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In-Box Review
135
Commonwealth Infantry, Italy
1/35 Commonwealth Infantry, Italy 1943 (6 Figures Set)
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by: Pat McGrath [ EXER ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction
A set like this one has been eagerly sought after by modelers for many years since Commonwealth figure kits in plastic are still thin on the ground. The set depicts 6 marching soldiers in fighting order; an NCO with a Thompson SMG, a Bren gunner, and 4 riflemen. All six figures are dressed in the Khaki Drill tropical uniform and 4 wear KD shorts together with long woolen socks and leather ankle boots with cloth puttees while the remaining two wear long KD trousers.

There were some moans and groans about how this set didnít show the diversity of uniforms worn by Commonwealth troops in the Italian campaign but my attitude was that this kit would be very welcome and would give us something to build on. Now that Iíve opened the box and scrutinized the contents do I still feel the same way? Read on.

The Kit
Okay first the good news, although the box art shows only 6 figures, the contents of the kit provide parts enough for 8. We get two identical A sprues, each containing parts enough for 4 figures. We get a separate sprue containing two sets of legs wearing long KD trousers. By mixing and matching these and parts from the second A sprue we can make up the two additional figures. This leaves enough parts to make two additional figures.

The instructions come on a separate full color sheet with Illustrations by Ron Volstad showing which parts to use to make up the six figures. Paint references for Gunze Sangyo and Mr. Color are included. The instructions show weapon slings although none are included in the kit.

There is enough equipment for the two additional figs also. On the A sprue together with figure parts we get the following equipment:

4 water bottles
8 universal pouches
4 entrenching tools
4 "Pig StickerĒ bayonets
1 sword bayonet
1 sword bayonet scabbard
4 rolled groundsheets
A pair of binoculars
4 helmets with nets
1 tool wallet for a Bren gun,
1 officer's map case
2 pistol holsters
1 open top pistol holster
1 small pouch (either a pistol ammo pouch or a compass pouch)
16 individual pockets to be made up into rifle ammo bandoliers
4 mess tins in water bottle sleeves


So enough equipment there for 8 figures which covers the two additional figs also.

I have to admit that I had no idea what part 10, the mess tin in a water bottle sleeve, was. So I asked myself who would know and then I emailed Ron Volstad. He told me it was common practice for Canadian troops to carry their mess tins in water bottle sleeves on their left hip (shown on the box art) as part of their fighting order as they were still able to carry some food even when leaving their small packs behind. I donít know if other Commonwealth troops did this but it is possible. Speaking of small packs it would have been nice if some were included, there were some nice ones in the 8th Army set.

The breakdown of parts is along Dragonís usual lines with each figure made up of head, upper torso, separate legs and separate arms. Anatomically the figures are very good and the head for fig 4 (D1) is particlar good as we get almost the full head as his helmet is shown pushed back.. The sprue attachment points on the arms and legs are very big and will need careful cleanup. On one of my figure sprues the upper torso pieces all had crazing lines, something I havenít seen on Dragon figures in a while. Three of the figures are shown wearing slung ammo bandoliers and the straps for these are molded on the figures and will have to be removed if the bandoliers are not used.

All the figures and equipment have sharp details, but the bad news is that these details are sometimes wrong. One mistake in the uniforms that is repeated from the 8th Army set is that the figures are all wearing their puttees backwards. The V shape should be pointing towards the back and not the front. An even bigger mistake is that the webbing straps are shown with buckles on the rear and attaching to the inside of the rear of the web belt. In reality the belt has two buckles stitched to the outside centre rear of the belt.

I know this because I was issued a filthy set of 1937 pattern webbing (as worn by Commonwealth troops in WW2) to clean up and wear as a recruit in the Irish Army in the 80s. Now maybe Dragonís sculptors didnít have that privilege and indeed Ron Volstadís excellent Box art illustration shows only the front of the figures, but they could have asked him and there is such a thing as research. It took me about thirty seconds to find an example of '37 pattern webbing on the Internet and even less to find a reference book for it on Amazon.

