I confess to coming a bit late to WWI wargaming and the Square Bashing system specifically. Well, I’m here now, and getting to grips with putting together an Italian army to drive back the wicked Central Powers.
Why the Italians? Well:
Nobody else has them in the BAD Club…there are worse reasons to collect an army!
Some great troop types: Bersaglieri, Alpini, and armour-clad Arditi (the latter classed as Stormtroopers);
Actually, they engagement in WWI is much more interesting than people think (see below).
The Italians in WWI
The stereotype of Italian involvement in WWI was the grinding slog on the Italian/Austrian frontier. Yes, in terms of sheer manpower, this was by far the most important contribution the Italians made. This front was largely in three unequal phases:
1915-17 The slow grinding Italian offensives against the Austrians, most famously on the Isonzo River, but also more interesting battles in the mountains of the Trentino. This phase of the Italian really a war of attrition;
Late 1917 The Carporetto Counter-offensive. With troops freed up by the surrender of Russia, and more importantly some help from the German army, the Austrians drove the Italians back to the gates of Venice. Over a third of the Italian army was captured or killed, and the leading general Cardona sacked;
1918 Eventual Victory. The Italians finally won an overwhelming victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, leading to an Austrian armistice.
But the italians were involved on other fronts, making them really interesting:
A volunteer expeditionary force sent to the Western Front in 1914-15 to aid the French, and some divisions in 1918 which saw action at the Second Battle of the Marne;
Putting down revolts in their newly established colonies in Libya and Eritrea;
A small expeditionary force to help the British in Palestine;
Most successfully, their offensive in the Balkans. They drove the Austrians out of Albania, and with the French and Serbians invaded Montenegro. They also sent a division to guard the Salonika Front.
Wargaming the Italian Army
Most accounts of the performance of the Italians characterise their troops as being very brave and dogged, but commanded by incompetent and often brutal officers (executions for desertions were rife). Their performance was not helped by their apparently poor use of artillery.
All of this is represented in the SB Army Lists. They have a good mixture of troop quality, but they have a Poor Higher command rating and below average artillery assets.
In terms of other stuff:
Armoured Units. They tended not to use tanks (apart from a few loaned by the French) but did make extensive use of the armoured car;
Mortars and light guns were better than their heavier artillery;
Good use of MGs;
An early adopter of aircraft. In fact, their bombing sorties in the Italo-Turkish War of 1911 was the first use of fixed wing aircraft in any conflict;
The aforementioned Arditi are classed as Stormtroopers in the lists;
As they were fairly late into the War they made limited use of cavalry.
In terms of uniform colours, the Osprey Men At Arms book on the period is one of the better ones, having a clear and unambiguous description of Italian uniforms and their colours.
My own army
I’ve always been a fan of the very quirky Irregular Miniatures, ever since first using them at the end of the 1980s. So I was pleased to see an extensive range of WWI Italians made by them.
4 pieces of artillery
A bunch of machine guns
1 Units of Cavalry
1 Heavy Armoured Car
This is a project which should take up the next few weeks, after which I’m looking forward to taking on my Austrian, German and Turkish opponents…