Long before the 1940s it had been realised that the ordinary infantry needed heavier support weapons to supplement their ordinary firearms, and all armies had teams to provide this kind of backup for the riflemen. By the time of Stalin’s attacks on Finland and Poland in 1939 the Red Army had a number of very good weapons in this category, and they were eventually able to produce these in vast quantities so that they had a major impact on the fighting ability of the infantry. This set showcases several of the most important, and does so with the crew wearing greatcoats.
Since it is the weapons that are the focus of this set we will start by looking at them. The top row contains two of the PTRS anti-tank rifle – one being carried and one being fired. The second row is made up of infantrymen holding ordinary rifles and submachine guns (the common PPSh), plus one standing figure holding the less common PPS-43 submachine gun. Such men might be assigned to protect and support the heavy weapons teams. Row three starts with a soldier carrying the DP light machine gun, which lacks the pistol grip of the later DPM, and finally we have two Maxim machine guns. The first is being fired, and both it and the two-man crew have been given a separate terrain base, which is necessary as the weapon is being held well above the ground on which the gunner sits. However both these figures also have their own bases. The row ends with a very nice model of two gunners pulling their Maxim, which like the first is mounted on the sturdy wheeled Sokolov carriage. This is a pretty good range of support weapons, and all have been beautifully detailed and very well done.
The men themselves are dressed almost identically. They all have the standard double-breasted M35 greatcoat with its collar tab insignia, although they have been given plain cuffs rather than the correct slightly pointed variety – a small discrepancy that’s hard to notice. All seem to be wearing long boots, which was regulation wear for the winter months, and most have the standard steel helmet that served for most of the war – just one man wears instead the ushanka hat. Kit is minimal, with most carrying nothing more than ammunition pouches appropriate to their weapon. There are no packs, although one man has the veshmeshol bag on his back. The front man of the PTRS team has the luxury of a bayonet scabbard, so does not have a bayonet attached to his rifle, but the kneeling figure in the second row has no scabbard yet still lacks a bayonet, which would have been unusual. In fact many crewmen for these weapons had no sidearm at all, so these are fine.
Greatcoats were standard issue earlier in the war, and were still widely in use at the end, although by 1945 other winter clothing was also commonly seen. All these greatcoats have the pre-1943 collar insignia delicately engraved on them, although these are so tiny that the later strip insignia could easily be painted on instead. Less easy to do would be the shoulder boards that none here have but started appearing from early 1943. Both Maxims are without the later-war large filler cap on the barrel, yet the PPS-43 is clearly a late war weapon, so this is a nice mix of early and later-war items.
Thanks to some assembly the figures are all in thoroughly realistic poses and look great, and we particularly liked the figures carrying and pulling the larger weapons. The sculpting is impeccable with even the tiniest detail faithfully and accurately reproduced. All the clothing looks very natural, the hands beautifully done and the faces full of character. Some of the figures have a small seam where the moulds meet, and the separate parts have no peg-and-hole arrangement, so gluing is necessary. We found that a couple of the joins were not as seamless as they might have been, but most fitted well.
Winter-themed sets have become very fashionable lately, and of course the winter played a big part in the war between the Soviet Union and Germany, so some winter sets like this are very much needed. This one has outstanding figures expertly sculpted, well produced and historically accurate, and it delivers some important and widely-used weapons.