Although on paper the Italian Army in the late 1930s had a substantial armoured element, far too many of those tanks were the small tankette, or old, light models which had poor armament and even poorer protection. When Italy entered World War II in 1940, Italian industry was producing better tanks, but in numbers much too low to adequately supply the army with its needs as it faced more modern, European foes both in Europe and Africa. While the most modern tanks were a match for their enemies, the rest were soon used in reconnaissance, escort, patrol and other duties away from the battlefront.
Italian tank crewmen’s appearance underwent a number of changes in the mid 1930s, settling the look that they would have in 1940, and this is the look we find on these figures. Many of the men wear the early model (pre-1941) overalls with breast and front thigh pockets, while the others wear the double-breasted three-quarter length leather coat over breeches and cavalry-type leather gaiters held by straps. Some have the distinctive Italian domed helmet with brow band and neck guard, and the rest wear the standard Bustina forage cap. This is correct uniform for both Europe and Africa, although as might be imagined, the leather coat was more common in cooler Europe. The last two poses in our third row, who are clearly officers, both wear a shirt and tie under their coat. Everything about the uniform on these figures is correctly done.
Like any tank crew set, there is minimal kit to see here. All but the officers wear the cavalry pouch bandolier, which supports a pistol holster on the right-hand side, and the officers both have a map case. One also holds a pair of binoculars, but has no case for it. Several have goggles, but otherwise there is no equipment on show, which is fine.
The poses follow the standard we have seen so often from Orion, including men relaxing, working on their vehicle, or even in action. As we have said many times, the man using his pistol (apparently in anger) would be an unusual choice for any tank crewman, but none of the poses here are unsuitable. The first pose may be standing inside a tankette (they were very cramped if both crewmen were inside with the hatch down), and the running man is a little awkward to our eye. However, we really loved both the man in the second row carrying a jerrican, and the one next to him, holding a mug in one hand and a moka pot in the other. The jerrican was a German item, but photos show that it was also widely used by Italian vehicle crews, so is appropriate here. The two seated figures offer potential uses for vehicle models, and the two officers also look great.
Sculpting is excellent as always, with plenty of glorious detail, excellent proportions and great textures to the clothing. Unfortunately, the first figure in our bottom row is supposed to be pointing, but his finger has not made it out of the mould, and both the officer figures are missing part or all of the strap that is holding their map case at the back. Whether these problems are only on some examples, or are an issue with the mould-making, we do not know. Perhaps other examples of this set are better formed, but it is well worth noting that our example had virtually no flash and no excess hidden plastic, so for the most part is perfectly formed.
Since this uniform was worn for much of the 1930s and up to 1943, these figures are useful not just for World War II but also other actions such as the invasion of Ethiopia, the occupation of Albania and the Spanish Civil War. Although the typical look of these men would depend on the environment in which they are operating, everything here is correct and reasonable, and the poses are a great selection too in our view. Lovely sculpting and just a couple of tiny faults in production still leave this as a great set which we much enjoyed reviewing, and a welcome boost to the Italian effort on so many fronts during the period.