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World War IEdit

After the Battle of Caporetto (November 1917) the Italian Army was reorganized by Armando Diaz and the new 10th Italian Army was formed. It was a British–Italian Army under command of the Earl of Cavan. It consisted of

It participated in the victory of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (October–November 1918).

World War IIEdit

In 1940, the 10th Army was based in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) and faced the British in the British protectorate, Kingdom of Egypt. 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.[1]

CommandersEdit

Order of battleEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Keegan, John; Macksey, Kenneth (1991). Churchill's Generals. London: Cassell Military. pp. 194–196. ISBN 0-304-36712-5.