by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Italy was late developing airborne forces. In fact, despite favorable reports from observing Soviet parachute exercises in 1935, Italy’s High Command showed no interest in Paracadutisti (Parachutist) formations; the first airborne unit was created 'below the radar' by Air Marshal Italo Balbo in Libya. Using colonial troops with Italian officers and NCOs, he pulled it off on account of his rank and role of Governor of the Libyan colony!
Eventually 'regular' Paracadutista training began in late 1939, but the Paracadutisti were expended as infantry, destroyed at Beda Fomm in 1941. In July 1940, the first three battaglioni paracadutisti began forming. When a fourth was raised by April 1941, the 1º Reggimento Paracadutisti was created; eventually regimental anti-tank companies and more battalions enabled the creation of the 2º Reggimento Paracadutisti. An Assault Engineer Battalion (Battaglione Guastatori Paracadutisti) was raised, as were more rifle battalions and supporting units, forming in early 1942 the practical 1a Divisione Paracadutisti, Folgore ('Thunderbolt').
Italy undertook a single airborne operation, in April 1941, against the Greek Island of Kafallinia – the day Greece surrendered. The Folgore Division did, however, train together with their German allies for the planned assault on Malta in Operation Hercules until the plan was dropped in June 1942. Designated the 185a Airborne Division Folgore in July 1942, Folgore was sent into the breach in North Africa. During the Second battle of El Alamein, it resisted the attack of the British 131st (Queen's) Infantry Brigade, the 44th Infantry Division, the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats) and the Free French Brigade. The remnants of the Folgore Division were withdrawn from El Alamein on 3 November, 1942 without water and carrying their anti-tank guns by hand in pieces.
The survivors were reorganized into the 185th Folgore Parachute Battalion. At 2:35 PM on November 6, after having exhausted all its ammunition, the remainder of the Division finally surrendered to the British forces. In honour of their bravery, the British commander allowed them to surrender without having to show a white flag or raise their hands.
Thirty tears ago if you wanted 1/35 World War Two Italian soldiers, Italeri was your best bet. Italeri kitted several unique soldier sets, including these Folgore paratroopers, featuring plenty of accessories. The set was released in the late 1970s, but still represent your best options for Paracadutisti.
Two sprues come packed in a one-piece flat box with opening end flaps. Artwork on the front shows what the figures are intended to represent, while the back features quality, detailed illustrations of rank and service branch badges. On each side are purple outlines of the figures.
The white styrene contains 64 parts. These build six figures with some equipment.
The parts almost all have some seam lines/light flash and injection tabs to clean up. I did not notice any ejector marks where you can see them once the models are built. Surface detail of the figures is soft and low relief - the boots hardly have any detail at all. The scale seems a bit closer to 1/32. Unlike earlier Italeri figures, body parts are more proportional, but they still seem a bit chunky; given the baggy cut of the uniforms this may be excused somewhat. However, some have ammo boxes molded to them. The poses are good, although a couple look a bit stiff.
These six figures include a Sottotenente, a Sergente and a Caporale, and a trio of Truppa enlisted ranks. Two uniforms are modeled, the unique sahariana-style 1941 collarless airborne tunic with caped chest, and the three-quarter-length jumpsmock (all three with tails buttoned as legs). Only the 'parade ground' Paracadutista features the rubber knee guards. It appears that both early leather belts and straps and the 1942 hemp webbing are modeled on these figures. Three figures have the airborne beret headgear molded on.
Details and Accessories:
Italeri was known in the era to be lavish with accessories and weapons. This set contains Beretta M38A 9mm sub-machine guns (with its special jump case) and 6.5mm Model 1891 Mannlicher-Carcano carbines (one in a case). Several separate ammo pouches are included. Two of the "Samurai" load-carrying vests are supplied. The three M33 steel helmets are separate, as are a pair of holsters for the M34 pistol. One pair of binoculars is provided. Only four MVSN daggers are provided, although each of these elite Italian troops would have been issued one. Also included is a magnetic anti-tank mine, and an IF41 parachute. However, missing is basic kit: canteens, backpacks, blanket rolls, tent quarters, haversacks and gas masks.
A three-piece headset is provided for the Caporale, who is sculpted as operator for the 3-piece radio. As usual with models from this era, no straps or harness material are included. Actually, the first model I ever found with harness/sling/belt material was Tamiya kit #35053 "German Mounted Infantry," which featured a strip of .10 styrene. This was, after all, the era when Verlinden and the legendary Shep Paine were amazing modelers with straps of styrene and foil!
Painting and Assembly
Everything is printed on the box. Italeri printed good detailed rank and badge images on the back of the box, as was the fashion of the era. Aside from the box artwork, there are no assembly or painting instructions. A paracadutista tunic is illustrated half in continental grey-green and half in a tropical sandy drill. Given the limitations of the printing process, one should only reference the colors of these box illustrations as an example, and seek out an authoritative work, such as those referenced at the bottom of this review.
This kit is 30 years old. Tamiya figures of the time were the standard for injection-molded 1/35 figures, and I think these figures are a few years behind contemporary Tamiya offerings. They do have some good detail, but it is soft and molded shallow. Shep Paine and True to Italeri, there are many accessories, except for the most common personal equipment. And while the uniform and insignia artwork is impressive, you have to use your experience to figure out the appropriate match for a color.
Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–43, Crociani & Battistelli Osprey Publishing, Ltd.(2011)
World War 2 Combat Uniforms & Insignia. Windrow, M., Squadron/Signal Publications, Ltd. (1977)
"Folgore Parachute Brigade," Wikipedia, 15 November 2011.