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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Introducing the British Paratroops

The development of the British airborne forces began in 1940 following the successful German airborne operations that summer. The first British airborne raid, Operation Colosus, took place on Italian territory on Feb of '41 and by November of that year, the 1st Airborne division was officially formed. These troops were actually capable of being dropped by parachute or landing by glider, and once they were even landed from the sea, into the heel of Italy. A few other small operations followed during the mid-part of the war, such as a raid on a radar sation on the French coast and a raid on a heavy water facility in Norway and some brigade size landings in North Africa. The 1st Division also took part in the invasion of Sicily and the Italian mainland. By 1943 a second division, the 6th was formed. This division went into action for the first time on D-Day, capturing the famous Pegasus Bridge among other objectives. It fought on in Normandy for 3 months. Around the time that the 6th was withdrawing from France, the 1st Division took part in Operation Market-Garden, perhaps the British Ariborne's most dramatic engagement of the war. In a book aptly titled 'A Bridge too Far' Cornelius Ryan tells the story of how the 1st Division held out for 9 days in the town of Arnhem under intense pressure, waiting for the ground troops which were supposed to relieve them after only 2 or 3 days. Eight of the bridges leading up to Arnhem had eventually been secured, but the 9th one had not and out of approximately 10,000 men originally in the division, less than 2000 managed to get evacuated. The 6th Division went on to fight a couple more campaigns. At the end of the year, it was rushed to help stop the German's Ardennes offensive and in March of '45 they participated in Operation Varsity, a combined arms crossing of the Rhine. In terms of figure availability, there is actually a decent number of British Paratroops that have been released by several manufacturers. Let's take a look.

Airfix British Paratroops
A good mix of poses. Some of these guys look like they just landed and are moving on to their objective. Some others are already angaging the enemy. A good set from Airfix as usual.
Airfix British Paratroops - Series 1 - Part I
This is one of the rare Airfix Paras which Airfix made before they switched to the set which has become the standard one. I should say that in terms of the sculpting and poses, the second series is indeed superior to the first and it is easy to understand why Airfix decided to replace them. I once ran into the whole set at a soldier show, before I knew what they were. They were priced a bit on the expensive side, so I passed on them, Years later, when I realized what I had held in my hands, it became clear to me that I should have bought them and that they had actually been priced quite well given how rare they are... This one I got in a large set of mixed figures that someone did not bother to sort out and classify. A bit of a lucky break for me. Here you can see the rest of the posescourtesy of Toy Soldier HQ.

Airfix British Paratroops - Series 1 - Part II
Here is another guy from the set, firing off into the sky. Now the question is, what could he be firing at? In theory, his unit is the one doing the drop... The enemy would not drop on top of them, since after all, they are already behind enemy lines. I suppose he could be firing at a strafing fighter... In terms of the sculpting, I just wish they had given him a slightly more relaxed stance. Maybe the knees, slightly bent? At any rate, I am glad I ran into him. Only 5 more poses to go!

Airfix British Paratroops - Series 1 - Part III
OK, so I had a bit of a lucky break and found a batch of about a dozen paras in pretty good shape. Out of those, we have 3 more new poses. Out of these three, the kneeling, firing guy is my favorite. Now we are just missing the prone bazooka man and the man walking holding his sub mg at his side. 

Conte Collectibles British Paratroops - Part 1
About a decade back, Conte came into the plastic toy soldier scene with several D-Day playsets, which included among others, the British Paratroops. Not only did he bring a new level of realism to the sculpting and posing of the figures, but he also did it in a much larger scale than previous manufacturers, releasing a total of 16 poses!

Conte Collectibles British Paratroops - Part 2
The Conte figures are a bit on the larger side of 54 mm, but all the other positive attibutes make that a detail easy to overlook.
Conte Collectibles British Paratroops - Part 3
A good mixture of weapons, headgear, and poses.
Conte Collectibles British Paratroops - Part 4
Even the three guys who are standing firing are all different.
Revell British Paratroops - Part 1
Revell made these guys in 1/35 scale, so you might not want to place them right next to the Conte guys. A nice set for the most part. The second guy from the left is the one guy that I don't find that great. And the guy pulling his parachute is a nice, unique pose, but of course, you can only use him in some limited scenes.
Revell British Paratroops - Part 2
Another interesting detail is the weapons canister. The picture does not show it clearly, but it is actually separate from the figures. I found these guys manufactured in two different plastic colors, as seen above, with green being the most common. BTW, I am not sure if they are still being produced as I have not seen them in a while.

