Although the British Army fought on many fronts during the years 1944 and ‘45, this set is evidently focused on the campaign in Normandy and the resulting push into Germany. After the disaster of Dunkirk four years earlier, by June 1944 the British Army had recovered well and landed almost 60,000 troops on D-Day, with the number growing to over 630,000 by D+50. Some of those men found themselves fighting on much the same ground as their fathers had done a generation earlier, but this time the advance continued into Germany itself, where a military presence was established that continued for many decades.
For the purposes of such small-scale figures it is fair to say the basic uniform of the British soldier had remained virtually unchanged between 1940 and 1944. The uniform was a modern two-piece suit known as Battledress, consisting of a short blouse and comfortable trousers with short anklets and sturdy boots. Nearly all the figures in this box wear this, and it has been correctly sculpted, with the correct pockets on the trousers and proper design of blouse. All the helmets have netting and some form of camouflage in the form of scrim and other items to break up the profile. This makes it harder to see the base shape of the helmet, which matters because both the Mk.II and Mk.III version of the helmet was worn at this time. However it seems clear all these helmets are the older Mk.II version, which is perfectly authentic.
The one exception to the uniform rule is the sniper (the kneeling rifleman in our fourth row with the telescopic sight), who is wearing trousers without any visible pockets and a jacket of uncertain identity. Snipers often wore versions of the windproof smock and trousers, but this man is clearly not wearing a smock, so is not in what might be deemed typical clothing. His jacket has a strange flap at the centre rear of the skirt, which almost suggests a paratrooper Denison smock, although clearly it is no such thing, but since snipers sometimes availed themselves of whatever clothing they thought worked best, including enemy items, it is hard to say this figure is wrong. One good element is that this man is wearing netting or similar fabric over his otherwise bare (or perhaps capped) head as a form of 'ghillie' suit to improve his camouflage, which was very common and indeed thoroughly sensible under the circumstances.
While the uniform on these figures presents no problems the same cannot be said for the webbing. These men should be wearing the standard 37 pattern, and in some places they are. The waist belt, braces and front ammunition pouches all look correct, as does the entrenching tool at the back. However every man has a bag affair on his right hip which we think is supposed to be the respirator satchel, although if so then it is not a good model, and seems almost always to have been worn on the left hip anyway. Also on the left hip was the bayonet, although on these figures this appears on either side, presumably for the convenience of the sculptor but at the cost of some historical accuracy. What should be on the right hip is the canteen but, oh dear, this is always on the left in this set. Worse still it is being held by two horizontal straps that do not resemble either the actual strap cradle nor the later pouch in which this item was held. Things get worse above the waist, because all these men seem to be wearing the old 08 large pack. This pack was only worn when in Marching Order, and was otherwise kept on the unit's transport, particularly when they went into battle. What should be up there is the haversack, also known as the 'small pack', which formed part of Battle Order. However what these figures are wearing are too large for this item, have the wrong straps and sit in the middle of the back rather than at the top. Also they have a vertical dividing line down the middle, which neither pack actually had. When wearing the 08 pack the haversack should be on the left hip, but no one here has this essential piece of kit at all.
You get a good number of poses in this set, although a few are identical apart from a choice of weapons such as the figures in our third row. By and large the poses are OK but some are definitely rather flat and awkward, which is a surprise as many of the figures are multi-part. The various kneeling figures are particularly bad, with both legs in a perfect line and the trunk square to the mould. As always when discussing odd-looking poses the first thing to do is try it yourself. Simply staying upright with your legs in this arrangement is hard enough, and it is impossible to turn the trunk to match these men. In any case, they would topple over as soon as they fired a shot, or a gentle breeze got up. Another surprise is the figure half crouching in the top row. This is a hard pose to hold for long, so this man must be in the process of lowering or raising himself.
Weapons. Such an important element of any 20th century set, and by 1944 the British infantryman could potentially carry one of many. Of the above pictured poses that are armed, 12 have rifles, three carry Stens and two have Brens. The rifles are nicely done and correctly depict the SMLE, while the Stens are equally nicely done and again quite accurate. We can have no complaint about the quality of the Bren guns either, so good news there, although we were somewhat surprised to find no heavy weapons in the box (a separate set of heavy weapons may be a future release).
The bottom row begins with a first aider, identified by his dressing bag and armband, who is presumably passing a dressing to someone. Since he carries a pistol he is not part of the regular RAMC, but probably a member of the band. The officer/NCO poses are quite nice, with our favourite being the officer talking on the radio, who must therefore be standing next to the last pictured figure, who has a standard No.18 radio on his back (which however lacks the metal flaps and the fabric cover that protected it).
This hard plastic set is pretty nicely sculpted, and as we have said some of the figures require assembly (see image of sprue). Detail is very good everywhere, although the faces are a little overdone in terms of both size and the depth of the features (but few are likely to examine these quite that closely!). The separate parts are in no sense 'snap-on' and all require glue, while some are fairly tricky to position correctly. However the fit is good, and there is no flash, while the opportunity to introduce variance in some of the poses is welcome. It takes a little while to put these figures together, and the lack of any instructions does not make things any easier, but most should have little difficulty here and for many the assembly element is an added attraction.
Apart from the mess made of the webbing and the part-done radio, our main gripe with these figures is some of the poses are not as good as they could and should have been. We all instinctively know when a human body shape looks right, or wrong, and since this set accepts the need for assembly there is no real excuse for those flat figures. Someone wearing the assault jerkin would have been nice, although its absence is fairly easy to understand, and the absence of suitably equipped No.2s for the Brens is a missed opportunity, although one that is regularly missed by most sets in truth. This then is not a set that particularly impresses, with the fundamental errors in the webbing being particularly difficult to understand as ample evidence of the correct arrangement is easy to find. So, good in parts, but with too many mistakes for our liking.