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Iron Hulls Iron Hearts: Mussolini's Elite Armoured Divisions in North Africa Paperback – July 15, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Military Vehicles Magazine, April 2006

"Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts sheds considerable light on a much neglected facet of the history of armored warfare."

About the Author

Ian W. Walker is a Civil Servant in the Scottish Office, but his great passion is history. He is also the author of Mercia and the making of England and Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King, which was shortlisted for the History Today Book of the Year prize.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The Crowood Press UK (July 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861268394
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861268396
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,578,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on July 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Italian Army in World War II has been treated almost as a joke. It is rumored that when the Nazi Foreign Minister said to Churchill - "You will be facing not only us but also the Italians." Churchill replied, "That's OK, we had them on our side last time, you're welcome to them."
Rommel, on the other hand, spoke of them quite differently. During the famous "Desert Fox" actions in North Africa, Rommel had more Italian troops and more Italian armor than he had German. Rommel's comments were that Italian troops were properly led they were as capable as any. Italian generals were better as friends of Il Duce than they were as fighting people.
The Italian Littorio division did very good work at Tobruk, Gazala, and El Alamein. The Ariete division performed a dramatic day long stand at El Alamein effectively styming Allied plans to encircle and destroy the Axis forces. The Centauro division was brief but important in the American defeat at Kasserine Pass.
It is nice to see that this book, and a very few others, are beginning to show a side of the Italian Army not normally seen.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By N. Trachta on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts is Mr. Ian Walker's telling of the Italian Armored Divisions in WWII, mainly their contributions in North Africa but also their performance prior to North Africa. In this book, Mr. Walker is attempting to dispel the accepted fact that Italian armored divisions were 2nd rate in comparison to the German and British ones. To present his case, Mr. Walker opens by telling the development history of Italian armored forces from post-WWI thru the Spanish Civil War. Attention is paid to Italy's ability to wage modern war (lack of critical resources to develop and maintain an armored force), their development of armored forces; specifically their failure to stay up with other European tank designers, and the development and employment of armored tactics in Ethiopia, Spain, and the Balkans. In this section, Mr. Walker shows how at times the Italians were leaders in the art, but usually they were following the British and Germans.

The heart of the book deals with the performance of the Italian Armored Divisions in North Africa. Mr. Walkers does a good job providing a basic description of the different battles, including a generalization of the forces employed and the how they performed. Mr. Walker usually provides us with the forces the British had present at a given battle, however, Mr. Walker usually does not provide us with a description of their tactical situation unless it was challenging for the Italians. Battles covered range from the opening of desert warfare all the way to the collapse in Tunisia.

Throughout the book, Mr. Walker talks about how British and German forces bad mouth the Italian forces performance in North Africa. However, despite Mr.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Michael Y on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book fills a void in WW2 histories by explaining almost all of the actions of the Italian Armoured Divisions during the North African campaigns of WW2.

The book gives a good account of units actions with some excerpts from witness's and also tells when new equipment and tanks became available.

Without any doubt this is the most comprehensive account of Italian units actions i have read, tactical maps are there for most important battles and in 2 colours! (which is much nicer than b&w). Some very good high detail b&w photos are in the book, some i've never seen before, and sharp line drawings of the major Italian tanks.

I would deduct 0.5 stars if i could because i would have liked more indepth analysis(data tables) for the Italian guns, ammunition and tanks performances. The very short tanks data appendix in the book has some silly errors that any experienced person will immediately see so it is a bit dissapointing in that respect.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Levesque on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When people think of WWII in North Africa they tend to think of the German, British, and American armies with the Italians as a minor side show. Walker's book fills in a significant gap in the forces involved in that theater by providing a military analysis of the Italian forces without falling back on the clich's that grew from the conflict. He does not, and cannot, argue that the Italian army in WWII was great; he does put the army in its appropriate strategic and political context. In fact the first few chapters of the book provide a contextual analysis for the army in North Africa so that you can understand why the Italians did poorly, but at the same time know why they did well given their constraints -- something often overlooked in a theater where Rommel, Montgomery, and Patton made their names and became larger than life.

One thing to keep in mind is that the focus of the book is on the three Italian armored divisions that fought in North Africa -- Ariete, Littorio, and Centauro. This is not bad given that this was a theater that required mobility to fight and survive. Following the contextual analysis the balance of the book is a straight forward military history that describes and analyzes the performance of these divisions first as Italy fought alone against Britain, then as Italy fought with their German allies against Britain and then the Americans in Tunisia.
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