As with many countries, Italian artillery did not develop greatly after the Great War. As a victorious nation, Italy received many guns from Austria-Hungary either as captures or reparations, and these were often very good weapons. A lack of money and industrial capacity further discouraged new developments, but in the 1930s efforts were made to make the artillery use tractors rather than horses, largely involving the upgrading of existing guns with better wheels suitable for mechanised towing at higher speeds. The Cannone da 105/28 Schneider Ansaldo was just such a Great War gun that was still in widespread use when Italy entered the War in 1940. 956 pieces were in service on that day, having already been in action in both Spain and Abyssinia during the 30s, and they were to see plenty more action in Africa, Greece, the Soviet Union and Italy itself.
The 105/28 was closely based on the French 105mm Cannon Schneider, and first came into service with the Italians in June 1916. However the gun model in this set dates from the 1937 at the earliest, when the program to replace the old spoked wooden wheels with modern metal wheels (with semi-pneumatic rubber tyres) was begun. By the start of the War many had yet to be converted, but this model depicts a gun that has been modernised. The kit is not of the highest standard achieved by other manufacturers, and is certainly not ‘snap-together’, but we found it all fitted together reasonably well. If the parts are not as sharply engineered as they might have been, nonetheless it is not too difficult to piece everything together, even though the closest thing to a set of instructions is a single exploded view on the back of the box. This is far from clear as to the positioning of some elements, and once we researched this weapon we realised we should have placed the barrel further forward in the cradle than we did, but generally the model is fairly appealing. Certainly there is some simplification, and for some reason the shield lacks the viewing window (not even closed), so it is not the most accurate model ever made, but gives a good general impression. The measurements are good and the barrel/cradle can be elevated, so many will find this very serviceable.
Although the gun was used by Italians on many fronts, and also by the Germans after 1943, the crew in this set is clearly in Italian tropical uniform. Apart from the two officers, the crew all wear a tunic with two pleated breast pockets and two plain skirt pockets. Open at the neck, it has a yoke or ‘cape’ design on the back, which makes it look like the common sahariana jacket. However it lacks the corresponding line across the chest at the front, where the upper pockets have distinct, separate flaps, so this seems to be a sahariana from the back and an ordinary service tunic at the front, which is not good. The men wear breeches or shorts, and the old-fashioned but correct puttees round the lower leg. Some wear the normal Italian steel helmet while others have preferred the popular tropical helmet, where some have parked a pair of goggles. We were pleased to see some with a scarf round the neck, so apart from the confused jacket the uniform here is authentic. The two officers wear peaked caps (other ranks only starting wearing peaks late in the war), and one wears the standard tunic while the other has a shirt with the same sahariana-style yoke at the back only, for which we could find no evidence.
Of kit there is virtually nothing – just a pistol holster on the belt of one of the officers. This would make no sense for infantry but works well enough for gunners. Equally, no one has any personal weapon apart from the one officer who also holds the binoculars.
The poses are pretty generic, but perfectly suitable for all that. There are a number of men in general positions operating the gun, plus some handling ammunition, and the two men in command, so the selection is good. We particularly liked the man handling the piled crates, and the kneeling figure using a field telephone is a very nice touch and an important part of the gun crew.
Sculpting is good. Detail is not pin sharp but plenty good enough, the proportions are fine and the poses done in a natural style. There is only a small amount of flash, and no hidden extra plastic, yet the poses do not seem at all flat. The gun too has very little flash, so very little cleaning is required before the pieces are ready for action.
Italian artillery has been a late-comer to this hobby, so it is good to see sets like this now being made. This was an important gun, not just on the North and East Africa fronts, so a welcome addition to the available range. Crews more suited to campaigns in Europe can be obtained elsewhere, but this crew is very good for the African campaigns as well as some in southern Europe, and again fills a real need. A pity about the confused tunics, but this is a detail easily lost at any distance. Nice sculpting and good poses, plus a simplified but reasonably accurate gun, make this a kit worth having.