132nd Armoured Division Ariete

This article is about the historic Italian 132nd Armoured Division Ariete. For the currently active Italian Army brigade, see Ariete Armored Brigade.
132^ Divisione Corazzata Ariete
132nd Armoured Division Ariete

Italian 132^Armored Division/Brigade "Ariete" Shoulder Insignia
Active 1 February 1939 – 8 December 1942
23 May 1948 – 30 September 1986
Country Italy Kingdom of Italy (1939–1943)
 Italy (1948–1986)
Branch Italian Army
Type Armored
Size Division
Garrison/HQ Milan
Nickname(s) Ariete (Ram)
Motto(s) "Ferrea mole, Ferreo cuore"
Colors blue and red
Mascot(s) Ram Head
Engagements Operation Compass
Siege of Tobruk
Operation Crusader
Battle of Gazala
First Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
Raffaele Cadorna, Jr.
Pietro Giannattasio
Gian Marco Chiarini
Roberto Ranucci
Paolo Ruggiero

The Ariete Armoured Division was an armoured division of the Italian Army during World War II. It was formed in 1939 as the second armoured division in the Italian Army after the 131 Armoured Division Centauro. The division fought in the North African Campaign until being destroyed during the Second Battle of El Alamein. After World War II the division was reformed as part of the Italian Army.

World War II


The 132nd Armoured Division Ariete was formed in Milan in February 1939, it was initially made up of the 8th Bersaglieri motorised infantry regiment, the 32nd armoured regiment, equipped with L3/35 light tanks and a few M11/39 medium tanks, the 132nd artillery regiment, and additional divisional support units. The division was moved to the French border at the outbreak of World War II, but was kept in reserve during the short campaign on that front. It was part of the Army of the Po, the strategic reserve.


Later, some battalions of the 32nd Tank Regiment were sent to Libya on a stop gap basis. The I and II M11/39 medium tank battalions were sent as part of the Maletti Group. The III and V M13/40 medium tank battalions become part of the Special Armored Brigade (Brigata Corazzata Speciale, or BCS). Both the Maletti Group and the BCS were part of the ill-fated 10th Army.

Operation Compass

From December 1940 to February 1941, during Operation Compass, the British Western Desert Force overran the 10th Army and occupied the whole of Cyrenaica. The tanks of the Maletti Group were lost in Egypt, while the tanks of the BCS were sacrificed during the break out attempt at Beda Fomm.
After this setback it was decided to employ the whole Ariete Division in North Africa. On 24 January 1941, the first echelons of the division disembarked at Tripoli. From February 1941 to November 1942, the Ariete Division fought alongside the German Africa Corps (Deutsches Afrikakorps, or DAK) in the North Africa campaign. Ariete was attached to the Italian Mobile Corps (Corpo d'Armata di Manovra). This unit was later to become Italian XX Motorised Corps.

Siege of Tobruk

In particular, reinforced in 1941 with the 132nd Tank Regiment, which would replace the 32nd Tank Regiment, (disbanded in mid-1942), it took part in the first Axis counter-offensive to retake Cyrenaica, and the siege of Tobruk which resulted from this. With this regiment, its battalions equipped with M13/40 and/or M14/41 medium tanks the division fought in the desert of Libya and Egypt during 1941.

On 1 May 1941 the Germans and Italians attacked Tobruk in considerable strength. Their attack pierced the Australian defences, and the Ariete and 8th Bersaglieri captured the R3, R4, R5, R6 and R7 strongpoints,[1] On 3 May the Australians launched a counter-attack with the 18th Brigade. The counter-attack only recaptured one strong point from what Australian historian Mark Johnston reported to be Italian defenders.[2] This action is later known as the Battle of the Salient.

During Operation Crusader, the division very successfully defended Bir el Gobi against the British 22nd Armoured Brigade, inflicting heavy losses on the inexperienced British forces. On 23 November, the 15th Panzer Division moved on to attack the 5th South African Brigade defending Sidi Rezegh and that evening, the Ariete with the 8th Bersaglieri Regiment came up in support and the ridge was taken. Nearly 3,400 prisoners were taken in this attack.[3] During 29–30 November, the Ariete and supporting Italian infantry and motorcycle units were responsible for capturing a considerable number of New Zealand, Indian and British troops during the Italo-German counter-attacks. Recalling the loss of the 21st Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Howard Kippenberger, who later rose to command the 2nd New Zealand Division, wrote that, "About 5.30 p.m. damned Italian Motorized Division (Ariete) turned up. They passed with five tanks leading, twenty following, and a huge column of transport and guns, and rolled straight over our infantry on Point 175."[4] When the battle led to the retreat of the Axis forces to the Gazala Line, the Ariete went on the attack. The Italian armoured division, augmented by 23 tanks of the 15th Panzer Division and supported by Bersaglieri motorcycle troops,[5] lost no time in assaulting the pursuing Commonwealth forces. Between them, they overran the 1st Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) and part of the 5th Indian Brigade, taking according to one estimate[6] 1,000 prisoners in the counter-attack. Nevertheless, the British were able to recover from this setback and the Ariete retreated through the Djebel Mountain towards el Agheila. By this time the division had lost almost all its tanks.

Reinforced again with replacement tanks and M40 75/18mm semoventi assault guns in the V and VI battalions of the 132nd Artillery Regiment, it took part in the second counter-offensive of January 1942, the Gazala battles of May 1942, and the invasion of Egypt that followed.

