by: Karl Flavell [ ]
Originally published on:
British Airborne Forces of WW2 is a bit of a pet subject of mine so I
was overjoyed when these arrived for review. They come packaged in a
standard figure sized box, opening at both ends as we're used to. The
artwork on the front does nothing for the buyer being
The British Parachute Regiment formed during World War Two has long since become legendary for their exploits on the battlefield. Their dogged resistance at Arnhem in 1944 against two SS panzer divisions until they finally ran out of ammunition is typical of the heroism of the regiment. Yet up until the last few years they have been completely ignored by figure manufacturers. In injection moulded plastic we had the Esci set which wasn't worth taking out of the box and an early Dragon set which was passable with a lot of work. In resin Resicast released a lot of para figures which although very nicely detailed, were a little small and being resin are expensive. Enter Bronco. Although a relatively new company they have gripped the bull by the horns and have become THE British Airborne manufacturer. Originally with jeeps and towed artillery pieces, then two Horsa gliders. Now we have the figures to go with them. Read on.
British Airborne Forces of WW2 is a bit of a pet subject of mine so I was overjoyed when these arrived for review. They come packaged in a standard figure sized box, opening at both ends as we're used to. The artwork on the front does nothing for the buyer being quite boring really. Don't be put off by that as you will be missing out. Originally I thought they may be a re-box of the old Esci set. They're not and there is no comparison once you open the box. The back of the box shows each of the figures as a drawing pointing out part numbers required and colours to be used when painting ie black, khaki etc. No manufacturer’s colour numbers are quoted here. On opening the box and looking at the parts to say I was impressed would be an understatement.
Figure One- Advancing Bren Gunner
Typically Bren gunners are usually produced prone engaging a target. Bronco however have produced him advancing but with a difference. The figure is slightly hunched forward with his weight on his left leg which is forwards of his body and with his weapon carried low but with both hands. This gives the impression that he is moving forward quickly as if to change firing position. I daresay with a bit of modification and the angle of the head being changed he could be made to be firing on the move at a target in front. He wears standard 37 Pattern webbing of 2 ammo pouches, water bottle, entrenching tool and small haversack. All of these items are very nicely moulded even down to the fasteners on the ammo pouches and the buckles to attach the water bottle and E-Tool to the webbing. That's the first time I've seen a figure manufacturer do this. If you make your own straps you can just glue the straps to the back of the waterbottle buckles and have it hanging loose as it would in reality the figures right hand is supplied separately so this will make it easier to get the Bren in the correct position as you can attach the hand to the pistol grip then attach it to the arm. The moulding is nice and clean with minimal clean up. Uniform detail and crease is nice and sharp, even down to the press studs on the Denison smock. You have the option of two heads. One wearing the ubiquitous maroon beret or alternatively the para helmet. The helmet has separate straps, right and left, these are moulded very thinly so you'll get the correct relief when they're attached. The one thing that is disappointing here is that there's no chin cup but how many will notice that once it's fitted?
Figure Two- Radio OP & No 18 Wireless Set
Now this is one area that most manufacturers ignore. Every platoon has a radio operator and Bronco have really made an effort here. He's portrayed squatting and transmitting, speaking into the hand held microphone, his other arm draped over his knee. He doesn't have a weapon but two holstered pistols are supplied. In reality he'd be armed with a Lee Enfield IV or a Sten Mk V so you'll have to grab one out of your spares. His kit is the same as above with the addition of the lightweight respirator case on his left hip. The No.18 radio is a work of art as you can see from the photo of the instructions. It's a mixture of PE and plastic including a PE headset complete with backstrap. Once again there are two heads-one in a beret the other in a helmet. Personally I'd be tempted to use a resin head with no cover just to show off the headset as it really is superb. The parts for this are very small and intricate so be warned. He's supplied with a haversack which is surplus to requirements as he'd be carrying the radio so ignore that on the instructions
Figure Three- Kneeling Rifleman
As per the other figures he wears standard 37 Pattern webbing with small haversack and is armed with a Lee Enfield Mk IV. Same standard. Minimal clean up, nice crisp moulding, option of two heads.
