After its first appearance during World War I the tank continued to be developed over the following two decades, but at a much slower pace due to many causes, not the least being a lack of agreement over exactly how such machines should be used in war. By the 1930s tanks had gained all the basic characteristics that we still recognise today, but they were still fairly modestly armoured, allowing infantry to combat them with relatively light weapons. By 1939 however such weapons were proving of little use against the better protected vehicles, and over the following six years tank armour rapidly improved. As a result the major anti-tank weapons were ever larger guns of at least 37 mm calibre, which quickly gave way to more powerful examples such as the famous German ‘88’. In effect small artillery pieces, these were the major elements of infantry’s anti-tank fight, although very often the best anti-tank weapon was recognised as being another tank. Nevertheless there were some infantry weapons which were light yet capable of damaging or destroying at least some of the tanks of the day, with a bit of luck and a good eye.
Most of the heavier weapons have long been available in 1/72 plastic, and many of the lighter examples have also found their way into sets of figures, as our long ‘See Also’ list below testifies. However this is the first time that such a theme has been used for a single set of figures spanning all the major participants in the European theatre of World War II. Effectively this set covers four separate but related subjects: anti-tank infantry from the Soviet Union, Germany, Britain and the United States, each of which is conveniently represented by four figures as shown above. We will therefore consider each nationality in turn.
Row one contains the Soviet figures, and immediately demonstrates one of the features of this set: Namely that much of it has little to do with tank combat. In fact there is not a single Soviet anti-tank weapon to be found here. Not one anti-tank rifle, rifle grenade or hand grenade. Soviet anti-tank strength relied on the kind of heavy guns that are not a part of this set, and to a degree on weapons supplied to them by their allies. However another major source, once the war turned in their favour, was the capture of German weapons. The famous German Panzerfaust was captured in large quantities and extensively used, and the first two figures here are each holding an example. The first is merely carrying his but the second shows some sign of being about to use his. However he has yet to raise the aiming sight, which released the trigger, and is in any case currently pointing it rather high in the air. The third figure is a generic officer, and the rather dramatic fourth seems to be carrying a Degtyarev or DP light machine gun. This was a good weapon but not likely to stop a tank, so its inclusion here is a bit strange. True part of a tank’s defence was the supporting infantry, so clearing these would leave the tank more open to attack, but that hardly warrants the label of anti-tank weapon.
All the men wear authentic uniform. Each figure has a different but realistic uniform, with the first two having the quilted jacket and all four being dressed for cold weather. The officer wears a warm-looking coat which may be of civilian origin, but unusually for the time it is single-breasted (it looks like a single-breasted copy of the common shuba coat), while the last man has also found himself a coat that we could not positively identify. Kit is a little sparse but looks OK, and the poses too are fine although the very dramatic final figure almost looking like he is firing his machine gun from the hip would be pretty unlikely, certainly if he hopes to hit anything at more than a few metres range.
The second row reveals the Germans in this set, and what do we notice first but more Panzerfaust! The Germans made these in the millions, and they were simple one-shot weapons that could do great damage with very little training. As with the Soviet figures however neither of the men modelled here are about to fire as neither have the sight raised. Indeed the last figure in the row is pressing the weapon against his stomach, which would do his abdomen no good at all were he to fire it now. Of all the German light anti-tank weapons the Panzerfaust deserves a good deal of coverage, but there were other such weapons, although these are not present here. The first man carries the equally famous MP38 or MP40 submachine gun, while the second looks to have an MG34 in his hands. Both were excellent weapons but neither would trouble any but the lightest and oldest tank.
We have discussed German uniform of the 39-45 war so many times on this site that there really is not anything more to say. All these figures have correct uniform and kit, but all seem to have the neat jackets and the jackboots that were a feature of early war German troops rather than late war. Since the Panzerfaust only appeared in late 1943 this seems like an odd combination for these two figures. It is a shame that neither of the Panzerfaust-armed men are in a classic firing pose, but the poses are otherwise good and the soldier firing his MP38 is very nicely done and well animated.
Third in the list is the British, and for them we find some paratroopers. The British had few decent anti-tank weapons when hostilities opened, and of course lost a great deal of equipment in the defeat in France in 1940. The most famous new weapon to fulfill the anti-tank role was the PIAT (“Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank”), and an example can be found in the hands of the second figure in this row. The PIAT was basic, even crude, but did the job fairly well and was widely used including the airborne forces. Two problems with it were that it was heavy (16 kg when loaded) and it had a violent kickback when fired. Both these reasons meant it was not a weapon to be fired from the hip, which is exactly what this figure seems to be doing. Granted there are a tiny number of instances when this did occur, but Italeri should have portrayed the usual rather than the very exceptional, as here. OK, so he could be carrying it, but if so then he would be very unlikely to have loaded it, which is what has happened here. Apart from the confused monopod the weapon is properly sculpted here, yet the pose is an extremely poor choice.
