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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Engineer Bassevich - Toy Soldiers

Engineer Bassevich is a Russian firm that I recently discovered. They also seem to have entered the market not long ago as they only offer 4 sets of figures at this time. All of them are Russian/Soviet figures, 3 from the Russian revolution and one set from WWII as you will see below. I find myself a bit ambivalent about these figures. On the one hand, the poses are nicely done, with a good degree of action and they have a lot of nice detail. For instance, the expressions on the faces of these figures are among the best I've seen. The casting however is not so great. The figures come with a lot of flash. Part of it looks like marks left over in the clay during the sculpting, the rest is probably from the mold. Also, the plastic that they are made of is very light. I tend to like figures better when they have a bit more weight. And then there is the price... not only are they very expensive relative to the average new production toy soldier, but you also end up paying a hefty shipping cost. At the end of the day each of them comes to about 5 dollars a piece, which not even many vintage figures fetch. So are they really worth it? We'll have to see how they paint up.

Engineer Bassevich early war Soviet Infantry - Part I
These are early war Soviet Infantry figures. These are some of the few Soviet figures made with a full backpack. Nice degree of action in this first batch.

Engineer Bassevich early war Soviet Infantry - Part II
I could have done without the two guys standing in the middle, in favor of two more action poses. BTW, notice the diversity in the uniforms and headgear at this early stage of the war. The officer leading his men reminds me of an actual WWII photograph that I've seen. Take a look at the next picture. 

If it were printed backwards and the officer had the pistol on the opposite hand, it would be quite a close match...

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. 

UPDATE: I had the good fortune of getting some input from Alex, the man behind Engineer Bassevich's figures and he supplied me with a description for some of the figures. For instance, these guys could be used as members of the factory workers Fighter Battalion at Stalingrad during the summer of 1942. If you take out the guy throwing the grenade, who is holding the automatic weapon, they could also be used as members of the People's Militia Division, during the summer of 1941. Automatic weapons were not avaialble outside of the professional army during the earlier part of the war.

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.

UPDATE: Thanks to Engineer Bassevich we now know a bit more about the source of inspiration for these figures. The man in the middle is the legendary Sydir Kovpak, leader of the partisan units in the greater Ukraine-Belarus area -see picture below-. He was officially recognized by the Soviet military command and awareded the rank of Major General. The man on the right represents Pyotr Vershigora, who was Kovpak's second in command and eventually also rose to the rank of Major General.

Here is a picture of Major General Sydir Kovpak, partisan leader in the greater Ukraine-Belarus area

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. 

UPDATE from Engineer Bassevich: The guy on the right, would have belonged to the division of the People's Militia. Maybe a former teacher. He can be used in the Battle of Moscow, along with soldiers from set number 1. The man on the left could have been a regular army officer left behind the enemy lines after his unit was encircled and then he joined the partisans.

Engineer Bassevich Yugoslav Partisans - Part I
Another set of partisans. These are supposed to be Tito's partisans from Yugoslavia, but I think they could pass as partisans from any occupied country. Note that many of them feature long beards though, so if you are strict about cultural matters, maybe that restricts your options. I am actually planning to mix them with the Soviet partisans and have a larger unit of unregulated militia guys.

Engineer Bassevich Yugoslav Partisans - Part II
One thing I like about this set from Engineer Bassevich is that most of the poses are fighting poses and we got a lot fewer guys standing around. 

Engineer Bassevich Yugoslav Partisans - Part III
I am OK with a commander standing around, observing the action. The only guy I don't really have much use for is the 'guard' next to the commanding officer. 

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Part I
This set is theoretically an Infantry set, but it is actually a mix of several service branches. The guys in this picture for instance represent a couple of high-ranking officers, and two regular army guys. The officer with the big coat must be some kind of big shot who is probably standing way behind the front lines. 

UPDATE: Added description based on input from Engineer Bassevich. From left to right:

-Ninth soldier in set number four. Just infantry.
-The officer in his uniform is Tymoshenko - Marshal of the USSR People's Commissar of Defense, subsequently commander of the Western Front (Smolensk), and then the South-Western Front (Kiev) in 1941.
-The officer in a field coat is Zhukov - General of the Army, Chief of the General Staff between February - July 1941.
-Officer wearing a soldier's garrison cap. The officers realized that snipers hunt officers. I think this is a Lieutenant. First lieutenants would gets out of the trench and lead soldiers to attack. Lieutenants were killed in large numbers.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Part II
These other guys are the crew of a tank and the guy on the right looks like a downed airman firing off a signal gun, perhaps hoping to be rescued before the enemy gets to him. Certainly not the average poses in an infantry set, however they will come handy in some unique scenes, not to mention that the nice level of detail will also make them look quite good when painted.

