Four motorships of the same design were built for the firm, Regia Azienda Monopolio Banane. Ramb I and Ramb III in the Ansaldo yard in Genoa and Ramb II and Ramb IV in the CRDA yards at Monfalcone and Trieste in 1937-1938. They were designed to transport bananas from Italian Somalia and Eritrea in Italian East Africa to Italy. They served in this capacity until Italy’s entrance into World War Two. After war was declared, they were refitted to serve as convoy raiders and escorts.
These four ships had very checkered careers. Ramb I, II, and IV were in Italian East Africa when war was declared by Italy and therefore were cut off from return to homeports. Ramb I made an unsuccessful raid into the Red Sea. On February 21, 1941 she slipped past the British blockade in an effort to reach friendly neutral ports in Japan.
" The Ramb I, however ‘hooked’ in mid-ocean by the British cruiser Leander, which ordered it to surrender. Instead, the ship opened fire and naturally was soon overcome and sunk by the heavier guns of the cruiser." The Italian Navy in World War Two, by Commander Marc’ Antonio Bragadin, page 74
Ramb II also successfully avoided the British blockade with the ship R.N. Eritrea, with the same mission as her sister, and was more fortunate. She sailed across the Indian Ocean and the Sunda Sea to reach Kobe, Japan on March 23, 1941. Upon reaching Japan, Ramb II was supposed to operate as a raider in the Pacific. Even though allied with Italy, the authorities of then neutral Japan took a dim view of the idea of an Italian raider operating from neutral Japanese ports. They refused to comply with the Italian plans. In Japan she had her visible weapons removed and was chartered to the Japanese government under the name Calitea II. When Italy declared an armistice, the crew of Ramb II scuttled her at Kobe despite the possible consequences to them. The Japanese refloated the ship and she was in Japanese service until January 12, 1945, when she was sunk by US aircraft.
Ramb IV was converted into a hospital ship with the goal of transporting wounded back to Italy. This mission was impossible because of the British control of the Suez Canal and it would have been suicide to attempt to round the Cape of Good Hope and enter the Mediterranean past Gibraltar. The British captured her on April 10, 1941. Pressed into British service, she then operated in the Red Sea and later off Libya. She was bombed and set afire by German aircraft and sank off Alexandria on May 10, 1942.
Ramb III, the only ship in the class in homeport at the start of the war, had a lengthy career. After being requisitioned by the Italian Navy, she served as a convoy escort. During the raid on the Italian port of Taranto on November 12, 1940, the Royal Navy detached a cruiser division with accompanying destroyers for a quick swing through the lower Adriatic. This force found a small convoy of four merchant ships escorted by Ramb III and escort vessel Fabrizi, which were bound for Brindisi from Valona.
" The merchantman were protected by the old escort vessel Fabrizi and the auxiliary ship Ramb III. The latter vessel, a converted merchant ship which had been armed to undertake minor escort duties, fired 19 salvos in its own defense and succeeded in breaking away without suffering any damage. The Fabrizi, an old destroyer escort with a great World War I record, rushed fearlessly to the attack against the overwhelmingly superior forces, but it was hit immediately and seriously damaged. Despite this damage, the escort vessel continued to fire in the hope of diverting British attention from the merchant ships, which meantime might be able to get away. The Fabrizi stopped firing only when it was literally riddled with shells and was no longer able to act offensively. It continued to maneuver, however, in an attempt to draw the British ships into the Italian minefields. But the British, meanwhile, divided up the targets and sank all four of the merchant ships." The Italian Navy in World War Two, by Bragadin, pages 47-48.
Ramb III was torpedoed by HMS Triumph in Bengazi harbor on May 30, 1941. She was salvaged and returned to Trieste. She was seized by German troops at Trieste on September 9, 1943. Refitted as a minelayer and pressed into the service of the Kriegsmarine, she was renamed Kiebitz. In this capacity she laid over 5,000 mines in the Adriatic Sea until she ran into one of her own mines off Ancona. Running astern, she reached Fiume with no further damage. Here, allied aircraft sank her in November 1944. After the war she was refloated by the Yugoslavian Navy. She was converted into a training ship in 1952 and renamed Galeb. In this service, with her appearance greatly altered from her original incarnation as Ramb III, she served for forty years. (The history of these ships is from the Regia Marina instructions for the kit and The Italian Navy of World War Two, by Commander Marc’ Antonio Bragadin.)
Regia Marina has incorporated a great deal of detail into the hull casting. These ships did not have railing on the main deck. Instead they were built with solid shielding. The first thing that I noticed was the supports for this shielding cast on to the hull shielding. That touch is illustrative of the detail that Regia Marina has cast integral to the hull. Two other items of special mention are the 12 deck winches clustered around the fore and aft cargo hatches and the anchor winch, with the anchor chain curving up to the winch. The hull had no flaws and no warp. The only clean-up work to be done is the removal of short resin pour sprues and a light sanding of the bottom of the ship. Since the Rambs had solid bulkheads, rather than railing, scuttles were used to let deck water flow off of the ships. These scuttles, nine to each side, are not cast into the shielding. Instead, Regia Marina in the instructions shows their placement and shape and recommends using a 0.4 drill to locate them and a hobby knife to obtain the final oval shape. The superstructure goes together in layers, with an impressive three decks of windows on the forward face of the structure.
With a length of 6 3/8 inches, the model is not large and yet the kit includes a large number of small parts. There are six runners of these small parts. Each runner is designated by a letter and each part on the runner by a number. These parts include gun platforms, AA gun tubs, main guns, very highly detailed AA guns, boats, davits, anchors, cargo derricks and a host of finely executed ventilator funnels. The only problems found with the small parts were due to damage in transit. Two AA barrels were broken and two AA tubs needed minor repairs. The kit comes with a number of straight pins that are used for cargo booms once the head is removed. Lastly there is a stainless steel AA director on a very small fret. In keeping with the past work of Regia Marina, all parts are of an excellent quality. The only additions I would recommend would be the use of brass railing on the superstructure decks and rigging.
Regia Marina has produced a very interesting model. Outside of IJN subjects, very few auxiliary vessels have been produced. Regia Marina is to be applauded for producing such a model. It is clearly a change of pace from the norm of resin warships. They have taken an obscure topic and produced a kit of excellent quality. The fine casting and detail of the resin parts, decals and extra touches on the instructions all clearly demonstrate the thought and care that has gone into producing this replica. This kit will make a fine addition to anyone’s 1:700 collection.
The Ramb by Regia Marina should be available through NNT,
Pacific Front, Kitlink or other vendors that normally stock the products of Regia