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Airfix

Set 1705

German Infantry

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1961
Contents 47 figures and 1 gun
Poses 18 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 21.5 mm (= 1.55 m)

Review

This set first appeared in 1961, when the Second World War was only 15 years distant, but there was a lot of interest in recreating it with toy tanks and soldiers, at least in some countries. It is no surprise therefore that after making a handful of sets aimed primarily at model railways (civilians, farm animals etc), Airfix chose WWII for their first sets of soldiers, and naturally that had to start with the Germans. At the time there were hardly any plastic figures in this size, and Airfix themselves had barely started to make military kits apart from aircraft, so this was a relatively new venture, and essentially the start of a new hobby.

The set was made well over half a century ago, and inevitably it shows. These figures are much simplified representations of German infantry, and the detail is poor and ill defined. The faces are smooth featureless blobs except for a nose, and the hands lack fingers or any other sculpting. For some reason many have very narrow bases (for which we cannot blame their vintage), making them easily downed on a rocky table or carpet, and there is flash galore. The kit these men wear is largely fantasy, with no link at all to anything the real specimen might have carried into battle.

The range of poses is good, though again equipment and weaponry is more symbolic than accurate. One figure seems to hold a Panzerfaust (end of second row), but on the first type box is identified by Airfix as a panzerfaust loader (a curious job for a single-shot weapon). What they probably mean is he is ready to load the bizarre weapon in the third row, which is perhaps a really poor panzerschreck (Airfix seem not to know the difference between these two anti-tank weapons). Another man has a flamethrower, but the eye-catching weapon here is the large 'anti-tank gun' in our bottom row. This is perhaps the 28/20-mm 2.8-cm sPzB 41, but to be honest such precise identifications are pretty meaningless. Even the rifles are poor, and the submachine gun being held strangely by the kneeling figure in the second row is so far from reality as to be an Airfix invention. Having been rude about the stiff poses, we still like the idea of including a stretcher party, and the officer amuses us because Airfix were careful to have him raise his left hand, perhaps so as to make sure it does not look like the nazi salute?

Of course these crude figures were always meant to be toys, and doubtless children everywhere cared little for such things as historical accuracy. Sales were clearly good, and as a back-handed compliment this set was widely copied illegally by manufacturers from Hong Kong and elsewhere. As the market grew, however, it was apparent that Airfix would have to completely retool the set if it were to compete, and the result was the birth of the type 2 set (see Type 2 set). Had they not done so then they would surely have been too embarassed to rerelease this set in the modern age!

This set now lives quietly in dark corners and attics, and in the collections (and the hearts) of die-hard enthusiasts. One curious feature of this set is that it briefly included a prone man firing a rifle which was taken from the Airfix Japanese Infantry set, but done in grey plastic. This variant is most commonly to be found in the Beachhead playset. These first type Germans have almost nothing to be said in their favour, except that they trigger many fond memories for those who were small boys in the 1960s and today are very much older small boys.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 4
Pose Quality 4
Pose Number 9
Sculpting 2
Mould 3

Further Reading
Books
"Blitzkrieg" - Concord (Fighting Men series No.6001) - Gordon Rottman - 9789623616010
"Flamethrowers of the German Army 1914-1945" - Schiffer - Fred Koch - 9780764302640
"German Combat Equipments 1939-45" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.234) - Gordon Rottman - 9780850459524
"German Infantryman (1) 1933-40" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.59) - David Westwood - 9781841764627
"Infantry Weapons of World War II" - David & Charles - Jan Suermont - 9780715319253
"MG 34 and MG 42 Machine Guns" - Osprey (Weapon Series No.21) - Chris McNab - 9781780960081
"Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck" - Osprey (Weapon Series No.36) - Gordon Rottman - 9781782007883
"The German Army 1939-45 (1) Blitzkrieg" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.311) - Nigel Thomas - 9781855326392
"World War II Infantry" - Windrow & Greene (Europa Militaria Series No.2) - Laurent Mirouze - 9781872004150

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