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Preiser - 8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in combat (72517) _________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer Preiser
Scale 1/72
Set Code 72517
Year 2007
No. of Figures 5
No. of Poses 5
Additional Items 1 Granatwerfer 34, 8 ammo containers; 6 projectiles
Size Medium
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Medium
Glue-ability Excellent (Pollycement)
Conversion-ability Easy
Optimal Period 1939 - 1945

 

Review

Cheap to manufacture but more than dangerous in hands of trained soldiers, the mortar gained a terrified reputation along WWII, statistics revealing it as causing the largest number of victims. Benefitting by intensive instruction sessions and long practice on the battle field, the German mortar crews exploited to the limits the capacity of their main weapon. Able to install it and engage the enemy in a very short period, the WWII German mortar crews were highly respected and feared by their opponents. With its indirect fire, the mortar proved its effectiveness not only against infantry, common vehicles or buildings, but also with lucky shots, against light armoured vehicles. The common models used by Germans were Granatwerfer 36 (50 mm - light mortar)Granatwerfer 34 (81.4 mm - medium mortar), and Granatwerfer 42 (120 mm - heavy mortar).

The WWII German strategists fully acknowledged the advantages conferred by mortars and since the beginning of war found a place inside infantry platoons for a mortar operated by three soldiers. After a short period, KStN provided in the scheme of a large number of WWII German companies a special mortar group/squad usually endowed with two Granatwerfer 34. Each weapon was accompanied by a varying number of soldiers according to what kind of company was about. Generally, the mortar implied a crew of seven or eight, but the weapon kept being operated by three army-men, while the rest were riflemen, commander and driver or horse(s) leader(s). Effectiveness and efficacy imposed mortars as a key weapon and together with MGs had represented the main support arms for a standard infantry company.

The first mortar developed during the Third Reich was Granatwerfer 34, lately becoming the standard medium mortar. Produced for the first time in 1932 by Rheinmetall, the weapon entered in service in 1934 after its adoption by the High Command and remained in use until the end of war. With a minimum range of 60 and a maximum of 2400 meters, its firing rate was established by the skills of the crew and varied between fifteen to twenty-five rounds per minute. For increasing the range, to the mortar shells could be attached a powder filled fabric tube set around the tail fin of the shell. Although being known as 8 cm mortar, the true calibre of Granatwerfer 34 was 81.4 mm and could fire various bombs, not only conventional HE, but also smoke, target illumination and target marking shells. Mounted on various vehicles, including armoured ones as well as having a shorter version specially designed for paratroopers (8 cm Kurzer Granatwerfer 42), the 81.4 mm Granatwerfer 34 was the most frequent mortar, encountered on all fronts. Likewise, its real popularity is shared in the 1/72 scale too, not only several kits being dedicated to it, but also few sets on WWII German soldiers incorporating a Granatwerfer 34. Aiming strictly mortars and their crews are Armourfast’s “German Mortar Team”, Pegasus Hobbies’ “German Mortar Teams” as well as Preiser’s “8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in combat” and “Infantry riflemen with mortar, lined up” while other 81.4 mm mortars are available in ESCI’s “German Soldiers” and “Afrika Corps Soldiers” as well as Italeri’s “German Elite Troops” and “DAK Infantry”.  

 Preiser’s receptiveness at various needs of the hobby is fully recognised in the field of 1/72 WWII German mortars as well, the company’s contribution on the subject materialising in two extremely interesting sets. Both are scaled up versions of 1/87 (HO) kits, one coming with soldiers dressed in M36 tunics and depicting the mortar split in transportation parts while the other is in action and handled by crewmen wearing camouflage smocks. However, in 1/87 scale Preiser still possesses a set linked to German mortars issue, but un-replicated in the upper scale until now. It would be great seeing the 1/72 version of “Mortar crew”, a kit featuring five figures dressed for summer. With more utilities, but specially because the poses were created having in mind the use in vehicles endowed with mortars such as SdKfz 251/2, that set might be assessed as a potential big hit in the 1/72 scale.

The subject of present review was suggestively named 8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in combat”, the extended title perfectly describing what we get inside. With a launch postponed quite a long period since its announced appearance, the set has finally arrived on the shelves of stores in late 2007. The sprue of figures might mislead the viewer, labelling the year 2004, perhaps the year when the figures were ready, but had to hang around for their main weapon to be done. Nevertheless, the wait was not in vain, the content, particularly the mortar, fulfilling the innermost expectations of customers.

