Book Review
Italian Army Elite
Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-43
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


Throughout history armies have had sections, units or divisions that were referred to as special or elite. As warfare and weaponry changed and advanced so did these specially trained troops. Italy was no different in this. In more recent warfare Italy’s origins of elite and special forces were developed during World War I when the Arditi assault troops were formed. The Arditi would become the core of the Milizia Volontaria Sicurezza Nationale (MVSN), or more commonly called the Camicie Nere “Blackshirts”. From there other special and elite units were developed, formed and equipped in areas such as armor, mechanized and alpine troops and each went on to claim their mark in history.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-43 as Number 99 in their Elite series. It is a paperback book with 64 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color illustrations, and detailed captions. It has a 2011 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84908-595-3. The book examines and discusses the Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces of 1940-43.


- Elite Formations & Units: Armoured & Motorized Divisions
o Overview
o 132a Divisione Corazzata Ariete: organization, spring 1941
o Corpo d’Armata di Manovra, summer-autumn 1941: Ariete Division – 101a Divizione Motorizzata Trieste – Raggruppamento Esplorante di CAM – the Crusader battles, November-December 1941
o XX Corpo d’Armata 1942: the Gazala Line battles, May-June 1942 – ‘first Alamein’ and Alam Halfa, July-August 1942 - ‘second Alamein’, October-November 1942
o Trieste Division in Tunisia, February-May 1943
o ‘Giovani Fascisti’ Regiment
o “Romolo Gessi’ Battalion
- Paracadutisti
o Fanti dell’Aria
o Battaglioni Paracadutisti
o Divisioni Paracadutisti: 1a/185a Folgore, 1941-43 – 184a Nembo, 1942-43 – 183a Cicone
o Operations: Cefalonia, April 1941 – Djebel Akhbar, December 1941 – North Africa, July-November 1942 – Tunisia, 1943
- Guastatori
o Organization and tactics
o Selection and training
o Operations, North Africa: Battaglione Guastatori di Formazione/XXXII Battaglione, January-August 1941 – XXXI Battaglione, April-September 1941 – XXI and XXXII Battagione in the Crusader battles, November-December 1941-at Tobruk, June 1942 – XXXII Battaglione at ‘first Alamein’, July-August 1942 – XXXI Battaglione at ‘second ‘Alamein’, October-November 1942 – Tunisia, 1943
o Operations, Eastern Front:XXX Battaglione, September 1942-January 1943
- Battaglione Sciatori Monte Cervino
o Albania, January-May 1941
o Eastern Front, February 1942-January 1943
- Special Forces: X Reggimento Arditi
o Organization
o Training and equipment
o Operations: North Africa 1943 – Sicily 1943
- Foreign Volunteer Units
o Raggruppamento Frecce Rosse
o Gruppo Formazioni ‘A’
o Battaglione Azad Hindoustan
o Battaglione d’Assalto ‘T’
o Reggimento Volotari Tunisini
- Blackshirts Sea-Landing & Armoured Units
o Gruppo Battaglioni ‘M’ da Sbarco
o 1a Divisione Corazzata Camicie Nere ‘M’
- Uniforms & personal Equipment
o Standard issue items
o Branch-specific items
- Select Bibliography
- Index


The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. I didn’t notice and spelling or grammar errors as I read through the book. Piero Crociani and Pier Paolo Battistelli cover the Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces during World War Two very well and go into great detail in the various campaigns and the actions taken there and various related incidents. Anyone interested in Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces during World War will find this book very informative and interesting.


There are a total of 54 black and white photographs throughout the book. There are no color photographs featured in this volume. The majority of the photographs are nice clear, centered and focused images, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark. I have seen several military photographs that have this look to them so maybe that is just typical. I do know that several military photographs are actually stills taken from video so that could be one reason. With that said the quality of the blurry photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I haven’t seen a majority of the featured photographs before, if not all of them, and I was pleased with this. I definitely consider that a bonus as it is nice to have a reference book that contains several lesser known photographs as opposed to the same old over used photographs that many books tend to contain. Many of the photographs can be used as inspiration to simple vignettes to larger dioramas. They also provide several details on items such as uniforms, small arms and armored vehicles.


There are 8 pages of color illustrations by illustrator Johnny Shumate which covers the uniforms of various Italian military units and they are very well done. There are informative captions that accompany the illustrations that detail the individual uniforms and equipment shown. The military scale figure modeler will find the detailed illustrations very helpful for detailing purposes.

The color illustrations are of the following:

- Armoured Vehicle Crews
- Corpo D’Armata Di Manovra & XX Corps D’Armata, 1941-42
- Paratroopers, 1939-41
- Paratroopers, 1941-42
- Assault Engineers, Egypt, 1942
- Assault Engineers, Ski Battalion & Arditi
- Foreign Volunteer Units
- Blackshirts ‘Mussolini’ Units


The captions that accompany the photographs are well written and are very detailed. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors as I read through them. They give very specific information as to individuals, military units, uniform items, weapons, vehicles, and armor shown.


All in all I am very impressed with the book. This is a very nice reference book that contains many interesting photographs and well detailed captions. It details the Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces very well. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


World War 2 Combat Uniforms and Insignia
Squadron/Signal Publications, #6013
Published in 1977
Martin Windrow with color illustrations by Gerry Embleton

World The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Saturn Books Ltd.
Ian V. Hogg

Italian Armored Vehicles of World War Two
Squadron/Signal Publications #6089
Nicola Pignato

Decisive Battles of World War II
Edited by Brigadier Peter Young
Bison Books LTD
Highs: Well written and detailed text and captions Nice photographs and artwork
Lows: Some of the photographs have an out of focus look to them and some are too dark
Verdict: This is a very nice reference book that is well researched and written and contains many interesting photographs and well detailed captions. This will make a nice addition to anyone’s personal library and will also be a benefit to the military enthusiast
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84908-595-3.
  Suggested Retail: US $18.95/ UK Ł11.99/ CAN
  PUBLISHED: Dec 10, 2011

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


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