Garibaldi is an undisputed Italian hero and his many exploits are beyond the scope of this short article. However he will forever be associated with his famous Redshirts, the name given to the followers who fought with him in many places but always in the cause of freedom. Traditionally (but without firm evidence) the practice of wearing a red shirt is ascribed to when Garibaldi fought in Uruguay, but in many later battles his men wore a different uniform, or indeed little or no uniform. However it is the Expedition of the Thousand in 1860, when he effectively conquered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the name of a united Italy, that the name Redshirts is mostly associated. That campaign can have few equals in terms of drama, so a set of figures representing it was long overdue.
The Expedition of the Thousand was something of a rush job, and at least initially there was no uniform amongst the volunteers. Some red shirts were worn, but it was only later that a redshirt uniform could be said to have appeared. The figures in this set are to a great degree wearing such a uniform, but there is still plenty of variation to reflect the more realistic picture rather than the image of perfection often printed in illustrated newspapers of the day. The first figure in the top row wears a typical Calabrian hat (a symbol of republicanism at the time) and a cloak, while various differences in style amongst the other figures are all authentic.
The set includes three identifiable personalities. The first is Garibaldi himself, who is shown in the second row on his horse with sabre pointing skyward. He was far from a lover of neatness and uniform, and he was commonly seen wearing a poncho and slouch hat, sombrero or pork-pie hat. Here though he is relatively smart, wearing a shirt and necktie while remaining bareheaded. This is not the most typical image of the man, but nor is it inappropriate, and looks very much like a portrait of him published in the Illustrated London News depicting the famous meeting he had with King Victor Emmanuel II at Teano after the battle of Volturno. Strangely however the box tells us that Garibaldi appears more than once, and so he does. The last figure on the top row bears a strong resemblance to him and wears a typical hat, while the wounded man being assisted in the second row is also Garibaldi. Of course this does not preclude such figures from being used for general members of the Redshirts, but it does seem strange that so many Garibaldi figures should be included.
The second recognisable figure is that of King Victor Emmanuel II, ruler of Piedmont and later of a united Italy. Here the box confirms that this figure is of him at the Teano meeting. Many illustrations of this meeting exist which do not agree on details of uniform, but those on this figure look appropriate. Strangely however he has no hat, which would have been seen as strange behaviour for any gentleman when out of doors, never mind a king. The facial representation of the king is very good, as it is for Garibaldi. The somewhat unusual stance of the king’s horse seems again to be copied from the aforementioned Illustrated London News picture, but we would have preferred a simple standing pose instead.
Finally the third personality is clearly meant to be an officer, as he wears a much more ornate hussar-style uniform than the men. This figure is of Nino Bixio, one of Garibaldi’s most courageous generals, although if so then ideally this figure too should be mounted.
The poses are quite an unusual mix. All the single-copy ones are fine, and we particularly liked the wounded man duo. The multiple poses include useful firing and advancing poses, but the figure apparently running while suffering a wound to his side is a strange one to duplicate so many times, and similarly we were not fond of the last figure in that row, who is running while holding his rifle well to the side. The first figure in the second row is also quite unusual and not especially good for so many copies. Much the most famous tactic of the Redshirts was the bayonet charge, which they used a great deal and with considerable effect. Although there are only six multiple poses in this set we would have liked to have seen more obviously charging with bayonet poses.
In some places the sculpting of these figures is superb, with the braid and decoration on Bixio’s uniform being particularly fine. Overall the standard is pretty good, but in some places it dips markedly. On several figures the sculptor has put the face at an angle to the mould, with the result that part of the face just melts into nothing where the mould cannot reach. Also there are occasional misalignments between the two halves of the mould, and on some figures there are knapsacks with no apparent straps or other means of support. The poses are certainly not flat, but this does mean there is noticeable excess plastic in places, although Lucky Toys have made some attempt to reduce this in later pressings. This has been done partly by having separate arms and firearms for some poses, but these are not a good fit and will take some trimming to make hands hold weapons, for example. Flash too is not too bad but certainly evident in some places, and where there are pegs these sometimes need to be reduced in size before they will fit. Both the mounted figures fit on their horse but both will require gluing to stay put.
With so much of the sprue taken up by the personality figures there are relatively few ordinary soldiers in this set, and we would have liked to have seen more, particularly advancing with bayonet forward, head lowered against the opposition fire. However these figures are pretty accurate and have been imaginatively designed, although their execution is something of a mixed bag.