Germany's Mountain troops date back to 1915, and quickly established themselves as an elite unit. Though the recruits came from all quarters of the Reich, southern states like Bavaria provided much of the personnel, and naturally many Austrians were added after Anschluss. Though they were to fight in many theatres, even the flat and hot lands of North Africa, it is natural to think of them in mountainous terrain, and this is how they are depicted in this set.
The poses include a range of both fighting and 'mountaineering' types, and make this one of the most unusual World War II sets ever made. The non-combat poses are all appropriate, and include one man carrying skis (in a rather odd pose) and another actually using them. This figure comes with separate skis, each of which includes a booted foot, into which pegs on his ankles fit with reasonable precision. The two men with the rope are interesting but we wonder how often these troops would be seen on bicycle - hardly an ideal form of transport for the mountains. The man with the flags is certainly appropriate as the conditions often made radios almost useless, and the Gebirgsjäger was trained in the use of semaphore flags as one alternative means of communication. Naturally the terrain frequently precluded the use of wheeled transport, mechanical or horse-drawn, so extensive use of pack animals was made, and it is nice to see one here.
The men wear standard army tunic with trousers, plus their most distinctive item of uniform, the peaked field cap. This was the Bergmütze initially, but this was later replaced by the M43 Einheitsfeldmütze, a very similar item which had a noticeably larger peak, and judging from these models it would seem that they wear the latter. The two skiers and the machine gun crew also wear a covering garment which most closely resembles the anorak, though several pockets are missing from these models. Apart from that, the uniform is pretty well done and accurate, with even the Edelweiss badge on the left side of the cap being included. However those men with ammunition pouches only have two on each side whereas they should have three. The skier has a packpack in an 'envelope' design which does not resemble any issue item and is probably just a generic pack. There are two apparently missing elements with these figures. One is that the majority of the men have no special warm clothing, though this does at least make them more usable for campaigns outside of cold climates. The other is that no-one wears a steel helmet, though in fact the men often left all but the minimum behind them, and the helmet was a weight many chose to do without.
Two of the armed men have Mauser rifles, and one has an automatic pistol, though he does not seem to have the necessary ammunition pouches for it. The heavier machine gun is poorly detailed, and is probably meant to be either the MG34 or the MG42, which is illustrated on the box artwork. This comes with its bipod as a separate piece, and when glued on this makes for a very fragile join. The man kneeling and pointing is an officer, and has been correctly armed with a pistol.
Apart from the above there are a few niggles to comment upon though. The addition of a few extra skis is nice but not really necessary, and in any case they show no signs of any bindings. The ice pick is incorrectly done in the manner of a pick axe, when the rear blade should be flat. The packs for the horse are separate and plug in to the horse's side, but we found the hold was not particularly secure and should be glued.
Despite all this criticism, all the faults are fairly minor and it would be wrong to suggest we do not like this set. It is nicely sculpted with some well thought out poses, and we have not seen any examples that suffer from flash. Another very solid and creditable effort from the later range of Airfix, when their quality of work was at a peak, and an interesting subject as well.