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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 19 May 2023

Adriatic Naval War 1940-1945

 I picked up this book by Zvonimir Freivogel at the Croatian Maritime Museum in Split. He has written several books on Yugoslav and Austro-Hungarian naval history, some of which have been translated into English (not perfectly, but good enough). Unfortunately, however, they can be difficult to access in the UK.

There are books on specific aspects of the war in the Adriatic. There is Michael McConville's history of 43 Commando Royal Marines during WW2, Nothing Much to Lose, and more specifically, his excellent A Small War in the Balkans, along with other memoirs and war diaries of units that fought there. German and British naval actions are touched on in wider histories, and the Partisans have Sea of Blood - Partisan Movement in Yugoslavia 1941-45 by Gaj Trifkovic. However, nothing has the wealth of detail in this book.

He starts with the Italian and Yugoslav navies at the outbreak of war and the collapse of the divided Yugoslav navy. Then the introduction of Allied naval operations, initially from bases in the Mediterranean and then from Italy and Vis off the Dalmatian Coast. The Italian armistice brought German units to the Adriatic, along with the puppet Croatian state navy. The Germans had E-boats, captured Italian ships, and a motley collection of small boats and ferries.

The final half of the book covers the operations in 1944 against the islands and the coast, which includes the growing Partisan fleet, largely cobbled together from coastal shipping. 

Partisan boats like this one would have 2-pdr guns or Italian 20mm Bredas mounted.

So, you get a narrative history covering the many small-scale operations and the tactical and logistical challenges facing each navy. These are ideal for wargamers playing games like Cruel Seas. For example, the British had Vosper and Fairmile MTB/MGBs operating out of Vis. The research in this book is staggering, with just about every ship listed, along with an immense collection of wartime photos.

Finally, a valuable analysis of how each navy operated in this theatre. If you can get a copy, it isn't cheap, but at 550 pages, there is a lot of content. Highly recommended.

Two torpedos struck my transport ship in a game of Cruel Seas.

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