Kit Review – WWII British Commando (Life Miniatures)

PRELUDE

There are few who would argue that Sang-Eon Lee is the pinnacle of our figure painting community, this latest release from Life Miniatures is once again sculpted, cast and painted by the Artist himself. The kit came in it’s stylish black box with the glossy sleeve depicting various angles of the boxart, along the face and front side. Inside we find our parts nestled between shaped layers of foam, the smaller parts sealed in ziplock bags. It is a seven part, 1/10 scale polyurethane bust of the traditional type being predominantly head and shoulders. This is a more simple kit than some of the others but is still loaded with details and textures aimed at capturing the spirit of the subject. First impressions as always are very good indeed!

HISTORICAL REFERENCE

Formed in Plymouth in late June 1940 following the evacuation of Dunkirk, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Durnford-Slater. No. 3 Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit of the British Army during WWII. Formed in July 1940 consisting of volunteers for special service, it was the first such “Commando” unit and lasted until it was disbanded on January 4th 1946. Shortly after creation, the unit was involved in a largely unsuccessful raid upon the German-occupied Channel Island of Guernsey.

They would soon have their first successes, in 1941 they were involved in the raid known as Operation Ambassador, which had been hastily organised due to the eagerness and impatience of the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, a probing raid on the German-occupied island of Guernsey. As a result of a number of mishaps and the hurried planning, the raid proved to be unsuccessful. They were also involved in successful raids on the Lofoten Islands and Vaagso, in Norway, before once again being involved in the costly Dieppe raid of August 1942, where the unit was tasked with knocking out a German coastal artillery battery. However, a chance encounter with a German convoy in the channel meant a large majority of the unit never made it ashore.

After being involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily and operations in Italy, whilst based in North Africa, they were then withdrawn to Britain to prepare for Operation Overlord (codename for Battle of Normandy). On D-Day (Tuesday 6 June, 1944) they went ashore as part of the 1st Special Service Brigade commanded by Brigadier The Lord Lovat. This marked the end of their independence and indeed their role had evolved from small scale raiding and precision operations, to more large scale operations in which they were mainly used as highly trained infantry assault units.

a film still showing commandos in their craft approaching beach sword, Normandy D-Day

No. 3 Commando landed at La Breche, west of Ouistreham at 09.05 coming ashore in the second wave. Even before they landed at the beach they were engaged and three of their landing craft were hit by high-velocity shells. Casualties were high, No. 6 Troop suffering at least 20 wounded, in addition another craft ran aground on a false beach, but eventually most of the unit were able to cross the beach and form up once more about 1,000 yards inshore. The commanding officer of No. 3 Troop, Peter Young, found that other than those wounded in his landing craft most of his command was still intact! However, as they were prevented from advancing by a blockage of troops from No. 6 Troop on their narrow route, a bottleneck if you like, they were once more under intense mortar fire from the Germans.

the commandos reach the beach and begin the thousand yard advance in the face of intense enemy fire

Eventually able to resume the advance, they passed through No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando’s position in Collevile and marched along the road to St. Aubin d’Aquenay where they met up again with No. 6 Commando. From there they advanced quickly to the River Orne bridge, where they linked up with those troops responsible for capturing the bridge, the airborne and glider troops. Peter Yound, under fire from enemy snipers crossed the bridge and made contact with the airborne headquarters, who ordered him to take the commandos to Le Bas de Ranville instead of advancing on Cabourg. No. 3 Troop went on to capture Amfreville and Le Pein whilst the rest of the No. 3 Commando took up positions as ordered however, they were shortly relieved and rejoined No. 3 Troop, tasked with holding the high ground around La Pein.

captured bridge at the river orne

A combined force from Nos. 4 (the boxart depicts this unit but the sleeve stripes are left blank so you can choose which unit you wish to represent) and 5 Troops on 7th June, under the command of the second-in- command, Major John Pooley, carried out an attack on the Merville battery near the coast where there were still guns firing upon the continued beach landings.

Despite the battery being taken the previous day by a small force from the 9th Parachute Battalion, it had become reoccupied once again by the Germans and it was heavily defended by mortars and landmines. Approaching from the south, No. 4 Troop moved across the open ground before taking up position behind the hedgerows 300 yards from the battery and from there laid down covering fire for No. 5 Troop which approached from the east with fixed bayonets!

After a stubborn defence, in which a number of Commandos, including the interim commander Pooley, were killed, they took the battery however, shortly afterwards they were counterattacked by German forces with self-propelled artillery support. The Commandos suffered high casualties and were forced to withdraw to La Plein.

Following this the unit became involved in largely defensive operations as the 1st Special Service Brigade dug in. However, their former small scale experience and expertise came to the fore as they kept up the pressure on the Germans by carrying out offensive patrols, raids and sniping.

major john pooley

In mid-July a breakout from the beachhead was attempted and the 1st Special Service Brigade moved through the Le Bois de Bavent, a large wooded area, as the Germans began to withdraw. No. 3 Commando was involved in the advance, moving to Varaville where they confronted the German rearguard and thus began to clear the village. They continued into the following month and on 19 August they were ordered to seize the high ground to the north of Dozule. Attacking at night, the brigade advanced with No. 3 Commando leading the main body behind the vanguard and was able to infiltrate the German positions before the lead sections encountered the German headquarters units.

