When France went to war in 1939, her army was hailed as one of the strongest in the world, and included one of the largest number of tanks, making it seem like a match for anything that could threaten the country. When the invasion came in 1940, however, much of the reason for the failure of the French armour was the poor tactical use of those tanks, many of which had no radios and were used in small parcels as infantry support. After the Armistice of June 1940, France was not permitted to have any tanks except some old models in the colonies.
This is one of many sets of tank crew Orion have made over the years, and it follows what has become something of a formula. So we find a few poses apparently working on their vehicle (such as refuelling), and some in a more relaxed mode, perhaps resting near to their vehicle. There are also a few that might be described as in action, out of their tank but with pistol drawn, apparently standing in the turret issuing commands, or, as here, surrendering. Finally, we have a couple of seated figures – always useful for all those vehicle kits. While it may be a familiar pattern, we think it works well considering such men are almost invisible when actually manning their tank. As we have said before, the man with drawn pistol is not so likely, since if he has been forced out of his tank, then engaging the forces responsible with just a pistol is unlikely to achieve anything positive for him. The other generic poses are all very suitable however, some of which could be placed inside a turret if desired, especially the man using a radio. The two seated figures are both quite relaxed, particularly the man drinking straight from a bottle, but most of the figures would work well in a behind-the-lines tank rest area, and would grace any tank model.
Orion always delivers a very high standard of sculpting these days, and this set is typical. The detail is excellent, as are the general proportions and crucial areas such as the faces, which really give these figures character. The running man is a little awkward, but otherwise the posture of all is natural and very well done. Unfortunately, the mould making is not of the same standard, because while many of the seams are beautifully clean, there are a few places where there are very significant clumps of flash - the third figure in the second row is the most obvious example. While this is annoying, their scarcity does at least mean that it will not take too much time to tidy these figures up ready for use. The only sculpting error that we could see was that many of the poses have a diagonal strap across their back, as if they are wearing a Sam Brown belt, yet none have a corresponding strap on the front. While on some the front is obscured, the missing strap looks bad on the rest, or, more to the point, why do so many poses have such a strap on the back, as most would not have worn a Sam Browne belt anyway.
Apart from that one strange feature, the accuracy is good here. All wear a helmet, but these are of various types, some with a crest and some with a front badge, but the majority are the M1935 model, which is as it should be. These have been correctly done, with the rear peak and the front brow-pad, and look good. We were also pleased to see many equipped with goggles. Most are also wearing the M1935 leather jacket, single-breasted and with a yoke, which was the norm by 1940. The one exception is the third figure in our second row, who wears no jacket but just overalls, gathered at the ankle, which is probably what most of the others are also wearing. The officer in the bottom row (with pistol) and the running man both have leather leggings and breeches, as would be expected of officers. All also have a pistol holster attached to their waist belt, and all are wearing the chèche, a kind of scarf which was certainly worn, but we were surprised that every single man wears it here, and also outside the jacket rather than tucked in the neck as was common. This is not wrong, but not so typical that every pose should have been portrayed this way.
There is one other mistake here, and it is one Orion have made before. Two of the figures hold jerrycans, a distinctive design of liquid container that the Germans developed in the 1930s but kept secret from foreigners (especially the French), so there is no way these two figures would have had them in 1940. However, that is a lapse in research that only affects two of the poses, and apart from that this is a very attractive set. The mystery back strap on some of the men should be trimmed off (except for the officers, where a front strap should be added), and the few large bits of flash need to be removed, so there are several small but irritating problems which make this set less than perfect. However with great sculpting and nicely-done poses, this set has much to offer.