by: Jim Rae [ ]
There has been (and still remains) a severe shortage of Allied figures in 1/35th scale injection-moulded plastic. However, step-by-step these gaps are gradually getting closed - not least through the efforts of companies such as Masterbox. Over the years, we've had a relative handful of British Paras in plastic and very few of them sufficiently flexible to permit any great variation on the basic figures.
MB3534 - British Paratroopers WWII 'Rigid Landing, Operation Market Garden, 1944' (Set # 2) is a four-figure, 1/35th scale set which is designed by A.Gagarin. The set comes on a single, sand-colored sprue and consists of just 40 parts. MB3534 comes inside the usual end-opening box with instructions. Most notable with the releases from Masterbox (apart from the contents, naturally) is the artwork on the boxes. This, IMO, is at the present moment the best on the market and hopefully assists with sales of their models.
As usual, i'll take a look at the individual elements of the figures - detail, poses etc. and finish with a summary of my conclusions of the set.
For those who are unaware of the ideas behind many of Masterbox's sets in the last year or so, let me take a second to explain a bit of the company 'philosophy'. MB3534 is another 'Vignette-in-a-box - four vigures which although they can be used independently, have a 'connection' with each other. The scenario with this set, is the aftermath of a Glider assault - Normandy, Holland or even the Rhine Crossings, in the latter part of the war. Two medical personnel are giving first aid to injured Glider troops. Three Glider-borne infantry are accompanied with a fourth, and this is DEFINITELY a first in injection-moulded sets: a Glider Pilot with his distinctive helmet.
Initial Impression Looking at the sprue (before I started building) detail on the figures is good, with clear crisp definition on webbing, gaiters etc. There are a few mould-lines present which did need cleaning up. A couple of small pieces of flash were also present but nothing major and easy to clean with a sharp Nē 11 blade.
Faces/Heads The quaity of the faces on the company's sets is improving with each new release - this is no exception. Good clear detail and areas such as the ears of the figures are well-defined. Once again, there are mould-lines present although they are elimited quickly with some careful sanding. Two of the figures are wearing the usual Airborne beret, one is bare-headed and the fourth has the Glider pilot helmet. All look very convincing.
Uniform Details All four figures are wearing the Denison Smock which is portayed as the earlier version (with the knitted cuffs). In the Glider Pilot figure, it needs to 'blouse' more at the bottom, on the others it's fine. Detail is good but perhaps may want to be accentuated a little: Particular areas for attention would be with the shoulder straps which are a little thick and could easily be replaced. The 'ridging which was characteristic of the cuffs could also be slightly reworked. For a LATER Denison, simply remove the cuffs and bring the sleeve down the arm...Trousers are fine with the distinctive patch pocket on the left thigh.
Boots/Gaiters. Well done although with the mould-lines present, they do need some careful cleaning-up. Gaiters are correct although the buckling straps are a little too accentuated and would benefit from some sanding-down.
Equipment. Three holsters are provided for the medical personnel and the Pilot. These, pretty accurately, reproduce the Browning FN pistol holster which, according to your tastes, can have a lanyard added. Another item which could be added from the spares box is the spare magazine pouch on the webbing. Not a lot of equipment is provided although there's a VERY well-done large pack for the wounded trooper. For the medical personnel, three first-aid haversacks are included. These are absolutely first-rate and include an embossed red cross patch on the outside.
Construction. I didn't (as can be seen in the photos) spend as much time building these figures as I normally would. However, with a set like this, I felt it was important to give the 'feel' of the set which a simple 'in-box' couldn't.
Each figure, typically, comes in around 8 parts. Legs are moulded in two halves, one part makes up the upper torso, there are two seperate arms and a head. The lower part of the Denison Smock (below the webbing) comes in two halves which girdle the figure. These fit very well although to ensure no gaps, a little filler is needed. Talking about fillers, particularly with figures, i'm now using the Acrylic Resin from Mig Productions almost exclusively it's a lot cleaner to use, compared to the usual putty, and dries clear.
Between the upper torso and the legs, there are some gaps which DO need carefully filling. There ISN'T a lot of work required in constructing these set but the majority of the time spent on building was in cleaning up (and i've STILL missed some mould-lines!).
As i've said in the previous section, it's not a set which doesn't have a few areas which require attention. Saying that, a couple of thoughts on this particular set. Firstly, combining with other sets, there are a lot of possibilities to vary the poses, change round equipment, heads etc. - simply apply imagination and stir! Secondly, diorama builders will find an immense amount of possibilities - previous Airborne sets have concentrated exclusively on combat troops - the idea of including medical personnel is incredibly innovative.
Although taken overall, the set is very good, there are some details which, in particular, I really liked - the splinted leg on the sitting figure for example - small details perhaps, but, IMO, important.
An excellent set - not the first (or the only) British Airborne set on the market, but definitely one of the most useful. Now what company's going to be the first with the Horsa in styrene?