WW1 Italian Infantry in Armor
During the bloodbath that was World War 1, several nations took a shot at providing additional armor protection to at least some of their troops, with quite a range of results. Often the armor was simply too awkward and bulky (think America’s Brewster armor) or too thin to afford any real protection or simply too expensive. Perhaps the Italians were most interested in such protection, as their battles in the Alps against the Austro-Hungarian army had rapidly devolved into hand-to-hand trench warfare of the nastiest sort. In consequence, Italy equipped several special units (often referred to as “suicide squads”) with various types of additional armor for just that kind of close-in combat.
ICM has provided a set of figures in one of the more common types, comprising a breastplate, shoulder plates and a specialized type of helmet intended to protect the eyes. Unlike most ICM figure sets, this one seems to lack an officer figure, although I suspect these commando units rarely needed one. The box contains a sprue of their excellent Italian equipment – most of which won’t be needed for this buildup - a sprue for the figures and a set of four small sprues featuring the armor itself as well as some intriguing battle shields.
Construction of the figures is relatively straight-forward, although some of the hand/arm pieces are multiple parts to simplify holding weapons. You’ll find that the poses offered don’t precisely match the box art, although if anything they’re more dramatic. Except for the body armor itself, little equipment is required, although I would recommend installing the cartridge boxes to the front belts before adding the cuirass. There are a couple of different weapons on the equipment sprue that are suitable for these figures, so you have some flexibility in that regard. I added a few extra items that I thought would be useful for commando work, but once again this is largely elective.
The helmets, at least for me, were counterintuitive, as I originally thought the extensions on the one side were neck guards. Fortunately, examination of some online pictures dissuaded me from this idea, and I installed them correctly over the faces.
The last items in the box are a set of four individual body shields, for which I could find no references anywhere on the net. However, they’re an interesting addition to the set and offer some real diorama possibilities.
When it comes to painting, the most challenging part for me was making a suitable mix for the elusive “taupe” colored uniforms favored by the Italians at the time. There is also some clear debate concerning the body armor as well. ICM would have you paint them as basically raw steel, but I found a picture of a museum piece clearly painted in a pale gray, as well as others which seemed to be about the color of a cast iron pan. So, I elected to do a bit of each just to see what they’d look like. Every version was quite satisfactory.
Although I don’t think I did this kit justice, it really is a fascinating set of figures with some really interesting diorama possibilities. The addition of the body shields is a nice touch, and any way you build them you’re going to find yourself with a LOT of useful extras. As is typical of ICM, they’ve strayed far off the humdrum path and come up with something really different once again. Kudos! I can recommend this set for any WW1 enthusiast without the slightest hesitation.
As always, my thanks to ICM for making something special once again, and to IPMS/USA for a chance to add this intriguing set to my collection. Stay safe, everyone, and happy modeling!