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Enter the Italians (May 1940 - February 1941)

Enter the Italians (May 1940 - February 1941)

The Northern African Campaign was strategically important for both the Allies and the Axis powers. The Allies used the campaign as a step towards a second front against the Axis powers in "Fortress Europe", and it helped to ease Axis pressure on the Eastern Front. The Axis powers had planned to dominate the Mediterranean through control of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal and planned to follow a successful campaign in North Africa with a strike north to the rich oil fields of the Middle East. This would have cut off nearby oil supplies to the Allies, and would have tremendously increased the oil supplies available for the Axis war machine.

On September 13th, 1940, Italy launched the Tenth Army stationed in Libya in a 200,000 troop invasion into the British protectorate of Egypt and set up defensive forts at Sidi Barrani. But Italian Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, Governor-General of Libya, with little intelligence on the state of Allied forces there, chose not to continue further towards Cairo.

The Allied forces were outnumbered, 36,000 men compared to a total of 200,000. Nevertheless at the end of 1940 they launched a counter-attack, Operation Compass. It was more successful than expected and resulted in the destruction of most of the Italian Tenth Army, and the advance of the Allied forces to El Agheila. The stunning defeat did not go unnoticed and fresh Italian troops under Uldo Capzoni together with German troops, the Deutsches Afrikakorps under Erwin Rommel were sent in to reinforce the Italian forces in western Libya. At the same time the forces who had just routed the Italians were withdrawn from the Western Desert. An Australian infantry division was sent to reinforce the Greek armies fighting the Axis invasion of Greece while the 7th Armoured Division was sent to the Nile Delta to refit. They were replaced by the British 2nd Armoured and the Australian 9th Divisions.

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Italian Lancia Armored Car Italian Lancia Armored Car [EDG Packaging] (1:43 Scale)

The Lancia armored car was a nearly exact copy of the British Daimler Dingo 4 x 4 scout car. Armed with two x 8mm MG and one 47mm Gun, the Lancia was produced after the Italo-Allied armistice and was used by the RSI. All told, some 250 units were made.

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British Morris Portee Gun Truck British Morris Portee Gun Truck (1:43 Scale)

In Italian, Camionetta loosely translates as Jeep, and is usually used to refer to most trucks and soft vehicles modified to mount a weapon and fight "in the front line". This particular Camionetta sports a fields howitzer mounted in the rear compartment.

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Italian Fiat TL 37 Tratore Artillery Tractor Italian Fiat TL 37 Tratore Artillery Tractor [EDG Packaging] (1:43 Scale)

The Fiat SPA TL-37 artillery tractor was an innovative design produced for the Italian army during WWII. One of the main characteristics of the design was the system of all-wheel steering. All-wheel steering reduced the length of the vehicle and allowed for a much tighter turning radius.

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Italian Ansaldo AB41 Armored Car Italian Ansaldo AB41 Armored Car (1:43 Scale)

The AB 40 was developed by Spa and Ansaldo at the time of the Spanish Civil War to replace the aging Lancia I.Z. armored car. The first prototype was tested in mid 1939. The vehicle had a number of unique features - especially in it's steering and suspension.

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Italian AS-42 Saharianna Armored Car Italian AS-42 Saharianna Armored Car (1:43 Scale)

The AS-42 was an unusual but highly successful vehicle derived from the AB 41 armored car with some improved features found in the AB 43. Primarily used as a reconnaissance vehicle and designed for operations in North Africa, the AS-42 would eventually see service in a variety of other roles including pursuit of raiding parties and operation behind enemy lines.

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British Matilda Mk. II Tank - Unidentified Unit, North Africa, 1941 British Matilda Mk. II Infantry Tank - Unidentified Unit, North Africa, 1941 (1:32 Scale)

The Mark I Matilda was developed in response to a 1934 requirement for a close-support infantry tank. Well armored for its day, it was, nevertheless, a small, simple tank. Despite being sturdy enough to withstand hits from most German tank guns in the early stages of WWII, it was too poorly armed to be of much use as the war progressed.

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