During the epic battles across Libya both the Axis and Allied armies left huge swathes of equipment behind as armies went into rapid retreat. From this the British captured large numbers of Italian guns and weapons, and many were pressed into service with their new owners.
Lacking their own light anti-aircraft gun the British soon pressed the excellent Italian 20mm Breda into roles that the 40mm Bofors was too cumbersome for and the AA Bren was too light.
Initially this was anad hoc replacment of the AA Brens as the crews saw fit, but was officially formalised in 1943.
As with many guns in the desert, the 20mm Breda was carried portee on the back of trucks to ease passage over difficult terrain.
The Cannone-Mitragliera da 20/65 modello 35 (Breda), as it was called in Italian service, was designed as a dual purpose weapon for use against both ground and air targets. In action the gun required a three-man crew.
The aimer sat on the gun and used a complex telescopic sight incorporating a predictor function. Ammunition was fed into the gun on 12-round trays and the feed mechanism contained the feature of placing the spent cartridges back into the tray once it was fired.
Against ground targets the gun fired armour-piercing rounds. Aircraft targets were engaged with a high explosive projectile with a very sensitive percussion fuse to detonate against light aircraft structures. The projectile also had a self-destruct feature if it did not hit a target. The tripod platform of the gun provided a steady base for firing and against aircraft the gun proved very successful. Against tanks it was less effective.