By the middle of 1943 many in Germany could see they were going to lose the war. They were on the retreat in the East after the disaster of Stalingrad, they and the Italians had been expelled from the whole of North Africa, and the Allies were building up forces for invasions of Southern Europe and Northern France. Those four years of fighting were also changing the appearance of the German soldier. His uniform was losing some of its smartness and gaining a more practical, utility look, while his weapons were steadily improving. Therefore a late war set such as this should have a number of features that set it apart from the Blitzkrieg soldier of 1939/40.
Like all Plastic Soldier sets this one is made in a hard plastic and makes more use of multiple parts than most soft plastic products. Several of the poses in this set require some form of assembly, but in all cases the join is well done and the nature of the material means ordinary polystyrene cement is sufficient to obtain a very secure bond. The detail on these figures is very good too, being nice and clear and well proportioned. The multiple part approach means there is no excess plastic anywhere, and nor is there any flash. Each sprue also includes a number of spare heads, mostly wearing a cap or bare-headed. With some work a moderately skilled modeller could use these to change some of the figures, which is a nice touch.
With so many sets of World War II infantry having been made over the years it would be a big ask to expect much that is original in such a set, and most of these figures are pretty run-of-the-mill. That is not to say that they are not good, because every set needs some firing and advancing poses, and you would expect these to be fairly consistent across all such sets. However the multiple parts mean some poses are better than is usual as they can have more depth without losing detail. So for example the second figure in the top row is doing something perfectly normal - firing his MP40 from the hip while facing forward - which is almost impossible to do in one piece. Several of these poses similarly benefit in the same way, and the walking man at the start of the last row has a choice of rifle or submachine gun. The figures in the third row make up two pairs of machine gun crew - one in action and one on the move, which are very good. The only pose we did not like is the first one pictured above, which is of a soldier throwing a grenade, but he is keeping his other arm and his weapon tight to his body, which does not look at all natural.
All these figures wear the standard tunic and short boots with anklets, as were widely seen by the last two years of the war. All wear steel helmets, some of which have covers on. Almost half carry the Kar 98K carbine/rifle, while four more have the MP40 submachine gun. All this is fine, but in a set labelled as 'late war' we were expecting rather more. For example, no one is wearing any form of smock or camouflage clothing, and there is certainly no sign of the Felduniform 44 that appeared in the last year of the war. Equally there are no assault rifles, nor a single panzerfaust, so this set does not have a particularly strong late war feel to it. The only quibble we have with what has been provided is the bayonet. This has been modelled on almost every soldier - even those with no rifle, although the ammunition pouches are correct for their weapon. Also the bayonet is on the right hip in all cases, when the left hip was the correct place. It is not surprising that photographs sometimes show soldiers pleasing themselves in such minor details, so the odd misplaced item is not a problem, but the bayonet should be on the correct side in at least a majority of figures we feel. Two men have an entrenching tool, and again this is on the incorrect right side, while the canteen, which should be on the right side, seems to wander about almost randomly, as does much of the kit.
A few figures demand special attention. The two machine gun teams in the third row are fine, but we could not identify the weapon they are using. Logically this should be either the MG34 or MG42, but this model looks like neither, so unless it is for some unusual weapon we are not aware of these are not particularly accurate models (indeed the Kar 98 rifles are also not as accurate as we would like). The second man in the last row is a medic, which is itself a very unusual choice but a welcome one. He has a medical chest on his back and the required armband with the (rather crudely done) Red Cross symbol on his left arm, and also a bib with the same. This is all correct, although many medics chose to not wear even the armband, and certainly not the bib, as they did not trust the protection these items supposedly gave them against enemy fire. On the Eastern front in particular that caution was justified. The middle man in that row is very good and is using what looks like a 'Feldfernsprecher B' radio. He has the correct headphones and throat microphone, and seems to be smoking, which is a terrific little pose. Finally the last two figures are the junior officers or NCOs described on the box, both of which are fine.
These figures are mostly very well produced and nicely posed, so the set will be of great utility to those with an interest in this subject. However the absence of so many features of much late war German infantry left us feeling less than satisfied by this set and wondering whether a date range of 1942 to 1944 might not have been a more suitable description.