Dedicated to exploring the world of Plastic Toy Soldiers. The focus is WWII figures and vehicles in 1:32 (54mm). If you grew up playing with them or simply love to collect them this is the place for you. Comments are welcome and encouraged. Hopefully together we can create something fun and valuable.
Remco was an American Toy firm active in the 40's to 60's. They were apparently based out of New Jersey. They specialized in electronic and remote controlled toys and vehicles, hence the name Remco. They also liked to release toys associated with popular TV shows and music groups. Today that seems common, but I suspect that back then that was quite unique. In 1971 they went bankrupt and were taken over by a firm called Azrak Hamway. In terms of toy soldiers, they are known for one set, which was incidental to their line of electric toys. They are from a 1960's toy series called the Hamilton Invaders, which was inspired by TV shows of the time in which giant bugs invade earth. These soldiers were mankind's defenders against the giant insect invaders, not unlike the guys from 'Starship Troopers' in the 90's.
Remco 'Hamilton Invaders' GIs aka Blue Defenders - Part I
These guys are on the larger side of 60mm. The scuplting is fairly good in terms of the level of detail. The poses are also good for most of them. For instance, of the three in this picture, the two on the right are just fine, but there is something about the officer that feels just a bit off. Maybe it is the position of the left elbow...or maybe I am just too picky.
Remco 'Hamilton Invaders' GIs aka Blue Defenders - Part II
Here are the other 3 poses. Again, some of the poses are better than the others. The grenade man in the middle seems a bit awkward. I do like the detail on the weapons though. At any rate, these guys seem to be something of a collectible because not so many of them were made - they were only released along with those insect playsets. And those bugs are even more of a priced rarity. I recently saw one listed for about 3,000 usd... That's a bit outrageous if you ask me!
The French Navy, aka 'the Royale' was officialy established in the early 17th century and was historically locked in a rivalry with the British Royal Navy and also fought some conflicts against the Dutch and the Spanish. At the onset of the Second World War, the French Navy weighed 800,000 tonnes and was ranked 4th in the world along with the Italian, after the British, American, and Japanese navies. Up to the summer of 1940, it participated in operations against Germany in Norway, the Mediterranean and the Dunkirk evacuation. After the armistice, the British were seriously concerned about the possibility that the French ships might fall in German hands. Many went willingly to the allied side, or were boarded by the British while in port, and later became the Free French Navy. Some did not want to join, particularly those based out of the Senegalese port Dakar, and they remained part of the Vichy forces After a series of ultimatums, the Royal Navy engaged them, sinking several vessels in July of 1940. Over 1200 French sailors died. The Vichy navy remained hostile for the next two years, until November of '42 when seeing the success of Operation Torch -the North African invasion- unfold, they switched sides. The Germans quickly tried to take over the remaining ships at Toulon, but the French sailors scuttled most of them or fled to allied ports. The Free French Navy continued to fight alongside the allies through the Normandy invasion and the landings in southern France. Once the European ports were recaptured by the allies, the French Navy did not see any more significant action. By the end of the war only half of its original tonnage remained. As far as toy soldier figures, Starlux, a French firm has given us a few poses to consider. Let's check them out.
Starlux French Navy
A couple of French sailors. I only have two as I got them from that batch of mixed figures. They are wearing their summer uniforms and the distinctive cap -the 'Bachi' bonnet- with the red decoration on top. The poses are not very exciting, but the figures are still unique as there are no other French Navy sailors that I am aware of.
Combat swimmers and combat divers have been a part of military operations for centuries. Swimmers aid themselves with breathing devices such as snorkels -hollow bone or grass in anitquity-, while divers make use of more advanced technology, such as rebreathers or scuba tanks. The difference between a rebreather and a scuba system is that the rebreather does not release any air, and instead filters our the CO2 and replenishes the oxygen in a closed circuit. The scuba system does release air and is therefore easier to detect. Modern frogmen date back to a couple years before WWII, when Italy formed the Decima Flottiglia MAS aka Xª MAS (i.e.Tenth Assult Boat Fleet). This was a commando type unit of seamen who would conduct raids using speed boats as well as manned torpedoes to infiltrate port facilities. A submarine or larger surface ship would bring the unit within operational range and offload the attackers and their vehicles. The speed boats would be aimed at the enemy ships and the crew would jump into the water shortly before impact. The manned torpedoes were used as transport to get next to the ships, where explosive charges could be attached. The swimming part came later, when trying to make the escape. If they did manage to escape, the return trip home usually involved a lengthy journey ove land. This were risky missions and in a large number of them, the divers were either captured or killed, with the missions succeeding about only half of the times. However, the disproportionate damage that they inflicted on the allied Navies justified the risks and the cost. Most of the Italian divers operated in the Mediterranean theater, although some of the speedboats were used by the Germans in the Sevastopol area. All other major participants in WWII followed the lead of the Italians and developed equivalent units during the course of the war. After Italy joined the allies, the Italian frogmen helped the British improve their Frogmen units, while the members of the Xª MAS who remained with the Germans were used primarily on land operations. As far as underwater combat is concerned, until a decade or two ago, combat divers were mainly equipped with a knife and it was not really common to deploy other divers against incoming frogmen. Use of nets and other defensive measures were simpler and more effective to implement. Only recently have weapons been developed which are capable of firing short metal rods accurately and with enough range to make them practical to use underwater at a safe distance from the enemy. In terms of model figures there not too many, but enough to staff a small commando unit and carry out a few raids. Let's take a look.
