|M11/39 medium tank|
Later, on January 24, 1941 the former commander of the Sirte Division, General Valentino Babini, rushed into service the newly organized Special Armored Brigade (“Brigata Corazzato Speciale”) which managed the seemingly impossible task of halting the British offensive, if only temporarily. The British were driving forward with an awesome attack force of some 177 tanks and the Italian Special Armored Brigade managed to totally destroy or disable 21 of them; a rather spectacular feat given how vastly outmatched the Italian forces were. The first year of the war had been a terrible one for the Italian forces in north Africa, without question, and yet, thanks to hard fought actions like these, the front in Cyrenaica was saved from total collapse. The 10th Army had been practically destroyed but because of the brave men who made huge sacrifices and stood down vastly superior enemy forces, the remaining troops were able to fall back to safety, reform, reorganize and before the British could achieve total victory the first units of the Afrika Korps had arrived and the initiative in the desert shifted to the Axis powers.
It is amazing what a handful of even outmatched M11 tanks can do with enough skill and courage driving them into battle.