by: Jim Rae [ ]
Frequently there are requests for manufacturers to cover the lesser-known combatants in WWII. Particularly vociferous in these requests are those who model the Commonwealth nations such as Australia or New Zealand. Unfortunately, as yet, there has been little movement. Now, due to their (frequently) forgotten contribution to the Allied victory, there have also been requests for Indian Army or Gurkha troops and, once again, there has been little movementÖ. up until now. With this New release, Dragon Models have provided an 'elegant' solution - albeit, for Gurkhas & Indian Army troops who served in Europe. Those who are looking for suitable figures for the Far-East Campaigns may have to wait a little longer...
6515 - Allied Assault, Monte Cassino 1944 is a four-figure, 1/35th scale styrene kit. The figures are within Dragon Models' '39-45' Range, it's a completely new set. The title is somewhat self-explanatory until one looks at the sprues or the instructions. Additional parts are supplied to build 'alternativesí, in the form of British (as well as Polish, Czech, Canadian etc.), Indian Army Troops or Gurkhas. 6515 comes on four sprues, the larger one with parts and equipment for the figures, the remainder containing the assortment of weapons which are 3 Lee Enfield Mk. III, 3 Mark IVs, a Bren Gun, a Sten Mk. I and two of the 'Sword-Type' bayonets.
As usual, Iíll be going thru the various aspects of this set - Poses, Equipment, Weapons etc., and follow-up with some notes on the construction. At first look, the set is well-moulded, in a light-grey styrene with only a few mould-lines present which were in easy-to-remove areas, no problems or defects whatsoever.
The company has been criticized for (previously) not producing particularly animated figures, in this case, ALL of the figures are in good, sensible poses which 'communicate' movement in a nicely-restrained manner.
Being Commonwealth Infantry of this time-frame and within the European Theater, they are all wearing the Standard Model 1937/40 Battledress. This is correctly portrayed and well-designed. The only point I would make, that in the case of the tunic, there is a 'blousing' effect with a part of the tunic showing BELOW the webbing belt. This is something that is rarely seen as the webbing belt went on around the waist of the tunic and it wouldn't show much below.
Trousers are essentially correct - neither too baggy nor too tight. What does concern me is the slightly exaggerated seam running down the leg. Where THIS addition came from has me somewhat puzzled..
Boots & Gaiters:
The boots are the correct shape although in the moulding process they lack some detail definition. As to the gaiters, absolutely correct with a SINGLE strap visible.
Heads & Helmets:
Four 'European' heads and Four Turbanned Heads, for the Sikh Infantry, are included. Now as part of the 'alternative' option of the set is 'Caucasian' or Gurkha then Iíll give DML's designers the benefit of the doubt and clearly state that an additional FOUR do have Nepalese features and the rest Caucasian. Ultimately it'll come down to the painting process. The quality of the faces is excellent. However, although not on a par with the better AM manufacturers, they are still MORE than acceptable. If the other heads are good, those of the Sikhs are VERY good indeed. These have the Turban sculpted onto the heads and are very convincingly done. The helmets are the standard Mark II, competently done with no dimensional or shape problems. What would have been a very useful 'detail' with the helmets, would have been to replace four of the (eight) Mark IIs with some Mark IIIs - this would have expanded the 'range' of the set considerably.
All the 'standard-issue' items are there - separate web pouches, canteens, some nicely moulded Kukris for the Gurkas, four small haversacks and Sword-Bayonets' for the SMLE Mk. III. However that, unfortunately, is where it ends. There are, IMO, several items missing which could have been included. These are: entrenching-tool pouches, the plug-bayonets for the SMLE Mk. IV, the spare Bren-barrel pouch and the .303 Cartridge Bandolier; many of these items should be available from the spares box, or are easy enough to fabricate. I'm also sure that Sikh infantry did carry a ceremonial-type short dagger - any comments on this are welcome! Good as the set is, this is definitely an area which lacks foresight. Admittedly most modelers will find these items in the spares box, there are still too many items missing to pass uncommented. As to the quality of what IS there, it's good but NOT superlative. I don't like the canteens much, the webbing being 'rounded' rather than being 'flat'. The Small Haversack is good but the straps shouldn't be as defined as they are. Also, a lot of the time, a poncho or blanket WOULD be carried on the haversack. In this, Tamiya got this item absolutely correct...
One of the areas where DML excels, is in the sculpting and execution of hands on their figures. In this set, three separate hands are provided which are excellent. Those moulded onto the arms of the figures are also good, but separate hands DO give something a little extraÖ
The SMLE Mk. IVs, the Bren and Sten are from an earlier set. While they look reasonable enough, they are not, IMO, up to modern standards. The lack of the Plug Bayonets is ridiculous when we're provided with no less than 4 Sword-Bayonets (plus two in scabbards). The SMLE Mk. IIIs are much better and apparently much more recent sculptings. No PE set is included for the weapon slings.
The instructions, on the reverse of the kit's box, are more than sufficient for the purpose. Each part is linked to an arrowed diagram showing what goes where.
As Iíve started doing for this kind of Review, I assembled the arms, torso and legs using liquid cement and added the equipment using clear PVA for purely 'demonstrative' purposes. This will allow me to swap around and add any equipment I want later on.
The two leg halves went together with no real problems. There was a gap left which I filled with Mig Production's Acrylic paste. I prefer it for figures as it gives more control for small gap-filling and dries clear. Some cleaning-up was required with seam-lines on legs, boots and gaiters but, in general, pretty easy to deal with.
Attaching the torso to the legs again needed a bit of dry-fitting and probably due to the mould process, the bottom of the torso is a little concave, requiring it to be sanded flat. Gaps were once again filled with Acrylic paste.
The arms, due to the poses of some of the figures require a degree of adjustment. I used slower-drying cement and held them in position with Blu-Tac to allow any adjustments to be made. I also did some careful filing and sanding to open up the hands to receive the weapons.
Everything else went on as planned and indicated. Here though I did discover that some of the front pouches SHOULD have been sculpted as 'bent' - DML have done this with (for example the MP44 pouches) - why not in their Commonwealth sets?
No problems were encountered at all apart from some minor adjustments and gap-filling. Fit is overall in the 'good' category.
Although Iíll say it clearly, that this is a VERY good set, there are a number of areas which stop it getting the 'Superlative' stamp. Yes, DML produce many more Axis than Allied sets, but isn't it reasonable to expect them to upgrade their Allied weapons and equipment to Gen II standard? The German weapons/equipment (and that of the Gen II USMC figures) are absolutely sublime. Why then has a similar 'treatment' not been seen as necessary for Allied modelers?
In the introduction, I used the term 'Elegant' to describe the solution the company came to include a 'multi-ethnic' set. It really is one of the most intelligent decisions Iíve seen in a long time. Yes, there ARE limits to the practical applications of this - GS Caps were not often used in combat and all the Commonwealth nations used the 'standard' helmet. It's not a huge leap but certainly a BIG step in what many modelers have been asking for!