Atlantic Frogmen - Part I
A rather unique set by Atlantic. I am not sure what country they actually represent. Given the manufacturer there's a good chance that they are Italian. Since I don't have the manned torpedo which came with the set, I have placed all three of these frogmen on a raft getting ready to dive, however the two on the left are actually supposed to be riding on top of a torpedo. Hard to tell if these guys are wearing rebreathers or scuba gear.
Atlantic Frogmen - Part II
The rest of the set are 4 divers with different tools and equipment used during their missions. What is quite interesting is that each of them is mounted on top of a base representing a variety of sea plants or corals. This allows them to 'float' as if they were really diving. A nice sculpting touch that allows the figures to be placed 'off the ground' when playing with them.
Atlantic Frogmen - Part III
So I managed to find the missing torpedo. And in doing so I also discovered that these figures were also made in this bright orange color. Not my favorite so it will be a great candidate to get painted. From pictures that I've seen, the torpedo seems to be a bit on the shorter side, compared to the real ones, but it is good enough to illustrate the point of how the divers 'rode' into their missions. Interstingly enough, this other set had the torpedo, but was missing the raft. I wonder if the sets came with either one or the other...
Lone Star Frogmen - Part I
A nice and interesting set from Lone Star. I don't know what country they represent exactly, and whether they are meant to be WWII or post war figures. As was the case with Lone Star, they were on the generous side in terms of the number of poses in the set. I don't know however if I got them all already.
Lone Star Frogmen - Part II
Unlke the Atlantic divers, these guys don't have any bases to keep them 'off the ground', so they must lie flat on their bellies on the sea floor when diving!
Lone Star Frogmen - Part III
As you might suspect from all the different colors, these actual figures are not originals. They are clones of relatively decent quality. Once they are painted it won't be that noticeable.
Lone Star Frogmen - Part IV
I believe the original frogmen from Lone Star came with factory paint as did their other sets. Interestingly enough, the paint schem that I have seen shows them wearing only a bathing suit, instead of a full diving suit. If so, I guess these guys would have to be used in the Mediterranean only! I am planning on giving them a full body suit when I paint them...
The fleet of amphibious vehicles assembled by the US during the war was a key element that enabled it to reclaim the occupied territories back from the axis powers. While large troop transports and ships could bring men and materiel across the world, and aircraft carriers could help control the seas and harass the enemy on land and sea, it was these vehicles that enabled them to travel that last short distance to the shore so that the infantry could occupy the land. Having enough of these vessels, also enabled the allies to land troops en masse, which was critical to be able to take and hold a beach head. Over 1000 of them were employed at the battle of Okinawa for instance. After the initial landings, they were also important to ferry supplies in, and carry out the wounded. One noticeable design trade off for these vehicles is that in order to be able to get close to the beaches, they had to be light, which meant that they could not be heavily armored or have a cover on top. Their light weight also made them very susceptible to the effects of a rough sea. It must have been a very long ride and a very tense experience to have to make it ashore on one of these vehicles under fire in a rough sea. In terms of scale models, there are not too many which come already assembled. The ones that I have found are made by BMC and MPC and are borderline between toys and models. Let's check them out.
BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part I
The Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel was a key vehicle used by the allies to land troops and supplies during their amphibious operations in North Africa, Normandy, Italy, as well as the Pacific theater. It was designed by Andrew Higgins and its original purpose was to navigate the Louisiana swamps. It was made out of plywood, which made it quite vulnerable to enemy fire. Later models added a metal ramp which afforded some protection to the men. It was equipped with two machine guns in the back which provided a bit of support. It could carry 36 men or 8000 pounds. The ramp was wide enough that it could also fit a jeep, in which case, only 12 additional men could be transported. It was operated by a crew of 4, and its speed was about 12 knots. Over 20,000 of them were built.
BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part II
Here is a view of the MPC LCVP loaded with a few Conte GIs to provide a sense of the scale. It does not quite fit the 36 men that it could carry in real life. Its actual length was 36ft (11m). The sides are also a bit shorter than they would have been in reality.
BMC LCVP aka Higgins landing craft - Part III
A vew from the back. The machine guns are not included in this model. I have seen some customizations of this model in which a couple of matchbox GIs machine gunners have been cut at the waist and added to the boat. They do the trick quite well.
