Who's Who - Paolo Thaon di Revel

Count Paolo Thaon di Revel (1859-1948) served twice as Italian Navy Chief of Staff during World War One and was renowned for his extreme reluctance to endanger the Italian battlefleet in anything other than a major action.

Thaon di Revel's naval career began with his entrance to the Naval School in 1873.  The 1911-12 Italo-Turkish War brought him command of the 2nd Naval Division.  In March 1913 he was appointed Naval Chief of Staff.

Italy began the First World War as a neutral power, although Thaon di Revel was clear in believing that Italy was ill-equipped from a naval perspective to deal with Allied forces in the Mediterranean.

He was therefore in favour of war with the Austro-Hungarians.  He was also clear in believing that a decisive encounter between both fleets would end favourably for Italy (and was therefore desirable).

Until this came about however he was determined not to endanger the Italian battlefleet, vulnerable as it was to enemy submarines (as a relatively minor force, with Thaon di Revel preferring investment in coastal warships and submarines rather than dreadnoughts).

Such a policy proved a political liability however, with the Italian public demanding a more active naval role.  Consequently Thaon di Revel was replaced in October 1915 by new Minister of Marine Corsi; the former was dispatched to supervise naval forces based in Venice.

He nevertheless returned to his former post as Chief of Staff in February 1917, and was also handed direct command of the battlefleet, replacing Duke of the Abruzzi.  Time may have passed but Thaon di Revel remained as determined as ever to practice a no-risk battlefleet policy (as much as anything in order that it could be used as a diplomatic bargaining tool in the post-war era).

Such an outlook inevitably strained Allied relations and prevented the appointment of an inter-Allied commander in the Mediterranean (since Thaon di Revel would only accept an Italian commander in the Adriatic).

In November 1918 he was promoted by the King, Emanuele III, to Admiral (and, after the war, to Grand Admiral).  Appointed technical advisor to the Italian contingent at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 (he stepped down as naval Chief of Staff in November that year), he also became Mussolini's first Minister of Marine from 1922-25.  1924 brought him a further honour - the King awarded him the title Duke of the Sea (Duca del Mare).

He died in 1948.

"Lance corporal bacon" was the name used by Anzac soldiers to describe very fatty bacon with a sliver of lean meat running through it.

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