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Caesar - WWII German Panzer Crews (HB03) _________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer Caesar
Scale 1/72
Set Code HB03
Year 2010
No. of Figures 18
No. of Poses 11
Additional Items None
Size Small
Material Soft Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Average
Glue-ability Excellent
Convert-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1943 – 1945

 Review 

Following an intensive and sustained work, in less than a decade, the Taiwanese company Caesar has succeeded to become the most prolific manufacturer of 1/72 WWII German soldiers, with hundreds of figures cast in soft and hard plastic. Depicting a multitude of units and attire, including some rare ones, the Panzer crews, as a subject of great interest among hobbyists, could not let indifferent this producer. The answer has come under the title “WWII German Panzer Crews”, shaped as a soft plastic set featuring eighteen soldiers in eleven distinct poses.

Besides Preiser’s famous hard plastic sets and some cottage industry tenders in resin and white metal, no soft plastic set on Panzer soldiers was prior done. With its release, Caesar has recorded another premiere, supplying the first soft plastic mass-production full set on 1/72 WWII German tankers. The general perception is soft plastic products mainly address to gamers and collectors, but the top quality and adaptability of the included figures definitely make this set fully suitable for the needs and expectations of diorama builders, too. However, it should be remembered that the first soft plastic WWII German Panzer men were delivered by Dragon as crew for their Maus and E 100 tanks, but there were only two soldiers and comprised by a vehicle kit and not by a regular figure set. At few years distance after Caesar's tender has been launched, other two outstanding soft plastic sets targeting WWII German Panzer soldiers have been made available in 1/72 scale by Orion.

When thinking at Panzer troops, the first thought goes to their famous uniform, inspired after a ski outfit in vogue in 1930’, but according to numerous references, the Panzer crewmen worn a great diversity of clothes, including drill attire, shirts, and overalls. Still, from the total amount of eleven poses featured by Caesar’s set, only six put on the classical Panzer garment, the other five receiving M43 uniform. Nevertheless, mixing clothes and eventually units inside a single set is not the first such approach by Caesar, a similar one representing “WWII German Mountain Troops”, where eight troopers dress Gebirgsjager attire and five embody soldiers of the 13th Waffen-Gebirgs-Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) in camouflage smocks and immediately identified after their fez. However, Handschar was a mountain division, but Panzer crews extremely rare worn infantry uniforms on the battle-field. In this light, those miniatures find a better place not in/on a Panzer but within an armoured vehicle like a half-track, Hummel, Wespe or other vehicles employed by infantry, Panzer Grenadier, signal, reconnaissance or artillery.

Except toy-soldiers, Caesar also produces a range of 1/72 WWII German vehicles and maybe the company felt the need to issue some personnel for those. Taking the opportunity to cover both needs when creating “WWII German Panzer Crews”, the manufacturer has combined Panzer and armoured vehicle crewmen in the same box. In order to achieve the objectives in a fast manner, the sculptor from the Taiwanese maker found inspiration in two 1/35 scale sets, namely Tamiya’s “German Tank Crew at Rest” for the tankers and Dragon’s “German Halftrack Crewmen” for the soldiers in M43 uniform. The poses, gear, and attire are close to the original 1/35 figures, but definitely the minis proposed by Caesar are not scale-downs from their larger relatives. There are clear distinctions between the 1/35 figurines and their shorter replicas, Caesar’s sculptor just reinterpreting those, bringing his own creative contribution by modifying some or introducing new things, so in a certain manner these Braille Scale figs do not emerge as direct copies.

Tamiya’s “German Tank Crew at Rest” appears as the most preferred inspiration source for 1/72 creators, beside Caesar, Miniature Alemany and CMK previously releasing their versions on those 1/35 figs, too. Issued in the tall side of the scale, the miniatures from both these labels are inferior to Caesar’s, especially CMK’s which are much over-scaled. Not only the correct size, but also the highly detailed sculpture situate Caesar’s Panzer soldiers above their counter-parts and make them more suitable for vehicles in either diorama or gaming purposes. Likewise, their mass-production status confers additional advantages, being much cheaper, easy accessible and accommodating more army-man within in a set.