Input from Engineer Bassevich. From left to right:
-Courier on a motorcycle (motorbike lost, courier shoots a gun, because the courier was attacked by soldiers from the regiment of Brandenburg).
-Soldier tank crew.
-Tank crewman in a leather jacket.
-Pilot in winter uniform. Maybe his plane was shot down. Maybe the pilot signals "in the machine".

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Part III
The last three poses in the set represent an artillery crew. Here I am showing them manning the Italeri ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun, however that gun comes with its own crew, so now I am thinking that perhaps I will use them to man a captured German PAK of which I have several who are still lacking a crew. 

Input from Engineer Bassevich -with minor edits:
Three gunners in officer caps. Officer caps were worn among ordinary soldiers in the border troops and cavalry. Here obviously the border troops. The ZIS-3 Italeri is not appropriate for 1941. Can use PAK36 FOV, similar to Russian 45mm anti-tank gun. However, I think the shells belong to a 122-mm howitzer. For that you can also use WWI British guns (Crescent, Britains). In 1941, the Red Army used a lot of old weapons, including old helmets (analogue French Adrian).

Related picture supplied by Engineer Bassevich.

Engineer Bassevich Finnish Infantry - Part I
This is another nice set from Engineer Bassevich, which understandably has chosen to cover this theater. It contains a total of 10 Finn soldiers, although only 6 of them represent fighting poses. As usual with Bassevich's figures, they are well sculpted with a very nice level of detail. They also represent a good level of diversity on the uniforms being worn, however this might pose some challenges if you are trying to build up a sizeable unit of similarly clad men.

Engineer Bassevich Finnish Infantry - Part II
Of these, my favorite one is the man on the left, standing while firing the sub MG. He is wearing white cammo overalls and a German style helmet. Definitely a great fit for the Winter War scene once he is painted all in white. The officers in the middle are probably some known historic characters, as is the case in some of the other Bassevich sets, but I must say that I would have rather had a couple more action poses than this many officers.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Winter War
Not to leave the Finns without an opponent, this set also contains four Soviet soldiers, although that's hardly going to be enough to mount an offensive. Note also that the set contains two 'border' posts. One has the emblem of the USSR and the other the one from Finland. Again, a nice touch, but I would have preferred to have two more men if I had a choice. Also, if there are going to be only 4 men, why make two of them just stand around? One nice touch is the head gear on the figures. Two of them are wearing the pointed winter caps (I thought they were used by cavalry units) instead of helmets.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Military Women - Part I
Another unique set from Engineer Bassevich. This time the set is a bit of a mix. 8 Figures represent women across a range of military roles. As with some of the previous sets, some of the figures are inspired by actual hirtorical characters. In this first picture we have Marina Raskova (far right), a pioneer in the Sovier Air Force and founder of 3 female pilot regiments. The next character is supposed to be a brave girl who rushed under the tank with and blew it up using a pack of grenades. This happened in September 23, 1943 near the village of Ivanenko, Ukraine. The sniper figure is supposed to honor women such as Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Rosa Shanina, Elizabeth Mironova, Mary Polivanova, Natalia Kovshova. Below are a few pictures which inspired these figures sent to me by Alex, the man behind Engineer Bassevich.

Elizabeth Mironova and the movie character which inspired the figure with the sub MG

Grenade Girl and Marina Raskova

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Military Women - Part II
On this picture we have Zina Tusnolobova, who lost all limbs helping the wounded in combat. While on the hospital, a tank unit heard of her and named 5 tanks after her. Another famous medic was Valeria Gnarovskaya (far right), a medic credited with saving many lives. In a single battle she is said to have brought from the battlefield 47 wounded, and then went on to defend them, killing over 20 and enemy soldiers.The figure in the left is a road inspector, as were Sonya Petkovska and Marya Shalneva. Below are a few more pictures which inspired these figures sent to me by Alex, the man behind Engineer Bassevich.

Marya Shalneva and women at attention

Medical instructor Valeria Gnarovskaya and medic Zina Tusnolobova

Zina Tusnolobova caring for a wounded man and one of the tanks named after her

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Scouts
These other 4 figures represent Red Army scouts. I like the 3 figures on the left better than the man on the right. He reminds me of the old days sculpting which would favor flat figures for ease of casting and release. I wonder why they made him this way. In terms of uniforms, the head cover and thickness strongly suggests that these are winter troops, although I suppose you could also paint them in a cammo scheme. Notice how they are also equipped with sub machine guns, suggesting that they were used as an elite, shock unit. 

