Although this set was only released in 2013 it has a much longer history. Using new techniques to make multi-coloured plastic figures, back in the late 1970s Britains made four modern British infantry figures as part of their 'Super Deetail' range. For whatever reason these four never went into mass production, and a new set of four were quickly produced instead. As a result the first four figures are rare and expensive to buy these days but the second four are plentiful and cheap. This new set from A Call To Arms is just a 1/72 scale version of those Britains figures, with the ill-fated first four figures shown in our second row and the common final set shown in the top row. These smaller figures are known to have existed some years before they went on the market, but it was only in 2013 that they finally appeared. A Call To Arms must have used the original sculpts because both sets of figures are absolutely identical to the Britains originals, down to the slightest folds in the clothing, but have lost none of the finer detail.
What was modern at that time is of course increasingly distant today, but back in the 1970s there was no conflict to which these figures could be attached. The box talks about the Cold War, but of course as we know that never came to actual combat, and of the many postings that the British Army maintained at the time only Northern Ireland offered anything like a war environment, and as we shall see, these figures are not appropriate for that either. Nevertheless the title merely describes these figures as of the 70s, so that is how we will assess them.
Having fought World War II and several subsequent conflicts in Battledress, by the 1970s British infantry was wearing a smock and trousers made in Disruptive Pattern Material, short boots and short puttees which together formed No.8 Dress and were the uniform for active duty in temperate climates. When in battle you might imagine they would wear the steel helmet, but a number of photographs show soldiers wearing the beret as depicted on these figures, even in war zones like the Falklands, so these are not as unlikely as you might think, although of course the beret did give Britains the opportunity to make them in different colours to depict different units. The uniforms are accurately done here, which is hardly to be wondered at since they were current at the time. All look to be wearing camouflage face veils as cravats – a common sight – but the smocks lack any sort of pocket on the sleeves, which seems to have been a common feature but by no means universal, so there are no problems with the uniform as it stands.
The history of the kit borne by British soldiers took another step forward around 1960 when the first large-scale issues of the new 1958 pattern webbing were made. These figures all wear that webbing in the correct 'Combat Equipment Fighting Order', with the waist belt carrying all the items and supported by a yoke over the shoulders. They have the two ammunition pouches – one on either hip - and the two kidney pouches on the back of the belt with the rolled cape and carrier below. The kidney pouches are slung particularly low, especially since the cape is still below them, but more surprisingly is that two of the figures are missing one of them and have instead a water bottle and carrier from the old 1944 pattern kit. This bottle and carrier was still sometimes seen during the 1970s and beyond, so its presence here is not incorrect. However the rest of the figures have no water bottle at all, which is regrettable. There are no extra items as might be found on real soldiers but are generally left off figures as they are too complicated, apart from the pistol holsters for the officer and anti-tank man. Also missing is any sign of a bayonet or its fitting, and the rifle grenade launcher. However the kit is properly rendered and again while perhaps not typical nothing here is impossible.
Five of the eight poses carry the standard L1A1 Self Loading Rifle of the era, and the third figure in the second row carries a General Purpose Machine Gun. One man in the top row is holding a Carl Gustav anti-tank gun, the M2 model with a scope attached, so all the weapons are typical of the period and good choices.
As we have said, the sculpting for these figures was done decades ago, and is of a style not often seen these days. We must admit however to being big fans of this quite natural style, and so really liked everything about their appearance. The detail is excellent, and has lost none of the fine detail to be seen on the 1/32 Britains figures, so the weapons in particular are very clear and easy to identify. There is minimal flash, and no extra unwanted plastic, although this does mean a couple of the poses are a bit flat. However the poses are nice and lively and look natural, and although there are only eight poses we thought the selection was very good and look every bit as if they were put together with this set in mind rather than a collection of toys, many of whom would be sold individually, which is of course actually the case.
There is not much else to say. Three of the figures have been given a rank, as indicated by the chevrons on their sleeve. The man with the Carl Gustav is a lance-corporal (one stripe), the standing firing soldier is a corporal (two stripes) and the first figure in the second row is a sergeant (three stripes).
This is a cracking set, and not just because it brings back happy memories for many men of a certain age who remember playing with the originals. Given that they were originally toys they are remarkably accurate, although as always the real things were rather less neat and regulation. The only problem is in finding a role for these figures. An imagined conflict with Warsaw Pact troops of the era would be interesting, but they would not work for the Northern Ireland scenario. Many of the weapons and poses are inappropriate for that operation, and the men would generally have to be wearing fragmentation vest body armour to be suitable.
Lovely figures, and a joy to see them finally realised in our favourite scale. The mind races with delightful speculation on what other 1/32 figures might one day be given similar treatment – we can all think of nominations!