ESCI British Paratroops - Part 1
Here is another unique set from ESCI. Also pretty hard to find. So much that I wasn't even aware that it existed until one of our readers pointed it out to me. The figures are actually pretty decent and in my opinion, better posed than the other ESCI sets. They are using a good range of small arms and even their helmets show a bit of variety, some having a cammo net and some without.

ESCI British Paratroops - Part 2
I particularly like the man charging forward with the Bren gun. One of the more dynamic ESCI poses that I have come across. I don't care that much for the guy standing guard. The guy on the right is one of those funny poses... he seems to be turning at the same time that he is running forward, but yet he is a bit too straight for that amount of movement taking place all at the same time. Anyhow, a good addition to the British paras. Maybe they can help hold Arnhem one more day...

21st Century Toys British Paratroops

I was not aware that 21C Toys had made this set until I ran into it by chance on eBay. They are actually quite nice. I bought 3 sets and the paint job varies from one set to the next, but overall they are nicely finished. The poses are the kind of action pose that I prefer and I also like the variety of weapons that they carry into action. A good addition to the collection!

Charbens British Paratroops - Part I
These seem to be recasts of figures made in the 60s or 70s. On the small side of 54mm. The most interesting guy is the one with the flamethrower. I don't know if this is historically accurate, but it still makes for a unique addition to the unit.

Charbens British Paratroops - Part II
Here is a sixth pose. For some reason the newer recasts do not come with it, but I ran into it in a large batch of mixed figures. Perhaps the mold got lost for this one. Note that it has the same base style and also the pose resembles very much the grenade thrower in the B8A Charbens set.  Here is an image of a packed set with the six poses.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 1
These are two figures that I stumbled upon on eBay. They are standing a bit too straight for my taste, but they are also old, so we can give them a bit of a break. Anyhow, once they are painted they will be a good addition to the unit, providing their specialized services. I wonder what the guy on the right is supposed to be carrying on his back. Does not look like the usual field pack. Is it supposed to be his parachute? But if he is already operating the mortar, doesn't that mean that he already jumped?

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 2
Here are some more guys from this set. They are not in the best shape. A couple of them have broken weapons but they still give an idea of what the original poses looked like. The guy on the right is an interesting pose. I am not sure what he represents. Is he supposed to be pulling his parachute? or maybe he is supposed to be in the air, in the middle of a jump?

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 3
A couple more guys that I recently got in a mixed lot. The guy who is crawling is interesting. He seems more like he is doing some push ups. I would have made him with at least one knee on the ground. The man with the binoculars is fairly decent. Too bad it has lost all its paint.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 4
A few more guys in much better condition. The bazooka guy seems to be based off the same figure as the standing man aiming with the rifle, or most likely the other way around, which explains why the rifleman is holding the rifle that way. The flamethrower guy is just a better version of the one in the previous picture which has the flame missing. 

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 5
Three more figures from the set. Well actually the guy on the left showed up already in one of the earlier pictures, but the weapon was broken, so I included him again since I just got the same figure in better shape. The other two are nice additions. I like the guy who is crawling quite a bit. The MG is also a good addition to the uint, giving it a bit more firepower.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 6
And yet one more guy who I found by chance, without knowing that I was missing him, in a large batch that I bought, also without knowing what exactly was in it. I guess every unit needs a good grenade thrower, and here he is. He does not seem to be winding up much for the throw though... let's see how far he manages to throw that. 

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 7
This is one more guy I just ran into. He is just sitting down, as if he were riding on a plane waiting to jump. To setup such a scene, you would need several of them and they are not easy to find, so I doubt I'll ever get around to that. I should clarify that I did not see any manufacturer marks on him, so I am just assuming that he is a Lone Star figure because he really resembles the other ones.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 8
So I think I found the set that the sitting para belong to, or at least one where they can be used more appropriately. This is a Willys Jeep made by Lone Star. Presumably issued to the British Paras through Lend Lease :-)

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part 9
Here is one more British Para. This guy happens to be the machine gunner for this Bren gun carrier, although his MG does not really look like a Bren gun. If he's not the actual gunner, then it's a big coincidence that he fits so well on the seat that has the MG opening... 

