Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II – Marco Ghiglino – Review

Waiting for me at the Post Office today was a parcel from the Naval Institute Press. Posted on 20 July 2018 in the US it arrived at my local post office here about a week ago I guess and the note from the Post Office telling me I had a parcel was received last Friday.

Now I will admit that over the last few weeks I have been reading a Naval Institute Press publication, the brilliant Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 1 by Julian S Corbett. That was tossed aside as soon as I had a quick flick through Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II by Marco Ghiglino. This has been published by Seaforth Publishing in 2018 and is a book of some 240 pages. The ISBN for this is:

  • 978 1 5267 3539 3 (Hardback)
  • 978 1 5267 3540 9 (ePub)
  • 978 1 5267 3541 6 (Kindle)

What a book! Firstly I should note that the actual size of the book is the same as each of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series so sits nicely next to them on the bookshelf. Secondly, this is the first major work on Italian Naval Camouflage of World War 2 in English that I am aware of. There have been some minor publications over the years and references in books ostensibly on other topics as well as Italian language publications (such as La Mimetizzazione della Navi Italiane 1940-1945) but this is the first in English and that makes this information more generally available.

The book is broken up into 12 major chapter:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Early Period and the Experimental Phase
  3. Standard Camouflage Schemes
  4. Evolution and Exemptions
  5. The Dark Grey Factor
  6. Submarines
  7. MAS, Motor Torpedo Boats and VAS
  8. Other Warships
  9. The Greek Factor
  10. Merchant Ships
  11. The Armistice
  12. Ship Profiles

Ghiglino follows the development of camouflage in the Regia Marina from the peacetime colourings and aerial markings through to wartime practice. He also includes a section covering the change of camouflage with vessels captured by the Germans and those remaining in Italian hands and employed by the Allies

One particular area of interest to me in among many areas of interest were the colours used on MAS, Motor Boats and VAS along with the colours used by Italian submaries which carried a number of different schemes.

Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, some in early colour. Unlike other publications concerning World War 2 the photographs used to illustrate here are good quality, and the detail in those photographs is quite clear.

By far, however, the best section of this book is the one dealing with ship profiles. Profiles are provided for:

  1. Battleships
  2. Cruisers
  3. Destroyers
  4. Torpedo Boats
  5. Escort Ships (Auxiliary Cruisers)
  6. Corvettes
  7. MAS and MTB
  8. Gunboats, Minelayers adn Minesweepers
  9. Landing Vessels
  10. Auxiliary Ships
  11. Armament

Looking at the section on battleships (and who doesn’t like these Queens of the Seas) there is a brief discussion of battleship camouflage, noting that Littorio was the first battleship to receive a camouflage scheme in March 1941. Other ships receiving the camouflage are then listed. Also noted in this short section is the repainting of Veneto, Italia (ex-Littorio) Duilio and Doria in the Allied two-colour livery later in the war.

What then follows is the best part of the book – the CAD drawings of vessels and their camouflage schemes. The drawings generally show the starboard side of a vessel and provide a brief description of the camouflage scheme used, including, where possible, the creator of the scheme. The CAD drawing also displays the scale of the drawing and there are multiple drawings of the same ship indicating the changes to the camouflage scheme used over time. For example, Guilio Cesare is illustrated at 1:900 scale as she appeared in December 1941, January 1942, May 1942, June 1942 (this time with port and starboard views), June 1943 (also port and starboard views) and lastly in 1949 when she was transferred to the Soviet Navy, renamed Novorossiysk and painted Soviet grey.

Other vessels that were captured by the Germans are shown in both Regia Marina camouflage as well as Kriegsmarine camouflage.

I am certain that this book does not illustrate every vessel in Regia Marina Service but it certainly appears to cover all vessels from gunboat size and above.

The book also contains a useful (if you speak Italian) bibliography, acknowledgments and best of the reference sections, an index of ships throughout the book.

Given the number of clashes between the Royal Navy and the Regia Marina in the Mediterranean in World War 2, Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series would be a perfect companion.

I really can’t find enough superlatives to describe this book. It certainly belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in World War 2 naval history, particularly either the Regia Marina or naval camouflage. If I needed to rate this book out of five, I would have no hesitation giving it 6 stars out of 5. Brilliant book, simply brilliant.

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6 thoughts on “Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II – Marco Ghiglino – Review

  1. Alan 9 September 2018 / 2:12 am

    Does it say anything about the air recognition stripes?

    I’ve noticed:

    That vessels differed, one from another, in the number of stripes.

    and that

    Some had stripes on the quarterdeck as well as in the bows.

    I’ve often wondered whether there was any pattern / significance in this. Eg were differences used to distinguish different types or classes of vessel or individuals within a class?

    Or did the number of stripes and their position change over the course of the war?

    Or was it just random?

    And if random, would the number / place of stripes on a given vessel remain the same throughout the war, or might it change when she was repainted?

    Any help with this would be much appreciated.

    Alan

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    • Thomo the Lost 9 September 2018 / 8:29 am

      The air recognition stripes are mentioned as is the fact that initially the bow was painted with lime so it appeared white from the air. The problem with the lime was that it washed off fairly quickly when it got wet hence the red and white stripes.

      As to the specific number of stripes per vessel, no there is not a table of that in the book.

      Having said that i will double check tonight when i get back home.

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      • Alan 10 September 2018 / 12:29 am

        Hi,

        Thank you. I have long wondered about those stripes.

        Alan

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      • Thomo the Lost 10 September 2018 / 1:26 am

        Ghiglino notes that the stripes were painted on the deck over the bows of warships and merchant vessels with oblique matt red and matt foul white stripes (left +135° to -45° right). That is they sloped from bow to aft from port to starboard.

        “The stripes were often painted on the aft area on major ships and conspicuous merchant ships, such as large oil tankers. Later all the Axis ships (warships and merchant ships) in the Mediterranean and Black Sea sported red and white aerial markings on the bow deck with some variations.”

        In the Greek Theatre the aerial recognition stripes went from Left +45° to right -135° meaning they slipped in the opposite direction. That is they sloped bow to aft from starboard to port.

        As to the numbers of stripes the photos i could see of major vessels showed about four broad red stripes bordered by white stripes. The Greek Theatre photo showed at least 9 red stripes on a torpedo boat … Lupa, Lira or Libra.

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  2. Alan 30 September 2018 / 7:24 am

    Thank you – that’s encouraging. Some time, when I get around to it, I would like to search for deck photos of the same ship in different years of the war, to try to find out if the pattern (front or front and back, number of stripes) remained the same for a given ship or if it changed over time.

    Like

    • Thomo the Lost 30 September 2018 / 12:29 pm

      You could try contacting Marco Ghiglino … Google him and leave a message. Perhaps he has some research not mentioned in the book

      Like

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