The RAC’s “Oversuit, Tank Crews”, or “Pixie suit”, is perhaps one of the British Army’s most distinctive items of clothing. This recent release by Alpine Miniatures is an excellent example of not only how this garment was worn, but the bulkiness of it.
35050 – “WW2 British Tank Crew Set” is set of two 1/35th scale resin figures sculpted by Taesung Harmms, the owner of Alpine Miniatures. The two members of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) are portrayed in a fairly casual stance – the first stands upright, while the other leans against an unseen object. Released in April 2007, the box-art is painted by Samuel Perez Sanchez.
Both figures are also available individually as figures 35048 WW2 British Tank Crew #1 and 35049 WW2 British Tank Crew #2.
The most noticeable thing about this set of figures is undoubtedly their attire. Both tankers wear the RAC “Oversuit, Tank Crews”.
First being extensively issued in 1943, the “Oversuit, Tank Crews” (more popularly known as the “Pixie suit”) was a warm and sensible article of clothing, quite evidently based upon the design of the 1942 tank suit. The suit was made from heavyweight tan cotton with a full interior lining of khaki wool fabric and a detachable hood. It had seven external patch pockets, two side pockets with vents allowing access to clothing worn underneath, and three internal pockets. Ankles and wrists had adjustment tabs, the wrists also having elasticised internal cuffs. The tall, lined collar could be closed around the face with a double strap and buckle arrangement.
Getting into and out of the oversuit was made easier by two full-length zips running from the throat down each side of the chest and continuing down each leg to end at the ankle.
Due to the weight of the suit it was provided with integral supporting braces; these ran from the rear waist, through cloth channels over the shoulders and down to adjustable buckles inside the front waist. Designed to distribute the weight slightly better they were frequently removed from the suit, as was the external waist belt.
Both tankers are presented with two head gear options.
The first option is the distinctive black RAC beret, proudly worn with dust goggles, while the second head gear option is the RAC pattern steel helmet worn with webbing.
The Royal Armoured Corps pattern steel helmet was an improvement over the earlier fibre types, offering both significantly superior crash protection and unlike its predecessors, ballistic protection as well. The shell was the same as that used for the dispatch rider’s and Mk III Airborne helmets, the three differing only in their liners. The RAC helmet used the same type of liner as the Mk II general service helmet.
Both troopers wear a Pattern 37 web belt with standard ‘pistol case’ and ammunition pouch, standard issue ammunition boots, and gloves.
35048 is finished off with a pair of binoculars hanging from his neck, and the head of his pipe sticking out from his right front hip pocket.
The set, moulded in Alpine Miniatures’ traditional light grey coloured resin, comes in a kit form consisting of a total of eleven (11) pieces - six pieces for figure 35048 and five pieces for figure 35049 respectively. The kit is packaged in a small, clear acetate box with each figure’s parts inside its own small zip-lock bag. A small card displaying the painted set of figures, as well as the individual figures is supplied.
Figure 35048 WW2 British Tank Crew #1 consists of the following six (6) parts: Full figure, excluding head and arms;
Left and right arms;
Standard ‘pistol case’;
Head wearing RAC beret and goggles;
Head wearing RAC helmet.
Figure 35049 WW2 British Tank Crew #2 consists of the following five (5) parts: Full figure including left arm, but excluding head and right arm;
Standard ‘pistol case’;
Head wearing RAC beret and goggles;
Head wearing RAC helmet.
The figures are impeccably sculpted. The casting is crisp, clean, and has truly captured the highly detailed and accurate sculpting of Taesung Harmms. I am always amazed by the quality of the Alpine casts, for they are truly of the highest quality.
The heads are all well-sculpted, and each face matches the other in the pair in terms of facial detail – it is only the head gear that differentiates the two heads. The faces are cleanly sculpted and very well defined, with a few wisps of hair textured poking out from under the berets. The head gear is well proportioned, and nicely detailed with even the RAC badges featured on the front of the berets, which are swept back and held down by the goggles. The casting blocks are positioned under the neck, so modellers can easily remove these without fear of damaging any detail.
The figures proper are extremely well detailed. One gets a very good idea of not only the bulkiness of the Pixie suit, but the warmth as well as utility it gave those wearing it. Folds gather realistically for the material portrayed. All the finer details such as epaulets, pockets, seams, zipper fronts, adjustment tabs, belt buckles, and the binoculars are well detailed and very crisply and clearly cast.
I particularly like the way the webbed belt of 35049 hangs slightly looser than that of 35048, and how the added individuality of each figure is portrayed by positioning the pistol case on opposite hips.
The arms, as with the rest of the figure, are well detailed and cast. Those arms that cover the pistol cases have recesses on the inner arms for added realism as well as ease of fitment.
Something I am not that fond of, it is the U-shaped casting block on 35049’s right arm. The one leg of the “U” is attached to the outer shoulder, the other to the elbow. Caution should be practiced when removing this so as not to damage the detail. While I have no doubt that there is an excellent reason for this, I am curious why it could not have been placed on the inside of the shoulder as with 35048’s arms.
Edit 4 June 2007: After speaking to Taesung, I have been informed that the U-shaped casting block was used on the bent arms for the following reasons:
It cannot be placed on the inside of the shoulder as it would create a longer cut to demold.
The U-shape saves a bit more of details as opposed to a straight block running the entire length of the upper arm.
Both have to do with demolding the part.
My thanks to Taesung for this feedback.
Removing the pieces from the casting blocks was effortless. I found a new chisel shaped knife blade easily cut through the resin with the ease of slicing through plastic.
I found that the trick to removing the casting blocks from 35048’s arms – which are located on the inside shoulder – was to cut all around the block, and then cut down firmly from the top of the shoulder. The casting block of 35049’s arm was easier to remove, but as it ran through a few folds, clean up was a bit more involved.
Generally clean up was virtually non-existent, with only a tiny bit of flash between the legs of each figure - nothing a sharp number 11 blade could not quickly sort out.
For the purposes of this review I have simply tacked the figures together with the local equivalent of “Blu-tac”.
The arms line up easily with the shoulders on the torso. There was little, if not no, guesswork involved when lining the arms up to the shoulders. The arms virtually slide into place – although I do advocate fitting the pistol case first, which is fitted with a locator pin to the relevant hip.
The heads easily slide into place, and are to a certain degree interchangeable between the two figures.
As we enter the rebirth of WW2 Allied modelling, Alpine’s “WW2 British Tank Crew Set” may not be a unique subject. What sets this set apart from other sets is Taesung Harmm’s masterful sculpting, unrivalled attention to detail, and Alpine’s impeccable quality.
These are not the first British tankers Taesung and Alpine have released, but they certainly will be the most popular.
The following references were used for this review: “The World War II Tommy: British Army Uniforms European Theatre 1939-45 in Colour Photographs”. Martin Brayley & Richard Ingram. The Crowood Press Ltd. 1998
“The British Army 1939-45 (1) North-West Europe”. Men-at-Arms 354. Martin Brayley. Illustrated by Mike Chappel. Osprey Publishing. 2001.