Although this set mentions machine guns in the title it actually delivers a much wider range of infantry weapons, which gave the soldier of 1940 a level of firepower unimaginable a century earlier. Figure sets for this era tend to include one or two such weapons, but must avoid having so many that the number of ordinary rifleman suffers. This set promises to fill those gaps and give the wargamer and modeller more flexibility.
We will start our discussion of this set with the largest of the weapons here, the Vickers .303 Mk I machine gun as pictured on the lower row. This was a venerable old weapon that had served well in the Great War and was still used in large numbers during the 39-45 war and beyond. Here we see it in its 'classic' form, with the corrugated cooling jacket and condenser can, and a pretty good model it is too, with some simplification but still very recognisable. To the left is shown the gunner, who if positioned to hold the trigger is correctly looking where he is firing but has his knees some way off the ground, which looks odd. To the right of the machine gun is the No.2, who is feeding the ammunition belt. Also particularly associated with the Vickers would be the range-finder pictured at the end of the first row. He would be assessing the required range to a fire controller, who has not been included in this set, but suitable figures can be found in the corresponding HaT set of British Mortars.
A lighter alternative to the Vickers was the Bren, another great weapon that saw service throughout the war and beyond. This set contains two models, with the first being held by the second figure in the top row and the other mounted on a bipod and being used by the third figure in the second row. Both models are slightly simplified but still very good, and both are being used correctly here.
Moving away from the machine gun theme now we come to the third figure on the top row, who is firing a Boys anti-tank rifle. This had been quite an effective weapon when it was developed before the war, but the rapidly increasing armour on tanks meant that it was quickly made redundant, and had largely disappeared by the end of 1941. This is again a pretty good model, and has a monopod support, identifying it as a Mk I. A MK I* appeared after Dunkirk, but was equally ineffective and soon withdrawn.
The lack of an effective anti-tank weapon was resolved by the introduction of the PIAT, which is shown on the right of our second row. This was a very simple weapon but could be lethal to almost any tank if used 'resolutely' (i.e. at close enough range). It was heavy, difficult to set up for the first round and violent to use, yet it did the job. Several have already been modelled in various sets, but this one is in our view much the weakest of the models here. It is much too simplified and in particular is exceptionally thin. Making the weapon a separate part (like the Bren) would have allowed HaT to have more detail and perhaps a better model overall, but we cannot recommend this as it stands. The PIAT, which first took to the battlefield in late 1942, is being correctly used here, although when actually fired the gunner would have tilted his head forward to protect his face.
Finally we drift ever further from the machine gun as we look at the first figure in the top row, who holds what was officially known as the 'Flame-thrower, No.2' but more widely known as the 'Lifebuoy'. In use from late 1942, this had plenty of defects, and man-held flamethrowers were never popular in the British Army. With a range of only about 40 metres the operator had to be brave, so vehicle-mounted versions were much preferred, but this model is quite well done.
All the figures wear standard British battledress which looks to be properly realised here. For webbing they only have the basic waistbelt and braces, from which only the normal ammunition pouches (Mk II from the looks of them) and water bottle (in 'skeleton' holder) are hanging. All have the standard MK II helmet, and the only variety comes from the flame-thrower operator, who wears a leather jerkin. Although very lightly equipped everything here is accurate.
As can be seen from the sprue there is some assembly required here, which makes for some good figures. Where appropriate the prone figures have separate heads and sometimes separate arms and weapons, but the soft plastic used accepts glue very well and these are easy to put together. The detail is pretty good and the overall standard also quite good, and there is no flash anywhere.
As we have said, this set delivers a range of heavier infantry weapons which will allow platoons with varying proportions of such weapons to be created relatively easily. That it does so with a good level of sculpting and flawless accuracy will be welcomed by all, as will the set as a whole.