The Italian Blitz, 1940-1943. Bomber Command's War Against Mussolini’s Cities, Docks, and Factories.

Published: September 24th, 2020     
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Book Cover
Author: Richard Worrall
Reviewed by: Brian R. Baker - IPMS# 43146
ISBN #: 978-14728-4145-2
Other Publication Information: Paperback, 9 ¾ in. x 7 ¼ in., 96 Pages, 4 Color photos, 41 BW photos, 3 color drawings, 7 maps, charts, and tables, and chronology page.
Price: $24.00
Product / Stock #: ACM 17
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

History

During World War II, after the Germans had invaded France, the Italians decided to get involved, and they took part in the final stages of the German assault. Once things had settled down, the Italians began expanding to the South. They had already occupied parts of Africa, but continued their advances into Greece.

The British Royal Air Force had already begun their bombing offensive against the Germans, using Hampdens, Whitleys, and Wellingtons, and later found that four engine aircraft were more appropriate for long range bombing, and supplanted and later replaced these types with Stirlings, Halifaxes, and Lancasters.

The problem was that the British high command had not set down basic objectives for these offensives, and major decision makers did not agree on exactly what the targets should be, or how they should be attacked. The problem became a political issue later on. What finally transpired was a series of attacks from bases in Britain, with twin and later four engine bombers attacking the Italian industrial north in a series of night attacks, although some daylight attacks were made also. While the major objective was to damage the Italian ability to conduct warfare, another objective was to destroy the morale of the Italian population, since the northern part of the country had been more in agreement with the communists that with the fascists. The RAF made consistent attacks against industrial cities like Turin, Genoa, and La Spezia. However, British leaders recognized the value of the Italian cultural locations, and did not attack Verona, Florence, and most of all, Rome. The intent here, of course, was to convince the Italian civilian population that getting rid of Mussolini would be a good way of stopping these attacks, and many leaflets were dropped by the bombers for this reason.

Italian response to these attacks was minimal, as the main Italian night fighter forces consisted of Fiat CR42 biplanes equipped for night flying, and these were barely fast enough to catch up with the British bombers, especially after the twin engine bombers were withdrawn. Later the Germans provided the Italians with a few modern night fighters, DO-217's and ME-110's, but this was never enough to have any serious effect.

An interesting part of this story is the distances the British had to fly in order to attack Italy from Britain. They had to leave in daylight, fly in the dark over German occupied France, attack their Italian targets, and then fly back through the German controlled airspace towards Britain. One major factor the British encountered was the weather, which, especially in the winter, often involved low clouds over the Alps, which forces bomber crews to cross by visual references only. Some units were forced to fly a total distance of nearly 2,000 miles to fly these missions, and losses due to weather and engine failure were much greater than they were in operation against German targets.

Features

This book is primarily a historical work, explaining what happened and why it happened. This subject had somehow never been really covered in historical works, and I frankly learned a lot from reading it. It is aimed at the historian rather than the modeler, and there are few parts of the book that would really be of much help in building a model, although this information is available in other sources or on line, so this shouldn't be an issue. As modelers, we should be very interested in the history as to what happened and why it happened, and that is what this book provides. The book is full of diagrams of the cities involved, the locations of anti-aircraft guns, and the courses the bombers flew to and from their targets. You have to admire the men who flew these missions, as this kind of flying had to have been some of the worst imaginable.

Recommendation

This book fills a gap in the historical coverage of World War II in the air and should be acquired by anyone who wants a complete record of the aerial campaigns. I found it a fascinating read, and will always treasure my copy. I would certainly highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of World War II in the air. Don't miss out on this one.

Thanks to Osprey Publications for the review copy.

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