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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Introducing the Indian Infantry

Latest Edit: Added Expeditionary Force Set
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India, a British colony during WWII contributed a substantial amount of manpower to the Allied cause. Between 2 and 2.5 million men volunteered to serve. They fought in places like North Africa, Burma, and up the Italian boot. I actually started looking into Indian troops after I read a book on Monte Cassino, where they also fought. A less known part of history is that Indian troops also fought on the Axis side. Both Japan and Germany formed several divisions mainly from prisoners of war whose motivation was to seek independence from the British. The guys in these pictures represent the men who fought on the Allied side. Indian troops are sometimes also referred as Sikh Infantry because of many of the men's religion. However, not all of them were Sikhs, many were Muslim. Apparently, the way to tell them apart is by the head dress. The Muslim head dress has two parts. The Khulla is a conical cover for the head, which is then wrapped many times with a Pagri. The Sikh troops on the other hand wear a turban that does not have the conical Khulla in the middle.

Atlantic Indian Brigade - Part 1
These are really the only WWII Indian troops that I have come across. They are nicely done, however their uniform seems better suited for the jungles of Burma or the North African desert, than for the cold and damp mountainous terrain of Italy at the time of the Monte Cassino campaign which is what I originally wanted them for. But I guess they will have to do. Note that these figures have been manufactured in several different shades of brown. But don't worry, each set only includes figures in one color. The machine gun in this set is a nice touch that provides the unit with a good dose of fire power.

Atlantic Indian Brigade - Part 2
The most interesting part about these figures is that three of them offer the possibility of inserting swords and large knives into their hands. Depending on what weapon you use and whether it points forward or backwards, the figure can be stabbing with a knife or striking a blow with his sword. You can also give them other types of accessories (if you have spare weapons from other manufacturers), for instance, the guy in the middle can also be carrying a bazooka across his back and holding the handle in his hand.

Charbens Punjabs - Part I
These guys are supposed to be from around the turn of last century (1900), but given the scarcity of manufacturers tackling these figures I have decided to recruit them into this unit. The main thing is that they are wearing a similar head dress -albeit Sikh- and the rifles and swords don't look that different from what the Atlantic guys are carrying.

Charbens Punjabs - Part II
Here is the original, vintage officer. Still in decent shape, with most of the original colors on him. And he is a bit larger than the clones pictured above, which is no surprise, as there's often shrinkage when the figures are cloned. 

Cherilea 60mm Sikh Infantry
Here are a few other guys that I recently found. Being 60mm, they are indeed on the larger side, but I think they will still blend in once they are painted. The poses are well sculpted and dynamic, plus they provide the only prone guy that I have come across. Too bad I could not get a hold of the whole set (usually 6 from Cherilea).

Cherilea 60mm Sikh Infantry - Part II
Here is another guy from the same set. I got it after the initial post. Unfortunately the tip of the gun is missing, but overall it is a nice pose. Will need to give it a good scrub before painting it.

Cherilea 60mm Sikh Infantry - Part III
Here is another guy from the set. I've had to get the missing figures individually.

Cherilea 54mm Sikh Infantry?
This guy came with the other 3 above, but I suspect he is from a different set as he is a bit smaller, plus the shape of the base is slightly different, not to mention the slightly different material. I have to say however that I don't know for sure if Cherilea also released a set in 54 mm, so maybe they are from an entirely different manufacturer. If you know, let me know!

Crescent Sikh Infantry - Part I
These are some guys that I have been trying to get for a while. They are 54mm figures. I believe the set contained 6 of them, but I have only been able to find 3. They are also pre-WWII figures, but as you can see, they should blend in.

Crescent Sikh Infantry - Part II
One more from the set. I actually had to get a batch of 20+ mixed figures just to get this one extra pose. I find the figure a bit puzzling. On the one hand he appears to be leading a charge, but in that case, you would expect his expression to be more lively. Perhaps he jut got hit? But then he would be losing his balance, wouldn't he?

Crescent Sikh Infantry - Part III
And one more, with a good deal of original paint left on him.


Crescent Sikh Infantry - Part IV
This is the last one. An action pose, rallying his comrades to move forward. This guy's paint has been touched up by the previous owner, which actually makes his beard look pretty good.

Armies in Plastic WWI Indian Army - Part I
I had been looking for Indian troops for a Monte Cassino scenario and was pleased to run into these guys which were recently released. The poses are nicer than some of the previous AIP figures. Less bulky and with some good movement in them. The level of detail is good and the turbans and beards make them unequivocally Indian. The uniforms and weaponry are close enough to make them pass for WWII figures. 

