Germany’s paratroopers were an elite part of the Luftwaffe and the armed forces as a whole, and delivered some spectacular successes in the first two years of the Second World War. However the losses sustained during the conquest of Crete discouraged the high command from using such fine soldiers in similar high-cost operations, so from that time on the paratroopers found themselves mostly used as elite ground infantry, in which role they served in North Africa, Russia, Italy, France and other theatres. As the war moved into its last year the quality of these men had deteriorated however. Many newer recruits were simply drafted in from other Luftwaffe Field Divisions, or were just ground crew without any planes to service. Some had never used a parachute, and were an indication of the increasing desperation of Germany’s commanders as they were progressively forced back in both the East and the West.
The reason our introduction skips over the early, happier years of these troops is because this set from Pegasus largely depicts these men in the later years, when their jumping days were either behind them or certainly very few in number. The men in this set would find themselves operating in Russia, Italy or Normandy, and eventually in Germany itself, and so many hold weapons that only appeared later in the war. Three of the poses hold a Panzerfaust, the single-shot anti-armour weapon used throughout the army to good effect from its introduction in late 1943, while a kneeling figure in our bottom row is using the Raketenwerfer 54 (the 'Panzerschreck'), another anti-tank weapon of the last two years of the war. A further interesting weapon is in the hands of the first figure in our second row, and this is the FG42 assault rifle, which was only issued to airborne troops and was developed as a result of experience such as that on Crete in 1941. One man in the bottom row is firing an MG42 from the hip, while the rest of the figures carry either rifles (the Kar 98K) or submachine guns (MP40).
Although rarely called upon to make a jump, these men still wore their jump smocks and distinctive steel helmets, mainly as a symbol of their proud tradition and status. Apart from the officer all the figures here wear jump smocks of one type or another, including some later models, and all have the jump helmet, although by this stage of the war clothing and equipment was becoming very mixed and ordinary army issue items, including the usual brimmed helmet, would have been found on some. Many poses still wear their long jump boots, but others have adopted the short boots and gaiters worn by the ordinary infantry, so again an indication of late war and perfectly accurate. The kit is fairly sparse but still perfectly correct, with mostly ordinary general issue items, although a couple still retain their fabric gasmask bags rather than the fluted steel tube worn by the infantry (and on occasion by these troops too when in the field). Many have also still got their pistol holsters on their belt - another cherished mark of their identity. One man has the paratroop-only ammunition bandolier of rifle ammunition in 12 pockets round his neck, and the man with the FG42 has correctly been given the unique 8-pocket bandolier for this weapon (which is also worn by the next figure in this row, who is essentially the same pose but holding a panzerfaust). Everything about the clothing, kit and weaponry on these men is correct and appropriate.
The sculpting of these figures is very fine indeed, with as much glorious detail on weapons and equipment as you could possibly want. The proportions are perfect, the heads not too large and the hang of the clothing is completely realistic. With absolutely no trace of flash or unwanted plastic, and no assembly at all, the only preparation required is to remove the various intentional ejection lugs, which have been intelligently positioned to ensure they do not damage any detail.
The poses are also excellent. 19 poses is a lot these days, but as can be seen some are pretty much the same but with different weapons or equipment, yet this is a perfectly good way to increase the variety on offer. There is a good deal of movement here, with plenty of figures on their knees or moving forward but keeping their heads down - exactly what you want from figures from this era. The man throwing a grenade is particularly well done, but really we loved all the poses apart from the first figure in row three, which just struck us as a bit awkward. Particular mention must go to the second figure in the bottom row, who is firing his MG42 from the hip. This might not be ideal but certainly happened, although we were surprised that he has chosen to hold the gun not by the barrel (which would require gloves if the barrel got hot from prolonged firing) but by the bipod. This strikes us as a pretty unstable way of holding this weapon, although it was a recognised technique for using the post war MG3 and also the later M60, so presumably this was also true for the MG42. The poses are very energetic and anything but flat, so very good.
If there is an issue here then it is with the length of the weapons. A couple of the MP40s are a bit too long in the barrel, and the rifles, although all detailed as the standard 98K, are about 17mm in total length, which scales up to 122cm, almost the length of the old Gewehr 98 rifle. The 98K was 110cm in total length, so these should be roughly 15mm. It would take a purist to notice the difference in length, and a pedant to point it out, but that is what we do!
The choice of weapons and the variations in clothing are all excellent, and the sculpting is beyond reproach in detail and overall realism. With some great poses this is a first-rate set for a subject that has not always enjoyed the best of efforts from other companies, and by covering the late-war period rather than the glamorous early years this set offers figures for all those decisive battles as the Allies closed in on the Third Reich.