The four Littorio class battleships were the last and best battleships built for the Italian navy. They were '35,000 tonners' designed to fit within the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty and the three that were completed played a major part in the war in the Mediterranean.
This is the first in depth study of these ships to be published in English (and given its quality may well be the last!). We start with a detailed discussion of battleship design between the World Wars and the impact of the Washington Naval Treaty on the decisions that lead up to the construction of the Littorio class ships. We then look at the design itself, before moving on to a very detailed technical description of the ships. This section of the book makes you realise just how complex the last generation of battleships were, an impression that is supported by the very impressive collection of photographs and plans showing the ships. I was particularly interested in the interior shots, showing parts of the ship that are rarely seen, including the very complex engine control rooms.
The text is supported by 300 photographs and 150 plans and coloured artwork, some on sizable fold-out pages. This includes a good selection of photographs showing the battle damage suffered by the three operational ships.
The second half of the book looks at the four ship's service records (in the case of Littorio, Roma and Vittorio Veneto their active service, in the case of Imperio the unsuccessful attempts to complete her). The stated aim in this part of the book is to examine the ways in which the design of the Littorio class ships affected their combat abilities, whether it be in the accuracy of their guns or their ability to absorb damage. One thing that emerges here is the vast amount of effort that went into repairing the three operational ships during the war. Something normally dismissed as minor damage that only knocked a ship out of service for a month actually involved the labour of hundreds of trained personnel, often using scarce materials that would otherwise have gone into the construction of urgently needed new building.
This is a very impressive piece of work, one of the best monographs on a single type of warship that I have ever read and comes highly recommended.
1 - Battleships and Italian Naval Policy between the Two World Wars
2 - Design and General Characteristics
3 - Technical Description
4 - Construction, Sea Trials and Commissioning
5 - Operational History
6 - Comparisons and Conclusions
1 - Movements and Changes of Location of the Littorio Class Battleships from Entry into Service until their Loss or Decommissioning
2 - Damage sustained by Littorio Class Battleships during the War
3 - Performance Characteristics of Littorio Class Heavy and Medium Calibre Guns
Author: Erminio Bagnasco and Augusto de Toro