Winter troops have proved popular for many periods in recent years, and the German Army in World War II certainly saw its share of winter campaigning on many fronts. Having been caught badly unprepared in the winter of 1941 in Russia, a stream of new and more practical winter clothing was produced to sustain the armed forces through the following winters.
The first impression of this set is that there isn’t much action going on. No one is running and only one man (bottom row) can definitely be said to be moving at all. Although movement can be more difficult in winter, we still like our World War II sets to include men moving quickly between positions while apparently under fire, and others to be giving fire from cover, but here we find a lot of people with nice straight backs apparently in no particular hurry or danger. Several are discharging their weapon, so are clearly in the presence of the enemy, but there is almost no sense of urgency here, and figures such as the first in the top row would not look out of place on a Napoleonic battlefield. None of the poses here are impossible, of course, and anatomically everything is pretty sound, but this is at best an uninspired collection of poses and at worst downright dull.
The inactive poses is the worst thing about this set - the best is the standard of sculpting, which is great. Like many recent Italeri sets the quality here is excellent, with lots of great detail beautifully picked out and very natural-looking clothing and faces. Weapons and small kit are very clear and easy to recognise, while the basic proportions are spot on, and the only blot on the copybook is the left hands of the firing figures, all of which have the fingers facing the wrong way. There is no assembly here, so on a few figures there is some minor extra plastic in hidden areas, but there is no flash at all so these are very clean models that most will find ready to go straight out of the box.
By the later part of the war the Germans had quite a variety of winter clothing available, at least for some, but nine of the 12 poses in this set look to be wearing the same thing - the M1942 padded winter tunic. This was made in several weights, and had a hood which is present here, although down in all cases as you would expect during combat. The only problem is the sculptor has gone a bit berserk with buttons, so while this garment had a total of six buttons down the front, some of these models have no less than five simply between the waist and the hem. Not a difficult problem to solve, but a little sloppy. Two figures in the top row wear the M1942 greatcoat with the wider collar, and the man in the second row with the rifle grenade wears a shortish jacket that was not clear enough to be identified but looks fine. The trousers could easily be painted as either ordinary woollen ones or over-trousers, and the boots look fine. What did surprise us however was that not one man has a cover on his helmet - in fact all are very clean - although we were pleased to see some men wearing the toque on the head, and the hands could be painted as wearing gloves (although there is no sign of mittens or half-mittens).
Weapons are overwhelmingly rifles, including the man in the second row using his to launch a grenade. There is also a submachine gun, a couple of the later StG44 assault rifles and the prone machine gunner in the bottom row, whose weapon is not clear enough but is presumably intended to be the MG42 pictured on the box (and of course is missing an ammunition belt and someone to feed it). All the weapons are good, and so too is the kit. Most have a full complement of bread bag, gas mask canister, canteen, mess tin, entrenching tool and bayonet - the last is present on every hip, even if the man is holding a weapon that cannot take a bayonet. All the ammunition pouches are appropriate to the weapon carried however. The machine gunner correctly has a pistol on his belt, as does the man with the rifle grenade.
The clothing and some of the weapons make this very much a later-war set, which conjures up images of the Ardennes, Italy and innumerable conflicts in the Russian countryside. Our overall feel for this set is it is beautifully produced and accurately researched (unless you worry too much about counting buttons), but the lack of energy in the poses was disappointing, and any unit made up exclusively with these figures isn’t going to set any pulses racing. However mix them with some of the other winter Germans now on the market and you will have some very attractive figures to bolster the Wehrmacht’s cold weather capabilities.