Packed in the classical box of the company allocated to 1/72 products, the eighteen figurines are put in a small plastic bag, having a lot of space inside. The artwork features the complete five member crew of a Tiger I tank, wearing Waffen SS pea-dot camouflage overalls. The displayed poses are slightly different than the homologues from inside and in order to emphasise these are not all the available stances, the producer took the decision to clearly state on the box that the set includes eleven district poses. As regards the artwork, there is an inadvertence between the men there presented and the Panzer troopers encountered inside which wear the classic Wehrmacht type of the wrapper, having nothing to do with Waffen SS. The other figures have received the M43 uniforms and only those can be finished in the camouflage pattern revealed in the artwork. However, they will not represent Panzer crew, but other Waffen SS units although also those miniatures belong to Wehrmacht due to the breast eagles displayed on their tunics, so Feldgrau or Heer camouflage patterns will be more appropriate. Still, nothing refrain hobbyists to remove that eagle and paint it on the left arm, in this way the crewmen being apt to join Waffen SS. However, there are few reference images showing Heer Panzer Soldiers with Wehrmacht style wrappers and breast eagles but made of pea-dot Waffen SS camouflage materials. Those were rare exceptions of tailor-made attire, hence, it is not wise to paint all these miniatures in Waffen SS camo patterns.

Apart the seated pose holding his arms on the knees, all these figs are cast as single pieces, the only assembly required being extremely easy. The miniature of concern is delivered in two parts, bust and legs, the huge pin in the bust conferring an excellent fixation if super glue is utilised. The glue-ability propensity of Caesar’s soft plastic is often ignored, but in reality this material outstanding reacts to cyanoacrylate, especially the gel version being highly recommended either for conversions or for adding supplementary weapons and gear. Not only soft plastic, but also the hard one and resin can be durably fixed on it, thus various items of equipment generously supplied by Caesar within their hard plastic sets might be utilised for further endowment of these figs or in order to increase diversity between the duplicated poses.

All the six Panzer troopers included in the set rely on Tamiya’s “German Tank Crew at Rest”, wearing the Wehrmacht cut of the Panzer uniform, shirts, and ankle boots. Their head-gear is diverse, respectively two officer, two M34, and one M43 caps as well as one bare-headed. All of them received belts and in accordance with the army they serve, are armed with pistols kept in different types of holsters. Two are seated and four stand, one of those being mainly designed for hatch emplacements though it is a full miniature. Due to their clear Wehrmacht style uniform, with larger and pointed ends collars, seam down to the middle of the back, front edge cut back diagonally, and breast eagles, the most advocated colour for their attire would be the well-consecrated black. Harder to identify due to the pose and left hand mostly covering it, still it seems the seated officer has a pocket on the left thigh, consequently wearing the M41 HBT second pattern Panzer trousers. In this light, only for his pants black is not suitable, but reed green or various shades of gray. Considering their clothes, apart this one and the soldier with M43 cap, the rest of the Panzer soldiers fit for deployments throughout the entire period of war. By painting the uniforms in Feldgrau, they can be straightaway turned into Assault Artillery crewmen.

While the initial Tamiya 1/35 poses were inspired by reference images, also the figs released by Caesar in 1/72 scale are excellent and very natural. Bearing in mind the title of the 1/35 set is “German Tank Crew at Rest”, obviously these soldiers do not do many things, just sit or stay in relaxed stances, chatting or looking around. The seated miniatures are tremendously realistic, one laying his arms on the knees while the other, an officer, sits on a Panzer during a break. In addition, this has been previously met as a crewman in Caesar’s kit ”WWII German Sd. Kfz.10 with 50mm Pak 38”, looking a little out of place and not collaborating so well with the other two infantry-men there supplied.

The standing Panzer troopers fit to be displayed mounted or dismounted, but the ideal place for the officer is the hatch of a turret, some with larger openings having to be sought for his legs to pass through. Although it is a full miniature, with the position of the left arm slightly alternated, and not featuring any radio gear, this figure still sets out as a reinterpretation of the officer bust proposed by Tamiya inside “German Tank Crew at Rest”. Nonetheless, the model forwarded by Caesar is better considering it has got legs, so hobbyists might identify for him suitable places outside the hatch, too. The other standing soldiers, one with both hands deep in the pocket, one keeping his palms on the hips, and one resting his right leg on a raised point as an ammo box, rock, or vehicle part, closely follow Tamiya’s line, even the headgear being in accordance with the one shown in the 1/35 artwork.

