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17 Motorised Division Pavia or 17 Divisione Autotrasportabile Pavia (Italian) was a North African type infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The Pavia was formed in October 1939 and sent to Libyamarker. It was never completely motorised but despite this limitation, it was considered to have fought well in North Africa. It was almost completely destroyed during the Second Battle of El Alameinmarker.


The Brigade Pavia was born during the Risorgimento on 1 March 1860, and was formed of two Infantry Regiments (the 27th and 28th). The Brigade participated to the Third Italian Independence War (1866), the First Italo-Ethiopian War (1896) and the First World War, when it was awarded with the Ordine Militare d'Italia. In 1926 it become the XVII Pavia Infantry Brigade and in August 1939 was transformed in the 17th Pavia Division (reinforced with the 26th Artillery Regiment Artiglieria a Cavallo). Till 1939, the HQ of the Division were in Ravennamarker, while the 27th Regiment had its barracks in Cesenamarker. In 1940 the Division was deployed in Tripolitania and moved to Cyrenaica belonging to the Italian XX Corps. It participated to the final phases of Operation Compass, retreating from Sabrathamarker to Agedabiamarker. In 1941 - 1942 it fought in North Africa until it surrendered at El Alamein. After Second World War the 28th Infantry Regiment was reorganized with HQ in Pesaro. The Regiment is still existing and it's now specialized in PsyOps.

The North Africa Campaign

The Pavia Division took part in the Axis counterattack of March-April 1941. Under General Zaglio it attacked via the Balbia coast road from Agedabia on 31 March 1941, driving the Australian rearguards back to Mechilimarker; on the 6th the town was surrounded. The "Fabris" and "Montemurro" Bersaglieri Motorised Battalions came up in support, along with the advance elements of the German 5th Light Division. On the 8th of April General Gambier-Parry surrendered to General Zaglio after an unsuccessful breakout attempt. 3,000 British, Indian and Australian soldiers were captured.

The division continued to advance and helped to isolate the garrison in Tobruk. It then took part in the siege of Tobruk, stationed in the southern sector of the lines.

On 23 November 1941, during the Crusader campaign, the British 70th Infantry Division broke through the Bologna Division. The Italians fought off a strong armour-infantry attack, and the Pavia Division went over to the counterattack, sealing off the enemy breakthrough in heavy fighting. Three days later, however, the 70th took El Duda and linked up with 13th Corps, completing the relief of Tobruk. This led to a general Axis withdrawal to Gazala. During the withdrawal, Pavia served as a rearguard at El Adem where, according to the Official Australian History of the Second World War, the Pavia put up a tenacious defence before being overcome, delaying the advance for over three hours and allowing Axis forces (including the bulk of Pavia) to withdraw.

The division was also at the First battle of El Alamein as part of the Italian X Corps, where it defended Ruweisat Ridge before taking heavy casualties and being rendered largely ineffective by New Zealand Infantry and British Armour on the 14-15 July 1942. During the initial phase of the fighting Pavia served as a rearguard for the Ariete Division where, according to US historian Conrad H. Lanza, the division repulsed the advance of the and the New Zealand 23rd Battalion with a night counter attack.Finally, during the second battle of El Alamein, the Pavia Division (and the other two divisions of the Italian X Corps) was abandoned without transport by the rest of the Axis Forces as they retreated from Alamein to Fuka on the 4th November 1942. Thus abandoned, they had no option but to surrender.

Order of Battle

(May 1941)

  • 27th Infantry Regiment Pavia
    • Command Coy
    • Rifle Bn
    • Rifle Bn
    • Rifle Bn
    • 81 mm Mortar Coy
    • 65/17 Artillery Battery

  • 28th Infantry Regiment Pavia
    • Command Coy
    • Rifle Bn
    • Rifle Bn
    • Rifle Bn
    • 81 mm Mortar Coy
    • 65/17 Artillery Battery
  • 6th Armoured Battalion
  • 5th Armoured Car Battalion
  • 26th Artillery (Artiglieria a Cavallo) Regiment Rubicone
  • 77th Anti Aircraft Battalion
  • 679th Carabinieri Platoon
  • 207th Motorized Transport Section
    • 135th Motorized Transport Company
  • 21st Medical Section
    • 66th Field Hospital
    • 84th Field Hospital
  • 71st Field Bakery
  • 54th Field Post

from June 1942 was added
  • 17th Mixed Engineer Battalion



See also

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