Thursday, November 10, 2011

Italians in the East: Pokrowskoje

I stumbled across a very interesting site: This has both Soviet and Pre-War German maps of Eastern Europe. I was able to find a 1:50,000 scale maps of the first two battles fought by the Italians in Russia.
The map above is taken from the map L36-16C from that site. In addition to that, I have finally been able to translate some of the Regimental history that I have for the 80 Roma Regiment. The regiment was mounted using the all truck transport allotted to the Pausubio Division and the Torino Division. This enabled them to keep the timetable set for them to move from Voznesensk toward the port town of Nikolaiev. The terrain was very difficult with the roads nearly dissolved in the rain and the constant threat of a Russian attack from the rear guard troops. August 11, 1941 - The Battle for Pokrowskoje The Battle for Pokrowskoje was begun when elements of the 1st Bersaglieri Motorcycle Company was performing a reconnaissance of the town. From the descriptions that I have found of this reconnaissance, it appears that it is possible that only one rider was forward rather than the whole company. Bersaglieri Alfredo Santino Lutri and his riding partner were leading the reconnaissance element when they triggered an ambush by the Russians. Apparently, his partner (Germano Narduzzi) was hit early on in the ambush. According to his medal citation, Lutri, continued his mission and returned back to his company commander to report his findings even though he himself was wounded. He insisted that Narduzzi was seen to before he had his wounds examined. While brave, it ultimately led to his own death. His actions provided vital intelligence to the Pausubio Division as it advanced on the town of Pokrowskoje. His actions of putting his wounded partner first sealed his fate and earned the young man the first Gold Bravery Military Medal of the war in Russia. Interestingly, Lutri's remains had been buried in an Italian Military graveyard in the Ukraine for 60 years. In 2001, as part of the improving relationship with the Ukraine and Italy, many of the Italian dead have been brought back to Italy. Lutri's body was one of those returned. As part of the remembrance ceremonies, a play was written to celebrate the man's life and his selfless actions on his final day. Once the information was relayed back to the Colonel Epifanio Chiaramonti, of the 80th Roma Regiment, the 3rd Battalion of Major Minchiotti was dispatched to deal with the Russian rear guard. He was reinforced with the 75mm/27 artillery from the 3rd Battalion/8th Artillery Regiment (Pausubio Division), the battery of the 80th Regiment's 65mm/17 artillery and the Bersaglieri Motorcycle Company. The description from Armando Rati's "L'80° Fanteria. La lunga Storia Eroica di un Reggimento Mantovano Diventata Leggenda" does not mention the presence of the 141st Anti-Tank Company. Other sources do mention the presence of the 141st at this first encounter. Rati does mention that they were approached by seven Russian tanks that were driven off by the guns of Captain Caranci. It is unsure if Captain Caranci is from the 141st Anti-Tank company or the battery commander the Divisional 75mm guns. It is not likely that he is the battery commander of the 65mm guns from the Regiment as his name does not appear on the officer roll presented by Rati in his book. I need to search for this name earlier in the book to see if I can find out more. This (Rati's) is the only account of this battle where the Russian tanks are mentioned. Most record the battle of Jasnaja Poljana as where Russian tanks appear. Instead Rati mentions the presence of Russian Armored Cars at the later battle and no Tanks. One other interesting tidbit from this all to brief account of the battle, Rati mentions that the Battalion was lead by its scouts (esploratori). Some wondering of what such a unit was, I went to for some answers. They list the scouts as consisting of 1 Officer and 42 men. The best guess of this unit was that it was divided into three large squads of 14 men each. It does not appear that these men had any kind of support weapons such as a light machine-gun. This presents an interesting unit to attempt to field on the table top. Rati's book contains a nice picture of Italian troops clearing the town of Pokrowskoje on page 72.
The end result of this first battle was the loss of 2 men killed and another three wounded for the Italians. As to Russian losses, this is completely unknown. Rati mentions that many corpses were found the next day and that the enemy fell back to Jasnaja Poljana, the sight of the 80th Roma's second battle. Given this, it is possible to make a guess that the unit fought on the 11th was 469th Rifle Regiment. One of the few accounts where the Russian unit that was fought has been made clear. I will be making a series of scenarios using this information. Another interesting source that I found was the diary of a medical orderly from the Pausubio Division ( He notes that the first action of the division took place in a field of sunflowers. Rati places Jasnaja Poljana as a battle field that was between wheat and sunflower fields. The map at the top shows field boundaries. It is quite possible that both battles took place mostly outside of the towns themselves. I am trying to figure out if I will be making this into a scenario booklet through the TFL's or just releasing bits and pieces out in Specials or attempting to publish it myself.

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