In World War One German military engineering had primarily focused on field fortifications and the sophisticated trench system, particularly on the Western Front. The static slaughter of that war had horrified everyone, and when war came again in 1939 German engineers (Pioniere) must have been grateful that they were able to resume their more mobile and varied role, of removing obstructions, crossing rivers and marshes, breeching enemy works etc. However Sturmpioniere were much more than that; they were assault infantry, utilising a wide array of weapons, and they fought to establish positions as they worked. In fact on occasion, particularly later in the war as things became desperate, they were sometimes used rather wastefully as simple infantry. Revell made a set of such men over 20 years before the second full set, this one, made its appearance. The Revell set was pretty good, so could this Caesar set do better?
This Caesar set is certainly a lot smaller than the Revell offering - only 10 poses and few of each. However it does offer some new equipment and poses, several of which repay closer inspection. The top row begins with a kneeling figure who carries the full pioneers assault pack, including the two side pouches with rifle ammunition pockets down the front. These packs would have held charges as well as various tools and perhaps a gas mask, but would only be issued to perhaps one in five of the men, so just one in this set is reasonable. This figure is holding something, but we could not make out or guess what it is.
Next to this man is a pair operating an anti-tank device - a Raketenwerfer 54 (Panzerschreck). The first man is feeding a rocket into the tube, which makes this a more realistic representation of this weapon than other sets that have just one crewman. However both figures have a good deal of extra plastic round their hands and arms, which previous Caesar sets have avoided, so while the poses are not flat some purists will need to spend time cutting away the unwanted material.
Row one concludes with a soldier kneeling and holding a mine and one lying on his back using a pair of wire-cutters. Both are nice poses, but again the last man has a lot of plastic between his arms, which in our photo completely obscures his head. This man has only pioneer pouches on his belt, but his comrade carries all the usual infantry equipment and kit, which is correct as such men generally had the same weapons and kit as ordinary infantry.
Row two begins with a kneeling man wearing a peaked field cap and pointing at something, followed by another holding his rifle and a grenade, who has an ordinary assault pack and makes a perfectly good assault engineer but could also simply be any infantryman. Like the rest of the figures he wears a standard army tunic and long boots, and no cover on his helmet, so while suitable for all of the war he has more of an early war feel to him. All the uniform and equipment in this set is accurately done, as are the weapons, although these are sometimes not as sharply detailed as we would have liked.
The third man in this row carries a common pioneer weapon, a flamethrower. In fact he holds the most common type of small man-portable flamethrower used by the German Army during the war, the Fm. W. 41. It’s a nice model, but as a flamethrower operator we would have expected him to have a pistol as a sidearm, but there is no sign of one here, although once again there is a lot of extra plastic between the hose and the man which does obscure the belt to a large degree.
Caesar sets have always had something of a problem with weapons and other thin parts becoming bent, thanks to the slightly soft plastic used and the fact that the figures are lose in the box rather than protected by a sprue. This is nowhere better illustrated than by our next man, who is using an Aachen 40 mine detector. The detector itself is of the perfect proportions for the scale, which is to say very thin, but as you can see that makes it particularly vulnerable to getting bent while in the box, and it is not easy to persuade this plastic to change its shape and stay there. This is a real pity because the figure is good and very useful, and this device has not been modelled in this scale before, but precisely what shape your copy may be in will probably be largely random.
The last figure is another fairly generic but perfectly appropriate pose, of a soldier kneeling and again pointing while carrying a standard submachine gun and wearing the usual assault pack and suitable ammunition pouches. His only distinction is the pair of goggles on his helmet, but like the rest he is a really nice sculpt with good detail and absolutely no flash. All the kneeling figures stand by themselves, although of course the absence of a base makes them a bit less stable as well as automatically that much shorter in comparison to their standing comrades.
Compared to the Revell set this one offers different items of equipment and no figures engaged in the dirty jobs of digging etc. However the size and style of the two sets of figures is entirely compatible, and as none of the poses are duplicated they work very well side by side. On the whole Caesar have delivered rather better poses, but have allowed a good deal of extra plastic to somewhat mar the results. Sculpting is very good and there are no apparent accuracy problems, so this is an interesting set that works well with its 'ancestor', but in the past Caesar have shown they can do more to avoid the unwanted plastic that is a feature of this collection, while the relatively small amount of product in the box will also disappoint some.