Armies in Plastic WWI Indian Army - Part II
The first picture shows some of the more active poses. This other five guys are in a more static or defensive stance. Both are needed to depict a good battle scene. All in all, a nice and useful set from AIP. Will paint up well next to the Atlantic, Cherilea, Charbens and Crescent guys. 

Expeditionary Force Indian Assault Section - Pacific War
This is a very welcome set, as there haven't been any recent WW2 Indian Army sets. Considering that they are assembled using the same bodies as the Expeditionary Force British Infantry figures, I had some concerns about the ability to make them look like their own set just by giving them a different head, but once they are assembled, they look just fine. I only have two bits of criticism. The first one is that you only get two different types of heads, and they are very similar to each other. The only difference is that one of them has the mouth slightly open. The end result is that all your men look like clones of each other. The second observation is that the body build of these guys is a bit robust and Indian men tend to be slimmer. But I am totally happy with this trade off. Much better to have these strong Indian guys than none at all. Lastly, you do have to get a bit creative to pose them in ways that are slightly different from the other Expeditionary Force Commonwealth sets, although that's probably not a big deal anyhow unless you plan to deploy them on a scene side by side. 

Click here to see a description of the Gurkhas, who fought next to the Indian troops at Monte Cassino.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Expeditionary Force - Toy Soldiers

Latest edit: British, Indian, and Australian Pacific War Sets
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Expeditionary Force is a firm based out of Singapore. They seem to have been making figures through the 2010's. They manufacture figures in a wide range of historic periods, from ancients like Greeks and Persians, to American Civil War and most recently World War II, GIs and Germans. They figures are very well detailed, and their manufacturing method involves making bodies and arms separately, so that you can attach different arms to the same body and create a very different figure. They also manufacture the head gear separately, so for instance, the WWII GIs can be given regular GI helmets, or they can also wear Adrian helmets so that you can make Free French out of them. Similarly, the Germans can wear steel helmets or soft caps. All this does require quite a bit of gluing, but it also allows you to create variations of the figures if you don't want the poses exactly as they present them in their pictures. Their figures are very well detailed and the poses show a nice degree of action. They are meant to be 54mm, but at least the first sets of WW figures, were more along the lines of 60 mm. I know that some folks, like my good friend the Plastic General, have found this problematic. In my case, I find the number of poses released to be sufficient that I don't have to mix them with other figures if I don't want to. For instance, the recent WWII GIs, come in 5 sets, with most poses being unique. Their more recent figures are smaller. The late war Germans are somewhere between 54mm and 60mm and the Japanese fit right in with big 1/32 scale. OK, so let's take a look at them.

Expeditionary Force Free French - Assault Section - Part I
I intentionally placed similar poses next to each other for ease of comparison. Subtle differences in the positioning of the legs and arms, and the weapons they carry. Note how the first and fourth men from the left, are based off the same body, and the arms make all the difference. The helmets also make a big difference from how they look as GIs, particularly the officer who is wearing a kepi in this case. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Assault Section - Part II
Three out of the four bodies are repeats, just with different arms. The new body is the one holding the bar, and smoking a cigar. Again, the arms make a substantial difference. Overall, they have managed to create a good range of figures using this interchangeable system of bodies and arms, without sacrificing much in terms of movement or creating awkward poses. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - HQ Company - Part I
This set has the most diverse poses. They call it the HQ Company, but it also has a few heavy weapons. Note how the officer is holding a set of binoculars. You will see that this is a theme that repeats itself quite a bit. Perhaps a bit too much. The bazooka team turned out pretty good. The sniper seems a little too exposed in my opinion. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - HQ Company - Part II
Out of these guys, I really like the flame thrower and the radio man. The rest are good role players to fill the ranks. The bar man is a repeat of the earlier set. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Defense Section - Part I
This set has a few more kneeling guys with the same base body. I also put them next to each other for ease of comparison. The arms are some of the ones that we have already seen on the standing figures. The officer is similar to one of the earlier ones, but they have given him a pistol this time. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Defense Section - Part II
And we got a third bar man in this set. I could have used a few more sub MGs and fewer men walking with the rifle across their chest. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - MG Section - Part I
A nice set of figures. The arms of the machine gun team attach in such a way that you can only put them in one position, which helps to make everything line up well. Other poses allow you to rotate the arms as much as you want. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - MG Section - Part II
These are very similar to the previous ones, except for the officer and the rifleman.
The man standing with the rifle across his chest was supposed to be kneeling. The standing man was supposed to be another officer, but I swapped them so I could have a kneeling officer, as seen in the next picture. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - MG Section - Part III
The only thing I don't like about the kneeling officer is that he seems to be pointing his binoculars downwards. So I guess I need to put him on high ground to make it look adequate.

