|World War II Armed Forces — Orders of Battle and Organizations||Last Updated 13.03.2009|
Army of the Kingdom of Albania
Article by Susan Cross
April 7, 1939
Albania had unified armed forces; everything was organized as the "Ushtria Shqipëtarë", or Albanian Army.
King Zog I (Ahmed Zogu) was head of state and commander in chief (Marshal of Albania); there was apparently no Ministry of Defense; the king acted as his own minister.
The Commandant was Gen. Xhemal Aranitasi
The Chief of Staff was Gen. Gustaq Mirdaic
The General Staff ("Shtabi Madhor")
Chief of Staff
Adjutant (Captain 1st Class)
Secretary (Platoon Leader)
Organization and Mobilization Section
Discipline and Penal Department
Medical amd Veterinary Troops
Commissariat (Logistics) Troops
Command Headquarters Section
Royal Guard ("Garda Mbretnorë")
Royal Border Guards ("Roja Mbretnorë e Kufrit")
The Medical and Veterinary Troops provided personnel to the various commands and field units, in addition to four army hospitals (presumably one per military zone, most likely situated in the towns of Shkoder , Tiranë, Vlorë and Sarandë.
The Logistics Troops likewise supported the commands and field units, and may have included the four otherwise unidentified "special companies", one per military zone (="support companies"?, see under engineers).
Of uncertain subordination at Tiranë were the
Army School (NCOs)(1931) Maj. Sutki Shkupat
Army College (officers)(1933)
School of Perfection (officers)
A permanent court-martial at Tiranë served the entire army.
Personnel and Equipment
It is important to remember the presence of the Italian military mission: averaging 200 officers and men during the late Thirties, this was attached to the Albanian army at every level in every arm except the Gendarmerie: virtually every training officer was Italian, which affected the Albanian ability to resist in 1939.
Between 1926 and 1938, 167 Albanians were trained at the Military Schools at Roma, Milano and Napoli; in April 1939, a total of 59 were there. 61 student officers were at the Academies: 41 at Modena (Infantry and Cavalry), 15 at Turin (Artillery and Engineers), 4 at Rome (Finance Guards) and Zog's nephew who was an aviation cadet at Caserta. Also, 72 Albanians were being trained at the School of Application , and 27 officers were seconded to regular Italian units for instruction.
Sources give 15,000officers and men as being the strength of the army proper, but Bernd Fischer says the number with the units was closer to 8,000 (4,000 in the winter). On paper there were:
12 lieutenant colonels
860 platoon leaders
1,200 "shuma" or tribal officers
One Albanian source gives 450 officers, 740 NCOs and 9,100 men on April 7, 1939 (obviously excluding the Gendarmerie and Border Guards). The Italians reported the number of officers to be, by arm:
338 infantry (including Gendarmerie?)
20 medical and veterinary
52 recruiting officers
The weapons reportedly on hand included
23,000 Italian rifles/3 days ammunition
6,000 ex-Austrian rifles (1 days' ammunition)
60 Fiat machine guns (3 days' ammunition) (plus 12 with the Gendarmerie)
18 Schwarzelose machine guns (1 days' ammunition) (plus 24 with the Gendarmerie)
as well as artillery noted below.
The Albanians had 25,000 rifles and 60 machine guns on order (6 days ammunition on April 7, 1939), of unknown but presumably Italian make. In the last days before the invasion the Albanian government requested the Greeks to sell them 25,000 rifles, 100 machine guns and ammunition, but there was no indication the Greeks were willing to provide these, and in any case it was too late.
Infantry (="Armët e Këmbsorisë")
The original plan was for the army to have three "infantry groups"(="Grupit Këmbsorisë"), each of three infantry battalions, three mountain batteries (2 x 65mm L/17), an engineer company and supporting elements such as transport, logistics and signals. Grupit I seems to have never been formed, but Grupit II and Grupit III did exist before 1939, both headquartered at Tiranë. Apparently these were no longer constituted on April 7, and the former commander of Grupit II had by that date become commander of Zona I.
In 1939 only seven of the nine planned infantry battalions were active:
3 infantry companies (="kompani")
Co Hqs ca. 15-20 men
3 platoons (= "togë") 35 men
Platoon Leader (= "toger")
3 squads (="skuadra")
10 corporals and soldiers
1 machine gun company
3 machine gun platoons
4 Fiat or Schwarzelose machine guns
Contrary to reports, there were no light machine guns at squad level.
