The Royal Air Force had something of a chequered history during the Second World War. As with the other services it had been somewhat neglected during the 1930s, and even the outbreak of war in 1939 did not bring great improvement. When the battle for France began in 1940 it was frequently criticised for failing to fully commit its strength, particularly during the evacuation of the allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk, but many felt it needed to husband its resources for the inevitable forthcoming battle for Britain. Once that battle began, in summer 1940, its tarnished reputation was more than restored as it successfully battled the Luftwaffe over southern England, denying them the air superiority that was necessary for an invasion. As the war progressed much emphasis shifted to large-scale bombing raids on Germany, although of course it continued to serve in all the many battle zones around the world.
As with their set of Luftwaffe Pilots and Ground Crew, this set from Revell looks very much like it was actually produced by Preiser. The plastic is very hard and the figures come in a number of different pieces so that all must be assembled. This does allow for some variety of arms, heads etc, and the poses shown above are only a representative sample of what can be achieved (take a look at the sprue picture for a better idea of what pieces are available). When Airfix made their set of RAF Personnel many years ago they concentrated on ground crew, and in our review we bemoaned the lack of aircrew figures. Revell have done much to redress the balance by providing mostly aircrew poses in this set, including several clearly sitting in the plane itself. For these the need is only for them to be holding the controls or weapon that is their responsibility, so the separate arms work very well. The standing aircrew would be useful for general scenes on the ground, but are very reasonable too. The handful of ground crew figures are in more general poses, holding spanners etc, and with arms that can be placed as required. Certainly not nearly as interesting as the Airfix poses, but probably a sensible attempt to make the most of so few poses.
The quality of the figures is on a par with most Preiser output, so the detail is pretty good and there is virtually no flash. The many parts fit together well enough and the hard plastic accepts any ordinary polystyrene cement very firmly. However it should be pointed out that none of the figures come with a base, nor is any material supplied to make them. The figures are a shade large for true historical accuracy, although the ability to place them in any particular aircraft model will probably vary greatly. However we have had reports that they are too large for many, even most aircraft kits, although this may be because some aircraft kits are in 1/76 scale or even HO scale.
The aircrew have been given a variety of clothing and kit, although it is not always possible to be precise about what items are worn. So the helmets, goggles and gasmasks are hard to positively identify at this scale, which means they could serve for several models (which helps to make the figures usable for the whole of the war rather than specific years). Equally the flying suits are hard to distinguish, thanks in part of the life preservers and parachutes, but one man appears to wear an Irvin suit while two others have a 1930 or 1940 pattern flying suit. The rest are probably simply wearing their service dress as there is no sign anyone is wearing a Taylor buoyancy suit or similar.
The three ground crew in the top row are all wearing the RAF version of the Army’s battledress. Known originally as 'Suits, Aircrew', and later as 'War Service Dress', the waist-length blouse and trousers are the same as the battledress apart from lacking the flapped pocket on the left thigh and Field Service Dressing pocket on the right, which means they date to 1943 or later. Two of the three heads for the ground crew are wearing the usual field service cap while the third is bareheaded. As with the aircrew then all these figures are authentic in costume.
The box artwork montage gives a pretty good idea of what the designer had in mind with this set, and for the most part the result is a success. The variety of aircrew, plus the flexibility of the poses, means there is a lot of scope for populating aircraft of various types, from fighters to bombers. The handful of ground crew are considerably less appealing simply because they are so few in number. Had there been more figures we might have hoped for some in overalls or even service dress, so even with the Airfix set there remain noticeable gaps in the range of such men. Perhaps more importantly this is a set with only 25 figures, and since it seems to sell for at least as much as the softer plastic Revell sets, that is not great value for money. The number of aircrew is good, but more ground poses and figures could have been provided. So this is a set that is good in part but could have been so much more.