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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Introducing the German Africa Corps

The Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) was the German force sent to to North Africa in February of '41 to help the Italian forces who were fighting the British Commonwealth in the deserts of Lybia and Egypt and had been recently pushed back into Lybia. The DAK force was primarily a combination of Panzer units and motorized infantry, making it a highly mobile formation. The Afrika Korps under the command of Erwin Rommel, -the Desert Fox- enjoyed great initial success, pushing back the British all the way back to Egypt in a dashing campaign that stopped short of Alexandira. Supply shortages however, caused by the fact that the Allies could intercept much of the shipping across the Mediterranean from their air bases in Malta played an important role in limiting the fighting ability of the Afrika Korps. Eventually the British 8th Army, now under Montgomery, counterattacked, pushing the Axis forces back to Tunisia. Around the same time -Nov '42, American landings in Morocco and Algeria -Operation Torch- created a second front for the Afrika Korps, which sealed its fate. Nonetheless, it managed to fight on for another 6 months, eventually surrendering in May of '43, with over a quarter of a million men going into captivity. This was a blow as hard as the loss of the 6th Army at Stalingrad a few weeks later, perhaps even larger if you consider the losses during the preceding two years. In terms of plastic figures, the DAK has received a good level of attention, perhaps because the fast paced desert campaigns have captured the imagination of many over the years. Let's take a look at the available sets.

Airfix Afrika Korps
Yet another classic set from Airfix. Nicely sculpted figures, realistic looking action poses. The only thing I could ask for would be more poses, but unfortunately this was the standard number for most of their WWII sets.

Atlantic Afrika Korps - Part 1
One of the nicer Atlantic sets. Other than the prone machine gun guy who seems to be looking at the ground instead of aiming his weapon, the rest are all very well done. One peculiarity about these figures is that they all come without any headgear and you can glue on them a steel helmet, a field cap, or one of those desert/tropical hats. I had to experiment with several glues until I found one that did the trick as they stubbornly refused to remain attached.

Atlantic Afrika Korps - Part 2
Most of these guys are wearing short pants which is a good variation found only on a few of the figures from the other manufacturers. These guys were originally tan in color, but I already primed them as they are among the next figures on the to-paint list.

Matchbox Afrika Korps - Part 1
Matchbox, gave us a bit more variety in poses, but the sculpting is a notch below that of Airfix. Nonetheless, they also included a couple guys with short pants, and they also included an important mounted heavy machine gun. My favorite guy in this set is the one on the very left. I really like that running guy.

Matchbox Afrika Korps - Part 2
Is that Rommel that we are looking at? He could very well be.
A few of these guys illustrate the point I was making about the sculpting. The charging guys' running seems a bit unnatural and the grenade man does not seem to lean back enough to be able to throw that thing as far as you'd want to.

Revell Afrika Korps - Part 1
These figures are 1/35 in scale, but they are actually not that far in size from the Airfix figures. Most of the guys in this set are pretty well done except for the guy on the left whose running I find a bit awkward. He seems about to trip and fall over.

Revell Afrika Korps - Part 2
The set includes a very nice heavy machine gun mounted on a tripod. The two guys operating it and the gun itself can be removed from the base The guy on the left is probably my favorite figure from this set and a good example of some of the elements that make a good figure: bent knees, slight crouch, body balance shifted off-center, intense look/gaze.

Lone Star Afrika Korps - Part 1
This is a rare set. Out of production and not easy to find. The poses are acceptable considering when they were made (50s or 60s). As far as poses they offer a good mix of fighting/non-fighting figures. The guy on the left is the only one I've ever seen waving a white flag.

Lone Star Afrika Korps - Part 2
This other picture has the guys going on the offensive. It also shows the only flamethrower in among all the poses across all manufacturers in this post, which is another reason why I am glad I finally got my hands on this set.
21st Century Toys Afrika Korps - Part I
At the time that 21st Century Toys released their set I was not a big fan of factory painted figures so I did not buy them. It was only recently -now that they are out of production- that I ran into these two and bought them. Hopefully they still give you an idea about the level of detail, type of uniform and quality of the poses/sculpting.

