As the first shots were fired in World War I, flying was mostly seen as a sport, and the only military role was for reconnaissance. By the war's end ten of thousands of aircraft were taking photographs, dropping bombs and leaflets, guiding artillery fire and machine-gunning enemy forces, and those machines, and the tactics they employed, had developed enormously in those four years. For many years such machines have been available to modellers in 1/72 scale, but until this set was released almost no personnel were available except occasional pilots.
This substantial set includes 24 different poses which are described by the manufacturer as follows:
- British - Pilot dropping a 5-pound gas bomb
- British - Pilot firing
- British - Girl visiting the airfield
- British - Mechanic listening to the engine
- British - Armourer with Lewis 7.71 machine gun
- British - Pilot after the flight
- Russian - Pilot making a gesture to the enemy
- Russian - Officer in parade dress
- Russian - Pilot after the flight
- Russian - Pilot sitting in the cockpit
- Russian - Pilot standing
- Russian - Armourer with a 100-pound bomb
- German - Mechanic lifting the plane's tail
- German - Pilot receiving the flight mission
- German - Pilot sitting in the cockpit
- German - Pilot climbing into the plane
- German - Ernst Udet
- German - Mechanic rotating the propeller
- French - Armourer loading plane with bagged steel arrows
- French - Pilot smoking
- French - Pilot sitting in the cockpit
- French - Pilot greeting his comrade with victory
- French - Rene Fonck
- French - Pilot explaining the tactics of a fight
The British figures demonstrate that this set covers the whole war, with one pilot wearing the double-breasted 'maternity' jacket in vogue at the start of the war, and another wearing a gas mask from the later years. The several different styles of uniform and flying clothing all match known articles, and have been quite well done. Though many women served in both the British aviation corps, the women in this set wears civilian costume of a full length dress with a jacket and large hat decorated with flowers - all perfectly correct for the period.
The Imperial Russian Air Service struggled with problems of supply, and the nature of the air war on the Eastern front meant confirmed kills were not as high as in the West. The Russian figures are a colourful lot, and the pilot making the gesture is an interesting choice since once pilots ran out of ammunition they only had gestures to throw at the enemy. Though flying gear tended to be similar in all air services, these do have a Russian feel, particularly the distinctive gymnastiorka, and all are authentic.
Two of the German poses are ground crew manhandling a plane and wearing the standard uniform including peakless field cap. The pilots are well protected against the cold and again wear common kit. Ernst Udet was credited with 62 kills during the war, and as such was the fourth most successful pilot of any nation. As an officer attached to the Aviation Service he wears his old regimental uniform.
France was a pioneer of the aeroplane, but was not well prepared when war came. Once again uniformity was not the order of the day in the air service, and these figures wear various items, all of which are reasonable. The 'steel arrows' are fléchettes, pencil-sized steel darts that were released from under the fuselage to produce a deadly rain of steel for anyone caught underneath. The French were particularly enthusiastic about this weapon, but it was to be superseded by far more sophisticated and deadly weapons as the war progressed. Still it is interesting to have included it here. Rene Fonck was the second most successful pilot of the war, having 75 kills to his name, second only to the 80 of Manfred von Richthofen. Here he stands with kepi in hand, wearing some of the many medals awarded to him by both the French and British. His popularity was however lost when he co-operated with the invader in 1940.
In general these figures are nicely detailed and accurately rendered. The style is chunky rather than the elegant slimness of some manufacturers, but they are still perfectly acceptable. There was very little flash and the detail is nice and deep. Some of the poses look rather silly by themselves, but when placed around a plane, as is the intention, they work well. The French and German figures had previously been available from another manufacturer (Doc Military), and this set represents that one rebadged (by legal purchase) and enlarged with the Russians and British. A good collection that will allow many dioramas based around one or other of the aircraft of the Great War.