Figure Four- Pointing Officer/NCO
A more dynamic pointing figure than usual. His body weight is more to one side as he points into the distance with his head to the side so obviously giving orders. His right arm hangs at his side holding a Sten Mk V. Both heads supplied for this figure have their mouths open as if shouting which adds to the animation of the figure. Equipment is the same as for the others but he also has a pair of binoculars around his neck. The straps for these are moulded onto his torso. With the addition of a holster this figure can suddenly become an officer as pistols weren't carried by OR's apart from tank crews.
Figure Five-PIAT Operator
Same basic kit as all other figures and two heads. He is depicted prone with the weapon in the aiming position. A nice touch is his boot soles are supplied separately. Beautifully detailed with hobnails, toe plate and heel plate! They are spot on for British ammo boots. His left hand, which grips the rear of the PIAT is separate, so once the figures arms are on you can get the hand in the correct position. The PIAT, like the radio, is a work of art. You are supplied with two sets of sights, one open one closed. The body of the PIAT has the spigot pin fully extended in the fired position. If you wanted to show the weapon loaded for firing it would just be case of cutting it off. The bomb tray and guard are PE pieces so care must be exercised when bending the bomb tray. There is even a tiny wing nut to attach. One PIAT bomb is supplied which I thought was a bit mean. It would have been nice if they'd included a spare bomb carrier. Now for the let-down. While they've made an excellent job of the PIAT they've let it down with the stand. For some reason they've supplied it with a triangular stand. PIAT stands are just one vertical leg.
The moulding throughout is superb. All figures are wearing the half zip Denison smock with open cuffs as opposed to knitted cuffs and have separate skirts so no need for undercutting, the jobs done for you. Press studs on pockets are there as they are on the front and back for the bum flap (crotch riser). Minimal clean up in the usual mould lines on the legs and arms. Webbing is nicely defined even down to the fasteners on the ammo pouches. Buckles on the top of water bottles and E-Tool allow the modeller to attach straps to the back of the buckle to show it hanging rather than being glued to the figure. Two heads are supplied for each figure; one in a beret and one in a scrimmed para helmet with separate straps. Facial detail is good with all features defined nicely. They even have ears that look like ears rather than blobs.
Bronco has been a bit stingy here. You are given one Lee Enfield Mk IV, one Sten Mk V and one Bren Gun with the option of folded or open bipods. There is one Webley/Enfield included and two holsters. One is a straightforward 37 pattern holster which accommodated a number of pistols. The other is a tankers holster containing what looks like an Enfield or Webley. This even has the loops on the outside for spare rounds. Both pistols have the lanyard loop at the end of the grip. The PIAT while beautifully detailed is let down by the fact they've made a bipod when in actual fact it had a monopod. This however is easily rectified by cutting a pin to size to replace it.
Instructions- These come as a glossy sheet showing the assembly of the PIAT and No 18 set. What is nice about the No18 is they have not only shown a picture of one in colour but also shown where the headset and mike plug into it, very thoughtful as it saves trawling the net. A full list of paints are supplied for MrHobby, Hobby, Humbrol and Tamiya. Vallejo conspicuous by their absence though.
Would I buy these? Absolutely. You are getting five beautifully detailed figures which with some imagination and used in conjunction with Set A would give you a superb little dio. If like myself you kit bash you could produce lots more poses for a larger dio by swapping torsos, arms and legs about as they lend themselves to the multipose concept. The weapons are nicely detailed although we're short of a weapon for the radio op as he wouldn't carry a pistol as supplied. That in itself isn't a problem as we've all got spares boxes. Scale wise they look to be on a par with DML's figures so average height. I'm not sure on the price of these but I know the first two sets with the pedal cycles and Welbikes were quite pricey. I would hope that these will be more reasonable just being figures. Don't forget that there are five figures as opposed to the four we're used to. A couple of minor niggles but nothing of any consequence. If you're a fan of British Airborne Forces I'd say these are a definite to add to your collection. Definitely on a par with any resin paras out there plus you get your figures in action for a change.