Masterbox 35146 1/35 British Infantry, Somme Battle Period, 1916
The Battle of the Somme took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the river Somme in France. It was one of the largest battles of World War I, in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest in history.
In late 1915, the Allies agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives by the French, Russian, British, and Italian armies against the Central Powers in 1916. The Somme offensive was to be the Franco-British contribution; the main part by the French Army, supported on the northern flank by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
The Germans disrupted this plan when they began the Battle of Verdun in February 1916; many French divisions intended for the Somme were diverted and the supporting attack by the British became the principal effort. During the first day on the Somme, 1 July, the French Sixth Army and the British Fourth Army inflicted a general defeat on the German Second Army, which was forced out of its first line of defense. It was also the worst day in the history of the British Army, which had over 57,000 casualties, about 19,000 of those killed.
From that point on, it was just slogging warfare. By the end of the battle in November, the British and French had advanced about 6 miles on a front of 16 miles at a cost of over 600,000 casualties total and a like amount for the Germans - figures vary significantly. The Somme introduced Kitchener's Army, the tank, and attrition warfare. It is not a good read.
The kit gives you an interesting little vignette/diorama of four tired soldiers, survivors of a hard fought action, receiving orders from their officer. Or perhaps they're just standing there thinking "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full." or something similar. The kit provides no description, no potted history, no supporting information, but the box art says a lot.
It is a great scene, but slightly unrealistic. The Somme was a series of assaults against successive positions, many not that far off from either the last or the next. When one was taken it was usually still being swept by artillery and by rifle and machine gun fire from the next one. I'm not sure standing up on bare ground is the best idea, but it's a nifty scene and the figures match so let's move on.
The instructions are the painting guide, all on the back of the box. Recommended paints are Vallejo and Lifecolor. Each figure is given a front and back view. The various parts are well numbered and labeled.
There are approximately 15 parts per figure. They are not numbered on the sprue so reference must be made to the diagram. Fortunately the four on the same sprue radiate out from the center in the same pattern and that makes it easy to work with.
There are mold seams on most the parts, easy to clean, but really a shame given the quality of the sculpting and detail. For some unknown reason, there are two discs on each sleeve of the four soldiers. They are located identically on every arm. I thought at first it might be some attempt to replicate skill/qualification badges and/or unit insignia but further research settled that. However they don't look like ejector marks either, so I have no idea what they might be other than something to be removed.
All the figures are different, not just in pose and weapon but in little things like foot gear, clothing, and equipment; some not obvious until studied. Given the kit subject, "the Somme period", and the clothing, I suggest it represents the latter half of the battle, September to November.
The detail is great and well-sculpted. The straps and belts are well defined. Two soldiers have puttees, two have trousers loose, and the officer has jodhpurs and boots. The soldiers all wear the jerkin with variety in how it is worn while the officer is in a greatcoat. There are variations in the equipment and how it is worn - most wear the 1914 Pattern Infantry Equipment. The bayonets, scabbards, and shovel handles all match up. If I were to make a comment, it would be that all four soldiers might not have all had the jerkin or perhaps one might be wearing it under the blouse or one might even be wearing a fur jacket.
There are no (back) packs or water bottles.
The officer is in a greatcoat, boots with spurs, and has a walking stick.
The Lewis Gunner looks like an old soldier - it's his moustache, his bearing, and the Good Conduct stripe on his left sleeve. Unfortunately there is also a stripe on the right sleeve which must be removed. One could assume the one disc on the lower left sleeve, above the GC stripe, is the Lewis Gun skill badge and do something with that. The helmet is decidedly thicker than the other four.
The ammo-bearer for the Lewis gunner, and he has only a couple drums.
A rifleman - open jerkin, open equipment belt, a watch cap under his helmet.
Another rifleman, or perhaps a bomber, has a pullover under his jacket. Unlike the others, he appears to be in the pre-war Pattern 1908 Infantry Equipment. This is the only figure I modified. He is standing with his rifle propped casually on his shoulder, leaving the bayonet sticking out to snag anyone nearby. I am surprised an NCO or his officer hasn't already corrected him - I chose to cut the bayonet off.
And guess what - from this point on, I forgot to take any pictures. I don't think it matters - the fit and assembly is trouble free, there really isn't much to illustrate. There are only two areas to test fit during construction - the fit of the bodies, legs, and jerkin/coat and where arms and equipment have to coexist.
The parts fit well and there are very few construction seams to fill. In fact, be careful - there should be a slight 'seam' where the arms stick out of the jerkin.
I did thin out the jerkins and greatcoat and added simple tape slings to the rifles.
I used Vallejo acrylics and the new AK Interactive British WW1 Uniform Set. As shown earlier, there is a simple color key, however there is only one or two specific labeled callout for each color and for everything else you have to eye-ball match the shown figure to the chart - and they aren't always close. Detail instructions - buttons, straps, buckles, rifles -- do not exist.
So, I did some research, then just sat down to make some colors that seemed about right and which had some variety among the figures. Probably my "best" mix was 70.983 Dark Earth + 72.402 Parasite Brown for the jerkins.
I think I said this in a prior review, I am not a figure painter, but I am trying (very trying, I know). I'm happy with everything except the faces - still lots to learn.
The base is Vallejo Earth Effects, liberally washed with both Vallejo and MiG products. I tried Vallejo Transparent Water for the first time, but obviously have more to learn, so I stripped it off and puddled up some Tamiya Clear.
Pros: It is a great kit; I did not do it justice, but I certainly enjoyed working with it. It is a great little scene, quite natural looking, with well sculpted figures that fit together without any drama. The figures could easily be used elsewhere.
Cons: If you are not a WW1 fan, supplemental paint instructions might be useful. The figures lack water bottles and packs. The recent ICM line of WW1 figures provide detail painting instructions and a lot of extra equipment that could be very useful, but I chose not to do this for this review.
I would like to thank
for providing AMPS the review copy.
Reviewed by John Ratzenberger, AMPS/Central-Virginia.
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The Half Point
(not awarded; wrong format, no linkage)
1. Chambers, Stephen J.; Uniforms & Equipment of the British Army in World War I - A Study in Period Photographs; Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, PA, 2005; ISBN: 0-7643-2154-4.
2. Bull, Stephen; Brassey's History of Uniforms: World War One British Army; Brassey's Ltd, London, England, 1998; ISBN: 1-85753-270-8.
3. Pegler, Martin; British Tommy 1914-1918 (Osprey Warrior 16); Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 1996; ISBN: 1-85532-541-8.
4. Chappel, Mike; The British Army in World War I (2) The Western Front 1916-1918 (Osprey Men-at-Arms 402); Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2005; ISBN: 1-8417-6400-9.
5. Macdonald, Lyn; Somme; Penguin Books, London, England, 1993; ISBN: 0-14-017867-8.
6. Hart, Peter; The Somme, The Darkest Hour on the Western Front; Pegasus Books, New York, NY, 2008; ISBN: 978-1-60598-016-4.
7. Middlebrook, Martin; First Day on the Somme; W.W. Norton & Co, New York, NY, 1972; SBN: 393-05442-X.
8. Sacco, Joe; The Great War, July 1, 1916: The First day of the Battle of the Somme, An Illustrated Panorama; W.W. Norton & Co, New York, NY, 2013; ISBN: 978-0-393-08880-9.
9. Robertshaw, Andrew; Somme 1 July 1916 Tragedy and triumph (Osprey Campaign 169); Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2006; ISBN: 978-1-84603-038-3.