by: Patrick Selitrenny [ ]
It has been ages ever since we have seen decent British uniform decals available on the market, and in many cases, they were always representing mostly Armored Division patches, Paratroopers or Special Units. For those of you craving a British Infantry Division represented in the fields of Normandy, now come a new set of decals of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division from Archer Decals. It was Dragon’s set of British Normandy figures a few years ago, which had patches prominently painted on the box art (but not provided in the kit) that gave me the inspiration for this set.
The career of the 50th Infantry Division starts almost immediately after the start of World War II at the Battle of Arras in Belgium, from which it had to retreat to the shores of Dunkirk. In 1941 it was fighting in North Africa during the Battle of Gazala, and again in 1942 at El Alamein. In 1943, it helped retake Tobruk in Tunisia, and later that year, the division would have a secondary role in Operation Husky during the invasion of Sicily. Its more prominent role came during the landings in Normandy on June 6th, 1944. It landed on Gold Beach, while its companion unit, the 3rd Infantry Division (Archer sheet #FG35021) landed on Gold Beach, and was tasked (along with the Royal Marine Commandos) in linking up with U.S. troops landing at Omaha in order to form a sort of pocket behind enemy lines and cut the Germans off from resupply. The invasion was both its greatest moment of glory, and revenge for what the 50th had endured in 1940.
The next day (June 7th), the 50th participated in Operation Perch, which was the Allied plan to encircle and seize the City of Caen, in the North-Eastern part of Normandy, which was still fully occupied by the Germans. Alas due to various reasons, such as a strong German resistance and uncertainties at command level in the Allied camp, this particular initial offensive failed. If it had succeeded, the doors through North-Western Europe would have stood open for an early penetration of the Netherlands by the Allies. Later that year in September, it took part in Operation Market-Garden, the two-pronged plan of Allied invasion of the Netherlands, by Air and on Land involving the taking of the bridges at Nijmegen and Arnhem on the Rhine river, which would have opened a breach through German lines and allowed a faster penetration on German soil. Again, because of fierce German resistance and faulty Allied intelligence, the division never reached its goal and suffered heavy casualties. For the later part of World War Two, the 50th, having lost many of its men, was withdrawn back to England and only a few detachments remained to fight in the Battle of the Bulge and the final crossing of the Rhine. Despite the heavy losses suffered, the 50th distinguished itself in every battle it fought and became one of the most honored British units during the war.
Archer's owner, Woody Vondracek (with a tiny help of yours truly), has produced the first decal sheet fully dedicated to the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division. Unfortunately, it is not a totally comprehensive sheet of all units that made up this important division, mostly due to the costs, which would have risen sky high if the sheet had included multiple colors like green, blue or black patches with various shoulder titles in other colors. Still, it still represents the principal groups that participated in major campaigns, both in Africa, as well as in Northwestern Europe (especially on D-Day and in Normandy in general). There are enough variations to apply on figures produced by Dragon or Tamiya, as well as for many Resin figures out there.
The patches included are:
69th Infantry Brigade
5th Battalion (East Yorkshire Regiment)
6th Battalion (The Green Howards)
7th Battalion (The Green Howards)
151st Infantry Brigade
6th Battalion (The Durham Light Infantry)
8th Battalion (The Durham Light Infantry)
9th Battalion (The Durham Light Infantry)
231st Infantry Brigade
1st Battalion (The Hampshire Regiment)
1st Battalion (The Dorsetshire Regiment)
2nd Battalion (The Devonshire Regiment)
1st/7th Battalion, The Queen's Own (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
The sheet comes with the typical TT emblem patches (for Tyne and Tees - the rivers from which the division takes the name), along with the senior - second senior - junior Brigade stripes.
Many units were left out, and I must apologize for their omission, but Mr. Vondracek and I had to make some hard choices and decided (mostly to contain the production costs) to include the more representative ones, as well as those that were more largely spotted throughout the conflict. Should demand arise for those we omitted, there might be a chance to produce a separate sheet, which may include R.E.M.E., Royal Artillery, and other patches.
