It says 'NATO Paratroopers' on the box, but it is pretty clear these are British paratroops, and what is more, they depict that regiment in action in the Falklands War - even the box artwork looks like the Falklands - and the set was released just a year after that conflict.
Previous sets from Matchbox had included 17 or so poses, but for this set only 13 are on parade. This is disappointing and a sign of the company's troubles (this was the last set they ever made), but it is still more than many other manufacturers usually manage. The poses are very good and have been well sculpted. There is none of the formal stiffness to be seen in some sets - these men look really lifelike and have been very well observed. Of particular note is the figure walking with rifle sloped down - a very common sight on the streets of Ulster at the time.
The uniform is particularly interesting. All the men appear to be wearing the full suit of RM pattern windproof clothing rather than the standard jacket, which indicates they are in a cold climate such as the Falklands (or indeed northern Europe in the winter). They also wear the beret, which was sometimes worn in combat in the Falklands, though we would have liked to have seen some wearing a helmet as well. Webbing is the standard 1958 pattern used by most of the British army, although the pouches vary between the men, which reflects the actual variety and personal preferences often seen on the men - again typical of the Falklands. However none are wearing a canteen, which is odd.
Five of the poses carry the usual 7.62 mm L1A1 SLR, but a couple are armed with the L2A3 Sterling submachine gun. Submachine guns were basically self-defence weapons, so would be expected on those with other heavy loads such as the signaler and those with anti-tank guns rather than ordinary riflemen. What we take to be the officer (last figure, bottom row) is armed with nothing more fearsome than a pistol, which certainly makes him look like an officer, but it is far more likely that he would have a rifle or similar weapon when actually in action. One man is using an anti-tank gun, a Carl Gustav MAW, which were used against fixed positions during the Falklands War, although we would have preferred to see the much more common LAW, either in use or at least carried over the back. There are two larger machine guns. The first is the L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun (bottom row), which is being fed belt ammunition by a colleague, and the second is the L4A4 Light Machine Gun (top row), which was magazine fed. In both cases their bipods are 'filled in', i.e. solid triangular pieces of plastic, caused by both pieces being moulded from the side rather than from above. Finally there is a mortar being fed a bomb by a standing soldier. Matchbox mortars had been very simplistic and very inaccurate representations in sets released prior to this one, but this one is better. Rather than the barrel sliding through a loop on the support, the support fits into a hole on the barrel. This gives a more realistic piece, but it is still well short of an accurate model.
These are some very nice figures, well detailed and expertly crafted. The understandable popularity of the Falklands War immediately after the British victory would have made this set seem a natural choice, and a good job has been made of it, but it is a great pity that to date neither Matchbox nor anyone else has produced any Argentine forces for them to face.