Although the mortar as a weapon dates back many centuries, it was effectively reinvented during the Great War, and by the Second World War was a well-established weapon for providing fire support for infantry. It was light and easy to move, had a wide range of ammunition types, and could be fired very rapidly. It saw service with all armies and in all theatres during the war, including in the deserts of North Africa, and in the British Army six of them equipped the mortar platoon of an infantry battalion's support company.
The mortar in this set has a barrel length of 18 mm, which means it is the common 3-inch. Actually the calibre was 3.2 inches, or 81 mm, thus matching the standard calibre used in other armies, and it was a workhorse of the army. The model here is in two parts as shown, and is very nicely done, with much better detail than is usually seen in models at this scale. The bipod is nicely slim and looks good, and the barrel even has a very decent model of the sight, which is usually missing in this hobby. Although the join between the parts is tiny and fragile, both do stand by themselves and make for a very good model.
The four crew for each weapon are a rather more generous provision than we are used to seeing, which is great. Most of the crew are handling the bombs, but one may be holding the cover for the barrel instead. One man is apparently about to drop a bomb down the barrel, and another holds the triple-tube ammunition carrier in which the bombs were transported. All the poses are well done and very suitable for crewing the weapon.
The uniform of the crew is the classic 'tin hat', shirt, shorts, socks and boots, although there is no sign of any anklets. The webbing is the '37 pattern, consisting of the front pouches, water bottle and bayonet - the normal arrangement when in action like this. Everything is well done and accurate. The sculpting betrays the metal origins of these figures, so the faces are poor and detail not always so sharp as the best plastics, but these are still very serviceable figures, and some poses benefit from a flexible mould to provide a good pose without excess plastic. It should be pointed out that the standing figures are noticeably shorter than those from other manufacturers (except the 1/76 Matchbox set), although this is not discernible for the kneeling poses. We found virtually no flash on anything here, so these are well-presented models, particularly when viewed at a little distance on a gaming table. Extras include a pile of ammunition containers and a pile of rifles and discarded kit, both of which make excellent companions to a crew in action.
So although this is a very small set, and the figures are not the most beautiful when looked at close up, for most purposes this is a good set which delivers what it promises and is particularly useful as there were very few Eighth Army mortar crew figures prior to this release.