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Saturday, October 21st 2006, 6:10pm

Italy Mid/Late 1932

Taken from “Italy: Her impact and influence during the 1930s” C. Rosso pub 2003 pp.204+[/size]

The dismissal of the government in December by King VE III due to gross incompetence was supposed only to last weeks, if not months before new elections. The handover of power to Mussolini and his resultant dismissal of parliament was unexpected, but widely accepted at the time as an appropriate measure given the dire economic and political strife that Italy found itself in. The market crumbled, confidence being lost as El Derretir spread like a wave from the East. It seemed it was only a matter of time before it reached the European peoples. The immediate action by Mussolini in setting up a blockade around Bab al Mandab was heckled as bizarre and thought to damage our economy further, but though the months have passed quickly, there is still yet to be a recorded case of the disease in Europe. Mussolini's quick and decisive action at this point has greatly increased his standing in Italy. However, it is much more likely that the disease burnt itself out in the deserts of Persia and Arabia. The involvement of the multinational force was a greater victory, rapprochement with France plain to see even if the French government has remained wary. These efforts in search of returned stability worked in the short term, but the loss in materiel from Asia and Africa began to be felt in February and March, with stocks of copper and other ores beginning to dwindle.

At this point the Counsel of Four [Mussolini, Grandi, Bottai, Balbo] released their master stroke. Although the repeated comings and goings of several high profile diplomats in Vienna and Torino during January had not gone unnoticed, it was always assumed that this was to address the situation in Austria. It was unexpected when in March, Grandi signed the Pan-European Trade Agreement, closely linking Italy with five of her European neighbours. It is now understood that overtures were extended to other nations, but they were either rebuffed or pocketed for consideration. The treaty text was quite open to the possibility of future membership. Rumours at the time indicated that Belgium was considering applying for addition to alleviate the problems exposed in 1930/1931. The governments of Britain and France stayed remarkably silent at the time, preferring to examine the effects before deciding. The treaty alleviated most of the short-term problems burdening Italian industry, a surplus of materiel had arrived and a much greater market for their goods to be sold had appeared overnight. Naturally, some companies felt slighted by the betrayal of the government, the Fiat group being more vocal than most.

These actions did little to overturn the great underlying problems that threatened the Italian industry. These were addressed later in April and May with a number of laws being implemented by Bottai aimed at land and banking reform. The land reforms were especially popular in the South, with large swathes of land being divided into smaller, private units. This did a great deal for employment in the South and a considerably larger harvest was seen in late 1932. Of course, the reform had little affect on this, but it furthered the Counsel in the eyes of the people. The disparity in North and South was also tackled in the project started in the Pontine Marshes. Using the revenue generated from Libyan oil, the Counsel started a large undertaking to drain and reclaim the marshes, with several hundred families settling there on government provided farms. The sight of the Counsel shirtless and shovelling alongside other workers was a propaganda coup. Considerable investment was started in the South, the shipyards booming under orders from the Regia Marina, Argentina, the Philipines and elsewhere. Cantieri Rodriguez in Messina gained notice with a contract for repair and refitting of a number of cruisers. Leaked plans at the time indicated the government planned a number of drydocks to be started in 1933.

The first half of 1932 saw great unrest in East Africa and Arabia, with India seen to be losing ground in Asir after the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen decided to assist their kinsmen in Asir. This was of great consequence to Italy, her interests in the region having to be protected, but measured against greater involvement of India in Arabia. As such, the Counsel and King were noticeably silent on the issue, most of the negotiation and action going unnoticed. For the main part, Selassie in Ethiopia was left to manage the situation. An increased presence of Italian forces would only serve to antagonise India. This was sensible given the later events of June where a MAS was damaged and a sailor killed after being fired upon by Indian naval units. India apologised for the incident, but it only furthered their unpopularity in Ethiopia. Shortly after this, numbers of Ethiopian “volunteers” began appearing in Yemen, mostly Arabs from the Danakil region. Much later it was uncovered that these were actually Ethiopian Army units, covertly being transported across the straights. Eventually, a unit of 2000 men is assembled by late July but do not take part in the action, instead biding their time and waiting for equipment to arrive.[45mm mortars and ATGs] Of more importance was the arrival of arms with them, which were subsequently sold to the Yemenis and Saudis. This caused considerable pain to the Indians, who either couldn't prove, or didn't want to press the issue. Ethiopia was happy not to get too involved, instead taking considerable profit from both sides. The aircraft carrier Abaywenz buidling in Massawa, shortly to be joined in the following years by four destroyers was rightly felt as a threat by India. This was one of the major factors in India requesting higher limitations under Cleito. This however had to balanced against victimising Ethiopia, the case for India brutally enslaving Arabia and then moving on to Africa would have been easy to make at the time. Other events were to overshadow this.

1932 was a year of brushfires around the world, none involving the major powers but their influence was felt behind the scenes. 3 wars broke out; Asir, Mexico and the Gran Chaco, all of which Italy was indirectly involved in. The situation in Asir has been explained previously. In Mexico, Italian companies willingly sold arms to the rebels, a fact later uncovered in 1933 with the now-famous results. This involvement pales compared to the Japanese actions during the conflict. In the Gran Chaco, an Italian military mission was sent through Argentina to Paraguay. Of more concern to Italy was the aftermath of the war, seeking to check Chilean and Brazilian expansion. Paraguay's air force was massively overhauled, being supplied with CR.20s AP.1s and Ca.101 aircraft. A swift end to the conflict and a Paraguay able to defend itself. After a small number of aircraft were delivered it was conspicuous that it took months before further examples arrived. It is still unknown whether Argentina's subsequent intentions were communicated to Italy or whether her network of spies was much larger than thought at the time.


Sunday, October 22nd 2006, 8:03am

Interesting aproach, an article writen 70+ years later.

Nice work!


Sunday, October 22nd 2006, 11:35am

I tried to take an unbiased approach, providing a good level of detail whilst remaining open for other countries to work around.


Thursday, November 2nd 2006, 10:27am


In the final stages of fitting out in 1932, a severe problem was encountered with the so called “Pope-Class”. The ships came out far overweight leaving them considerably in excess of the 13,000ton limit for Type 1 cruisers. The weight saving techniques employed in their design, mostly use of higher tensile steel, had not been effective. The ships were found to be some 1500tons overweight. This prompted considerable concern in Supermarina as they did not wish to further provoke criticism from abroad. A large scale program in weight saving was instituted to bring them closer to the 13,000ton limit. This included removal of some 100/65 guns, the flag facilities, and some removal of splinter plates. Most fortunately were the lightweight turbines used in the construction which saved considerable weight, these were later found not to produce their designed power. When the 3 cruisers were finally completed in mid 1933, they were much closer to the 13,000ton limit and yet still represented a substantial leap over anything else in service around the world at that time. The political fallout did not go away, with Balbo ordering a large scale investigation into the practices employed by Fiat-Ansaldo, who were contracted to build the vessels. This committee reported back in early 1933 and resulted in legal action against Fiat.