The box used for merchandising the product is the type adopted by Preiser in the last period, longer and thinner than the older ones or the tiny boxes applied at two WWII German mini-sets, respectively “WWII German troops on leave” and "German PAK40 Crew". For this reason, although there are only five figures, exactly like in the last quoted mini-set, this time there has been enough space for accommodating not only the sprue of figures, but also the mortar sprue and the well-known Preiser specialised sprues of gear. The artworks are in the classic manner of the company, the front illustrating in two frames a vignette with the figures arranged as operating the mortar. On the back we receive other three images showing the soldiers with or without main weapon as well as the announcement that we get an “alternative figure”. At the beginning, the meaning of message is not quite clear, some may wonder if it is about to substitute the other soldier feeding the mortar on the other side. Anyway, when opening the box everything becomes obvious, it implies two right arm alternatives for the figure in case. Still, the promo is quite funny because other Preiser kits supplying loads of alternatives for conversions do not advertise this fact while here we find a single option for an arm, but so ample promoted. Commonly for all 1/72 sets released under Preiser name is printing the assembly guide inside while for accessing it, the box has to be cut on one side. Even if for some kits the instructions are not necessary, the artworks giving sufficient guidelines, now it is better to take a look in order to avoid any mistake in putting together the parts, principally the mortar.

Due to major advantages conferred such as easy gluing with standard model glue (Polly-cement), fast removal of flash, excellent base for paint, and superior facilities for conversions, hard plastic sets out as the best choice for making figures. Preiser is a proper example in the area, using just hard plastic for their rich catalogue of 1/72 minis, generally delivered in pieces and including some optional parts. Because of these reasons, their figures may be used as basis for an infinite number of conversions, modeller having the choice not only to equip his units as he wishes, but also playing with his imagination, to cover some gaps in his collection. Each mortar crewman here analysed is delivered in few parts, namely body, arms and legs that excellent match in their places. A single option for a right arm is included, but no extra heads are available. Anyway, apart from the recommendations given by the instructions, the parts may be mixed in plenty of ways for attaining an enhanced diversity.  

Nevertheless, considering their cloths, except the arms found in box, the most advocated parts for conversions are those integrated within PaK40 crew kit. This is because both Granatwerfer34 in combat and PaK40 crews are dressed just the same, being the only Preiser sets with figures wearing camouflage smocks. In terms of attire, the sole difference rests in ankle boots and gaiters for the PaK40 crew while the Granatwerfer 34 crewmen have got marching boots. Thicker and featuring a special end, the sleeves of smocks slightly diverge from sleeves of other garment items, the difference being noticed also in the 1/72 scale. However, if needed, heads and palms taken from the large number or Preiser kits can replace those from here through a simple cut and glue. Moreover, despite a tiny size difference of bodies between the soldiers of the two kits in debate, pieces from PaK40 crew are suggested not only for arms replacement, but also are ideal for torso and heads swapping for in-depth alternations of poses. 

The sprue dedicated to Granatwerfer 34 reiterates and emphasises the outstanding skills of Preiser sculptors as well as the excellent quality of moulds used for casting their famous sprues of weapons. The Granatwerfer 34 is delivered in four parts, respectively base plate, bipod, tube and a piece including the traverse system and panoramic sight. All parts are in scale and push the level of details to extreme, making from Preiser’s Granatwerfer 34 probably the supreme and most in scale mortar available on the mass production kits market. In searching and reaching accuracy, the bipod had to become very thin and is a sensitive part, so enhanced care should be taken when removing from the sprue and glue in its position. The part with traverse system and panoramic sight intercalates between the bipod and tube. For easing the assembly, a really extremely thin pin is provided on this part while the tube has the linked hole. Again, extra attention has to be granted, the fragility of the part definitely imposing special measures, in particular not pouring too much glue because there is a serious risk of immediately melting the pin set on top of bipod. Not only the paramount sight, but also the traversing hand-wheel as well as the guide tube and cross-levelling hand-wheel are awesomely sculptured. At its turn, the tube admirable reproduces the original, missing only few unimportant characteristics such as the rings used to fix the strap for shoulder transportation. The tube is already impeccably drilled, so no efforts must be carried out in the field. At the other end, the tube shows its ball shaped breech that has to be glued on the socket of the base plate. Except the socket that flawlessly accommodates the safety ball of the tube, another element clearly noticed on this base plate is the handle used to carry it. Even if not easily perceived when the base plate is fixed in position, Preiser did not refrain in making full details on the side facing the ground, thing attesting once more the grand attention paid by the company in manufacturing the product.