A reported strength of 21 officers, 37 NCOs and 422 corporals and privates was almost certainly the light establishment. A light establishment battalion had only two rifle companies with the third in cadre, and on paper its machine gun company had only two platoons, but in practice there were only enough machine guns in service for two platoons in any case.
Artillery (="Armët e Artilerisë")
Commander Col. Sami Koka
Deputy Maj. Ahmet Rrojte
Italian advisor Lt.Col. Bombalti
In 1939 the army had eight of nine planned batteries (x2) of 65mm L/17 mountain guns (3 days ammunition), four batteries mountain guns (2x of Skoda 75mm L/13) (3 days ammunition), and two batteries of field guns (4x Krupp Model 1906 75mm L/27) (one horse-drawn, one nominally motorized)(1 day's ammunition)
(Note that in Italian practice, a day's ammunition for light artillery was 250 rounds)
There may have still existed in 1939 a "school battery" of unknown composition
There was also one battery of mountain guns (4x Skoda 75mm L/13)(horse-drawn) with the Gendarmerie and another (also 4x Skoda 75mm L/13 mountain guns) with the Royal Guard.
At Durrës there was in 1939 a coastal battery ("Prandaj", Cpt. Gjergj Mosko) of four Krupp Model 1906 75mm L/27, covering the port, in casements presumably built by Italian engineers.
Also at Durrës were two Turkish-era forts which had in 1912/1913 three light guns each, of unknown status in 1939.
Possibly under the artillery arm was the "Artilërisë Kunder Ajrorë" (AA Artillery) established in 1931 (in 1939, commanded by Major Rauf Fratari). This comprised "small caliber" batteries at Durrës, Shëngjinit and Sarandë. The army possessed 18 Schwarzelose MG (1 day's ammunition) ceded by the Italians, and since these ex-Austrian weapons existed in an AA mount (of which the Italians had acquired several hundred), possibly each battery comprised 6 of these.
Sources mention a formation called the "Grupi i Artilërisë Divisionalë" (Maj. Ahmet Rrojte ?). If this was the designation for the field/mountain artillery under army command, it comprised
One group mountain artillery
3 batteries with mountain guns (2x Skoda 75mm L/13)(pack)
One group field artillery
1 battery with field guns (4x Krupp 75mm L/27)(horse drawn)
1 battery with field guns (4x Krupp 75mm L/27)(motorized)
All other batteries were subordinated to the Military Zones and Durrës Garrison
Engineers (="Armët e Xhenios")
Of four planned companies "ZM" (sappers-miners), three were active in 1939
3? Engineer platoons
A bridging section or column also existed at army level(="seksion urahedhës")
As in the Italian army the engineers included signal and transport troops
One combined Wire, Radio and Telephone Company (="kompani glihdjës radio e telephone") served the needs of the entire army
CO (1 riding horse)
Hqs 1 truck/driver
6 radio stations R-3 (mule transport) [R-3: a morse set of 35km range, 2000-2500 KHz (stations attached to military zone)]
2 radio stations R-5 (truck-borne) [R-5: 150 km voice/350 km morse, 158-476 KHz (at army level)]
Section Photo-Electric (12 mules)
Motor transport centered on the automobile unit (="autoreparti") at Tiranë (Maj. Halil Plaves). This comprised a
and presumably, a driving school
(600 trained drivers were available to the army)
A separate Ambulance Section existed, but it is unclear if this was organic to the Medical Troops or to the Automobile Unit.
Motor transport was organic to the various command Hqs and the Hqs of engineer and artillery units, otherwise about 250 trucks were in pool for major lifts; the vehicle inventory as of 1936 comprised 200 cars and light trucks, 300 2-ton – 3-ton trucks and 20 buses. Types in service included Fiat 15ter, Fiat 521/521C, Fiat 525, Lancia I2 M, and a number of Romanian-built Ford cars and light trucks.
There was no cavalry arm; the transportation troops controlled the Armored Car and Tank Squadron (= "Skuadriljë e Automjesh dhë Tankesh") at Tiranë. In 1939 this had
2 Fiat 3000 (machine gun version) tanks, 6 Lancia IZ and 2 Fiat armored cars and 6 Ansaldo CV3/33 tankettes (1938). It is unknown how many were still running in 1939.