BMC LVT aka Amtrack
The LVT -Landing Vehicle Tracked- was an amphibious vehicle which could be used both in water and land to deliver supplies as well as to povide combat support for the infantry. It was designed by Donald Roebling. Initial versions were not well armored, but subsequent models included upgraded armor and weaponry. Some even carried 75mm guns with which they could blast at enemy targets even before reaching the beaches. Their open gun turrets however made them vulnerable to shrapnel and small arms fire. As far as mobility, their tracks gave them an advantage over the Higgins boats, as they could move over sandbars and reefs. The LVT could carry up to 4500 pounds or 18 fully equipped men. Over 18600 of them were built during the war and they saw action not only in the Pacific, at engagements such as Tarawa and Iwo Jima, but also in northern Europe and Italy.
The DUKW, informally referred to as 'Duck', was built on top of the GMC CCKW 2.5 ton truck described above, which meant that it was also manufactured by General Motors. It was used to move troops and cargo over land and water. It was particularly useful for landing operations, playing an important role in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the Normandy landings among other amphibious operations. Weighing 6.5 tons, it could move at a speed of 50 mph on land and 6.3 mph on water. Over 21,000 of them were built. This model was produced by MPC. It comes unpainted and it's not that well detailed. For instance, some Ducks had a ring-mounted MG. This one comes with three MGs, and no ring-mount. It does have a driver and it also comes with a winch in the back and a hook, to which you can attach a string. This vehicle was probably meant initiatlly as a toy, but given the fact that it is the only DUKW that comes assembled it has become relatively popular. Like other MPC vehicles, once it is painted it will probably look fairly decent.
Barcelona Universal Models, also known as BUM is a Spanish firm offering toy soldiers in 1/32 and 1/72 scale. Most of their figures seem to be recasts of figures originally issued by other firms, or adaptations of them. They do offer a few unique sets, mainly related to the Spanish Civil war. Most of the products that they offer are in the 1/72 line, with the 1/32 sets being in a distant second place. Also, from what I've read, the quality control when it comes to packaging is not very good. You don't always get the contents that are depicted on the box. In my case out of a set which was supposed to have 2 machine gun teams, I got one machine gunner and 3 ammo feeders, which makes one of the MG teams useless. As far as WWII, they do have a handful of allegedly US heavy weapons and artillery sets. I recently got the two heavy weapons sets. Let's take a look.
BUM US Infantry - Part I
This is machine gun team is sold as American by BUM. The art on the box shows them wearing GI uniforms, however when you look at the actual figures I don't really recognize the features of the American uniforms. So I actually plan on using them as Italian Infantry, since they could use a bit of help when it comes to heavy weapons. The poses are actually OK, but the level of detail on the figures, is not so great. For instance, the face of the man on the left is pretty plain.
BUM US Infantry - Part II
Another heavy weapons team from BUM. Also allegedly American, but note really. This set also comes with the barbed wire, but I did not include it in the picture to get a better shot. Note also that the figures seem to be clones. You can tell not only because the level of detail is a bit faded, but also because the original oval bases are now encased in larger rectagular bases.
Speedwell was a British toy soldier firm. From what I can gather, it seems to have been around in the 70s and 80s, but it was not a major player in the industry. Many of its figures are clones of the Britains Herald modern British Infantry figures, also recast by UNA. They also seem to have made at least one set of their own, which is the one that is depicted in the pictures below. Their figures are not so easy to come by, particularly their original set. Luckily I managed to get my hands on one of them. Let's take a look.
Speedwell German Infantry - Part I
These are not quite 54mm. They are at the most 50mm in size. They are very rare and therefore a bit pricey. At the same time, the sculpting is nothing extraordinary. The poses are a bit stiff and the level of detail is not quite there. Also n terms of the color scheme that they came painted in, it is also a bit unusual. Perhaps they could be used as Afrika Korps troopers.
Speedwell German Infantry - Part II
Here are a few more poses. I don't know how many there were in total. I have seen pictures of seven, so these might be all that there are. Note that these guys have different head gear. The man on the right seems to be wearing a paratrooper helmet. Again, the poses are a bit stiff. From what I know, the figures were released on both sand and brown/green, as shown in this picture.
Blue Box is a firm based out of Hong Kong. Apparently they have been around for about 50 years, however not much is known about them in terms of production. Today they manufacture many different types of toys. In terms of toy soldiers they actually make die cast figures in metal. They make several sets, such as Romans, American Civil War, and of course, WWII. I ran into these guys at a local hobby shop. I bought them thinking that they were plastic, only to discover at home that they are metal. They actually have a nice, heavy feel to them so I should have known from holding the package. This series of figures is called Elite Command and they depict a general along with three infantrymen. The figures are hand painted to a decent standard, but the faces of the characters are not exactly a close match. Let's take a look.
Blue Box Elite Command British Infantry
This set represents General Bernard Montgomery and some of his infantrymen. Compared to other metal figures, like King and Country and so on, they are not as nice, but they are still OK. As far as the resemblance with Monty, you can be the judge of that.
Blue Box Elite Command German Infantry
This other set represents Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his men. The outfit that he is wearing is actually fairly well done. What I don't like so much about these figures -all sets- is that the weapons are made of plastic and glued to the figures. The result is that in some cases the weapon is resting on top of the hands, particularly the trigger hand, as opposed to being held by the figure.
