The history of Germany’s Panzers during World War II needs no retelling here, as it remains one of the best known features of Germany’s war effort. From a position of (officially) having no tanks (they were prohibited by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles), by 1939 tanks were at the heart of the Blitzkrieg tactic, and they remained a key element in Hitler’s war until the end.
Apart from the two hard-plastic sets from Preiser, the men who crewed the Panzers had not been depicted in 1/72 plastic until this set arrived, and that must be mainly due to the fact that when in battle they were completely hidden inside their vehicle. As with other sets of tank crews then, Caesar have chosen to show these men in more relaxed mode, when they would be seen. Several of the men are apparently sitting on their tank, or perhaps inside a non-enclosed vehicle such as a self-propelled gun. Others are standing around, perhaps talking tactics, but perhaps simply chatting. We particularly liked the sitting figure resting his head in his hand, and the last figure in the second row, but all the poses are really lifelike. The man with the machine gun is perhaps seeing some action, but it would have been nice to have had a few more poses of men actually working - passing ammunition, working on their tank, etc.
The uniform these men wore varied very little throughout the war, which helps to make this set as widely useful as possible. Headwear saw the most change, with the early beret-style cap being phased out early in the war, and there are no figures wearing this here. Instead what we have are three wearing the ordinary field cap or side cap, which was very popular and worked well even when headphones were being worn. Generally this was worn at a jaunty angle over the right eye, but tank crew often wore it straight, as here. A peaked version of this cap appeared in 1943 (a similar model the previous year saw very limited issue), and five of these figures wear this. This too was popular, although the large peak was a nuisance when having to press the face close to observation and other equipment (but of course none of these poses are actually doing this). Finally two of the figures wear the classic officer’s peaked service cap. Since headphones had to be worn over it, many removed the stiffeners from the crown, with the result that the cap had a softer, more floppy appearance than in the rest of the army, and one figure in this set is particularly indicative of this feature.
The most distinctive part of the uniform was the short, double-breasted jacket, which was widely seen as very smart as well as being very practical in the confined spaces of a tank. Six of these figures wear this, and while the various models of this jacket were very similar all these figures look to have styles worn later in the war (by virtue of having the tops of the lapels at a wider angle to the collar). One or two may even have the extra buttons on the chest, which again appeared in later versions. For the rest of the figures, they wear the normal four-pocket army tunic which was common apparel when not serving in the tank. Trousers were cut quite loose and were gathered at the ankle, usually with ankle boots and no gaiters. These had slanted hip pockets and are here depicted on all the six figures that have the tanker’s jacket - the rest wear standard army trousers and long boots. Despite the picture on the box there is no sign of anyone wearing boiler suits or camouflage clothing, although both would have been perfectly acceptable.
Since belts and equipment could easily foul the cramped interior of a tank such things were mostly avoided, and in typical fashion these men have only a waist belt which supports a small pistol holster. One man has headphones, but these have no leads attached so are no use, although perhaps we are asking too much of such small models here. Also missing however is the throat microphone this man would have. If any of the other figures were inside their tank then they too would have had this equipment.
As always with Caesar these are excellent examples of sculpting, with first-rate detail and very lifelike proportions, while the faces are full of character. Despite the superb, deep poses, all the figures come in one piece apart from our favourite sitting man in the second row, who is in two halves that fit together perfectly (and you can also use the top half at an open hatch!). There is absolutely no sign of any flash or unwanted plastic, which is good, but as can be seen none of the figures come with a base, which is not so good. Presumably the standing figures are expected to be draped around a tank, and therefore affixed to some larger base, but we would have preferred to make that choice ourselves.
Much the same uniform was also worn by crews of self-propelled guns and, later, other mobile elements of the artillery, so by painting them a different colour you have a wider use for these figures. Some of the poses are clearly inspired by 1/35 scale figures from Tamiya and Dragon, but those are good figures too so there is no problem with downsizing them here. What some will find more disappointing is that there are only 18 figures in each box. Certainly the subject does not lend itself to large numbers like a set of infantry would, and we thought 11 poses was a good number for a set of tank crew at leisure, but such a smaller set should have the fact reflected in a smaller price, no matter how nice the figures might be. Nevertheless the figures are indeed very nice, and certainly come highly recommended.