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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Introducing the British 8th Army

To complement the post on the German Afrika Korps, today I would like to introduce the British Eighth Army, who fought both the Germans and the Italians in the deserts of Lybia, Egypt and Tunisia. In addition to its British core, the 8th Army was actually a collection of commonwealth troops from many nations, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, as well as many men from several occupied countries in Europe. They were engaged in a highly mobile war for approximately two years in North Africa. Initially the Italians pushed the British back into Egypt, then the British counterattacked pushing the Italians back into Lybia, which made the Germans join the fight under Rommel in February of '41 with the resulting counteroffensive which pushed the British back into Egypt. After a while the British regrouped and mounted their own offensive which pushed the Afrika Korps all the way back into Tunisia and eventually with the help of the US landings in Morocco and Algeria, they managed to defeat the Axis forces and eliminate them from the African continent by May of '43. Among the most pivotal moments of the North African campaign stands the siege of Tobruk in which a surrounded garrison composed primarily of the Australian 9th division held for 8 months preventing the Panzer Army from attacking further into Egypt until it was relieved by the Eighth Army in Nov '41, which is actually when the 8th Army was officially formed. The Eighth Army was led by a few generals, but the most notable one was Bernard Montgomery (as of Aug '42), whose success in Africa propelled him to fame and greater responsibility during the rest of the War. After the North African campaign was won, the British Eighth Army went on to fight in Italy where they again played an important role in tough and bloody battles such as Monte Cassino. In terms of coverage from toy soldier manufacturers, there has been no lack of attention. However as you will see from the pictures below, manufacturers have favored the North African campaign over Italy when depicting the 8th Army.

Airfix British 8th Army - Part 1
Every now and then you come across a pose that you know you have seen somewhere. Such is the case with the guy on the left. There is a black and white photograph of British 8th Army troops approaching a disabled tank in the desert and one of them looks very much like this guy.

Airfix British 8th Army - Part 2
Usually most Airfix poses are fighting, action poses, so the guy on the right who is standing as if on watch, is a bit of a disappointment, specially when there are only 7 poses total. Even with that, these Airfix guys definitely belong at the core of any B8th Army.

BMC British Infantry - Part 1
When BMC produced these guys they were described as British Infantry, however I think they are better suited as British 8th Army guys. If you look at some of the other manufaturers' figures you will also find bagpipes &  berets...

BMC British Infantry - Part 2
 ...and those shovels and picks look like they could come in handy in the rocky, craggy expanses of the North African landscape. 

Charbens British 8th Army - Part 1
These guys are vintage figures, from around the 60's. As far as I know they came factory-painted. I will probably have to paint them over when I paint the rest of these guys. That's when I go through those dilemmas that I described in this other post.

Charbens British 8th Army - Part 2
I have to say that the sculpting is actually fairly decent for figures made around that timeframe. A couple of the guys in the previous pictures can be criticized, but these three guys are pretty good looking.

Cherilea British 8th Army
These guys are 60mm figures. The guy in the middle looks like he could be Monty. The rest of the guys are a decent addition to the unit, a bit upright in some cases, but still acceptable.

Crescent British 8th Army
These guys are fairly well sculpted for the time when they were made and come factory painted. I am not sure exactly how many there were in the original set, but this sample gives an idea of what they looked like.

Crescent British 8th Army clones
These guys are 40mm clones made in Hong Kong. I made the mistake of buying them on eBay without checking that they were the right scale. The only bright spot is that it let me realize that there is at least one more pose that I do not have in 54mm - the guy with the sub MG.
DSG British 8th Army
These are new production figures using the old Britains Deetail molds by a new firm in Argentina. The bases are made out of plastic which I found a bit disappointing as it gives the figures a whole different feeling when you hold them. Other than that, the poses are kind of similar to the Airfix guys, aren't they? 

Britains Deetail Vickers Machine Gun Team
This is a nice set. Hard to find and a bit on the expensive side. The MG actually works. It comes with about 9 little ammo balls which you can fire using its spring mechanism, visible on the side of the gun. It rounds up the collection nicely.

Matchbox British 8th Army - Part 1
Matchbox gave us 13 poses in this set. Almost twice as generous as most of the other manufacturers. Their figures are mostly in good action poses. Casualty figures are not my favorite, but the guy in this set actually looks pretty authentic.