Expeditionary Force Free French - Mortar Section - Part I
These three mortar teams are almost all the same. the only thing that varies is the officer. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Mortar Section - Part II
This one has a kepi and is holding a sub MG.

Expeditionary Force Free French - Mortar Section - Part III
This one is similar to the first one, but I raised the left arm to give it some variety.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Assault Section - Part I
This assault section contains a good number of automatic weapons. Particularly well suited for the task is the man firing the Sturmgewehr 44. It's also an interesting touch to have a man firing an MG 42 off the hip. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Assault Section - Part II
The rest of the section is armed with rifles with fixed bayonets in case the assault runs into close quarter combat. The bayonets are a bit tricky to glue as there's not much contact surface to work with, but with a strong glue, they stay in place just fine. There's an extra bayonet for the man firing, but I chose to leave that one off. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Defense Section - Part I
As you might agree, the most interesting pose in this section is the standing machine gunner, particularly because of the tripod. Note also that instead of having the ammo fed by a belt, it has a drum attached to it. A really nice pose. The officer is a variation of the officer in the assault section, with different arms. The man on the left with the assault rifle is also nicely done. The ammo carrier is OK. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Defense Section - Part II
As you would expect with a defense section, there are also some guys crouching. Based off the same base body, they have managed to create four poses. The man on the left is actually a sniper. the man on the right has a grenade launcher attached to its rifle. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - HQ Section - Part I
The HQ section has a few additional heavy weapons. The panzerschreck team is another well done couple poses. There's also a phone operator, which is based on the same body as the man with the panzerschreck. The man with the assault rifle is a repeat of the one in the defense section.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - HQ Section - Part II
The rest of the section gives us another standing machine gunner (yes!), a panzerpfaust, another sniper, another ammo carrier, and yet another officer, with the same arms as the one from the defense section, which I've posed differently to create some variety.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - MG Section - Part I
This section features another superb couple poses operating the machine gun, and the MG itself. You get two of these in the set. You also get two of the crouching poses on the left. Rounding up the set are three men leading the teams. One is the officer shown here. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - MG Section - Part II
Then there are also two other officers (NCOs?) wearing helmets and also holding binoculars. 
I posed one with the binoculars at eye level. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - MG Section - Part III
The other one Iposed with lowered arms. He could be tapping the shoulder of one of the machine gunners or simply signaling to cease fire. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Mortar Section - Part I
The mortar section is also very well done. One thing to point out about the mortar teams as well as the machine gunners is that their arms are manufactured very precisely so that they can only be attached in a specific position, which is very helpful so that they line up just the right way, as the left and right arms need to meet in just the right place. Many of the other guys allow you to rotate the arms and pose them at any angle that you wish.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Mortar Section - Part II
This set also comes with three different officers/NCOs and just as I did with the MG section, I've posed them slightly differently yo create some variety,

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Mortar Section - Part III
A frontal view of the mortar, as well as the last officer with binoculars at eye level. 

Expeditionary Force Late War German Infantry - Part I
These guys are smaller than the first set of Germans, but they are still larger than 'big 1/32' scale. 
Each set has 9 figures, and I purchased 2 sets so that I could assemble a greater variety of poses by combining different arms/weapons, heads, and bodies. In this picture I meant to display the figures I assembled with the base body that's stepping forward with the left foot. Only afterwards did I notice that there two base bodies in this picture. The differences are very subtle, mostly in the tunic, and one has a grenade tucked in the belt. I would have preferred to see more noticeable differences in the placement of the feet. Setting that aside, as you can see, I was able to make quite a few poses with them. Sometimes just rotating the head a bit give the figure a different attitude. 

Expeditionary Force Late War German Infantry - Part II
These are the poses I was able to assemble with the base body that is stepping forward with the right foot. Again, thanks to the variety in weapons and heads, you can get a good range of fighting poses from a grenade thrower, to a panzerfauster (a late war weapon), a charging man, a firing man, etc. BTW, another sign that these are late war Germans is the absence of jackboots, and also the prevalence of cammo tunics and helmet covers.  

