Following the end of World War I all the belligerents found themselves with stockpiles of suddenly unwanted weapons, and many, including some of the heavy guns, were melted down. Others were kept of course, but a fierce debate raged between the wars as to whether heavy artillery was redundant in the face of the new potential from bomber aircraft, and this was partly why heavy guns were much neglected in Britain at this time. As a result, when war did break out again in 1939 Britain had few heavy guns, with many being no more than old Great War guns with minor alterations. The 6 Inch gun was just such a weapon, and it was mounted on what was essentially the same carriage as the 8 Inch Howitzer, apart from pneumatic tyres and some very minor details. Most were shipped to France and then lost after the evacuation from Dunkirk, but the guns new masters, the Germans, were unimpressed and chose to destroy them rather than put them to use. Therefore this gun is basically an early war weapon, suitable mostly for the campaign in France with a handful on home defence duty.
It is easy to see why Strelets chose to depict this gun. They had already modelled the 8 Inch Howitzer of 1918 vintage, so most of the parts could also be used for this weapon. Unfortunately if you have read our review of that model then you will already know just how bad it is, so as a result the gun in this set is equally bad. The parts are crude and fit poorly, while the instructions are almost useless, sometimes wrong, and there are no diagrams of either the sub-assemblies or the finished model. Anyone with an intimate knowledge of this gun and a lot of patience might be able to rescue something from this kit, but most will find its construction a frustrating and unrewarding chore.
Strelets are on more solid ground with their figures, for there is no assembly required apart from the pair carrying the tray which, as you can see, is not a masterful piece of model-making but at least the parts fit together. The men wear either battledress or the denim fatigues, which is fine, although while we were pleased to see the large map pocket on the left leg we could not find the smaller field-dressing pocket that should be on the right. One man stands out by wearing a sleeveless jerkin, which would have been unusual at this early stage. The officers wear their service tunics and peaked caps, which was more likely at this stage of the war, although usually they soon chose to wear battledress and helmets like their men. One officer holds a walking stick, which we would much rather have been a cane, which again was not uncommon at the start of the war, but at least it is easy to convert if required. The officers wear their Sam Brownes (and one seems to have mounted boots too), and the men are lighted kitted, with either a canteen (given an incorrect harness) or a bayonet. Some have a respirator in the alert position on their chest – another indication that these are early war figures.
The poses are passable but without much action about them and fairly flat. The usual rather coarse sculpting style is on show, with some smaller and thinner items being much larger or fatter than they should be. Occasionally things get out of shape, like the helmet on the man with the telephone, but the lack of finesse is less critical on this sort of relaxed uniform with few detailed parts (such as weapons), and there is almost no flash either.
The gun is something of a disaster, but the gunners are at least serviceable as the accuracy problems are small and the poses not too bad. There have been few British artillery figures for the Second World War in this hobby to date, so even this imperfect collection is a useful addition, but those looking to boost their early war heavy artillery will find little joy in this set.