Concerning the troopers in M43 tunics, apart the seated one resting his head in the right palm, the other four comrades, two standing and two seated, move in Braille Scale all the poses of 1/35 Dragon’s “German Halftrack Crewmen”. As title suggests, these figures are excellent for the broad range of half-track armoured vehicles such as Sd.Kfz 251, 250, 253 etc, but they can properly occupy positions inside a huge number of WWII German vehicles, not mandatory half-tracks. Basically, the miniatures embody the commander, the MG gunner, the driver, and the radio-operator and for better identification of the stances, Dragon’s artwork is of great help, specially bearing in mind the Caesar’s one does not make any reference to those soldiers. On account the straight flap pockets, it seems all of them wear the M43 uniform, marching/jack boots, headgear consisting in one M34 and three M43 caps. The breast eagles on tunics enhance they belong to Wehrmacht and the open collars make them suitable for warm or temperate environments. With the exception of belts, a pair of headphones, a pair of binoculars, and a MG34, no other gear or weapons are spotted on these figures.

Evaluated in relation with the initial purpose envisaged by Dragon as half-track crewmen, the two standing figures, depicting the commander and the MG gunner, have to be emplaced inside the fighting compartment, the other two following to occupy the front seats of the armoured half-track as driver and radio-operator. The light gear and no helmets of these crewmen attest the vehicle was in a previously quiet area, but now is under attack, possible scenarios representing an air or partisan strike. In retaliation, the MG gunner fires off the weapon while the commander coordinates his subordinate, leaning on the left hand side of the fighting compartment and pointing with the left hand the target, holding in the other hand the binoculars close to the chest. It should be emphasised the gunner comes sculptured together with his MG34, fed by the specific 50 round drum magazine but without folded or unfolded bipod. Usually MGs of WWII German armoured vehicles had bipods for potential fights outside the vehicle and were fed by ammunition belts, but such inadvertences could be easily ignored this time. However, modellers have several options when displaying this figure inside a half-track, either to use the MG already handled by the soldier or to remove it, arranging the mini to fire the front or rear MG included in the vehicle kit. In addition, together with his commander he can go in another type of vehicle with tracks or wheels, lots of those being standard armed with MGs or soldiers often installed and used such weapons to protect themselves while travelling in unarmed ones.

As regards the driver and radio-operator, it will certainly be difficult to put them in their places, in the front seats of a Sd.kfz 251, without any surgery intervention. Even if these figs are in the small side of the scale, the front seats of most 1/72 half-track armoured vehicles, no matter the producer, are quite narrow and the floor is close to the seat level, so no place for legs. If really wanting these two army-men there, then their legs must be removed and the bodies glued in the chairs. The driver holds his hands as grabbing the steering-wheel and the gear-shift while the radio-operator, the single one with M34 cap and identified after the headphones, press with the left hand the communication gear in the attempt to better hear the orders. No wires or throat microphone are visible on this miniature and the head is done straight by Caesar while Dragon advice for the 1/35 fig to twist it to the left, yelling something to his mates from the fighting compartment. As in case of the standing figs, also these ones can find alternative 1/72 vehicles to sit and drive, a large amount of cars, trucks or armour desperately needing them.

As above pointed out, Caesar supplies another similarly dressed trooper, in M43 uniform, marching/jack boots, and M43 cap, but not included by Dragon’s “German Halftrack Crewmen”. This new pose introduced by Caesar is simply wonderful, one of the best of the set and it looks like being inspired by a famous reference image, of a soldier sitting on the front hull of a Tiger 1. Considering that normally half-tracks transported more than four members, maybe by incorporating this miniature the manufacturer intended to increase the number of the crewmen, and he might take a sit near his comrades in the fighting compartment.

With roots in a Dragon 1/35 set and even being quite small, displaying all the crewmen inside a Sd.kfz 251 produced in 1/72 scale by that label will be quite difficult, but this certainly is not Caesar’s fault. Because of that, hobbyists might reflect to place these figures in Sd.kfz 251 issued by other producers, as Esci/Italeri, Hasegawa, Revell or the slightly over-scaled Plastic Soldier Company one, if referring only to Sd.kfz 251s. Nevertheless, various half-tracks or wheeled and tracked WWII German vehicles yearn for such crew, so they are highly welcomed and desired.

