When Italy joined the War in May 1915, the pattern of warfare in both France and Russia was already well established, and the importance of artillery was clear to see. However Italy was slow to learn these lessons, and in any case Italian industry was not able to provide the guns and ammunition that would be required. As with other countries therefore Italy suffered from a shortage of artillery of all sizes, and at times had to accept artillery divisions from her allies. In the mountainous areas that made up much of the Italian front, artillery could be particularly deadly, sending fearsome splinters of rock in all directions when it hit, as opposed to the tendency to sink into the mud in Flanders for example. HaT have already made an Italian field piece for this war, and with this set they now provide the crew.
Italian infantry and artillery wore the M1909 tunic with stand collar and a fly front but no external pockets. The infantry version had a fabric lump (nicknamed salsicciotti = 'sausages') at the end of each shoulder strap to avoid belts slipping off, but this does not seem to have been present for artillery personnel, and they are absent here too, so the tunic on these figures is correct, although this should have two rear vents which were usually closed with buttons and therefore hard to see here. All the figures wear trousers with puttees and ankle boots, which were quickly adopted during the war as more practical than the long boots or gaiters of old. On the head all have the regulation M1909 berretto, or cap, with peak and chinstrap. Other caps, including the M1915 rounded version and the two-pointed field cap, would also have been accurate but the one here is fine. Each sprue contains one spare head (fifth from the left in our bottom row) wearing the Adrian-style helmet. This is a very welcome and sensible piece as helmets quickly became vital in the front line, but only having four of them in each set of 32 figures is very limiting and we would have liked to have seen a lot more.
As usual artillery crew did not wear any kit while manning the guns, and these figures too are without the canteens, haversacks and other impedimenta that they might carry on the march. However every man does have a bandolier over his left shoulder. Bandoliers were issued, and while there are plenty of photographs showing bandoliers on artillery crews, we would have much preferred to see some of these figures with none, as those same photos show that it was very common to leave them off. The bandolier here is not the regulation M1897 type with the two front pockets, but a different model with three pockets, which again seems to have been worn, but we would have preferred at least some of the regulation model.
Eight poses is pretty good for an artillery set, although two are clearly intended for a caisson. For the rest we have a classic selection of men handling ammunition or empty-handed, which is not ideal but of course the correct pose would depend on what gun they were serving, so as a compromise they are fine. One man is operating a field telephone, while one of the standing figures seems to hold binoculars and so presumably is in charge of the piece.
With such simple and practical uniforms these figures have few opportunities for fine detail, although as we have said this is missing in a few places such as the bandoliers and the cap badges. On the whole though these are a pretty good sculpting job, and there is no flash or excess plastic to remove.
The set includes a number of small accessories as shown in our bottom row. We find boxes, shells and wicker containers for shells, all of which are useful. Not quite so useful are the spade, small signpost and tree stump - we would have used that space on the sprue for more spare heads.
This is quite a reasonable set although we were not happy with the style and prevalence of the bandoliers. The fact that most of the crew are kneeling suggests smaller field artillery rather than the heavy variety, which is fine, so this is a useful set for the often neglected Italian Army of World War I.