In the summer of 1940 the British Command found themselves in an unenviable position in Egypt. With the fall of France and her colonies, and the entry of Italy into the War, Egypt was very vulnerable, and unlikely to get much help from Britain, which was primarily concerned with the threat of invasion at home. At this moment an idea by Major Ralph Bagnold for a small elite unit of men to gather intelligence on the enemy far behind enemy lines, travelling there and back by the largely empty desert well to the south of most of the fighting, met with official enthusiasm and the Long Range Patrol, soon renamed the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), was formed and began operations. This unit gathered intelligence, mapped unknown areas, watched enemy traffic and captured prisoners for interrogation, all providing vital information for British Command. They also conducted some raids, transported agents and rescued downed air crew, and later they would work closely with the new Special Air Service as that unit took the fight to the enemy behind their lines. The environment was extreme for these men, who were very much of an elite unit, and this is the first set to depict them in our hobby.
The quality of the sculpting of these figures is clear from our images, and they lack the quality we would expect of larger production companies. Proportions are quite variable, but the overall appearance is not pleasing, with awkward positions and body parts, and a very rough feel with not much detail on show. In some areas things look quite good, but in others it all looks very basic, and there are many areas where the plastic does not seem to have filled the mould properly as the surface is absolutely flat and smooth when it should not be. Some faces are not bad, but others are frankly horrific, and the hands are often very crude too. The style seems to vary a lot between poses, but the respectable ones are outnumbered by the very poor ones unfortunately.
The plastic used is a hard compound, and on our example we found a lot of flash, although again this varied greatly even between different copies of the same pose. There is some undercutting, which must mean the mould used is more flexible than the traditional steel variety, but there is still some excess plastic in places, even where this seems to be unnecessary such as between the legs of the kneeling figure. The bases of the figures are fairly rough, and the fingerprint to be found on the bottom of each suggests the manual production process.
The LRDG was largely a reconnaissance and transportation unit, and most of the time a successful mission meant the enemy never knew they were there. However they sometimes did conduct small raids, and there was always the danger of stumbling across hostile forces in the desert, particularly when spotted from the air. Their principal weapons were machine guns mounted on their customised vehicles, but of course personal weapons were also carried and sometimes used, and five of the poses in this set have a weapon in hand. There are a couple of submachine guns, a pistol, grenade and knife, all of which are too crude to identify, although the submachine guns are probably Thompsons.
The five combat poses are quite lively, but we felt the man apparently advancing with knife drawn was not a good choice as it implies a commando-style activity which may not have been impossible but was certainly far from typical. The grenade-thrower is particularly flat, but that is about the only flat pose in the set. The non-combative poses are much better, showing men just standing or in one case prone on the ground observing through binoculars. This is a very typical pose, since some missions involved men taking very boring 24 hour shifts observing traffic on a road from a distance in this manner. The others could be standing during a stop on their journey, or back at base, but generally the most common poses would be seated or otherwise deployed in their vehicles, which is not something this set covers. A particularly nice figure of an officer walking and carrying a bag over his shoulder is well done, but all the non-combat poses are particularly appropriate for this subject.
The very idea of uniform was largely unknown to these men. In the punishing environment of the desert, on long missions with very limited resources, survival and comfort were the only things that mattered, and what the men wore was largely a matter of personal taste with little interference from officers. Where uniform can be identified these men wear a wide range, mostly very shabby in appearance and largely matching the many images and descriptions of them. The man wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and boots would be very common, but other elements of standard British desert uniform can be found here, as well as items like the Arab shemagh, which had advantages but could get caught in machinery and weapons. The cap comforter was popular, as was the beret later on, and both are represented here, as is a standard officer’s peaked cap and a pith helmet. The second figure in the bottom row seems to wear a turban, which could easily make him suitable for the Indian Long Range Squadron, a unit similar to the LRDG in the Indian Army, and other poses could also belong to this unit. Finally, the man with the long thick ‘Hebron’ coat is a useful reminder of how cold the desert can get at night. Some elements of webbing and bags are also being worn, but the overall effect is scruffy and random, which is exactly what it should be.
Apart from the man with the knife we thought the choice of poses here was good, if with an understandable bias in favour of men in action. Obviously poses of men in their vehicles would be a very different set. We also had no problem with the wide variety of clothing and equipment on show, nor with the chosen weapons. Naturally what really lets this set down is the quality of the sculpting and the mould, with some poorly filled cavities and lots of flash. Sometimes quite crude, these are not attractive figures to look at, and painting is unlikely to make too much difference. The only feature we would have liked to have seen was beards, since no one here has one, yet shaving was almost impossible so by the time they returned the men had long and very unkempt beards. It is a pity that the positive qualities of this set are to a degree forgotten thanks to their poor appearance, and Hegemony need to improve that aspect if their figures are to find a wider audience.