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JPS post from the old Gunboards.

Yo Gents,

Sad to say, my business keeps getting in the way of my presentations! However, I have finally had the opportunity to assemble my Italian Czech Legion assistant machine-gunner. It’s taken three months since the last item was purchased, but it’s been worth the wait!

The Czech Legion soldiers in Italian service were trained as Alpini, i.e. mountain troops. However, their uniforms were cut and adorned in the same manner as the French Infantry with the exception of several features. The material used was the standard Italian griggio-verde wool.

These include the red/white Czech collar tabs, complete in this case with MG collar insignia. In addition, the Alpine cap is adorned with a Raven over a round red/white Czech disc.


The side of the cap has a small Czech badge showing the various coats-of-arms that were incorporated in the Czech Legion Coat-of -Arms.

The same badge was used on the Czech Legion Mle 1915 Adrian helmets produced by the French for the members of the Czech Legion that served with the French army.

Tied around the crown of the hat and resting above the brim can be seen a pair of Italian issue splinter/snow goggles. These metal eye pieces contain a pattern of very thin slits that serve to reduce the glare from the snow in the Alps as well as to provide eye protection against the rock splinters that resulted from ordnance and bullet strikes sending showers of granite fragments as secondary missiles. Prior to the adoption of these goggles, Italian aid stations noted the severe increase in cases of blindness caused by showers of rock fragments. Surprisingly, you can see much better through these than you would think. They proved to be quite effective at reducing wounds to the eyes.

The uniform is patterned after the French tunic rather than the Italian pattern, but was produced in the typical Italian griggio-verde i.e. gray-green that was first introduced with the 1909 pattern Italian uniform. As is the case with so many uniforms of the period, the dye lots varied tremendously, which is reflected in the differences in color between tunic, trousers and puttees.

The Italian Czech Legion was composed of two regiments, the 33rd and 34th, the later being the regiment in which our soldier served, as is evidenced by the "CS 34" patch appearing on the left sleeve. All of the tunic buttons also include the entwined "CS" monogram.

In terms of equipment, our Czech assistant gunner has been issued with all of the standard Italian issue equipment in addition to the specialized accouterments carried by members of a machine-gun crew. In lieu of a pack, our soldier is carrying his personal items and his woolen cape rolled up in his shelter-half in the manner of the traditional blanket roll in place of the Italian issue pack. Suspended from the blanket roll is a M1914 mess tin, complete with lid.

Strapped to the blanket roll are a pair of 1914 dated machine-gunners mittens. They are of heavy leather construction and the palms and thumbs are lined with links of iron mail that protected the leather from burning when a hot gun had to be moved or serviced under combat circumstances. They were issued in tandem with the 1914 dated shoulder pad seen worn over the right shoulder. The mittens and shoulder pad were issued to the assistant gunners and were used whenever it became necessary to displace the gun when it was hot. They were not used to “quick change” hot barrels, as the Italian Army did not use any machineguns during the WWI that had that feature.

Underneath the strapped end of the blanket roll, the brown scabbard of the Engineers axe, which is known as a Mannarese Mod. 1912. This weapon/tool was issued to engineers and at least one member of each MG crew. It was used in the same fashion as a machete to clear brush, in this case, lanes of fire from the gun position. It has a very heavy blade and was very effective in close combat.

Our trooper carries the Mod. 1907 pattern haversack. Attached to the belt or slung from the haversack hook is the M1909 "Guglielminetti" water bottle. This style of wooden water bottle was famous for it’s ability to keep liquids cooler in hot weather than the later aluminum water bottles.

The accouterments issued to Italian troops during the war were the M1907 issue leather equipment, which consisted of a belt, two dual pouch cartridge boxes, a neck support strap and a bayonet frog. All of the leather equipment was either dyed or painted griggio-verde. Completing the display is a M1916 “Polivalente Z” gas mask in its sheet metal carrier.

Assistant MG gunners were issued the Model 1891 Mannlicher-Carcano TS carbine. The "TS" stands for "Truppe Speciale". The carbine in the display is also equipped with an original WWI vintage griggio-verde leather sling.
 
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