The First South African Armoured Battle in Italy during the Second World War: The Battle of Celleno – 10 June 1944
The formation of 6 South African Armoured Division (6 SA Armd Div), during February 1943, afforded the Union Defence Force (UDF) the chance to expand its military capabilities to that of armoured warfare. An armoured division further offered South Africa the opportunity to equip the UDF with modern fighting equipment and to master the art of combined warfare. Actual deployment in Italy differed vastly from the training which the division received in North Africa, for Italy was arguably, largely “untankable”. The Division’s first battle occurred at Celleno, on 10 June 1944, where it was able to “prove” itself by securing its first victory. As far as secondary sources are concerned, the Battle of Celleno is only superficially covered. Primary sources are however abundant, thus adding to the rich history which is available on the Division. This article analyses the Battle of Celleno, fought by 11 SA Armoured Brigade, in the context of the notion of “first battles”.1 Emphasis will be placed on the training received prior to deployment, the Battle of Celleno, the lessons that were learned by the division at Celleno, and the way these influenced future operations in Italy. The Division’s combined-arms approach is also evaluated, with specific emphasis on changing patterns of leadership, command, and employment of the Division after Celleno.
Keywords: Union Defence Force, Italy, 6th South African Armoured Division, 11th South African Armoured Brigade, first battles, Celleno.