Allied Forces Figures, WWII North African Desert
This odd combination of five Allied soldiers meeting up and serving together seems like something dreamed up in Hollywood. Well, it WAS first dreamed up in the 1943 movie Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart as the American M3 Lee tank commander. A 1995 cable TV remake starred James Belushi in that role. Ukraine’s Master Box Ltd.’s illustrator A. Karaschuk and sculptor A. Gagarin must have seen the Belushi version and “subconsciously” paid homage to the movie. The American figure happens to strongly represent Belushi, and the others certainly suggest others in the movie’s cast. Unfortunately, we didn’t listen to Shakespeare, and our society is drowning in a flood of litigious lawyers and the movie industry has missed out on an opportunity for free publicity as Master Box plays it safe and any similarity between these figures and that movie is purely coincidence...
It’s beyond the scope of this review to review the movie, so let me just say that I highly recommend the movie – and these figures it may have spawned! The box top illustration of all five figures by A. Karaschuk is in a style much like (and comparable to) DML’s Ron Volstadt. I noticed a thread on the Internet where renowned modeler and artist Chris Mrosko stated that Karaschuk is well known throughout Eastern Europe. It is no surprise! The back of the box shows front and back photos of each figure assembled and painted, along with the one tan sprue with all the parts keyed off to the photos. BTW, inside the side-opening box, the sprue comes in a resealable poly bag which is a convenient way to store the parts once removed from the sprue.
The American does remind me of Belushi, representing a casually posed tank commander with holstered Colt .45. He’s wearing his O.D. T-shirt with his fatigue shirt draped over a shoulder. With a nominal adjustment of his left arm, I’ve posed him tilting his canteen to pour out some water, to taunt a dying-of-thirst Afrika Korps battalion. As of the review I haven’t added the clear sprue arc simulating water. You have a choice of a bare head or one wearing the U.S. leather tankers helmet. I chose the latter but had to look closely to discover that parts 29 and 30 are the ear flaps (encasing the headphones). He required a nominal bit of epoxy putty at his waist and arms, as did most of the figures. The plastic is brittle, and his goggles broke cutting them off the sprue, with one piece disappearing into my modeler twilight zone. I fashioned new ones out of putty.
The other four figures wear the basic British desert khaki shorts uniform. The Australian Bren light machinegunner (the excellent Bren has optional open or closed bipod) wears a distinctive slouch hat and holds a very fine, brittle cigarette; the Free French Foreign Legionnaire wears a white kepi, casually holds his back pack (with distinctive French water flask) by a strap and is armed with what appears to be a French 7.5mm MAS 1936 rifle (you have a choice of a clean cut or bearded head). The British and Sudanese (?) infantrymen each have what appears to be the standard British Enfield .303 rifle. Nowhere on the box does it identify the Sudanese as Sudanese, Senegalese or other Colonial. He is the only one with sleeves rolled down and wearing puttees and a wrapped headgear. Take note that the photos of the Frenchman show his uniform with a light blue tint, yet the box front correctly shows each of the four allies wearing British khakis. The French Legionnaire, Brit, and Yank each have a wristwatch. I’ve raised the Brit’s arm as if he was checking the time.
It’s difficult to see any rank or insignia in the illustrations aside from the epaulets on the Legionnaire. A good painter with a steady hand may be able to create it – the rest of us will leave them off as if they have worn off in the harsh desert. No water slide decals are mentioned or provided. A few years ago, a clairvoyant modeler entered his own awesome SAHARA diorama in an IPMS-USA National (the first one in Phoenix?). If you chose to NOT use these figures together in a SAHARA-like scene, there are countless other situations they are perfect for. Any two or three of these Allies could have met in the desert. The Frenchman would be found fighting Rommel in Africa, then on to Sicily, Italy, France… so too the black Colonial and the Australian who would also be found in the Pacific. The above Allies are wearing shorts, which would be their only limitation to the theatre you could display them in. The American would belong anywhere, short of a cold winter scene!
Master Box doesn’t specify any brands of paint and colors but, if you use Mr. Karaschuk’s box top illustration as your guide, you can’t go wrong. All the figures had some nominal mold seam that was easily scraped away with a hobby knife. I felt the sculpted figures gave a fair representation of the box top illustrations. They capture the natural folds of their clothing and realistic faces to improve any display or diorama. I highly recommend these injection molded figures as an excellent value for your money for all modelers with an interest in WWII Allied armies.
- World War II Combat Uniforms and Insignia by Martin Windrow
- Army Uniforms of World War II by Andrew Mollo
- The Armed Forces of World War II by Andrew Mollo
Master Box has included small sets of decals in some of their previous figure sets. I hope MB goes back to including decals in all of their future releases. Their site shows some exciting sets to come as Master Box Ltd. continues to set the bar high for injection molded plastic figure sets.
Thanks to distributor Dragon Models USA for the review sample and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.