For acquiring a proper picture of a mortar in action, apart from weapon and crew, ammunition is of foremost importance. In this light, near the parts required for putting together the mortar, on the same sprue Preiser included related accessories, more precisely six single projectiles as well as six closed and two opened ammunition containers. Likewise, three groups of three linked projectiles, designed for illustrating the content of the opened containers are available on the same sprue. The projectiles are in scale and brilliant sculptured, tails and war-heads imposing these pieces as genuine masterpieces. Granatwerfer 34 ammunition was transported in various models of metal or wooden containers and boxes. Preiser limited in depicting a single model of container, respectively the metal one accommodating three rounds, but featured it in two ways, closed and opened. Both correctly open from one side and impress through specific elements carefully carved and manufactured such as the handles. Earlier pointed out was that inside opened containers should be added the three projectiles joint by the bottom part of the rack. If removing the rack that anyway is little visible because is on the side that must be glued in the box, an excellent alternative is setting them as a base for making a pile of projectiles together with the spare ones. It was a common custom of German mortar crews to arrange the shells in this way for easing the access and increasing the rate of fire. Likewise, for enhanced variety, few options are at hand for the opened containers, the lid can be raised to 90 degrees, or place them upside-down as empty ones, thrown away. In addition, the hobbyist has the chance to organise the closed containers in various models of stacks. That was in fact another widespread practice of mortar crewmen and one of the back artworks gives an idea about. For miscellaneous modalities of setting the spare projectiles and closed containers, taking a look on references of the period is a proper approach.                           

The crewmen are delivered without any weapon or gear, but all necessary stuff for equipping them heavy or light is supplied on the classical Preiser sprues of gear. The first one fits in 6 back packs (Tornister M-39) with rolled blanket, 2 binoculars 7 X 50 power binoculars, 2 map/dispatch cases M35, 4 pistols holsters for 9 mm P-08 Parabellum/P-38 Walther, 4 pistols holsters for 7.65 mm Walther, 6 steel helmets, 2 officer visor caps, 6 M43 caps, 6 M34 caps, and 2 flash lights. The second sprue includes 12 ammo pouches for Kar 98K, 6 gas mask containers M30, 6 canteens (Feldflasche M31), 6 mess-tins (Kochgeschirr M31), 6 bread-bags [(Brotbeutel M31), 3 with mess-tins attached and 3 without], 6 Zeltbahn M37, 6 entrenching tools, 6 Kar98K bayonets in sheaths, and 6 pouches that could be, due to the similitude in the scale, either for anti-gas capes (Gasplane Beutel) or first aid (Verbandpäckchen) or even for keeping the reading maps tools (Kartenwinkelmesser 27).

Easily noticed is the absence of the legendary Preiser sprue of personal weapons, and that is why here modeller’s only options at hand for inarming the crew are the pistol holsters. Anyway, in most cases, the mortar crewmen were armed with pistols, but also rifles and even MPs were stipulated as personal weapons for such troopers. It is also true that if it was not pistol, the mortar crewmen rather put the personal firing weapon down than keeping on them while handling the mortar. In relation to the units the hobbyist wishes these figures to serve, at least for a couple, alternatives to pistol holsters are the ammunition pouches for Kar98K. If desired to go further and show the rifles, such weapons and even MPs with appropriate ammo pouches can be found on the highly detailed sprues of weapons integrated in various Preiser and Dragon kits. 

On the sprue of figures there are offered simply the pieces for assembling five soldiers as well as an optional arm. All are dressed just the same, with M38 camouflage smocks, regular trousers, marching/jack boots and helmets covered by camouflage canvas. Extremely attractive is the sculptor’s choice of showing in four cases the end part of smocks rolled up. The scarce presence in the scale of figures wearing smocks in this way as well as the numerous images attesting it as an extremely popular manner between WWII Germans turns the advance into a highly welcomed one. Moreover, here we get both tight up and loose smocks, particularly the breast placket strings of the prone and standing figures emphasising the loose mode.     

