Italian armour in German service 1943-45.
Semovente da 105/25 “Bassotto" - (Part 1) - A specification was put forward in mid-1942 for an SPG that could support infantry, but also double as a tank hunter, using the heavy 25 caliber Cannone da 105 mm (4.13 in). At that time, Odero-Terni-Orlando (OTO) and Ansaldo proposed prototypes. OTO’s proposition was to fit the 105/23 gun on a P26/40 heavy tank chassis. However, the prototype built at Ansaldo, based on the M15/43, and presented at the Study Center of Motor Vehicles, on 28 February 1943, was eventually tested and approved by the Comando Supremo, for a production run of 878 vehicles. It entered production on 2 April 1943, and was in service between June and September, before the Italian Armistice, under the designation Semovente da 105/25 su scafo M43.
This heavy SPG followed the path of other Semovente in service. It was, however, based on the latest chassis available, the lengthened Carro Armato M15/42 medium tank, in its 1943 version. For the task, the chassis was slightly widened, reaching 7.9 feet (2.4 m) instead of 7.3 feet (2.20 m). The gun itself was positioned on the centreline, with a casemate protected by a 75 mm (2.95 in) frontal sloped plate, 50 mm (1.97 in) of armor on the sides and only 15 mm (0.59 in) on the roof and bottom. The driver was located on the left hand side and had a hinged armored shutter with a sight slit. A small headlight was fitted left of him, on the sloped side. A Magneti Marelli RF1 CA emitter/receiver was also fitted, with its whip antenna located on the left side of the roof. Two large roof hatches were installed, for easier access. There was a mount-point for a Breda 8 mm (0.31 in) machine-gun on an AA pintle mount and a hull-mounted Breda 8 mm (0.31 in) with 864 rounds as secondary armament. The main gun was derived from the 1916 105/28 field gun and had a rather low muzzle velocity, around 650 m/sec (2130 ft/s) with AP rounds. It had a 34° traverse and -12°/+ 22° depression/elevation. But it could be deadly effective at short range, because of its heavy HE shells. At 15.9 tons and a 192 hp engine, it was capable of a top road speed of 35 km/h (22 mph). The crew of three comprised the driver, the commander, that doubled as gunner, and the loader, that doubled as radio operator. The Semovente da 75/46 tank hunter was also built on the same chassis, and it was the first Italian vehicle with a welded construction.
Semovente da 105/25 “Bassotto" - (Part 2) - Production and service - The armistice came after only 30 of these vehicles were built. The days following the armistice, these Italian SPGs saw action with the 135ª Armoured Division “Ariete II”, against German troops near Rome. However, the factory and all vehicles were later taken over by German forces, and the Semovente 105/25 was renamed Sturmgeschütz M43 mit 105/25 853(i). The production line was reactivated and 60 more of these were delivered until 1944, for the German forces. Most were used for the defense of the Gothic line and some were passed on to the Italian forces of the puppet republic of Salo, and stayed in service until May 1945 in northern Italy. The Semovente 105/25 was nicknamed “Bassotto” (Dachshund), and the crews generally liked it. It was the most heavily armed SPG in Italian service, presented a low silhouette, and was well protected and reliable. Surviving German vehicles ended stripped of their main guns, which were recycled into the Alpine Valley bunkers.
Semovente M43 da 105/25 specifications:
Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.1 x 2.40 x 1.75 m (19.8 x 9.3 x 5.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 15.8 tons
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, driver, loader/radioman)
Propulsion SPA 15TB M-15 diesel (360 l), 192 hp (143.17 kW), 15 hp/t
Suspension Vertical volute springs
Maximum speed (road) 38 km/h (24 mph)
Operational range 150 km (93 mi)
Armament Main: 105 mm (2.95 in) L28 34, 48 rounds
Secondary: 8 mm (0.31 in) Breda 38 machine gun, 1100 rounds
Armour From 30 to 100 mm (1.18-3.94 in)
Semovente da 47/32 - (Part 1) - Development of the Semovente da 47/32 - By the time the Regio Esercito entered the war, in May 1940, the armoured branch of the army was far from being ready. Most numerically important was the CV tankette series, armed with machine-guns. The main gun in use on the medium tank M11/39 was a 37 mm (1.46 in), and and the brand new M13/40s, armed with a 47 mm (1.85 in), were few. The army decidedly needed to bolster its anti-tank capabilities. Driven by this necessity, a tank hunter was designed in 1940 based on the CV-33 chassis, the L3 da 47/32, which featured an open platform mounting a 47 mm (1.85 in) 32 calibre gun with a shield, with its servants left unprotected. This prototype was never produced. At the same time, the German StuG had some successes against tanks, even with its 75 mm (2.95 in) short-barrel howitzer, and it was decided to try a similar configuration on the brand new light tank L6/40 chassis.