Click here to see a post about Soviet Infantry
Click here to see a post about Soviet Armor

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Progress - Toy Soldiers

I recently ran into this Soviet set at a Toy Soldier Show. Initially, the manufacturer was a mystery to me. I bought them from the Marx Man and even he did not know who made them. Luckily, one of our readers was able to point out their origin and even a site that still sells them today (check out the comments section). Apparently, these figures were made by a company in Moscow called Progress or 'Прогресс' to be more precise. It seems like they started making them close to 20 years ago. Some of the sets were made with painted faces and boots, and have been released in different types of packaging -boxed or bagged-. The set is called  "The Brest Fortress" or "Soldiers of the Great Patriotic War". In addition to these figures, it looks like Progress also produced set of knights and medieval figures as well as cowboys and indians.

Progress Soviet Infantry - Part I
These figures are closer to 60mm in size. The detail is actually rather shallow, as if they were clones of clones. I don't think that's the case though because the proportions are still fine, which is something that gets lost when figures are cloned as much as it would be required to lose as much detail. So I think they were simply sculpted this way. As far as the rest of the sculpting goes, the figures are well posed and in decent action stances, like the firing guy who is leaning forward as if firing on the move.

Progress Soviet Infantry - Part II
The flag bearer is a rather unique figure. He could be getting ready to climb the Reichstag building in Berlin. We'll just need to add the Soviet scythe and hammer to it. That might be an interesting painting challenge. I am assuming the man on the right is wounded, otherwise his pose would be a bit lame. The other two are average poses.

Progress Soviet Infantry - Part III
This is the last pose in the set. I shot him separately because I wanted to compare him to a guy from this set which I bought a couple of years back without knowing the set that it belonged to. Take a look below.

Progress Soviet Infantry - Part IV

Click here to see a post about Soviet Infantry
Click here to see a post about Soviet Armor

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ideal - Toy Soldiers

Ideal was an American Toy soldier manufacturer which was in activley in business during the 50s through the 70s. They manufactured figures in the larger scales of 60mm - 70mm and complemented well those produced by other manufacturers such as Marx and TimMee. They produced a nice range of figures, addressing many historic periods, including the US Civil War, knights, US Colonials and British, Alamo,  Pirates, Cowboys and Indians, modern frogmen, navy, firemen, race track figures, and of course, WWII GIs. They also made a a nice range of accessories, including vehicles such as, wagons and stage coaches, farm vehicles, a pirate ship, a PT boat, Tanks, jeeps, trucks, and a very cool modern cargo plane, that fits other vehicles inside. And they also produced a complementary set of 'forts' to place the figures in, like a mdieval castle, the Alamo, Frontier forts, and so on, which made for very attractive and engaging playsets. As you can see below, one peculiar aspect of their figures is that some of their sets were made without bases. I only happen to have the WWII GIs to show in this post, but if you happen to be interested in seeing more of their figures, Toy Soldier HQ does a much better job at showcasing the range that they produced.

Ideal US Infantry - Part I
These guys are actually reissued Ideal figures. The originals are harder to come by and pricier, but for me, these guys are just fine. The sculpting on these figures is quite nice for the time when they were released. As you can tell, some of them are very similar to the TimMee series 1 figures, like the prone guy on the left. I am not sure who inspired who, but I suspect, the Ideal figures came later. One distinct feature of the Ideal men is that they come without a base. They simply balance themselves on their two feet, and they do it surprisingly well.

Ideal US Infantry - Part II
Here again we see a couple of figures very similar to the TimMee guys: the ones on the far right and left. These guys BTW are closer to 60mm than they are to 54mm. In contrast with the TimMee set, they included a few figures with a bit more action and movement in them, as illustrated by the second man from the right. Even the guy with the flamethrower is leaning forward in a good action pose. 

Ideal US Infantry - Part III
Here one can recognize the kneeling rifleman and the bazooka, although the rifleman lost his sniper scope in the Ideal set. One guy who fooled me for a bit is the one sitting with his legs apart. At first glance I thought he was a recast of the Marx figure, but later on a noticed that he does have a few significant differences, one of them being that his shirt is open down to his belly button. A rather unique touch. The man on the left, appears to be manning a machine gun. Unfortunately the set did not include it. Luckily I do have one or two spare ones that I can issue to him from other sets.

Ideal US Infantry - Part IV
This picture shows three more that might have been inspired by the TimMee set. The fourth man, firing from the standing position might have been inspired by the Marx guy. In any case, Ideal set was a nice, well sculpted and detailed set, and with 16 poses, a nice contribution to the hobby. I am glad I was able to finally lay my hands on 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. 

