Saturday, 8 September 2012
Without further ado then, let's move on to the great adversary of the Bostro-Danubians, in the person of the Republic of Risorgimentia, and their respective naval forces represented by Minifigs ships.
For generations, the great peninsula dominating the northern Mediterranean was a maelstrom of competing petty monarchies, foreign-supported fiefdoms and vaguely defined territories, that vacillated between being the pawns of greater powers or hardly registering in international affairs by dint of the chaos which seemed to reign overall.
This was all to change, however, in the late nineteenth century, when individuals who had been instrumental in the republican and independence movements of key South American nations found a willing audience amongst the middle classes of this land known generically as Adriatica.
A surge of political awareness saw conflict erupt throughout the many principalities, as one by one the notion of a nation state, independent and free of old prejudices and feudalisms took hold, and civil wars gave way to the birth of a nation: The Republic of Risorgimentia.
The military forces of the new republic were in a parlous state at the end of the unification struggle, and indeed, the naval ships of the larger territories were to begin with dated and focussed mainly on limited aspirations of defence; coastal monitors or gunboats that could barely police an area a few miles offshore from the extensive coastline.
Guiseppe Biscotti, the first president of the Republic, however, had aspirations to exert influence over a wider area, and restore the imbalances in trade that had helped to keep the country at the mercy of foreign powers, and he saw the ability to project military power beyond his own shore as key to this policy.
Financial crises amongst the very South American nations that had initially spawned the republican movement, saw them offering warships that they had bought from Britain at second-hand prices, and Biscotti garnered all he could from his former revolutionary comrades, in return for hard cash, and began to build a modern navy.
From Chile, Risorgimentia took on two Lord Nelson class battleships, that had never even seen the native shores of their putative owners before they had had to put them up for sale; at one fell swoop the new republic had two powerful and modern contenders in the battle for naval supremacy - the 'Giustizia' and the 'Liberta':
(In the foreground, a BMC style hollow casting marked as B4 at the stern, and at rear, a new Minifigs sculpt, numbered '1')
The acquisition of these ships had initially somewhat alarmed the British, however when it became probable that Risorgimentia might turn next to their rivals France for a complement of cruisers, Her Majesty's Government was only too happy to offer a pair of Drake class armoured examples at a very reasonable price; the 'Regina Elisabetta' and the 'Londra':
(New Minifigs sculpts numbered '7')
These were further augmented by a single Devonshire class ship from the Argentinians, named the 'San Martin':
(New Minifigs sculpt numbered '8')
Unfortunately for Biscotti, these purchases all but drained his exchequer, and his vision of a larger fleet had to be somewhat tempered by financial prudence; his admirals knew that they might never challenge the battle line of their near rivals in terms of tonnage alone, however they were quick to adapt to the emerging technologies of torpedo and light craft that could punch above their weight:
(Two new Minifigs sculpts numbered '24', and closest to the camera, a single '19')
Indeed, within a few years, the Republic's torpedo boats and destroyers had become a byword for innovative and effective tactics, hunting in packs that had a lot of their competitors' captains nervous, even if they would not admit it openly:
(New Minifigs sculpts numbered '24')
This thirst for innovation to balance numbers also saw the deployment of some basic submarines; although in 1910 these were seen as more an asset in terms of reconnaissance rather than a destructive arm:
(Two BMC style castings that are unmarked, and in the middle, a new Minifigs sculpt, numbered '25')
The Republic's main battlefleet might be small, but they pack a powerful punch: