Disclaimer: The images above were supplied by the manufacturer and painted by their artists.
Viriatus Military Miniature Figures item number 54G008 represents a Portuguese Paratrooper of Battalion BCP12, CCP121 Company with a war dog. Sculpted by Vitor Ribeiro de Almeida, the pair is portrayed in Bolama, during the preparation of operation ‘Cyclone II’ (February 25th, 1968) in Portuguese Guinea.
A man and his dog
This paratrooper wears the PQ/9 camouflaged combat field uniform, which was based on the French paratrooper pattern camouflage uniform used in Algeria. On his head he wears a green beret with the Air Force’s silver eagle within a gilt wreath badge on its left.
He carries a belt feed 7.62mm HK21 machine gun with the ammunition belt slung around his chest. Clipped to the ammo belt is his combat knife. The personal equipment, consisting of webbing, water bottle, and ammunition pouches, is of US origin. Slung across his shoulders, he carries his duffle bag.
Walking faithfully by the paratrooper’s side is his war dog, presumably a German Shepherd. War dogs were used to guard air bases but could also be used in combat missions - and were known to jump from the air in parachute!
So what’s in the box?
The first thing that struck me when picking up this kit, or rather the box was the weight of the box contents; this was one heavy figure. Opening the box revealed why. Immediately I noticed that although this figure is marketed as a 54mm figure, it was a lot bigger; it actually measures about 65mm. The other thing is that the duffle bag is a solid cast, but more on this later.
54G008, cast in white metal, comes in a kit form consisting of sixteen pieces. The figure is packaged in a medium-sized cardboard box (itself in another box featuring the box art) with the parts sandwiched between a folded piece of foam. Worth mentioning is the fact that Viriatus miniatures are limited to production runs of only 200, thus making them quite the collectable. My figure was numbered 30 of 200.
The kit consists of the following pieces: torso with head and legs; left and right arms; duffle bag; HK21 machine gun; HK21 bipod; hip pouches; water canteen; combat knife; small section of ammo belt; two halves of the war dog’s body; war dog’s head; war dog’s lower jaw; war dog’s tail; and base.
Included in the kit is a very useful and interesting information brochure. Printed on an A4 sheet in both Portuguese and English, the information brochure provides some historical background on the formation of the Portuguese Paratroopers and their deployment in the African Wars, as well as a description of the figure and its context, namely operation ‘Cyclone II’. Images include three photos of the figure from different angles, which provides the modeller with a better understanding of how and where equipment should be attached and positioned. A particularly useful image is that of a swatch of camouflage. Also provided is a list of reference materials, including books and museums.
As we dig into the kit, let me start off with a couple of general comments and observations about this kit.
Firstly, something that I really like about this figure is the use of locator pins for the pieces. The bigger pieces like the arms, thigh pouches and the two halves of the dog’s body have two locator pins each. This really helps with positioning the parts accurately.
Now for something I dislike about the figure. Generally I find the surface texture of the casting a bit rough. The surfaces will have to be gently rubbed down with steel-wool to try smoothing them out.
Another slight deterrent is the heavy duffle bag. This really makes the figure quite top-heavy. But, this is a small gripe.
Now let’s have a look at the individual bits…
The body proper is generally, bearing my above comments in mind, well cast and detailed. There are a few spots where the detail lacks the definition it could potentially have. Examples of this are the machine gun ammo belt and the boot laces. The casting itself though is pretty clean, with the only real seal line being between the legs – a usual spot on figures. On my figure I also found that the locator pins under the boots were slightly malformed, and the second locator pin on the figure’s right foot was missing. This, however, is not a big deal and is easily fixed.
The two arms are well cast and detailed. The length and thickness of the arms, together with the sleeves rolled high above the elbows and the stance of the figure, give the paratrooper’s arms a slightly “Popeye the Sailor” look. Both arms have very slight seams running the outer and inner length of the arms. The right arm has a slight bit of flash on the elbow. Both the seams and flash are easily removed with a bit of steel wool. A particularly nice feature about the arms is that they have two locator pins in the shoulders. This ensures an accurate fit.
As I mentioned above, the duffle bag is a solid cast. And as such is it rather heavy. But I will admit that, despite its weight and rough cast (there were no seam lines), it is quite well detailed. It also has a nicely formed recess to allow for snug positioning across the paratrooper’s shoulders.
The HK21 and bipod were generally well cast and detailed. There was a touch of flash and in places I felt the detail was a bit soft. I was glad to see the locator pin on the HK, as this really does making fitting the weapon easier. Unfortunately Viriatus didn’t supply bit for the gun strap. A section of it was moulded to the figure though, so the modeller will have to create their own for the remainder of the strap.
The thigh pouch, canteen and combat knife are fairly crisply cast, and nicely detailed. Although I do feel that some of the detailing on the canteen’s canvas pouch is perhaps a bit soft, this is easy re-scribed. As I mentioned above the thigh pouch has two locator pins, and this ensures that the pouch is correctly aligned with the straps moulded to the figure’s leg. The combat had a small piece of flash along its scabbard. The ammunition belt section is not as cleanly cast as the rest of the pieces. There appears to be a fair amount of flash between the individual rounds, which also appear to be a bit soft in detail.
The war dog, to briefly recap, consists of five parts: the two halves of the war dog’s body; war dog’s head; war dog’s lower jaw; war dog’s tail. Overall, the dog is well sculpted and reasonably textured. The pieces are well cast, with only the odd bit of flash – like in the dog’s right ear. The two halves of the torso fit together and align easily - due to the locator pins. As do the head and tail due to the necessary slots on the body. The only piece that the modeller may have a slight problem fitting is the lower jaw. Incorrect fitting may leave the dog with a slack jaw appearance. Test fitting the parts of the war dog also revealed that the modeller will be required to apply putty to conceal the joint lines as these are quite evident.
The final piece in this sixteen piece kit is the base. It is a fairly simple, sort of triangular, base with a bit of ground texture and a couple of tyre tracks running across. Locator pin holes are provided to ensure the correct alignment of the man and beast pair.
Despite its large size (for a 54mm figure) and rough exterior, this is generally a very well sculpted and detailed figure. It will definitely appeal to any modeller interested in Portuguese history, African and late 20th century conflicts, and indeed anyone looking for a slightly different and somewhat unique subject.