In the early part of the Second World War, the German Army was a pioneer of combined-arms tactics, whereby infantry and tanks (panzer-divisions) operated together on a battlefield. The infantry element that performed this new role was termed Schützen-Brigade. Such men were to move with the armour (when possible) in its support, and this successful concept was refined and expanded as the war progressed. In 1942 Hitler decreed that German infantry were henceforth to be named grenadiers, and the motorised and mechanised troops that worked in the panzer-divisions became panzergrenadiers. Such men might have different trim on their uniforms, and be more likely to wear a particular garment, or handle a particular weapon, than the ordinary grenadiers. However their appearance was largely that of the rest of the infantry, as was their equipment and weaponry, so it is perhaps simpler to say that this set is of later-war German infantry.
Panzergrenadiers would have to leap out of lorries or half-tracks, and do much less marching, but otherwise the poses for such a set would be as for any other infantry, and all those here are in combat. This collection of advancing and firing poses is pretty standard for the most part, and so perfectly good choices. We were not particularly keen on the officer, who is meeting the enemy with no more than a pistol and some grenades, but it is an unusual pose in a world with many more conventional poses for such a man. Special mention needs to be made of the two middle figures in the second row. The man on the left is firing an MG42 machine gun, and the man on the right is acting as a support for this weapon, holding the bipod as the barrel rests on his shoulders. The base of the second man is cut away to allow both to stand in close proximity, which works well enough with a bit of trimming. Such an arrangement would have been very unpleasant for the second man, deafening and very uncomfortable, but it was a recognised arrangement, suggested for emergencies when no better place to support the gun can be found. This arrangement has been modelled before, and as we say is not wrong, but is likely to be very rare and in our view not a great choice here, both because of the limited number of poses and the likely rarity of the act itself.
The uniform of these men is often hard to make out because of the quality of the sculpting. Some seem to wear tunics, others smocks or parkas with hoods. All of these are reasonable, but given the poor detail it is hard to comment further on their accuracy. Some seem to wear long boots, and others short boots and anklets, although again this is far from clear, but such a mix would be typical of the later war period. All have the classic German helmet apart from the officer, who wears the officer’s peaked cap in what looks like the ‘old style’, with the softer outline. This man also has the riding breeches which were common wear, so as far as we can tell there are no problems with uniform on these figures.
The men carry rifles and MP38/MP40 machine pistols, plus the MG42 machine gun and the officer’s pistol. Detail is sparse but nothing here looks wrong, although like the short boots the MG42 obviously dates these men to after 1942. Where visible they have the standard infantry leather webbing straps and standard kit items of breadbag, entrenching tool, gasmask canister, water bottle and mess tin. Not every man has every item, but that presents no problems, but we would have expected the man with the MG42 to have a pistol rather than the rifle across his back.
While Mars have certainly made worse figures, the sculpting of these leaves plenty to be desired. As we have already said, detail is too little to even identify some elements of clothing, and weapons too are pretty poor. Proportions are not right, so the man standing firing a rifle has his waist far higher than it should be, or, if you prefer, he has the most enormously long legs for the rest of his body. Faces are quite good but hands are withered, while much of the kit is very thin, and overall the figures have a scruffy and unrefined appearance. There is also a thick and very obvious ridge of plastic right round all the seams, and extra flash in places, so a lot of work is required to clean them up.
Given the enormous range of competition this set faces, the quality of the sculpting will make this a hard sell at best. The poses may be reasonable, and the accuracy good as far as we can tell, but these unappealing figures will struggle to please modellers or gamers.