The German Volkssturm was a sign of Germany’s desperation in 1944 as it became clear that they were losing the war. Vast numbers of Red Army soldiers were moving ever closer from the east and the western allies were liberating France, so to raise more troops the Volkssturm or militia were activated. They were young boys, old men and those previously deemed unfit for the armed forces, and while often brave and sometimes enthusiastic they had little training and very few resources. While theoretically delivering large numbers of new fighters their actual impact was minimal, but many did see action, particularly in the final defence of Berlin in 1945.
Efforts were made to provide a uniform for the Volkssturm but the only true uniform was an armband on the left arm. Many men found themselves wearing odd items from all kinds of sources, and many received no special clothing at all. As a result they had a very motley appearance, which is reflected quite well in this set. Several men do have military tunics and even straps, while a few have obtained steel helmets as well, but many seem to have only civilian clothing or uniform items taken from their jobs. Given that pretty much anything goes it would have been hard to get the clothing wrong and everything does indeed look OK to us.
Naturally the Wehrmacht got most of the weapons Germany could produce, so the Volkssturm received many old or captured weapons, often with little suitable ammunition. To be honest identification of many of the weapons in this set is difficult because of the quality of the models, but a range of rifles and submachine guns seem to be on parade. One man seems to have a heavier machine gun, and two have the excellent Panzerfaust.
The poses are quite a varied bunch and mostly depict men in battle, which is fine. We particularly liked the first figure in row five, but some of the poses are quite awkward, with arms at uncomfortable angles. The last two figures in the third row are meant to be together, depicting a man helping a wounded comrade in the manner of the old Esci pose, but they would probably have worked better as one piece and need gluing to stay together. The nurse at the end of the second row could not have been in the Volkssturm, of course, as it was men only, and nor could the final figure in row five. As commander in chief Hitler was already serving in the armed forces so would be ineligible, and this figure looks very much like the fuhrer as he appeared late in the war, stooping and possibly quite ill.
We now come to the sculpting. Oh dear. First of all there is a tremendous amount of flash, particularly on one of the two sprues. The pictured figures have been extensively cleaned up yet still look quite messy, so anyone wanting really neat models will find themselves spending a lot of time removing unwanted plastic. Once cleaned up however the figures are very far from impressive. Detail is adequate in some places but completely missing in others. For example some weapons are almost featureless, and some of the faces and hands are hardly recognisable as such. Several belts are partly missing and in one case are complete yet carry nothing.
We felt there was a disproportionately high occurrence of the better weapons such as submachine guns and even an assault rifle, and some of the figures are so well kitted as to pass as ordinary infantrymen, right down to the very doubtful gasmask canister. However it is the disappointing sculpting of this set that really lets it down. The final months of the Thousand Year Reich have proved popular recently, so even with the liberties taken with the title this is likely to be of interest to many, which makes it all the more of a shame that it is not a much more attractive set.
As with many Orion sets this one contains a bonus joker figure. In this case it is a man armed to the teeth with a machine gun, tankard full of beer and a keg - presumably for some spirit. Such a figure would of course have been most welcome but probably not nearly as common as he should be. Quite what he is doing is hard to tell as the pose is very strange, but in the final battles for Germany the catering, particularly the beverages, has received scant attention in this hobby until now so he is welcome. If you want this figure (and we are not quite sure why you would), then act fast as it is only included in the first 1,000 sets made!