by: Rob Harvey [ ]
L Detachment, Special Air Service, was formed in 1941, largely around a cadre of personnel from the disbanded Lay force. Originally conceived as a parachute detachment to raid behind enemy lines, this soon proved unfeasible and the unit relied upon, and cooperated, with the existing Long Range Desert Group to conduct raiding and sabotage operations against Axis airfields, communications outposts and logistics centres in the Western Desert.
Effectively relying on the LRDG to taxi them to their objectives, the SAS went on to conduct a number of large-scale raids in September 1942 that lead to their reorganization into the 1st Special Air Service Regiment, with L Detachment now composed of two squadrons (A&B). During their time in the Western Desert, the SAS made extensive use of modified gun Jeeps and adopted a distinctive style of dress suitable for the extreme desert environment.
One of Dragon Models latest figure releases sees them make a rare departure from the standard 4 figure boxing, offering a set of vehicle crew figures for their previous SAS Jeep releases. Over seven sprues, the set contains around ninety parts to make seven crew figures; 6 vehicle Jeep crew and a standing David Stirling figure. A black and white instruction sheet is also provided but unfortunately no painting guide, one having to rely on the box artwork, albeit superbly executed by Ron Volstad.
Each figure is constructed as one might imagine with separate torsos, arms, left and right legs, head and headdress. No accessories of any kind are provided which is a little disappointing, including any personal equipment such as the Fairbaine Sykes Commando dagger worn by some SAS members or other side arms.
Jeep 1ís crew are those based on the famous set of photographs and depict Lt. Edward McDonald as Jeep driver commander and Corporal Bill Kennedy as Navigator. These two were previously included in the 4x4 Commanders Car release, so thereís a bit of double up here.
Both figures are depicted wearing Tropical Khaki Drill long sleeve shirt and shorts, neck scarf, Khaki wool puttees and ammo boots. Headdress consists of the Arab cloth Ghutrah and black-corded Ogal band. McDonaldsí shirt should have the SAS Para wing insignia, Distinguished Conduct Medal and General Service Medal. The torso and legs on both figures are identical parts, whilst two optional heads are provided for each along with specific arms for McDonald wearing gauntlets.
The crew figures for the other two Jeeps are made up of 4 sprues, 2 each identical. These figures are modified and differentiated from one another by using different arms, legs and heads. Therefore leaving quite a few spare parts as Dragon Models provide duplicates of these items.
These four figures are wearing a mixture of Battle Dress trousers, favoured in colder months, double-breasted officers flannel wool shirt, KD officers trousers and leather Jerkin. All of them wear wool puttees, ammo boots, as well as Keffiyah Arab headdress.
According to the instruction sheet only one of the figures has his hands on the Jeep steering wheel, whilst the other three have arms folded or leaning on legs. This differs somewhat from the box art that showing both drivers holding onto the steering wheel.
Finally we have a single standing figure of David Stirling, the first such that I am aware of in 1/35th scale. He is depicted wearing KD officerís trousers, Khaki desert boots with rubber crepe sole and Naval Duffle Coat No.18. Unfortunately the duffle coat is too short, coming down to roughly the mid-thigh, whereas in reality is extended down to slightly above the knees, it could also do with being a little bulkier. On his head he wears an Officers Service Dress Cap with SAS insignia. Again the pose differs slightly from the box art, with his right hand flat, as if leaning on something and the right hand straight down his side.
The actual quality of the moulding isnít too bad, but is a little more reminiscent of earlier Dragon Models figure releases in terms of finesse, especially on the leather jerkins that have rather poorly defined detailing. There are very prominent mould lines on all of the parts, which in some places compromise the detailing, as well as the usual cooling heat lines over some of the bigger pieces such as torsos. All of these imperfections will need careful removal with a sharp scalpel and some find sanding. The sprue attachment points are quite heavy in places and parts should be removed with care, especially the headdress items.
The heads are a little poor, with very badly defined ears and prominent mould lines. The moulding is quite rough, which I suspect is meant to depict facial hair but doesnít really work. Frankly these are best replaced with aftermarket items or at least some skilful clean up and re-sculpting. The David Stirling head is perhaps a little better with a fairly good likeness.
I assembled two figures and found the parts to match up reasonably well; however there were gaps to fill on the arm to torso joins, which donít fit perfectly. The two legs will also need to be carefully fitted together so that the shirt bottoms align properly. I was quite pleased with the appearance of the Arab headdress; these parts are quite thin and generally look ok as well as resting fairly well against the shoulders.
Unfortunately without having an assembled Dragon Models SAS Jeep I am unable to comment on their fit in this kit, or indeed other Jeep kits on the market.
Overall this is useful release from Dragon Models and should be welcome for anyone looking for a reasonably inexpensive set of figures to crew their SAS Jeeps. The detailing is fairly good and the limited number of parts should also allow for a fairly easy and quick construction.
Unfortunately though these figures do suffer from some poor moulding in places along with extensive mould lines and imperfections. The fit of parts isnít ideal, although admittedly this is generally an issue on most injection-moulded figures. Itís disappointing that Dragon Models has cut corners by including identical parts, although with the various additional arms and legs do partly make up for this. I would have also preferred the inclusion of some extras, even just some weapons and personal equipment, especially as such items were lacking in the original Jeep release.