Saturday, 21 May 2011

below the waves

it wouldnt have been totally impossible for the fascist nazi union of cut-throats to have sent a mini sub up the thames to destroy the parliament but there again lets face it they both showed that Italian and German fantasy and imagination wasn't in line with that of the British. The British nation , in most respect, one of the greatest innovative nations in the world (when they are not copying the Yankees) gave rise to any number of sneaky but ingenious attacks on the Fascist empire. They more or less showed that the so called Italian imagination was at most calculated ridiculousness but the Italians did make one great piece of imaginitive war, that was the mini one man sub.Above we can see Atlantics version, the only one ever made in plastic.
After World War I Italy had a fleet 47 submarines in various classes; these were mostly obsolescent and she was interested in replacing them. To this end the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) made plans for a fleet of vessels in three Types: Type I ocean going: Type 2 coastal/sea-going; Type 3 mine layers.
The Navy also invested time and resources in midget submarines and underwater special forces. At the same time the major powers were negotiating an arms limitation treaty at the 1922 Washington Naval Conference. Whilst there was discussion of banning submarines altogether, and to outlaw their use (a course favoured by Britain) both Italy and France opposed this.
 However the conference did place restrictions on the number and size of warships of various types that nations could build.
The ocean-going submarine was restricted to a 1500 ton surface displacement, while the coastal submarine was limited to 600 tons, though there was no limit placed on the numbers of these vessels that could be built.
Between 1925 and 1929 Italy built a series of ocean-going submarines in a number of small classes, in order to find the most suitable designs for expansion. Work was done principally by the design bureaux of Cavallini, resulting in the Mameli and Settembrini classes, and of Bernardis, building the Pisani, Bandiera, and Squalo classes. They also commissioned a design by Ansaldo, the Balilla class.
This was followed in 1930’s by the Archimede, Brin, and, just prior to war, Liuzzi classes from Cavallini, and the Glauco, Marcello, and later, Marconi classes from Bernardis. They also ordered the Calvi and Argo classes from Ansaldo. Just prior to war, in 1939, the Italians also commissioned the Cagni class, designed specifically as a commerce raider with a long range and armed with 14 Torpedo Tubes of 17.7in calibre (these being more suitable against merchant ships). These were built to a CRDA/Bernardis design.
For coastal and medium range operations, the Italian Navy ordered a series of submarine classes, known as the 600 series. This commenced in 1929 with the Argonauta class, followed by the Sirena, Perla, Adua, and Accaiao classes, all to Bernardis designs.
For minelaying operations the Italians built the Bragadin class in 1927 (a Bernardis design), followed in 1930 by the Micca, and then the Foca class, from Cavallini.
Italy's interest in midget submarines resulted in the CA class, built in 1938, and followed during the war by CB, CC and CM classes. She also developed a manned torpedo, the SLC, an update of an Italian First World War design, for use by the Navy's special forces.
During World war II Italy also had designs for a wartime building programme. This was the Flutto class of submarines, an enlarged 600 series design for medium range use, with mass production under war-time conditions in mind. 48 vessels, in three series (Types) were ordered, but only 12 were completed. Also during the war Italy came to require a submersible transport; designs for this led to the R, or Romolo class of boats. Again, though 12 were ordered, only two were completed.
This was one of a number of Italian WWII-set collaborations with English-speaking countries, a couple of which I watched recently – namely THE CAPTIVE CITY (1962) and TORPEDO BAY (1963). While the handling is fairly dull, the film's main plot develops into a sustained suspense situation as a British vessel (commandeered by stiff-upper-lipped John Mills) is planted with explosive charges by Italian naval officer Ettore Manni and his (wounded) companion, who are then imprisoned on the ship itself after refusing to give details of their mission including the whereabouts of the bomb itself.

An underwater search at night fails to reap the desired results and Mills – with the help of officer Robert Shaw (who's married to an Italian girl) – determines to retrieve the necessary information which could save the ship and the life of more than a thousand men on it. Doctor Liam Redmond opposes his treatment of the P.O.W.s, but remains on board to cure the injured man even after the vessel has been evacuated. The explosion eventually occurs early the next morning – when the ship was scheduled to set sail for war duty; the film, then, ends with Mills awarding Manni for his integrity and loyalty to his cause three years after the fact.

As I said, the film is generally interesting (like the same director's DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK [1952], it's mostly confined to a single setting) though the interrogation/confrontation scenes do get repetitive; it's also bogged down by resistible comic relief provided by two marines appointed to guard the saboteurs.

P.S. I'd love to revisit Mills' previous effort with Baker (in all, they worked six times together) i.e. the eccentric psychological Western THE SINGER NOT THE SONG (1961) – which I acquired some time ago

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