21st Infantry Division Granatieri di Sardegna

This article is about the historic Italian 21st Infantry Division Granatieri di Sardegna. For the currently active Italian Army brigade, see Granatieri di Sardegna Mechanized Brigade.
21st Infantry Division Granatieri di Sardegna
Active 1939–1943
Country  Italy
Branch Italian Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) Granatieri di Sardegna
Engagements World War II
General Alfredo Guzzoni
Granatieri di Sardegna collar insignia

The 21st Infantry Division Granatieri di Sardegna was an infantry division of the Italian Army during World War II. The Granatieri di Sardegna Division can trace its origins to 1659 when the Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy formed a regiment of Guards. It became a unit in the national army in 1866.


On 8 February 1934 the 21st Infantry Division received the name Granatieri di Sardegna (Grenadiers of Sardinia). In 1939 the 21st Infantry Division Granatieri di Sardegna lost the 3rd Granatieri di Sardegna Regiment. The division entered World War II with the two Granatieri di Sardegna, the 13th Artillery Regiment and some minor units.

In June 1940, it was mobilized and took part in the invasion of France as a part of the Italian VII Army reserve in Asti and due to the quick victory in the Battle of France was not involved in any operations.[1]

The division Division Granatieri di Sardegna was transferred to Yugoslavia 8 May 1941 to the Province of Ljubljana and took part in encircling Ljubljana with barbed wire in 1942.[1][2] It was also stationed at Kočevje.[3]

The division has moved to Croatia in September, 1942, and back to Rome in the second half of November, 1942 to aid in the defence of the city in case of an Allied attack. During this time the division was reorganized along the lines of the Mod.43 reform of the Italian Army and was augmented with the XXI Mortar Battalion. In total the division fielded 14,500 troops. After the armistice between Italy and Allies of 8 September 1943 the division found itself fighting Italy's former allies the Germans and along with the 12th Infantry Division Sassari and 135th Armored Division Ariete II the Granatieri defended Rome. The Granatieri fought along the Via Ostiensis for two days before falling back to the Porta San Paolo where the division fought a last stand. There the division was joined by remnants of the Sassari division, the 8th Cavalry Regiment Lancieri di Montebello and hundredths of civilian volunteers. The future Italian president Sandro Pertini brought a detachment of Socialist resistance fighters to Porta San Paolo where they received the weapons of fallen grenadiers. Civilians at Porta San Paolo included communist leader Luigi Longo, lawyer Giuliano Vassalli, writer Emilio Lussu, unionist leaders Vincenzo Baldazzi, Mario Zagari, retired Air Force generals Sabato Martelli Castaldi and Roberto Lordi, and 18-year-old future partisan leader Marisa Musu. Around 12:30 the Catholic Communist movement arrived with reinforcements including famed actor Carlo Ninchi. However, by 17:00 the Germans broke the line of the Italian defenders, who had suffered 570 dead. Soon after the Italian military units surrendered to the Germans as the flight of the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III from Rome had made further resistance senseless. However the Italian soldiers handed thousands of weapons over to the civilian population, which was quick to form an organized resistance movement in the city of Rome.

For their role in the defence of the Rome the 1st Granatieri di Sardegna Regiment and the 8th Cavalry Regiment Lancieri di Montebello were awarded with the Gold Medal of Military Valour.

After the surrender of the Granatieri di Sardegna division three Granatieri battalions based in Corsica refused to surrender to the Germans and along with the 20th Infantry Division Friuli, 44th Infantry Division Cremona, 225th Coastal Division, 226th Coastal Division and French Partisans began to fight retreating German troops. The German Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS and 90th Panzergrenadier Division and the Italian 12 Parachute Battalion of the 184 Parachute Regiment,[4] which had come from Sardinia tried to retreat through Corsica towards the harbour of Bastia in the islands north. On 13 September elements of the Free French 4th Moroccan Mountain Division landed in Ajaccio to support the Italian efforts to stop the 30,000 retreating Germans. However the Germans managed to escape.

By augmenting the existing three battalions the Italian Co-Belligerent Army managed to raise the Granatieri di Sardegna division anew in Sardinia on 15 May 1944. The division consisted of the 1st and 2nd Grenadier Regiments, the 32nd and 132nd Armoured Infantry Regiments, 548th and 553rd Artillery Regiments and an Engineer Company. However it was decided that the infantry units of the division should join the Friuli Combat Group in Italy. On August 31 the Granatieri division was disbanded with the remaining units used to augment the Cremona Combat Group.


Order of battle

See also


  1. An Italian Infantry Division normally consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions each), an Artillery Regiment, a Mortar Battalion (two companies), an Anti Tank Company, a Blackshirt Legion of two Battalions was sometimes attached. Each Division had only about 7,000 men, The Infantry and Artillery Regiments contained 1,650 men, the Blackshirt Legion 1,200, each company 150 men.[6]


  1. 1 2 3 "21a Divisione di fanteria Granatieri di Sardegna". Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  2. Vurnik, Blaž (22 April 2016). "Kabinet čudes: Ljubljana v žičnem obroču" [Cabinet of Curiosities: Ljubljana in the Barbed Wire Ring]. Delo.si (in Slovenian).
  3. "Regio Esercito - Divisione Granatieri di Sardegna". regioesercito.it.
  4. "Esercito Italiano: Divisione "NEMBO" (184^)". Archived from the original on 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  5. Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  6. Paoletti, p. 170.


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