In the late 1920s Italy decided to modernise its arsenal of artillery, much of which was booty taken from their opponents after the Great War. One of the results was the 75/18 Model 34 Mountain Howitzer, a light gun that could be broken down for mountain fighting, and it was decided to produce a version for the normal field batteries, which led to the 75/18 Model 35, the same barrel on a more conventional carriage. Both guns proved to be good weapons, but as so often the problem was that industry could not produce enough to meet the Army’s needs, especially as some were exported to bring in much-needed foreign currency and raw materials. By September 1942 just 68 of the Model 35 had been delivered to the Army, and although more would be produced later, the numbers were much too small to have a significant impact on the course of the war either in North Africa or at home.
This set contains two of this gun, and we found this a really nice and easy model to put together. Certainly it is simplified as you would expect, but on the whole it is correctly sized and accurately done. The whole weapon is 50 mm (360 cm) in length, and the wheels have a diameter of 16 mm (115 cm), which means they come to about waist height because the figures are on bases and the gun is not. The parts are few (just six) but quite crisply done and the resulting model is quite pleasing and needs no gluing. The wheels are 10-spoke metal – one of the three types used on this gun - but the split trails are a problem. They are fixed as shown, so parallel to each other. This means they cannot be placed to meet at the back, as might be done during transportation, nor pulled apart as would be done when in action. Understandably they also cannot be folded like the real thing, but the fixed and largely pointless positioning of the trails seriously impairs the look – the photoshopped box art is clearly of men posing around a museum piece; it would not have seen action like this. Moveable trails would have been great, but if you have to fix them, we think Strelets should have chosen an ‘in action’ configuration or offered both action and transport options. Another issue is that there is no shield. The shield could be removed, for when movement in difficult terrain such as mountains was required, but normally the shield was attached, so not having one available here is a real shame.
Moving on to the men, we have several who seem to be interacting directly with the weapon, which is great, but they work best if the gun is raised to the correct height with a suitable base. There are also several actively supplying ammunition, which is obviously vital yet is often overlooked. Here two men are handling individual rounds while others are moving or opening crates, which we thought were excellent poses. Finally, there is a command group – two officers plus a radio operator. From its size and design the radio looks like the standard RF1 model, but the operator is offering a telephone handset when such radios used separate headsets and microphones instead. Nevertheless the pose is quite appealing, and really all the poses are good choices in our view.
Warfare in the challenging climate of North Africa always meant that it was almost impossible to stop the men from adapting their clothing to improve comfort, and as the Italians increasingly found supplies could not get through from the homeland, the result was a very varied appearance that worried about practicality rather than smartness or uniformity. Many of these men wear the standard M1933 steel helmet of course, but we also find a couple wearing the tropical sun hat instead, and both officers wear the bustina, one with the later peak and one without. About half are wearing shirt and shorts, both of which could vary greatly but all here look reasonable. The others wear the normal tunic with either shorts or regulation breeches and puttees, again a perfectly authentic costume. One also has a scarf around his neck, perhaps to keep out the sand and dust, but all the uniform here looks accurate. No one is burdened with any items of kit except for the officers, both of whom have revolvers in a holster.
The figures are nice and slender, and the detail is fair, but these are not the most attractive figures ever made in plastic. The faces in particular are pretty basic, which always has a big impact on the look of a figure close up, but in all regards the sculpting here is reasonable rather than good, and occasionally it can get quite poor such as the raised right hand of the last officer – no more than a blob. Flash is quite variable, but generally fairly low level.
The centrepiece of this set, the gun, is an appealing and solid model that is easy to assemble but simplified, perhaps too much as the immovable trails and the missing shield might imply. The crew is numerous, although spread more thinly if they are to serve two guns. They are well posed and correctly attired, though the quality of each is no more than reasonable. From a distance of course these issues largely disappear, and so it is from a distance that this set looks its best, which is not the most positive observation on a set which still delivers a useful weapon and some very appropriate crew figures for the army in Tunisia, where this weapon made its only North African appearance.