Since this unit is little known, a brief history lesson is in order. With the war going badly for Italy, Mussolini was overthrown on the 24th July 1943, and secret negotiations began with the Allies. On the 3rd September an armistice with the Allies was agreed (announced on the 8th), and the first Allied troops landed in mainland Italy. On the 12th Mussolini was released from captivity by German paratroops, and a few days later the Italian Social Republic ('RSI') was declared, formed of that part of Italy still under German control. The King and Government had fled south, and on the 13th October declared war on Germany, and therefore on the fascist RSI too. With the Italian army disarmed and imprisoned, the RSI began raising its own forces from October that year, and these included a unit known as X Mas (pronounced 'Decima Mas' from the Roman X for ten). This unit was to reach divisional strength, with in excess of 25,000 men, and proved itself to be a well trained and well motivated force.
Uniform and equipment of the X Mas was initially quite similar to the pre-armistice period, in large measure because supply was exceptionally difficult under German occupation. The most popular uniform was the M1941 collarless wool tunic and baggy trousers in the paratrooper style, and most of the figures here as thus dressed, often with the common roll-neck jumper underneath. Some however have the Sahariana jacket with the cape top which was also common. Headgear was either the M1933 steel helmet or a wool beret, with both appearing in this set. All X Mas fighters had a metal badge on their left sleeve of similar design, and this too can be seen here.
Weapons were a mixture, which is not surprising given the difficulties under which they operated, but those depicted here are largely accurate. The third figure on the top row appears to hold a FNA-B M1943 sub machine gun, which was unique to RSI forces. One man carries an anti tank gun which we could not identify, while another is using a German Panzerfaust, though this item seems to have a rather large head.
The first thing that strikes you about the poses is the large number of those kneeling, with most of the rest stooping. It is clear that all these men are in action, so there are no figures on the march or at rest. For a World War II subject, particularly one that spent much time fighting partisans, such a high proportion of kneeling men seems reasonable to us, and all the men are reasonably well animated. The figure holding up a knife or bayonet is curious, particularly since he holds his Beretta sub machine gun by the barrel, which would be uncomfortable and forces the sculptor to move the magazine clip too close to the trigger. It has been suggested that he is using his bayonet as a mirror to see round a corner, but we remain to be convinced. The last figure on the top row is something normally seen in Atlantic sets - a man running forwards but with his head twisted almost beyond belief to the side. Apart from these though, all the poses are fine.
You may notice that the pictures do not indicate the number of each pose, and this is because there are two versions of this set on the market. The original version contains only the figures shown in the first three rows, and contains four of each. The second version, released three years after the first, added the four poses shown in the bottom row. For this version there are two of each of the original figures plus six of each of the new ones, making a total of 46 figures. The new poses provide some more conventional choices and definitely improve the set overall, with no difference in quality or style between the two. The scores below reflect the second type set, but the original type only scored a '7' for the lower number of poses.
The style of these figures is very much that of Esci, which may not be everyone's favourite, but it is certainly not bad. Although Italians traditionally wear caps and berets high on the head, we felt the berets on these men were so far back that it was a miracle they stayed on the head at all. One or two of the figures, such as the anti tank man, have unavoidable excess plastic between arms etc., and while the figures are mostly free from flash, there are a small number of tabs which will require removal. Overall however this is a very appealing set, and the extra poses in the second version are a very welcome development that were definitely worth the effort. Sets of World War II Italians are all too rare but this product is one of the best.