L3 tankettes. Defensive positions were prepared by the Italians in fortified camps.

British counter-attackEdit

In December 1940 during Operation Compass, the British counter-attacked in what initially was to be a five-day raid against the Italian camps in Egypt. The Italian camps were overrun and the rest of the 10th Army was pushed further and further back into Italian Libya. Many Italian soldiers surrendered once the British troops encircled them in fortified places like Bardia and Tobruk.

Destruction at Beda FommEdit

At the Battle of Beda Fomm (6–7 February 1941), most of the remainder of the retreating 10th Army was isolated by Combeforce (Lieutenant-Colonel John Combe) a small advance guard of the 7th Armoured Division (Major-General Michael O'Moore Creagh). Combeforce took a shortcut across the desert, to block the Italian army's retreat, while the 6th Australian Division continued the coastal pursuit. The force was delayed by the harsh terrain, so Combeforce was divided and the lighter, faster elements were detached to complete the interception, leaving the tracked vehicles to follow.

The first elements arrived at Msus late on the afternoon of 4 February and cleared the local garrison. During the following night and day the advance continued and the British artillery and infantry were in position across the coast road by 4:00 p.m. on 5 February. The head of the retreating Italian column arrived 30 minutes later. The Italians were stunned to find the British force blocking them at Beda Fomm, whose strength they greatly overestimated. With the Australians in pursuit, a desperate battle ensued, in which newly arrived Fiat M13/40 medium tank battalions were thrown against the British positions, at great loss. In the afternoon of 6 February, the 7th Armoured Division tanks arrived and harassed the Italian eastern flank.

On the morning of 7 February, the Italians attempted a final, desperate attempt to break through. By this stage, the British units were almost out of food, petrol and ammunition. The British blocking line was almost breached and convinced of the overwhelming size and strength of the blocking force, the encircled Italian units surrendered. The 10th Army was destroyed.[14]


Order of battleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ L’Esercito Italiano Nella Grande Guerra (1915–1918), Volume V Le Operazioni Del 1918, Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Ufficio Storico, p. 142
  2. ^ L’Esercito Italiano, Volume V, 1988, p. 142
  3. ^ L’Esercito Italiano, Volume V, 1988, p. 142
  4. ^ L’Esercito Italiano, Volume V, 1988, p. 142
  5. ^ Wilks, Eileen, The British Army in Italy 1917–1918, Leo Cooper (1998), p. 40
  6. ^ Wilks, 1998, p. 40
  7. ^ L’Esercito Italiano, Volume V, 1988, p. 142
  8. ^ L’Esercito Italiano, Volume V, 1988, p. 142
  9. ^ Cavellero, Gaetano V., Disaster in Final Victory: The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire … , Volume 3, XLibris (2009) p. 543
  10. ^ Report by the Commander in Chief British Forces Italy to War Office, 4 December 1918, General, The Earl of Cavan, K.P., K.C.B., M.V.O., Commanding-in-Chief British Forces in Italy, Item 11
  11. ^ Gooch, John, The Italian Army and the First World War, Cambridge, 2014, p. 295
  12. ^ American Armies and Battlefields in Europe, Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History, 1992., pp. 430–431
  13. ^ The Earl of Cavan, 1918, Item 27
  14. ^ Keegan, John; Macksey, Kenneth (1991). Churchill's Generals. London: Cassell Military. pp. 194–196. ISBN 0-304-36712-5.