Blue Box Elite Command US Infantry
The US set represents General George Patton and a few of his GIs. Again, the resemblance of the main character is a bit questionable and the holding of the weapons is a bit odd. Otherwise, the rest of the sculpting, level of detail and paint job are all fairly decent.
The Special Air Service is a Special Forces unit within the British military. While the SAS was oficially established in 1950, it traces its origins to the second World War, in July of '41. Originally the SAS operated as a commando unit conducting raids behind enemy lines during the North African campaign. After North Africa they fought in Sicily and the Italian invasion. Mid-way through the war they were renamed as the Special Raiding Squadron, and within them they had a Special Boat Squadron which operated in the Greek portion of the Mediterranean. A couple of the SAS units were of foreign origin, including French and Beligian troops. Some of them parachuted into occupied Western Europe ahead of the allied advances. After the war, the SAS was briefly dismatled only to be established again by 1947. From that point forward it has remained an elite unit of the British forces. Operating in land, sea, and air, the SAS are a close equivalent of the US SEALs.
Britains Super Deetail SAS
These guys are the same figures as the modern British Paras. The only difference is the uniform that they are wearing. The paras wear a green uniform with red berets, and these guys have a browner suit and a grey beret. The poses are all well sculpted and display a nice level of action. Unfortunately there are only 4 poses in the set. The paras relased an additional 4 poses, but those are really hard to find, not to mention tha they are terribly expensive. Probably not something I am going to add to my collection.
I don't really have any info about the manufacturer of the OWN figures. The figures are made in China, but nowadays that does not mean that the firm behind them is Chinese. From what I can tell, they have also manufactured a couple other sets, all related to Chinese conflicts, so maybe they do have a strong Chinese connection. I have not been able to locate a web site or any ecommerce presence. I bought these guys through eBay, but my impression is that the guy who sold them is a reseller. So if you happen to have any more info about this firm please go ahead and let us know in the comments section.
OWN Chinese Infantry - Part I
These figures are actually fairly nice. They represent the early divisions which were equipped with German equipment and were overall better trained and more effective. The sculpting is fairly good both in terms of the poses and the level of detail. There are only two things that I did not like that much. First was the price. At $2.25 a piece they are above the average for new production plastic figures. The second was that they come in multiple sections and you have to spend a good amount of time putting them together and finding the right glue for the job.
OWN Chinese Infantry - Part II
The advantage however of how they were manufactured is that you can avoid the solid blocks of plastic that other figures would otherwise have in between their arms when holding a weapon across the chest. So I suppose that also justifies a bit the higher price. They actually come in two sets. The firs set contains the 8 poses above, and you get 16 figures.
OWN Chinese Infantry - Part III
This are the poses in the second set. You also get 16 figures, which means that you end up with 4 poses of each, whether you need that many or not. So setting aside the packaging, I still think that the OWN figures do add a badly needed variety to the Chinese Infantry units. And BTW, looking at their uniforms, made me realize that I can use some AIP WWI Germans to reinforce them as the heltmet shape and the use of puttees give them a strong resemblance. These guys by the way, wore a kahki uniform, so they won't match the other Chinese troops with the light blue outfits.
OWN Chinese Infantry - Part IV
Another thing which was a bit of a pain was how much flashing and extra bits of plastic came attached to the figures. Even before you got to the part about gluing them together you had to spend a good chunk of time just trimming off all these extra bits of plastic left over from the injection process.
OWN Chinese Infantry - Part V
Here are a couple more shots of how they come preassembly.
The British Naval Infantry, most commonly known as Royal Marines, is an elite light infantry unit of the British military meant to support maritime operations. They trace their origins to the mid 17th century when the first 'Maritime Regiment on Foot' was established. Throughout history they have been deployed in many conflicts, often fighting next to the regular army ground troops. Their fighting tradition includes the Sever Year's War, the Napoleonic Campaigns, the Crimean War, both World Wars, and more recently conflicts like the Falklands, the Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
During World War II, they saw considerable action. From early landing missions on Norway, Dieppe, and Tobruk -in which they suffered heavy losses-, to later operations such as D-Day, Sicily, and the Netherlands. They also saw action in Singapore and Burma. Initially they operated as Royal Marine Infantry Battalions, part of Royal Marine Divisions, but later on the battalions were reorganized into Commandos and merged with the Army Commandos into Special Service Brigades, each with 4 to 5 Commandos (former Battalions). One peculiar fact is that the Royal Marines also provided infantry detachments to war ships and as part of that role, they were also responsible for operating some of the ships' guns. Royal Marines were also in charge of manning the British Navy's landing craft. In terms of toy soldier figures, we have a couple of options to consider. Let's take a look.
Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part I
An interesting and unique set, even if the sculpting is not all that detailed. The poses are still interesting and less ordinary. Unfortunately the plastic used by Lone Star became brittle over time and today many figures are broken. For instance, one of the men in the middle is missing part of his rope and the man next to him was supposed to be holding a signal flag. As far as I know, thanks to Brian, one of our readers, there were 9 figures in the set. Missing are an officer and a helmsman. The man in white I've learned, is part of a set made by Charbens.
Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part II
These poses show a bit more action, and would be better suited for a fighting scene and is more to my liking. Even the prone man with the Bren gun is lifting his foot to make him look more 'into it'. The man on the left however is taking what seems like a very odd step. Usually, when a leg moves forward, it is the opposite arm that moves forward along with it, but what do I know. Maybe he is getting off a boat in which case I can see how he might be stepping off and reaching with his free hand at the same time. I will continue to keep an eye out for additional poses in this set, just in case. BTW, we've got another Charbens guy who snuck into the picture.
Then we also have a good number of Commando Figures from several other manufacturers such as Airfix, Matchbox, Atlantic and Crescent. Considering that Commando Brigades contained Royal Marine Battalions, I think we can also count those as potential Royal Marine units.
Timpo was a British firm started in 1938 and in production until 1978. Its name stood for Toy Importers. Their figures were famous for having detachable weapons and parts, aka swoppets. Some were manufactured with similar techniques as the Britians Super Deetail, using plastic of different color on the same figure. Timpo made a wide range of figures but only a small set were focused on WWII. After bankruptcy, its assets were purchased by Toyway.
Timpo Swoppets GIs - Part I
This is a diverse set of GIs. I am not sure how many upper/lower bodies it contained originally, but in this batch I got about 8 upper bodies and 8 lower bodies, with which you could assemble many different poses. Unfortunately all of the helmets were missing.
Timpo Swoppets GIs - Part II
Some more poses. Some already repeat parts used in the previous picture, but some are using new ones. All in all, a decent set as you can assemble quite a few engaging action poses, although not with the same level of realism as what you got with other manufacturers.
Timpo Swoppets GIs - Part III
This is a nice set from Timpo and in very good condition. The fact that the figures still have their helmets does make a big difference in making them look unmistakably as GIs. I wonder if the man on the back was orginally holding a shell or something. He is not holding anything at the moment. Or perhaps his upper body got swapped? That might be because it is also a bit odd that he would be holding a rifle at the same time that he is helping to load the bazooka.
Timpo Swoppets German Infantry Mortar
I only have these guys to represent the Timpo Swoppets German Infantry, but I am quite happy with the state that it is in. All parts seem to be there, including helmets, and as you can see, it was a fairly decent set. In addition to the actual mortar and its crew, it also comes with a few extra shells and a detachable bush which can be swapped for another plant of your choice :-). A nice addition to the collection.
Timpo Swoppets British Infantry with raft
Here is another nice an interesting set from Timpo. This time it is a set of British Infantry advancing on a raft. Sometimes such rafts feel quite a bit underscale, but in this case, both the figures and the raft are well proportioned. Two of the poses seem to be repeated, and I don't know if that was the case with the original set, but I am still quite happy having found it in this good condition.
Timpo Swoppets Bren Gun Carrier - Part I
Apparently Timpo also produces some vehicles to go with their figures. This is an all plastic model. The scale is adequate, but the level of realism is not quite the same as what you see fromother manufacturers, but I suppose that has a lot to do with the plain plastic finish. Perhaps with a bit of paint it would look more real.
Timpo Swoppets Bren Gun Carrier - Part II
As far as the shape, it looks a bit different than other ones I have seen. This angle provides a better perspective to evaluate it. I am not sure if they just modeled a different variation of a real Bren Gun Carrier or whether they took some liberties in order to simplify the manufacturing process. The two figures that came with are in line with the style and quality of other Timpo Swoppets.
Archer Plastics was a firm based out of New York which produced figures in the 50s. According to O'Brien's 'Collecting American-Made Toy Soldiers' book, they were better known for their line of spacemen and futuristic vehicles of which they sold millions. Apparently, they also released a few other space-unrelated sets, such as the WWII GIs that I recently ran into. I don't really know what became of the firm. One very interesting fact is that Plasticraft, another firm out of New Jersey which was around from the 50's up to at least the the 70's, also released the same set of GIs. So one possibility is that Archer folded or sold its molds to Plasticraft. Another is that they licensed them, although I suspect the former as more likely since Archer's run in the business appears to have been shorter than Plasticraft's. Today, the spacemen figures and vehicles fetch very handsome prices, with individual figures selling for 20-40 dollars and the vehicles for quite a bit more.
Archer 60 mm US Infantry - Part I
There were 10 poses originally in the set. A marching figure and an officer standing and holding a pistol are missing. Similarly to other figures of the 50's and 60's, they lack a base to stand on, which makes it a bit tricky to balance them. The only figure which was made with a base was the second guy from the left, but unfortunately, it broke off from this figure. I will have to make one for him. The poses and the detail are acceptable for their time, but seem a bit coarse by today's standards.
