The famous Bersaglieri had been formed in 1836 as part of the Piedmontese Army, and right from the start they made an impact. Acting as both light infantry and, on occasion, elite assault troops, they quickly earned an excellent reputation. An important part of gaining recognition and building esprit-de-corps is having a distinctive feature, and for the Bersaglieri this is the feather plume on the right side on their hat, a feature that they retain to this day.
These figures were made during the late 1960s, and came in a variety of packaging with varying numbers of each pose. The packaging made no reference to the period for these figures, but they wear a uniform worn by these troops during the First World War. While this uniform had existed well before 1915, the presence of the grenade, and the style of ammunition pouches, reinforce the Great War dating, and the header card illustration showing men advancing through barbed wire seems to confirm it. However it is perfectly possible that no particular date was intended with these figures, and they are just generic Bersaglieri! Their Moretto hats with the cockerel feathers are the most eye-catching part of their costume, but these were withdrawn in September 1915, only months after Italy entered the war, because not surprisingly they were deemed too visible. Two years later they made a return, but by then the plume was attached to helmets, so these figures are actually only well suited to the early months of Italy’s war, particularly as later in the war the men wore puttees around the whole of the lower leg, which these figures do not. They wear a short tunic that differed greatly from the standard infantry tunic of the day, having been issued to cycle units and some other Bersaglieri. It has a stand-and-fall collar and breast pockets, although curiously these figures are wearing theirs unbuttoned at the neck. The loose trousers were normal, and again unlike the infantry these men wear gaiters. Equipment and webbing is very minimal and well below what would normally have been worn - most have few or no ammunition pouches, for example!
As can be seen the poses are a meagre selection, although if you choose to limit yourself to five then these are about the best ones to use. However they are not particularly well done, with little impression of movement or urgency. This applies especially to the man about to throw a grenade, with little energy apparently being put into the throw.
The quality of these figures is perhaps fairly typical of their era, but clearly they fail to compare well with the standards that can be achieved today. The detail is not particularly sharp and has been kept at a low level, with very little kit, featureless weapons and only the more obvious folds in the clothing. Flash is quite extensive and there are many areas where the moulds do not match well, so that items seen from one side simply stop dead at the mould line. Today they would be condemned as very poor, but at the time their young purchasers probably neither noticed nor cared.
The style of these figures is reminiscent of that other Italian producer, Atlantic. While not matching or even approaching today’s high standards, this is still one of the very few sets that could work as Great War Italians, and to date no one else has depicted this subject. As a result they continue to have something to offer, but the set is extremely rare these days.