In-Box Review
Groupe Tabor
Groupe Tabor Armée Française
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Groupe Tabor
Series: Armée Française
Groupe De Combat France Infanterie 1942-1945
Mfg. ID: 116

We examine the old Heller set "Groupe Tabor", a 1/35 set of two Moroccan Goumiers and a pack animal. It features great molding.

Tabor background
As best as I can understand it, tabor was a military organization of approximately battalion size of Moroccan auxiliary units employed by the French colonial authorities from 1908 to 1956. French recruitment and organization of colonial troops is complex so I will try to keep it simple with the following from Wikipedia:
    In French military terminology, a goum was a unit of 200 auxiliaries. Three or four goums made up a tabor. An engine or groupe was composed of three tabors. A goum in this case was the equivalent of a company in regular military units and a tabor would thereby be equivalent to a battalion. A tabor was the largest permanent goumier unit.

    Each goum was a mix of different berber tribes mainly from the Atlas mountains of Morocco.

    Initially, the Moroccan Goums wore tribal dress with only blue cloaks as uniform items, but as they achieved permanent status they adopted the distinctive brown and grey striped
    jellaba (a hooded Moroccan cloak) that was to remain their trademark throughout their history with the French Army. Their normal headdress was a turban. Goums included both infantry and cavalry elements. Their traditional and favoured weapons were sabres or elongated daggers.

Heller released several small (3-4 figures or people with animals) sets of 1/35 Second World War French soldiers in the 1970s. This is a trio of Moroccan Goumiers with a donkey feature clean molding and good detail.

Armée Francaise “39-45” was Heller’s 1/35 series of Second World War French subjects. I do not know how many sets there were although box art advertisements show several continental and colonial subjects:
    1. 25mm Anti-Tank Cannon Model 1934
    2. 2éme D.B. (I)
    3. 81mm Mortar crew*
    4. Assault troops*
    5. Chasseurs Alpins (Reviewed here at KitMaker.)
    6. Frogmen in a rubber raft (WW II?)
    7. Gnome-Rhone Motorcycle
    8. Hotchkiss machine gun crew
    9. Moto Gnome-Rhone ET Sidecar Military Cycle
    10. Sahara Camel Corps
    11. Stretcher bearers*
    12. Groupe Tabor

(Those with an asterisk wear Free French uniforms.)

Heller also combined this kit and other sets to make diorama sets, including the diorama set "Koufra".

Several 1/35 WWII French tanks and Wehrmacht figure sets were also created. I read that these models now belong to Italeri and SK Models.

The models
With three other Groupe De Combat France Infanterie 1942-1945 Heller kits fresh in my mind, I think this is a leap in quality. Expecting molding similar to the other kits I was pleased by how clean, sharp and detailed these model are. These models are proportional, posed and detailed at least as well, if not better, than contemporary Tamiya figures, and much better than contemporary Italeri models.

Heller packed them in a sealed plastic bag held inside a light one-piece end-opening box. Three sprues and a rubber/plastic bottle of glue is held inside. (I didn't count the parts yet did notice that the box states there are 50, while the instructions state 55.) The molding is great! I found no remarkable flash, mold seam lines, or visible ejector marks. I may or may not have found a visible sink mark - look at the helmet. A sink, or a purposely tooled ding? Most of the surface is fairly smooth and mostly sharp. A few items have rounded thickish detail: canteens; bayonets.

Each two-leg is assembled with separate legs, torsos, arms, and heads; one Goumier has separate headcover. All cartridge pouches, bandoliers, canteens and bayonets are separate. Aside from the belts and footwear, no kit is molded on.

I am also impressed that the standing Goumier lower body is molded as a left and right side, with open space between the legs and the jellaba. Sculpting of folds and other clothing is good.

The pack animal is three pieces. A blanketed pack rack burdens the beast's back. Retaining straps are molded onto the critter.

Heller put effort into this model. Note the simulated stitching seams around the ammo pouches. See the buckles on the donkey harness?

Each Goumier has a detailed and defined face. While I didn't notice it from a normal model viewing distance, the close-up of the standing man shows a particularly weathered face reminiscent of Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo's painting series The Four Seasons. Perhaps Heller's artists intended the figure to appear to be a man of a hard life, adding character and interest to this set? He also has the chin strap for the helmet molded on his head.

The rifles are more detailed and refined than the previous Heller Armée Francaise “39-45” kits. They are identified as the Springfield M1903 in the instructions.

Finally, several Jerrycans and water tins and crates load down the donkey. They are sharply molded yet with oversized handles. While not included in the kit, Heller tells us to tie down the load with Heller .25mm thread.

Instructions and painting
A folded instruction sheet displays three diagrams for the assembly of each creature. It is printed in French, English, and German.

Fourteen Heller paints are referenced, including a custom formula to mix. Heller describes the colors of the jellaba. However, unlike Italeri and Tamiya models of the era, no attempt was made to guide modelers in creating insignias.

saddling up
While Tamiya was the leading 1/35 figure maker in the 1970s, Heller and other model companies filled the void of overlooked subjects that were not American, British, German or Russian. I think this Heller model set is a step above similar quality of 1970s Tamiya figures in the aspects of molding and detail. Separate detail and body parts enhance detail and painting.

Some soft and oversized detail are drawbacks.

I am impressed with this set and equally interested in sampling more of this series. Happily recommended if you can find this set.
Highs: Good molding and detail. Separate details and body parts enhance detail and painting.
Lows: Some soft and oversized detail are drawbacks.
Verdict: I am impressed with this set and equally interested in sampling more of this series.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 116
  PUBLISHED: Dec 05, 2013

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Thanks for the review Frédéric! Back in the 70s I was quite fond of Heller figures and kits. In fact, I still own most of the sets and use parts for my conversions. Back then I built and painted the Goumiers for a good friend and I was -just like you- impressed by the overall quality of the set. The donkey is still of the best around IMHO. Some of the Goumiers ended up in Austria in 1945 (and some Spahis for good measure)...and the french occupation forces in Vienna ("die 4 im Jeep") up to 1955 were garrisoned in barracks very near to where I live now. Cheers Romain
DEC 04, 2013 - 09:08 PM

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