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Super marina nation
HOW many gears does an
action in the Otranto strait that
Italian tank have?
same night receives two pages.
Five: four for reverse, one for
Shedding light on many of
going forward in case they we they weere re
these ‘forgotten actions’ is not
attacked in the rear.
necessarily a bad thing – not least
What do you call 100,000l 100,000
because it shows the efforts made
Italians raising their hands in hands in
by the warring factions in the
the air? The army.
Mediterranean on a daily basis
Breaking news fromfrom
– but it does lead to a rather
blinkered view of the struggle for
Afghanistan: the Italianslians
the Middle Sea.
From Armada
have surrendered.
That said, there is some excellent
We could go on – butut t
myth-busting here. Contemporary
we won’t. Long is the
and post-war German
to Scapa Flow
shadow of WW2 that
commentators were scathing of
jokes about Italian
the Italian Navy’s performance
Empire of the Seas (£20,
military efficiency (or
(far more so than their British
Conway 978-184486-1095) is
otherwise) live on.
counterparts). Eberhard Weichold,
the book of the eponymous
Most relate to thethe
the Kriegsmarine’s liaison officer
documentary which should be
performance of the ItalianItalian
in Rome, thought the Italians
appearing on TV screens about
Army, the Regio Esercitoercieercitoto, , bbuut
“soft and weak”.
now (there’s no accompanying
not a few myths and slurlurss perpersistsist
They were neither: 98 per cent
T-shirt, thankfully...).
about its naval counterpart, the
of the troops and 90 per cent of
The programme is presented
Regia Marina: that it came off
the material escorted by the Regia
by Dan (son of Peter) Snow; the
worse in most actions it fought,
Marina reached its destination.
book features a few pictures of
that it turned for home at every
It paid a heavy price for its
Dan (in suitably brooding/pensive
efforts. Nearly two dozen Italian
mood), but the words are left to
The facts show us otherwise,
one of the authorities of the RN’s
● HMS Indomitable runs the gauntlet to Malta, escorted by HMS Charybdis, during the legendary
ships were sunk at the hands of
as Vincent O’Hara attempts to Pedestal convoy in August 1942
RN surface vessels (just three
history, Brian Lavery.
demonstrate in his Struggle for the
destroyers were sunk in surface
He’s produced a clutch of first-
Middle Sea: The Great Navies at
push on Cairo arrived safely. In end – but they waged a poor man’s sailors, could now be considered
actions by the Italians). Its record
rate books on many facets of the
War in the Mediterranean 1940-
the second half of the year, the war, lost almost every encounter open again”.
in night fighting was woeful. The
Senior Service.
1945 (Conway, £20 ISBN 978-
figure was just 15 in every 20. – and more than 60 vessels in The book is not without its
RN was better trained, better
Empire of the Seas is aimed at
No wonder, then, that as 1943 the process. Their sacrifice did, shortcomings. Some readers may
equipped, better informed and
the more general market/reader.
O’Hara looks at all five major
opened, the head of the Regia however, stall the Allied advice. feel the author gives the Italian
possessed a better doctrine.
Which is no bad thing because
powers whose navies fought for
Marina’s intelligence section O’Hara’s command of sources Navy too much credit, the RN too
Yet the Royal Navy was also – and
in this age of sea blindness its
control of the Middle Sea: Royal
Franco Maugeri wrote: “Our is impressive, in particular his little. And what certainly does raise
many commentators will challenge
worth reminding the Britons
Navy, Kriegsmarine, Marine situation now seems clear and use of British and Italian archival eyebrows Roger-Moore-fashion is this point – “workmanlike” at its
that the ‘great’ which was their
Nationale, US Navy and the sharp to me: we have lost the material. Referring to the latter the sidelining of submarine and worst and, above all, fought the
nation’s prefix for so long came
Italian fleet. war.” gives the Royal Navy’s then foe a aerial actions in favour of surface wrong war, the author believes,
courtesy of the Royal Navy.
The result is an excellent, The Italians bowed out of belated voice. clashes. when it should have focused on
Such panoramas can be a
detailed yet readable, history of a the war that September, but the Take the first Battle of Sirte The combined aerial and defeating the Germans in the
Nelson-centric, or focus on the
very brutal campaign. struggle for the Mediterranean in December 1941, a sign of RN underwater campaign against Axis European theatre.