Click here to see a post about other GIs
Click here to see some more GIs
Click here to see a post about US Armor

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Introducing the Danish Navy

The Danish Navy goes a long way back in time, arguably back to the Viking times, or to the times when Denmark and Norway were a single country with a powerful navy. That navy saw plenty of action during the 300+ years that the union lasted. I think however that the real founding of the Danish Navy was when Denmark and Norway went their separate ways in 1814 and Denmark became the country it is today. This caused a substantial reduction in the size of its Navy, which took multiple decades to overcome. However, by the time WWI took place, Denmark had quite a modern fleet, with armored ships powerd by steam engines, although it did not see any action during this conflict as Denmark remained a neutral country. During WWII, Denmark was quickly occupied and the Navy was used by the Germans for securing its own ports and shipping lanes. The most significant moment of action during WWII took place in August of 1943, when the Danish Navy decided to 'defect'. The ships were instructed to make an escape attempt to neutral or allied ports, but few actually reached their destination. Most were were scuttled or captured. Out of the dozen or so ships that reached friendly ports, the Danish naval flotilla in exile was formed, as well as a Brigade of approximately 5000 ground troops. In terms of plastic toy soldiers representing the Danish Navy, there is only one Danish manufacturer that I am aware of and it has only produced a few poses as seen below.

Reisler Danish Navy
As you can see, Reisler was quite conservative with this set. Not just in terms of the number of poses, but the actual poses themselves. It's not just that the poses are lacking movement and action -except for the man firing on the left, although he seems to be firing a salvo- but also, why would they have made two poses that are almost the same. OK, one is marching and the other one is standing guard. The only explanation that I can think of is that they wanted to avoid fighting poses as Denmark did not get into combat in WWII, but still, there could have been more exciting non-combat poses. As far as the rest of the sculpting, the figures are reasonably well detailed and will probably look fairly decent when painted.

Click here to see a post about the French Navy

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Introducing the Italian Alpine Troops

The Italian Alpine Troops, or Alpini as they are actually known in Italian, are an elite infantry unit trained in mountain warfare. They were established in the late 1800s, after the unification of Italy, to defend its northern borders. The Aplini played a very important role during WWI, fighting gebirgsjaeger troops from Austria-Hungary and Germany. This was a very dangerous business. Death could come not only from bullets, grenades or shells, but also from extreme temperatures, avalanches, climbing accidents, and in some cases, from the tops of mountains being blown off. The latter was a technique to dislodge the opponent once they were well entrenched on a mountain peak. Tunnels were dug into the mountain and huge loads of explosives were used to blow off the top along with its defenders. WWII saw the Aplini fight on different theaters. Initially as mountain troops in the French Alps during the invasion of France and in the Balkans against Albania, Greece and Yugoslavia. One Alpini battalion also fought in the East Africa campaign. Later on, three Alpini divisions also fought as plain foot infantry on the Russian plains, particularly on the perimeter around Stalingrad, where out of approximately 50,000 men, only about 5,000 managed to escape the Soviet encrirclement. This was in great part due to the fact that they were fighting against overwhelming numbers of mechanized infantry against which their mountain warfare skills were of little use, at the same time that they were being outflanked by the Soviets as the fronts next to the Alpini divisions collapsed. In terms of plastic toy soldiers there are a couple of Italian manufacturers who have provided us with a few representative figures. Let's take a look.

Atlantic Italian Alpine Troops - Part I
This is another set that is a bit hard to come by. What makes it special is that it has quite a few unique items in it. For instance, on the left you can see that it has what looks like a snowmobile. I don't really know if these were around at the time of WWII, so perhaps these guys represent post WWII figures. As you can see, it also comes with a small howitzer, but there don't seem to be any figures to operate it. And then there is the skier. This is perhaps my favorite pose in the set.

Atlantic Italian Alpine Troops - Part II
Here is a view from behind of the same three items. As you can see, there is a second man sitting on the snowmobile firing on the move. The tricky thing though is that he does not like to stay on his seat and there is nothing to keep him there, so if you move the snowmobile, you constantly need to reposition him.

Atlantic Italian Alpine Troops - Part III
These are the rest of the figures. The man on the right is the only 'traditional' pose. The other two are again, quite specific to the Alpine genre. There is the man sitting on the sled, which is a bit too relaxed, if you ask me, and then there is the man leading the pack mule. So all in all a nice set, but I feel that you need to combine them with some other figures to have a real fighting unit. Even combining them with more Atlantic Alpine Troop sets would not be good enough, as you need to have a few more of the traditional poses.

Dulcop WWI Italian Alpine Troops
Dulcop really gave us a sampler of troops here. We are looking at two Bersaglieri (second and the sixth from the left), two Arditii, a specialty of italian Army which assaulted the trenches with hand grenades and long knives (first and fifth) and two Alpini (the two in the middle). While these guys are technically WWI troops, considering that Italy did not modernize their military that much during the interwar period, I think that their uniforms and weaponry could pass as WWII equipment. A nice, dynamic set by Dulcop, even if some of the poses seem a bit off balance. The officer's heard is also a bit too small. However the head gear and the facial hair in some of the figures are quite unique. A good addition to the collection.