Wednesday, 4 December 2013

9th 'Pasubio' Division, Italian Infantry, Warlord Games

These figures* represent members of the 9th 'Pasubio' Division. This was a motorised Infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II and served in both the Yugoslavian and Russian campaigns. 
Breda Light Machine Gun crew - gunner and ammuntion bearer
with Capitano (captain).
Rear View of Light Machine Gun crew.
Note Capitano's yellow loop rank insignia.
As with most other modellers and gamers of a certain age Airfix were the only real source of affordable historical figures in our formative years. My brother had a set of 1/72 scale WWII Italians in the familiar soft grey plastic. They were always attractive figures and, from purely personal point of view, they have far less negative connotations associated with the other Axis forces.

Even though the Italian army's reputation during the war is still generally held in low regard here in Britain (I won't repeat the jokes here) the famous phase "Lions led by donkeys" (often unfairly applied to British soldiers and generals during WWI) is probably a more appropriate epitaph for the Italian forces in WWII (infantry attacking tanks single handed, anyone?).

An Italian Infantry Division normally consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions each), an Artillery Regiment, a Mortar Battalion (two companies), an Anti Tank Company, a Blackshirt Legion (Regiment of two Battalions). Each Division had only about 7,000 men. The Infantry and Artillery Regiments contained 1,650 men, the Blackshirt Legion 1,200, each company 150 men.

And according to the Perry Miniatures website:
"An Italian Platoon was divided into 2 squads of 20 men. Each squad was made up of 2 Breda light machine gun groups of a corporal gunner, assistant gunner and 2 ammuntion bearers, all commanded by a sergeant. The other 11 were made up of riflemen."

However the Pasubio were a binary division composed of two regiments, rather than the normal three, the 79th and 80th Roma Infantry regiments (plus the 8th Artillery Regiment). Neither regiments were assigned a Black Shirt Legion on the Eastern Front.

The 79th Infantry Regiment and 8th Artillery Regiment were made up of men from Verona, whereas men from Mantua made up the 80th Regiment. Although in different regions, Lombardy and Veneto respectively, these northern Italian cities are in fact only 45km (28miles) apart.

The soldiers could be recognised by their red/yellow/red striped collar patch.

The division was mobilized in August 1940, and took part in the invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, capturing Split and Šibenik, Dalmatia (now in modern day Croatia).

When Germany invaded east into Russia on 22nd June 1941 Hitler only informed Mussolini, the dictator of his Axis partner Italy, once the invasion had actually started. Eager to have a claim for a share in the 'spoils of war' Mussolini insisted that Italian forces would assist the Germans.**

So in early July an initial force of 62,000 personnel of the Italian Royal Army formed the 'Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia' - CSIR (Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia) mobilized to take part in invasion of the Soviet Union.

Arriving via Ukraine and Romania in August 1941 the Pasubio took part in the Battle of Two Rivers (the Bug and the Dnieper).

In September the Pasubio and Torino Divisions along with the German SS Viking took the town of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, winning rare praise from the German commander. The CSIR later covered the left flank of the German 11th Army (German Group South).

Along with the Torino, Prince Amedeo Duke of Aosta and Sforzesca divisions the Pasubio would suffer greatly in 'Operation Saturn' in December 1942. Attacked by the Soviet 1st Guards the Italians were surrounded and defeated; the commander of the Italian armoured force, General Paolo Tarnassi, being killed in an aerial bombardment.

Remnants of the divisions remained in Russia until May 1943, when it was withdrawn to Italy. The division was being reformed and refurbished in the Salerno area when it was captured by German forces.
Left: Sergente (corporal) armed with
9mm Beretta M1938A sub-machine gun.
Right: (lance cpl) armed with standard 6.5mm Carcano rifle.

Note the red/yellow/red striped collar patch.

Useful Reference books:
If anyone is interested in collecting an Italian Army for use in the European theatres with rules such as 'Bolt Action' or 'Chain of Command' I would highly recommend on following books.

The Italian Army 1940-45 (1)
Europe 1940-43
Osprey Men at Arms 340

The Italian Army 1940-45 (1)
Europe 1940-43
Osprey Men at Arms 353

The Italian Army at War
Europe 1940-43

In the Name of Roma!
Actions of 80° Roma Infantry Regiment on the Eastern Front: August to December 1941
Chris Stoesen

The Osprey books greatly helped in working out paint schemes and also solving one piece of equipment that had me puzzled. Some of the Warlord figures have a cone-shaped bag on their left hip, which was normally out of shot in the period photographs. The Osprey book revealed that it was M1935 gasmask bag which was normally utilized during the war as an extra storage bag.

The Concord book might be a bit more difficult to track down (try specialist bookshops such as Iain Allen). I grabbed a copy at a large model show for a bargain £5.

The Roma book is actually a scenario book available in PDF format directly from the author and is stuffed full of useful information. The fact I chose to paint my figures as part of the Pasubio division is a happy coincidence. Although primary written with Chain of Command in mind it is easily to play the scenarios using Bolt Action rules.

The book contains six campaigns with between four and six scenarios per each campaign. The book costs $11 US (approx £7) and if you're even vaguely interested in the Italian involvement on the Eastern Front is a must buy bargain.

The Roma book is available here:

Italian Infantry Painting Colour Reference.
The following list is the same as the one I keep in my 'little black book' in which I keep (or try to but usually fail) my painting references, model ideas, historical notes etc. These are just the main block colours, obviously free feel to adapt to your suit own paints and methods for applying shading and highlights. Hopefully this may be of some use for anyone starting from scratch.

Grey Green V866 Vallejo - Uniform & M1933 Helmet
Black Shade 34A Foundry - Shoes, webbing, ammo pouches etc.
Med. Sea Grey V870 Vallejo - Garters/Bindings
Black Grey V862 Vallejo - Ground sheet/Blanket
Russian Uniform WWII V924 - M1929 Camouflage cloth (tent/poncho) Base colour A #
Dark Flesh Citadel - M1929 Camouflage cloth Highlight B
Buff Leather 7B Foundry - M1929 Camouflage cloth Highlight C
Flat Brown V984 Vallejo - Rifle stock
Khaki V988 Vallejo - M1935 Gasmask Bag etc.

*If some of these look familiar it's because they were originally due to be Alpini figures (WIP post). After some feedback from Italian viewers saying that Alpini uniforms were more green/grey rather that grey/green I decided to use these figures as standard infantry. Instead of repainting the figures (I'm not as daft as I look) I removed the feathers and simply touched up the paint on the helmets. I hope to purchase a few of the new Perry Miniatures WWII Italians and use these as the Alpini.

**Just as the little known Corpo Aereo Italiano (CAI) the Italian Air Corps expeditionary force involvement in the Battle of Britain, the Italian experience in Russia would result in high casualties in exchange for little or no gain.

#M29 Telo Mimetico (camouflage cloth) was the longest used military camouflage pattern in the world from 1929 until 1992. There were at least three quite different patterns used by the Italians (and Germans) during WWII.