After the Spanish Civil War, where he fought the body “volunteer” army of Italian CTV (Corpo Truppe volontaria) Italian Headquarters issued a letter in which it noted that the CV tanks have not worked in the field as a force that breaks the front and suffered very heavy losses. During the campaign tančík met with Republican manufacture Soviet tanks T-26 and BT-5, in which the Italian crew with rifles and guns caliber 20 mm did not have a chance. Therefore, the authors concluded that the army needed a new tank with thicker armor and stronger weaponry that would provide the opportunity to destroy enemy vehicles.
The new plans, old tanks…
At the beginning of 1936 plants Fiat- Anslado created two projects light tank weighing 6.6 tons , armed with a gun caliber 37 millimeters ( 37/26 ) located in the fuselage and two machine guns in the tower . The project lived to fully extend and major changes and 1939 production came dwudziestomilimetrowe tank armed with a gun Breda L6 and a machine gun in the turret , although it was originally supposed to be armed with a short gun Vickers caliber 37 millimeters. This machine was to be reinforced for armored units , cavalry and infantry units as part of the identification of each division during the Second World War. She received important L6 -40 and was used on the front lines in Africa, the Balkans and Russia.In 1937 , the aforementioned report , a project of the vehicle ośmiotonowego named carro di rottura , the tank ” break “, created by the same factories as its predecessors . A new type referred to the then popular in Europe tanks, the so-called class sześciotonowej whose prototype was the British Vickers 6 -Ton . Later renumbered M11/39 (the letter M mean Medio , or ” average ” , but due to the defect and the low potential combat malicious said it was an abbreviation of the name of Mussolini ) , and went into series production in 1938.
Tank M11/39 shows Mussolini , representatives of the government and the General Staff of the Royal Army May 16, 1938 for the range in Campi ( Cornigliano Ligure ) . It is designed for use in a possible conflict in the north of Italy , in the region of Carso , north of Trieste. M11/39 was supposed to be infantry support tank , it has had help in attacking and destroying fortifications and defenses , and two machine guns raziłyby the enemy’s infantry . However, war plans and objectives quickly changed , tank – no.During the war came to light construction defects . Well, the designers installed a machine gun turret two Breda , and the hull – antitank gun caliber 47 millimeters. Italians , moreover, adapted as a weapon of your new tank design has the Austrian Böhler , which during the show in 1937 showed a good performance and reliability . Has a tank commander Enrico Serra described as “a little gem ” . It should be noted that since 1938 according to the standards Comando Supremo medium tank is a machine having from 5.5 to 16.5 tonnes in 1940, but these parameters are changed for future design and low weight increased to 8.8 tonnes. In other countries – such as Germany, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union – the tanks of similar weight was considered light . Until 1938 , even though the alliance of Italy and the Third Reich increasingly tightened , still considered Germany ‘s military doctrine as one of the possible opponents. In 1938 began to change doctrine , based on the experience of other countries, and began work on a strategy of mechanized forces and armor .In 1939, the General Staff assumed to produce 268 tanks, M , L 697 tanks of guns caliber 20 mm and 48 armored cars , but by the end of the year provided one M11/39 tanks , so they had to temporarily use the old machines Fiat 3000 (models 21 and 30) . At the beginning of 1939 ordered another fifty M11/39 , and staff canceled the order, because a draft of a new tank that just passed last test – M13/40 . Unfortunately, these machines are not able to come to the fight faster than in 1940 , because it was ordered until November 16, 1939 year. But it was a big order – once at 400 copies. The tank was indeed the only one fit for fighting machine in the arsenal with which the Italian armored units entered the war , and there were unfortunately too few , so that they can play an important role on the battlefield .
