This set first appeared in 1961, when the Second World War was only 15 years distant, but there was a lot of interest in recreating it with toy tanks and soldiers, at least in some countries. It is no surprise therefore that after making a handful of sets aimed primarily at model railways (civilians, farm animals etc), Airfix chose WWII for their first sets of soldiers, and naturally that had to start with the Germans. At the time there were hardly any plastic figures in this size, and Airfix themselves had barely started to make military kits apart from aircraft, so this was a relatively new venture, and essentially the start of a new hobby.
The set was made well over half a century ago, and inevitably it shows. These figures are much simplified representations of German infantry, and the detail is poor and ill defined. The faces are smooth featureless blobs except for a nose, and the hands lack fingers or any other sculpting. For some reason many have very narrow bases (for which we cannot blame their vintage), making them easily downed on a rocky table or carpet, and there is flash galore. The stretcher party fit together well enough, although with age it is sometimes hard to get both bearers to be upright if the stretcher has bent. The gunner in the bottom row really just perches rather precariously on the seat of his weapon, which is a problem when ordinary glue had so little an effect on plastic of this type. As can be seen above, flash was quite variable, and since the pictured collection were undoubtedly made at different times, some batches suffered more than others from flash, though none would probably have been considered good by modern standards.
Uniform in as much as it can be made out at all looks fairly reasonable, with the classic stepped helmet being the most recognisable feature. The men are probably supposed to be wearing jack boots, as in the early war years, but if you really wanted to you could imagine them with anklets too. However the overall look is of the early Blitzkrieg, which would be the more recognisable look to a child. The kit these men wear is largely fantasy, with no link at all to anything the real specimen might have carried into battle.
The range of poses is good in conception but not in execution, being very stiff and unnatural, and again equipment and weaponry is more symbolic than accurate. One figure seems to hold a Panzerfaust (end of second row), but on the first type box is identified by Airfix as a panzerfaust loader (a curious job for a single-shot weapon). What they probably mean is he is ready to load the bizarre weapon in the third row, which is perhaps a really poor panzerschreck (Airfix seem not to know the difference between these two anti-tank weapons). Another man has a flamethrower, but the eye-catching weapon here is the large 'anti-tank gun' in our bottom row. This is perhaps the 28/20-mm 2.8-cm sPzB 41, but to be honest such precise identifications are pretty meaningless, and we would say this one looks nothing like anything that ever existed. Even the rifles are poor, and the submachine gun being held strangely by the kneeling figure in the second row is so far from reality as to be an Airfix invention. Having been rude about the stiff poses, we still like the idea of including a stretcher party, and the officer amuses us because Airfix were careful to have him raise his left hand, perhaps so as to make sure it does not look like the nazi salute?
Of course these crude figures were always meant to be toys, and doubtless children everywhere cared little for such things as historical accuracy. Sales were clearly good, and as a back-handed compliment this set was widely copied illegally by manufacturers from Hong Kong and elsewhere. As the market grew, however, it was apparent that Airfix would have to completely retool the set if it were to compete, and the result was the birth of the type 2 set (see Type 2 set). Had they not done so then they would surely have been too embarassed to rerelease this set in the modern age!
This set now lives quietly in dark corners and attics, and in the collections (and the hearts) of die-hard enthusiasts. One curious feature of this set is that it briefly included a prone man firing a rifle which was taken from the Airfix Japanese Infantry set, but done in grey plastic. This variant is most commonly to be found in the Beachhead playset. These first type Germans have almost nothing to be said in their favour, except that they trigger many fond memories for those who were small boys in the 1960s and today are very much older small boys.