Between August 1944 and May 1945, French forces again faced Italian troops along the Alpine frontier. It comprised Whitley and Wellington bombers from No. He then revoked his countermand, only shifting the emphasis to the northern sector of the front, as his generals had urged all along. The Germans, during the day tomorrow and the day after, will send armoured columns originating from Lyon in the direction of Chambéry, Saint-Pierre de Chartreuse and Grenoble. [96] In the opinion of General Emilio Faldella, commander of the 3rd Alpini Regiment during the invasion of France, the Italian leadership was asking too much of its soldiers, At the front, near the border, the mission of the French forts was to delay the Italian army from reaching the line of defense, made up of steel and concrete fortifications. [100] The 1a Squadra Aerea in northern Italy, the most powerful and well-equipped of Italy's squadre aeree,[j] was responsible for supporting operations on the Alpine front. [103][104] On 11 June the king issued a proclamation to all troops, naming Mussolini "supreme commander of the armed forces operating on all fronts". The headquarters of No. [26] On 1 March, the British announced that they would block all coal exports from Rotterdam to Italy. A machine gun unit relieved them and they abandoned the assault, continuing instead to Séez. Their military contribution was so vast, that it played a decisive role in the victory of the Nationalist forces led by Francisco Franco. The gate housing included two small arms ports, while the blockhouse could cover the gate and the road beyond with its guns firing through embrasures in the heavy concrete guardpost. The Casemate du Pont Saint Louis was an advanced defensive work supported by Cap Martin and manned by the 96th BAF. Due to thunderstorms and problems locating their target, only one aircraft attacked the city during the early hours of the next day while the remainder returned to base. In contrast to the Maginot Line facing the German border, the fortifications in the Alps were not a continuous chain of forts. The goal of the Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, was the elimination of Anglo-French domination in the Mediterranean, the reclamation of historically Italian territory (Italia irredenta) and the expansion of Italian influence over the Balkans and in Africa. [156], To the south of the Alpine Corps, the I Army Corps advanced along a front of 40 km (25 mi) from Mont Cenis to the Col d'Étache. [87][88][91] Supporting Army Group West was 3,000 pieces of artillery and two independent armoured regiments. Italian Military Jokes - Battle of Pont Saint-Louis Like us on Facebook! [89][155] It opened its offensive along the whole front on 20 June and in most places was easily repulsed by French artillery. The British intelligence officer, Francis Rodd, believed that Mussolini was persuaded to reverse policy by German pressure in the week of 2–8 February, a view shared by the British ambassador in Rome, Percy Loraine. [169], At 1915 hours on 24 June, at the Villa Incisa, after receiving his government's permission, General Huntziger signed the armistice on behalf of the French, and Marshal Badoglio did so for the Italians. The French negotiators were the same who had met with the Germans. They advanced through the Col des Lacs Giaset and advanced down the valley of the Ambin. . For the fighting later in World War II, see, The phrase "prisoner in the Mediterranean" had been used in parliament as early as 30 March 1925, by the naval minister Admiral. [100] This did not deter the British. [70][71] The French held back part of the Armée de l'Air in case Italy entered the war, as Aerial Operations Zone of the Alps (Zone d'Opérations Aériennes des Alpes, ZOAA), with its headquarters at Valence-Chabeuil. [42] Mussolini visited the scene of the battle on 1 July and claimed, in a subsequent radio broadcast from Rome, that "our infantry were supported by an artillery train which came through the tunnel under La Mortola and shelled the strongly held town [Menton] in which the enemy was maintaining an obstinate resistance". They were not prepared to assault French fortifications, and their deployment did not change prior to June 1940. [125] Badoglio insisted that converting the troops from a defensive to an offensive disposition alone would take 25 days. [113] On 21 June, nine Italian bombers attacked the French destroyer Le Malin, but scored no hits. Most were forced to divert over the Alps because of icing conditions and turbulence. [182], The limited demands of the Italian government at the armistice led to speculation in contemporary Italian sources. Bob Ross would have his hair permed to save money on haircuts. It also had 3,500 mules (on which its artillery was carried) and horses, 68 motor vehicles, 71 motorcycles and 153 bicycles. The French, in order to prevent retaliatory Italian raids, blocked the runways and prevented the Wellingtons from taking off. . The 101st Motorised Division Trieste of the Army of the Po was brought up from Piacenza to reinforce the attack. [14] On 4 February 1939, Mussolini addressed