Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Introducing the Italian Alpine Troops
The Italian Alpine Troops, or Alpini as they are actually known in Italian, are an elite infantry unit trained in mountain warfare. They were established in the late 1800s, after the unification of Italy, to defend its northern borders. The Aplini played a very important role during WWI, fighting gebirgsjaeger troops from Austria-Hungary and Germany. This was a very dangerous business. Death could come not only from bullets, grenades or shells, but also from extreme temperatures, avalanches, climbing accidents, and in some cases, from the tops of mountains being blown off. The latter was a technique to dislodge the opponent once they were well entrenched on a mountain peak. Tunnels were dug into the mountain and huge loads of explosives were used to blow off the top along with its defenders. WWII saw the Aplini fight on different theaters. Initially as mountain troops in the French Alps during the invasion of France and in the Balkans against Albania, Greece and Yugoslavia. One Alpini battalion also fought in the East Africa campaign. Later on, three Alpini divisions also fought as plain foot infantry on the Russian plains, particularly on the perimeter around Stalingrad, where out of approximately 50,000 men, only about 5,000 managed to escape the Soviet encrirclement. This was in great part due to the fact that they were fighting against overwhelming numbers of mechanized infantry against which their mountain warfare skills were of little use, at the same time that they were being outflanked by the Soviets as the fronts next to the Alpini divisions collapsed. In terms of plastic toy soldiers there are a couple of Italian manufacturers who have provided us with a few representative figures. Let's take a look.
Atlantic Italian Alpine Troops - Part I
This is another set that is a bit hard to come by. What makes it special is that it has quite a few unique items in it. For instance, on the left you can see that it has what looks like a snowmobile. I don't really know if these were around at the time of WWII, so perhaps these guys represent post WWII figures. As you can see, it also comes with a small howitzer, but there don't seem to be any figures to operate it. And then there is the skier. This is perhaps my favorite pose in the set.
Atlantic Italian Alpine Troops - Part II
Here is a view from behind of the same three items. As you can see, there is a second man sitting on the snowmobile firing on the move. The tricky thing though is that he does not like to stay on his seat and there is nothing to keep him there, so if you move the snowmobile, you constantly need to reposition him.
Atlantic Italian Alpine Troops - Part III
These are the rest of the figures. The man on the right is the only 'traditional' pose. The other two are again, quite specific to the Alpine genre. There is the man sitting on the sled, which is a bit too relaxed, if you ask me, and then there is the man leading the pack mule. So all in all a nice set, but I feel that you need to combine them with some other figures to have a real fighting unit. Even combining them with more Atlantic Alpine Troop sets would not be good enough, as you need to have a few more of the traditional poses.
Dulcop WWI Italian Alpine Troops
Dulcop really gave us a sampler of troops here. We are looking at two Bersaglieri (second and the sixth from the left), two Arditii, a specialty of italian Army which assaulted the trenches with hand grenades and long knives (first and fifth) and two Alpini (the two in the middle). While these guys are technically WWI troops, considering that Italy did not modernize their military that much during the interwar period, I think that their uniforms and weaponry could pass as WWII equipment. A nice, dynamic set by Dulcop, even if some of the poses seem a bit off balance. The officer's heard is also a bit too small. However the head gear and the facial hair in some of the figures are quite unique. A good addition to the collection.
Click here to see a post about the German Mountain Troops
Click here to see a post about the French Alpine Troops
Click here to see a post with some troops in action in the snow