Although horsed cavalry was long obsolete by the time Italy entered the War in 1940, there were still 12 regiments of cavalry in Il Duce’s army. The European horsemen served on the Albanian/Greek border, in Sicily, southern Italy, Yugoslavia and in Russia, and while their impact on this mechanised war was slight they could still make a difference when the circumstances were favourable. One such incident occurred in August 1942, when Italian cavalry conducted a full charge against Soviet infantry supported by artillery near the village of Tschebarevskij on the Don. The action was costly but successful, and is generally cited as the last proper cavalry charge ever made in war.
The uniform of Italian cavalry was similar to that of the infantry, with the standard tunic over a collared shirt and tie. When in action all wore the M1933 steel helmet, but whereas the infantry wore puttees along with their breeches, the cavalry (and some others) wore long leather gaiters secured by a long strap. Such is the uniform of these figures, with in addition the two-pouch bandolier that was also normal for mounted men. The last figure pictured above is an officer, identifiable by the riding boots that we wears and the pistol holster on his Sam Browne belt.
As can be seen, most of the men are empty-handed apart from one man firing his carbine. Into those hands must go the various separate weapons shown, which include a bugle, grenade, two styles of sword, a carbine, flag and signal pistol. The two swords depict the standard cavalry sabre and the traditional guard-less Cossack shashka, which was used by some Italian cavalry on the Russian front as they preferred its balance. Another well-liked captured Soviet weapon was the PPSh41 submachine gun, and the officer figure has one of these in his hands. This refers to the charge at Tschebarevskij, where the commanding officer is supposed to have gone into battle with this weapon, although some say he had a whip instead.
There are only five poses, although having the ability to swap weapons around does make the most of them. Not every weapon makes sense on every figure, but still there is a fair amount of variety to be achieved here. Clearly all are meant to be at the charge, which as we have said was a very rare occurrence, so we might say that the poses are not particularly useful for the usual mundane tasks such as reconnaissance, although that does rather suck the romance out of the set. Ultimately of course everyone has to decide for themselves whether the poses are suitable for their needs or not, as with every other set, but if it is a full charge you want then these are pretty reasonable, although having to glue weapons to open hands is not a perfect solution.
Only having two horse poses is not that great either, although plenty of cavalry sets in the past have boasted no more. Both of these are again clearly at full speed, and while the second pose is fairly good the first is very far from any sort of a natural gait for this animal. In general the saddlery is OK although the fur cover that was sometimes worn over the saddle seems to have been misunderstood here as a furry saddle bag, which is on both sides of both animals. Despite the straps on the scabbards, swords were carried on the animal, not the man, and were partly obscured by this cover, so some cutting and gluing would be necessary to reproduce this here. One source states that, apart from those for the officers, Italian cavalry mounts had their manes shaved and their tails docked, and since this is not true for either of these animals these would have to be for officers only. However the photographic evidence for this contention is not clear so we will have to reserve judgement on that particular feature.
The sculpting of these figures is very good indeed, with everything a modeller could want in terms of clear detail and good proportions. The riders fit their mounts well, and we could find no flash anywhere. As we have said, the weapons have to be glued into the cupped hands, and this fit is quite variable. Equally the lowered ring hand needs to be widened, particularly if you want to put a carbine there. That apart these are very well made figures, although a little too tall for complete accuracy.
All the figures have the Cross of Savoy on their helmets, which fits perfectly with the depiction of the Savoia Cavelleria at Tschebarevskij, as does the box artwork, which shows red ties – a regimental distinction. Other regiments had various patterns of badge, which as with the Cross of Savoy was merely painted on, so the cross, which is in raised relief here, would need to be trimmed to allow those regiments to be depicted. The flag too has a design engraved on it, but this is correctly done. Forcing customers to glue their choice of weapon to each hand can either provide welcome options or irritating complexity, depending on your viewpoint, but it does help get around the limited number of poses. The horses are rather more troublesome to our eye, although better models from other sets could be substituted, and this would also allow less frantic scenes to be depicted. This is certainly a well-made set, and while it will require some time and patience to put together men and weapons a very acceptable scene can then be modelled, making this a very useful addition to the relatively small number of sets for Italy’s armed forces in World War II.