Throughout World War II German armour was feared and respected, and the combination of excellent machines and well trained and motivated men resulted in some stunning successes during the early years, helped by the often inferior and poorly-used tanks of the enemy. The men themselves were intensely proud of their arm of service, and this was aided not only by a wealth of propaganda, but also by a superb uniform that quickly became the envy of the rest of the Army. With the recent rise in models of tank crews it was only natural that someone would make a set of the famous panzer crew, and this was first done in soft plastic by Caesar with their excellent set. Now Orion have joined the range, with what they call 'Set 1', appearing to promise more to come.
The standard panzer uniform of double-breasted short jacket is justly famous, and those that owned one wore it with pride well outside of the supposed limits imposed by regulations. While it was designed to minimise the spoiling effect of grease and dirt which would easily come from the normal usage and maintenance of a tank, crews were also issued with quite a wide variety of overalls and other clothing to protect their uniforms, and humans being what they are you might expect a very varied selection of garments being worn, with little or no thought for conformity when not on the parade ground. Too many sets assume more or less perfect adherence to regulations, but here we find a very pleasing mixture of all kinds of garments. Plenty of the figures certainly do wear the classic jacket, and everywhere this has been faithfully reproduced. Some however wear overalls of one sort or another, including perhaps the denims which might be worn instead of the wool uniform when the weather was hot or, as on the figure holding the shell, over that uniform. Many styles were worn, including some stocks taken from conquered countries, but at least two could be wearing the second pattern denims with the large pockets on the thighs. In many cases you can choose what sort of trousers they are simply by painting them appropriately. Better yet the central figure in the top row wears the standard service dress tunic which was supposed to be worn when not in the vehicle, yet still has what look like denims on his legs.
Some are clearly wearing the shorter boots of the latter part of the war, and one man has the long early-war boots, but for most the trousers effectively hide the type of boot, which is fine. The men are clearly not in action, so some are bare-headed but many have the field cap. Since the peak on the later model could interfere with use of the periscope etc. the standard peakless version was popular and widely worn, as seen here. The second figure in the top row is of course an officer, and he wears the officers’ service cap with the unstiffened crown.
So the uniforms are all perfectly correct, which leads us on to the poses. These pretty much speak for themselves, and we think you would agree they are all superb. Apparently many were inspired by period photographs, which might seem an obvious move, but everywhere the figures are pretty relaxed and entirely natural. Most seem to be doing little except perhaps talking and waiting, while a few could be used for replenishing the tank or performing some other work on it. Clearly all these men are well away from danger, but the sculptor has caught the relaxed human form very well. A few look like they are leaning on or otherwise in contact with their vehicle, so a very fine scene of a park can easily be imagined with these poses.
So the accuracy is great and the poses are excellent - is it too good to last? Well no, because the sculpting too is very good indeed. While for the most part these are not uniforms that test the steady hand of the sculptor with fine detail, all the folds and general appearance is very well rendered. However some of these figures have badges on their jackets, and these are particularly impressive - the officer’s iron cross is easy to see, but the skill with which the German national eagle emblem on the right breast is picked out can only be appreciated under serious magnification, as can the throat microphone worn by the man with the headphones! Faces too are very nice, but while most of the figures are completely clean a couple in our example did have quite large tabs of flash around the face and shoulder (both these are in the bottom row).
What we have here is a collection of tankers at rest or performing normal tasks, with perfect historical accuracy, lots of great poses and a very fine standard of sculpting. Apart from the occasional bit of flash there is really nothing you could criticise about this set, so all we can say in conclusion is, roll on Set 2!