The first prototype tank M11/39 made in 1937. Chassis system was modeled dog tags on the chassis Vickers , innovation was the location of the tank weapons , two machine guns in the turret and cannon placed hull casemate – sponsonie . In 1938 a second prototype was made with eight wheels instead of six as the first. The suspension is in virtually unchanged form used in the war in all Italian medium tanks and self-propelled departments . On each side of the tank were two sets of trucks with wheels supporting the pendulum suspended , cushioned półeliptycznymi springs .A major difficulty in the operation of a drive based on the diesel engine . Compared to gasoline engines was easier to use and less expensive to operate due to lower fuel consumption when driving off-road in a fairly significant way reduce the risk of fire as a result of hitting the engine required a diesel rather than gasoline. Mounted eight-cylinder liquid-cooled , diesel engine Fiat SPA 8T V V-8 with a capacity of 11 140 m³ and power of 77.3 kW (105 hp ) at 1800 rpm. Transmission had four forward gears and one reverse.Hull construction was conventional – the engine compartment at the rear, fighting compartment in the center , steering to the left. The suspension consisted of two rows of eight with a front wheel drive wheel on each side. Idlers installed in the back. The crew consisted of three men (commander – gunner machine guns , cannon gunner and loader and driver) . The driver’s seat provided on the left side of the hull and slightly offset to the rear in relation to the casemate . Tank Combat weight was 11 175 kg (name M11 , just the weight of the tank meant ) . Tank length was 4.74 meters, width – 2,18 meters, height – 2.3 meters . Armor front hull and turret had a thickness of 30 mm , sides – 14.5 millimeters , the sides of the tower – 8 millimeters , floor, ceiling hull and turret – 6 millimeters. Armor plating tank – unlike German tanks – they were not welded, but combined with rivets , which in the case of a direct hit will guarantee their immediate cracking .As a main armament gun finally selected L/40 Vickers – Terni 37/40 caliber 37 millimeters ( with reserves of 84 rounds) and two machine guns Breda 38 in the tower ( with a supply of 2808 rounds) . Casemate has been installed in the right side of the fuselage , which immediately heralded reduction in the level fields of fire . The cannon can be moved at a range of 30 ° in both directions , vertically and from -8 ° to 12 °. The barrel length of 1.48 meters projectile gave the up to 640 meters per second , yielding 4 km range and the ability to armor penetration a thickness of 34 millimeters at a distance of 910 meters . Guns in the tower can be moved horizontally and 360 º vertically and from -13 º to +23 º . Wystrzeliwały 350 rounds per minute. Installing a cannon in the fuselage turned out to be a big disadvantage , because the crew had to maneuver around the vehicle to catch the enemy in a pinch.M11/39 reached a maximum speed of 33 km / h on the road and 13 km / h in the field. Tank located 145-180 liters of fuel would provide a maximum range of 200 kilometers machines on the road or 120 km on the ground. Tank could overcome the walls to a height of 80 centimeters , beards ( water hazards ) to 100 centimeters and trenches ( trenches ) to 200 centimeters. The hull is equipped with the access hatch to the tank on the left side and a hatch at the top of the fuselage on the right , under the conditions unbearable heat of North Africa flaps were open almost all the time . The engine could be reached by the two large flaps on the top of the shell. The tank was adjusted to install an RF radio 1 CA, but there were a few copies. For transportation of machines at a greater distance from the Strafurini engineer designed a platform with a weight of 4.95 tons.Ordered only a hundred pieces M11/39 . Production ran from 1 June to 31 August 1939 , and was suspended. The first produced copies sent to third Panzer Regiment stationed near Bologna. To immediately repair and possibly even during production make further adjustments to the design , with the first series of tanks was sent technicians from companies Ansaldo . It was assumed that M-type machines replace as soon as possible tankette L3/35 and the Fiat 3000 tanks were obsolete , and that will be the primary tank of a newly created armored divisions : 131 Centauro , 132 Ariete and 133 Littorio .
