After invading Poland in 1939 and dividing the country between themselves and their Nazi allies, the Soviet Union announced to the world that Poland no longer existed, and treated the conquered territory as part of the Soviet Union. Following the German invasion of June 1941, however, the Soviet government signed the Sikorski-Mayski Pact with the Polish government in exile, and created a 'Polish Army in the USSR' from Polish prisoners of war under Lt. Gen. Anders. Naturally the Poles were extremely sceptical of their supposed new ally, and in the end the new army was moved to fight with the British in the Mediterranean. However from August 1943 the Soviet authorities tried again, and succeeded in raising three new armies under Maj. Gen. Berling, which eventually amounted to around 200,000 personnel. Named the Polish People's Army, they fought in western Russia, Poland and eastern Germany, and became a significant component in the Red Army's campaign to capture Berlin in 1945.
When first raised, the Polish People's Army was entirely clothed and equipped along Soviet lines, but later some items were specifically produced to give at least some of the men a feeling of being Polish, most notably the traditional four-pointed rogatywka cap. Three of the poses in this set wear such a cap, and two also seem to have a tunic based on the pre-war Polish design, but otherwise everyone here is in standard Red Army clothing and carrying Red Army equipment. Many are wearing the standard helmet, but there are also two with the warm ushanka cap and another brace with the pilotka cap, plus the peaked cap of the officer. The men are mostly dressed for cold weather, with some having a greatcoat but many have the quilted Tielogreika jacket, while the remainder wear the usual Gymnastierka. Many display the shoulder boards that were first reintroduced into the army in 1943, and all are well done. Two also wear hooded capes, and the breeches and long boots complete the wardrobe, which is entirely correct.
There is just one rifle here, with submachine guns being the majority of the arsenal on display. There are PPSh.41 (with both drum and box magazines) and PPS-43 versions, which is appropriate for this later part of the war, and one man is handling a DP light machine gun. The second man in the bottom row is interesting because he is using a ROKS-3 flame-thrower, which was deliberately made to resemble a rifle to avoid drawing attention to itself. Both the PPSH and the PPS are a bit too long in this set, and the same is true of the DP as well. However all the weaponry is appropriate for this stage of the war.
The sculpting is a bit variable but generally pretty good. Finer details, particularly on some weapons, are not great, although nothing too terrible, and the faces are reasonable without being outstanding. There is no excess plastic, but a fair amount of flash is to be found on some of these figures, mostly around the legs, though on the torso and heads they are very clean.
The poses are all very useable, and while a couple (such as the man with the light machine gun) are a bit flat, they are all fairly realistic. Most of the figures are nicely animated and in advancing or firing positions, while the man-with-injured-comrade pair, though it has been produced before by others, is nicely done here. The inclusion of the woman soldier provides us with a pose that has been done several times recently, and is most likely to be directing traffic, though as there are a fairly decent number of poses here it can perhaps afford one non-combat pose like this.
Although some 'Polish' items were manufactured and worn, many in the Polish armies would have looked no different to their contemporaries in the Red Army, so the mix of uniforms in this set works well. For the same reason, many of these figures could simply pass as ordinary Red Army infantry, which is further good news. The Strelets version of this subject provided all figures in distinctive Polish uniform, which may not have reflected the actual mix of clothing worn, but they could argue that ordinary sets of Red Army troops could fill out the ranks. The two sets have taken different approaches, and both are valid, but taken in isolation this Ultima Ratio set probably better reflects the actual look. Those looking to expand their Red Army will be pleased by the late-war weapons here, but all fans of this titanic struggle in Eastern Europe will find much to like in this collection of figures.