by: Russ Amott [ ]
In WWII airborne operations, the biggest obstacle faced was how to get the airborne troops to a target location quickly and quietly. This was made even worse by the fact that the airborne forces were frequently scattered over a wide area. Birmingham Small Arms corporation (BSA) came up with a simple solution-a bicycle that could be folded into a compact bundle and then quickly deployed on the ground for use. This was a full sized bicycle that had a quick wingnut assembly system, allowing the bike to be folded in half. The pedals were simple round pegs that could easily fit in the spokes of the tires when folded. The handle bars would also fold out of the way. The paratrooper would carry the bike in his hands as he dropped, and was intended to be disposable in combat, but enabled troops to cover over three times the distance that soldiers on foot could cover. While used in D-Day and Market Garden, the introduction of Jeeps reduced the need for the bicycles. Many that were abandoned or lost in combat were later recovered by locals and could be seen in use in France and the Netherlands.
The kit comes in a small, end opening box with artwork depicting two airborne soldiers with their bikes, discussing a map and pointing. While not the most original poses, the artwork does provide a nice painting guide. On the rear of the box is an assembly guide for the figures and on the box sides are pictures of the equipment and a small section showing the camouflage jacket with paint call out. All paints are for Tamiya brand.
Inside the box are three sprues in Tamiya's olive green plastic that is normally seen with Allied releases. One sprue has the two figures. The other two are identical, with the bicycles and accessories for the soldiers. A small instruction sheet is included for assembly of the bicycle.
The "A" sprue has the figures broken down in traditional form of torso, separate legs, separate arms and heads. The first figure can be posed with both hands on the bike handles, or one hand holding a map (included on the bicycle instruction sheet). The other figure can be posed pointing or again with both hands on the handlebars of his bike. Additionally there are two heads for each figure with the option of showing them wearing berets or the airborne helmet.
The first figure is molded with all straps in place but all of his kit separate. The other soldier is molded with ammo pouches in place and a large bandolier slung across his body. The water bottle, entrenching tool and a large backpack are to be added after assembly.
The bicycles come in two main parts, with the frame and wheels in one piece, the other side of the frame and the crank and chain on the other. Pedals, handle bars and a small pouch on the seat are added. If you wish to show the bike in folded mode, the main frame piece must be cut at the joints and a separate, folded frame piece with crank and chain used.
Tamiya figures generally go together very well and these were no exception. The usual seam lines found on all figures were present but can be easily removed. Detail on the figures (and gear)is a bit soft, like the sculptor stopped after roughing in the details, but is still well represented. I opted to clean up along the jacket hemline to show a more realistic depth. Collars, pockets and straps can all be highlighted as well.
Once joined, there were very minimal gaps between parts, and only in a couple of small areas. Fit is very good. I did not add the arms on the first figure as I don't know which pose I will choose, and all of his equipment must be added. I have also not decided on the heads I will use, so these were left off as well.
Assembly of the bikes was very simple, and they went together almost effortlessly (a trademark of Tamiya kits). Again, detail is soft or a little clunky, but I am sure some aftermarket offerings will be available shortly if you need better detail.
There are no decals for the kit. The rifles will need slings made for them, and you will need to source some netting for the helmets if you want to add camouflage.
This set is simple, pleasant, and the poses of the figures appear natural. The options for posing the figures is a very nice consideration for modelers. It will make a very simple vignette on its own, or add nicely to a larger diorama setting. It is listed at Tamiya USA for $18.50 but online prices will vary.