When Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in May 1915 her armed forces faced a particularly challenging task as the battlefield was the often mountainous terrain of what is now northern Italy, with all the obvious difficulties that entailed for warfare, made worse by the good defensive installations the enemy put in place. While Italy also fought on other fronts, this was the principal area of operations and the bravery and persistence of the Italian soldier, often in exceptionally difficult circumstances, gained much praise.
The 12 poses in this set are OK but not particularly great. Having three kneeling/squatting poses seems appropriate, but we would have liked to have seen a marching pose. Having two officer poses (last two figures on bottom row) seems unnecessary, particularly when each is reproduced four times, delivering eight officers for 40 men. The second officer pose is likely to be particularly difficult to use, as he appears to be standing with sword in hand, clearly dressed as an officer and apparently directing operations. This would have made him a very likely target for enemy snipers, as all officers discovered early on in the war. While it is not clear from our picture, the second man in the second row is carrying an unbagged gas mask in his left hand. Why he might be doing this we cannot imagine, but while this item can be easily trimmed off it is a strange choice for a pose. The first figure in the bottom row is wearing body armour and using wire cutters. He lies on his back and is one of the better chosen poses. Next to him is a man carrying a flamethrower, which again is a welcome addition to the set.
The soldiers all wear the standard 1909 Italian uniform with uncovered Adrian-style helmet as introduced from April 1916. This has been correctly sculpted with the puttees and the padded shoulder rolls. However it is a different story with regard to the webbing and equipment. All the figures have two pairs of ammunition pouches on a waist belt, which is fine, but as part of the M1907 equipment this belt should be supported by braces that run around the back of the neck. In most cases this has been sculpted as two belts passing over the shoulder and down the back, which might not be impossible but was certainly not typical. None of the figures have entrenching tools, and most are missing canteens, bayonet scabbards and all other items of kit. Two men have been given haversacks, but in one case this has been made triangular and looks nothing like the actual article. Just one man has a knapsack, but again this is much simplified and lacking detail.
The men should be armed with the 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano M1891 rifle, but if they are then it is quite a poor model. Certainly detail is indistinct, but even so these are not a good representation of that weapon. The flamethrower is also much simplified, although perhaps this is not unreasonable for such a complex weapon.
We’ve mentioned the triangular haversack and poor rifle detail, but the overall standard of sculpting is not at all great. Detail is OK but there is a lot of excess plastic in some places and the designer has clearly struggled to realise the figures in a two-piece mould. There are many areas where what should be smooth curves are in fact corners, and one figure (second on the top row) has lost so much of his right foot as to make it look like an ice skate. The few poses that do have bayonet scabbards find they are much too short, and even folds in the clothing are often not realistic. The overall posing and proportions are not impressive either, so for example the standing firing figure has his head at an odd angle. However a dishonourable mention must go to the officer with the cap. He looks enormous in the picture, and that is because he is. He stands 29mm tall, which is almost 2.1 metres, making him much the tallest figure we have ever seen that claims to be 1/72 scale.
This is not an impressive set, as even if you throw away the gigantic left-handed officer (and we think that you should) you are still left with some poor posing and poor sculpting. The Italian contribution to the Great War deserves much better than this, and eventually it got it with the Set 2 from the same company. At time of release however this was the only representation of this subject, and while not great, most of the figures are usable, thus allowing some of the Herculean efforts expended around the Isonzo to be modelled for the first time.