In-Box Review
British Infantry in Action
British Infantry in Action Northern Africa WWII
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by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]


MB3580 - British Infantry in Action Northern Africa WWII is a five-figure, 1/35th scale set covering British Infantry in the Early-War Desert battles. The 76 parts, which come on a single sprue (moulded in dark-sand colored styrene), are for 5 figures comprising an officer and 4 other ranks. The set comes in the typical Masterbox format in a nicely designed box. The front has the artwork and credits, the reverse a photo of the assembled figures, brief instructions and painting notes. The set is sculpted by A. Gagarin with the boxart by A.Karaschuk.

In Depth

As usual, in this type of Review, I'll be looking at the various aspects of the set and try and pass some kind of opinion about areas such as moulding, detail, etc. Unlike my usual figure reviews, I haven't had a chance to build them. This is somewhat offset by the familiarity I have for the company's releases.

So, an overview of the set:

The Poses:
In one word, dynamic. The company's figures are undoubtedly the most animated figures currently on the market. This set has a group of British Infantry 'At the Charge' advancing on an enemy position. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it's based on a very famous photo from 1941 taken in the Western Desert. No matter what the source is, this set, like others in the 'Desert' series by Masterbox, is designed to get away from the more static perception most of us have. In my experience, what you get on the Box-Art is pretty much what you get inside the box, so, I've no reason to believe there will be substantive differences between artwork and the figures in THIS set.

On closer examination of the sprues, what is notable is a 'delicacy' of moulding in areas such as hands. This is something that Masterbox have been improving on in recent releases and is a welcome development. The heads are generally good for plastic. They don't compare to what we've become accustomed to from manufacturers such as Hornet but, in terms of styrene, they are very good.

The figures are portrayed with the usual KD (Khaki Drill) 1940 pattern BD, and KD shorts. Figures are sculpted wearing the knee-length socks with the short gaiters. In my opinion, this can be seen in contemporary images but is not a commonly seen (or tremendously likely) combination in actual combat. Helmets are Mk.IIs on the ORs, the Officer is provided with choice of Beret, Helmet or Field Cap.

The set includes ALL the usual equipment found on British infantry of WWII. The usual '37 pattern webbing set is sculpted on the figures. All the usual equipment such as webbing pouches, entrenching tool pouch, is provided separately and is VERY well-sculpted. The pouches & haversacks follow the correct contours - unlike other manufacturers who still produce solid 'blocks' of pouches etc. If I have a doubt it's with the webbing itself. It is, IMO, sculpted too tightly. It seems to dig into the BD rather than being on top of it. Understandably, this is very difficult to sculpt 'to scale' (particularly in terms of thickness) but it did not dig into the BD as much in reality.

A good selection of weapons are provided, a Bren LMG, two SMLE MK. IIIs (with separate 'sword' bayonets) and a Thompson SMG M1928 version. The latter includes a separate 50-Round drum magazine. All are good reproductions.


The set is by no means perfect, but is without a doubt the BEST set of 'Desert' Infantry available. There is room for improvement particularly regarding more definition on the webbing cross-straps, there's a need to do the SMLE Mk.IV in styrene, and some figures of the Western Desert in KDs AND Greatcoats would be very welcome!

Despite my comments on areas which could be improved in subsequent sets, this is an excellent, well-executed and necessary release. Masterbox are, once again, to be congratulated for doing a series of figure sets for the Western Desert. Simply put, there is STILL a shortage of them.

