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Zvezda - German howitzer LFH 18 (6121) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6121
Year 2011
No. of Figures 2
No. of Poses 2
Additional Items 1 leFH18/40 cannon
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939 – 1945

Review   

Conceived with dual purposes for both wargamers and static modellers, Zvezda’s “Mini-Box” series released within “Art of Tactic” board-game impress through top class quality of figures and wide range of covered topics. Likewise, in accordance with the subject, often the kits include except the toy-soldiers a cannon, machine gun, mortar or other accessories. The level of details and characteristic features of those might slightlyvary from model to model and generally could be assessed as good to great, especially taking into account their wargaming dimension.

For cannons, usually Zvezda’s kits supply just two crewmen even if the gun in case involved more crewmen to operate it. However, bearing in mind that some companies, including famous ones, repeatedly commercialise cannons without crews, Zvezda’s incentive should be much acclaimed. In addition, putting together is very simplified and the prices are extremely accessible, so these kits bring a key contribution to the promotion of the hobby among kids and inexperienced modellers, in the same time responding to exigencies of most hobbyists. In terms of details, one of the most basic cannons issued by the company on WW2 Germans is the LeFH 18 howitzer, available together with two crewmen in the set entitled “German 105-mm Howitzer LeFH 18/18m with Crew”.  

The 10,5 cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18 (LeFH18) was the standard WWII German divisional light gun howitzer, developed in 1928-1929 by Rheinmetall and provided to the Army in 1935. In service till the end of war, it saw action on all fronts with the German Army and their allies such as Romania and Hungary. Particularly in areas where anti-tank artillery was missing, the cannon was very useful while it could engage targets both as a howitzer and as a direct-fire gun. Likewise, for increasing the range, a more powerful propellant started to be utilised by 1941, but the recoil became much too heavy for the carriage. For this reason, it was fitted a muzzle brake, as well as a rethought recoil mechanism and equilibrators, the new model being titled 10.5cm leFH18M (M coming from mundungbremse/muzzle brake). The 10,5 cm leFH18 was drawn by a light tractor (Sd.Kfz 11 - dedicated one) or by a six-horse team together with a limber. Proving to be too heavy for its caliber, the German High Command asked for a lighter version that appeared in 1943 when it was issued the 10.5cm leFH18/40 version, the gun being mounted on a modified 7.5cm PaK40 chassis but maintaining the 10.5cm leFH18M gun and its shield. The last version also changed the too small PaK40 wheels and tires with pressed-steel wheels with solid rubber tires. 

As regards personnel, KStN enforced leFH18 to be manned by an eight member crew, the chief of section being responsible for seeing that all duties are properly performed, all commands executed, and all safety precautions observed, the gunner operated the sights, no. 1 operated the breech, no. 2 rammed the round home, no. 3 operated the elevating mechanism and nos. 4, 5, 6 handled the ammunition.

The common Zvezda package for the “Mini-Box” series offers enough space for accommodating the two sprues as well as the assembly sheet and the wargaming card. The artwork presents three sections of a leFH18 battery in action, in forefront with a cannon manned by two crewmen in almost the same poses with those advanced by the kit. There are ensured very clear instructions for putting together the figures and cannon, the guide also covering the two possible modes, firing or travelling. The back of the box shows the assembled, painted, and based model-kit and the wargaming card, granting further information on content in Russian and English. Likewise, the gaming card gives as reference image a LeFH18 operated by three soldiers dressed in tunics and steel helmets, perhaps in an advanced position.  

Cannon arrives in eight parts accommodated by a single spure together with an option for trails, while the other sprue holds the necessary components for assembling two figures, a larger base, and a wargaming flag. As previously stated, putting together the cannon is extremely easy, for the whole process even a beginner spending less than three minutes. As the box lets us know, parts for the weapon and crewmen are snap fit and though the system properly functions, because the entire kit is made of hard plastic, a drop of polly-cement would do no harm, just permanently fixing the pieces in positions.

In accordance with the PaK40 chassis, trails, and wheels, we get here the leFH18/40 version and not the leFH18/M one, as the title of the kit wrongly informs us. The leFH18/40 entered in service in 1943 and for this reason the model kit cannot find a place in the Early War period during operation Barbarossa, targeted by “Art of Tactic”. Zvezda’s gun comes quite simplified, missing several details such as tools, hand-wheels, etc but featuring some small ones, various rivets and sight mount representing few of those. At is turn, the muzzle break is simplified and cast solid, so drilling a hole in it is highly recommended, the material allowing a quick finalisation. The barely removal of the muzzle break would solve nothing, it would simply transform the cannon into a model never issued, at least officially. Two pins are designed for fixing the barrel in position and allow adjusting elevation, so the cannon might be displayed firing either as a howitzer or an anti-tank gun. The manufacturer adopted an excellent solution for giving modellers the possibility to build the gun either in transportation position with trails folded, or in action, with opened trails. Each variant is delivered as single piece, this choice exempting the hobbyists from spending a lot of time for assembling those parts. A minus represents the absence of ammunition boxes and projectiles, very relevant items for field cannons, the only available round being held in hands by one of the soldiers.  

