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Friday, October 14, 2011

Introducing the British Commandos

The British Commandos were an elite formation within the British armed forces. Their rigorous training program with a high drop out rate made them highly selective. Their training emphasized the development of immediate, instinctive reactions. To achieve that they conducted drills under very real combat-like conditions repeatedly until the desired behavior became second nature. The book 'Up Close and Personal' by David Lee has a very detailed descripion of their training, history and some of their main operations. He indicates that about a third of the training focused on weapons (including their famous Sykes knife and even foreign weaponry), another third on fieldcraft (the art of moving stealthily), unarmed combat and ropework, and the other third was spent on boating, map reading, marches, night training, demolition and drill. Each Commando unit consisted of approximately 450 men, all of them volunteers. The Commandos took part in many operations throughout the war. Many were small raids, but they were also deployed in larger scales, as was the case during the Normandy landings. One of their most famous raids was the one on Dieppe. Even though the operation was a disaster for the Canadian infantry involved, No. 4 Commando performed exceptionally well neutralizing a coastal battery in advance of the main landing. As far as plastic troops go, there are a few options out there. Let's take a look.
Airfix Brisith Commandos
Not the most exciting set from Airfix. Except for the man throwing the grenade, the other guys seem rather static. The guy who is kneeling is also missing a base, so he's easy to knock over. My favorite guy in this set is the prone guy. There had to be at least one of them displaying their famous knife. Note that they are also wearing a woolen cap instead of the steel helmet worn by traditional infantry units.

Atlantic British Commandos - Part 1
These guys are wearing their distinctive green beret. I find this set one of the best ones from Atlantic. The sculpting and the poses are well proportioned and dynamic. The weapons are diverse. They have even provided them witha bazooka man.

Atlantic British Commandos - Part 2
A few more good poses. The only thing I find a bit funny is the mae west on some of these guys. I wonder if they really wore those going into action. BTW, it was recently brought to my attention that these guys were also released as Italian Naval Infantry by Atlantic. The set was called 'Battaglione San Marco'. In an interesting twist of fate, the San Marco unit fought against British Commandos at Tobruk on the night of September 13 1942. That would be an interesting scene to recreate with these figures.

Crescent British Commandos
These are 60 mm figures from the 60's I believe. I actually don't know for sure if they are Commandos or Paratroops -I've seen them labeled either way- but I plan to use them as both. Once they are painted I think they will fit in well, and having a mortar guy on the unit and another bazooka man can't hurt.

Matchbox British Commandos - Part 1
I think this is one of those sets in which Matchbox outdid Airfix. They also have a very good variety of poses and weaponry. The only thing missing is some heavy weapons.

Matchbox British Commandos - Part 2
The guy with the ladder is a nice touch, but I have to admit that I don't have much use for him in most battles. They do offer a good selection of prone guys. The guy in the middle is very similar to the Airfix guy. I wonder which one came out first. The kneeling guy is going to be my overall commander once I have them all painted.

Airfix & Matchbox British Commandos
Here is a nice combo. The boat and rower are Matchbox figures. The bren gunner is an Airfix guy providing support. I guess there is some advantage to him not having a base after all. Like the ladder guy, this one also requires a very specific scene.

Crescent 'Movables' British Commandos
These guys are analogous to the Britians Swoppets. You can remove their weapons and body parts to combine them into different poses/figures. In my opinion, the level of detail and realism is not quite there, however due to their uniqueness, they deserve a spot in the collection. I think they came in sets of 7, so there is one missing from this picture.

Timpo Swoppets British Commandos
I am a bit confused here. I have seen British Commandos wearing green berets mostly, and very dark ones which could be black occasionally. Troops from armored units, also wore black berets, like the guys on the Bren gun carrier in the previous picture. But I am inclined to think that these figures were meant to represent commandos. In terms of the figures, they come with the typical webbing used by British Army units as well as a backpack. The poses as obviously influenced by how you combine the torsos with the legs, but I should say that some of the leg stances are not the best. 

Multiple Toymakers British Commandos - Part I
These guys were an odd find. I did not evenknow that this manufacturer existed. The figures are a bit skinny for my taste, but in general, they are well sculpted. A good set of poses, with an acceptable degree of movement and action in them. I do have to say that when I first looked at them, I thought there might be some repeated poses, as some of them are similar, but upon closer inspection, they are all different.  

Multiple Toymakers British Commandos - Part II
Here are the rest of the guys. Another funny thing are the faces. They are all the same, so it feels like it is an army of clones. The most interesting guy in this second batch is the flamethrower. The seconf guy from the right. Not easy to see, but the whole weapon can come off his hands and hang from the tanks attached to the back. It is a bit tricky to put it all back into place and make it stay there. 

Unknown British Commando
This is a guy who came in a mixed set of figures. He is some type of swoppet hybrid, with removable head, but fixed body. He seems to be running with a mortar and its shells. In terms oof size, it is closer to 60mm than it is to 54mm, but not quite 60mm, I think. Unfortunately, it does not have any markings to help identify the manufacturer, so if you know who made it, please leave a comment. 

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