Archer 60 mm US Infantry - Part II
The poses in this picture are a bit nicer in my opinion. I particularly like the man standing with the bazooka. The man advancing with the sub machine gun is also displaying a nice mix of caution and forward movement. The other two are just standard poses, reasonably well done.
Artillery plays a crucial role in a military operation. It can be the critical difference between getting overrun and being able to fend off an attack multiple times. Or, similarly, artillery can rain hell on a defensive position and soften it up for the ground troops to attack and over run it. In the toy soldier world, it is not just a matter of having the howitzers, but you also need the crews to operate them and the observers to direct the fire. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas that is often neglected a bit in our hobby. It seems like there aren't enough guns to go around and often, when there are guns, they come without crews to operate them. However when you really look around there are actually some guns and crews to support your ground troops, although some of those crews have only become available in recent years. Admittedly the support is a bit uneven. Some countries have greater representation than others. For instance, the Japanese are really under-represented, even though they did make a good use of artillery to defend their islands against the Marine landings. Anyhow, this is a compilation of the artillery pieces and ground crews that we have available just in case you are looking for some support for your infantry units.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Towed
Forces of Valor produced a very nice version of this gun. As you might be aware of, the 88 could be used in multiple ways besides its originally intended AA role. It could be used as regular artillery or as a direct Anti Tank weapon. Here we see it attached to the 8 Ton prime mover that would tow it. The factory paint job gives it a weathered look, and as usual, the fact that it's mostly made out of metal gives it a nice feel.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Rear View
As you can see from this angle, the attention to detail is substantial. The gun can rotate 360 degrees around the vertical axis and the gun can be elevated up to a vertical position, allowing it to fire virtually in every direction.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Artillery Mode
Here we see it already deployed as traditional artillery. There is a scene in Band of Brothers in which the screaming eagles are being shelled with 88mm HE shells while in a forest, causing shrapnel and wood splinters to rain down on them with nasty consequences. Also note that the carriage is actually made of two separate sections. The front and rear wheel axles can be attached and removed independently. It also comes with a nice ground crew to operate it.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Anti Tank Mode
Here we see it deployed the way it would be used to fight against tanks. The air and land 'kills' on the shield add a nice touch of realism. FOV also manufactured this gun in a tan color scheme however I did not get around to buying that one.
21st Century Toys 88 Flak - Afrika Korps
21C Toys also produced a very nice 88mm gun. Not quite at the level of the one from FOV but far superior to anything that had come before in plastic. Here we see it ready to be deployed to fight the British in the deserts of North Africa.
21st Century Toys 88 Flak
Deployed in an anti-tank role. The wheel axles are also detachable. Note how the level of paint detail is not quite the same as the one from FOV, both for the carriage and the gun itself. The crew consists of just 2 figures.
21st Century Toys 88 Flak - side view
This gun also moves 360 degrees around and from horizontal to vertical, so it is just as functional as the one from FOV. And from this angle it looks just as lethal.
Classic Toy Soldiers Artillery Crew
CTS recently provided us with an artillery crew. They are not made for any specific gun, but the size of the shell might be more in line with an 88.
21st Century Toys PAK 40
This is a nice gun. It comes factory painted and has several moving parts. The muzzle can be elevated/lowered and the carriage can be fully deployed or collapsed together and locked in place so that it can be towed. The downside of this gun is that it was not sold individually, but you had to buy it as part of a set. Luckily, I was able to find several at Toy Solider shows from collectors that no longer needed them.
21st Century Toys PAK 40 with CTS crew
This is the recently released artillery crew from CTS. The set contains an observer/officer and two loaders. They are a welcome arrival to staff the many PAKs that I have without crews.
Britains Deetail PAK40 with CTS crew
This is another nice model from Britains Deetail. Unfortunately I do not have the crew to go with it, so I had to enlist some of the new CTS guys to man the gun. One nice feature of this PAK is that it can actually fire. It has a small lever that you can pull to compress a spring and when released it could fire a round. I don't have the ammo that came with it either, but it should not be hard to improvise some rounds.
21st Century Toys PAK 40 - Afrika Korps
This is actually the same model as the 21C model in grey, except that this one was painted by a fellow collector. It is one of those that I picked up at a local toy soldier show. He did a very good job on the painting. So much that it is hard to tell that it did not come this way out of the box.
Italeri PAK 40 AT gun with 'servants'
The Italeri gun offers what the 21C gun lacks. A good crew. As you can see, it comes with 6 figures. Most of them are ammo handlers. But it does have a man operating the gun and an officer directing the action. The gun itself offers fewer moving parts and degrees of movement. But once it is setup it looks just as good. Probably a good combination will be the painted Italeri crew with the 21C PAK. One thing that I do find very amusing about this set is that Italeri translated crew as 'servants'.
