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Zvezda - German Sturmpioniere 1939-1942 (6110) _________(EXT)

 

 

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6110
Year 2011
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 3
Additional Items Various Accessories in 1/100 Scale
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939 – 1945

 

Review 

Since starting to concentrate on WWII German Army in 1/72 scale, Zvezda has been bringing a spectacular contribution to the topic, not only making available highly detailed figures, but also covering some rare or inexistent matters. Between those can be easily enumerated the Sturmpioniere one, for many decades target groups keep asking for such a set. Considering the “Mini-Box” kits of the company are mainly designed for “Art of Tactic” game and include just few minis, it is quite complicated to fully fill in the empty spaces as well as intricate to be eloquent. However, Zvezda often passes over the difficulties and succeeds selecting the most representative items of gear and poses for the units in case. Until the release of the present set, on the matter in mass-production tender since 1992 there was available only Revell’s “German Engineers”, a very interesting kit forwarding twelve attractive poses and specialised gear. Certainly, a single set is not able to response to all needs and desires of hobbyists as well as to properly illustrate the important role and contribution of German Pioneers/Engineers in WWII.

Frequently the unit is encountered under the names Pioniere or Sturmpioniere, in some interpretations the term Sturmpioniere might have been given as a honorary title while in others the difference rest in delimiting the front-line units, using specialised  weapons and gear to the regular Pioniere, involved in second-line activities such as building or repairing bridges, roads, railways etc. In fact, those units were just the same, the soldiers being prepared for dual missions, except the normal engineer tasks or support, the WWII German Pioniere were highly-trained assault troops.

No matter their name, perhaps one of the branches with the lowest rate of survival and carrying out some of the most dangerous tasks, Strumpioniere proved to be unpopular branch for the enlisted men, in permanent contact with the enemy and often involving suicide missions. For them situation was “black”, fact also emphasised by the black colour of their waffenfabre, membership to Sturmpioneer almost meaning a condemnation to death. They not only had to be always in front, opening the way for the rest of the Army, but regularly fought with specialised weapons implying getting very close to opponents. Laying bridges over rivers with the other bank occupied by an unwilling enemy, cleaning roads of mines and various obstacles, attacking trenches or pillboxes where just few of the impossible tasks those brave army-men had to fulfil and almost unbelievable, thousand of times they successfully accomplished the missions but very often with heavy losses. In addition, their arsenal listed close combat weapons such as flame-throwers, magnetic mines, explosive charges, remote-control tanks, so plenty “opportunities” for being hit by an enemy bullet. The terrorizing effect, with a strong psychological impact of those weapons made the opponents, including their snipers, to hunt down with predilection the Sturmpioniere.       

Though labelled as in the 1/72 scale, and definitely the figures are so, the set features a particularity that might appear bizarre at first glance, respectively a second sprue with a range of wargaming items connected to Engineer missions, but issued in 1/100 scale. Explanation is easy, like the figs, the accessories were crafted for “Art of Tactic” board-game, but except the toy-soldiers made in a correct 1/72 scale, the game accessories, armour and other means of transportation are released in the 1/100 scale. The two sprues are accompanied in the box by the now classic wargaming card while assembly instructions miss. Anyway, those would have been useless, destination of gear and arms for the two figures involving putting together being crystal clear. The body parts and arms with the clipper are allocated to the crouched figure and the right arm holding the flame gun as well as the tanks must be set on one of the standing troopers for embodying a Strumpioniere using the horrifying Flamethrower. Parts go extremely well in position through snapping and do not necessary require gluing although a drop of polly-cement would be appropriate if the figures are often handled or for avoiding any gap that could appear during wargames or in dioramas. 

The sprue with accessories incorporates four barbwire fences, two anti-tank obstacles, one bridge ramp, one pillbox, one gaming flag fixable in the pillbox, as well as eight mines that should be snapped into a 15 hole base supplied on the figures sprue, perhaps in a wargaming tentative for suggesting a mine field. In spite size discrepancy and the quite wargaming appearance, several items like barbwire, tank obstacles, and bridges could be occasionally deployed in the 1/72 scale wargames, dioramas or vignettes, too.

