Battlefront 1985 British Infantry “Mechanised Company” Review

Today Lee looks at the Mechanised Infantry Company  release for “Iron Maiden”.

Introduction

Given the importance of Infantry in the “Iron Maiden” meta, its no surprise that the British release schedule didn’t just supply a platoon option, but also a full blown company box.  More so than the US and the West Germans, the average British force will no doubt feature multiple platoons of Infantry, all generally larger than their other NATO counterparts.  Given the Infantry have always been the (poorly treated yet unwavering) core of the British Army, this seems only right!

So does the Battlefront rendition capture the 1980’s squaddie suitably?  Read on!

Background

The British Infantryman of 1985 serves as a microcosm of the army as a whole – a professional soldier carrying dated kit but on the verge of sweeping modernisation.  All of the kit, except the new Mk.2 High Boot (replacing the horrendous DMS – Directly Moulded Sole – combat boot that bought trench foot back as a combat condition), would be unchanged from the Falklands War just three years previous and large chunks of it would be familiar to, say, a British Squaddie from the 1960’s!

Each soldier wore DPM combat uniform, Mk.2 High Boots, 1958 pattern webbing, a steel Mk IV helmet (visually little different from the Mk.III of D-Day!) giving a mix of modern camo and antique headgear!  The Mk IV would be replaced, in our reality, by the bulbous nylon Mk VI in 1986.

 

The standard firearm for the British Army was the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle – a licence built copy of the excellent FN FAL with full-auto fire deleted. A very accurate and sturdy battle rifle, its only limitation was the general inadequacies of a long rifle in urban fighting or getting in and out of an APC.  Most examples would have black plastic furniture but the occasional wooden stock example cropped up until the rifle was retired.  The SLR would be replaced by the L-85 SA-80 from late 1985 onwards, to no great enthusiasm by the user.

The average squaddie would also likely have a “66” M72 LAW (disposable anti-tank rocket) stuck under his bergan’s flap.  Whilst far from useful vs a main battle tank, the M72 was still a useful anti-fortification weapon.

Each infantry section was further equipped with a General Purpose Machine Gun (a licence built FN MAG) for sustained fire.  The GPMG was (is?  its still in use today – including being used latterly by Infantry sections in Afghanistan to give some long range punch) an excellent piece of kit – if something of a lump to carry.  Additional, a two man weapons team carried a Carl Gustav recoiless rifle for anti-tank and anti-fortification work.

Whilst it lacked such niceties as thermal sights or under-slung grenade launchers, the British Infantry section was a very capable beast as it had already proven ‘down south’.

The Models

The box contains two mechanised platoons (which by their nature can also do the Airborne and Spartan mounted versions, save the missing Milan) as well as a formation HQ and a pair of tripod mounted General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) for the sustained for role.

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Opening the box, we get an absolute pile of units cards.  Both the Air-mobile and Mechanised forces get a HQ card and two platoon cards and we also get a card for the Recce squadrons Spartan based Infantry.

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The plastic box is filled with bases and infantry, so I set about grouping the Infantry into like groups of NCO, 66mm gunners, Charlie G gunners, GPMG gunners and then riflemen.

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The first thing I noted was that there were no Sterling SMG present in the force.  I would have expected the officers (who are otherwise very difficult to distinguish) at the very least to have them but everyone is equipped with an SLR by default.

The next thing of note was that there appeared to be no loaders for the Light Mortar, Charlie G, or the bipod firing GPMG.  Instead, we get a lot of repetition of the three basic “rifle men”, with six of the “advancing” type, eight of the “Sight Unit, Infantry, Trilux” (SUIT) equipped “marksman” type and five of the prone.  We also get six of the standing NCO.  There’s maybe just a tad too much repetition of the figures that a few loader figures may have helped break up.  That said, there are about 16 different poses split between the different types.

