Italian Soldier in North Africa 1941-43
The history of the Italian Army in World War 2 is an often misunderstood one, colored by many unflattering rumors, generalizations and misconceptions. This latest issue in Osprey’s Warrior Series, “Italian Soldier in North Africa 1941-43”, tries to set the record straight and in doing so, paints a harrowing and desperate account of the hell experienced by the Italian soldier during the North African campaign. Not only did they battle opposing forces, but also their own incompetent command staff. Severe shortages of food, water, equipment and adequate medical care would plague the Italians for the entire campaign.
Typical of most Osprey publications, this one is done to a high standard and is an interesting and engaging read. Paper stock is of good quality and will hold up well to years of reading. Photos, while not large, are clear and it’s easy to make out details in them (oddly, the same photo is used on page 28 and 33, but with different captions!). The color plates by Steve Noon are spectacular and provide excellent reference for figure painters or diorama aficionados. Both photos and color plates feature adequate and informative captions.
This book is all about the soldier and his experiences. While there are photos and discussion of equipment and weapons, it’s basically, I feel, a book geared to figure painters if you look to it as a reference volume. Having said that, it is also serves as a historical account of the Italian North African campaign. It is broken down into the following chapters presented in a chronological fashion:
- The Italian Army in North Africa
- Recruitment, Enlistment and Conditions of Service
- Appearance and Equipment
- On Campaign
- Experience of Battle
- Belief and belonging
- After the Battle
At the bottom of the backside of the cover page was a welcome Rank Comparison Chart which denoted the equivalent rank and title of the Italian soldier to his American and British army counterparts. This is also accompanied by some explanation of grammar and spelling as they relate to the English and Italian languages.
The text provides a very real and detailed account of the hardships faced by Italian troops. I had uncles who served on both sides of the North African campaign: with Patton’s U.S. army and in in the Italian army. It was nice to see that many of the after-dinner stories that I had heard in my youth were in fact quite accurate. All but one of my uncles are now gone and I very much enjoyed how this book brought so many of the old family stories back to me. It also filled in ‘the gaps’ with a great deal of information regarding the full picture as it were. Here to me is where the book shined: it was a well detailed and fact-filled history that told it like it was. The only downside for me in this book was that I felt the authors got too involved in the minutia of troop and equipment numbers in the third section. Otherwise, on the whole, it was quite informative.
As you can tell, I really liked this book and hope to soon see others like it on the same subject. If you like a good read, you’ll enjoy this book.
Many thanks to Osprey Publishing for supplying this review title and thanks to IPMS USA for allowing me the opportunity to review it.