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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Hiding in the Open – a Review

imageHiding in the Open, Book 1, is the first of a series of books from writer, naval artist and wargamer Mal Wright covering the camouflage worn by ships during the Second World War.

Over the years Mal as has amassed a multitude of information concerning the colour supported by various ships in the Second World War. Some of this information was being seen for the first time when Mal published his Convoy Naval Wargame.

This then is the opening shot in what I hope will be a long campaign of information on World War 2 ship camouflage.

The book itself is released in PDF format only and costs around AU $20.

The Content

This volume is a pictorial study of the British and Commonwealth Destroyers of World War 2; old R class to Tribal class destroyers along with vessels such as HMS Ambuscade ((one of the first destroyers of the British fleet created taking into account experience learned in World War One. Along with Ambuscade, Amazon was also built. They were built under the 1924 program, designed by  the builders. The Admiralty stipulated only the fulfilment of some obligatory conditions on armament, endurance range, seaworthiness and habitability. Full freedom was allowed for the designers apart from those mandatory conditions. They were armed the same as the Modified W class ships. New destroyers should exceed them by 2-3kts, that is, new destroyers should achieve 37kts against 34-35kts of these two)) and HMS Defender. Three colour schemes are shown for Ambuscade whilst the Defender is shown in her China Station colours of white hull and yellow superstructure – very attractive too.

In fact, the book illustrates many vessels in multiple pictures, tracing the change in camouflage applied to the vessel as the war progressed. There are 144 full colour drawings in the book displaying a range of camouflage patterns. Also discussed is any change of armament, electronics etc. The pictures display both an elevation and a plan view, so finally you can work out where that pesky corticene ((WW2 Corticene was a linoleum, held down by thin brass strips. It’s colour was generally a medium brown – described as the colour of milk chocolate, although that would vary depending on exposure to the elements and manufacturing inconsistencies)) or semtex ((Semtex was a trowelled-on latex-based non-slip composite material. There were originally three manufacturers which may account for the the varying colours reported early war. By late war a “Dunlop” green seems to have become standard)) deck goes and what colour it was.

This guide, and the ones that follow allow the wargamer to easily find details of the camouflage used by his vessels as well as get an understandijng understanding of how the camouflage changed as he war progressed. It is also a valuable soucrce source for the modeller.

As Mal notes:

These books have been many years in the coming. I started collecting the material decades ago and they represent a lifetime’s work on the subject. Editions coming include German and other nations besides more British & Commonwealth. The guides will cover everything from Battleships and aircraft carriers right down to minor craft and auxiliaries. Many of the drawings are already done and its just a matter of adding more and then collating the books.

The book itself is organised in landscape mode as this permits 4 drawings per page comfortably and, if printed, will sit up nicely on a desk whilst painting. The format is US letter size but these days reformatting for an A4 printer is a simple, automatic matter. Indeed, a hidden bonus of the US letter size is that the document formats perfectly in my iPad.

image As I mentioned, there are 144 drawings through the book spread across 25 pages. In addition, there are a further 5 pages od introductions and technical discussions. the book is rounded out with a bibliography so one can go chasing further information. A sample page is shown to the right.

Each named plan in the book is accompanied by a brief history or details of the electronics or camouflage changes. There is also a discussion usually of why a particular camouflage was used.

The book also covers the reasons for apparent non-standard schemes or variations in colours by explaining the concept of TLAR ((That Looks About Right)).

There are a couple of typos through the book as well although nothing to really detract from the overall quality of the work.

Best of all, however, is the discussion on Mountbatten Pink in relation to HMS Stronghold and HMS Thanet..

I am very much looking forward to the next one.

Where do you get it?

imageThe book is published as a pdf document and is very reasonably priced at AU $20.00. It can be purchased using PayPal by contacting Mal via email at mgwright@bigpond.net.au. He will then invoice you for the publication and send you a download link for your purchase once payment is received.

In addition, if you prefer to use credit card rather than PayPal itself, Mal has organised with Phil at Spirit Games to purchase Hiding in the Open, or indeed, the whole Rising Storm offer using your credit card. Just got to the Spirit Games website and once purchased, Spirit Games will provide the downloads.

Highly recommended!