Design of the 47/32 su Scafo L40 - The conversion started when the production run of the L6/40 was ending at FIAT-Ansaldo. Work started quickly, fitting the standard anti-tank Cannone da 47/32 M35 inside an armoured, but open-top superstructure built over the L6/40 chassis. The Semovente da 47/32 (“self-propelled 47/32 gun”) kept many of the characteristics of the light tank, borrowing its engine, mechanical parts, drive-train, tracks, and kept the same armour (30 mm/1.18 in on the front). An armoured box was fixed above the chassis, mounted forward compared to the old hull, and roomier. Access inside was made through side doors and the open top. The driver was seated in the front left of the superstructure, while the gun was placed on his right. Fortunately for the cramped fighting compartment, the gun was compact enough. It was Austrian in origin, and had a 630 m/s (2,067 ft/s) muzzle velocity with AP shells and 250 m/s (820 ft/s) with HEAT rounds. Maximum range was 7000 m (7665 yd), but the effective range was 500 m (550 ft), where it could defeat 43 mm (1.69 in) of armour, and up to 58 mm (2.28 in) at close range.
Production and variants - The production started in late 1941, but the Semovente 47/32 was not available before 1942. It was built until the Italian surrender in November 1943. By then, around about 280 to 300 had been delivered by Ansaldo and FIAT-SPA. Some command versions were derived from this vehicle, equipped with long range radio sets and map tables, and the main gun replaced by a 8 mm (0.31 in) Breda machine-gun disguised as a 47 mm (1.85 in).
(Illustration shows a German StuG L6 mit 47/32 630(i), summer 1944).
Semovente da 47/32 - (Part 2) - The Semovente 47/32 in action - By the time it entered service, the bulk of this new tank-hunter was shipped to the Eastern front, soldiering with the ARMIR (8th Italian army). They operated in conjunction with other forces in Ukraine, from the summer of 1942 to early 1943. It was one of the most available Italian AFVs on this front, but its main gun failed against the excellent armour of the T-34 and KV-1. By February 1943, these had been decimated by the large winter Soviet counter-offensive around Stalingrad.
Others were sent to North Africa, to operate with the Ariete and Litorrio divisions from the second battle of El Alamein until the fall of Tunis in February 1943. Others were stationed in Italy. Some saw action in Sicily, apparently used by “Black Shirt” formations. Many were captured and pressed into service by the Wehrmacht in November 1943. The Germans used them as the StuG L6 mit 47/32 630(i) until the end of the war, with some being passed onto the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (RSI, 10 in all) and others to their Bulgarian and Croat allies.
Semovente da 47/32 specifications
Dimensions (L-W-H): 3.78 x 1.92 x 1.63 m (12ft 5in x 6ft 4in x 5ft 4in)
Total weight, battle ready: 6.4 tons (14,109 lbs)
Crew: 3 (commander/gunner, driver, loader)
Propulsion: Fiat SPA, 6 cyl. gasoline, 70 hp
Suspension: Leaf spring bogies
Maximum speed (road): 42 km/h (26 mph)
Operational range: 200 km (124 mi)
Armament: Cannone da 47/32 modello 35 (1.85 in), 70 rounds
Armour: Front: 30 mm (1.18 in)
Total production: 300
(Illustration shows German StuG L6/47/32 SPG Version G with side add-on armour and shielded Breda MG).
