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Airfix

Set 1709

8th Army

All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1962
Contents 46 figures
Poses 18 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Light Tan
Average Height 21 mm (= 1.51 m)

Review

Another of the early Airfix sets, and for this one they chose to return to the popular subject of World War II with another set from a theatre that saw Britain as a major player, the North African desert. Of course the Allied forces in the Desert War also included many Indians and forces from the dominions, not to mention Poles, Free French, Greeks and others, but luckily for Airfix these largely wore British uniform and used British kit and weapons, so the one set more or less covers them all.

Airfix were hitting their stride by the time this set appeared, and it boasts 18 different poses, a very good number even by today's standards. There is a good mixture, with some real imagination going into some such as the prone man with binoculars, the mine detector operator (particularly important in this campaign) and particularly the two crawling men wearing cap comforters. The two standing firing poses are so similar as to not really be worth the extra effort, although it is possible that one holds a rifle and the other a submachine gun. The heavy machine gun and crew are an important element too, and with lots of advancing and firing poses the choices are good.

Like the earlier World War II sets, the sculpting on these figures is very poor to modern eyes. The detail is quite indistinct and much is simply missing. There was also a problem with excess plastic in undercutting areas, which is particularly true of the prone figures. Faces are bland and hands are just blobs, and most of the figures are very straight-backed, which fails to give much of an impression of rapid movement. All the weapons, including the heavier machine guns, are largely without any detail at all, and the prone machine-gunner is firing a weapon on a single support, for which there seems no obvious reason since no such machine gun existed at the time.

The clothing is a rendition of the classic Khaki Drill shirt and shorts with socks, anklets and boots, plus a steel helmet on the head. Given the lack of detail the clothing is reasonable, though the 37-pattern webbing they all wear strays far from the reality as it lacks some key elements and greatly simplifies much else. The mine-detector is as poor as the weapons, having no real detail and missing all the wires and headphones that would have been essential.

As toys these are fine, and were clearly successful as Airfix completely retooled the set and created the far superior second type (see Type 2 set). If overall they seem to compare badly with today's output, still they contributed to the early growth of the hobby of plastic soldiers, and perhaps deserve not to be judged too clinically.



Ratings

Historical Accuracy 5
Pose Quality 5
Pose Number 9
Sculpting 2
Mould 4

Further Reading
Books
"British Infantry Equipments (2) 1908-2000" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.108) - Mike Chappell - 9781855328396
"Desert Rat 1940-43" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.160) - Tim Moreman - 9781849085014
"Infantry Weapons of World War II" - David & Charles - Jan Suermont - 9780715319253
"Khaki Drill & Jungle Green" - Crowood - Martin Brayley - 9781847971098
"Machine Guns" - Crowood - Terry Gander - 9781861265807
"Montgomery’s Desert Army" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.66) - John Wilkinson-Latham - 9780850452501
"The British Army 1939–45 (2) Middle East & Mediterranean" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.368) - Martin Brayley - 9781841762371
"Tropical Uniforms" - Wessex Military (British Soldier in the 20th Century Series No.6) - Mike Chappell - 9781870498050
"World War II Infantry" - Windrow & Greene (Europa Militaria Series No.2) - Laurent Mirouze - 9781872004150

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