The front artwork is in the same line proposed by other Zvezda kits, first-rate and introducing four troopers in close stances with those the customer will meet inside. Likewise, this image might be apprised as an excellent guide for painting the product, uniforms, and most important, gear, featuring colours close to the original ones and small details as the yellow line around the searching coal fixed on top of the metal rod of the mine detector. Many fine points noticed in the artwork are retrieved to the 1/72 replicas, such things reiterating the efforts put in by the company, not only in crafting impressive figs, but also the proper research work fulfilled in order to commercialise highly accurate miniatures. However, the client can accustom with the content of the box simply turning it on the other side where there are disclosed the three poses and the accessories and how many times those are duplicated. A special remark should aim the wargaming card, by mistake on the box it is presented no. 29 designed for leFH 16/18 cannon and not no. 22 elaborated for Sturmpioniere. Still, inside the manufacturer supplies the right one, having in the upper part as reference image a soldier firing off a Flamethrower versus a wooden house. The real soldier had got Flammenwerfer 34 and not 41 as the one delivered for the 1/72 miniature, but this is not a problem, the photo in case fully illustrating the effect of such weapon. Moreover, the period given in the title of the set is not right, as its name indicates, Flammenwerfer 41 entered in service in September 1941 and surely was not available in 1939.

Zvezda proposes four figures in three poses for their Pioneers, all of them handling tools and weapons directly linked to such units. In this regard, we get here a Flamethrower, a mine detector and a barbwire clipper, very common items for Strumpioniere and often utilised during WWII but hard to meet in 1/72 scale. Revell’s “German Engineers” comprises the single pose with a barbwire clipper accessible in 1/72 mass-production offer as well as one with mine detector but a different type than the one forwarded here. At their turn, soldiers with flamethrowers are merely spotted both in mass production and cottage industry tenders, Revell in “German Infantry” proposing one Flammenwerfer 34 and Caesar in “German Infantry – Late War” coming with a Flammenwerfer 42.

Dressed in the Early War style like the rest of their comrades belonging to “Art of Tactic”, these soldiers wear the M36 tunics, regular trousers, long boots, and as head-gear one has got M34 overseas cap and two put on the steel helmets, highlighting their role as combat engineers. Gear varies from figure to figure, all of them having bread-bags and canteens while another received complete gear, counting also canteen, Zeltbahn, gas mask container with gas cape pouch rolled around, and shovel with bayonet attached.

Weaponry rests in one Flammenewerfer 41 (FmW 41), pistol in holster and a Kar98K, the soldier with mine detector correctly receiving just the ammunition pouches for Kar98K, but not the weapon itself.  Mine detector and barbwire clipper were ordinary for Strumpioniere and were available for other front-line braches like infantry or Panzer-grenadiers. For this reason, these miniatures might be enrolled in various units, their membership being highlighted by the colour of the Waffenfarbe painted by the modeller on collar and shoulder boards. Flamethrowers were allocated only to Pioniere and Paratroopers and just sporadically such weapon could get into the hands of an army-man from another branch. 

The way of dressing is specific to warm or temperate environments, and incidentally appeared in winter, particularly during assaults when soldiers removed all the unnecessary items of gear and clothing hampering their movements. Poses are more then fine, matching the specific gear or weapon each carry or use, the multi-part solution bringing a key contribution in attaining some dynamic poses of two standing and one crouched troopers.