A final thing I noted was, where depicted clearly enough, the troops seemed to have puttee over the boots, suggesting a DMS/Puttee combo (the Mk.2 high boot generally does not seem to be worn with Puttees as they are less necessary).  It seems an odd choice for ’85 – where the DMS would be very rare [EDIT – apparently the DMS wasn’t replaced as quickly as I thought it was].  Maybe its to better allow a trip back to ’82.  I plan to just paint it as one coherent boot per a Mk.2 High Boot anyway.

Lets look at some of the individual figures.

2″ Mortar

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Fairly decent depiction of a 2″ mortar gunner getting ready to send on down the barrel.  He even seems to be concentrating! The SLR looks the part, if chunky, although the carry handle that should be present isn’t (or isn’t very clearly).  The webbing kit that one would associate with a 2″ mortar (cleaning kit pouch, canvas muzzle cover) is absent but I’ll admit to looking for the WWII versions without knowing how the 1980’s one would look.  As noted, there is no loader so no three round ammo pouch to put on the base.

Carl Gustav

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Again, no real complaints here, other than the lack of a loader and only a single pose.  Get used to this guy- you’ll see him a lot!

It would have been nice to have a second variant with the venturi up for reloading or something.  May try that as a conversion.

M72 LAW

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We get one squaddie firing his extended LAW – pop up sight faithfully depicted although the spine that runs along the top is missing, and one with it tucked on top of his kidney pouches of his ’58 pattern.

GPMG (SF)

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Bizarrely, the two GMPG (SF) come with two different loaders, one kneeling, one prone.  Its welcome but an odd point to put the sculpting effort!  The detail on the GPMG looked a little soft, maybe a slight casting issue, but the major features could be picked out.  I liked the posing of the gunner which matches a few real life shots well.  The GPMG seems a touch short, possibly all in the barrel.

GPMG (section)

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We get two poses, one advancing and one firing the GPMG prone from the bipod.  The GPMG looks decent enough, if a little short in the barrel.  I liked that the carry handle was present, but I couldn’t see any obvious ammo band on the advancing gunner (although it would be between his body and the gun).  The prone shooter’s bipod was miscast on both gunners in the pack – see if I can hide it behind a “log” or something.  We get four advancing and two prone GOMG and I think I’d have preferred to have the ratio the other way around – I prefer my MG firing!

Officers and NCO

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For the most part there is little to distinguish the officer and the NCO from other riflemen,  They all carry an SLR so the only real notation is the hand waving one expects  from a command figure,  The “officer” per the BF notes is the chap on the left above with the radio hardest.  Its not exactly inspiring leadership. not like the pistol a waving officers 0f a WWII para company.

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The rest of the NCO are your standard wave and point poses.  The chap in the centre is described as a “loader” but appears to be little different from any other rifleman.

One thing I will say is that the ’58 webbing is well depicted throughout with the standard set of ammo, canteen and “kidney” pouches as well as the poncho roll carried underneath, although one of the figures were depicted with a day sack – presumably left in the APC/heli.  Occasionally a figure would have a field dressing “taped” to the front strap.  It was fairly easy to recognise the layout which is always a good sign.

Riflemen

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Finally we have the three most common “riflemen” figures.  I liked the SUIT on the firing figure and in general the SLR comes across well although the long barrels may be a nightmare in the case.  It would have been nice to have a prone firing and standing firing figure but, hey.  The only real issue with what we got is that the prone figure seems to have a poorly defined face (hey, some people just do).

Overall, its a good solid set of figures.  I probably would have liked a bit more character (camo net scarf, etc) but its generally cleanly cast with minimum mould lines to clean, although I did have a spot of soft details and the disappearing bipod issue.

In The Game

I’ll touch upon British Infantry options in more detail in a future article, but its definitely the strongest in the game now, certainly for NATO.  Good skill, good motivation – especially on the counterattack, a decent close-up anti-tank punch vs the T-72 in the form of the Charlie G (1/3 chance of punching through the BDD side armour is the best odds yet).  Add in the ability to add the MILAN and for 9pts you get a unit that can hold an objective whilst still picking off enemy armour at range.

