The growing anti-foreigner movement in China at the end of the 19th century suddenly became more murderous in 1900, when missionaries and Chinese Christians were attacked and killed in larger numbers, while the Imperial government gave very mixed signals as to their attitude toward the movement. When the foreign legations in Peking and elsewhere were directly threatened, western governments started sending troops to the area, mainly from nearby colonies where available. Italy had no such colonies, so on 5th July the government ordered the assembly of an expeditionary force, which set sail for the Orient from Naples a fortnight later. This force, of a little under 2,000 men, included 840 officers and men of the elite Bersaglieri, Italy’s most famous soldiers. The force arrived at Taku on 29th August, by which time the siege of Tientsin had been lifted, the legations in Peking rescued and a 'victory parade' had been held in the Forbidden City itself. With all the important action already missed, the Italians were left to take part in a number of mopping up operations. With order restored they left for home the following year.
The Bersaglieri left for the East with two uniforms - their normal blue one and one in 'light bronze' - but both were of a similar cut. The single-breasted tunic had epaulettes with small wings on the blue model, but no wings on the tropical version. These figures have no wings, so although the detail is a small one they would technically work better as the tropical version. As they are on tropical service they all wear the tropical helmet, but of course still with the cockerel-feather plume on the right side. They wear M1891 webbing which supports two front ammunition pouches and a bayonet scabbard but nothing else. Only one man has his blanket or cape rolled across his body. The two officer poses (last two in bottom row) both correctly have a sash over their right shoulder and a sabre at their side (which was not always worn in the field). Surprisingly however both have single-breasted tunics when they should be double-breasted. The equipment is a bit light and the ammunition pouches are rather too small, but otherwise accuracy is pretty good.
The poses have all the usual examples included apart from a man apparently on the march. Given the subject perhaps a man running at the double might have been worth while, although this is more of a parade feature and a more realistic walking figure would have been better. The bottom row includes a man standing and holding his helmet, which is an unusual pose, and, also unusually for RedBox, two officer figures. One is looking through binoculars while the other is standing holding his sabre, but both are quite nice.
The standard of production on these figures are what we have come to expect from RedBox, with not particularly great detail and a rather flattened stance to most. Some of the anatomy is not at all good, particularly on many of the men’s backs for some reason. Flash is fairly frequent but while very noticeable in some places is missing entirely in others. The usual small bases provide barely adequate support for the figures, while two of them (the middle two in the bottom row) lean so far back as to not stand by themselves without some force being applied to straighten them.
Once more we find a RedBox set with well researched figures in useful poses but let down by a fairly poor level of sculpting. Good enough for the tabletop wargame no doubt but not likely to get past the first elimination round in a beauty contest.