The campaigns of Rommel and the Afrikakorps in North Africa hold a special fascination for some people, and surely no other commander and army of World War II was held in such high regard by their opponents both at the time and since. These men were the subject of one of the first figure sets produced by Airfix in the sixties, but as time went by it became apparent that a better job would have to be made of the sculpting, so the type 1 set was replaced by the type 2 set which is seen here.
In a poll run on the HaT website some years ago this set was voted the best World War II set ever, and it is easy to see why it has so many admirers. The sculpting is just superb, with plenty of detail and very natural-looking poses. All the men wear the familiar loose uniform that was quickly adapted to the rigours of the desert, with either shirt-sleeves and shorts or tunic and trousers. A mixture of steel helmets and peaked field caps are shown, as was actually worn in the field. The webbing is generally quite light, with most only having gas mask case, canteen and entrenching tool. However the riflemen have two sets of two ammo pouches on the front of their belt, when these were actually divided into threes.
The poses themselves are fine, with good animation and a nice selection. The man bayoneting is very dramatic, and the officer is in a classic pose often seen elsewhere. There are also some nice details. For instance, several of the men have stick grenades tucked into their belts, and the prone man firing the MG34 or MG42 machine gun has an ammunition belt wrapped round his body. One pose that is missing however is someone to feed the ammunition belt for this weapon, which is of no danger to anyone without any ammunition.
Only two men are carrying a submachine gun, and neither seem to have the appropriate ammunition pouches for their weapon. The weapon itself has a wooden stock, which suggests it is the MP41, but it would have been much better if the sculptor had chosen the MP38 or MP40, which were considerably more common.
Despite some small lapses in accuracy this remains a beautiful set in our view, and if that is tinged with more than a little nostalgia then perhaps that is inevitable, but while several very fine Afrikakorps sets have since made their appearance this remains a really nice collection that set the standard for the rest.