If the gun emerges pretty basic, not the same can be said about its crew, in spite being endowed only with ammunition pouches and canteens as personal gear, those are top-noch miniatures. Nevertheless, the lack of gear is fully covered by reference images and other sources, artillery crewmen generally preferring to be lightly geared while manning their weapon. Likewise, the Kar98K ammunition pouches, here just on one hand side, are in conformity with regulations, leFH18 crewmen, including the gun commander, having rifles as personal weapons. The uniforms are in the Early War, respectively M36 tunics, regular trousers, marching boots, and M36 overseas caps. Regardless the Early appearance of attire and the Late one of the cannon, while the M36 uniform was delivered to troops till the end of war, the figs can be displayed without any concern next to the cannon, particularly in a warm or temperate climate.  

Poses are more than great for their purpose, excellent interacting with the weapon. One crew-man rams the round, and the other, with nothing in hands, the assembly guide advices to set him as spinning the hand-wheel. Considering their roles and those provided for a leFH18 crew in KStN, it is apprised we receive here no. 2 who rammed the round home and no. 3 who operated the elevating mechanism. However, the guy with projectile can play nos. 4, 5, 6 roles which handled ammunition while his colleague might embody with or without slight conversions either the gunner operating the sights or no. 1 dealing with the breech. Being crafted with separate arms, the figures are suitable for conversions and the lack of gear and weapons gives room for ideas, contributing to an enhanced diversity. Because of that, modellers can add an increased array of items of gear, weapons or even arms and heads proposed in huge quantities in various Dragon, Preiser, and Caesar figure sets. Furthermore, these LeFH18 artillerists are appropriate to be converted in crewmen for other Zvezda cannons like the 88 mm FLAK or the 20 mm FLAK. Likewise, considering the similar uniforms and light gear endowment, vice-versa is valid, figs from those sets might be turned with minor modifications in valuable troopers for the LeFH18 cannon in order to complete the number of crewmen generally running such cannon.

Uniforms are perfectly carved with clear details including buttons, collar and shoulder boards, insignia, genuine shaped creases, pocket flaps, and stitches both on clothes and footwear. Still, the strongest point of the figures is their anatomy, particularly the extremely natural and clear facial expressions. The perfect eyes, eye-brows, noses, mouths, ears, cheeks, and chins fully demonstrate the remarkable skills of the company for issuing outstanding miniatures. Moreover, the rest of the anatomy can be mentioned as a great achievement in the field, the bodies receiving natural sizes and palms having ideal proportions and awesome sculptured fingers.    

Flash is restricted to a very low level on figures and to an average amount on the cannon, the excess of material completely missing. As highlighted above, cast is marvellous, succeeding to capture author’s efforts in detailing these tiny minis. Zvezda’s hard plastic is perhaps one of the best materials in the hobby, merging the qualities of the hard plastic with those of the soft material. In this light, the quite new hard plastic of the company is more elastic than the regular one and capable to better resist at various shocks such as accidental drops. Enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils do not suffer any transformation after application on the material, maintaining their initial properties and also resisting at repeated handling. Figures did not receive any base, they should be attached to the large one via pegs in boots, so hobbyists which do not need based toy-soldiers will spend just a second to cut the pegs. For those enjoying minis on bases but do not want to set them on the large one featured by the kit, several spare stands might be found in other sets released under the same label.

Just like the other Zvezda’s 1/72 WWII Germans, the here reviewed artillerists belong to the tall side of the 1/72 scale and greatly match not only with their comrades crafted by the company, but also with various army-men in M36 tunics made available by Pegasus Hobbies, Imex, Esci, Preiser, Dragon, Revell etc. Such tenders set out as reliable sources for completing the number of crewmen necessary to operate the cannon, two soldiers definitely being not enough for a field-gun. Various versions of leFH18 are transposed in the scale by ACE without crews, but definitely the most famous ones come from Revell within the most complex 1/72 set, “German Artillery”. The kit resulted form a Preiser-Revell collaboration scales-up and combines three 1/87 Preiser sets, featuring two early versions of leFH18, one in action and the other horse-drawn by its dedicated six horse limber. The vehicle can be used also with Zvezda’s cannon, which is on par or even above the old soft plastic Revell cannons. Moreover, with slight modifications, Preiser’s Panzer crews forwarded by kit 72507 greatly fit both with the comrades from the Revell set and with Zvezda’s cannon and together those can be deployed for completing the two sections incorporated by Revell’s “German Artillery”.     

Though quite plain, the proposed leFH18/40 not only promote the hobby between the young modeller generation and beginners, but also with some adaptations and improvements from the spare box could be transformed by advanced hobbyist into a display kit, the hard plastic undoubtedly easing the upgrades. On the other hand, the outstanding level of details on uniforms, anatomy, and excellent cast of the two figures make us simply regretting Zvezda has decided to supply two crewmen for most of their cannons. Anyway, those attributes corroborated with a great versatility impose the present figs as a valuable asset for collectors, wargamers as well as static modellers, being compatible even with the most detailed guns due to prime quality, on par with many of the top 1/72 resin and white metal toy-soldiers. If only the figures were rated, than certainly the product would have received the greatest rates, but the few missing components of the gun drew-back with some points the entire set.  

           

Historical Accuracy 8
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 9
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 10
Sculpture 9
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 10