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Esci

Set 201

German Soldiers

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1982
Contents 50 figures
Poses 15 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey, Green
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

First impressions always count, and with this set being amongst the first batch of figures from Esci it would let people know what sort of quality they could expect. What they got with this set, and with most of those that were to follow, was a good quality product, reasonably well researched and with excellent detail, and with a good number of fair but not outstanding poses.

Fair but not outstanding is certainly a good description of the poses in this set. All the usual suspects are here, with men using rifles and machine-guns plus one throwing a hand grenade. A few are a bit stiff and awkward, and not the most energetic of WWII poses ever made, but nothing too terrible. There is a man firing a machine-gun mounted on a strange bipod on a crate. This looks absurdly precarious, and is made to look more bizarre by the absence of one side of the crate. There is also a pose that Esci often used in their World War II sets, that of the man loading a mortar. Like these others, the figure comes without a base but moulded as one with the weapon. This means the mortar has no support and the whole piece is unstable. Unusually, but accurately, the officer is shown wearing the steel helmet rather than his cap, and the inclusion of a radio operator is a nice idea.

The uniform of these men is very smart, and dates them to the first half of the war. By the later stages the men looked a lot more motley, had a simpler tunic and wore ankle boots instead of the marching boots used here. Clothing is accurately portrayed and with considerable detail, which makes the figures very attractive. The personal equipment of each man is appropriate for the period, with all men carrying the instantly recognisable gas-mask cannister, bread bag and water bottle. Some also carry the shelter quarter which doubled as weatherproof clothing, but only a few have the entrenching tool and bayonet combination; at least all of those with rifles should have been provided with this. Each man carries the appropriate ammunition pouches for the weapon he is using, although those for the machine pistols are not slanted correctly.

Weaponry too is well detailed and mostly accurate. The anti tank weapon is probably the RPzB54 Panzerschreck with its shield, and the Kleif flame-thrower is clearly the first model. The unsupported mortar is simplified and generic, being unlike any of the standard German mortars in terms of size or design (with a tube length of 10mm (720mm) it is too long for the 5cm model and too short for the 8cm), although it is closest to the Stummelwerfer, a weapon only used by the infantry later in the war. The machine gun mounted on the strange bipod (on the crate) is an MG 42 with a magazine feed, and not a bad model, although the early-war feel of the uniforms is somewhat at odds with this later war weapon, as it is with the Panzerschreck for the same reason. The prone machine gunner is moulded in such a way as to make identification of the machine gun impossible, although the model looks reasonable apart from lacking a bipod support. The mix of weaponry is good, and even includes a man carrying a mine, although as a result there are very few ordinary riflemen.

So an attractive set and a sign of things to come. The poor design decisions like the mortar can be attributed to inexperience, although the biggest problem is the inclusion of several late-war weapons in a set dressed for the early years of the war. It suggests the designer had no one part of the war in mind, and assumed any uniform and weapon applied equally to any part of the conflict. This mix of dates limits the usefulness of some of the figures, and to be honest in the decades since this set was first made there have been an abundance of sets of German infantry for every part of the war, dressed in every possible way and carrying every conceivable weapon. Almost all of these are superior to this set in terms of historical accuracy, and together mean that this area of the hobby is now amply provided for. So this set tries to cover too much ground and takes too many liberties, but it remains a nice sculpting job and if some of the figures are of little actual use this remains something of an iconic set.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 8
Pose Quality 8
Pose Number 9
Sculpting 8
Mould 10

Further Reading
Books
"Blitzkrieg" - Concord (Fighting Men series No.6001) - Gordon Rottman - 9789623616010
"German Combat Equipments 1939-45" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.234) - Gordon Rottman - 9780850459524
"German Infantryman (1) 1933-40" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.59) - David Westwood - 9781841764627
"German Soldiers of World War II" - Histoire & Collections - Jean de Lagarde - 9782915239355
"Infantry Mortars of World War II" - Osprey (New Vanguard Series No.54) - John Norris - 9781841764146
"Infantry Weapons of World War II" - David & Charles - Jan Suermont - 9780715319253
"The German Army 1939-45 (1) Blitzkrieg" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.311) - Nigel Thomas - 9781855326392

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