15 cm NbW 41 - Unknown manufacturer
Approximately 6,000 of these were manufactured along with 5.5 million rockets. It had a range of close to 7km. Another popular variation was the 5-barrel 21 cm NbW 42, which had a range of almost 8km. I got this one along with a batch of toy soldiers that I purchased on eBay. I have no idea who made it and it is the only one I have. For a plastic toy it has decent level of realism. The pivoting stabilizer at the bottom/front can be elevated to put it in the towing position. It came with a couple stickers on the side which you can still see. Maybe someday I will paint it to give it a more realistic look. The figures in this picture are FOV artillery crewmen.
Britains Deetail - Heavy Mortar Set
This is where we get into a grey area. Can heavy mortars also be considered artillery? This mortar can actually 'fire' shells. Unfortunately I do not have any of the shells that came with it, but you can improvise your own kind of shells and have some fun lobbing some shells at the opposing army.
Dragon Karl Mortar 'Loki' Part I
This model, manufactured by Dragon (in 1:35) is called 'Loki'. Here I've used some 1:32 Forces of Valor figures to operate it. Despite the difference in scale I think they still look acceptable. Loki is firing from a prepared position to afford it some protection as you can imagine that the enemy is desperately trying to neutralize it with some aggressive artillery counter-fire.
Dragon Karl Mortar 'Loki' Part II
This is a slight variation of the previous picture, with the gun in a depressed position, illustrating the degree of gun's movement.
Dragon Karl Mortar 'Thor'
This is Loki's brother 'Thor'. Note that the gun can be elevated from the horizontal position up to a 45 degree angle approximately. These mortars also come with one piece of ammo, which is as big as a man. No wonder they had to be loaded with a crane.
21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Also known as the 155 mm Gun M1 or M2, this field gun was designed and developed during the inter-war period and by 1938 it was officially adopted. It had a barrel length just shy of 7 m, and could fire a round up to 23km. Its size and weight (almost 14 tons) required a carriage with 8 tires in the back and two in the front. The barrel could be elevated from -2 degrees all the way up to 65 degrees, which means that if necessary the Long Tom was also able to engage targets such as tanks in direct fire mode. The Long Tom was operated by a crew of 14 and saw action in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. This gun comes to us from 21C Toys. Even though it is all plastic, it is still a really nice model with lots of moving parts. The carriage is detachable -and a bit hard to assemble-, and the gun can be deployed into firing position. The paint job shows a small amount of wear for added realism. 21C did a good job filling this previously ignored model niche.
21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Here is the gun in its deployed position. Unfortunately, 21C did not provide any crew figures to go with it. Classic Toy Soldiers recently released some artillery crew figures which I have pressed to service the Long Tom, but with a crew of 14, it looks like I am still 11 men short...
Classic Toy Soldiers US Artillery Crew
These three poses are what made me get a couple of these sets. I had several Long Tom artillery pieces from 21st Century Toys, but I did not have crews for them. There is a loader, a guy on the phone, and another one that seems to be ready to fire the gun. The caliber of the ammo looks small for this gun, but I guess it's going to have to be good enough for it.
21st Century Toys M115 8 Inch Howitzer
Also known as 8 inch Howitzer M1 orM115 203 mm howitzer, it was designed and developed prior to WW II as a replacement for the 8-inch British howitzer that the US Army had been using since WW I. Even though it was developed independently of the Long Tom, it was mounted on the same M1 Carriage. That's probably why it was an obvious choice for 21C Toys to produce this variant. It really looks like all they did was shorten the barrel of the Long Tom. Curiously, this gun was about 700 kg heavier than the Long Tom, even though the barrel was 2 meters shorter. The firing range was also 7km shorter, or about 17km in total. It was also operated by a crew of 14.
Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer
Also known as the 105 mm M2A1 (M101A1) howitzer, this gun was the standard light howitzer used by the US military during WWII. It weighed only 5000 lbs, yet it had a range of 7 miles (11 km), making it an effective infantry support weapon. It was widely used in all theaters. It's been so successful that it is still in service in some countries today. Forces of Valor has delivered this nice model to us. It is partly made of metal, and it comes with a crew of 3. The barrel can be elevated and the trails can be separated so that the spades can dig into the ground when firing. Another nice piece of equipment from FOV.
Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer
Another view of the crew and the gun from behind. Note that the figures come without a base, which makes them a bit wobbly at times, but still remarkably stable for not having a base.
21st Century Toys US M7 Priest
The Priest, also known as the 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7 was a self-propelled gun carrying the 105 mm howitzer. This Priest was made by 21st Century Toys, and even though the box was branded as 'die cast', it is pretty much made out of plastic. Even so, it is a nice vehicle. I've actually seen it in a different paint scheme with slightly smaller stars that have a circle around them, and the name Annamae written on the side. This vehicle comes with two figures: a driver and a gunner.
New Ray Howitzer
This howitzer came with some New Ray set. I don't even remember which one. I don't know if it represents an actual gun or some fictional model. And if it represents a real model, whether it is from the WWII period. In any case, given the limited availability of artillery pieces I have chosen to keep it and even feature it here. If you are not picky, they might come in handy as extra fire power, plus they are cheaper than those from 21C or FOV. As you can see, it blends well with the FOV crew figures.
