by: Darren Baker [ ]
At the start of WW1 the British considered snipers to be dashed unsporting and so disapproved greatly of them and their use. As the war continued and after losses from the practice of using snipers by German forces the British had to start using snipers of their own. The British had sharp shooters for very many years dating back to the Napoleonic War, but we did not have snipers whose job is to reach a position unobserved and take out specific targets and control and command elements. by 1915 this changed and the British had snipers proper, but we did not have a dedicated weapons system for them. Initially sports rifles and the like were used; even big game rifles were utilised to defeat the metal plates the Germans used to protect the sniper as these weapons punctured the metal plates and hit their targets. The British eventually issued standard SMLE rifles with either and up and over sight or an offset sight that allowed the continued use of stripper clips; the British just issued standard SMLE Mk III rifles that had proved the most accurate in tests; these were then sent off for alteration to enable the mounting of a magnification sight. Blackdog has released two British sniper figures available as stand alone or as a pair depending on your choice and these are available in 1/35th scale.
This offering from Blackdog is supplied in an end opening card box. Inside there are two Ziploc bags containing the figures and these are protected further by foam peanuts. An examination of the mouldings reveals nothing of concern as regards production as there is only some very thin and light flash visible and that is common to nearly all resin products. The figures are in their own Ziploc bags and that avoids any confusion when it comes to finishing the offering.
British snipers were not issued specific clothing for their role and so they came up with their own ghillie type clothing, I suspect this was due to input from game keepers and possible poachers as well. The clothing tended to be big baggy long hooded coat and baggy trousers. The soldiers often wore their standard issue steel helmet and had a hood with mouth and eye holes cut; this seems to be the standard or nothing at all where the British sniper is concerned. I initially thought that Blackdog had got it wrong and missed the hood feature, but further examination revealed that the hood has been lifted up and over the jacket hood to reveal the faces of the figures. The clothing from reference is coloured with a mix of browns and greens in various patterns ranging from streaks to splodges of colour. Also present in this case is patches of strip material in odd locations
The spotter figure in this set is issued with a standard SMLE with no sight; this is common as scopes were very limited in supply and so not a common feature. This figure is also supplied with a stuffed blouson with a papier mache head and mounted on a stick in order to attract the attention of an enemy sniper, as such this set can be considered as a counter sniper operation while of course taking targets of opportunity as well. The British were particularly good with the papier mache heads as examples I have seen are very life like and the head is topped off with a British helmet. The clothing is as described previously plus a belt with ammunition pouches and a bayonet present. I am surprised to see no sighting device present in the form of binoculars which were more readably available.
The sniper figure is also dressed as described previously with the face mask up over the hood. The stance of this figure is a little off-putting as the figure is twisted at the waist. The figure again has a belt with four ammunition pouches and a bayonet; there is another slightly larger pouch on this figure which may be a small toolkit for adjusting the sight and cleaning the weapon, but I cannot be sure. Something that is missing from this figure is a pouch for the sight; due to the limited number available the British had removable sights because of their value and also rifles did not exactly get treated gently. This pouch would not be difficult to replicate and I would advise its addition even though it cannot be said to be wrong due to possibly being beneath the suit. The sight is an up and over affair which is correct, but I would have liked to see one of the offset sights from a purely visual interest aspect.
This offering from Blackdog has a lot going for it due to crisp moulding and very nice details being well executed. The faces and hands of the figures are well done and while painting will be difficult due to the faces being inside the hoods they do have the ability to look good. The clothing can be as interesting or plain as the modeller chooses and can also not be said to be wrong due to it being specific to the wearer. The result is I cannot fault this offering from Blackdog and I find it a particularly appealing subject.