ITALIAN DESTROYERS OF WORLD WAR II

Reviewed by: REAR ADMIRAL R. G. MELLY

Mark Stille, the author of this short booklet on Italian Destroyers of World War II, is a former USN Commander with a particular interest in naval history in the Pacific. In writing this brief account, he is therefore straying from his normal area of expertise, although this is not apparent from the text, which is both authoritative and informative.

The Italians started the war with 59 destroyers of which, astonishingly, 50 were lost by the time of the country’s surrender in September 1943; five more were acquired during the war, of which two were also lost.  The Regia Marina was primarily constituted as a counter to the French Navy, but the destroyers were not well-suited to confronting the ships and submarines of the Royal Navy. The Italian ships were largely devoid of radar and sonar, and their gunnery was poorly directed; whilst fast, they were also not good sea platforms, were of light construction and their endurance was poor.

In combat, the Italians acted bravely, but their success in inflicting damage on their adversaries was limited, not least as many of the actions took place at night, where radar gave the Royal Navy a distinct advantage. Nevertheless, the Italians claimed some successes, such as at the First and Second Battles of Sirte, at the Battle of Pantelleria and with their achievement in escorting convoys to Africa in 1941.

Having set out the design concepts behind the hulls and their weapons, the author then briefly recounts the less than stellar performance of the ships during the war. Finally, each of the Regia Marina’s 12 classes of destroyers is described in turn, along with their armament and operational history (no ships of the twelfth class, the Commandanti class, were completed).

The booklet is illustrated with black and white photographs and with excellent colour drawings.  Whilst the text is perhaps a little repetitive in places, the booklet nevertheless lives up to its title and provides a succinct and engaging account of the Italy’s destroyers during World War II.