While there were many theatres of war in the Second World War, for the British public, after the war in North-West Europe in 1939-40 and again in 1944-45, that in the deserts of North Africa is probably the most familiar. For a long time after the defeat at Dunkirk the only apparent fighting going on on land from their perspective was in North Africa, so the newsreels brought regular bulletins on the campaign, making it a better known campaign even than the later ones in Russia and the Pacific. As a result the fame of the Afrikakorps, despite its short life, endured and was reflected in the popularity of DAK toy soldiers after the war. Airfix, always ones to tap in on the popular conscience, made this an early addition to their still modest range of plastic figures.
This is another of the sets produced by Airfix in the early sixties which was later completely redone to create the type 2 set. It is not hard to see why this was done, as the figures here are poorly detailed and rather too toy-like. Detail is very soft, and when searching for detail on items such as weapons you search in vain. They are perhaps a little better than the German infantry set, with more effort made to create a real face and slightly better detail, but they remain poorly defined and with many areas such as hands and weapons that are just featureless bits of plastic. Flash too is a problem, as usual.
There is a lot of inaccuracies, but the inclusion of many peaked field caps and shorts mean the set certainly has the flavour of its subject. Uniform is not too bad, but webbing is largely fantasy, and some of the weapons defy identification. The machine gun in the third row is crude in the extreme, with a single stalk supporting it rather than a bipod. The anti-tank gun too is more suggestive of the weapon in general than a model of an actual device, although it is the same as that in the German Infantry set so the same tentative identification would apply. However the word fantasy still comes to mind with this thing, especially when viewed with the large round held by the number two gunner.
The poses are numerous and for the most part useful, or at least reasonable choices, though the man apparently bayoneting would have been a rare sight indeed during the actual fighting. No-one has a submachine gun when you might have expected at least one, but the array of weapons is not too bad. All the poses are however very stiff and little animated, makling for a dull lineup despite the good numbers on offer in this set. The officer is particularly interesting. He stands out from his men not only because he is a little taller than them, but mainly because the level of sculpting is a great deal better. His face is properly contoured and his hands have easily distinguishably fingers - a real novelty! In fact in all respects he is a far superior model, and some have tried to suggest that this is a model of Rommel himself. Well that may be, but he does illustrate what could be achieved even in those days if sufficient care was taken.
Once the second type set was produced this set was retired and slowly disappeared, and clearly there are many other sets which are a great improvement on this one. Still it is not without its charm and will stir fond memories in many people of a certain age.