Napoleonic Wars, but Lavery
How brutal? Well, there were continued with the Kriegsmarine moral and fighting superiority shipping to North Africa in 1943, If it was the ‘wrong war’, then
casts his net wider, beginning
55 surface engagements – all but taking over some of the Italian according to British sources... or for example, dealt the enemy a at least it was an illustrious one.
with the defeat of the Armada (as
five of them involving the RN fleet as well as what ever forces for Italian sources “one of the far heavier blow than any losses O’Hara acknowledges: “The Royal
good a ‘birthday’ of the RN as
– in the Mediterranean theatre it could commandeer from in its three or four turning points of the inflicted by surface forces, while Navy’s deeds in the Mediterranean
you’ll find in Britain’s maritime
(including the Red Sea) according conquered territories. war for Italy. The route to Libya, the Taranto raid is dispatched in fill a proud chapter in that service’s
history – and the first battle
to O’Hara’s research. There were The Germans fought to the very red with the blood of Italian a handful of sentences; a surface glorious history.”
honour awarded).
57 in the Atlantic/Arctic, three
In his overview of the
dozen in the Pacific.
centuries, the author picks stories
Using an excellent series of
Heaven 17th Century
possibly known by the general
tables, accompanied by many
public (the execution of Admiral
maps, the author provides an
Byng, the revolutionary work of
excellent breakdown of each
Capt Cook and Darwin) and the
surface action, as well as easy-to-
not-so-common (how the need
understand graphs which chart
to copper sheath hulls sparked
the rise and fall of Allied and Axis
RICHARD Endsor is an
forecastle and six three pounders makes is the extent shipwrights an industrial boom in Cornwall
excellent example of the
The Grove
on the poop. were pressed (ie conscripted) to and Anglesey, how the RN was
In the first six months of 1942, amateur historian at his
Lenox’s fi rst action was the build ships as well as seamen to streets ahead of British society
for example, 19 in every 20 ships
unfortunate Battle of Beachy man them in wartime. in the early 19th Century as a
carrying material to North Africa
Head when Admiral Torrington, Other chapters provide detailed meritocracy, how British ships
A production engineer by
to support the German-Italian
the offi cer who had brought coverage of sails and rigging, helped bring an end to the slave
profession, he has made 17th- William III to England, was forced armament, recruitment and life on
trade, how technology gave
Century ships and shipbuilding his
There is something refreshing by Queen Mary II to engage a board. Britain a decisive edge over the
passion and has spent a great deal
about Restoration honesty and superior French fl eet. In all Lenox’s seven-year period Chinese Fleet in the Opium
of time in serious research that
openness about Royal extra Later strategists would praise of service its crew served a total of Wars).
would do credit to a professional
marital family relationships that Torrington’s ability to keep his 3,000 crew years aboard and only The years of Pax Victoriana
historian, writes Prof Eric Grove of
puts current tabloid puritanism to ‘fl eet in being’ but, following the 115 died of all causes, few actually are often seen as an age of
the University of Salford.
shame! Indeed Charles’ liaisons inevitable revnevitable erse, the Admiral in action sloth and complacency. They
He has fully exploited his
are to this day commemorated wwaas thros throwwn into prn ison and court Good food generally kept were years liberally interspersed
contacts with the acknowledged
in the names of Tyype 23 pe 23 martiatialled.alled. sickness away. No court martial with conflict, there was radical
experts on the period – Peter
Duke-class frigaatteses.. Although acquitted Alt records survive for Lenox change (from sail to steam, from
LeFevre, David Davies and Anne
Lenox was the fie fi r rsst t builuilt t he whe as never placed although there are some for her gun decks to turrets, iron to
Coats – and has also benefi tted
of the King’s ambitious mbitiious in command in contemporaries and the indications steel, the arrival of the torpedo,
from consultations with specialist
1677 programme of me of again;a neither was are that she was a happy and well submarines, the turbine engine).
experts on shipbuilding and
thirty ships, voteoted dd LenoLeL x’s captain run ship by any standard. Yet it was also an age of
by a recalled ed GranGraG ville, whose The author also fully deference, of rigid discipline, of
This is a classic example of
parliament after r supporsuppp t for his understands the political increased centralisation (which
how the wider naval historical
the impassioned erstwhile commander stwhwh background of the period when reached its apothoesis/nadir
community can enable its members
pleadings of wwaas not politically s n connection, religion and faction with Jellicoe’s battle orders) and
to produce fi rst class work.