the Grand Council in a closed session. In orders to his troops on 18 June, General Paolo Micheletti of the 1st Alpine Division Taurinense advised that "a strong resistance cannot be anticipated, owing to the shaken [French] morale. The Italian forces attacking through the Riviera—about 80,000 strong including reserves—advanced about 8 km (5 mi) on 21 June. [157], The 2nd Battalion of the 63rd Infantry Regiment crossed the Little Mont Cenis towards the village of Le Planay, where it joined the central column, while the 1st Battalion crossed the Pas de Bellecombe and augmented the central column at the village of La Villette. Since Reynaud's successor, General Pétain, was known to favour an understanding with Germany, Mussolini believed it was imperative that the Italians make gains before an armistice could be signed. He delivered a long speech on international affairs and the goals of his foreign policy, "which bears comparison with Hitler's notorious disposition, minuted by Colonel Hossbach". [59], As early as 14 May, the French Ministry of the Interior had given orders to arrest Italian citizens known or suspected of being anti-French in the event of war. The aftermath of the treaty saw the increasing ties between Italy and Germany, and Mussolini falling under Adolf Hitler's influence from which "he never escaped". [71][107] The Italian defensive attitude changed with the collapse of Paul Reynaud's government, in France, on 15 June. [186] Following the armistice, highlighting his unhappiness, he remarked that it was "more a political than a military armistice after only fifteen days of war—but it gives us a good document in hand". [107][108] Two days later, the army general staff (Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito) ordered the army group to strengthen its anti-tank defenses. [96][122] On the morning of 23 June, Italian pilots looking for the French artillery at Cap Martin, which was engaging Italian troops in Menton, accidentally bombed their own artillery on Capo Mortola, 10 km (6.2 mi) distant. [113], Immediately after the declaration of war, Haddock Force began to prepare for a bombing run. Italy declared war on France and Britain on the evening of 10 June, to take effect just after midnight. On 21 June, with a Franco-German armistice about to be signed, the Italians launched a general offensive along the Alpine front, the main attack coming in the northern sector and a secondary advance along the coast. The desperate defenders sent a fire-ship down from the inner roads, which compelled Elizabeth to cut her cable and warp out of danger.[4]. . [163] The initial disposition of the troops was defensive, and some studies had even predicted a French mustard gas attack. On 13 June, Mussolini offered to send one Italian armoured division to serve on the German front in France in exchange for 50 AA batteries. [b] He called Corsica, Tunisia, Malta, and Cyprus "the bars of this prison", and described Gibraltar and Suez as the prison guards. The army had failed to break through the Alps and the French were willing to fight on—as Huntziger had made clear to the Germans. On 21 June, the French battleship Lorraine, accompanied by the British cruisers HMS Orion and HMS Neptune, the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney, and a further four British destroyers, opened fire on the port of Bardia in Italian Libya. When Ciano presented the declaration, the French ambassador, André François-Poncet, was alarmed, while his British counterpart Percy Loraine, who received it at 1645 hours,[44] "did not bat an eyelid", as Ciano recorded in his diary. The two marshals unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Mussolini that this was not a wise course of action, arguing that the Italian military was unprepared, divisions were not up to strength, troops lacked equipment, the empire was equally unprepared, and the merchant fleet was scattered across the globe. Despite French misgivings, Britain rejected concessions to Italy so as not to "create an impression of weakness". [150][s] These forces were backed by 18 battalions with 60 guns. A near miss caused damage to the Italian ship's hull, but it managed to fire four torpedoes at the French force although none struck any targets. Due to misty conditions, the ship's commanding officer, Lieutenant Giuseppe Brignole, believed that he would be able to launch a torpedo strike upon the assaulting French. The Germans rapidly encircled the northern Allied armies. [172] The Italians also had an insufficient number of sappers and poor intelligence of French gun emplacements, making the elimination of the forts impossible. [29] Following a month of war, Poland was defeated. [163], On 17 June, the day after he transmitted a formal request for an armistice to the German government, French Foreign Minister Paul Baudoin handed to the Papal nuncio Valerio Valeri a note that said: "The French government, headed by Marshal Pétain, requests that the Holy See transmit to the Italian government as quickly as possible the note it has also transmitted through the Spanish ambassador to the German government.