The Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 is the most famous of the Allied airborne operations, yet it failed to achieve its major objectives. The fight by the British paratroops for the bridge at Arnhem is the most famous of the various aspects of this battle, and the 'Red Devils' have been modelled several times before, although this set is the first to specifically mention operation Market Garden. As with other failed operations, important lessons were learned which brought benefits later in the war as well as a legendary action for the British airborne soldiers.
With many manufacturers putting only 12 poses in their sets, this set of 15 poses does pretty well by today’s standards. There are some of the standard types with men carrying or firing their weapons, but there are a lot of more unusual ones too, including many that are specific to paratroops. The two poses with their parachute on a large base are interesting, although once down the paratrooper was primarily concerned with discarding his parachute and obtaining a weapon, so would not generally find himself in action next to his chute like this. The other man is apparently pulling the chute in - again only to get rid of it. In the third row there is a man handling one of the many weapons containers that were dropped with and after the men (although very many failed to reach the paras, who were short of food and ammunition as a result). Also in this row is a prone figure, and in the following row a kneeling man - both of whom are firing heavier weapons. In our pictures the first has a PIAT and the second a Bren, but as both come with separate weapons they can just as easily be the other way around, which is good. The radio man reminds us of the difficulties of communication during Arnhem, while there are no less than three officer figures. The first of these carries an umbrella - apparently the officer in question claimed he could not remember the passwords but knew no one would mistake him for a German carrying a brolly! All these poses are really nice, and with plenty of very suitable ones for paratroops and for Arnhem we liked this selection.
We were less keen however on the style of these figures, which are somewhat bulky and unrefined. The detail is quite good but quite chunky, so for example buttons and poppers are much too large, as are some elements of the weaponry. In fact the weaponry is considerably fatter than it should be, which makes the rifles look quite stubby, for example, so these are not the most attractive of figures. To their credit they have no flash and the poses chosen means there is no excess plastic, although a flexible mould also helps in this regard. Everything here is made in a quite sticky soft plastic which is by no means as fragile as earlier sets by the BUM stable of brands, so the figures tend to stay in one piece, although it remains easier to break these than ones in more traditional materials.
All the men seem to wear the Denison smock (although not particularly well sculpted) and either the helmet or the beret - the latter certainly being worn during the battle. The man still gathering in his chute has the tab holding his smock in place between his legs still attached, which is good, while the rest have lost half of theirs. However this figure probably should have the sleeveless jacket over everything that most wore during the jump itself. Of more concern though is the fact that few if any exhibit the standard 1937 pattern webbing. Most seem to have the necessary belts and straps, but not the characteristic front pouches. Two of the officers do have these, but at varying heights up the chest which would have been impossible and make them look like lifts travelling up the side of a sky-scraper! Generally these men are very lightly equipped, and do a poor job of depicting the often heavily-laden fighters at Arnhem.
Apart from the already mentioned issues with the sculpting of the weapons, the choices made are generally perfectly suitable, but the two figures in the top row, both holding submachine guns, warrant a mention in despatches. The figure with the beret is holding a Mk V Sten, which was widely issued to airborne forces from 1944. This particular one has a forward grip, which means it is an early model, and not a problem. The second submachine gun looks to be a Thompson, which has a vertical ammunition box (no problem there) and a forward pistol grip, which would have been quite remarkable by late 1944. An earlier mark of Sten would have been a better choice, particular as we are not sure a Thompson in this configuration would have been seen by this late stage in the War.
The final element to this set (leaving aside the largely useless paper flags) is the random pile of crates and containers, which brings a nice touch of realistic clutter to the package. This is a set with some nice features, but we did not care for the chunky style of these figures, and the accuracy problems are a let-down. Some good ideas here but the figures do not mix well with other sets of this subject and cannot match their level of realism.