No motorized infantry existed as such; the armored squadron and motorized field battery may be the "two motorized units" reported. But note that Albania was in a position to provide motorized lift for some foot infantry units, within the limits of the road system.
(There were about 2200km of government-maintained roads suitable for motor vehicles, and another 400km maintained by various communes.)
A so-called "support company" TOE existed; it is unclear if this was a permanent formation or was created ad hoc to support units in the field
1 riding horse (CO)
24 horses (6-12 wagons?)
mule pack trains
About 1938 the commander of the naval force was the Italian naval officer Capt. E. Taddei; it is unknown if he was still in command on April 7, 1939 . Before that time the declared strength of the navy was 17 officers and about 140 petty officers and sailors.
The Navy comprised a Hqs with a staff of five "bureaus", four captains of the port (Shëngjinit, Durrës, Vlorë and Sarandë), and the "Flotilla":
There also existed the royal yacht " Albania ". This may have had an Italian crew.
The gunboats "Shqipëria" ex German FM 16 and "Shkenderbeut" ex FM 23 were damaged during civil unrest in 1935 and not returned to service.)
These vessels were all inactive in 1939; only the port captains' offices were still operating. The Italians recorded only 10 naval officers at the time of the invasion, and an unknown number of enlisted men.
Part of the crews of the laid-up patrol boats were serving in an under strength naval infantry platoon ("togë i marinës") at Durrës on April 7.
Unlike the rest of the Albanian army the Gendarmerie had British advisors on its staff and with the units. King Zog, regarding them as a necessary counterweight to the army steadfastly refused to replace them with Italian officers, to the chagrin of Mussolini. In April 1939 the gendarmes put up a more spirited resistance at Durrës and elsewhere than did the Italian-dominated regular army.
There were six battalions:
Gendarmerie Battalion Gjinokaster (Maj. Gjek Mirashi)
600 men, 4 Schwarzelose machine guns, 12 rifle grenade launchers
Gendarmerie Battalion Berat (Maj. Mahmut Golomi)
500 men, 4 Schwarzelose machine guns
Gendarmerie Battalion Elbasan (Maj. Xhafer Shkami)
400 men, 4 Schwarzelose machine guns
Gendarmerie Battalion Shkoder (Maj. Llesh Mirashi)
400 men, 4 Schwarzelose machine guns
Gendarmerie Battalion Durrës (Capt. Xhemal Herri)
500 men, 4 Schwarzelose machine guns
Gendarmerie Battalion Kukës (Maj. Lufti Batku)
400 men, 4 Schwarzelose machine guns
Instruction Battalion at Burrel (Maj. Murat Basha)
600 men, battery (x4) Skoda 75mm L/13, company 12 Fiat machine guns
Thirty-one companies were active. It was intended to have 10 battalions (1 per prefecture), with 39 companies (1 per sub-prefecture), but this was not achieved. On paper the Gendarmerie had 136 officers, 440 NCOs and 3,206 corporals and gendarmes, but the Italians found only 131 officers and 2,736 other ranks, which does not tally with the strengths reported for the major units; those were theoretical only.
Commander: Col. Hysen Selmani
In April 1939 this reportedly had a strength of 926 officers and men.
4 rifle companies
cavalry squadron (extrapolated from a film footage of a parade about 1938)
The infantry battalion was reported as having 21 officers, 37 officers and 422 corporals and guardsmen, but note this is the strength of the light establishment infantry battalion. A strength of 562 was reported in the late Thirties. In April 1939 the Italians found in five companies (including the ceremonial?)
28 officers (4 Italian)
6 senior NCO ("marescialli")
522 corporals and guardsmen
The artillery battery is given in Albanian sources as
4 x Skoda 75mm L/13 mountain guns
The cavalry squadron is given in various sources as 71-91 officers and men, up from a single troop of about 32 in the late Twenties.
When the band was incorporated into the Italian army it had 34 members and the depot, 1 officer and 39 men.
Half the army appeared to be deployed around Tiranë to protect the central government from civil unrest, and the Royal Guard to protect the King from assassination and military coups. Different sources report that the guard was recruited in the south (Greek Orthodox, as opposed to the Muslims that inhabited the Tiranë region), or in the north (the Mahti region, Muslim, but also King Zog's home and power base), and the Italians re-organized the Guard into a battalion with two oversize companies ("North" in trousered uniforms and "South", kilted as the Greek Evzones). It is probable that two infantry companies were from the south and two from the north, with the ceremonial company having contingents from both.
