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Of all the major naval powers of World War 2, it can be strongly argued that the Italian Navy (Regia Mariana) has had the least exposure in the English language. Maybe this lack of exposure is a remnant and testimony to the effectiveness of the Allied propaganda of the period, and the more recent invention of the internet, where all things Italian were seen as having 1 forward gear and 5 reverse gears, and where these myths & propaganda found a new home & audience. For those not fortunate to have access the Italian USMM, Revista Marratima or Storia Militare, then the works of Bragadin, O’Hara, Sadkovich, Greene & Massignani have been welcomed in helping rectify this imbalance over the years.
This latest work by the renowned Italian author Dr Maurizio Brescia is a work of authority and clarity. As a reference guide you will not find exhaustive descriptions concerning specific actions or battles, but something akin to the works of M.J.Whitley , though much more detailed. The sheer range of the book is a masterful balance and for which the author deserves due credit.
The book is broken down into some 10 chapters, though by far the largest is the 131pages of the fourth chapter, called Ships in Service 1940-5. Though in fact where necessary he goes on and charts the life of these vessels post 1945. The book is lavishly filled with photographs from the usual suspects to those concerning gun emplacement being constructed above Genoa, smoke generators on train wagons, to that of the armoured train firing during a drill. I personally found Chapter 2 on Dockyards, Naval Bases, Ports, Shipyards and Coastal Defences most enthralling. Its scant 11pages left you with a myriad of questions about a range of issues that none of the other English language tomes even come close to discussing or answering. Other chapters detail areas such as pre 1939 history, Fleet Organisation/Operations, Assault Craft, Naval Aviation, Naval Camouflage, Flags, Uniforms and a Who’s Who of the Italian Navy.
If anyone has a real interest in the Italian Navy of WW2 or wanting an understanding of the events, of which the Italian Navy were a part, then this book deserves, nay demands shelf space. My hope is that inspired by the success of this book, it will bring about, more quality books about the Italian Navy of WW2 in English.
5 stars out of 5
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Mussolini's Navy seems to owe much of its format to precedents set in The German Navy in World War Two. A Reference Guide to the Kriegsmarine, 1935-1945 by Jak P. Mallman Showell, (Arms & Armour Press, 1979). The subtitles and chapter headings and order are similar or identical, which gives us something directly to compare it with.
The first thing to say that the larger format and better quality paper allows Mussolini's Navy to reproduce its excellent photographs to much better effect. Add in a colour section and with it a chapter on camouflage that the The German Navy in World War Two lacks and you have much finer production of "coffee table" standard. (On these grounds I disagree with Andy that it should be on everyone's shelf. It should be visible on their table.)
On almost every level Mussolini's Navy seems the better, more comprehensive book, nearer to its primary sources and with better quality illustrations.
I am more than happy with the contents of Mussolini's Navy, so my only possible avenue of criticism would be to find something in The German Navy in World War Two that it lacks. All I could find was that the latter has more maps, making it easier to visualize operations.
Otherwise, I would like to have seen more operational coverage and plan view drawings to go with the profiles.
In essence, my only complaint is that the book wasn't bigger. Every review I have read of Mussolini's Navy gives it 5 stars, so it would be churlish to give it less. But, being a churl, I'll give it 4.5 stars.
We needed this book decades ago. Highly recommended.
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