The use of combat
New Carro Armato M11/39 tanks assigned to test one of the company’s 32 Ariete Armoured Division Regiment in August 1939 . In the same month the company M11 (twelve pieces) took part in the maneuvers . Crew training on new machines held in Bracciano near Rome. In July 1940 , 72 copies were sent to Libya in the composition of the Ariete Armoured Division and the 24 – to Italian East Africa. Four items were in Italy. Road combat battalions equipped with the M11 did not cover , however, the fate of Ariete Division .Tanks were not used to form regiments as forces ‘ offensive in bulk and by surprise “, as envisaged in the rules of the Royal Armored Forces . What right have formed two battalions ( I and II Battaglione Carri M11 ), composed of 4 Tank Regiment ( 4th Reggimento Fanteria Carrista ), but not for long. M11/39 tanks are divided into separate units – armored columns that supported the assault force Egypt . The tanks supplied to East Africa formed two companies of the twelve machines. One went to the Italian troops stationed in Somalia , and the other – to Eritrea . It quickly turned out that the tanks were operating in small groups without a radio department and mounted in the fuselage completely do not work on the battlefield. Commander of the lack of communication attempt to resolve temporarily – each unit M11 Radio transported on a motorcycle with a sidecar . Not only that, Italy lacked trained staff, rolling stock repair and equipment to repair damaged machinery.Ariete Division – and the two battalions of the M11/39 composed of 32 Panzer – Regiment landed at the port of Benghazi in July. August 5 arrived at Sidi Azeis . Each battalion consisted of 31 tanks, divided between the two companies composed of three platoons of four tanks and a company command with five tanks (Italian armored division in 1940 consisted of bersalierów regiment , artillery and tank regiment , who had four battalions – together 164 tankette ) . They went into action when September 13, 1940 the 10th Army Gen. Bertie attacked a border position and stopped the British positions at Sidi Barrani , eighty kilometers in depth Egypt. The operation commander Marshal Rodolfo Graziani . Two battalions of tanks M11/39 significantly strengthen the Italian defense as to their arrival one armored infantry support were tančík L3/35 . Battalions M11 incorporated into XXI Corps 10 Army . Italians in Libya had 326 tanks, however, were divided between three bodies , one of which ( with three infantry divisions ) had 142 tanks. The fighting took part in November and December , when the British counteroffensive launched under the code name ” Compass ” ( the night of 8 to 9 December ) .2 The battalion was completely destroyed during the first day of the British counter-offensive . December 9 meeting with Matilda II tanks of the 7th Royal Armoured Regiment Lieutenant Colonel Jerrama at the Battle of Nibeiwą . M11/39 Italian battalion was part of the improvised armored unit commanded by General Pietro Malettiego – Reggruppamento Maletti – sformowanej ad hoc of the 2500 Libyan soldiers and two battalions of tanks – 35 tanks M11/39 and 45 tankettes L3/35 . British attack began at five in the morning the forces of infantry and armored vehicles . At seven , however , after a strong artillery preparation , the action came 48 Matilda II tanks , which the resistance stawiły M11 tanks guarding the main line of defense fortified camp. The result of the battle was to be expected . Caliber cannon shells 37 millimeters thick ricocheted from the UK , although it managed to destroy seven tanks, but the Italians have lost as many as 23 of the 31 Tank Battalion . General Maletti die cut a series of machine gun fire . Many tanks were destroyed in less than a minute. Acute resistance artillery appeared , but raise the 70 millimeters thick armor was difficult. Able to withdraw some crews of tanks and infantry Libyan , who was trying to break through the Italian lines . Malettiego Group ceased to exist , and the attacker gained some tankettes M11 and L3 .Already divided into smaller columns M11/39 try to stop and shield the retreat of Italian troops in the Battle of Beda Fomm composed of troops commanded by generals Bergonzoliego and Bariniego . The fight was in vain because of the weak armament and supply problems . I Battalion became part of the Special Tank Brigade ( Brigata Corazzata Speciale ) , sformowanej in Tobruk with M11/39 tanks ( one full battalion and the remains of a shattered into Nibeiwą ) and new M13/40 ( battalion – 35) and two -parent battalions tankettes L3 / 35th The battle took place on 5-7 February 1941 year. The Italians were routed , lost 48 tanks destroyed and 53 machines gained , the British and lost … four tanks! Several vehicles were captured by British troops , when oil was over and were fixed . M11/39 tanks captured were later used by the Australian 6th Divisional Cavalry Regiment , the machine ‘s squadron was formed called Ringo . Two other squads – Rabbit and Wombat – equipped with captured M13/40 . Interestingly, it