19th dec 1941. Commandos of Decima Flottiglia MAS attack the British Fleet at Alexandria with 'manned torpedoes', crippling the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant
Motor torpedo boat MS 15 moored in the anchorage of Marsah Matruh, August 1942
When the Axis forces advanced into Egyptian territory, at Marsa Matruh a temporary anchorage was organised, both for ships that were sent there (as was the sunken one in the background, the steamer Città di Agrigento, sunk by a RN squadron on 20 July 1942), and as a base for light forces. From there a MTSM boat would attack and cripple the destroyer escort HMS Eridge.
These men became a part of the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano following the Italian armistice / surrender of September 1943.
Therafter they fought alongside the Allies against their former Axis partners.
They were the standrad Italian uniform of the period with WW1 style puttees.
Their helmets are the distinctive M33 pattern.
The soldier nearest the camera is armed with an M38 Carcano carbine.
“Six Italians with cheap equipment, almost shaked Mediterranean supremacy in favour to Axis forces” (Winston Churchill) . In the night of December 18 1941. Six Italian XMas frogmen on 3 SLC (Siluro a Lenta Corsa) broke Alexandria port security measures and mined HMS Quen Elizabeth, HMS Vailant and a tanker (Sagona) whose explosion damged then ￼the HMS Jervis. Durand de La Penne and Emilio Bianchi were captured as due to malfunctioning of Bianchi respirator they had to surface , not before Durand was able to place the war charge under HMS Vailant.
They did not responded on scope and HMS Vailant commander (Morgan) ordered that both had to be segregated on the ship. At 5,30am on December 19 De La Penne asked to speak with the commander and advised that he had 30 minutes to evacuate the ship but he did not reveal the location of charge. In response Morgan put him back in its cell. At 6 am 3 major explosions provoked extensive damages to HMS Qeen Elizabeth, HMS Vailant, both ships sunk but thanks to low waters in Alexandria port they layed on bottom. The tanker and HMS Jervis which was near it were also badly damaged. The other two frogmen crews were captured by Egyptian police while they were trying to reach the sea and consigned to English forces. In a few minutes the Mediterranean Fleet was badly hit and put under big threat. That’s why complete operation was secreted not to give axis the advantage.. BTW Sir Charles Morgan (at time commander of HMS Vailant) recognized the the crews the War Honor Medal in Taranto in March of 1945.
A bearded Bersaglieri NCO of the Corpo Italiano di Liberazione, May 1944.
His M33 helmet is trimmed with the Bersaglieri's distinctive cockerel feathers plume.
He is armed with a Beretta Modello 38 ...considered by many to have been arguably the finest SMG of WW2.
talian Motor Torpedo Boat Mas 562. Photographed after its capture by US Higgins PT boats at Elba, 30 June 1944. On the night of June 29/30 PT's 308 and 309 were on patrol when they investigated a radar contact and found two Mas boats trying to sneak into the harbor of Portoferraia. Both PT Boats opened fire at about 800 yards with the Mas boats firing back. They chased the boats for about 10 miles and in a running gun battle.
One of the Mas boats began to lose speed and the boats slowed to take it under fire. As they neared the 562 boat, they realized that the entire crew had gone over the side into life rafts. The PT Boats took them prisoner which was 14 in all, including the Commander of the Italian Mas flotilla based at La Spezia. The Mas boat appeared to be on fire so the PT Boats left it and returned to base. The next day an aircraft reconnaissance reported the boat as still afloat. PT-306 went out and they boarded the Mas boat to find a fire smoldering in the engine room, so they put it out and towed the prize back to Bastia.
A trio of Italian-made FIAT 3000 M/30 light tanks...later designated L5/30....perhaps the ultimate evolution of the original WW1 Renault FT?
Italy began manufacturing its own licence-built version of the tank after WW1 and as such it became their first mass-produced tank.
The design was "tweaked" during its production run with different armament and engine combinations being used.
It was succesfully exported to a number of European countries and some African countries in the Italian sphere of influence like Libya and Ethiopia...even China acquired some!
Although long since obsolete some were even deployed to oppose the Allied landings in Sicily.
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