Expeditionary Force Late War German Infantry - Part III
These last batch is also stepping forward with the left foot. The two on the right side of the picture are using the same base body as as the first batch. The 4 on the left are using the last type of base body, which has the back foot pointing forward instead of sideways. Again, a more pronounced difference in the base body would have been preferred. The set came without one of the heads, so for now the guy on the far left is headless. Expeditionary Force will be shipping it to me with my next order. All in all, I like the set's range of arms/weapons and heads, but the base bodies could have been a bit more interesting and diverse. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part I
A nice set from Expeditionary Force in what nowadays is being referred to as Big 1/32 scale. Meaning, more compatible with TSSD than Airfix. As is EF style, their figures are produced as a set of bodies to which you can attach different heads and arms/weapons. Each set comes with 9 figures and 6 base body types. In this post, I have created 18 different figures from 2 sets, but you can certainly create more/different poses. The level of detail is very nice, and the quality of the plastic is also good. Robust so that you don't have a lot of bent tips, but not hard. And it is also easy to glue. In this first picture I have 3 different bodies. Unfortunately, some of the bodies have very similar stances, you have to watch the feet very carefully to tell them apart, which makes me wish they had made them more different so that we could see the variety more easily.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part II
The next body type is a man advancing with his right foot forward. Note that by giving them different weapons they already look quite different. On top of that you can attach a head with or without the flaps hanging on the back of the helmet, and you can also tilt them slightly to give the body language a different expression.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part III
This next base body is stepping forward with the left foot, and leaning forward slightly more than the men in the next picture. And not seen here, there's also some differences in the pouches attached to the back of the belt. One thing to note about the figure with the flag is that the flag does not come attached to the rifle. Therefore, you need to attach the flag to a man who is holding the rifle horizontally. I almost glued it to a man who was carrying the rifle across his chest, but then realized that gravity would make the flag hang differently. Same thing with the tassel on the officer's sword from the first picture. You need to watch how it hangs, or else be ready to cut it off and reattach it at the right angle. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part IV
Another base body stepping forward with the left foot, but these guys also have the back foot pointed forward, more than the men in the previous picture. So as you can see, some of these base bodies are pretty hard to tell apart. It would have been better to make one less base body stepping forward with the left foot, and add a crouching or kneeling pose. But even with so many similar base bodies, the variety of arms and weapons, makes it possible to avoid having two figures turn out exactly the same. You just have to plan things out well before you start gluing them so that you don't end up making a clone by mistake. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Machine Gun section - Part I
This MG set can be purchased with one or two MGs. You still get 9 figures, which means that if you only ask for 1 MG, then you will get 7 additional infantry men. Since I already had 2 sets of regular infantry, I opted for the two MGs. What's interesting in this set, aside from the obvious nice addition of the MG teams, is that the officer comes with the option of looking through binoculars. You also get a new head type, wearing a bandana around the head with the rising sun design on it, like the one that the kamikaze pilots used to wear. I gave it to one of the MG men who is likely making a final stand at his position. And you also get a couple of ammo boxes to round up the scene. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Machine Gun section - Part II
What was a pleasant surprise with this set is that it also comes with a couple of extra options for the arms/weapons. Apparently these had been intended for the original set, but ended up being a bit late and got released with this set instead. So with this set you can look forward to being able to assemble a grenade thrower, and also a man firing a submachine gun. As you can see I opted to 'sacrifice' the second MG ammo handler and instead armed him with the submachine gun, which turned out nicely. Lastly, note that in this set, we also got a new body type: the kneeling guy on the background. I chose to arm him with a rifle in the aiming position. All in all a nice add on to the original set.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Mortar Team
This set forces you to make some interesting choices. You have the option of assembling 3 mortar teams. 2 of the figures -the kneeling ammo handler, and the standing ammo handler- could be assembled in the same position, but that would make the set a bit dull. In order to introduce some variety I assembled one set the intended way. For the second team, I gave the standing ammo handler, the arms of the kneeling ammo handler, which requires him to stand on the opposite side of the mortar, and I also turned the kneeling handler into a sub machine gunner. For the third team, I gave the kneeling handler the arms of the standing handler, and also turned the standing ammo handler into a grenade thrower. On top of that you get a commander, and two other standing figures that you can give a variety of weapons, from the ones included in the set, or from any extras that you might have from the previous sets. You also get a few options of headgear in the set which provide some additional variety. This set also came with a wall section, but I used it for the picture below.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Jungle Defense Set
What makes this a jungle set is the helmets and cammo worn by the sniper figure, all covered in leaves. I am pretty sure the sniper is going to look really cool once it is painted. The highlight of this set is the machine gun team -note that there's also an ammo handler/loader. The MG team can be nicely emplaced behind the wall, which BTW is made of dirt on the outside, and lined with wooden planks on the inside. There is also a light mortar in the set, which offer a good contrast with the heavier mortars in the previous set. The rest of the figures are average poses. You will need to get a bit creative to find ways of making them look sufficiently different, given the similarity in the base bodies -I wasn't too thrilled that all of them are kneeling, but I guess that's why they are a 'defense' set. Once they are mixed together with the figures from the previous sets, this will all be less noticeable. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Naval Infantry
This is such a timely set. Just as Plastic Platoon released its set of Japanese Naval Infantry, we now have 9 additional poses to assemble a full squad, or an understrength platoon. The two poses that stand out from this set are the flag bearer/bugle player and the flamethrower. Very nicely done. The other figures are pretty standard charging/firing poses, not unlike the ones that were released as part of the Japanese infantry sets. What makes these uniforms stand out is that all have the naval infantry insignia prominently displayed on their shoulders and on the front of their helmets. A nice detail that will stand out well if you paint the figures. One thing I do have to say is that when placed next tot he Plastic Platoon guys, these marines do feel a bit bulkier -or the other guys seem a bit slimmer- which one is it? Anyhow, now need to plan a landing operation for these guys!