Highs: Subject area, animation, detail on equipment.
Lows: The cross-webbing needs to be more defined in future sets.
Verdict: Excellent set and not a single tea-drinking Brit!
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: MB3580
  Suggested Retail: $15.95 MSRP
  PUBLISHED: Dec 21, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Master Box Ltd.!
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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


With their, Vickers Crew, and Hand to Hand fioghting set, there's a nice range of battle figuers coming along which makes for a very plesent surprise. Delighted they changed the original pose of the rifleman, these look much better Al
DEC 21, 2010 - 04:23 AM
I picked these up in my LHS last week and very good they are too. I'm not sure I agree with your point about the knee length socks and gaiters (Puttees) AFAIK this was the standard order of dress for Infantry in the Middle East Also If you look closely you'll see that what looks like a beret is actually the upper part of the the two piece officer's peaked cap The webbing straps where they attach to the front of the web belt are wrong on three of the figures. They end in a weird inverted Y shape- in reality they were attached with a straight brace attachment or straight to the buckle on the basic pouches. I'm also not convinced by some of the buckles on the rear of the belts. Small points I know but there is plenty of reference out there for example on the excellent Kharkee web site
DEC 21, 2010 - 05:47 AM
My bad, Now, if i'd actually built them as I usually do for Reviews i'd have noticed that. It LOOKED like a beret (unlikely as it would have been for a Line Infantry Regt.) and I walked into it. I've always considered the short gaiters and sock combination akin to the (infamous) stock which was also part of the Standard Order (albeit until the 1840s) it was hated by both soldiers and officers as restricting movement. As the Uniform OoB became more relaxed in the Western Desert, I felt my commentts were justified although not in 100% of cases.It is well done although a bugger to remove if you don't like them
DEC 21, 2010 - 06:58 AM
I admit I thought that too but thought it looked rather "Polish" While I agree there was a tremendous relaxation in the order of dress in the North African Campaign, I don't think this applied to front line British Infantry Regiments. Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans yes. SAS, LRDG, Tank Crews yes- Infantry no. Most photos show them wearing Shorts with long socks and either puttees or web anklets. For anyone modelling the Nortth African Campaign the IWM online Collection is a tremendous reference and they seem to have added a lot more images since the last time I visited Western Desert, 7 November 1941. British troops try out a captured German Kettenkrad tracked motorcycle, 6 June 1942. A soldiers stops to inspect the grave of a German tank crew, 29 September 1942. A soldier filling a Crusader tank with petrol from a 4-gallon tin or 'flimsy', 27 October 1942. Infantry inspect a knocked-out …more↓ Italian M13/40 tank, 2 November 1942
DEC 21, 2010 - 09:29 AM
Jim, thanks for the excellent review, and Pat, thanks for the great references. With these uniforms, were they used only in North Africa, or would they have appeared in Hong Kong, or with Commonwealth forces in New Guinea? Which armor would be appropriate to accompany them? I'm interested, but have very little knowledge of British and Commonwealth forces in North Africa.
DEC 21, 2010 - 05:34 PM
Thanks for the pics Pat. The socks, I'd say were probably hose, thick wollen affairs without feet you wore pulled over the sock up to the ball of the leg. We had them in HK. You can see the Regimental flash worn round the folded top this helped hold them up and was pretty standard in Infantry Regiments. Not sure if Hose is the correct nameoculture but I seem to recall that's what we called them. My thooughts anyway. Al
DEC 21, 2010 - 05:51 PM
Suitable for the Far East although most units would have had the new "Jungle Greens" uniform by late 43. I would say okay for the the New Guinea Campaign with slight modifications such as long gaiters. As for Armour in the Middle East- this uniform is good from the start of the Campaign in 1940 right through to the End and for the early part of the Invasion of Sicily and Italy,( though in colder weather the Woollen Battledress uniform was worn.) so any tank used by the Commonwealth, Valentine, Matilda, Crusader, Grant, Sherman and more
DEC 21, 2010 - 10:07 PM
Canadian Soldier Hong Kong 1941. There is also a good page illustrating the Variation of Uniforms worn in the New Guinea campaign on Digger History some more illustrations
DEC 21, 2010 - 10:22 PM
I think that shortly, my stash of M/B figures will pass my D.M.L. stash. They are getting better with each release. The poses here are spectacular and a much needed set. Well done M.B. and I hope this trend continues. Good review Jim. Seeing as the L.H.S. closed here in Ft. Wayne, these reviews are very well appriciated. Happy holidays to all!!!
DEC 22, 2010 - 04:40 AM

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