German paratroopers served in many theatres of World War II, including the Mediterranean and North Africa, which created a need for clothing more suited to such warm climates. However that need was largely met by issuing standard clothing items but in light colours, so for the purposes of unpainted figures the differences between tropical and temperate clothing would be almost indistinguishable. The major item of uniform – the jump smock – was never issued in a tropical weight anyway, and the trousers differed only in being somewhat more baggy, so to a considerable degree tropical paratroops can be obtained simply by varying the paint job. However, even if the premise is slender, this is a new set of figures, and a pretty good one too, so we need to consider it in some detail.
The majority of figures in this set wear the standard paratrooper helmet, some of which have been modelled with netting or a band to take camouflage, while two of the uncovered examples even have the air force eagle on the side, a device that was generally painted over fairly soon and was therefore more common early in the war. Two of the figures however are wearing the side cap, while three others have the peaked field cap, which would have been most appropriate for sunny climates but clearly offered no protection.
Moving down the body we find most of the men are wearing the second type jump smock, which has been correctly modelled but looks far too neat as photographs always show the large pockets bulging, much as they are on the box artwork. The rest of the figures are wearing a standard tunic, which might have been more comfortable in the heat but shows they have not just jumped. However after the costly victory on Crete in 1941 (which does not seem to have been conducted with much tropical clothing), paratroopers were almost always used as conventional elite infantry and rarely jumped, so the complete lack of any suggestion of jumping here is perfectly appropriate. The baggy trousers, with the map pocket on the left thigh where visible, are also quite correct.
The kit these men carry varies from man to man, as you might expect. Between them the men correctly carry all the usual German items, including bread bag, canteen, mess tin and bayonet where appropriate. Several also have an entrenching tool – another sign they have not just jumped – while most have the one item of kit that was unique to the paras – a cloth gas mask bag that replaced the fluted metal version as it was considered safer. As with the smock then, these men have mostly retained their traditional uniform and equipment even though they are acting as ordinary infantry. Ammunition pouches are all appropriate to the weapon carried, but those for the MP40 have been sculpted vertically when they were manufactured to be at an angle and indeed could not be worn in this way. On a more positive note many of the men have the paratrooper ammunition bandolier round their necks, which looks good.
Paratrooper weaponry was much the same as that of the Army, and a number of men here are using the usual Kar 98k carbine/rifle. Sub machine guns were more common amongst airborne troops than in the infantry, so the four figures carrying the MP40 are a good choice here. One man carries a Panzerfaust, the anti-tank weapon that is frequently modelled and needs no further description here, while the second man in the top row is carrying what looks like the MG34 machine gun, but it has incorrectly been given the drum magazine on the right side. The weapon of the second figure in the second row, and the two middle figures in the third row, caused us to do a lot of head-scratching. At first glance alarm bells rang as it looks like a machine gun being used as a rifle, but in the end we decided this must be trying to represent the FG42 rifle. The FG42 was a rifle developed specifically for the Fallschirmjäger which first saw service in September 1943 (at the snatching of Mussolini from Italian captivity), and only around 7,000 seem to have been made. Therefore this is a late war weapon, and not a particularly common one, but more to the point the model on all these figures is grossly too large. The FG42 was 940 mm in length, but the weapon these figures are carrying is almost 1.4 scale metres long, making it look quite ridiculous, particularly for the man firing it from the shoulder. It must also be observed that the weapon was loaded from a clip on the left hand side, and since this seems to be missing in all cases these man are carrying empty weapons - even the man apparently firing!
One more weapon needs to be considered. For ease of carrying and deployment the paratroopers were issued a smaller version of the 8 cm mortar, named kurzer or 'small'. However the mortar in the third row is not this, but rather the standard 8 cm infantry mortar, which is fine given that these are entirely earthbound troops.
We really liked all the poses, which have been realised very naturally and with no suggestion of flatness, which shows what can be done with an expert hand despite the limitations of a two-piece mould. Indeed the quality of production is excellent throughout, with lovely clear detail and beautifully realistic proportions. There is no flash at all, and very little excess plastic, the one exception being the man operating the mortar, who is one piece with the mortar barrel and has a lot of filler plastic between his right arm and helmet. On this piece however the mortar support is separate and fits well, as does the backpack radio on the figure in the bottom row.
If Italeri wished to make a set of paratroops and simply used the word ‘tropical’ to distinguish them from other sets then that is fine by us, but they could have done more to justify the tropical badge by having some of the figures with rolled up sleeves, for example. Having said that however this is a great set despite the small accuracy problems on some figures, and the big problem with the FG42 which effectively makes those three figures useless. That still leaves 13 very serviceable figures which are both attractive and good for many of the campaigns in which these elite soldiers served. Italeri have long since got their quality spot on, but still need to take more care over their research to avoid spoiling the otherwise good work.