There are many kits of World War II German tanks available, and while the crew would be wholly or mostly invisible inside them whilst in action, another way of portraying them with more human interest is with soldiers clinging to them as they travel along. Recently there have been several sets of German tank riders depicting this activity, including a half set from Caesar themselves, but this set is exclusively dedicated to this subject, and has the distinction of being the first to show such men in ‘winter’ uniform, since it was released before ‘Set 1’.
The eleven poses on offer here are surprisingly varied, with men sitting up or slouching as well as some crawling rather than sitting. The photos pretty much speak for themselves, as usual, but all these men seem quite relaxed, and we thought all the poses were terrific and very natural. Some clever moulds with multiple parts mean heads and bodies can be twisted in very natural ways with absolutely no loss of detail, while the two crouching men in the bottom row could never be done using a simple two-piece mould without some assembly, and no figure here needs any assembly. Given the relatively limited nature of the subject, having eleven poses is pretty good too, and many of the poses could also be used for sitting in vehicles, particularly the first man in the third row, so full marks for the poses.
All the men are dressed in the same way, which is to say they all wear a greatcoat, the usual steel helmet and marching boots. The greatcoat is naturally the ‘winter’ element of the set, but we were dismayed to see that every coat is single breasted, with the edge a little offset to the right. No type of infantry greatcoat in World War II was single-breasted, but this does look like the old M1915 greatcoat, which was very widely worn during the Great War. There is no reason why troops in 1940 or later would be wearing this, however, so this is quite a mistake, especially since this manufacturer has made greatcoats properly in previous sets. The positioning of arms on a couple of figures hides this mistake, but it is apparent on most unfortunately.
The straps and kit are much the same for every man here, as all have the bread bag, field flask, cook pot and gas mask case. They also have ammunition pouches on their waist belt appropriate to the weapon they carry, so all of this is good. One small observation is with the last figure in the second row, who has an MG34 machine gun on his lap. He correctly has the fairly rigid repair parts pouch on the right of his waist belt, but has another on the left when a pistol holster would have been normal.
The sophisticated mould already mentioned helps to make the most of the very good detail on these figures, which are certainly very well sculpted, although on one figure the straps disappear in places. The clothing and kit is all very clear and well done, and the faces are good too. Weaponry isn’t quite so good though, with some loss of detail which in part can be explained by their position relative to the mould, but sometimes is simply vague for no obvious reason. It is clear however that all the men hold a rifle apart from one man with a submachine gun and of course the MG34. Despite the often complex shapes there is no extra plastic in awkward areas, and nor is there any flash, so up to Caesar’s usual standards in that department at least.
The figures are all lacking entrenching tools and bayonet scabbards, presumably because they would be a challenge given the sitting poses, though when placed in situ this absence would be difficult to detect. As described you can see that none of the figures have any of the many winter clothing items issued later in the war, nor any improvised clothing, so while the set could work for any part of the war it has more of an early to mid-war feel. The poses are excellent and the detail very good, so it is only the incorrect single-breasted coat (annoyingly depicted correctly on the box artwork) that really spoils this really appealing set.