Moving to the rest of the figures our eye is caught by the third figure, kneeling over a miniature mortar. This is the 2-inch mortar, possibly the Mark VIII which was especially small and therefore particularly used by airborne forces. The man is correctly supporting the barrel with one hand while loading a bomb with the other. However mortars are not usually first-choice anti-tank weapons as this is not their main purpose, although they could certainly harm a tank if a bomb exploded on parts of a tank's topside, so again a nice figure to have but not really what you might expect from the set’s title. Flanking these two men are two others with no anti-tank role of any kind. The first is firing a Sten submachine gun, the Mark V in fact, which was a popular Para weapon (although he holds it by the magazine, which was frowned upon). He wears the famous maroon beret, which was surprisingly common even in combat (although the badge should be over the left eye, not central as sculpted here), and is an excellent figure. The running Para on the right carries an ammunition case for the PIAT plus his own rifle, and again is a perfectly usable figure.
All the figures have subtle differences in uniform but all are authentic, as is the kit. Naturally paratroopers have even fewer options than ordinary infantry when it comes to guns heavy enough to inconvenience enemy armour, so while these are nice figures they are a surprising choice. However the PIAT pose is of little value and could so easily have been made both accurate and useful with a little research.
Finally in our lightning tour of anti-tank troops we have the Americans, which again are paratroops. This collection of figures includes the heaviest of the weapons on offer, and begins with a mortar. By its size this is the 60 mm M2 mortar, which as we have said is not an ideal anti-tank weapon. However mortars could disperse supporting infantry, and they could also fire illumination shells to help other weapons acquire their target. The unusual pose has the operator holding the weapon at the base as he prepares to load a bomb. The man and mortar tube come as one piece, with the supporting legs as a second piece that needs gluing in place, which is a relatively simple task.
Next there is a man firing a .30 calibre Browning M1919A4 machine gun. This is a weapon we have seen several times before in sets, and as has been done before the man is in a very odd pose. To point the weapon at the target the gunner had to look along the barrel at the sights, which meant he had to be prone behind the gun. This man can only be firing it in the right general direction, which is not what his training had taught him. The gun was capable of being locked onto the tripod, thus allowing pre-aiming, but we would have much preferred the normal prone pose here. One rather obvious omission is any form of ammunition belt feeding the gun! As shown the man is one piece and the weapon two more (gun and tripod). The man’s firing hand is part of the gun and fits his wrist. However his base interferes with the rear legs of the tripod, making this a poorly thought out model.
Still on the US paratroops the next figure with binoculars to his eyes holds an M3 submachine gun (“Grease Gun”), which was a popular paratroop weapon, while the rest all carry another good choice, the folding stock .30 calibre M1A1 carbine. The last figure carries the only overtly anti-tank weapon: the famous bazooka. This was a light and reasonably effective weapon which was short enough (1.36 metres – perfectly reproduced here) to be a usable infantry and even airborne option. This particular version lacks a forward handgrip and wooden stock, so is the M1A1 model.
Once again uniform and kit are pretty good. The uniform is the 1943 issue which naturally saw service later in the war such as at Arnhem, and the various items of equipment have been done well. We particularly liked the grenades and ropes attached to the straps, and the ammo bandoliers most of the men are carrying across their chest. One man seems to have an armband on his upper right arm – possibly a gas detector.
The sculpting of all these figures is very good indeed, with great detail clearly picked out everywhere. However several do suffer from some quite large and therefore obvious areas of excess plastic where the mould cannot reach, so while they look good from an ideal angle (which is pretty much how our pictures show them) some are less appealing when you look on the other side of their weapons. However there is no flash to be found, and where pieces have to be fitted together they do so without difficulty.
So there you have it – four reviews for the price of one, and something of an epic! In general this is a great set but some odd pose choices and excess plastic spoil the effect somewhat. More to the point there is actually not a great many anti-tank weapons on show here, and while most of the poses are very usable and even welcome we would have liked to have seen some anti-tank rifles, grenades and other such weapons. Certainly anti-tank teams included soldiers with machine guns etc for attacking supporting infantry and forcing the tank to shut all its hatches, which is presumably what Italeri were thinking when they designed these figures, but with so many suitable figures for this role already available duplicating them here is rather unnecessary.
Scoring such multi-subject sets is particularly difficult. We have highlighted some accuracy issues but on the whole accuracy is very good. You get few poses for any particular nation, and many of them are not related directly to anti-tank activity, so we had to mark down the set on that score. Also some of the weapons on show required a second crewman, yet none are present here, and poses like the PIAT man are not useful and have been scored accordingly. Sculpting is great but the blind spots for the mould are ugly and very evident on some figures, so again a mostly great result suffers at the hands of a few blemishes. A bit of a mixed bag in total, but with some excellent figures that make the set worthwhile in the end.