Samuel Pepys, wise.wise. dominated appointment of increasing mechanisation which
Such is Endsor’s new study
Secretary to the After BeachAfter B y Head, offi cers. The day of the apolitical gnawed at life of the lower decks,
of the design, construction and
Admiralty and member mbber LenoLenoxx x opera opeerated off Ireland servant of the state was still a long as Winston Churchill observed:
career of the 70-gun third-rate
for Castle Rising. and then wand then and t was part of the way off. “The life of the bluejacket and
ship of the line Lenox – The
The cost was almost £600,000,st £600,000,£600,000, fl eet eet thathat t won the great The book shows that its stoker in our finest ships of war is
Restoration Warship: The
raised by a special propercial proropopertty y victorvictoriesies of Barflof B eur and La publisher Conway, now taken over one of pitiable discomfort.”
Design, Construction and Career
tax, although, like modern Hogue in 1692 but which was less by Anova Press, has lost none of its Such first-hand accounts
of a Third Rate of Charles II’s
programmes, this one turned out to successful in defence of trade the ability to produce a very handsome pepper Empire of the Seas,
professional service locating out
Navy (Conway, £50 ISBN 978 1
be more expensive than expected. following year. book. bringing four centuries of naval
of print titles on all
844860 88 3).
Most were third rates and Lenox In 1694, by now under the It is exceptionally well illustrated history to life. The book’s also
subjects. No obligation or SAE
Lenox was named after Charles,
was the fi rst of all, being built at command of Captain Christopher with impressive fold out plans of the very nicely produced and lavishly
required. Contact: Mosslaird,
Duke of Richmond and Len(n)ox,
Deptford under the supervision of Myngs, Lenox was part of Russell’s ship, deck by deck, and diagrams illustrated – it’s the quirky stuff
Brig O’ Turk, Callander, FK17 8HT
son of King Charles II and his
the master shipbuilder at the yard, fl eet in the Mediterranean. 1695 of every aspect of her fi ttings. The which stands out, like an advert
Telephone/Fax: (01877) 376377
mistress Louise de Keroualle,
John Shish. saw stormy convoy duty and 1696 colour plates are excellent and I selling ‘obsolete war vessels’ in
Duchess of Portsmouth.
She was built remarkably a major repair. rather liked the sepia tones used Portsmouth Harbour in 1910,
quickly, being launched on 12 It was back to convoying for the rest of the book which gave including the battleship Barfleur,
April 1678 but went straight into in 1697 before peace came in a suitably ‘period’ feel to it. The or a diagram explaining how to
‘ordinary’ (that is reserve), moored October. Then Lenox returned to price asked is not an unreasonable exercise on a dreadnought.
at Chatham on the seventh or eight the Nore and reserve before the one for such a beautiful volume. (There’s a ‘but’ coming...).
mooring down from Rochester ship was taken back to Deptford We have been lucky over the But, what is surprising is that
bridge, as the author carefully as a “worn-out wreck” to be past 12 months or so to see the Empire of the Seas ends before the
notes. completely rebuilt into what the publication of two truly excellent British Empire.
She was ten years in this author regards as a new ship (that books on a period of naval history Lavery guillotines his account
condition, not being very well would last for almost another half that has, on the whole, received with the end of WW1; the Empire
preserved it would seem, until century). insuffi cient attention. limped on for another 30 years,
she was commissioned in 1689 to Endsor covers this story in J D Davies’ Pepys’s Navy during which time the Royal
bolster the fl eet against France, absolutely amazing detail. covered the slightly earlier period Navy “would find new glory and
England having changed sides in The book is a veritable triumph of 1649-89 while Endsor, despite affection”.
the Franco-Dutch wars as a result of research into all aspects of naval his subtitle, continues the story Then again, WW1 might be the
of the invasion and revolution of life in the late 17th Century, with after the Revolution with a nice right place to end this account,
the previous year. . Lenox as the perfect hook on connective overlap into the late for it is where the demise of the
On commissioning she was which to hang the analysis. Stuart period. RN and the rise of the Army as
armed with twenty two 32 pounder There is fascinating material The approach is, of course, our principal fighting force – in
‘demi-cannon’ supplemented by on, timber supply, shipbuilding rather different – the telescope the public’s eyes, that is – began.
four 18-pounder long ‘culverins’ and shipbuilders, (including being looked through from either The Senior Service helped win
on her lower gun deck bolstered detailed analysis of ‘shipwright end as it were – but the result the war (decisively), but lost the
by 38 nine-pounder ‘demi- productivity’). has been two highly-signifi cant PR battle – a salutary lesson as
culverins’ on her upper decks and One interesting point the author additions to naval historiography. apposite now as it was then.
0034_NN_Jan.indd 134_NN_Jan.indd 1 99/12/09 17:40:06/12/09 17:40:06
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