The history of British tanks during World War II is not an impressive one, with some quite poor models making their way into production, and sometimes into combat. By the war’s end however matters were much improved, but whether they had an effective, reliable and well-armoured vehicle or not, Britain’s Royal Armoured Corps had to deal with some excellent German tanks and guns in North Africa and latterly in Europe, as well as with all the usual maintenance and resupply needs of their tank in often very difficult conditions.
For much of the war tank crew wore the normal battledress, which had been designed for use by all arms. In particularly cold weather they had the same choices as the infantry – namely a greatcoat or the leather jerkin. This was far from ideal, and in 1942 special ’tank suits’ were issued, but these too failed to gain many admirers. However in early 1944 a new garment made its appearance – the M1943 Tank Suit, which was commonly known as the ‘pixie suit’. It was a one-piece overall with numerous pockets and zips running the full length of the body, from neck to each ankle, to make it easy to remove and even to convert it into a sleeping bag. It was meant to fit over the battledress in cold weather, and was an excellent design that was warmly welcomed by the crews. This is what every figure in this set is wearing, and it has been nicely done here. All have the detachable hood, which one man has over his head as he eats. The only other item of visible clothing is the beret all are wearing. Helmets of various kinds would have been acceptable here, but the beret was a popular option, often worn in preference to a helmet even when in action. Most here are pulled down to the right, which is as per regulation, but often they were pulled down equally on both sides, as seen here on the two poses wearing headphones.
Since kit could snag inside the cramped confines of a tank, and was little needed anyway, these men have only one item on them – a revolver. This is held in a holster on the right thigh, but as with the similar set of summer tankers, the sculptor seems to have taken liberties over how this looked. It is of the open-topped model, which was common and so fine here (even though it was less common by this late stage of the war), but this came in either a long holster, which had the muzzle of the gun close to the knee and a leg strap to restrain the holster, or a short version where the gun was just below the belt. Those here are mostly a sort of mid-point between the two, and none have the extra leg strap, so it looks like a cross between the two, but about the right length for the version with the covered top, so something of a mess. Length apart however, the holster is correctly done with the cartridge loops and the restraining strip over the grip of the gun.
One man (top row) has drawn his revolver and is presumably using it in action. While the detail on this revolver is accurate, it is considerably larger than it should be, and certainly would not fit into the holster all these men have! Another man is apparently using a Sten gun. Some tanks had this weapon stowed, although it was not usually expected to be used to engage an enemy. In any case he holds it with the left hand gripping the magazine, which is certainly not the way he was taught to use it, and not recommended. The magazine itself seems rather far back down the barrel, but is otherwise a fairly accurate model. The rest of the poses have no weapon drawn.
We did not like either of the ‘fighting’ poses. As well as the odd way of holding the Sten, the man with the revolver seems not to be looking where his weapon is pointing, and his left arm is stuck out behind him for some reason (easy to mould). Also failing to impress is the running man in the second row, who has arms and legs high in the air in a very ungainly manner. The remaining nine poses however are excellent. There are ones handling ammunition or jerrycans, using the radio or simply eating from a mess tin, and several are generic with no specific function. We thought all these were very natural and would look great on or around a tank.
In general these are great sculpts, with lovely detail on the fairly complex tank suits and very good faces. The drawn weapons are nicely detailed too if oversized, although some of the goggles (which are good to see here included at all) have not come out too well. Also many of the visible grips to the holstered revolvers are basic in the extreme, though this is often because their position makes them difficult to reach by the mould. Nevertheless the imperfections are few, and the same is true of the flash, which is present only in a small number of places, making these very quick to clean up.
The odd positioning of the sidearm holster seems to be a problem with sculpting, since it varies between different poses, rather than a failure to understand the original. That being so, the figures are entirely accurate in appearance, but the little problems with sculpting are disappointing. The two fighting poses and the running man were not the best poses to our eye, but they are also the least useful, and the rest we thought were both very well done and very useful. While only appropriate for the last year-and-a-bit of the war in Europe, they are very nice figures that portray their subject well. In addition, the tank suit could also be worn without the battledress when the weather was warmer, so these are not purely winter dress, which is a bonus.