M13/40 tanks of the VII Battaglione, Ariete Armored Division

Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 tanks of the VII Battaglione, 32 Reggimento Carri, Ariete Armored Division just before the Axis advance on El-Agheila. After the Italian Tenth Army was destroyed in Operation Compass (December 8, 1940-March 21, 1941) General Erwin Rommel and the units known as the Afrika Korps were sent to North Africa. Ordered to stabilize and hold the line, he immediately launched a counter-offensive. After taking El-Agheila (March 24), Mersa Brega (April 1), Benghazi (April 3), capturing XIII Corps commander General Sir Richard O'Connor (April 6), Mechili (April 7) and approaching Tobruk (April 11), encircling and besieging it. His German-Italian forces had maneuvered some 500 kilometers (310 miles) in combat operations, according to VII Battaglione commander S. Andreani. In his after action report, he found fault with the M13/40, which had recently become available. He found the engine underpowered, the armor too weak to withstand Allied guns, and the moving parts (like the turret and running gear) were prone to failing in contact with sand. The armor cracked when hit and the riveted construction caused the bolts to turn into shrapnel inside the tank. His men lacked enough training, and because of a two-year enlistment in the Italian Army, VII Battaglione lacked experienced tankers to train new replacements, most men having only twenty-five days of training. Despite the lack of reliability in their vehicles, the Italians and their M13/40s accompanied Rommel into Tobruk in June 1942. The M13/40 was given a new engine in 1941 and designated the M14/41, which solved some of the problems but it was obsolete compared to the M3 Grant and M4 Sherman available to the Allies. The M13/M14 served throughout World War II.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Date Photographed: 
Monday, March 24, 1941