The rising spirit of nationalism in India in the 1930s meant that for many the coming of war offered an opportunity to expel the colonial power, particularly when Japan entered the war in 1941. Yet in the end the Indian Army provided very large numbers of soldiers for the fight against the Axis, and by mid 1945 had well over two million personnel under arms. They fought in many arenas, from Italy to Burma, in what would be their last military conflict before independence and partition in 1947.
The appearance of the Indian soldier varied by time and location of course, but all these figures wear khaki drill, being a shirt and shorts, which is suitable for many battlefields, though less so for the later battles in Italy, for example, where battledress was normal attire. Certainly they work well for the campaigns in Africa and Asia, which is surely the intention. A couple have the standard helmet on their head, which was naturally very common, but most wear the more traditional pagri (turban) wrapped round a kulla, although three poses lack the kulla and so look more like Sikhs, for example. Kit followed the standard British pattern, and in most cases here is the 1937 version with the two large pouches at the front. Those with automatic weapons have their own pouches, but this webbing looks correct, though two men have a very odd set of smaller pouches reminiscent of the older ’08 pattern webbing, but with fewer pouches which are arranged incorrectly. The men generally have bayonet and water bottle, and some have the haversack on the back too. A couple seem to have a helmet suspended round their neck, which would be very odd as their existing headdress would make it impossible to wear the helmet suddenly in an emergency, as this positioning implies. Having it hanging from the belt, as one man does, makes much more sense.
Unfortunately the standard of the sculpting does not make it easy to positively identify the weapons. About half carry a rifle, presumably the SMLE but hard to be sure, and one or two seem significantly different (perhaps even a No.5 'Jungle Carbine' in there?). Two men are lucky enough to be armed with Thompsons, and another holds a Bren gun (or is it a Vickers-Berthier Indian Mark III machine gun?), but it is the two poses using Sten guns that attracts our particular attention. Both are considerably bigger than they should be, as is often the case with Strelets weapons, and both have been given a forward grip which only appeared on the Mark V, which appeared in 1944 and is unlikely to have reached Indian troops in significant numbers before the end of the War. The officer has been given a revolver, inevitably, and a couple of men have grenades in hand, so the general array of weapons is mostly well chosen at least.
Strelets sculpting is not ideal for this kind of late era soldier, when fine detail on weapons can make all the difference, so these figures suffer as many have before. As well as some weapons, various items are bigger than they should be, or at least thicker, and there is a certain rough quality overall. This is perfectly normal for this manufacturer, but we are saying it matters more here than in some less sophisticated subjects, so these do not look great next to the output of some other manufacturers. There is some flash but nothing too terrible, and despite having no assembly there is no unwanted plastic apart from the prone figure, who has no face, yet the poses do not feel particularly flat. All the poses were fine we felt, and we particularly liked the radio man, but the last figure in the top row is the single exception. He seems to be intended to rest on his left arm, holding his rifle on the ground while throwing a grenade, and as a pose that would be fine. Unfortunately he will not assume that position, but instead will only lie either flat on his back or face down on the ground. Both are very silly poses, so clearly this figure should have been given a base, as without some means of supporting him the figure is effectively useless.
Nice touches include the (admittedly chunky) wrist watch worn by the officer, and the beards on some of the men are appealing too. This is the first time that this important subject has been seriously depicted in our hobby (the old Atlantic set is really just a toy), and in their usual style Strelets have done a fair job. The vagaries in the sculpting and a couple of small accuracy problems still leave a set with a dozen usable poses that will be necessary for many campaigns, particularly in places like Singapore and Burma, so this long-overdue set will doubtless find enthusiasts amongst those with an interest in the War in Asia.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.