Even those who have a fervent interest in the battles of World War II would have to admit that German infantry has been pretty much done to death over the years. Today’s consumer has a wide range of sets available to depict the Wehrmacht’s warriors, not the least of which have come from Caesar themselves. However figures in the standard field greatcoat are, it must be admitted, very thin on the ground, so this set does at least offer something new in a very crowded market.
In 1939 the German soldier’s uniform was quite practical and well designed, and included a perfectly reasonable greatcoat. However this unlined garment was designed for winters in northern Europe, and not for the severe cold weather of the Soviet Union, for example, so when the German army found itself in a Russian winter in 1941 it was largely unprepared and suffered terribly. A variety of overcoats and other clothing would be introduced to combat such freezing temperatures, but none of these figures are wearing any of this, so these are not winter troops in the sense of troops that might be found at Leningrad or Stalingrad, or, if they are, they are in serious trouble.
The field greatcoat worn in 1939 was introduced four years earlier, and would be followed by a new model in 1940 and another two years later. For the purposes of small plastic figures all these models are much the same apart from the larger collar of the 1942 version. Although the difference is subtle at this scale we would say these figures wear pre-1942 greatcoats, and are correctly modelled with the two rows of six buttons down the front of the double-breasted garment. One error however is that none have the diagonal slash pockets that should be on either side. The coat naturally obscures most of the uniform, but what can be seen looks fine. Almost no one has the Y-shaped belts visible, instead having their ammunition pouches, bread bag, canteen, mess tin and entrenching tool attached to the belt as usual, and a gas mask tin held on a strap over the shoulder, all of which is fine.
Six of the poses - more than half of the figures - are using the MP38 or MP40 submachine gun, while only three have the Kar 98K carbine. The officer is apparently unarmed, and the first figure in the last row is handling the late war assault rifle StG44. There are no other weapons on show, presumably to avoid diluting the number of ordinary rifles and submachine guns, although we felt the MP40 was somewhat over represented.
As we might expect the sculpting is very good on these figures. Weapons are clearly detailed, as are all the paraphernalia these figures carry, while the clothing is realistic and well rendered, although the skirts of the coat occasionally seem to act as if the coat was single-breasted, not double. The officer seems to have perched a pair of goggles on the peak of his cap, which is a little odd, and indeed we were not happy with his cap as a whole. Some of the figures seem to have a multi-part mould to eliminate excess plastic, but some do not, so on a few figures there are the usual solid areas of plastic where the mould could not reach, although this is no worse than most other sets. There is no flash, so these are well produced and require no preparation before going into service on the tabletop.
All the poses are reasonable choices and most are perfectly natural and realistic, but there is nothing here to set the pulse racing. To some that may be a good thing, but we felt the poses are earnest but dull. The poorest pose is that of the man kneeling firing his rifle (last pose in the top row), who has his right knee on the ground yet his left leg is only partly bent and his head is at shoulder level with the standing men, making a very unnatural posture. There are several figures all doing much the same thing - advancing with their MP40 - and in a set of only 11 poses that is a luxury that severely limits the variety on offer. The man throwing the grenade is about the only man with much life about him, although we did like the standing man second from left in the bottom row, who would make a good sentry. The officer too is something a little different but again is inactive and clearly not in the front line. Overall the poses do little to suggest the movement of battle, nor the need to be behind cover much of the time.
Being encumbered by a greatcoat is not the ideal circumstance for battle, but nor is being too cold, so this set provides some worthwhile soldiers not previously produced. However apart from the minor criticisms the main issue is that this set is surprisingly unremarkable, despite being well made and for the most part accurate. It no doubt does the job, but we prefer our sets to have rather more life and imagination than is on show here.