Italian armour used by 46. Panzerjäger Abteilung (Reichsgrenadier Division 'Hoch -und Deutschmeister) - Part 1
The Semovente da 75/18 was an Italian self-propelled gun of the Second World War. It was built by mounting the 75 mm Obice da 75/18 modello 34 mountain gun on the chassis of a M13/40, M14/41 or M15/42 tank. The first 60 were built using the M13/40 chassis and a subsequent 162 were built on the M14/41 chassis from 1941 to 1943, when the M15/43 chassis were introduced. The Semovente da 75/18 was intended to be an interim vehicle until the heavier P40 tank could be made available.
Although these machines were not widely known, the vehicle performed well in its role. Though it was technically similar to the StuG III, it had a totally different role, serving as divisional artillery instead of a pure assault gun.
After the Italian surrender in 1943, some 131 Semovente da 75/18 were seized by the Germans and the production of another 55 was authorized. They were, in combination with other Semovente models, issued to 12 divisions (9 infantry, one mountain, one Jäger and one Grenadier) and 3 assault-gun brigades as well as to the 12th SS Polizei Panzer Company. All units were intended for service in Italy or the Balkans. They were designated StuG M42 mit 7,5 KwK L 18(850).
Semovente da 75/18 M41 specifications:
Dimensions (L-W-H) - 4.92 x 2.20 x 1.85 m (16ft 2in x 7ft 3in x 6ft 1in)
Total weight, battle ready - 14.4 tons
Crew - 3 (commander/gunner, driver, loader/radioman)
Propulsion - Fiat SPA 8T V8 diesel, 125 hp, 8.92 hp/ton
Suspension - Leaf spring bogies
Maximum speed (road) - 32 km/h (20 mph)
Operational range - 230 km (143 mi)
Armament - 75 mm (2.95 in) Obice da 75/18 modello 34, 44 rounds
Armour - from 25 to 50 mm (0.98-1.97 in)
Total production - 262
Italian armour used by 46. Panzerjäger Abteilung (Reichsgrenadier Division 'Hoch -und Deutschmeister) - Part 2
The Semovente da 75/34 was an Italian self-propelled gun developed and used during World War II. It was a 75 mm L/34 gun mounted on a M15/42 tank chassis. It saw action during the defence of Rome in 1943 and later served with the Germans in Northern Italy and the Balkans. 141 were produced during the war (60 before the Armistice of Cassibile in September 1943, 81 later under German control).
After the success of the Semovente da 75/18, it was decided to build a self-propelled gun with a better gun, to improve its anti-tank capability (which on the former was given by the use of HEAT shells); some prototypes were built which replaced the Obice da 75/18 with a 75 mm L/32 field gun on the M14/41 tank chassis. Production began in spring 1943, with the 75 mm L/34 gun (the same as on the Carro Armato P 40) on the chassis of the M15/42 tank. Some sixty were built before the Italian armistice in September 1943.
Because of delayed production, lack of manpower and training time, only a few were used by Italian troops in Italy before the 8th September Armistice. In November, about 36 tanks were confiscated by the Germans. They also ordered a second production run, which lasted until 1944, with 80 more SPGs being turned over. In German service these were called Sturmgeschütz M42 mit 75/34 851(i). These took part in the defense of the central/northern Italy and the Balkans.
Semovente M42 da 75/34 specifications:
Dimensions (L-W-H) .04 x 2.23 x 1.8 m (16ft 6in x 7ft 4in x 5ft 11in)
Total weight, battle ready 15 tons
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, driver, loader/radioman)
Propulsion SPA M15 (15TB) V8 diesel, 192 hp (143.17 kW), 12.7 hp/ton
Suspension Vertical volute springs
Maximum speed (road) 40 km/h (25 mph)
Operational range 230 km (143 mi)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) L34 modello 34, 42 rounds
8 mm (0.31 in) Breda 38 machine gun, 1104 rounds
Armor From 25 to 50 mm (1-2 in)
Total production 190
More to follow...