by: Jim Rae [ ]
MB3580 - British Infantry in Action Northern Africa WWII is a five-figure, 1/35th scale set covering British Infantry in the Early-War Desert battles. The 76 parts, which come on a single sprue (moulded in dark-sand colored styrene), are for 5 figures comprising an officer and 4 other ranks. The set comes in the typical Masterbox format in a nicely designed box. The front has the artwork and credits, the reverse a photo of the assembled figures, brief instructions and painting notes. The set is sculpted by A. Gagarin with the boxart by A.Karaschuk.
As usual, in this type of Review, I'll be looking at the various aspects of the set and try and pass some kind of opinion about areas such as moulding, detail, etc. Unlike my usual figure reviews, I haven't had a chance to build them. This is somewhat offset by the familiarity I have for the company's releases.
So, an overview of the set:
In one word, dynamic. The company's figures are undoubtedly the most animated figures currently on the market. This set has a group of British Infantry 'At the Charge' advancing on an enemy position. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it's based on a very famous photo from 1941 taken in the Western Desert. No matter what the source is, this set, like others in the 'Desert' series by Masterbox, is designed to get away from the more static perception most of us have. In my experience, what you get on the Box-Art is pretty much what you get inside the box, so, I've no reason to believe there will be substantive differences between artwork and the figures in THIS set.
On closer examination of the sprues, what is notable is a 'delicacy' of moulding in areas such as hands. This is something that Masterbox have been improving on in recent releases and is a welcome development. The heads are generally good for plastic. They don't compare to what we've become accustomed to from manufacturers such as Hornet but, in terms of styrene, they are very good.
The figures are portrayed with the usual KD (Khaki Drill) 1940 pattern BD, and KD shorts. Figures are sculpted wearing the knee-length socks with the short gaiters. In my opinion, this can be seen in contemporary images but is not a commonly seen (or tremendously likely) combination in actual combat. Helmets are Mk.IIs on the ORs, the Officer is provided with choice of Beret, Helmet or Field Cap.
The set includes ALL the usual equipment found on British infantry of WWII. The usual '37 pattern webbing set is sculpted on the figures. All the usual equipment such as webbing pouches, entrenching tool pouch, is provided separately and is VERY well-sculpted. The pouches & haversacks follow the correct contours - unlike other manufacturers who still produce solid 'blocks' of pouches etc. If I have a doubt it's with the webbing itself. It is, IMO, sculpted too tightly. It seems to dig into the BD rather than being on top of it. Understandably, this is very difficult to sculpt 'to scale' (particularly in terms of thickness) but it did not dig into the BD as much in reality.
A good selection of weapons are provided, a Bren LMG, two SMLE MK. IIIs (with separate 'sword' bayonets) and a Thompson SMG M1928 version. The latter includes a separate 50-Round drum magazine. All are good reproductions.
The set is by no means perfect, but is without a doubt the BEST set of 'Desert' Infantry available. There is room for improvement particularly regarding more definition on the webbing cross-straps, there's a need to do the SMLE Mk.IV in styrene, and some figures of the Western Desert in KDs AND Greatcoats would be very welcome!
Despite my comments on areas which could be improved in subsequent sets, this is an excellent, well-executed and necessary release. Masterbox are, once again, to be congratulated for doing a series of figure sets for the Western Desert. Simply put, there is STILL a shortage of them.