When the Boxer Rebellion finally ignited in China in 1900, Italy had relatively few resources in the area to assist the foreign powers. Like most other countries, when the call came for troops to defend the Legations in Peking, Italy had only navy vessels in the area, and therefore could only offer sailors for the task. As a result, 41 sailors and officers were sent to Peking, of which 11 sailors and one officer were detached for the defence of the Pei T'ang cathedral. Others participated in operations around the Taku forts and the siege of Tientsin, and around 40 were part of Seymour’s abortive relief column (including its first fatalities). Later actions did not include these men as by then regular infantry from around the world had arrived to relieve them.
The 12 poses in this set, 11 sailors and one officer, by chance matches the entire Italian contingent at the Pei T'ang cathedral, where they fought so valiantly. The poses themselves are all pretty reasonable but are heavily biased in favour of those firing their rifles. This makes for a relatively narrow range of figures, although having no specialists apart from the officer does rescue the situation to some extent. All told the poses are largely fine but uninspiring.
The dress of the Italian sailor closely followed that of all European states, with the usual square collar or 'square rig' on the jumper and loose trousers. For the photographer or senior officer, jumpers would be tucked into trousers, which would be tucked into gaiters, but on active service both might be lose, as on these figures. All the men wear the usual cap, which here has the tails of the ribbon hanging at the back, although it seems that these should actually be tied in a bow on the left side. Although this was regulation uniform there is much evidence to suggest the men often wore wide-brimmed sun hats during the hot Chinese summer. Naturally as they are in essence being required to act as infantry most have been issued infantry equipment, namely the M1891 belts with ammunition pouches on each side of the buckle. The belts are properly done but the pouches are considerably smaller than they should be. The belts also support a bayonet on the left hip (which in some cases look to be empty, yet no one has a bayonet fixed), but we were disappointed to see no other items of kit, particularly the canteen that would be so important in such heat.
The officer has correctly been given a peaked cap, but wears a particularly short jacket. He carries a revolver, while the rest of the men carry rifles, which are too poorly detailed to identify with any confidence.
There is little to get excited about in the sculpting of these figures, which is fairly basic even though the uniform makes few demands on the sculptor. What detail is required is largely present but the presentation is fairly poor and smaller elements such as fingers on hands are mostly undefined. The poses are a little flat and lack a good sense of movement. Flash is mainly limited to a few tabs rather than a general problem, although in a couple of places plastic completely fills what should be a hole (between the legs or the arms).
While these figures are not impressive they are at least adequate and fairly accurate, adding yet another element to the multinational Boxer Rebellion forces on offer.