Lone Star British Modern Paratroopers
This guy came with some of the WWII paras. At first I did not notice that he was from a more modern set. As you can see, the only thing that stands out is the weapon. So if you are not too selective, you can include him in your WWII unit. I probably will.

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part 1
These guys are post WWII figures, but if you overlook the automatic weapons, they could fit well with the rest of the guys. The flamethrower is a good complement to the other sets. I don't know exactly how many poses were produced. First I found these four and later on I found two more (see below).

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part 2
I just received these two other poses. The plastic is a bit brittle as they arrived in multiple pieces. Note how the arm holding the grenade is reattached as well as the head of the other guy. Too bad because there aren't that many of these figures left around.

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part 3
And here is one more guy that I was missing from the set. The guy firing from a kneeling position. A classic post in most sets. Fairly weel executed in this case.

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part 4
Here is one more guy who I was missing. Also, one of those that I was not aware of and who came in  a larger batch of figures, so I guess I got lucky. He is displaying a good degree of movement, which is how I like them. BTW, this is almost the same pose as the modern para a few pictures earlier. Initially I thought all they had done was change the helmet. I think I'll let you find the rest of the differences!

Cherilea 60mm British Red Berets
I recently found these guys on eBay. There are supposed to be 6 of them, but I have only found 5. Based on the weapon of the guy on the right they seem to be modern figures, but I think that once you paint them to match the WWII guys they will fit right in.

Cherilea 60mm British Red Berets - Continued
Here is the last guy that was missing from the set. I got him after I made the initial post. Not the most exciting pose, but it rounds up the set of six nicely.

Crescent 60mm British Paratroops
These are original figures from about 40 years ago. They are 60mm. I am unable to fully establish if they are paratroops or commandos. I'll probably just end up painting them as both. Note that they come with a mortar which is lacking in the other sets.

Britians Deetail British Paratroops - Set 1
These guys are actually modern Paratroops, but I like the poses quite a bit and the antitank weapon could come in handy so I've decided to recruit them into the unit.

Britains Super Deetail British Paratroops - Set 2 - Part I
This is one of the other four super rare poses that collectors refer to as the 'Holy Grail' set. Unfortunately, I was only able to get my hands on one of them, even though all four of them were up for auction. But as expected, they were highly sought after. In terms of the figure, I really liked the pose and sculpting of the figure. The manufacturing left a bit of a defect on the neck. My understadning is that the Super deetail figures were made by casting the parts separately and then putting them together with heat, which might explain the neck. Anyhow, it is still a great piece and I am glad I have at least one of them. Maybe I get lucky again and manage to find the rest of his unit at some point. 

Britains Super Deetail British Paratroops - Set 2 - Part II
Another angle, in which you can appreciate his movement a bit better.

Timpo Swoppets British Paratroops
These guys are wearing the distinctive red beret. They come with the typical webbing used by British Army units as well as a backpack. They also have a good range of weapons. I particularly like the Sten gun. 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. It also looks like the legs might have come from another set, or they made the Paras in a couple of color schemes. 

Airfix Modern British Infantry
Lastly, these guys are also modern British Infantry, however, the cammouflage that they are wearing on their helmets makes them look similar to the paratroops, and their poses are also quite nice, so I am thinking that once they are painted as paras, they'll fit just fine.

Airfix Modern German Infantry - Part I
Same with these guys. But they are so well sculpted that I could not resist getting a batch of them and incorporating them into my ranks. Even though they are German, I think I could use them as British paras.

Airfix Modern German Infantry - Part II
In typical Airfix fashion, the poses are full or action and include plenty of realistic detail. Even the folds on their clothes are all in the right places. Out of this batch, I really like the guy firing his sub MG from the waist and how he leans into it.

Unknown British Paratrooper
This is a guy who came with a mixed set of figures. He is closer to 50mm than he is to 54mm, and appears to have come factory painted. Unfortunately, there are no marks on him to give us a hint about who manufactured him. If you happen to know, please leave a comment so that we might be able to find him some other guys from his unit.

Click here to see a description of US Airborne troops.

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