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Dragon - LAH Panzergrenadiers + Sd.Kfz.251/7 Ausf.D, Ardennes 1944 (DRA 7364) _________(BRF)

 

 

Manufacturer Dragon
Scale 1/72
Set Code 7364
Year 2009
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items Sd.Kfz.251/7, Weapons, Gear, Optional Heads
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Easy
Optimal Period 1943 – 1945

 

Review   

For the great joy of Braille Scale fans Dragon has started issuing scaled-down versions of their famous 1/35 figures sets, but in the 1/72 scale, except soldiers, the target groups also receive a full vehicle assessed by the manufacturer as “bonus” to the kit. In terms of WWII German Army troopers, all the poses of the scaled-down kits are inspired after reference images, an excellent fact which corroborated with a brilliant sculpture succeed to accurate transpose in the 1/72 scale the real soldiers appearing in those images.

In designing “LAH PanzerGrenadiers” the sculptor used as inspiration a series of well-known images shot during the Ardennes campaign, featuring several German soldiers, most of the time four, in few of those also emerging a destroyed American vehicle. Based on the packs of cigarettes and some weapons, it seems the German soldiers “visited” the vehicle and took from there what they were interested more. The camera and the film were later on captured by Americans and we might wonder what destiny had the soldiers appearing in those images, wonderfully illustrated by Dragon, too. Obviously, the series of images present the four soldiers in various poses and backgrounds but the sculptor decided to depict them when smoking or preparing to start smoking. One of them offers a fire to his colleague to light the cigarette, another smokes and the last, with an MG on the right shoulder, holds a pistol in the right hand, perhaps an American Colt, a highly appreciated souvenir. It has to be emphasised that this soldier in the pose Dragon portrays him is one of the most famous images of a MG gunner, perfectly showing the genuine image of the German soldier during the Late War period and  became a real emblem of the Ardennes campaign.

Indeed the original image is of an excellent quality, presenting from close distance just the bust and giving the opportunity of seeing plenty of unconventional items such as shovel worn in front under the belt, knife on the chest slipped under jacket as well some more common stuff like MG on the left shoulder and ammunition belt around the neck. Furthermore, the MG gunner has in his mouth a cigarette and seems wearing an old Zeltbahn over a camouflage smock, toque, and steel helmet. Most of those details Dragon succeeded to catch on the mini, except the cigarette and the knife, the sculptor wrongly allocating the knife in case to one of his colleagues. Nevertheless, the existence of that knife is a good thing, a modeller wishing to exactly copy that legendary MG gunner having just to glue the knife to him and not to his comrade. Attire on the other three figures is more casual, one wearing M42 camouflage smock and the others M43/44 tunics issued in pea dot camouflage pattern in conformity with the artwork. Trousers are quite interesting, two having M43 trousers, another perhaps HBT trousers worn over the regular ones while the MG gunner has a pair of trousers either captured or tailored made. Footwear reiterates the shortage confronting the German army in the late stage of war, two of them having ankle boots and the others marching/jack boots. The sprue provides options for heads with toques or without but only steel helmets can be fit as headgear.    

The kit is marketed in the classical Dragon large box, with two front artworks, one from the 1/35 version displayed in the right up corner and showing the figures in action as well as a central one with the “bonus” Sd.Kfz 251/7. On the back of the box the company offers various written and illustrated information on the figures and gear, completely demonstrating the high quality of the product, the images with the troopers also representing basic assembly instructions. Nevertheless, inside the box it is assured the complete assembly guide both for soldiers and vehicle, drawing precise data on how to put together the content. Preferring titling “LAH PanzerGrenadiers + Sd.Kfz 251/7 Ausf.D - Ardennes 1944” the manufacturer had in mind the possibility of legally commercialising the product also in countries where SS is prohibited, the complete name of the division being “1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” (LSSAH). Indeed, that elite division took part at all the major battles of WWII such as Kursk, Kharkov, Normandy, and of course, Ardennes but ended in disgrace, Hitler issuing the famous “Armband order” after the failure of Lake Balaton Offensive in March 1945, accusing LSSAH troops that they “did not fight as the situation demanded”.

As usual, the vehicle does not make the subject of the present review that is limited only to the plastic soldiers, but it should be highlighted its very nice quality although it is a little odd the inclusion of a specialised pioneer vehicle next to Panzer Grenadiers. However, the hobbyist has the alternative to build the kit without the bridge, as a regular Sd.Kfz. 251/1, the standard armoured vehicle of Panzer-Grenadiers.

A single sprue of figures is provided, accommodating the parts for putting together the four army-men as well as four optional heads and some items necessary for precisely reproduce the appearance of the true soldiers showed by the reference images. These objects are the shovel in two parts for enabling an easy fit under the belt, the knife for the chest, a rolled blanket, and an American M1 Carbine held by one of the troopers. It is a pity that starting with this kit Dragon ceased providing two sprues of figures like in the previous two 1/72 figure sets dedicated to German Paratroopers aiming the same Ardennes campaign. Especially here it would have been nice for having two spures of figures in order the modeller to have the possibility of converting the minis after another image of the series. The challenge is really attractive and maybe in this way the company wished to tantalise the interested parts to buy more boxes of the same kit.                                                                                                                                        

Gear is incorporated on the standard Dragon sprue taking in 4 entrenching tools, 4 shovels, 4 bayonets in sheaths, one binoculars, 4 mess-tins, 4 canteens, 4 gas mask containers, 4 gas mask containers with rolled gas cape pouches, 4 Zeltbahns, 4 bread bags, 4 gas cape pouches, 8 Kar98K ammunition pouches, 4 StG44 ammunition pouches, 4 MP40 ammunition pouches, 2 Gewehr43 ammunition pouches, 2 map cases, 1 MG gunner case, 2 pistols holsters for 9 mm P-08 Parabellum/P-38 Walther, 2 pistols holsters for 7.65 mm Walther, and 1 pistol holster for 6.35 mm Sauer. Of note is that all these Dragon items are detailed on both sides even if the efforts on the inner one would not be seen anymore after gluing the piece in position. Likewise, the MP40 an StG44 ammunition pouches are on pairs, the ones for left hand side pouch having the additional small pocket stitched to the left side and the others for the right hand side pouch without small pocket.

