What we have here is the 75mm Pack Howitzer M1A1, an artillery piece which was indeed conceived as a mountain gun, or for use in any environment where movement would be difficult. Like all such weapons it could be taken apart and carried on mules or flown and parachuted down, where it could be reassembled and brought into action. Although developed in the 1920s it was not in full production until 1940, but thousands were then made and saw service on all fronts in the hands of both the Army and Marines. The model in this set sits on an M8 carriage, which was a box-trail type with metal wheels and pneumatic tyres. As a light and relatively portable piece it was much used by airborne forces, and proved a popular weapon which continued in service throughout the Second World War and beyond.
It must be said that the gun is a really nice little model, but far from the easiest to put together. The box includes some very basic diagrams to aid assembly which, however, are wrong in two respects. They show the trail connecting mechanism assembly as horizontal when it should be between the sides of the trail, and they show the lunette (the tow element) upside down. Once you find the necessary photographs to tell you how it actually should be put together, and you persuade all the parts to go where they should, the result is very pleasing, and judging by photographs of the real thing it is pretty accurate too, with relatively little lost to the cause of simplification.
The four crew figures are all quite appropriate. The last figure in our photograph is actually handling the weapon, which is a pose often missing from such sets. The rest are handling ammunition, and all look quite natural although one man has stuck a shell base down in the ground by his right leg for some reason. They wear standard uniform, including boots with short gaiters, a pocketed tunic such as the 1943 combat jacket, and of course the M1 helmet. Kit is very light as you might expect, with everyone having their canteen and, much more surprisingly, their entrenching tool, which we would have thought would unnecessarily inhibit their movement as they served the gun. So for pose and historical accuracy we found no problems.
The style of the figure sculpting is in the mould of recent releases by Waterloo1815 and Italeri, and is therefore to be applauded. The proportions are great and the poses lifelike while detail is also excellent. The last kneeling figure has a separate arm, which is necessary to achieve the pose and fits seamlessly on the shoulder but requires gluing to stay in place. There is no flash and the poses have no suggestion of being flat despite being mostly single-piece, proving once again that non-flat poses are possible with a sufficiently skilled sculptor.
The difficulties of putting together the gun, particularly if you try to follow the instructions precisely, are either an annoyance or a challenge, depending on how you view such things, but the resulting model and figures are very nice and we think most will decide it is worth it. With relatively little artillery available for World War II this is a very worthwhile product, although with so much empty space on the sprue we felt a pair of wooden wheels to make the M1 carriage would have been a nice gesture – the field telephone seems very lonely all by itself.