Atlantic US Artillery
This is a set that includes the gun and 3 figures. I don't know if it represents an actual artillery piece that existed in reality or not. It could be an anti-aircraft gun as there is something that looks like a sight for the operator to aim through, but the barrel does not offer much elevation. The gun comes in multiple parts and needs to be assembled together. Everything snaps into place but you need to be careful when putting the barrel into its mount. I pressed a little too hard and snapped the mount in two. In terms of the figures, the gunner who gets to sit at the gun could have been given a more realistic pose. He really looks like he is just sitting there doing nothing. All in all it's one of those sets from Atlantic that are appealing to have for sake of having a 'complete' collection, and not so much for its poses or realism.
Crescent 25 pounder Field Gun
Also known as Ordnance QF 25 pounder, this was a 87.6mm caliber gun. Introduced shortly before the war, it was the main howitzer in the British Army during the War and many years thereafter. Its maximum range was 13,400 yards with a HE shell of 25 pounds (hence the name). This is another nice model by Crescent. The rivets on the gun shield make it look very real. Like the 5.5 gun, it also has a lever that allows it to shoot rounds.
Crescent 25 pounder Field Gun - from above
This picture shows the circular platform that these guns used to have which enabled them to be rotated to point in the right direction more easily. When the gun was deployed, the platform would be placed underneath the wheels of the gun. Unfortunately, most of the models that you find today are missing this part, as it is relatively easy to detach it.
Crescent 5.5 inch Medium Gun
The 5.5 inch (or 140mm) gun went into service in 1941 and first saw action in North Africa. It was operated by a crew of 10. Its firing range was between 16,000 to 18,000 yards. Each shell weighed 100lbs. The firing angle went from -5 to 45 degrees. This model by Crescent has a wheel on the side that can be loosened/tightened to adjust the firing angle. It also comes with a lever on top that controls a spring and it allows it to shoot actual rounds. Unfortunately none came with the gun, so I will need to improvise some ammo.
Lone Star Anti Tank Gun
This is an under-scale gun by Lone Star. Rather than 1/32 it seems to be 1/40 or 1/43. Based on its size it can probably be used as a 6 pounder or even the 2 pounder anti-tank guns. Like the Crescent guns, it also comes with a lever-controlled spring that allows you to shoot rounds with it.
Lone Star 25 Pounder - Front
Here is another under-scale model by Lone Star. Given their 1/32 figure range, I just wish they had manufactured these sets to match those figures. BTW, this one also lets you shoot with it.
Lone Star 25 Pounder - Back
Here you get a good idea of the size of the gun relative to some actual 54mm figures. I guess it could be used to represent a smaller caliber gun. But definitely, if you are undecided between the Crescent 25 pounder and this one, the Crescent one is head and shoulders a much better choice.
Britains Deetail British Heavy Mortar Set
A really nice heavy mortar team. The mortar can actually fire shells enabled by a spring mechanism inside the tube. There is a small lever in the back of the mortar which can be pulled and released to eject the shells. A pretty fun set.
Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun - Part I
This is a nice artillery piece introduced by Italeri. This set was released a couple of years back and it filled a huge gap in the WWII 1/32 plastic toy soldier world. In addition to the gun itself, the set contains a crew in a good variety of poses. The Soviets produced these guns from 1942 onwards in massive quantities (over 100,000) and with a 76mm round, they were capable of piercing any German Tank prior to the Tiger I and the Panther.
Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun - Part II
The gunner and the leader prepare to fire another round as the rest of the crew works hard to keep the ammunition supply flowing. The Soviets were known for deploying large belts of anti tank defensive positions in depth which would wear down the German armored offensive capabilities and would leave them ripe for T-34 counterattacks, which is how they managed to stop the largest ever tank offensive at Kursk. These pictures depict this gun in a street fighting scenario, as the Red Army pushed west and retook its cities.
These other guys are the crew for the small howitzer. I am not sure about the caliber of the gun. I thought it might be a 37mm which is what was often issued to the paratroopers as it was easier to drop along with them during an airborne operation. However a reader recently commented that it's likely a 47mm Bohler gun. Apparently the wheels were detachable and it could be mounted on a tripod. It might not be clear from the picture, but all these figures come without a base, but they still manage to stand well on their own. One thing I don't quite like about the gun is that you can't change the elevation without messing around with the peg that inserts into the wheel carriage. All in all a good addition to the Folgore infantry.
Atlantic Italian Artillery Support
These guys are also Italian but they don't come with a cannon to operate, so I guess they will have to be helping out the Waterloo guys. As is often the case with some of the other Atlantic sets, the figures are very straight and show little action. Not the most exciting figures, but they are rare enough that they deserve a place in the collection.
Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilles Rifle
Aside from the infantrymen, Britains produced extra sets with heavy weapons. They were part of their special Combat Weapons series. Not sure if the Japanese Army actually had this weapon in the field, but nonetheless it makes a good addition to the army and provides some welcome firepower if you are war-gaming with these figures. I just wish there were other artillery pieces to complement them.