The garment and shoe-wear make the figures suitable for the entire period of war, with the mention that between 1939-1941 they are appropriate only for Waffen SS. After that year camouflage smocks started to be issued for Wehrmacht troopers, too while the type and thickness of uniform fit in both warm and cold seasons. Taking in consideration the above highlighted time restrictions, the modeller can choose in which army to enrol his minis.  Either Waffen SS or Wehrmacht units are appropriate for receiving them because soldiers of both armies wore the same attire. Only the collar boards and camouflage patterns will attest their membership and almost all Wehrmacht and Waffen SS spring/summer or autumn/winter patterns (minus Pea Dot, smocks had never been issued in that) are appropriate. The rolled up end of smocks set out as an excellent opportunity in showing their reversible character, painting that area in spring/summer colours if the worn side is finished in autumn/winter colours and vice-versa. Even if not special cloths for winter, some camouflage smocks were issued with a white side, but those cases are exceptions and not the rule.

Apart from of early stage when the mortar crew was usually set only at three men, along the most part of WWII a Granatwerfer 34 received a crew of seven or eight, depending on year and type of company, but only three handled the mortar. For example, KStN provided for a 1942 light infantry company a mortar group with two Granatwerfer 34, each weapon having gunner, two gun assistants, commander, two riflemen, and driver. The group also possessed a group commander, range-finder, assistant armourer-artificer and driver for the ammunition truck. A 1944 Panzer Grenadier company (armoured) mortar group was also composed by two squads, each formed by seven army-men, namely commander, gunner and two assistants, two riflemen, and driver plus a group commander.   

The Preiser kit targeting Granatwerfer 34 in full action puts forward five soldiers and according to poses and items held in hands, it offers the gunner and his two assistants as well as other two troopers that can be riflemen giving a helpful hand to their team-mates. In standard approach, three figures hold projectiles in hands while the other two grab the bipod in an attempt to confer the weapon a better stability. First impression is that the rounds from the hands are a little inferiorly sculptured than those available on the separate sprue, but after painting them, these come out very fine. Since its first appearance on the hobby market, Preiser has inspired the large majority of their poses from reference photos. The same situation applies to the present one and obviously, the interaction of the soldiers with the mortar is simply awesome. For achieving life-like poses, a major contribution is brought by the multi-part method adopted by the manufacturer. Two crewmen stand, two are crouched, and one is prone, all of them establishing a perfect relation with the mortar. The standing soldiers hold projectiles in their hands and might be assessed as gunner and his assistant, without being possible to decide who is who. The producer’s intention is setting them on each side of the tube as preparing to feed the weapon. The crewman staying on the right is ready to insert the shell in the tube and perhaps it is the best to assemble the mortar first and then to glue his arms. In this way the palm with the bomb can be adjusted for a superior matching with tube opening. This is the figure for which we get two alternatives for the right arm, but the difference is insignificant. Both feature projectiles and the most noticeable distinction relies on the way of holding them, in one version does it from the warhead and in the other from the middle. Nevertheless, in case of having more boxes of the same set, and aiming diversity, the spare left arm can be allocated to any other mini. The next standing trooper presses his ear with the right hand, trying to reduce the noise produced when the weapon was fired. It was an often encountered gesture on the battle field once artillery and mortar pieces fired their deadly charges. The trooper can play two roles, either to be him who feeds the weapon or just preparing to fire the next round, after his colleague from the other side finished his job. The third army-man with a shell holds it in the right hand, is in a crouched pose, and probably represents the last mortar assistant standing by for bringing closer another round. To the standing soldiers the guidelines advice us gluing pistol holsters and gas mask containers, pistols attesting their specialised role as mortar gunners. However, for the rest of troopers, the instructions tell nothing regarding personal weapons, limiting only to gear that is in fact a mistake. It would be in full accordance with KStN to attach a pistol holster to the crouched figure with projectile in hand and for the others Kar98K ammunition pouches. These last troopers can easily portray two riflemen of a mortar squad lending a hand to their comrades in operating the weapon. One is on his knees, the other prone and both struggle to increase the accuracy of the weapon by holding each leg of the bipod for preventing the move. In spite the small size, their palms are superbly sculptured for accommodating the bipod. Comparable endeavours were ample reproduced in several famous photos, although the great majority of those images show soldiers in M36 tunics and not camouflage smocks. Like for the soldiers feeding the mortar, in order to attain a good interaction, this time is even more important to put together the weapon first and then the arms of figures fixed in connection with the bipod. The relation has to be checked immediately after pouring glue on the bodies in order that further fine-tunings to be done.  After setting up the final positions, not mandatory but feasible, it is gluing the bipod in the hands of the soldiers.  

