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December 23, 2012

Book review: The Chianti Raiders

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 3:21 pm
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Book review: The Chianti Raiders
By Peter Haining
221 pgs, 16 pgs B&W photos
ISBN 1 86105 829 2

Review by D. M. Knights IPMS/USA 17656, IPMS/Canada C6091

One of the fascinating lesser stories of the Second World War in Europe is the deployment by Italy of a small part of their air force to Belgium in the winter of 1940-1941 to assist in the air assault on Great Britain.  It is a story that is, at most, a footnote in the history of air warfare.  However, it is an interesting story nonetheless.

In retrospect, the commitment by Mussolini of the Corpo Aero Italiana (CAI) was a mistake.  The force was too small to do any real damage.  The aircraft committed were obsolete by November of 1940, and the Italian pilots, in general, did not have the training and experience of their RAF opponents.

The book is not a detailed, day-by-day look at the CAI operations, but rather is an overview with focus on certain encounters between the RAF and CAI.  There is also coverage of those who lived in the targets of the Italian Air Force.  The author heavily relies on quotes from other sources, previous books and magazine and newspaper articles.  While some of this is understandable, the heavy quoting interrupts the flow of the story and makes the reader wonder if he wouldn’t be better off reading from the quoted material instead.

A reader does clearly get the point that the Italians were in general overmatched by their RAF opponents.  Also, while the Germans were not experts in the art of night bombing, their Italian allies were completely lost when it came to such operations.  Additionally, with as small a number of aircraft as the Italians committed to the effort, they could never gather sufficient force on any given operation to deliver more than a pin prick to their English enemies, even if their bombing skills had been better.

The black and white photos in the book are well reproduced, and include a number of photos of Italian machines that were brought down on English soil.  Additionally, in several places in the text, the author manages to identify both a particular victor and victim in air to air combat, allowing the modeler to consider a “dogfight double”

This book retailed for about $16 on Amazon.  It was a quick and enjoyable read, though it is hardly the definitive work on the subject. I can recommend it as a beginning point to learning about this footnote in WWII air combat history.

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