Spotlight: The Babini Group

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Formed in Libya to consolidate any available Italian armour into a single unit, the Babini Group, who fought a heroic last stand at Beda Fomm!

Spotlight Babini Group

The Italian invasion of Egypt was a disaster from the very start. The deadline for the jump-off was set three times and cancelled. The general staff failed to issue proper maps and navigation equipment and aggressive patrolling by the Western Desert Force’s combined arms units disrupted the Italian build-up.

Alongside all of this, the Italian Army was trying to concentrate its armoured force of M13/40 and M11/39 medium tanks on the Libyan border. Arriving piecemeal from continental Europe, these units were quickly formed into ad-hoc combined arms formations called Raggruppamento (Groups)

M13/40 tanks of the Italian Army moving across the Western Desert. Babini Group.

M13/40 tanks of the Italian Army moving across the Western Desert.

The Babini Group had 37 of the modern M13/40 medium tanks, armed with a 47mm gun and an array of 8mm machine guns. Supplementing this was the questionably effective M11/39 medium tank, and a large number of the light L3/35 tankettes. Across the board, the Italian tanks lacked radios and were plagued by numerous mechanical failures.

In support of the armour, the Group could call upon three battalions of crack Bersaglieri mountain troops, a motorcycle battalion, an artillery regiment, two anti-tank gun companies, an engineer company plus supply units. On paper, this unit should have been more than a match for the British and Commonwealth units opposing it across the Libyan border.

Derna & Beda Fomm

At the beginning of January, the Group was ordered down the coast from Tobruk to the town of Derna, guarding the main pass through the mountains into Libya. A lack of tank transporters forced the Group’s vehicles to move under their own power, causing numerous mechanical failures.

The Italian 60th Infantry Division was dug in around Derna, with the tanks and crack Bersaglieri light infantry of the Babini Group covering their rear from the old Turkish fort at Mechili. Over the following weeks, the Group would stall the British advance, inflicting significant casualties on the Australian units leading the charge.

Dug-in Italian artillery guns open fire! Babini Group

Dug-in Italian artillery guns open fire!

Flanking manoeuvres by British tanks and mechanized infantry were able to partially encircle the Italian positions and undermine the defence of Derna, forcing the Group to retreat. Despite exhaustion, lack of fuel and poor roads, the Group retreated in good order, cratering and mining the roads and setting numerous ambushes, all of which slowed pursuit.

It was clear that the Italian occupation of Libya was untenable and a general retreat was ordered. Following the main highway down the coast and across the desert, the Group was caught up in the ambush orchestrated by Combeforce – a flying column of tanks, armoured cars and portees dispatched across the desert to cut the Italian line of retreat.

Italian prisoners marching into captivity following their defeat at Beda Fomm. Babini Group

Italian prisoners marching into captivity following their defeat at Beda Fomm.

Despite a valiant attempt at a breakthrough, the Group found itself encircled – its complement of tanks reduced to dangerously low levels by enemy action. They surrendered alongside the Italian 10th Army, joining the 133,000 prisoners taken during Operation Compass.

The Babini Group in Bolt Action

The Western Desert campaign book provides a perfect force selector for Italian armoured units during Operation Compass, including the Babini Group.

1940–41 ITALIAN ARMOURED BRIGADE REINFORCED PLATOON

  • 1 Command vehicle from L3 tankette (any version), M11/39, M13/40 with the command vehicle rule for +25pts.
  • 2 Tanks from L3 Tankette (any version), M11/39, M13/40

Plus:

Headquarters
0-1 Captain or Major
0-1 Medic team
0-1 Forward observer

Infantry
1–3 Infantry squads: Regular infantry squads, Inexperienced infantry squads, Bersaglieri infantry squads
0–1 Sniper team
0–1 MMG team
0–1 Mortar team: light
0–1 Anti-tank rifle team

Artillery
0-1 Gun from:
Field artillery: Light anti-tank gun: 47/32 Elefantino
Anti-aircraft gun: Breda 20/65 light anti-aircraft gun, 75/36, heavy AA gun, 90/53 heavy anti-aircraft/anti-tank gun
0–1 Anti-aircraft guns of identical type and experience from 75/50 heavy anti-aircraft/anti-tank gun, Breda 20/65 light antiaircraft gun
0–1 Anti-tank guns of identical experience from 47/32 anti-tank gun

Armoured Cars
Armoured Cars and Recce vehicles from Autoblinda 40, Autoblinda 41

Tanks, Tank destroyers, Self-propelled artillery and Anti-aircraft vehicles
0–2 Vehicles from 0-2 L3 tankette (any version), M11/39, M13/40, or 0-1 100/17 on Lancia Ro, BREDA 20mm on Lancia Ro.

Transports and Tows
The Platoon must include enough transport vehicles to transport all infantry and artillery units from FIAT 508 CM, truck, Wheeled artillery tractor.

Grabbing our 1000pt Bersaglieri starter army gives you the perfect starting point for your Italian force in the Western Desert.

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