Italian Battleships

...Conte di Cavour & Duilio Classes 1911-1956, from Seaforth Publishing

Title: Italian Battleships
Author: Ermino Bagnasco & Augusto de Toro
Publisher: Seaforth
ISBN: 978-1-5267-9987-6

More specifically, the Conte di Cavour and Duilio Classes, 1911-1956. An impressive 280-page large format book this has a real quality feel to it. As someone who knows little about the Italian fleet of WW2, I was looking forward to seeing this one and finding out more about these capital ships.
The book gives us a very detailed history of the five ships. The 3 Cavour Class ships were the Conte di Cavour, Giuilio Cesare and Leonardo de Vinci, while the 2 Duilio Class were the Duilio and the Andrea Dorio. Built as Battlecruisers prior to WW1 they were in service during WW1, the time when the Battleship was king of the major navies in the world. One was lost due to an internal explosion while in port at Taranto in 1916, the Leonardo de Vinci. The story of that ship is detailed, with archive images of it, including the way the hull was raised and then the case for rebuilding it after the war, at great expense and how its' fate was decided. There was much debate about the size of large naval units between the various nations after WW1 and as a result of the Washington Treaty. It is interesting to read how Italy reacted to all those changes within the wider context of Europe as a whole. The remaining 4 vessels went through major rebuilds, which changed their profiles, updated their power plants and upgraded their armament prior to WW2. All this is detailed, along with their WW2 service history and even detailed records of every movement they made during the period of WW2. Some survived and went on to be given refits and serve on after WW2. One, the Giuilio Cesare was ceded to Russia after the end of the war, where it served as the Novorossiysk in the Black Sea Fleet, but was lost to a wartime German mine that had remained buried in the mud of the harbour floor.
The book is highly illustrated throughout, with hundreds of archive images from all periods of their service, along with many detailed drawings and diagrams which include the description of all the many ships spaces. Especially attractive for modellers, there is also a section of colour profiles, illustrating the varied colour schemes they carried over their service careers. Everything is provided in great detail and I can't imagine there can be anything else to add, and supported by so many excellent images. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our copy.

Robin