By the end of the 1930s the Germans faced the same problem as every other army; enemy AFVs were getting ever thicker armour, and their existing anti-tank armoury was becoming less and less effective. Bigger guns would be effective but heavy and difficult to move, so countries worked on rocket-propelled man-portable weapons. Having seen copies of the American Bazooka captured in Tunisia, the Germans developed their own version, which would become the Raketenwerfer 54 (RPzB 54), more commonly known as the Panzerschreck, or ‘Tank Terror’. Although less well-known than the famous disposable Panzerfaust, the Panzerschreck was effective and well liked, and very widely used after its introduction in 1943.
This small set contains two Panzerschreck teams, each including a firer and a loader. One man is firing from a prone position and the other is kneeling - both are valid methods of firing the weapon. The important thing was to make sure you were not anywhere near the ferocious back blast, so when prone your body had to be well to the left of the weapon during firing. We were not entirely convinced that the prone figure here is far enough to the left to be certain of being out of harm’s way, but otherwise both firing poses are fine. Both the loader poses are basically waiting, rocket in hand, and so are also perfectly fine. Neither is actually in the act of loading, but at least we get loaders, which so many sets with this weapon ignore.
The men are all dressed much the same, in steel helmet and tunic of some description (perhaps the M43 or M44 camouflage uniform) along with short boots and anklets. One has a cover on his helmet, and two others have netting to take camouflage, while the last has the old-fashioned band round the crown for the same purpose. All have the usual belts and braces, and the two loaders have the standard rifle ammunition pouches too. The kneeling firer has a pistol – a popular sidearm in the Waffen-SS – but the prone firer has no visible personal weapon or pouches. Items of kit on all include some or all of the usual bread bag, water bottle, entrenching tool and gas mask canister. All this is good, but there is no sign of the special rocket carrier on either of the loaders, which is a pity. However clothing and kit are authentic.
These figures are licenced reissues of metal figures originally made by Adler Miniatures, so they have something of the style of metal figures. They have large heads and lack a little of the refinement you get on the best plastic figures. However they clearly have very flexible moulds because there is much undercutting here, which is not possible in most plastic production. The material used is a sort of plastic, fairly flexible and quite appropriate, but we do find with this material there are problems with filling the mould. In a handful of places the material has not quite filled the cavity completely, often leaving a high-gloss blob instead, and this is particularly true of the entrenching tool on some of these figures (although to be fair there is no flash, nor even a visible seam). The problem is not rampant but is certainly not attractive where it does happen, and it is likely to vary between production runs, but on our samples there were issues. Otherwise the sculpting is good, with a lot of attention to detail, but the style may not be to everyone’s taste – we felt they did not mix easily with output from other companies reviewed on this site.
Both the weapons here have a barrel length of 19mm, which is 137cm in 1/72 scale. The original item was 164cm long, but a shorter version (the RPzB 54/1) had a barrel length of 130cm, which is much closer to the size here. It must also be said that the figures are marketed as ‘20mm’, a somewhat vague sizing which we tend to assume is slightly smaller than true 1/72 scale, though the difference is hard to notice. Equally the presumed Kar 98K slung on one man’s back is a bit shorter than it should be, for the same reason. The flexible mould certainly helps to make the Panzerschrecks nicely done, as every figure here is a single piece, yet there is no excess material anywhere.
This is a small set and it is in a crowded market. There are no accuracy problems, and it is nicely sculpted in worthwhile poses, so how much it appeals will depend on your view of the style, and also how concerned you might be at small gaps in the moulding. If these are not a concern then here you will find some useful full teams for this important late-war weapon.