It has often been observed that the German Army of the 1930s and 40s relied greatly on horses, and while the bulk of those horses were involved in transportation, there was also a significant horsed cavalry element. Such troops participated in the invasion of Poland in 1939 and France the following year, and were also to be seen on other fronts such as in the Balkans, but it was on the Eastern Front that they really came into their own. Just one cavalry division joined the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and that was withdrawn before the winter, not because of poor performance but because it’s particular supply needs were very difficult to meet. Yet it was precisely the appalling conditions brought on by that winter, leaving vast areas with virtually no roads or means of moving wheeled or even tracked vehicles, that showed the value of men on horseback. Many smaller horsed units operated in the East throughout the rest of the war, performing all the usual light cavalry roles of reconnaissance and protection of flanks and supplies without the limitations of motor vehicles and without requiring the increasingly precious resource of motor fuel.
Of course such cavalry almost never went into action while mounted, so the three mounted poses we find in this set are perfectly suitable even though they appear to be quite relaxed. Such men would spend their time patrolling and observing, so we thought all three of these figures were very good in that role. The poses of their mounts range from standing to trotting, which again is entirely appropriate, and we are happy to report all these poses have been well done and look natural. Of course such men had to dismount to perform many of their tasks, so this set includes a number of such men engaged in different activities. The first such man pictured above is laid out on the ground, working his radio (he wears the headphones but there is no sign of a microphone). Beside him is a man apparently firing a pistol into the air, which makes more sense if this is actually a flare pistol. Finally we find a prone man using a weapon. By 1941 cavalry was issued with MG34 machine guns, but this figure is not using a machine gun. Instead he is using a Panzerbüchse 39, a single-shot, manually operated anti-tank gun that was issued to cavalry as their sole anti-tank weapon. This was not a great weapon, and was rapidly overtaken by the thicker armour of later tanks, so did not see much use. However there are already many figures of men using the MG34 or MG42, and none using this weapon, so in the wider context it is good to see it here.
Looking at the accuracy of these figures we again find little cause for complaint. All wear typical mounted man’s uniform but without the smocks and covered helmets of later SS units, so are not for the last years of the war. There are no sabres on any of the saddles, nor are there any rifle scabbards or martingales, which dates these to roughly after mid-1941, leaving a likely period of 1941 to 1943. All the uniforms look fine, and so does the kit. The ammunition pouches of the bare-headed man are wrong though, because the small extra pouch for the magazine loading tool is on the right-hand set instead of the left. If he had simply switched round the sets then they would not be at that angle on his belt, so this is a mistake, but certainly a difficult one to see. The man with the pistol has his right-hand type 34 saddlebag as a pack with Zeltbahn 31 rolled around it, which was common practice. Speaking of saddlebags, all these are very well done and represent the M34 type, correctly sculpted for the left and right side of the saddle (which is probably the M1925 type) as well as the rolled Zeltbahn etc behind. All the horses have these saddlebags, although officers often went without them. Two also have canteens, but there are no mess tins or any of the other impedimenta often seen on saddles in the field. One horse seems to have a feed bag around its neck though, which is reasonable.
Weaponry is not extensive but is appropriate and well done. The mounted trooper has a Karabiner 98k, which was short enough to safely sling around the torso like this, and the man with his arm in the air has an MP38 or MP40 slung. The officer with the binoculars has a pistol holster, as does the kneeling man of course, but the prone rifleman has none.
The general standard of sculpting is excellent, with great proportions and all the detail you could want - the sculptor has even gone to the trouble of including a watch on the wrist of the man signalling from the saddle. The radio (the Tornister-Funkgerät b) is resting on its battery and has a good representation of the various dials and switches on its face. There is no flash, but there are a few areas of unwanted extra plastic where a separate arm or head would have been a better approach (there is no assembly in this set). Those that do not like putting bits together will be happy, but in a number of places we feel separate parts should have been provided. All the men fit their saddles very well, but will need gluing to stay put.
Perhaps the most obvious elements missing in this set are the horses for the dismounted men, and the sprue certainly has room for at least one more standing animal. Nonetheless this is a really nice set with excellent sculpting and almost flawless accuracy, so apart from our comments on avoiding excess plastic there is really nothing to dislike about this attractive set of figures.