Osprey's Italian Cruisers of WWII
48 pages, 7¼ x 9¼
The main purpose of the Italian fleet was to keep parity with the French. It was also pretty much a defensive fleet as it was designed to operate in the central Mediterranean, allowing Italy to keep open the shipping lanes between Italy, its surrounding islands, Albania, and its North African possessions. To that purpose, it built a series of both heavy and light cruisers to help fulfill that mission.
To my eye, these were some of the nicest looking ships of the period. They appeared to be fast and visually well balanced designs. However, like all warships, they were often a trade-off between speed, armament, and protection. Italy was a signatory of the various naval treaties of the 1920s and 30s. While they did cheat a bit on some of their later designs, they did the best they could, as did other nations.
The initial batch of heavy cruisers sacrificed protection for speed and armament. Interestingly, their turreted main guns did not have separate elevation abilities but were paired together. While this did save weight, it caused some rather odd ballistic anomalies as the shells fired from these guns interfered with each other. This made them less accurate. Italian warships also operated without radar, and their crews were not trained for night action, putting them at a distinct disadvantage when operating against the Royal Navy which did.
Italy produced three classes of heavy cruiser and five classes of light cruiser. They also operated ex-German WWI war prizes. These ships saw more action than most people realize, however, they were seriously hampered by the requirement that ship captains do as much as they could to not lose their ships in combat. Even when the Italians had the upper hand, they would break contact and withdraw for fear of losing their ship. This meant that the enemy, in this case the British, pretty much won every engagement and slowly eroded away at Italy's naval power. None of this was helped by lack of radar or night combat training.
In concert with other books of the series, we are provided the reason for the ships that were built, the design and construction of the various classes as well as their major equipment and modifications. Their combat record is also featured so that we can see how the ships performed. This is complemented by some great period photos and equally well done artwork.
Besides being my favorite Osprey series, this one is a superb look at these important, but often overlooked ships and is a book you really need to have on your shelves.
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