In 1939 Poland was well aware of the military build-up in Germany, and knew it could not hope to win a war against them by itself. The disparity in quantity and quality between the armies was particularly acute in the artillery, where the Poles could deploy just over 2,000 field guns against the almost 6,000 of the Germans, and many more of the Soviets. The Polish guns, in large measure based on the old French M1897 75mm weapon, were not as modern as those of the Germans, but they were ably manned by the highly trained Polish crews, and achieved notable successes during the attempt to resist the invasion. However the Poles were always short of artillery, and as with the rest of the army they eventually succumbed to the overwhelming might of the invaders.
This is the first set of figures from First To Fight to be made in the same hard plastic as most kits, and indeed it would be fair to describe these as kit figures themselves. Our image of the sprue will help to explain, but each of these figures is made up of at least two parts, and in addition all have a separate base. The various parts go together fairly well, but certainly need gluing, and we found the separate heads required some reduction in the neck to look natural. The first two figures pictured above have separate heads, and for these the set includes a choice of either wearing the peaked square-topped cap or the helmet (we chose one of each). The third figure has a completely separate top and bottom half, which works well, and the remainder have separate arms or legs to improve the pose. You will observe that figures four, five and six have empty hands, into which one of the various sizes of shell should be placed. This never results in as convincing a pose as a single piece, but allows flexibility in terms of the type of shell, which would depend on the piece being served, so is a good idea.
Generally the standard of the sculpting is OK, and parts fit quite well, but the detail is a bit indistinct. Clothing and bare flesh looks good, and the faces are also well done. There is virtually no flash, and thanks to the multi-part approach there is no extra plastic either. All the bases are the same, quite thick and a perfect circle 15mm in diameter. This means they stick out a great deal on most of the men, but does make them very stable. Of course the hard plastic can be trimmed down if required, but those that like to add terrain elements will have plenty of room here.
With any artillery crew we always look for figures that appear to be actually operating their gun, and there are none here. Three of the poses carry a shell, which is fine, and the fourth holds some sort of tool which seems to be the head of a longer device for cleaning a gun barrel. The officer pose is conventional as he simply points the way, but the man next to him, who leans forward with hands on his thighs, is perhaps looking along the gun barrel to aim it, so in hindsight we should have had him facing forward, but this is far from clear on the basic assembly instructions. If you are going to make kit figures in hard plastic then make one with arms outstretched as if actually using the gun. Instead, none of these men are touching any gun, so we were disappointed.
The uniform of the artillery in 1939 was the same as for other branches of the armed forces, which was a modern tunic and trousers, but worn with long marching boots. All the figures here have this uniform, and this includes spurs on the boots, so must presumably be horse artillery (although removing these makes them any artillery). Headwear consists of the square-topped M1937 peaked service cap, the older peakless side cap (still worn in 1939) and the M1931 steel helmet. Even in 1939 most and perhaps all of the artillery still wore the old helmet type based on the French Adrian, but there are none here (although other sets offer plenty of course). This leaves us with using the peaked service cap, which is fine, although it is surprising that we have men wearing both types of cap in the same unit at the same time. Two of the men are stripped to the waist, so if you ignore the helmet head option (useful only for infantry gunners) then everything about the uniform worn here is correct if a surprising mix.
Those gunners that have retained their tunic also wear the standard Polish waist belt with ammunition pouches closely resembling the German model, but have no other kit apart from a gas mask canister suspended from a strap over the shoulder. The officer has a holster for his pistol and several bags and map cases, including a poorly-defined one which is supposed to be his binocular case. His gas mask is of a Polish type whereas the gunners have French ones, which is a strange mix within a unit. However as gunners in action we thought all this kit was reasonable and properly done.
So everything is accurate but with some surprising mix of uniform and kit, and the poses do not include anyone actually firing the gun. The sculpting is fairly good and everything fits together well, but all require some work to put together. One obvious problem with this set is that there are equal numbers of each sprue, which means you get 16 figures but only eight bases! The selection of shells and the extra rifles are welcome, but we would have preferred enough bases to go round, as all the men need them. This is easily resolved in future by including more of the sprue with bases, so may be fixed later on. That rather glaring error aside, this is a small but decent set of Polish gunners, with the biggest problem being the vital missing poses.