Over thirty years after Airfix made their set of German Mountain Troops the hobby finally gets its second set; this time from Caesar. While it would be easy to assume such troops only fought in mountainous areas this would be a mistake as they were often used as elite assault infantry and utilised as such in almost every theatre in which Germany fought, even if there was not so much as a hill to be seen.
The original Airfix set made much of the mountain aspect of these troops, as you might expect; there are skis, ropes and ice picks in abundance. However few of those figures are clothed for a cold environment, which is surprising. With this set Caesar have not laboured the mountain aspects of these troops in terms of their equipment, but have given them much more appropriate cold-weather clothing. Thus we find several wearing the anorak, which has been correctly sculpted with the three front pockets but is missing any sign of the rear pockets. At least one man wears the wind jacket, while the rest have ordinary tunics. They all wear short boots and puttees round the ankle, which is correct. The main distinguishing feature of these men is the Bergmütze cap, although from 1943 a very similar style of cap was issued to much of the wider army. Some of the men also wear goggles.
The middle row pictured above are rather different in that they wear a fez and a camouflage smock. They are men of the 13 Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS Handschar, an SS mountain division that first took the field in early 1944 combating partisans in Yugoslavia. They wore the fez because they were at least in theory all Muslims, and are appropriately uniformed for the late part of the war.
Most of the men are using the standard rifle, while four of the poses have submachine guns. Apart from grenades the only other weapon on show is the MG34 machine gun held by the kneeling figure in the first row. Very curiously he is handling it like a rifle, and also it has a drum ammunition feed when mountain troops usually used belt feeds. Some of the men carry a correctly done rucksack on their back, but otherwise the kit on show is fairly standard for much of the German army. Apart from the rucksacks the order seems fairly light, which would be preferable if the troops had to climb or fight in difficult terrain.
The sculpting is very good, with very realistic proportions and folds in the clothing. Detail too is good, although on occasions it fades a little. There is no assembly required, yet the figures are far from flat and some benefit from multiple-part moulds to achieve this. Finally flash is non-existent.
Unlike the Airfix set this collection of figures are mostly in classic fighting poses; only the man carrying skis is overtly a Gebirgsjäger by his posture. The poses themselves are fine and well balanced, although the inclusion of the Handschar figures means some poses are largely duplicated. This is one set where having a man firing up seems perfectly reasonable, so we liked all the poses apart from the man with the machine gun.
Although steel helmets were often left behind they were sometimes worn in battle, so it would have been nice to have had at least one figure wearing it. Also the Handschar figures, though welcome, do overstate the numbers of such troops compared to the total, but presumably a separate set of Handschar would have been uneconomic. There is almost always room to ask for more poses, especially speciality poses for subjects such as this, but in general this is a very good set of figures that builds considerably on the Airfix set.