Despite the attention paid to the Afrikakorps over the years, it was the numerically far superior forces of the Italian Army that held the line and formed the bulk of the fighting power available to the Axis powers during the War in the Desert from 1941 through to 1943. Their performance has been unfairly criticised over the years – the best units of the Italian Army were equal to those of the British and Germans – but they suffered from a lack of mobility and poor equipment that made it impossible for them to meet mobile British forces on anywhere near equal terms. Despite this, the Italian Army went through many changes through the period, with the introduction of a variety of elite units – armoured, mechanised and parachute divisions that did much to restore the fighting reputation of the Italian soldier in the desert war. Their German allies belatedly acknowledged this with the redesignation of Panzerarmee Afrika as 1st Italian Army in February 1943. This title details recruitment, organisation and experience of the Italian forces in this theatre, casting new light on a force whose fighting power and capabilities have been unfairly ignored and maligned for too long.
Read an extract of Italian soldier in North Africa 1941–43