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Italian Soldier in North Africa 1941–43

Italian Soldier in North Africa 1941–43 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review January 2014 Title Italian Soldier in North Africa 1941–43
Author Pier Paolo Battistelli & Piero Crociani Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781780968551
Format 64 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $18.95

Book Review

Often maligned as ineffective, incompetent combatants, Italians actually comprised the bulk of Axis forces in North Africa during World War II.

But Mussolini's fascist forces suffered serious shortcomings in equipment, leadership, tactics, training, mobility, logistics and morale.  Armor, artillery and anti-tank deficiencies proved particularly painful.

Combat experience and weapons improvements, however, eventually allayed some problems.  And by the end of the North African campaign, Italy had – partially, at least – repaired its fighting repute.

That's the story of Italian Soldier in North Africa 1941–43 – 169th installment in Osprey's acclaimed "Warrior" series.  And what an informative account it is.

After introductory notes with chronology, authors Piero Crociani and Pier Paolo Battistelli chart Italian force fluctuations from late 1940 to May 1943.  This statistics-saturated section, however, proved ponderous to follow.  And I wish Osprey added a table clearly summarizing changes in personnel levels during the period.

Contents then shift to "recruitment, enlistment and conditions of service".  An informative chapter on "training" then follows.  That's where resourcefulness and necessity partially redressed operational Italian vulnerabilities.  Unlike long-range German and British anti-tank tactics, for instance, Italian defenses – reflecting restrictive equipment realities – emphasized close-quarter actions.

Coverage continues with chapters on "appearance and equipment", combat summaries and "belief and belonging" – the last discussing life and morale.  A concluding "after the battle" section recaps fates of Italian POWs.  And a selected bibliography and index complete contents.

Photos, action paintings, and color uniform & equipment plates season text.  Steve Noon's brilliant illustrations remain among Osprey's finest.  And his artwork merits my highest praise.

In the end, the best Italian Army units in North Africa proved equal to those of other desert combatants.  For an excellent assessment of this largely neglected topic, get Osprey's informative effort.

Robustly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!