It was all over and everybody knew it. Long before the final battle for Berlin in April 1945 it was obvious to most that Germany could not win the war. Now the capital of what was left of the Third Reich faced a Soviet army of over one million troops, and the vastly outnumbered defenders knew what the inevitable result would be. Those exhausted and poorly equipped army units were 'reinforced' by the Volkssturm, a citizen army mostly composed of boys and old men. Many had no weapons, some had guns but no ammunition, while others had the one-shot Panzerfaust. This set is the first to depict the disparate defenders of that doomed city, and as such models a turning point in the history of Europe.
This set includes figures suitable for the regular German army, the Volkssturm (civilians with a weapon but often little or no uniform) and even the Hitler Youth. It also includes some civilians, and thus pretty much covers all the types of defenders Germany could offer in 1945 Berlin.
The soldiers in this set (that is to say, those in uniform), are all authentically done with reasonable clothing and equipment. The Germans managed to perform amazing feats of supply right up to the end, but inevitably this was less than perfect. Some men wear the field cap rather than the helmet, and the amount of kit is variable - one man still retains is marching boots. Weaponry includes rifles (including an assault rifle), machine guns and the Panzerfaust, and all have been well done. The poses are mostly crouching or prone - the sign of a professional who knows how to keep his head down in street fighting - and are therefore very well considered.
The Volkssturm often wore their own clothes (which might include old items kept from military service years before), but in the scramble to give weapons to all everything was put into service, including weapons from all their allies and enemies according to one eye-witness. The figures here are also nicely done, and while the effectiveness of the real thing is doubtful their presence in this set is most welcome.
The last figure in the second row is clearly a boy, representing the many Hitler Youth that were also given a weapon and put in the front line, although it must be remembered that the final draught for the army included 15-year olds.
The set includes several women. Those in the second and fourth rows are members of the DBM, the League of German Maidens, part of the Hitler Youth. In the last days of Berlin everyone was called on to fight, even woman and children. For months German propaganda had been emphasising the raping of women by the victorious Red Army, so they had reason enough to make their contribution.
Now we come to the final piece, a small vignette of a man greeting two youths in uniform. This can only be one thing - the last filmed appearance of Hitler, reviewing teenage 'veterans' of the Eastern Front. As such it's not much use to wargamers but again it is an interesting piece and a most unusual depiction of the Fuhrer.
The figures are done in a very soft plastic and most come in several parts, yet the plastic does not take ordinary polystyrene cement and specialised plastic adhesives need to be used to get a strong bond. Although we picture 19 poses above it could be argued that there are many more as several come with an assortment of weapons - many have both rifle, machine gun and Panzerfaust options, and the weapons shown in our picture are a random selection. The standing firing figure only comes with the rifle, but two of the four copies have the steel helmet. In general the various parts fitted OK but not always as smoothly as we might have liked.
It should be noted that none of the figures come with bases. The set comes with a selection of bases as shown, some being plain and some larger textured affairs, and it is largely up to the customer as to what figure they wish to put on what base. However there are far too few bases for all the figures that need them, and while the large base is nice we feel many customers would have preferred more of the plain bases so there was enough to go round.
In general the sculpting is excellent, with good and realistic proportions. The range of weapons and the ability to position arms at various angles means there are very few duplicates here, and for the most part there is no flash in need of removal either. The dead uniformed soldier (third row, third figure) is curious as he does not lie on the ground realistically. It seems the intention was for him to lie face up, but this looks ridiculous as he has all his kit on his back, so his limbs hang in mid air.
The defence of Berlin in 1945 could only have had one result, and was therefore a tragic waste of huge numbers of Soviet and German lives. Nevertheless it was a major moment in history, and this set has managed to capture something of the flavour of that most unusual action with considerable skill. Those who don't like gluing might not be happy, and the lack of a full set of bases would seem like an obvious flaw, but overall this is a set of very nice figures.