To me this lack of research on Dragonís part is inexcusable and especially so since they got this detail right in the 8th army set. If they can, and do, research the uniforms and equipment of particular German units at precise times during the war surely they could get the detail right on a web belt that was issued to nearly every Commonwealth soldier during WW2? Even the ancient Tamiya Desert Rats set has this detail correct.

Other shortcomings on the equipment are held over from the 8th Army set. The holsters, not shown as being worn by any of the figures in the instructions, are the same strange shape of older leather holsters. The Helmets are very deep and have the same too prominent rivet on the top showing through the net.

Weapons
We get two identical sprues from the 6605 British Commonwealth Troops (NW Europe 1944) set with a Bren, two MkIV SMLEs, and a Sten. We also get a sprue from one of the US Gen 2 sets containing a Thompson SMG and an M1 carbine.

Conclusion
Okay, by now youíll have gathered that Iím disappointed with this set. It does give modelers of Commonwealth troops a lot to work with but in comparison to recent German and American Gen 2 sets it leaves a lot to be desired. Iíve reread my ďRantĒ about the webbing and I donít think Iím making too big a deal of it - all the info Dragon needed to make this set perfect is readily available on the net and itís a mystery to me why they didnít avail of it.

SUMMARY
Highs: Choice of subject, two bonus figures.
Lows: Lack of research, basic details wrong. Crazing lines on some torso parts
Verdict: A missed opportunity by Dragon.
Percentage Rating
85%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6380
  Suggested Retail: $11.48 ; Ä8.06
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Sep 08, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.05%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.23%

About Pat McGrath (exer)
FROM: DUBLIN, IRELAND

I served three years in the Irish Army. Then I studied fine art for five years. Acted professionally since leaving college (Look me up on IMDB- Pat McGrathIII) Interested in Allied Armour 1942-45 and German SPGs. Other interests are figures and Sci Fi models

Copyright ©2017 text by Pat McGrath [ EXER ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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Comments