In spite its frightening impact on enemy, Flamethrowers were detested weapons by their users, not only because of the 22.1 kg weight but also due to the way of operating it, imposing approaching quite close to the opponents, transforming them into primary targets. The maximum range of FmW 41, influenced also by weather conditions was 32 meters but its effectiveness was around 25 meters. Mainly used against static targets, it was deployed for clearing tranches, pillboxes, fox-holes, buildings, bunkers as well as against light armour, the fuel lasted 10 seconds in multiple shots or single fire mode. The German regulations provided for a two man detachment with flame throwers to support an infantry platoon but the two man detachment could be encountered attached even to the smallest assault formations. Furthermore, depending on the missions, supplementary flamethrowers could be added, too. The enforced strategy required that Flamethrowers to assault the target while the infantry executed covering fire as well as to employ smoke grenades for better coverage.

Manufactured by Rheinmetall-Borsig in 64,284 copies, Flammenewerfer41 reached for the first time the troops in September 1941 and continued to be produced till the end of war. The weapon mainly consisted in a 7.5 liter gasoline tank as fuel, a 3 liter nitrogen tank as propellant, a flame gunwith a hydrogen ignition system mounted on it, a rubber fuel hose wire-braided on the outside, and a fuel valve controling the flow of fuel to the flame gun set in such a manner that the operator could rotate the hand-wheel with the left hand. Containers were carried in a horizontal position on a fabric-covered metal frame with two shoulder straps.  The propellant cylinder was placed above the fuel tank and those were held to the frame by a metal band fitted with a quick-release clasp and cotter pin. Likewise, due to extreme cold, on the Eastern Front Flamethrowers did not properly work, so in 1941-42 it was developed a special version of Flammenwerfer 41 mit Strahlpatrone (jet cartridge) replacing the hydrogen flame ignition system with a cartridge ignition one that could work even at very low temperatures. The single difference between the two versions of Flammnewerfer 41 was the shorter flame gun of the one with Strahlpatrone, but in the 1/72 scale that is nearly impossible to be noticed, so the Flamethrower from here could be both of those. Moreover, by simply removing the ignition system from the flame gun, the FmW 41 might be transformed into a FmW 42, other differentiations being insignificant, too.    

To the army-man with Flammenewerfer41 should be added through snapping the right arm holding the flame gun and on the back the tanks with the smaller one up. The soldier with Flamethrower is properly armed, together with the main weapon, as specialised trooper, he received a pistol in holster on the left hip and partially hidden by the arm. While he is in combat and has to move fast with his weapon, gear is light and consists in bread-bag and canteen. He comes in a persuasive pose for depicting a trooper advancing or firing off his Flamethrower. The pin of the separate right hand allows setting the flame gun in few angles, without modifying the correctness of the anatomy. This FmW 41 looks very good for the 1/72 scale, featuring many characteristic details such as thegasoline and nitrogen tanks, flame gunwith ignition system, hose, and valve. Likewise, there are observable the tanks frame and the metal band for fixing those to the cradle. The “Y” straps were mixed with the shoulder straps of the frame, so those should be simply painted by the modeller, anyway just a small part of them being visible. It is not a problem this Pioniere is dressed in uniform and without the protective items of clothing issued for soldiers equipped with Flamethrowers, plenty of references showing real army-men in the same way. Still, many of those wear gloves, a normal thing considering their main weapon, but our Sturmpioniere seems having no protection for hands. Hobbyists can paint his hands as with gloves, yet it would have been nicer the sculptor to carve a pair of gloves for this figure.

Concerning the crouched figure making use of his barbwire clipper, he does it in a quite interesting manner, holding the tool a little to the right, perhaps in order to prevent being injured by the barbwire after making the cut. Definitely the multi-part approach permitted the manufacturer to reach such a credible pose and his complete gear, steel helmet, and Kar98K give the impression of a true Sturmpioniere during a first-line assignment, for the moment opening a path for his comrades.