Caesar is widely acknowledged not only as no.1 in terms of 1/72 offer on WWII Germans, but also for their finely sculptured figures, the here presented set appearing as one of their best from this point of view. The soldiers impress with their excellent anatomy, faces being very realistic, with greatly carved eyes, eye-brows, mouths, noses, ears, and hair. The great majority of palms match the proportions of heads and often fingers emerge superbly modelled. No matter the company aims at mass-production, attire covering Caesar figs distinguish through accuracy and the sculptor succeeded in an incredible manner to recreate on such tiny troopers most of the uniform details, including perfect collars, pocket flaps, collar and shoulder boards, buttons, even button holes of the Panzer wrappers being visible, the items of garment receiving authentic creases as well. Furthermore, some medals as Iron Crosses, Tank Assault Badge, and ribbons are noticed at some of these army-men, definitely contributing to their charming look.

Though it is about single piece figures, mould and cast are of good quality, with a small level of flash and excess of material, easily removed with any hobby blade. Little criticism might be addressed to a couple of heads where the mould was not so well calibrated and the two halves did not perfectly combine. However, it is a really small and hardly perceived mistake which did not affect the quality of these troopers and simply repairable during painting. The soft plastic utilised by this company finely accepts enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, the painting effort admirable integrating and resisting at intensive handling. Still, a problem can emerge, some particular matt paints, perhaps depending on their pigments, might have the tendency to get a glossy appearance, no matter the figs were primed or not before. The most recommended solution for solving the issue is spraying matt varnish with an air-brush. A distinct sign of most Caesar figs are their bases, but now, even for those suitable to take position on the ground, such devices are not supplied. Nevertheless, it is a very fine approach for crewmen which certainly would look odd on stands as mounted on vehicles. The hobbyists really wanting bases can find plenty in other Caesar sets or somewhere else, the miniatures effortlessly gluing on any device.

On account the set forwards several duplicated poses, and taking profit of the excellent glue-ability of the material, as earlier stressed at the beginning of the review, modellers should not avoid modifying those in order to introduce some diversity. Due to the poses, substantial differences cannot be introduced, but swapping heads, painting differently the attire, and adding some pistol holsters, binoculars, map-cases or other items of gear represent modalities for attaining satisfactory results in the field.

The size of bodies, heads, and gear send these soldiers in the small side of 1/72, making them appropriate to collaborate with virtually all Caesar WWII German troopers produced after 2008. In terms of small or medium Panzer troopers, the Caesar figs perfectly work with Warriors and Esci/Italeri crewmen as well as with CMK’s “German armourers for Tiger I” but also some Preiser related units would be suitable. Of course, the half-track crew forwarded by the set finds thousands of comrades of close size, Airfix, Esci, First to Fight representing just few examples in the field, but it should be reiterated Caesar submits hundreds of ideal partners sharing the same sculptor, ideal choices for completing the personnel of an armoured half-track or to be spread around.

For many years, the large number of 1/72 WWII German vehicles delivered without crews by different manufacturers have ached for such a set and Caesar’s “WWII German Panzer Crews” has granted a first-rate solution in the field. Although its title refers only to Panzer, the set supplies great crewmen for half-tracks and other types of vehicles operated by infantry, Panzer-Grenadier, recon, signal or artillery. Splitting the content in two almost equal parts, with six Panzer and five infantry crewmen, might be an idea appreciated by some hobbyists while others could be little disappointed for receiving fewer Panzer men than expected. Transposing in Braille Scale close replicas of poses encountered in two well-known 1/35 sets created by Tamiya and Dragon, benefiting by an excellent sculpture, and representing the first soft plastic set on 1/72 German tankers, are certainly valuable features, imposing Caesar’s “WWII German Panzer Crews” as a milestone figure set and a more than tempting and rewarding asset for gamers, collectors, and static model builders interested in the topic. A plus of the set is definitely the size of the miniatures, admirable fitting 1/72 vehicles, practically coming out as a must have for all wishing to recreate a calm scene involving Panzer soldiers. 

 

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