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.Now, with this, and the other set from the company, things are looking up...
MB3533 - British Paratroopers WWII "Where's that damn Bridge?" Operation Market Garden, 1944 (Set Nē1) is a four-figure, 1/35th scale figure kit which is moulded in sand-colored styrene. Presented on a single sprue, the set consists of 54 parts. The figures are designed/sculpted by A.Gagarin. The box-art, which is to the high-standard which now comes as standard from Masterbox, is the usual side-opening pack with painting and construction instructions on the reverse side. Color matching corresponds to Vallejo, Tamiya, Lifecolor, Humbrol and Agama.
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.
'Vignette-in-a-Box': Firstly, let me take a second to explain a bit of the company 'philosophy'. MB3533 is another 'Vignette-in-a-box - four vigures which although they can be used independently, have a 'connection' with each other. In this case, three British Paras are checking with a civilian over their location. Although the set is titled as 'Market Garden', the box-art shows a scene from Britain - perhaps during a training exercise?
The Subjects: The set includes three British Paras (two ORs and an Officer) along with a civilian gamekeeper. All the Para figures are wearing the EARLIER (or 'intermediate') Denison Smock which is characterized by the elasticated cuffs and the fact it didn't open completely down the front (later versions opened completely).
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 on some of the equipment 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 Airborne helmet and the Officer, the distinctive maroon beret. Expressions on the faces will benefit from some careful painting - another item which is becoming a company 'trademark' - for too long we've suffered expressionless faces from other manufacturers..
Uniform Details: All four figures are wearing the Denison Smock which is portayed as the earlier version (with the knitted cuffs). Detail is good on the cuffs but they WOULD benefit from a little work to accentuate them a little more. Areas for attention would include the shoulder straps which are a little thick and could easily be replaced. 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: The three Para figures have been given a pretty full combat load-out. Webbing is (correctly) the 37 Pattern type. The officer is wearing the approptiate webbing gear and includes the pouches for spare pistol magazines. What is also included is the large respirator case which, i'm NOT sure was seen much later on in the war. One of the figures has been given a .303 bandolier which seems pretty close to the original. One large haversack is included along with the metal-framed 'Bergen' which is an absolute 'Plus'. The Bergen was previously done by Masterbox, but this has been completely re-done and builds into a good representation of a piece of gear which is well-documented. Typical equipment such as the entrenching tool pouch is included and this is one of the best i've seen yet in this scale. What is missing is the bayonet scabbard for the Lee-Enfield and, if the Nē2 for the Bren Gun was to be modeled, the spare barrel pouch (easily obtainable from other sets). The equipment is excellent and, in my opinion, some of the best produced in this scale.
Weapons: As the 'core' of this set is the Airborne Infantry, weaponry, is (naturally enough) included. Three weapons are included - a Sten Mk. V, a SMLE 4, Mark 1 and a Bren LMG. The Sten is EXCELLENT - few manufacturers have ever taken the time to research and do a weapon which was primarily issued to Airborne troops. It includes a seperate magazine and (again, a FIRST) the canvas bandolier which carried spare magazines. The SMLE is also good. The last weapon, the Bren is one of the best i've seen in injection-moulding - a folded bipod is also included.
The Poses of the Figures: Due to the design of the 'vignette' the poses of the figures in MB3533 are NOT as dynamic as those found in some other of Masterbox's sets. They are definitely more relaxed than others. That's NOT a criticism. When the company decides it's appropriate, it does some of the most animated and dynamic figures available in the market today. Hopefully the company can be persuaded to do another set of Paras in combat?
The Gamekeeper I've concentrated a lot on the Paras, now's the time to talk about the civilian. Once again, as plastic civilians being as rare as hen's teeth, it's a welcome inclusion. Well-moulded with lots pf possibilities for conversion.
Construction: 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. There IS cleaning up required - nothing too time-consuming and principally mould lines. Some gaps are present in areas such as the joins between the upper torso and legs and some filler will be required. There were one or two areas in the figures which I really didn't like - the Airborne helmets are unfortunately attached to the sprue by the lip of the helmet. This requires microscopic control of the sprue-cutter to remove them without damage. I also wasn't too keen on attachment the bandolier on the rifleman. It could, IMO, have been designed so the modeler could have attached it in a more natural way according to their preference. The fact is, it's another (BASIC) item which other manufacturers can't be bothered to do - another of these little attentions to detail that Masterbox is good at!
Perhaps some may be put off by the lack of 'action' in the pose of the figures. Don't be - this set will very useful in a lot of settings and has real potential for conversions. With this set, there's the possibility of doing Royal Marines (using the Denison smock), some Army units in NW Europe or S.A:S: troopers in NW Europe. Once again, it's well-executed, well thought-out and apart from the cleaning up of the mould-lines it's an easy set to work with. Highly Recommended, not simply because of the set itself, more for the potential it demonstrates. I'm not 100% sure of the inclusion of the civilian figure, personally, I would definitely have preferred another Para.
Another area which demonstrates that Masterbox is putting some serious thought into its sets are the weapons which are getting better all the time. In equipment, the Bergen is a great addition although it'd be nice to see a set with half-a-dozen along with other basic items of British equipment!
Now perhaps the company should go a little further with the Paras and do items such as the supply containers, heavy weapons and more, (yes, more!) Airborne infantry sets.