The same is for the weapons too, the special sprue accommodating 3 Gewehr43, 3 Kar98K, 1 MG34, 1 MG42, 2 folded and 2 opened bipods for MGs, 1 StG44, 1 MP40 with shoulder stock folded, 1 MP40 with shoulder stock opened, and a Sten Mk2,  its side magazine being delivered separately next to it. In addition, on the same sprue but independently there are included 4 standard and 4 Fallschirmjager steel helmets. 

As mentioned, the poses depict some static soldiers in unusual stances for plastic kits but extremely natural, copying even the smallest detail of the original soldiers featured by the images in case. Indeed, WWII was a war of smokers, thousands of still and motion documents showing the soldiers with cigarettes, so Dragon’s incentive of emphasising that fact-finding in several sets should be praised and appreciated. Not only the present set, but also the other two on Fallschirmjagers portray troopers while smoking. Of course, due to moulding reasons, cigarettes are missing but the suggesting positions of palms as well as the hard plastic material facilitate the hobbyist to add a scratch-built cigarette, an ideal method being one made of melted hard plastic sprue.

Being multi-part, conversions are extremely easy to carry out and the smoking figures to be turned into fighting ones or implementing various activities according to modeller’s needs or imagination. Nonetheless, it would be a pity not having in collection the original ones, so for conversion purposes it would be good buying a second or even more boxes, this perhaps representing also manufacturer’s market strategy when enclosing in the box just a single sprue of figures. For conversions there can be used not only Dragon body parts, weapons and gear, but also Preiser, the close proportions of anatomy and equipment allowing such thing.

Regarding the faultless and imposing level of small details, here there are fulfilled the dreams of any Braille Scale hobbyist, and it is normal to be like that bearing in mind Dragon copied in the 1/72 scale the figs as those are in the 1/35 scale. Such kind of kits reiterates there are no more borders between the two scales in terms of details, the smaller one having the advantage of cheaper price and less occupied space in the house. Returning to the proposed details, these come extremely crisp both on figures and their optional equipment. Clothes genuine fit and fold on the army-men, revealing a large amount of small details like buttons, pockets, buckles etc. Even before putting together the minis the lucky owner of the kit will be fascinated by the irreproachable proportions of bodies, wholly paying attention to the human body. Concerning facial details, these reach perfection, the eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and noses seem carved having in mind the expression of the authentic soldiers. ln fact, Dragon is fully aware about the masterpiece they created and clearly adverts on the box  that facial expressions and clothes have been carefully sculptured. The same may apply for palms with all fingers naturally grabbing things even if there is about small ones such as glove or pack of cigarette.

The body parts perfect match in positions and weapons and gear could be added by modeller as advised by the instructions or how he wants. At his disposal there are unnumbered options on the sprues of weapons and equipment, but it should stressed that the manufacturer provided quite proper guidelines on the matter after studying all the images of the series. Of course, being made of hard plastic the adhesive for fixing the parts will be the regular polly-cement used to most vehicle kits. Painting on hard plastic raises no problem, the material faultless accepting enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, permanently keeping those even at intense handling.

Although sufficient to create an eye-catching vignette by themselves and eventually the supplied vehicle, being in the tall side of the scale Dragon’s Panzer Grenadiers find plenty of comrades dressed in smocks, parkas or M43 tunics to accompany. Some of the closest in terms of anatomy and gear size can be found in different Pegasus Hobbies, Preiser, Warriors, and CMK sets. Furthermore, modellers have to take in account the previous two figure sets issued by Dragon having in mind the Ardennes front. Though portraying paratroopers, it is well-known that after the invasion of Crete when they suffered heavy losses, Fallschirmjagers had been transformed in elite infantry and just occasionally received missions according to their designation. For this reason they often appear next to regular infantry troopers, fighting together on numerous fronts. Likewise, Dragon’s paratroopers are inspired after another series of images shot in Ardennes and even further, they are also smoking in very relaxed stances, so an outstanding fit for achieving a complex image in the 1/72 scale of the front in a calm area.

Perhaps the set illustrating in the best manner and with the support of an incredible sculpture the real image of WWII Late War German Infantry or Panzer Grenadier, highlighting with accuracy the shortage of equipment and necessary goods as well as the complete disobedience to regulations, Dragon’s “LAH PanzerGrenadiers + Sd.Kfz 251/7 Ausf.D - Ardennes 1944” emerges as a masterpiece in Braille Scale. Moreover, the kit provides the major opportunity to own in 1/72 the copy of one of the most famous simple soldier, the legendary MG gunner from Ardennes as well as his comrades.

The smart appearance with shinny boots and clean uniforms is far away, now it is the turn of grubby attire and chaotic armament and gear, a real mess that would have given nightmares to a 1940 officer. Still, this is the authentic image of the soldiers who amazed world and succeeded to face the most powerful armies with poor equipment and weapons. Cursing their political leader for throwing them into another stupid campaign they fought and proved once again their bravery and power based on exactly what Dragon set reveals, the friendship established between the members of a WWII German platoon.      

 

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