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Knights On The Eastern Front

Knights On The Eastern Front: Fielding Italian Calvary 
with Livio Tonazzo

Italian cavalry is renowned for having performed one of the last successful cavalry charges in history. On 24th August 1942, near the small village of Isbuscenskij, 700 cavalrymen of the Savoia Cavalleria Regiment charged 2,500 riflemen of the Soviet 304th Infantry Division. The battle was short but very intense, and was only decided when the last squadron available, mostly comprised of wounded soldiers and auxiliary staff, the broke the Soviet resistance. The Italians suffered 32 losses while Soviets had 150 soldiers killed and 600 captured.

Usually Italian cavalry fought dismounted during the fighting on eastern front, and only used horses to redeploy quickly.

I’ve always been fascinated by the presence of cavalry or ‘knights’ during the World War Two. In Italian the word ‘cavaliere’ translates as knight or cavalryman. It brings to mind the romantic period, and mixes both ancient and modern times, where weapons have gone from ‘arrows and swords’ to the first use of nuclear weapons.

For this reason I couldn’t resist assembling a Cavalry Force on the Eastern Front using Avanti.

I chose the Bersaglieri Rifle Company Formation as the main Formation of my list. I started with the HQ and added 3 infantry platoons. The third platoon seems to be redundant but a Gruppo Squadroni (Cavalry Company) had three Squadroni (Cavalry Platoons) so to be accurate I’m forced to make this choice! Squadroni should be 7-stands strong but it isn’t a big problem: I take all of them as 5-bases strong to represent losses suffered during the campaign. I’ve also equipped them with pazzaglia bombs since cavalry didn’t have anti-tank guns and they did really trust on improvised anti-tank weapons to face tanks.

Knights On The Eastern Front

A platoon of HMG is also chosen as part of Formation. Gruppo Squadroni technically had two of these platoons but the other one could have been destroyed or employed elsewhere.

There were no mortars (either light or medium) or 47/32 anti-tank guns attached to the organic cavalry Gruppo Squadroni, but some of these units were occasionally assigned to them to make them more flexible. An example was the Tactic Group Lancieri di Novara on February 1942 that depended from the German III Armoured Army Corp. The received 81/14 mortars and 47/32 anti-tank guns. I will take both of these and complete the infantry formation.

Knights On The Eastern Front

Since Cavalry Regiment were part of a Divisione Celere (Fast Division) sometimes they received the support of the LXVII Battaglione Corazzato and its L6/40 light tanks. I choose an entire formation at full strength from the Light Tank Company Command Card. So 4 tanks in the HQ unit and 3 platoons of 5 tanks. They are quite useless against enemy tanks but can be dangerous against light vehicles and infantry. And after all, aren’t they the successors of the cavalry?

Now it’s time to talk about support. My first choice is a battery of 25pdr with softskin transport. Yes, I know, there were no 25pdr at all for Italians on the eastern front but there was the Voloire! This unit is a horse-drawn artillery battery equipped with 75/27 Cannon that was directly descended from the Napoleonic period tradition. They fought well both as artillery and a direct-fire battery thanks to their Effetto Pronto (HEAT) ammunition. I think that the captured British guns are similar enough while softskin transport card can represent the horse limbers.

Speaking of artillery I’ve also taken a 100mm Howitzer battery, also with softskin transports, but not to represent horses, as many Howitzer batteries had Dovunque trucks to tow them.

For the remaining points I choose a little German allied support by including a Mixed Panzer Platoon from Iron Cross. 3 Panzer III (one with long 5cm gun) represents some of the 10-20 tanks still in service with the 27th Panzer Division that was mostly destroyed after Stalingrad.

Knights On The Eastern Front

Here is my list below:

Bersaglieri Rifle HQ - 1pt
Bersaglieri Rifle Platoon (5 bases) + Pazzaglia Bombs Command Card - 7pts
Bersaglieri Rifle Platoon (5 bases) + Pazzaglia Bombs Command Card - 7pts
Bersaglieri Rifle Platoon (5 bases) + Pazzaglia Bombs Command Card - 7pts
Breda MG Platoon - 3pts
81mm Mortar Platoon - 5pts
47mm Anti-Tank Platoon - 8pts

L6/40 Light tank Platoon HQ (4 tanks) - 4pts
L6/40 Light Tank Platoon (5 tanks) - 5pts
L6/40 Light Tank Platoon (5 tanks) - 5pts
L6/40 Light Tank Platoon (5 tanks) - 5pts

4 100mm Howitzer + Captured 25pdr Artillery Command Card + Softskin Transport - 13pts
4 100mm Howitzer + Softskin Transport - 13pts
Mixed Panzer Platoon (3 tanks, 1 long 5cm) - 17pts

Knights On The Eastern Front

So that’s my Italian Cavalry list. If you want to create your own don’t forget to paint red neckties and a big black cross on the front of their helmet. CARICAT!
~Livio


Last Updated On Thursday, March 7, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront