Introduced into service in 1922, the Japanese Type 11 37mm gun was an infantry support weapon which could stop armoured vehicles like tanks. It was still in service during the Japanese invasions of China in the 1930s, where it also proved useful against bunkers and other installations. However as tanks became progressively better armoured, the weapon, like all 37mm guns, became increasingly ineffective, and production ceased in 1937, although it continued in use in China. By the time Japan declared war on the Western Allies in 1941 the gun was mainly in reserve units or used for training, and seems to have been little used, if at all, in the Pacific War.
Each of the four sprues in a box contains the nine figures pictured plus two models of the gun. Both are mounted on their usual tripod, which had two trail legs and a short forward front leg. One of these has also been supplied with a separate shield, which we have pictured on our first example above. The other gun has no shield but the tripod includes the two front poles, which could be inserted to allow the gun to be carried by four men rather than just two on the legs. These removable poles are not removable on this model, hence our having to photograph it from an elevated position. The gun barrel and mechanism is quite nicely done and pretty authentic, as are the tripods and carrying poles. The shield is a separate piece, which is just as well as all the photos we could find of the weapon have no such shield. This is because most of these photos show it being used in training, when the shield was unnecessary, but we assume the shield is valid too.
The gun was supposed to have a crew of 10, but two of these were charged with handling the pack animals at the rear, and two more were reserve gunners kept some distance behind the gun. That leaves two gunners, three men to bring up ammunition and a squad leader, so this set is rather light on bodies if both guns on each sprue are to be in action. Several poses attracted our particular attention, including the first in the second row. This ‘superman’ pose is actually a man crawling face down along the ground and dragging an ammunition box behind him. It looks less ridiculous this way than as shown above, although as he is facing straight down it is still not a great pose. The last figure in the top row also drew attention to itself, but as the gun was fired by pulling on a lanyard, perhaps this is what this figure is doing. Since the gun is very low profile, all the crew are down on the ground, with the obvious exception of the squad commander. Were they to actually be in sight of an enemy, standing would seem a very foolhardy thing to do (the crawling guy certainly seems to think so), but as we have said, most photos show it in training, when the officer would indeed be standing and in no danger, so this seems to be the reason here. Not so good if you want to use these figures in an actual combat scene though.
The crew wear a mixture of tunics and shirt sleeves. The tunics have a fall collar and so are the type 98 (introduced in 1938), when the earlier style would have made more sense for this old weapon as it would have been seen in the China campaign. Several have sunshields, so along with the shirt sleeves, these are clearly in a warm environment. They wear helmets or the characteristic peaked cloth cap, and one wears a cork sun helmet. On the lower legs are the usual puttees, with the common tapes crossed over at the front. Another clue that these men are simply training is that none have any kit apart from one man who has a haversack and the standard three ammunition pouches on his belt. The commander has a despatch case, and is armed with a sword and revolver, but the crew are unarmed.
The sculpting is much like the previous sets of Japanese released by Strelets. The proportions are good and detail is good too, so the commander is very nicely done. However where the poses get a bit more complex things sometimes go awry, so the second figure in the top row has a severely misshapen right arm. There is a fair amount of flash too, although nowhere is it especially bad. The guns are simple to put together, although we found adding the shield to be hard work as it needs to be forced into place, and is slightly distorted as a result. However the accuracy of the guns is pretty good and nicely done.
This is a weapon that was widely used in the 1930s, but not really by the 1940s, so fine for the war in China but not much use for the Pacific. Therefore we were disappointed that some of the figures are dressed more for the post 1938 era than the earlier one, which makes using this set for the China campaign that much more difficult. Both figures and guns are quite nicely done, but the training ground look is unfortunate in our view. A useful weapon for a campaign that has barely been touched by the hobby so far, so hopefully we will see more sets in future to go with it.