Expeditionary Force British Assault Section - Pacific War
This is the first of what will be 5 sets of British Infantry for the Pacific War. They are mostly wearing MKIII helmets, aka 'turtle helmets' -although one of them is also wearing a beret- and are equipped with a variety of weapons, including their beloved Bren gun, a Sten gun and a couple of Thompson submachineguns. All the figures also come with a standard backpack. Being an assault section, they are all on the move or firing, and as an acknowledgement to the tropical weather, they have all rolled up their sleeves. In fact I am a bit surprised that none of them are wearing short pants, but maybe it was better this way to fend of the mosquitos. 

Expeditionary Force British Defense Section - Pacific War
These guys represent a defense section, and therefore, their poses are better suited for a static position, with a nice mix of kneeling and standing men. You even get a grenade thrower. They are equipped with MkII 'Brodie' Helmets with netting added to them, which smooths their shape a bit. As with the previous set, you also get a man with a beret, and another one with an officer cap. The standout figure of the lot is the kneeling Bren gunner firing behind the tree stump. One thing to be aware of with this set is that they all come with backpacks as well, except for the officer. This means however that you want to make sure that you glue the officer's head on the body without the hole in the back. Just in case you were contemplating gluing the officer's head on a different pose. I suppose you could always fill the hole in the back with putty if you really wanted to mix and match the heads and bodies. 

Expeditionary Force Australian Assault Section - Pacific War
It's nice to see a new set of Australian figures being released. It's been decades since we've had a new set of Australian troops. At first I was a bit skeptical about the extent that different headgear could make them feel really like their own set, and I must say that they do pass the test. In addition to the hats, the set also comes with a couple of machete knives and an ammo bandolier for one of the shooting figures that also make them look more authentic. And I am sure that once they are painted, it will be even better. In terms of the poses, you do have to try to make them a bit different by gluing the arms at slightly different angles, and making the heads face different directions. All in all, very exciting to see a new set of ANZAC troops arrive on the jungle scene!

Expeditionary Force Indian Assault Section - Pacific War
This is another very welcome set, as there haven't been any recent WW2 Indian Army sets. I had similar concerns about the ability to make them look like their own set just by giving them a different head, but once they are assembled, they look just fine. I only have two bits of criticism. The first one is that you only get two different types of heads, and they are very similar to each other. The only difference is that one of them has the mouth slightly open. The end result is that all your men look like clones of each other. The second observation is that the body build of these guys is a bit robust and Indian men tend to be slimmer. But I am totally happy with this trade off. Much better to have these strong Indian guys than none at all. As with the Australians, you have to get a bit creative to pose them in ways that are slightly different from the Commonwealth sets, although that's probably not a big deal anyhow unless you plan to deploy them on a scene side by side.