There had been much early enthusiasm for paratroops in Germany, and they were used to great effect during the campaigns in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. The invasion of Crete was perhaps their finest hour, but the cost had been high, and as the war progressed the Germans lost the all-important air superiority, so for the rest of the war they were almost exclusively used as elite ground forces. As such their ‘tropical’ theatres were Greece, North Africa and Italy, all of which only enhanced their tough, professional reputation.
There have been several sets of Fallschirmjäger made in the past, some with the label of ‘tropical’, so this one concentrates on two infantry support weapons. Originally, when the men had to jump into battle, even carrying sidearms had been a problem, so mortars and other heavier weapons presented major issues. The key characteristics of the chosen weapons were lightness and ability to break them down into manageable parts, and both mortars and recoilless rifles had found favour, but even later in the war, when the men were no longer jumping, these remained weapons of choice. This set contains two.
The first is in our top row, and is the 10.5 cm LG42 recoilless rifle. This and earlier models were quite light and powerful, but had some drawbacks too, yet remained in the arsenal of the paratroopers. As the name suggests, this particular weapon was only introduced in 1942, and the model of it in this set is pretty good, if of course somewhat simplified. The detail of the breech and the carriage have been well done, and the shield is a separate piece, so is effectively optional (which is good as a shield was not always used). On this model the trails are fixed and the front leg is extended, so the wheels are lifted off the ground, ready to be fired. It’s a nice model, but there is a lot of flash on it, particularly round the tyres, which will take some time to trim off satisfactorily. Worse yet, all the holes into which various pegs are supposed to be inserted are entirely filled in with plastic. At first glance this may seem annoying, and it is, but because you have to drill and file your own holes, it means you can do so to exactly the right size for the peg, and as a result the whole thing fits together very snuggly with no need for glue anywhere. Some may say that is worth the effort, but if you want your guns to be ready to assemble immediately then this one is not nearly well enough moulded to allow that.
The rest of the top row shows the figures primarily intended to serve this weapon. Two carry shells, and the third is reaching for the breech, which together make a fairly decent depiction of the crew in action – certainly better than many gun crews we have seen. Like all recent Mars offerings, the figures are very well animated, and so far from being flat.
The second support weapon here is the mortar. Early on the paratroopers had been issued a shorter version of the standard 8 cm Army mortar, but by this later stage of the war they were using the standard model, which was a better weapon. Unusually this weapon comes in just two parts – the barrel/bipod and the base plate. Again the hole in the base plate for the barrel is filled in, so again drilling is required, but as with the gun the result can be a snug and secure fit. The resulting model is just as good as those which have a separate bipod, but is easier to assemble as we always struggle with separate bipods. While simplified it is no more so than any other mortar reviewed on this site, and to our eye looks pretty good – worth the loss of detail on the bipod, though that is a personal preference of course. The four crewmen most clearly associated with the mortar are all in the second row, and all are good poses. One man passes a bomb from its case, another is about to feed a bomb into the barrel, and the third kneeling figure is particularly fine – he is holding one leg of the mortar as it is being fired, to stabilise the weapon. The fourth man looks to be in charge of the crew, and is controlling the firing while looking at his watch. The figure loading a bomb even has a cut-out on his base to allow him to be close enough to the weapon to reach it, and we thought this was an excellent mortar crew – better than most sets, which often have a single figure in that role.
Our third row contains the more generic poses. These could work for either weapon, or in other situations. Two are simply covering their ears while the third is peering through binoculars, which of course makes him a perfectly good officer of infantry too. Like all the poses, these are well-animated and very lifelike, as well as being about as active as you could wish for in crews for these weapons.
The men are all dressed alike, wearing the jump smock and para helmet which were their trademark. The trousers are nice and baggy, and some have evidence of the large map pocket on the left thigh. One man wears the peaked service cap, the Einheitsfeldmütze, which was common in the later-war period. Kit consists of the usual bread-bag, water flask, mess tin and cylindrical gasmask cannister that were common to all infantry. A few also have an entrenching tool, and of course the pouches suitable for their sidearm. Some have the unique paratrooper rifle pouch belt hung around the neck, and one man has acquired an Italian ‘Samurai’ assault jacket, probably obtained after the Italian armistice in 1943. As well as some pistols, we see sidearms of submachine guns, rifles and a couple of the FG42, all of which are fine, although as the FG42 was only made in relatively small numbers, we wonder whether this excellent weapon would have found its way into the hands of a mortar or gun crew. In fact, everything about the uniform, kit and weaponry is perfectly appropriate to the later part of the war, which is clearly when this set is aimed.
The sculpting is pretty good – we have already sung the praises of the well-animated poses, but the general proportions are good too. Detail is a little on the soft side, with faces in particular being somewhat indistinct, and there is a fair amount of flash on all these figures. Like many recent Mars figures, these are scaled-down versions of 1/32 figures, and it seems the larger figures better-preserve the original sculpted detail. However these smaller cousins are perfectly usable for most.
The removing of flash, and the drilling and filing required to put the weapons together, make this product one that requires more work than most, but the end result is pretty good. Since you get 10 different poses, plus the weapons, in each box, this is somewhat better value than the usual 8-pose Mars set. If you are prepared to put in the necessary time then you will gain some useful weapons and a worthwhile expansion of your Fallschirmjäger forces for the last year or two of the war.