21C Toys Afrika Korps - Part II
Here are the rest of the set. The one thing I don't like is how the paint color varies so much from one set to the next. Primarily that of the boots. I like the colors on the picture above better. The officer's face could have been done slightly better also. Other than that, the figures display a good deal of action, just the way I like them.

21st Century Toys Afrika Korps - Part III
Here is an earlier set of AK figures. Fairly decent, but still a few odd things, like the bases. The took the same bases that were attached to the other figures which have cobblestones and other things that feel out of place in the desert. 

21st Century Toys Afrika Korps - Part IV
My favorite man here is the one on the left. I wonder if the one in the middle is asking for quarter or charging forward in a very unusal way? The man on the right seems to be missing a grenade or something in his right hand. 

21C Toys German Afrika Korps Mortar Team
I think these guys are a mix of the artillery crew set and the mortar team. The standing guy is the same as the one for the regular infantry's mortar team, except for the uniform colors, but the two kneeling guys are different.I have seen those also in the PAK 40 crew. Now, I don't know if the mortar team included thee figures, or maybe the collector who sold them to me mixed the sets. 

Cherilea Afrika Korps
These guys are 60mm tall, so if you want to include them in your DAK Army you should place them a bit apart from the Revell guys. The most interesting guy here is the one on the far right. If you look closely, he seems to have received a shrapnel wound  on his shoulder. The guy surrendering is unique, but would only be useful in very specific diorama scenes. And then there's another guy who could be Rommel or perhaps one of his staff officers.

Charbens Afrika Korps
These are two figures out of a set of about 8 or so. Compared to other Chanbens figures I fnd them quite well sculpted, with a good degree of detail and action/movement. And they used to come factory-painted as you can see. So at the time they must have been among the best AK figures. The only thing to criticize about  these guys is the machine gun. It looks more like a Vickers, or perhaps it's meant to be a captured one? :-) Anyhow, I am definitely going to have to keep an eye out for the rest of the guys in the set.

Charbens Afrika Korps - Part II
And here are the rest of the set. They seem to be clones rather than recasts. The plastic feels much lighter and the level of details seems a bit faded compared with the originals. And they also sell for a premium, considering how scarce they are. The poses are OK, and as I mentioned, they are among the nicer Charbens poses. Once they are painted, I am hoping it won't be as obvious that they are clones.

Charbens Afrika Korps - Part III
Actually, it looks like there was one more pose. He is a bit banged up by the years, but you can still get a good idea of what he looked like. If I fix his weapon and paint him, he might look just like new.

Speedwell Afrika Korps - Part I
Here is a less common AK set. 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 in terms of the color scheme that they came painted in, it is also a bit unusual. Some of them come with green caps as you will see in the next picture.

Speedwell Afrika Korps - Part II
Here are a few more poses. I am still missing one additional pose: an officer with a moveable arm holding binoculars. While two of these guys wear the regular army field cap, 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.

Speedwell Afrika Korps - Part III
Here is the man at the far right of the prior picture, this time in the AK color scheme. I think I like him better like this. 

Speedwell Afrika Korps - Part IV
And here is the commander. Unfortunately, missing an arm. You can tell that it was not resting at the waist as there is no hand left behind, but based on the rest of the body, it could not have been doing something very exciting. Or maybe he was doing the nazi salute and that's why someone chopped it off?  

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps - Part 1
This is one of the priciest WWII sets from Deetail. Not sure why. Maybe they just made fewer of them. The poses are certainly nice, but they are of about the same quality as the other sets. One good, special touch is that the field glasses of the officer are actually not attached to his face like most other figures of this kind.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps - Part 2
The rest of the set. To my taste the guy in the left and the one on the right are too similar. I would have preferred to see a different pose entirely. BTW, these figures are also produced nowadays by the firm DSG from Argentina. They somehow got the original molds and sell them in a wide variety of painted schemes.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps Motorcycle
Britains Deetail also produced a nice set of motorcycles. This one has some similarities with the Zündapp, but I believe it is actually a BMW. Notice how they gave the driver goggles, which would obviously come very handy in the desert. It is a nice complement to the infantry figures.

Here are some pictures of regular German Infantry in action.
Click here to see pictures of German Paratroops.
Click here to see German Paratroops in action.
Here you can see pictures of German Waffen SS in action.

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