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Set 72150

Italian Arditi in Armor

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released 2023
Contents 40 figures
Poses 10 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Pale Green, Brown
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)


The Arditi, literally ‘bold ones’, were formally organised in 1917, but their origins go back to the start of the war in 1915, when commanders saw the need for elite troops that would precede an attack, cutting wire and finding paths for the main assault. These pioneers were termed ‘Wire-cutter companies’, but because of the very dangerous tasks that they performed they called themselves ‘Death companies’, and they received special training, equipment and higher pay. By the end of 1916 it had been decided that artillery and mortars were a better way of clearing barbed wire, but the concept of elite troops raiding or leading the assault remained, somewhat similar to the German stormtroopers, and thus the Arditi were born.

Italy put more effort into developing body armour than most other nations during the Great War, and much of this was for these assault engineers. The result was quite a wide selection of shields and armour, much of it made by the firm Elmo Farina, and this is what we see on every figure in this set. Nine of the poses wear Elmo Farina helmets or similar, of several different shapes, though all here are accurate. The remaining three wear the Italian version of the French Adrian helmet, in two cases with Lippmann cheek pieces, one of which also has a Dunard visor. Body armour here is again varied but entirely authentic, and worn by all except perhaps for the flame-thrower operator. This effectively hides the uniforms, so the only aspect that is evident is that some wear puttees and some long socks – both were common.

As you might expect, these men are particularly well equipped, and carry a number of specialist tools. The four in our top row all carry a rifle, which is the standard infantry Mannlicher-Carcano M1891 and quite nicely done. The later Arditi tended to favour the much shorter Moschetto Modello 1891 (sometimes called the ‘Cavalleria’) or Moschetto per Truppe Speciali Modello 1891 (special troop) carbines instead, and indeed some did not carry a long-barrelled weapon at all, but for the early part of the war, when the Wire-cutter companies were most active, the normal infantry rifle would have been reasonably common. The men in the second row are concentrating on wire-cutting, as can be seen. The first two carry the long Malfatti wire-cutter, one of which has stuck a bayonet onto the end to make a rather medieval weapon of last resort. The third man has ordinary wire-cutters (several of the others also carry these), and appears to be in the act of cutting. The first man in the bottom row carries a shield, again harking back to medieval times, which must have been somewhat limited in effectiveness, but like the body armour, presumably made the individual feel more protected at least. The second man holds another important piece of equipment, a flame-thrower. This appears to be the Italian DLF (named after Direzione Lanciafiamme), which has been quite well done but was a later-war weapon, so somewhat contrasting with the other figures in the set. This figure wears a heat-resistant hood, even though this was a clumsy item and not well-liked by the men. The last man holds a pistol in his left hand and holds aloft a trench club in his right. Officers and some weapons operators were armed with pistols, so we assume this is an officer, though in reality he would be unwise to draw the enemy’s attention to his rank in this way.

As well as their main weapon or tool, all of these men have on their person a variety of pouches, water bottles and bags, plus many grenades and wire-cutters, and a couple of pick-axes (more useful than an entrenching tool in the rocky environments in which many battles were fought). By tradition they would also have been carrying a knife, so all this gives a very satisfying appearance of heavily encumbered men struggling under the weight of this kit and armour.

The mix of fighting and wire-cutting poses feels about right for a set like this, and the flame-thrower is a nice addition too, so we liked all the poses. The supposed officer holds his trench club directly over his head, and so is very flat and not realistic, but otherwise the poses are quite lively and appropriate. Although equipped with both a rifle and wire-cutters, the man with the shield is a good reminder that sometimes the role of these men was simply to move ahead and open a path rather than to physically attack the enemy themselves, so these are all very useful poses.

The sculpting is good, with all the key aspects of the armour and equipment well picked out, and the poses are about as lively as they need to be. There is some flash in most places, but not too bad, and all the figures have been achieved without need for separate parts, nor any excess plastic anywhere. We did find that the wire-cutters of the kneeling figure in the second row were prone to arriving slightly split, but this varies between copies of the set.

As on other fronts, the men soon decided that all this body armour was heavy and awkward, and most felt it was not worth the limited extra protection it gave, so it was rarely seen later in the war, although other items here like the large leather gauntlets and leg coverings would have been retained longer. So this set is more about the unofficial Arditi of the early part of the war – the men who would only be formally called this in 1917, and perhaps only the flame-thrower could be described as late-war. Nevertheless this set represents an important stage in the development of the Arditi, and has considerable interest, not least because it illustrates the fusion of 20th century and medieval warfare that was one of the more peculiar aspects of the First World War.


Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 8
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 9
Mould 7

Further Reading
"Italian Arditi" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.87) - Angelo Pirocchi - 9781841766867
"L'Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats de la Guerre 1914-1918 (1)" - Casterman - Liliane and Fred Funcken
"The Italian Army of World War I" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.387) - David Nicolle - 9781841763989
"Uniforms & Equipment of the Italian Armed Forces in World War I" - Schiffer - Spencer Anthony Coil - 9780764325366
"Militaria (French Language)" - No.29

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