While troops of any nation might ride on tanks, in Soviet Russia the practice was a recognised tactic, named 'tank desant', during the Second World War. It simply called for a number of troops to ride to battle on tanks and then dismount to actually fight, thus co-ordinating their assault with the armour. The largest tanks were considered to have room for up to 12 soldiers, and of course this also gave the tanks some protection from ambushes by enemy infantry. It seems to have been quite a common tactic during the War, so this set from HaT is a logical addition to the rapidly growing number of sets on Soviet troops of the era.
Two of the figures - the last two pictured above - are tank crew. Both are only partial figures so they can be placed in open hatchways, and both are wearing standard overalls and the Soviet tankers helmet with the three padded strips across the crown.
The rest of the figures are ordinary infantry, with a kneeling figure who is an officer. All the men wear the usual gymnastiorka, breeches and boots but there is some variety in headgear. The majority wear the side cap or pilotka, which was worn in combat surprisingly frequently, although by virtue of these men being on top of a tank they are clearly not actually in combat at the moment. Here all the men wear their cap in the centre of the head, but we would have liked to have seen more variety of positioning, particularly over the right eye. One man wears the warm ushanka hat and the officer wears his peaked cap. That leaves two men wearing helmets. One wears the usual M1940 type while the soldier at the end of the top row wears the M1936 type with the flared out rim. This set is intended to be mid war, when this old form of helmet would be present but not common.
Supply was often a problem in the Red Army, but all these men are doing quite well in terms of kit. Most have their greatcoat bedroll fashion across their chest, and there are also good quantities of gasmask cases and water bottles, while some have the simple but effective veshchevoi meshok pack - essentially just a drawstring bag. The man with the machine gun has an odd arrangement of straps we have not seen before which disappear abruptly round the back. Other than this figure however all the kit is authentic and appropriate.
Five of the figures carry a rifle, and the machine gun at the end of the first row is a DP light machine gun. None of the weapons are well done, but the officer and two soldiers carry a not great model of the common PPSh-41 submachine gun (in fact as the sight has been incorrectly placed they could also pass as the much rarer PPD 1940 submachine gun). One item missing here is the bayonet, which was habitually fixed to rifles and were non-detachable on many. For some the bayonet could be folded back along the stock, but while the detail is very poor on these rifles we could see no evidence of a folded bayonet, which is a big omission for Soviet troops.
The poses are all of men in fairly relaxed attitudes, so there seems to be no expectation of an imminent fight. We liked all the sitting poses, and the officer pose is fine too, although the first crouching figure, with his arm up, does not work as he is supposed to be resting it on a turret, yet his elbow cannot reach. Neither kneeling figure has a base, but they do stand on their own, and as they are intended to be on a tank a base would seem superfluous. The level of equipment means these are not the easiest of figures to actually perch on a tank, particularly later tanks with sloping armour, but to give an idea we have placed a few on this T34 tank.
The sculpting is not particularly good, with some quite scary faces and a considerable lack of detail on weapons. The otherwise fairly simple uniform is reasonably done, but these are not particularly appealing figures. However they have no flash, although it is a pity that the figure wearing the M1936 helmet is attached to the sprue just where his helmet crest should be.
With good accuracy and some nice poses this is a pretty useful set of Soviet infantry for behind the lines. Of course they could be useful for a variety of transport - not just riding tanks - but tank riders are especially important for the Red Army. Not a great sculpt but a very worthwhile set.