In the late 1930s and into 1940 Germany showed what tanks could do when well organised and with the right tactics, and tanks showed themselves to be relatively reliable mechanically, certainly compared to the early examples in the Great War. However in extremes of cold, as were found in the Soviet Union in 1941, lubricants froze and all manner of other problems severely impaired the ability of any tank to operate, and not the least of these impaired components was the crew. In very cold weather a tank too is very cold, and basic maintenance is much harder when hands need to be regularly thrust into gloves or pockets to keep from freezing. However the commanders still expected their tanks to perform their pivotal role in combat, whatever the temperature, so just as we need infantry in winter gear, so too do we need tank crew for cold weather, which is what we have in this Caesar box.
Initially tank crewmen only had the same winter clothing as the rest of the army, which was the standard greatcoat. In the confines of a tank this was not an ideal garment, and nor was it adequate in the terrible cold of their first Russian winter of 1941/42. The box for this set states the men wear a winter greatcoat, but happily for all there is not a single one of them here. Toward the end of 1942, the lessons of the previous winter had been learned, and the Army was issued the M1942 winter combat suit. This was a hip-length parka jacket with a hood and drawstrings to keep out the cold, and very warm it was too. Warm over-trousers were also issued, and both items were reversible, initially with a white side. This much warmer and more practical clothing for panzer crewmen is what every figure in this set is wearing, so they date to the second half of the war. The parker correctly has the two slanted lower pockets, and the whole suit looks well modelled here.
While the clothing is all the same, there is much variety of headgear here. Four of the poses wear the ordinary field cap of the early war, and three wear the later (from 1943) peaked version, although the peak could get in the way when using periscopes etc. Three of the poses are clearly officers, and wear the usual officer’s service cap, which leaves one man wearing a steel helmet (which did little to keep you warm) and one with a warm cap with earflaps and a turned-up front, very similar to the Russian ushanka hat, but could well be modified civilian wear or made up locally (some field caps were given fur linings like this). Again, everything looks great and is entirely authentic.
The poses are very much what you might expect from a set of tank crewmen. There are a couple of men sitting, perhaps on a tank or in the seat of a vehicle, and a couple with hands outstretched as if holding something. Like the rest of the figures these two have no base, which we always feel is annoying as anyone not wanting a base can always trim it off easily. As it is, these two do not stand but are in quite generic poses, so could be handling ammunition or any other form of supplies. Most of the rest of the poses are just standing, which could be in the turret of a tank or outside. Several have headphones on with the wire leading to the set in the vehicle, and with a hand apparently resting on an edge or surface, these look like they would work well commanding a tank. The last figure in the top row is actually our favourite. He is simply leaning against something with his hands in his pockets. Not a very smart or military posture, but so lifelike and natural that it really appealed to us. But all the poses are very good indeed and a high point of the set.
Caesar can sometimes be a bit variable in the quality of their sculpting, although it is always good at least, and often outstanding. These figures are more towards the latter category, with lovely detail, expressive faces and a beautifully natural look to them. The fourth figure in our second row is bringing his binoculars to his eyes, a great pose that has been achieved partly by a separate head. The head fits into a very deep cavity in the neck, so doesn't even need gluing, and looks terrific. The fifth figure in that row also has some assembly; here it is his right arm that needs attachment, but the fit is again nice and secure and so easy to do. This is just one illustration of the quality of the production of these figures, which means they have absolutely no flash yet are in lovely three-dimensional poses. Several figures hold binoculars, and our favourite slouching man has these on his chest but with no apparent strap round the neck. It's a tiny fault that shows how hard it is to criticise these figures.
As you can tell we loved this set. It hardly seems worth repeating all the highlights, and there are no real lowlights, although a few bases would have been nice. Definitely for the later part of the War, and despite the title there's not a greatcoat in sight, but for most that will be a good thing, The perfect set to decorate your snow-bound tank diorama.