Matchbox British 8th Army - Part 2
Even though the bagpipe guy is not an action pose, I have to admit that he will probably look really nice once he's painted.

Matchbox British 8th Army - Part 3
It looks like this batch contains another Monty. I am going to have to chose who is the boss as there is at least one more candidate to pick from further below.

DGN British 8th Army - Part I
As you can see, this set is heavily influenced by the British 8th Army Matchbox figures. However, when you compare them side by side, you realize that they are originally sculpted, but there is not mistaking that the sculptur tried to replicate the original. 

DGN British 8th Army - Part II
The weapons are definitely different. Some of them are larger, and some of them are missing the bayonet at the tip of the rifle, which several of the Matchbox guys have. 

DGN British 8th Army - Part III
Overall, this is a pretty solid set. Not very original, but fairly decent if you were not aware of the Matchbox figures. Good poses and good level of detail.

Revell British 8th Army - Part 1
These guys are 1/35 scale. I painted several of them along with the Airfix guys a few years back. As you can see, the guys I left out were the ones that are standing a bit funny.

Revell British 8th Army - Part 2
I suppose with the berets and bagpipes these guys could belong to the Black Watch, the famous Scottish regiment which fought in North Africa.

Timpo British 8th Army - Part 1
These guys remind me a bit of the Cherilea guys, particularly the machine gunner. They are also on the taller side of 54mm figures. This set contains what appears to be the third Monty guy in my collection.

Timpo British 8th Army - Part 2
These Timpo guys are not my favorite figures. There are two things that I don't quite like. They are standing too upright and their facial expressions could have used a bit more work. Some of their faces look more like skulls.

Timpo British 8th Army - Part 3

Here are a few vintage figures with some original paint still on them. Notice how they were also cast on a darker plastic color, which I actually like better than that of the newer recasts. 

21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry - Part I
This set was sold as British Infantry, but from the short trousers, it seems to me like they are 8th Army troopers. This set was produced after the Germans and the Americans, and you can see the new bases and slightly better sculpting, although not as good with the later sets. 

21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry - Part II
The guy running is a good action pose. A bit off balance, but nice enough. The guy on the right does not really grab me. There is something about how he is holding his weapon and how he is standing... The man in the center is a nice middle ground.

21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry Series 2 - Part I
This is a set that I had totally missed. I wasn't even aware it existed. Chronologically, it seems to be one of their middle sets, wiith the sculpting being fairly decent at this stage -take a look at the facial expressions-, the bases not yet so bulky, and already integrated into the figures instead of glued to them. 

 21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry Series 2 - Part II
As you can see, the set is comprised of all fighting poses with a good degree of action put into the sculpting. The more a guy is leaning the more I like him. Note also how they have given us figures with eboth short and long trousers. All in all a nice set from 21C.

Forces of Valor British 7th Armored Division - El-Alamein 1942 - Part I
This is a set that I originally passed on buying. I did not like the bulkiness of the upper bodies. Of course, later on I felt that I should plug the hole in the collection, but by that time, they were no longer being produced and were much harder to find and pricier to get. Anyhow, I am happy I finally got a hold of them. I am still not a big fan of the sculpting and I still don't like the detachable bases, but it felt good to be able to check them off the list.

Forces of Valor British 7th Division - Part II
Here are a few more poses. They came in a different set, Two of them appear to be repeats of guys in the previous set. One of them, the man firing while kneeling, might be slightly different - note the knee is slightly off the ground - or it could also be that the one on top os missing the base and they are actually the same pose. Either way, there's really only two new poses. The wounded man and the man calling his men forward. Sculpted in the same bulky style, so not much new to say about them. 

Airfix British Infantry and Support Troop
Lastly, these two guys are not officially British Eighth Army, but I've decided to incorporate them into the unit to give them a bit more firepower as none of the sets above contain a mortar or an antitank weapon, which given the nature of the combat in North Africa, would certainly come in handy.

Click here to see regular British Infantry.


  1. Fabulous collection, great modeling work and fantastic photography! a lot of your lighting seems like real sunlight! ( I'm a pro cinematographer)
    where are you? how can we make contact?
    Tony Mata, DP
    Appleton , Wisconsin

  2. Hey Tony, thanks a lot for your feedback. Did you see the email I sent you?

  3. Hey I'd also like to say that the Airfix German Moutain troops set can double as german Africa Corps... if you paint the poses that are not preforming winter activities to tan