The quality of these decals is excellent and I am not exaggerating just because I had a part in studying them, they are truly well-printed. Only containing three basic colors (mostly red with white lettering on the shoulder titles and black for the divisional patches background), they have been kept as simple as possible. The color registration is sharp, and there is no color bleeding I could spot. Since these are meant for soldier figures in 1/35 scale, they are very tiny and delicate, and therefore require very delicate handling on your part. Yet these are not so difficult to apply as one may generally assume. Painting the patches by hand would be far harder, unless of course you went to a Japanese school of fine brushing or penciling.
It just takes patience and a firm hand, but not that of a wrestler…
These are dry transfers: you take the sheet, apply the decal of your choice, and then rub it down with a piece of paper and a pencil or another stiff, pointed object. And there you have it: a dry transfer without the use of water. Of course, we are talking about figures, which makes the entire operation a bit difficult because of their tiny size in 1/35th scale.
But said that, with a firm hand and a pair of good eyes (if possible also a good magnifying lens) you may obtain excellent results. Take great care, because figures can break easily. Just apply as much pressure as necessary without really forcing things. Best results are obtained by rubbing the transfers with a Q-tip/cotton swab; at least that’s what I do.
To insure a perpetual hold on the model itself, first apply some gloss varnish or sealant, then let it dry thoroughly before applying the decal. Afterwards apply two coats of flat/matte varnish to eliminate the refraction and the sheen. No need to apply at lot, just brush these coats on slightly and gently, if possible with a soft, tiny brush. There is no need of quantity here. Remember, less is more…
But for those still uncertain or fearful of the method, Archer also includes a small sheet of decal paper to apply the patches as wet decal. In that case, rub the transfers onto the decal sheet, cut the part you want to apply, let it soak slightly in lukewarm water, then apply it as you would any waterslide decal, gently onto the part you want decaled. Press out the excess water with a Q-tip/cotton swab or a soft tissue and you’re done.
With the liquid technique, once the decal is fully applied and in place, brush on some Microscale “Micro Set” setting solution in order to fully conform the decal onto the part in question. There is no need for its counterpart, “Micro Sol”, since this only applies to decals that are either old (hence brittle and might break during application), or which come on a transferring material that is too thick to handle normally.
The finishing is practically the same as above. Once completely dry, apply one coat of gloss varnish, let it dry, then two coats (or more, only if needed) of Flat varnish. Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, stay away from overdoing it. Use a new, tiny and soft brush and just apply enough varnish to cover the decal, without drowning it. The pigments of the painted figure beneath it will soften up enough to allow a thorough adhesion of the decal. If too much varnish (or worse, lacquer) is applied, the decals will soften up too much, and the result could be disastrous, causing, for instance, the paint color to bleed.
In my humble opinion although I am far from being humble myself (just kidding) I can only highly recommend these. For mainly two reasons: one being that I personally am lazy and hate to have to always paint these darned tiny things by hand, causing it to become a ghastly mess, instead of a work of art (it may still be fine if you only paint one figure, but if you have to paint a dozen or more, the matter may become unsustainable); second reason being that these already offer enough variations to cover at least 35 different figures altogether.
As I stated before, Archer’s quality in printing and definition is so well known by now, that one can trust this brand as being one of the true leaders in the decaling field these days.
The sheet of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division is unique, also because it is the only one, together with Archer’s previous release, the 3rd Infantry Division, that actually covers British infantry units in WWII, together with their Armored Divisional patches and the British Airborne forces.
I hope though, that those of you, passionate enough for the subject, may find something useful in this particular new decal sheet. My plan is to collaborate with Mr. Vondracek in the near future on the creation of further two decal sheets:
The 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division
The 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, which is more difficult overall
This latter will probably be a two-sheet issue, since it involves Tartan patches worn on the soldiers’ sleeves.
Click here for additional images for this review.