The 1st Alpini Regiment (Italian: 1° Reggimento Alpini) was a light Infantry regiment of the Italian Army, specializing in Mountain Combat. The Alpini are a mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army, that distinguished itself in combat during World War I and World War II.
The 1st Alpini Regiment was formed on November 1, 1882. It consisted of three Battalions: "Alto Tanaro", Val Tanaro and Val Camonica, named after the valleys and localities from which their soldiers were recruited. In 1886 the Battalions were renamed, taking their new names from the location of their main logistic depot: Ceva, Pieve di Teco and Mondovì.
During World War I the regiment consisted of 9 battalions and saw heavy fighting in the Alps against Austria’s Kaiserjäger and Germany’s Alpenkorps. The battalions of the regiment in these days were (pre-war raised units in bold, followed by their first and second line reserve battalions): Ceva, Val Tanaro, Monte Mercantour
Pieve di Teco, Val Arroscia, Monte Saccarello
Mondovi, Val d'Ellero, Monte Clapier
On October 31, 1935, the 4th Alpine Division “Cuneense” was formed and was composed of the 1st Alpini and 2nd Alpini Regiment and the 4th Mountain Artillery Regiment. At the tine the regiment consisted of 160 officers and 5046 NCOs and soldiers for a total strength of 5,206 men. The regiment also had 23 horses, 1,242 mules and 109 transport vehicles at its disposal. The order of Battle was as follows: 1st Alpini Regiment HQ based in Mondovì
Command Company in Mondovì
Ceva Alpini Battalion in Ceva
1st Alpini Company in Ceva
4th Alpini Company in Bagnasco
5th Alpini Company in Ceva
101st Support Arms Company in Ceva
Pieve di Teco Alpini Battalion in Chiusa di Pesio
2nd Alpini Company in Chiusa di Pesio
3rd Alpini Company in Chiusa di Pesio
8th Alpini Company in Roccaforte Mondovì
102nd Support Arms Company in Chiusa di Pesio
Mondovì Alpini Battalion in Mondovì
9th Alpini Company in Torre Mondovì
10th Alpini Company in San Michele Mondovì
11th Alpini Company in Vicoforte
103rd Support Arms Company in Santuario di Vicoforte
84th 47/32 M35 Cannon Company in Mondovì
1st Health Company in Mondovì
612th Field Hospital in Mondovì
1st Sanitary Support Company in Beinette
21st Baggage Train Company in Mondovì
In 1935 the "Pieve di Teco" battalion was sent to fight in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, where it distinguished itself during the battles of Amba Aradam, Amba Alagi, Worq Amba, Mai Ceu and Mekan Pass.
On June 21, 1940 (one day before the French surrender) the “Cuneense” division began to advance with other Italian units into Southern France. The division was then sent to Albania, where it participated in the Italian attack on Greece. As the German Wehrmacht came to the aid of the beaten Italian armies in Albania in April 1941 through an invasion of Yugoslavia the “Cuneense” was sent north to aid the rapidly advancing German divisions. The Cuneense advanced through Montenegro and reached Dubrovnik by the end of the campaign.
In September 1942 the “Cuneense” was sent with the Alpini divisions Julia and Tridentina and other Italian units to the Soviet Union to form the ARMIR (Armata Italiana in Russia or Italian Army in Russia) and fight alongside the Germans against the Red Army. Taking up positions along the Don River, the Italian units covered part of the left flank of the German Sixth Army, which spearheaded the German summer offensive of 1942 into the city of Stalingrad.
After successfully encircling the German Sixth army in Stalingrad the Red Army’s attention turned to the Italian units along the Don. On January 14, 1943, the Soviet offensive Operation Little Saturn began and the three Alpini division found themselves quickly encircled by the rapidly advancing armoured Soviet Forces. The Alpinis held the front on the Don, but within three days the Soviets advanced 200 km to the left and right of the Alpini. On the evening of January 17 the commanding officer of the Italian Mountain corps General Gabriele Nasci finally ordered a full retreat. At this point the Julia and Cuneense divisions were already heavily decimated and only the Tridentina division was still capable of conducting combat operations. As the Soviets had already occupied every village bitter battles had to be fought to clear the way. On the morning of January 28 the men of the 1st Alpini Regiment had walked 200 km, fought in 20 battles and spent 11 nights camped out in the middle of the Russian Steppe. Temperatures during the nights were between -30 °C and -40 °C. In the course of that day, the last remnants of the regiment were annihilated by Cossack forces. The last survivors of the 1st Alpini regiment burnt the regimental colours to prevent it from falling in enemy hands, at which point the Regiment ceased to exist.
On February 11, 1943, the survivors were counted and out of 5,206 men of the 1st Alpini Regiment just 722 had reached Axis lines; none of the soldiers of the battalions Ceva, Pieve di Teco and Mondovì had made it out of the Soviet encirclement. 3,475 men of the 1st Alpini Regiment died in Russia. The survivors were repatriated and after the signing of the Italian armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943, the regiment was dissolved.
The 1st Alpini Regiment was reformed on November 23, 1945, but as the unit had burned its flag and thus lost its regimental colours, the regiment was finally disbanded on April 15, 1946.