Royal Border Guard
Commander: Col. Ali Rizaja
Advisor: Lt.Col. Enrico Palondrit
Border Battalion Korçë (Capt. Rexhep Radomires)
Border Battalion Delvine (Capt. Haxhi Gilagolit)
Border Battalion Durrës (Capt. Shaban Tiranes)
Border Battalion Shkoder (Cpt. Hamdi Jusufit)
Instruction Battalion Korçë ( Col. ? Preng Pervizit)
Battalion organization (tentative)
The Border Guard had a statutory strength of 91 officers, 222 NCOs and around 1500 guards and soldiers, in 14 companies of 48 platoons subdivided into 119 squads, and for once an Albanian command seemed to have about that strength on the eve of the invasion. The Guard was more of a fiscal or customs police than a military arm, and was incorporated into the Italian finance guards after the invasion.
Unlike in many armies, the reserve or "Forcat Vullnetar" was not composed of men who had finished their compulsory training and were called back to their units periodically, but was a volunteer force. These men were collectively known as the "kreshnikë" (=berserkers) after the Albanian troops who had served the Ottomans.
The strength in 1939 was about 8,000 officers and men, in nominal battalions based on ten prefectures (subdivided into 26 sub-prefectures)
As planned the battalions were to have 2-3 infantry companies (at sub-prefecture level) each of several platoons, and in some cases the battalion would have a machine gun company, but the arms made available were meager.
The volunteers were seen as auxiliaries for security and line of communications duties, and some were attached to regular units, for example the coastal battery at Durrës had 30 volunteers assigned to it.
In addition to the uniformed volunteers there was in rural and hill districts a loosely-constituted tribal militia or levy known as the "Shuma" (= host, many, all) which was very much on a come-as-you-are basis for clothing and arms. There were 29,860 men (with 1,200 officers, officially ranking below platoon leaders in the regular army) as of April 1939 with about 28,000 privately-held weapons ranging from Vetterli's and Vitali's to Turkish-era muzzle loaders.
For completeness, there were also the three "Girl's Battalions" enrolling the young womanhood of the capital and surrounding region, which were named after and led by the three oldest sisters of King Zog:
These paraded and performed calisthenics and good works, but had no real military function or potential.
Albanian law provided for the creation of an air arm with 3 reconnaissance aircraft, 3 spare engines and 39 officers and men; this may be "left over" from 1913, when Albania had ordered three Löhner "B" biplanes.
Time magazine's April 17, 1939 article on the invasion reported that Albania possessed two aircraft, and at least one internet source says there were two trainers in service. In 1931, 1934 and 1937 King Zog had ordered the creation of an air force, but civil unrest had each time prevented this. During the Thirties several Albanian officers had received flight training in Italy , including a nephew of Zog who was a flying cadet at the Italian aeronautical academy at Caserta .
Photographs exist of an Albatros C.XV aircraft after delivery to Albania c. 1922, and according to a posting on an internet forum, 5 "Albatros-Fokker" aircraft were delivered at that time. A German aircraft site lists five Albatros L45 (C.XV converted to a civil aircraft) but does not mention a customer. If these were in fact for Albania it is understandable that they would be delivered as civil aircraft, Germany at that time being forbidden to export military equipment. Two L45 could very well still have been on strength as late as April 1939, putatively for an airmail service.
Piero Crociani, "Gli Albanesi Nelle Forze Armate Italiane (1939-1945)", Roma 2001
Bernd Fischer, "Albania at War, 1939-1945", London , 1999
Wheel and Track magazine
Time Magazine, April 17, 1939 (article "A Birth and a Death")
"Jane's Fighting Ships", London, various years
"League of Nations Armaments Yearbook", Geneva, various years 1924-1938
e-archives of Korrieri, Tiranë Gazeta and other Albanian newspapers
on-line articles of the Albanian Headquarters and General Staff website
on-line articles of Ushtria Gazeta (Army Gazette)
photos, text, discussion forums of various Albanian-, Italian-, English- and Spanish-language websites
Albanian-language Wikipededia artices on air defense, police, geography etc
YouTube videos of troops parading, being reviewed by Zog, greeting Victor Emmanuel III, etc.
I am especially indebted to Arturo Lorioli for information on Italian-made radios