Taking into account the high quality of the product, maybe some hobbyists will buy more boxes of the same kit. Preiser’s Granatwerfer 34 is finer than Armourfast’s version, but its size perfectly matches the figures released by the previous pointed out company. Of course, this is just an example, Preiser’s mortar having unlimited utilities. For the cases when the figures of “8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in combat” would lose the weapon, they might receive different roles and not mortar crewmen. Their body parts are ideal for conversions and the modeller can turn them into gun crew, infantrymen attacking/defending a position, emplace them in/on various vehicles etc, the list of options being definitely unlimited.

The anatomy is faultless, with normal proportions and bodies in total harmony with the intended activities granted by the author to each figure, actions also supported by proper facial expressions, with visible noses, moths and eyes. Palms are carefully crafted for accomplishing the given tasks and all fingers are easily distinguished. Smocks do not spoil us too much with details, but still we can identify collars of tunics worn below as well as the collar boards, while level of sculpture of breast plackets and related strings varies from pose to pose. An attractive aspect registered on the present smocks consists in their rolled up end. Both trousers and smocks feature fine creases, modelled in compliance with the movements done by the troopers. The amount of flash is kept in normal percents and can be smoothly removed while the multi-part approach gave no chance to excess of plastic to come out. Mould marks materialised in small circles showing where the pieces were held during casting process are perceived on the lids of opened containers, on one side of closed containers, shells as well as on the tube and base plate. Likewise, same marks appear on one leg at several figs, but except the ones on the lids, the rest either might be hidden through emplacement or easily eliminated. Working with hard plastic is a pleasure not only when getting rid of flash, but also at painting, an ideal base for any enamel, artistic oils or pigments, capable to maintain the painting effort even at intense handling. It is a general rule for any Preiser figure kit not to include bases, possibly here required just by the figure leaning forward, the rest of them having a great balance. 

Based on sizes of body and gear as well as type of uniform criteria, the crewmen made by Prieser for Granatwerfer 34 in action are totally compatible with figures enclosed in the small/medium side of 1/72 such as Caesar’s “WWII German Panzergrenadiers Set 1” and “WWII German Panzergrenadiers Set 2”, Pegasus Hobbies’ “Waffen SS - Set 2” as well as Armourfast’s “WWII German Machine Gun Team”, and “WWII German Mortar Team” as well as HaT’s “German 75mm IG 18 Gun”. On the taller size side we find army-men wearing the same attire in Pegasus Hobbies "Waffen SS - set 1", Italeri "German Elite Troops" and “German PAK 40 AT Gun with servants” as well as some from Pegasus Hobbies "Germans in Berlin 1945". The figures included in another Preiser kit with troopers wearing camouflage smocks, “German PaK40 Crew” shoe ankle boots and the bodies are a hair bigger. At first look the difference is almost undetectable, so exchange of body parts between the two sets is more than feasible. Anyway, especially in large scenes implying many soldiers, with a suitable arrangement, the size divergences are not so noticeable and products of various companies may be mixed on the same diorama.

From all the specialised sets featuring WWII German mortars, the present reviewed figs matches the best with Armoufast’s because the sizes, although not identical, still are quite close and all are dressed in camouflage smocks, exception making the shoe wear. Doubtless, for depicting a complete mortar squad/group and considering size of bodies and gear as well as attire, the soldiers provided by Pegasus Hobbies’ Waffen SS – Set 2 are the foremost option, their interaction with the Preiser mortar crew in camouflage smocks being just perfect. Numerous references of the period attest dissimilar shoe-wear within the same squad, but the match between Pegasus’ and Preiser’s troopers in reference is even greater because are endowed with marching/jack boots.

Despite its fragility and assembly requirements, in counterpart with Armourfast’s “WWII German Mortar Team”, Preiser’s Granatwerfer 34 together with its crewmen may find, with a proper base, a place on the wargaming table, too. Through “WWII German 8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in Combat” Preiser has made available to the hobby a set that proudly confirms why this company occupies a leading position in the heart of modellers. Unquestionably, after putting its parts together, the product succeeds to catch the genuine and tensioned atmosphere of a mortar crew in the middle of combat.Not only the flexibility of figures, able to perform various roles with more or less complicated conversions, but also the high quality of their main weapon, turn the kit into an extremely attractive tender. In fact, Preiser Granatwerfer 34 can be easily assessed as the best sculptured and in scale mortar of Braille Scale, a true jewel in the field. Moreover, the content of present release corroborated with the outstanding MGs integrated in “Advancing Grenadiers with MG”, turn Preiser into a champion in the field of main support weapons of a WWII German infantry company, the manufacturer succeeding to portray these in an ultimate manner.

 

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 10
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 10
Sculpture 9
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 9