I'm doing this from memory Chas but I think when unwrapped the puttees were about 45 inches long. They were wrapped tight and some troops prefferred them especially in the far east as they were better protection against leeches. I think it is mentioned in the Osprey book of Canadians in WW2 that the Canadians used them in preference to the web anklets in winter as they stopped mud slopping into your boots. I'm sure Alan McNeilly is more familiar with them as the the British Army still wore them in the 80s.
SEP 09, 2008 - 12:52 PM
Hi Guys, Anklets is the proper name for what is commonly referred to as gaitors. They came in with the 37 pattern webbing and were meant to help protect your ankles. Worn over the outside of the ammo boot with the trousers tucked in. A totally useles piece of kit, They moved around, bugs, water and just about everything else could easily get in and when your trousers came out of the top they rubbed against you shin bone just to annoy you I don't know the orign of Putties, but I guess India. They were worn wrapped up to below the knee from the Boar War onwards. Standard issue in WW1 as David's pics shows. During WW2 the style of wearing them changed. They were worn by the SAS, Commandos and probably those infantry men who could get hold of them and get away with wearing them. Putties had a distinct advantage, they formed a degree of seal between the boot and the trouser bottom, pretty good actually if you put them on correctly. In emergency they could be used as bandages, slings, rope etc. They also provided much better support and protection for the ankle. The maner of wearing them was to wrap the puttie around the ankle, by taking the square end and placing it on the inside of the ankle. The puttie was then wrappred around the ankle, over the top of the boot and the trouser bottom, by taking it away from the leg and not around behind it as the DML figs have. The tie was then wrapped around the puttie a couple of times, looped over itself at the V and tucked into the putttie. The V would therefore be facing towards the rear of the ankle. As with all things military it sat just over the ankle bone On the socks, these were in fact hose (hosiery), socks without feet if you like. We had them in HK in 72. The open bottom end was worn over the top of the boot and secured by a puttie. The top was folded over and secured above the ball of the leg by a regimental tie that hung down an inch or so on the outside of the 'sock' . They were made of thick wool, and again not that comfortable to wear. As an ex infantry man I had a vested interest in all things connected with ones feet Putties were phased out in the 80s, when we finally got half decent boots mainly as a result of the experience in N Ireland and the Falklands war. BTW did you know the old DMS boots were made from cardboard!!!!! Failing to look after you feet was, and probably still is, a serious military offence, which given they are you main mode of transport is understandable I supppose. Please refer all other 'foot questions' to the author Al
SEP 09, 2008 - 03:45 PM
I knew you'd know Alan.
SEP 09, 2008 - 04:05 PM
Hi Pat, You're welcome. Al
SEP 09, 2008 - 04:11 PM
Had a look at Brayley and Ingram's book on KD last night and they refer to them as short puttees (definitely another British Army loan word from India BTW). It's also obvious from photos like this one that anklets, web and short puttees were both worn within the same unit. David
SEP 10, 2008 - 04:01 AM
Hi David, Thinking about kit issue, anyone stationed in the Med would have had putties issued as part of their tropical/desert gear and the anklets would have formed part of the UK kit they would have brought with them so both would be perfectly possible. Al
SEP 14, 2008 - 10:07 AM
Looks like a very fair appraisal of the set Pat. I can't see why the manufacturers always seem to put Commonwealth desert troops in the short putees either. "Anklets web" were commonly worn in the desert (Australian troops had anklets which press studded rather than buckled). It's also unusual to these troops without the small pack, which was part of "skeleton order" as I recall, & the braces therefore attach to the top of the ammo pouches not the belt.. I also suspect that the old No3 SMLE was more common in units in Italy in 1943, since most had served in North Africa. The old long bayonet could not be fixed to a No 4, so the one supplied in the kit would be useless. Shame a small extra sprue couldn't have been included with some "tribal" headgear in, e.g. Tamoshanters, Guards Service Caps, Aussie slouch hats or even cap comforters or Caps GS.
SEP 14, 2008 - 11:04 AM
While these are marketed as Commonwealth troops Ron Volstad told me his drawing and research was based on Canadian troops in Italy. and Canadians are part of the Commonwealth so these figures (At least as Ron Drew them, not as Dragon made them) correctly depict Commonwealth troops in Italy in 1943. While as you say the old No3 SMLE was more common in units in Italy in 1943 there is at least one photo of the Mk 4 in use in Tunisia so I suspect it was present in small numbers right from the start of the Italian campaign and I have seen photos of both the Mk 3 and Mk 4 in use in the same unit. I also remember reading that some soldiers retained the long bayonet as it was far more useful for a variety of jobs than the pigsticker bayonet. I'm glad it's in the kit as with the one in the 8th army set I now have two I can live with the puttees instead of the anklets, web. I'll get over them being backwards. I don't really mind about the MK4 rifles. The small packs I can source elsewhere. The alternative heads you mention would be a nice idea but I can live without them too. What I suppose annoyed me about the kit is that having an artist of the calibre of Ron Volstad on board supplying them with such excellent artwork and back up reference materials Dragon failed to make use of them.
SEP 14, 2008 - 07:44 PM
Hi Guys, What annoys me is that we have waited 3 years since the Great Figure Debate of 86 when a mass of positive ideas and suggestions were put forward and what we get is a a nice but badly researched set. It's not rocker science to look at a 37 pattern belt and see the buckles on the back nor look at putties and see the V facing backwards. The SMLE rifle was pointed out in the last set of the 8th Army. A look at a couple of pics of troops in italy would have shown the helmets covered with a net or hessian. All these errors are fixable, but they detract from the figures and that's a real pity as these could have been tops. Al
SEP 15, 2008 - 11:01 AM
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