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CCNN, Italian Black Shirts

Avanti

CCNN, The Italian Black Shirts

By Kim Alberto

The ‘Black Shirts’ (‘Camice Nere’ or CCNN) were the party militia of the Italian Fascist Party. Like their ‘Brown Shirt’ German counterparts of the SA, their role was to provide the Party with a politically-reliable armed force. The militia’s full name was the Milizia Voluntaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MVSN, Volunteer Militia for National Security), but they were more commonly known by the nickname they gained from the black shirts of their uniform.

In the 1930’s, the Black Shirts formed proper military units, sending whole divisions to fight in the Spanish Civil War and in Abyssinia and having a legion attached to most infantry divisions. When the fighting started in North Africa, the Black Shirts fielded six divisions named after important dates in Fascist history, 23 Marzo, 28 Ottobre, 21 Aprile, 3 Gennaio, 1 Febbraio and Trevere. Unfortunately, all of these were destroyed in the disastrous defeat in February 1941.     

By 1942, the Black Shirts’ military reputation was at low ebb. Their political reliability was proving poor compensation for inadequate training. The ccnn legions were withdrawn from combat duties.

In their place came the new ‘M’ Battalions. The ‘M’ may have stood for ‘Mussolini’ as the original insignia was designed to match the Duce’s handwriting, but others have argued that the ‘M’ stood for ‘Morte’ or ‘Death’.

These new CCNN ‘M’ Battalions were selected from units that had already proven themselves in combat and received special assault training. 

Normally two battalions, called a ‘coorte’ or ‘cohort’, were grouped together into a ‘legion’, harking back to the ancient glory the Roman legions.

CCNN troops in the desert
CCNN HMG team

Keeping with the theme, a company was designated as a ‘centuria’ or ‘century’ commanded by a ‘centurione’, and a platoon as a ‘manipolo’ or ‘maniple’ commanded by a ‘capomanipolo’. These ‘M’ legions were attached to the army as independent units assigned as needed.

CCNN Legions In the Mid War Period

The new CCNN ‘M’ legions served in every theatre that the Italian Army fought.

North Africa

The X ‘Voghera’ ‘M’ Battalion fought as part of the 136th ‘Giovani Fascisti’ Motorised Divison in Tunisia, before switching to 16th ‘Pistoia’ Division for the rest of the campaign.

Right: An ’M’ Battalion legionare wearing his black shirt under his Grey-Green tunic. The Tunic has the ’M’ Battalion collar badge.

Sicily

The forces defending Sicily included three CCNN legions. These were split up to support various combat groups as follows.

XVII (17) Legione was part of 26a Divisione da Montagna ‘Assietta’
XVII (17)  ‘Cremona’ Coorte—Attached to the Campobello (or Licata) Group
XVIII (18) ‘Constantissima’ Coorte—Remained with division.

CLXXI (171) Legione was part of 28a Divisione Fanteria  ‘Aosta’
CLXVIII (168) ‘Ibla’ Coorte—Attached to the Alcamo-Partinico Group
CLXXI (171) ‘Vespri’ Coorte— Attached to the Alcamo-Partinico Group

CLXXIII (173) Legione was part of 54a Divisione Fanteria  ‘Napoli’
CLXIX (169) ‘Siracusae’ Coorte— Attached to the Mobile Group ‘G’
CLXXIII (173)  ‘Salso’ Coorte—Attached to the Comiso-Ispica Group

CCNN soldier
CCNN trooper

Russia

Two raggruppamenti CCNN, or CCNN groups, fought in ARMIR, the Italian Army in Russia.

Raggruppamento CCNN ’23 Marzo’ was part of II Corpo d’Armata.
Gruppo battaglione CCNN ‘M’ ‘Leonessa’
XIV & XV (14 & 15) Coorte
Gruppo battaglione CCNN ‘M’ ‘Valle Scrivia’
V & XXXIV (5 & 34) Coorte

Raggruppamento CCNN ’3 Gennaio’ was part of XXXV Corpo d’Armata.
Gruppo battaglione CCNN ‘M’ ‘Montebello’
VI & XXX (6 & 30) Coorte
Gruppo battaglione CCNN ‘M’ ‘Tagliamento’
LXIII & LXXIX (63 & 79) Coorte 

Right: ’M’ Battalion collar badge.

Fielding A Centuria CCNN In Flames Of War

To field a Centuria CCNN (Black Shirt Century) use the Bersaglieri Rifle Company on page 29 of Avanti and use the Blackshirts command card.

"M" badge
CCNN solder in Fez

Miniatures and Uniforms

The CCNN can be easily fielded using the Fucilieri  Miniatures with no modifications or the Bersaglieri miniatures by filing off the helmet feathers. Just paint any exposed shirts black rather than light grey-green. Even in Africa they retained their distinctive black shirts.

Instead of the Bustina side cap, it was common for CCNN troops to be issued with a black fez. Officers often wore a black Bustina.

Trousers or Pantaloons often had a narrow black stripe running down the sides.

Left: CCNN soldier off to war, he wears a black shirt and a black fez.


Last Updated On Tuesday, January 11, 2022 by Wayne at Battlefront