A halt was finally called on 26 August 1944 having advanced over the course of best part of a week some 64km!. On 7 September, the 1st Special Service Brigade, were withdrawn from the line after 83 days of continuous combat action and returned to the United Kingdom to prepare to be redeployed to the Far East for operations against the Japanese. Shortly after, No. 3 Commando’s commanding officer, Peter Young, was promoted to colonel and left to take command of the 3rd Commando Brigade in Burma.

SCULPT AND CAST

the kit in full

First impressions are so good once more and preparation looks to be minimal, mainly it comes down to the removal of the various casting plugs on the parts, then a wash in soapy water, assembly and primer! Let’s begin with head and beret and work our way down. The head is perfectly sculpted, nice volumes, super smooth sculpting with nice texture to the hairline. The expression is one of apprehension which is easy to understand when we consider the brutal beach landings at Normandy, the mouth is clenched shut, displaying a strong jawline of a young commando.

The brow is somewhat furrowed which adds to the sense of tension in the piece, eyes slightly narrowed with the head twisted slightly to his right and down a fraction. The top of the head has a large peg that fits tightly into the slot of the interior of the beret. The beret is perfectly detailed, the subtle texture represents the material perfectly (brings back memories of my time in the Forces), no badge here just as they did during operations, with the black banding along the perimeter another sign of attention to detail. The beret has a really nice shape to it and sits tightly to the head, the self made fold drooping down towards the right eye. It depicts natural looking folds and creases, very realistic.

the incredible boxart

Moving onto the main piece which is the torso and at the neck we have a perfect fit for the head. Peaking out from under the collar of the jacket we have a nice neck scarf, sharp detailing and texture present with realistic folds and volume. There are sharp undercuts to the various straps including those of the bergen upon his back, the straps also show the folded and stitched end portions with brass endings.

perfect anatomy and detailing to the facial features

We then have the commandos preserver (a nice touch here and plainly observed from reference images is how the left strap has been knotted) and sat slightly upon this we have the “bandolier”, a series of separate pouches strung together carrying shells for I believe the Bren Gun but to be honest I am only guessing. You can see the bulge of the folded shells inside each compartment, great detailing. The preserver has the hole for the inflation tube and the seams and stitching throughout all of the equipment is stunning. The webbing across the torso is completed with the various pouches one of which may have been used to carry the toolkit for Bren.

On both sleeves we have the horizontal stripes for you to paint the chosen designation of your commando and beneath this we have the patch for the commandos of WWII, this is nicely rendered also. The epaulettes, seams, folds and creases of the jacket provide us with another insight into just how accurate an observer and sculptor Sang-Eon truly is, check out the seam eyelets to button holes and the four perfect holes in the face of the buttons where they are sewn on!

Then it is on to the smaller parts, the helmet which comes complete with the camo netting which I believe is the MkIII is elegantly sculpted, perfect shape and smooth surface and attaches via a peg to the section of bergen on the rear. The bergen attaches to the torso via  double peg and hole assembly and depicts the upper section only, displaying the upper flap and straps.

check out the micro detailing involved here, stunning!

The helmet covers a section of it and where the helmet would sit, the sculptor hasn’t sculpted any hidden details. We have the pick handle or how we use to call it in the Army, the pick elf, this has the metal ending, which in reality would be painted black or green to avoid unwanted reflections and has a nice retaining strap too, fits nicely via a peg once more. Once the casting plug is removed from the section of pipe, it is the exact shape and size for a perfect fit. The only other piece left is the turned, resin pedestal but generally a lot of people prefer brass rod when attaching their project to it’s plinth.

As already mentioned the casting is immaculate with even the undersides of the bust being perfectly smooth.

DESIGN AND ORIGINALITY

This is a traditionally sculpted bust, well balanced as it only depicts the head and shoulders and the composition and positioning of the various items of equipment gives it a perfect balance and instantly recognisable silhouette. The level of detailing, texture and historical accuracy is superb. I really do not like talking about originality when it comes to historical pieces as the kit is depicting a real life character however, there are not many companies out there producing 1/10 military busts of the WWII era and most certainly not of this standard.

DESIRABILITY

The items of Life Miniatures are sought after not only by the figure painter but also the serious collector due to the beauty and magnificence of the bust, each is a thing of Art. This will particularly appeal to those with an interest in the second Word War and I am sure will be another successful addition to the catalogue.

AFFORDABILITY

It is ridiculous to think that for as little as $65 you get to take home a sculpt of such accuracy, detailing and life, Sang-Eon Lee created Life Miniatures with the intent to breathe life into characters of history. To make these heroes reborn in resin, to allow them to breathe, to be emotive, to be inspiring and he pulls it off with each and every sculpt. That is why I believe this to be an absolute bargain of a price, where else can you buy Art for $65?

Dates, Figures and Stuff

Cost                                          $65

Material                                   Polyurethane Resin

No of Pieces                             7

Release Date                            Available Now

Where Can I Get It?               HERE

Jason Martin

Jason Martin is an award-winning painter, student of the arts and head honcho at Figurementors. His heavy metal listening, ex-forces exterior belies his true passion – to help you succeed on your personal journey to become a better figure painter.

 

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