Stalingrad was one of the colossal battles of World War II, and of all history. The losses on both sides were horrific, but from the German point of view the worst came around the 23rd November 1942, when the Sixth Army was cut off in the city, after which the strengthening Red Army combined with the onset of the Russian winter to eventually force surrender. Pictures of those last few desperate weeks in wintry conditions have become the most recognisable images of the whole battle, and that is clearly the inspiration for this, the latest in a long line of WWII German sets from Caesar.
We will start with the more obvious observations. You only get eight poses in this box, which is not unusual across the hobby but is unusual from Caesar. Just as importantly, you get less than 20 figures in total, which is certainly not what we have come to expect from this major producer. The sculpting certainly is what we would expect, for all the figures are very nice indeed, with all the detail you could ask for and very good proportions and clothing. Some of the weapons lack definition, however, and there are some small areas of excess plastic between bodies and weapons, while a small amount of flash in some places means these are not quite the perfect mould Caesar usually deliver. Nevertheless these can certainly be described as very good sculpts.
All the men wear greatcoats, and either helmet or field cap. Most also wear their regulation tube-like woollen balaclava, but none have the various items of warm winter clothing and special camouflage garments that appeared later in the war. One man has managed to obtain a warm-looking cap, perhaps taken from a Soviet prisoner or civilian, but none of these men look really well wrapped up against the cold, which is good. One very particular feature of five of the eight poses is some sort of overall which they wear over their greatcoat. This item has slits right up both sides and short sleeves, and simply matches nothing ever issued to German troops at this time. Our suspicion is that this is supposed to be depicting the common habit of many soldiers to take sheets and wear them to provide at least a little camouflage in the snowy environment, but if so then the sculptor has not understood what they are, for no soldier ever took the time to stitch neat sleeves to these improvised garments. On some of the figures this is not obvious, so Caesar have got away with it, but on others, particularly the surrendering man, it just looks ridiculous.
The various items of equipment these men have on their person all looks reasonable, as do the weapons. Two of the men have had the good fortune to get their hands on Soviet PPSh 41 submachine guns, but as far as we can tell the rest are standard German models, although as we have said detail is quite poor on some of these. One man carries a concentrated charge, but there are no heavy or support weapons in this little set.
The poses are all perfectly acceptable, but there is nothing here that seems to suggest the vicious urban combat that characterised much of the fighting in the final weeks. We would have liked to have seen men crouching, prone, taking cover and generally trying to keep out of the firing line, especially when it was often hard to be sure where the enemy were. Battles for tractor factories may not have been the whole story of Stalingrad, but with plenty of 'upright' German soldiers already available we were hoping for something a bit more distinctive here - we were disappointed.
We usually don't comment of box artwork as it is the contents that interest us, not the container, but in this case the box seems thoroughly divorced from the contents. It shows a machine gun, which is not included, and it shows a collection of poses which are exactly what we would have liked to have seen. OK, so these men are defending the airfield rather than in house-to-house fighting, but they all look like they are under fire, and would work equally well in some destroyed city environment. This set then could have been so much more, and not just in the sense that it could have contained more figures. The failure to understand the bed sheets is frankly lazy, but otherwise these are accurate and reasonably well done sculpts. However more could have been done to convey the feeling of the fight for Stalingrad, so in many ways this is an opportunity missed.