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Waterloo 1815

Set 040

WWII Italian Infantry (Campaign Dress)

Click for larger image
All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2016
Contents 42 figures
Poses 14 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 24.5 mm (= 1.77 m)

Review

For Italy the Second World War was very poorly timed, for in 1940 the country was in no condition to sustain a major conflict on several fronts against another power. Yet by mid-1940 it was starting to look like the seemingly invincible Germans would soon achieve all their war aims, and Mussolini did not wish to be left behind. He famously said that he needed a few thousand Italian dead so he could sit at the peace conference, and so Italy declared war on France and Britain on 10th June, by which time both countries had already been defeated by Germany. Mussolini’s ambitions centred on the Mediterranean, which he wished to become an ‘Italian lake’, yet along with the disasters in North Africa, Italian forces failed to achieve any of their objectives to that end. Instead, substantial German assistance was required to complete invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia, and until Italy signed the armistice with the Allies in 1943 their main role in Europe was to occupy Greece and the Balkans, as well as supply a mainly symbolic force for Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

These figures show the men in normal uniform for the European campaign, with the open-collared tunic showing an open shirt (rather than the smart but unlikely tie). The tunic is correctly done, with the two breast and two skirt pockets, and the vent at the back. Most here wear the M1933 helmet, and all have the breeches with short boots and puttees round the lower leg. While there could be variations to this uniform, everything here is correct and properly done. Two men do have notable variances in their uniform, the first of which is the prone machine gunner in the third row. He wears a greatcoat, which was generally considered a poor garment with which to keep warm, but in the absence of anything else it was widely worn. The second notable figure is the standing man in the bottom row. He too wears a greatcoat, but this is a double-breasted and properly lined version, which was much superior to the normal thin single-breasted version worn by most troops. He is therefore lucky to be so well clothed, and he also benefits from having insulated canvas overboots, which helped ward off frostbite, which was a particular problem in the higher altitudes of the Balkans and in the Soviet winter. Finally he wears a balaclava and what looks like the Romanian-style ciacula hat, which was very warm and not regulation but issued to many grateful troops in Russia.

The men’s personal kit also presents us with very few concerns. Almost all have the usual M1933 gasmask satchel on the left hip, used mainly as a general haversack, and the standard water bottle on the right. Many also have full kit of knapsack on the back with rolled greatcoat or tent section/poncho over the top and rolled blanket underneath. On the front of the waist belt are the characteristic pair of ammunition pouches, though the strap that passed around the neck to support this is missing here. Most also have the bayonet scabbard on the front left, completing a good lineup of kit items. The light machine-gunner has a pouch for extra ammunition, and some using the heavy weapons have a pistol holster too, which is good.

There is a very strong variety of poses on offer in this set. The top row shows the fairly standard riflemen, all of which are good, and it is nice to see the marching figure in the second row too. Beside him is a radio operator, who has been really well done, sitting cross-legged listening through his headphones and writing something in a notebook on his right side. This lovely, natural pose has been achieved with a single piece rather than multiple parts, so benefits, as many here do, from a clever mould that means there is no excess plastic, just great poses. The radio next to this figure is the RF.3C, which is well done although it is missing it’s large aerial, which is perhaps not surprising.

The second row ends with a very nice pair of figures which join together to make a charming tableau of a man cradling the head of another and offering a drink from his water bottle. These figures peg together, but with little effort you could use them separately too, though the effect when paired as intended is very pleasing. Some will see this as taking up too much space that could have been used for combat troops, but we liked both the idea and the execution.

The third row starts with a man operating a heavy machine gun. The gun is a single piece, the man another, and they fit together very well and securely. The result is a really nice little model which again looks very natural thanks to a clever mould. Our only problem with this piece is identification of the machine gun. You might expect such a weapon to be the Breda 37, the most common in use by the Italians at this time, especially as this is what is illustrated on the box, but this model does not look anything like it. Another possibility would be the Fiat/Revelli 1914/35, but again, it looks nothing like that either, and neither does it resemble another suggested possibility, the Hotchkiss M1914. There is no ammunition loaded, and perhaps it is a captured weapon from an enemy, but we just could not tell.

The second figure in the row is a generic one of a man holding an ammunition box, and so could be useful in many situations. Again a very natural pose achieved with just a single piece and very well done. The last figure is a prone gunner firing a Breda M1930, the standard light machine gun of the war. Once again this is a single piece that achieves a great pose (particularly around the head) using a complex mould, though this man is resting his left arm on the ground when he should actually be steading the butt with it. The weapon is not particularly well detailed, though it does have the tray which held the 20 round clip.

Moving on to the bottom row, the mortar being loaded by the first figure is the 81mm Model 35. This complex figure does have some assembly, but nothing too arduous. The mortar is well done apart from the bipod, where the central rod has been misunderstood by the sculptor as a third leg for a tripod, which is both silly and, as you can see, comes nowhere near to reaching the ground. Also this weapon is elevated to about 80 degrees, so wherever it is being pointed, the round will not travel very far!

Beside the mortar man is one apparently passing ammunition from a box. As this looks to be short trays it must be for the Breda M1930 light machine gun above, so a very useful figure, though it does come in two pieces. The final figure is the soldier already described as well wrapped up against the cold. He looks to be carrying an anti-tank rifle, which would probably be of little use against most armour he might encounter, particularly on the Russian front. Our guess would be this is the Marosczek WZ35, a Polish weapon captured by the Germans in 1939 and passed on to the Italians, despite its very limited effectiveness, who designated it the Fucile Controcarro 35(P).

The sculpting is generally very good, though detail is vague on some of the weapons. There is a little flash in some places, but the many natural poses that have been achieved with a complex mould are very impressive, and where separate items do need to be put together this is generally very secure and easy, as we would expect from the Caesar stable. We could not decide what the extra pieces at the end are, but assume they are ammunition boxes for some of the weapons, or perhaps a battery for the radio. Compared to the venerable but still well-liked if limited Airfix set of Italian infantry, these figures mostly compare very well, and they match well too, though some of the Airfix figures are noticeably shorter.

With so few sets of Italian infantry available this set was always going to be welcome, and in fact it does a good job. Apart from the question mark over the heavy machine gun we found no serious accuracy problems, and the poses are particularly fine too. Not a lot of ordinary infantrymen compared to the numbers of specialists, but you do get a wide range of weaponry and all the figures are very usable, so in a hobby with so many sets of German infantry it is nice to report something for the Italians, and a good set too.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 10
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 9
Mould 10

Further Reading
Books
"Axis Forces in Yugoslavia 1941-45" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.282) - Nigel Thomas - 9781855324732
"Infantry Weapons of World War II" - David & Charles - Jan Suermont - 9780715319253
"Regio Esercito" - Lulu - Patrick Cloutier
"The Armed Forces of World War II" - Orbis - Andrew Mollo - 9780856132964
"The Italian Army 1940-45 (1) Europe 1940-43" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.340) - Philip Jowett - 9781855328648
"The Italian Army at War - Europe 1940-43" - Concord - Philip Jowett - 9789623611503
"World War II Infantry" - Windrow & Greene (Europa Militaria Series No.2) - Laurent Mirouze - 9781872004150
Magazines
"Militaria (English Language)" - No.12
"Militaria (French Language)" - No.40

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