Battle of Gazala

The Ariete met early success during the Battle of Gazala, when it overran the British-officered 3rd Indian Motor Brigade at Rugbet Al Atasc on 27 May 1942,[7] capturing 1,000 troops.[8] The Ariete then repelled strong British armoured counterattacks on 29 May and went on to repeat the same feat on 5 June 1942.[9]

El Alamein

During the initial phase of the First Battle of El Alamein the Ariete, which had just six or eight tanks and 1,000 men, having just arrived in the positions assigned to it at dawn on 3 July 1942 and due to the disorganization caused by enemy air attacks, had been compelled to withdraw after losing 531 men, several artillery batteries and a number of tanks. Rommel's report of the division having been decimated with the loss of 100 tanks was greatly exaggerated.[10][11]

During the Second Battle of El Alamein the Ariete sacrificed its obsolete tanks in the attempt to counter the Allied offensive and cover the withdrawal of the army. On 4 November at about 15:30, the few surviving tanks, surrounded by an overwhelmingly superior enemy, broadcast their last message,[12] quoting:

Enemy tanks broke through South of Ariete Division. Ariete thus surrounded, located 5 kilometers north east of Bir-el-Abd. Ariete tanks keep on fighting!

135th Armoured Cavalry Division Ariete II

On 21 November 1942, the division was disbanded, and its name kept by a task force gathering up its remnants, which kept fighting throughout the retreat and subsequent battle of Tunisia. It was forced to surrender along with the rest of the Axis army in North Africa.
On 1 April 1943, as a tribute it was reconstituted as 135 Ariete II Armoured Cavalry Division, made up of cavalry regiments. The division was located in north eastern Italy, with the following order of battle;

It comprised the following armoured fighting vehicles:

for a total of 247 tank and semoventi plus 50 armoured car.

The division was moved to central Italy following the fall of Benito Mussolini's government and took part to the defence of Rome from 8 to 10 September 1943, counter-attacking German Panzergrenadiers and Paratroopers. Because the Headquarters decided to avoid unnecessary sacrifices and losses, the division was ordered to surrender and was then disbanded.


On 23 May 1948 its reconstitution as a brigade sized unit begins at Forte Pietralata in Rome. The same year it was transferred to Pordenone in the Friuli region in Northern Italy. On 1 October 1952, the brigade had completed its increase to full division and commanded now the same regiments as during the African campaign:[13]

Cold War

In 1963 all Italian divisions adapted their organization to NATO standards and thus added a brigade level to the divisions structure. In the same year the reconstitution of the 32nd Tank Regiment began:

On 1 October 1968 the brigade headquarters were disbanded and the divisions returned to its former structure. The Ariete Armored Division was part of the 5th Army Corps based in North-Eastern Italy. The 5th Army Corps was tasked with defending the Italian-Yugoslavian border against possible attacks by either the Warsaw Pact, or Yugoslavia or both. The Ariete Armored Division was based in the middle of the potential front.

Before the major reorganization of 1975 the division consisted of the following units:

In 1975 the Italian Army undertook a major reorganization of it forces: the regiment level was abolished and battalions came under direct command of newly formed brigades, which combined units from different arms. Thus on 1 October 1975 the Ariete took command of the following brigades, which were formed from its disbanded regiments:

Additional troops were added to bring the division up to full strength:

When the Italian Army abolished the divisional level on 10 October 1986 the 132nd Armored Brigade Manin was renamed as 132nd Armored Brigade Ariete.


  1. Rommel's Army in Africa, Dal McGuirk, p. 91, Stanley Paul, 1987 and XXXII BATTAGLIONE GUASTATORI
  2. That magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of The 9th Australian Division, Mark Johnston, p. 38, Allen and Unwin, 2002
  3. Rommel's Desert Commanders: The Men Who Served The Desert Fox, North Africa, 1941–1942, Samuel W. Mitcham, p.50, Praeger, 2007
  4. Infantry Brigadier, Howard Kippenberger, p. 101, Oxford University Press, 1949, (371 pages)
  5. Italians passed to counter-attack along the whole line (The Bologna Division: 19 November – 10 December, 1941) By David Aldea & Joseph Peluso, Comando Supremo: Italy at War.
  6. Das Afrika Korps: Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941–43, By Franz Kurowski, p. 125, Stackpole Books (March 2010)
  7. James J. Sadkovich, Of Myths ad Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, p. 302, The International History Review XIII (1991)
  8. Das Afrika Korps: Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941–43, By Franz Kurowski, pg. 125, Stackpole Books (March 1991)
  9. James J. Sadkovich, Of Myths ad Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, p. 303, The International History Review XIII (1991)
  10. Under a Fading Moon, (First Battle of El Alamein), David Aldea, Comando Supremo, Italy At War.
  11. Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-november 1942, Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, p. 196, Da Capo Press, Revised Edition, (272 pages)
  12. Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, Samuel W. Mitcham, p. 176, Stackpole Books, 2000
  13. http://www.esercito.difesa.it/Organizzazione/Organizzazione%20Centrale/Comando%20delle%20Forze%20Operative%20Terrestri/1_fod/br_corazzata_ariete/Pagine/la_storia.aspx Italian Army homepage; History of the Ariete Brigade


  • Ian W. Walker, Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts; Mussolini's Elite Armoured Divisions in North Africa, 2006 ISBN 1-86126-646-4

External links

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