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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Introducing the Soviet Partisans

The term Partisan applies to those units which operated behind enemy lines in order to disrupt the German war effort. Their operations primarily targeted the infrastructure supporting the German front units, such as railways, rail stock, supplie depots, bridges, communication centers, etc. and even though their main goal was not to fight the Germans head-on, they did kill a good share of rearguard troops and collaborationist units. Initially the partisan units originated from regular Soviet troops left behind by the rapidly advancing front, and operated in an independent manner. Gradually, the German occupation and the brutal treatment of the local population -deportations, use as slave labor, confiscation of food in the middle of winter, etc.- turned many civilians, towards the partisan ranks. The German reprisals against this movement did not only target the partisans themselves -who were regularly executed-, but often included the execution of civilians, sometimes as many as 100 for each German death. The partisans responded in kind, by not just killing Germans, but sometimes mutilating them in horrible ways. As of mid 1942, the Soviet Central command started to play a role in coordinating and supplying the partisan units. The supplies not only consisted of weapons and material -including badly needed communications equipment-, but also included specially selected and trained troops as well as NKVD members to lead and reinforce the partisans. Many of these were air dropped behind enemy lines, but many also flowed through a 40km wide land corridor known as the Vitsyebsk Gate which was open for a good portion of 1942. Partisan operations gradually became more than local harassments and by 1943, they were well coordinated and timed operations. For instance, during the Kursk offensive, the suppy difficulties created by the operations in the German rear played a very important role in halting the summer offensive. Over 100,000 partisans participated in the raids at this time. Another measure of the partisans success is the fact that as the Soviet Army advanced many partisan units were ordered to continue to move west so that they could remain in occupied territory and continue to operate. This was important not just because of the direct impact on the infrastructure, but also because of the large number of German troops which were required to guard the supply lines and to hunt the partisans. Most of those partisans which were liberated by the advancing Soviets joined the regular army and kept fighting on. At the height of the war, over 500,000 partisans were active across the whole length of the front. After the war ended, partisans were treated not much better than Soviet soldiers who had allowed themselves to be taken prisoners, and underwent interrogations by the NKVD, with many of them being sent to labor camps. This is not surprising as experienced guerrilla forces would have been a danger to the Stalin's regime. In terms of toy soldiers, they are not really well represented, however there is one recent set which has done a nice job at depicting the variety of backgrounds in the Soviet Partisan ranks. Let's take a look.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Partisans - Part I
A unique set by Engineer Bassevich. The depiction of these partisans strikes a nice balance between showing them as civilians and soldiers. For example, the guys above might have just joined the partisan unit and are still wearing some of their original clothes and their weaponry is lacking automatic firing. 

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Partisans - Part II
These guys however are more rugged and is likely that they are regular army troops who got left behind the enemy lines and joined the partisans, giving them some badly needed training and leadership. As far as the quality of the figures go, I am quite pleased with this set. They don't have any flashing, and the plastic used to make them feels more dense, making them feel a bit more robust. The level of detail in the sculpting as you can see, is really great.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Partisans - Part III
These guys are probably a mix of civilians and ex-soldiers, but have been in the Partisan ranks long enough to have more sophisticated clothes and equipment. A very interesting touch is the kid in the middle, holding a captured German sub-machine gun. I actually saw a picture of such a kid, dressed very much the same way, which was surely the inspiration for the pose. 

Introducing the Italian Black Shirts

The Italian Black Shirts or Camicie Nere were the paramilitary branch of of Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party. Their official name was the Voluntary Militia for National Security. They were analogous to the Brown Shirts in Germany -which were actually modeled after the Black Shirts themselves-, providing the necessary muscle to keep Mussolini's political adversaries at bay as well as labor unions representing the interests of factory workers and peasants. They were established shortly after WWI with many former soldiers joining their ranks and Mussolini as their Commander in Chief. Their uniforms were inspired by those of the Arditi, the daring Italian shock troops of WWI. By the time Mussolini came to power in 1922 there were over 200,000 of them. When war broke out, many of them were formed into actual fighting units. Some saw action as early as the Spanish Civil War. Some also fought in the Ethiopian campaign. During WWII they saw heavy fighting in North Africa, where 3 entire divisions were destroyed. They remained an organized group until the armistice of 1943, when the pro-German government in Northern Italy reestablished the remaining members as the Republican National Guard. 

