When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Mussolini saw an opportunity to help form a fascist country that would not only have similar principles to his Italy but would also be in his debt to a considerable degree - a most useful ally in his attempts to forge an Italian empire around the Mediterranean. He therefore quickly sent aid in the form of men, light tanks and aircraft, and after initially serving in Spanish formations the troops were organised into a corps known as Cuerpo de Tropas Volontarias (CTV - 'Corps of Volunteer Troops').
The CTV was made up of several groups, and reached a maximum strength of 50,000, though not all of these were Italian. One such group was the 'XXIII di Marzo', which the box identifies as the unit represented by these figures. Of course we would call them yet another outing for the Airfix Italian Infantry! The XXIII division was manned by Blackshirts, and they wore standard Italian tropical uniform, much as depicted on these well made troops. The only difference was that many wore a pullover-style shirt under the jacket instead of the shirt/tie shown here, but that is clearly only very minor. Basically this Airfix half set is a good reproduction of these men.
Next we find two metal figures - crew for the tankette. Both wear fairly universal tank crew clothing, although we thought the second man was more Italian in appearance. As can be seen, both have suffered from poor filling of the mould, particularly the second figure who has his lower left leg missing. It should be noted that these figures are about 25mm tall, whereas the infantry only reach 22mm, so placed together they look a little odd.
Which brings us to the two vehicles in this variety pack - the tank and the field kitchen. The tank is made by Doc Models and represents the CV33 or CV35 (later designated as L3/33 and L3/35). Both vehicles are very similar, so the kit serves well for both. Both these models were developed in the early 1930s, and both saw service in Spain. Known as light tanks, they are often referred to as tankettes, and it is easy to see why. Amazingly, our picture shows the tankette in proportion to the men - the tallest part only reaches to the chest of a man, making it look more like a toy next to the figures. Nevertheless this is correctly proportioned as can be seen from period photographs. With only thin armour that could not withstand machine gun fire and an armament of one machine gun (later increased to two, as on this model), the two-man vehicle was of limited use in combat, but as a participant in the civil war its place in this set is welcome and to our non-expert eyes this easy-to-build and well designed model seems accurate.
The field kitchen is basically a trailer from which hopefully hot rations could be dispensed. The kit is made of resin and contains very few parts, which is as well since there are no instructions with it. It fitted together adequately, and though we could find very little information on the various types of these things, it seems a perfectly reasonable design - it even dwarfs the tankette!
Last out of the box is a CD containing 14 Italian marching songs and tunes from the 1935-45 period. Running to just under 40 minutes, it is quite hard to know what to say about this extra. To non-Italian speakers such as this reviewer the words mean nothing except the occasional reference to Mussolini, so you are left with some stirring tunes that could engender some sense of being there when Il Duce's forces marched (or rather sailed) off to Spain. However we are yet to be convinced that extras such as this add any real value for most potential purchasers.
A mixed bag of elements to be sure, but everything is pretty well done and if the intention was to encapsulate the CTV in one box then this one does a very fair job.