Like many other nations, Italy began experimenting with parachute troops in the late 1930s, but it was not until the start of the war in 1940 and the introduction of an improved parachute that these troops could be considered ready for action. The Folgore Division had been raised for a projected invasion of Malta, but instead served as infantry in the North African theatre. Included in the division was a unit of light artillery, which could provide fire support for the paratroops once they had landed.
The artillery piece in this set is the 47/32 47mm anti-tank gun. Original Austrian, this piece of ordnance was made in large numbers in Italy and was the principle infantry gun of the division, though it was used widely throughout the Italian army. It was light, so clearly suited to airborne operations, and relatively easy to assemble and use. The model in this set is a good and detailed representation of this item, and comes in just four pieces - the barrel, carriage and two wheels. The wheels fitted very well, but we found we had to enlarge the hole before the barrel would fit properly. Also the peg is angled so as to force the gun to be pointing very high - a problem that is not easy to correct. When in action the wheels would be removed, so the barrel would be a little less high than in our photograph, but even without the wheels the barrel remains very much pointing upwards, which is annoying as it cannot easily be changed.
The crew for this gun are various figures kneeling or sitting, and are in general poses with arms up as if handling the gun. The effect when placed by the gun is quite pleasing, and none have a base (though they all stand successfully without one), allowing close proximity to the piece. They are clearly paratroops as they are dressed in the unique paratroop uniform including the M1938 paratroop helmet and the collarless sahariana jacket. Both officers are wearing the bustina cap and are handling binoculars.
The other piece of equipment is the 8mm Breda M1937 machine gun. This has been quite well sculpted, though the tripod has been offset to allow the mould to leave no extraneous plastic. However this weapon was never belt fed, so the belt sculpted here is incorrect, and the crewman holding another belt is surplus to requirements. The operator is in a fairly awkward position - necessary to allow the figure to be cast as one piece, but we would have preferred to see a separate figure much like that in many other sets such as Airfix 8th Army.
As with the infantry set (002), the style of these figures is very similar to that of the old Esci ones, and perhaps they share the same sculptor. In any case, detail is well defined and there is little extra plastic, much like the Esci figures in fact. One or two of the poses actually reminded us of some of the Atlantic Modern series, but certainly the quality is better than those. This is a nice set which complements the Folgore infantry, and adds some very useful figures to the small but growing range of World War II Italians.