Atlantic Italian Black Shirts - Part I
This is also a hard set to find and unfortunately I only found some of the figures. However I think I got the most representative ones. At center we have Mussolini himself. To the right a standard bearer and to the left a man carrying a bundle of wooden sticks and an ax. This is called a Fasces and it comes from ancient times. The first to use it were apparently the Etruscans and later on the Romans. The ax symbolized the life and death power of the magistrates and the bundle, the strength which can be achieved through unity.  

Atlantic Italian Black Shirts - Part II
A couple more poses. The two bycicle riders are the same pose. On the back of one of the bikes I sat the figure who is supposed to be driving a motorcycle with a side car. He happpens to be saluting while driving. The motorcycle as well as one more guy who is riding in the side car are missing from my set. BTW, I find this to be one of the better sculpted Atlatic sets. No awkward poses like those you see in some of the other sets like the British Infantry...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Remco - Toy Soldiers

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!

Click here to see a post about other GIs
Click here to see some more GIs
And even more GIs
Click here to see a post about GIs in action
Click here to see a post about US Armor

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Introducing the French Navy

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.

Click here to see other Starlux figures
Click here to see the French Infantry soldiers
Click here to see the French Alpine Troops

Introducing the Frogmen

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...

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part I
I just found this set while looking for some diver figures. It represents a boat carried a manned torpedo and a diving team. It was supposedly manufactured by Ideal, although I have yet to verify the claim. Still it is a nice little set to give the other divers figures in my army a bit of support. In terms of the nationality that is represented, it is not clear to me, although we could probably designate them as Italians as they were the most active in WWII in this type of operations. 

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part II
This is the skipper. Note tha the figures have a hole in the base which allows them to be attached to the boat. This is a nice feature if you actually deploy your boat in real water, which will keep the figures from falling over. 

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part III
One of the divers about to jump in. 

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part IV
The other diver taking in the view.

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part V
This is the only figure which is actually diving. I made him 'hold on' to the side of the boat to get a better angle for the shot. 

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part VI
The manned torpedo deployed in the water, with its diver riding it into action. The lever on the front of the torpedo is actually a crank which turns and twists a rubberband which makes the propeller turn when it is released. Nice mechanism, which again shows that this set was really meant to be deployed in water. 

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part VII
Manned-torpedo rider from the back.

Ideal Manned-Torpedo Launcher with Divers - Part VIII
This shot shows the ramp from which the manned-torpedo can be launched. 

Unknown Frogmen - Part I
Here are a few more diver poses. I don't really know who made them. They are from a set made in China, clearly clones of some other earlier figures, and they probably represent more modern divers, given their equipment. The man in the left for instance is holding and underwater camera. 

Unknown Frogmen - Part II
I like these two posese because unlike most of the other diver figures that I have found, these guys are not moving horizontally, but rather floating in an upright position as one would do when observing the surroundings or when getting ready for some underwater hand to hand combat.

Unknown Frogmen - Part III
The two poses on the left seem to be copies of two guys already listed in the LoneStar section. The man on the right must be from that same set, as his diving gear looks just the same. This BTW, makes me wonder if I have all the figures listed under the Lone Star section properly identified, as I just realized that the tanks on some of those figures are smaller...

Click here to see other Lone Star figures
Click here to see other Atlantic figures


Saturday, February 15, 2014

American Amphibious Vehicles

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. 

MPC DUKW
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.

Click here to see a post about the Normandy Landing Beaches
Click here to see a post about the Marines


BUM - Toy Soldiers

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. 

Click here to see a post about the US Infantry
Click here to see a post about Mortars

Speedwell Toy Soldiers

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. As per one of the comments below, I am still missing one additional pose: an officer with a moveable arm holding binoculars. 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 Elite Command Toy Soldiers

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. 

Click here to see a post about German Infantry
Click here to see a post about US Infantry

Introducing the British SAS

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 get to add to my collection ever. 


OWN Toy Soldiers

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.

 OWN Chinese Infantry - Part VI



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Introducing the British Naval Infantry

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 with some poses being quite specific to the service branch. 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. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Timpo Swoppets - Toy Soldiers

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.