When Britain first went to war in 1939 the main focus was obviously on France, and after defeat there it was the defence of the home islands from possible invasion, but as such fears receded, the only major front on which British forces faced those of the Axis on land was in North Africa. As a result that front became of great importance to the British, and the Eighth Army, created in 1941 and made up of units from Britain, the empire and many occupied countries, began to build a reputation and a name that would be uniquely remembered even to this day.
The figures in this set were originally made in metal by Adler Miniatures, and are issued in plastic here under licence. 20 is a very good number of poses, and many of them are advancing much as the newsreels of the day liked to portray. However the large number of poses also allows for some more specific activities, so we find here two complete Bren teams (one walking, one in action), and two 2-inch mortar teams – again one in action and one on the move. The set also boasts an officer armed only with a pistol, and what we take to be a couple of NCOs as they are carrying the Thompson submachine gun, yet there is still a good range of ordinary riflemen. The rifleman poses are all fairly conventional, which is fine, but the support weapon teams are the real gem on offer here.
Every man is dressed in the same way, which is the ‘classic’ look of the ‘desert rat’ of shirt and shorts, socks and short boots, all topped off with the steel helmet. Other sets have a wider variety, and are perfectly valid, but here the look is all the same. The men’s kit consists in almost all cases of the standard 1937-pattern web belts and pouches, small pack on the back, water bottle and bayonet. A few have extra items like a rolled gas cape (little carried after the early war period), extra ammunition pouches and the webbing carrier for tools and a spare Bren barrel.
The look of these figures betrays their origins as metal figures, for they have a slightly thicker and less refined look than the best done in plastic. Clearly however the mould is a flexible one as there is much undercutting without losing detail, and the detail is generally good. Occasionally the mould has not filled properly, leaving a glossy ill-defined lump instead of a feature, or a long slender item like the bayonet scabbard with a complete break in it. There is a mostly modest amount of flash, but there are a few bits of more substantial extra plastic in places. The faces are really quite poor by plastic standards, and we were not keen generally on the style of sculpting, which has a slightly more rough quality than we would like, although detail in some places like weapons is very good.
There are some missing elements that need to be highlighted. First, the prone Bren gun in the third row has no bipod or other means of support, and for some reason none of the men wear the gaiters, anklets or short puttees that were so vital in keeping sand out of boots. Also it should be observed that some of the figures are on extremely minimal bases, and several lean well beyond this, making it very difficult to stand them up, or at least making them highly unstable. So while there are a lot of poses, and it is particularly good in weapons teams, there are some problems with this set, and it is not as good-looking (to our eye) as some of the long-established alternatives. It does add to the available range, but may have a hard time mixing comfortably with the style of figures from other producers.