The smaller “Airmobile” unit lacks the Carl Gustav’s usefulness but does make up for it by in-built Milan and excellent mobility.

The Spartan mounted infantry are a bit of a let-down compared to the first two – having no real strengths beyond being cheap.

The Damage

The Mechanised Company weighs in at £20 for 69 figures, a little over 28p a figure, ignoring the “value added” of the ‘correct for game’ structure, bases and the unit cards (one of which has a game impacting error on it by stating that airmobile infantry go to RoF 1 when pinned – they don’t as confirmed by Phil).  The box is at its most cost effective for providing a HQ and two mech platoons as you get a lot of wastage for using the box to create, say, two air mobile platoons (6 Charlie G stands to be precise)

There are other options for British Infantry.  QRF do them, but sell by “type of figure” (so 8 SLR, 8 GPMG, etc) so you need to do some leg work to get a platoon together and they come in at 33p a figure (£2.70 for 8 figures).

Armies Army (who get credit for now having a site that makes finding everything *much* easier) do a mechanised platoon that is organised sufficiently well for use in Team Yankee with a price per figure of about 37p once the 4 FV432 are allowed for.  The infantry can also be bought sans transports or even as a complete company.

Conclusion

All in all, the Battlefront Mechanised Company is a cost effective core of a British Mechanised Infantry force containing a reasonably good facsimile of an 1980’s British Infantry unit.  The set suffers from some repetition of poses and the lack of certain obvious figures (loaders, radio man, etc) but whilst this detracts from the overall impression, the box does its job and the individual figures look good.

Category: BritishFlames of WarIron MaidenRamblingReviewsTeam Yankee

5 comments

  1. Good review, DMS were still about and I don’t think were as rare as you believe.
    The webbing is well cast which unfortunately makes it easy to see that the water bottle pouch is on the wrong side (unless you have a company comprised of left handed people) and the respirator case is missing. The GPMG when used in the SF role had the butt removed and a base plate in its place which BF haven’t done, also a pity that the GPMP seems to have a floating size scale ranging from the version on the Chief to the one carried by the infantry.
    The infantry in the Spartans if memory serves me well were in RL assault pioneers, but this was missed out by BF.
    Your definitely right about it needing a little more variation.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

    1. Looking closer there’s a non pouched water bottle on the correct side, and instead of a respirator case they’ve added another pouch

  2. No 2 on the Charlie G would be wrapped around the number 1 when firing and sharing the ear splitting bang. As above with the SF GPMG and fired from the side. The Boot Troop in Spartan were dismounts used for assault, if required, and dismounted OP/Recce including the use of the ZB498.

    There was often quite a mix of footwear including DMS with an extra piece of leather stitched on, NI Boots I had some US para boots (84). The same with webbing, mine consisted of water bottle pouches.

  3. Good review. I too was disappointed by the troop mix and types. I agree wholeheartedly about the prone/standind GGPM mix. Oddly, the prone SF GPMG loader would make an excellent loader for the prone GPMG. I submitted a question to the recent Team Yankee panel regarding the lack of/mix of loaders in the Milan pack. Of 9 Milans only 4 have loaders and 5 have the ubiquitous ‘kneeling rifleman’ figure Why? Apparently they thought players would like a variation (then why not a second, different, loader figure?) Lack of decent officer/radio figure is also a sticking point. Incidentally Old Glory UK make good 15mm Falklands War British who would mix very well. Very disappointed with Team Yankee. Makes you wonder why they don’t canvas their customers about troops and types they would like/prefer before starting design of a range, then at least they’d get some sort of concensus. Making any support weapon without a suitable No 2 is a non starter in my opinion. Prone machine gunners should be the norm.

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.