Section Eleven: The Fall of Mussolini

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  • Created by: naomi
  • Created on: 26-04-13 17:07

Lack of Military Preparation

  • when war broke out in 1939, Italy still needed another few years to prepare and when they did join, they expected war to be over by September 1940
  • though Italy had spent 1..8% of national income on the armed forces, this was spent on inadequate weaponry and wasted on luxurious living quarters for officers while ordinary soldiers were sent to fight in the snow with carboard shoes
  • Mussolini claimed there were 8 million bayonets ready but by June 1940 only 800 thousand soldiers were equipped with weapons dating back to WW1
  • Italy possessed just 1500 armoured cars and light tanks and inferior quality planes, most of which were grounded for long periods of time
  • lack of preparation also meant bad strategy with Mussolini placing all military power in hi own hands but not thinking things through and relying merely on intuition
  • thus, soldiers were poorly trained with officers using outdated defensive traditions and the navy unwilling to use new supplies and key materials like coal, oil and iron were still imported
  • food production dropped dramatically as peasants were conscripted to the army, with wheat production dropping by 1.5 million tonnes
  • Mussolini refused to introduce rationing until as late as 1941, by which time bread rations became 150 grams per person each day
  • in 1943 these shortages led to a wave of strikes
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Military defeats

  • military defeats destroyed the image of Italy being a powerful world player that Mussolini had tried to create
  • he opened up multiple fronts in Egypt and Greece but the army did not have the resources to fight so many battles and so both offensives ground to a halt
  • in 1941 Italy was persuaded to accept German general Rommel as axis commander and Germany defeated Greece, showing Italy to be only a minor partner and causing great embarrassment to Mussolini
  • in April 1941 Italy lost its east African empire to UK troops and this was final proof of military failure
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Italian Economy was not Self Sufficient

  • by 1940, the Italian economy was not self sufficent and large-scale armaments production was a problem as Italy lacked raw materials like coal and iron ore
  • these had to be imported from Germany or German occupied territorise and as the war began to go badly, the Germans were reluctant to give up these scarce resources to the failing Italians
  • this meant a 20% drop in steel production between 1940 and 1942 and that loss in military equipment could not be replaced
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Mussolini was Losing Popularity

  • Mussolini was increasinly out of touch with the public and became a victim of his own propaganda
  • as the war went on, it became apparent that Mussolini's claims were false
  • there were not the 8 million bayonets he had promised and those who did believe the propaganda soon heard the truth from soldiers returning from Greece who told of lack of adequate clothing in the rainy season
  • many people had not even wanted to join the war and when Italy suffered so many humiliating defeats people were no longer interested in any possible war spoils
  • they just wanted the war to be over
  • Mussolini's image of infallibility had been shattered 
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Lost the Support of the Elites

  • by late 1942 industrialists and even Mussolini's own son in law believed that peace needed to be made
  • they believed Mussolini needed to go and this view was supported by conservatives and the king's court
  • Catholics and even senior fascists turned against Mussolini
  • Farinacci and De Bono persuaded Mussolini to call grand fascist council to discuss the military situation
  • on the 24th July they voted in favour of asking the king to restore power to parliament
  • Mussolini did not defend his position
  • however, the next day he visited the king asking to name new minister but was told he was the "most hated man in Italy"
  • he was then arrested
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This set of revision cards are very useful for revising the stages by which Mussolini became more unpopular during WW2.

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