was the first and only medium tanks across the Australian Army .Italian armored units have failed to adapt or their machines , or tactics to African conditions . Admittedly, the armored unit trained to defend – or attack – on a possible African frontline fighting jam at Beda Fomm . Most of the loss was due to failure on the battlefield, which could not be repaired ( or you can download from the battle damaged planes ) and tanks had to be placed somewhere . Escaped complete destruction Division Ariete , since it deployed in the back to use to attack the British przełamującego positions , an attack that never came .The two companies sent to Italian East Africa were destroyed during the British offensive in the spring of 1941. After arriving in the previous year M11 companies grouped in Compagnia Speciale Capri M. This unit , together with four companies of tankettes L3 (XX , XXI , XXII and XXIII ) has created a unique grouping armored trzystupięćdziesięciotysięcznej Italian army – Raggruppamento Corazzato Africa Orientale . 27 July 1940, staff of the Duke D’ Aosta has decided to attack the British Somaliland . Took command of the operation , General Nesi , the commander of the Eastern Sector Italian East Africa. The attack was set 35,000 troops , of which less than five thousand were Italians . Units of the metropolis is mainly an infantry battalion of the division Granatieri di Savoia, two battalions of the ” Black Shirts “, M11/39 medium tank company , the company L3/35 light tanks and two squadrons of armored cars Lancia Ansaldo MA and Fiat 611 Attackers were divided into three columns . The first column consisted of general Bertoldiego colonial infantry battalions ( 42 , 58 , 62 , 66 , 140 , 143 ) , four infantry battalions and two Somali native irregular units generally referred to as Comic (so- called irregular troops will all and formed an ad hoc basis for a specific task or activity in the region ) . In the center of the troops that had attacked British forces under the command of Brigadier Chater , he became General De Simone . The three entered the formation of colonial infantry regiments , the company twelve M11/39 tanks (whose support was decisive in the conquest of the region) , plutonium tankettes L3/35 and squadron of armored cars Fiat 611 , and two heavy coastal artillery batteries . The group also joined the colonial infantry battalions ( 20th , 39th , 49th , 37th, 64th , 83rd , 38th , 40th and 142nd ), group Dubatów ( Gruppo Bande ) , infantry units PAI ( Polizia dell ‘Africa Italiana ) and PAI motorcycle company . The third column consisted of General Bertello while first and 2 group of infantry on camels , 2 , 3 , 4 and 6 Gruppo Bubatów , 101 and 102 Colonial Infantry Battalion and 3rd Coastal Defence Battalion . As reserves are the third , fourth , ninth and 10 Colonial Infantry Battalion and nine artillery batteries colonial camel .From storage tanks Raggruppamento Corazzato Africa also took part in the fighting in January 1941 with the British group Gazelle , which, together with the squadron of tanks Matilda “B” 4 Royal Tank Regiment moved to Keren and was soon at the entrance to the city Agordat , which has recently been acquired by Italian forces . Italians dug in the hills surrounding the city. Kept in reserve a certain number of tanks M11 and tankettes L3 . British strike began at night on January 2 . Indian infantry offensive , however, failed to cross the Italian line . Attacks reiterates to January 30 , still with the same result – the attacker was in default under the fire of machine guns and artillery. January 31 started to attack British tanks , which under the cover of infantry quickly broke through the defenses. In this situation, the Italian command decided to quit the counterattack own armored forces – nine tanks M11 and two tankette L3 . They failed to even damage the attackers Matild , not to mention their destruction . All Italian tanks were destroyed. Soon it was occupied city.
Cazzani F. P., I corazzati Italiani Della Seconda Guerra Mondiale, Roma 1976
Cloutier P., Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini’s wars 1935–1943, Lexington 2010
Dyer P., Carro Armato M11/39 – 1937/40, [w:] “Bellona MVR”, nr 24
Greene J., Mare Nostrum. The War In the Mediterranean, Watsonville 1990
Ness L., Jane’s world war II tanks and fighting vehicles. The Complete Guide, New York 2002
Pignato N., Italian Medium Tanks in action, Carrollton brw
Pignato N., Italian Armored Vehicles of World War Two, Carrollton brw
Pignato N., Cappellano F., Autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano Vol I: dalle origini al 1939, Roma 1998
Pejčoch I., Obrnĕná Technika, Itálie Spanĕlsko 1919–1945, t.9, Praga 2009
Pejčoch I., M 11/39, [w:] „HPM”, nr 82/ 1998
Skotnicki M., Czołg średni Carro Armato M11/39, [w:] „Nowa Technika Wojskowa” nr 35/1995
Solarz J., Czołgi włoski 1939-1945, Warszawa 1995
Sweet J.J.T., Iron Arm, The Mechanization of Mussolini’s Army, 1922–1940, Westport 2007
Walter I. W., Iron Hulls, Mussolini’s Elite Armored Divisions in North Africa, Ramsbury 2006