The third pose of the set and the single duplicated one time, realistically embodies a Pioniere carrying out another dangerous mission, namely cleaning the road of mines. The figure does not imply assembly and that lead to a slight flatness, but nothing disturbing, the toy-soldier convincible fulfilling his task which did not involve spectacular movements. Obviously, when having such missions where liberty of movement was essential, a well-trained army-man would have refrained taking many items of gear, and that idea stresses the figure just with his bread-bag and canteen.  A plus-point of the miniature is the Kar98K left hand side ammunition pouches, attesting such soldiers were armed with rifles and not pistols. The mine detector carried by the soldier looks like Berlin 40 Type B or Wien 41model, all WWII German mine detectors appearing quite the same and being named after the manufacturing cities. The tool consisted in a detector unit packed in a metal box carried on the back by the operator, a searching coal fixed on a three section rod, headphones, and cable connections. It was operated by slowly moving the coal from side to side close to the ground while in the headphones could be heard a constant sound. When the searching coil passed over a metal object the signal increased in volume. Though few things miss, the model transposed in 1/72 scale by Zvezda is finely researched and detailed, the sculptor succeeding even to point the three segments composing the rod. The nicely shaped coal and back-pack contribute to the achievement of a great miniature, too. Not only the absence of the weapon, but also the M34 overseas cap instead of steel helmet prove the action takes place in second-line, far from enemy threatening. On the head there are more than visible the headphones of the mine detector but the connecting wires were not depicted by the manufacturer. Definitely those wires would have appeared extremely thin and hard to be perceived in such a small scale, but for increasing the authenticity, the modeller has to solutions, either to scratch build some or the easiest, to simply paint the related wires. The effect is guaranteed even applying the easier modality and certainly the fastest, more durable and least time consuming. Furthermore, the position of the two straps going down straight to the belt gives the impression it is about “Y” straps. This means the straps of the backpack were neglected and again, the painting solution is at hand and sufficient to properly illustrate those straps. Despite utilisations on large scale, mine detectors are almost impossible to find in the scale, representing one of the most important gaps in terms of 1/72 WWII Germans, Revell’s “German Engineers” providing the single figure with mine detector of the scale. Thanks to Zvezda efforts, now the hobbyists have another figure and bearing in mind there are two such minis in the box, simple conversions could be developed on the second one. For instance, either a twist of the head or even head replacement might supply another valuable army-man performing that dangerous mission. Nevertheless, due to his tool and back-pack as well as the one-piece approach, other conversions are harder, one of the few options emerging the transformation into a radio operator, in this regard Zvezda putting forward a brilliant radio within their “German Reconnaissance” set.

Details are abounding both on uniforms, gear, and weapons, we could effortlessly distinguish specific ones such as buttons, shoulder and collar boards, creases, and stitches, including those on boots, as well as characteristic features of the weapons and gear. As in all Zvezda sets, anatomy is perfect, the figures being well proportioned and with fantastic facial expressions and palms.

 The medium to low level of flash could be immediately be removed and excess of plastic has found no room here. The material marvellous takes polly-cement adhesive, so eventual completions or modifications with hard plastic gear, weapons, and body parts from Dragon or Preiser kits are straightforward. Though featuring few sensitive parts like the mine detector rod, the plastic deployed by the company also borrows some of the characteristics of the soft plastic such as elasticity and resistance. Furthermore, enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils are wonderfully hosted, the paint ideally integrating into the material and resisting at intense handling. Of note is the miss of a common base for all the figures, this time only individual bases stands being delivered. The standing toy-soldiers come on small slots that should be snapped into the bases, but static modellers can quickly and without difficulty detach the minis from the slots. Lacking the common base, the well-known Zvezda wargaming flag has to be fixed in the pillbox specially crafted with an appropriate hole.  

The tall side of the 1/72 scale happily welcomes these miniatures, particularly considering the novel items they are endowed with. They excellent interaction with branch-partners produced by Revell as well as with plenty of toy-soldiers dressed in M36 tunics proposed by Pegasus Hobbies, Imex, Esci, Preiser, Dragon etc. Nevertheless, superlative partners for these army-men are nowadays issued in sufficient quantities by Zvezda. As broadly acknowledged, a key feature of WWII Germans launched by this producer rests in keeping almost the same size of miniatures, weapons, and gear within all sets.   

At first glance the kit does not make a powerful impression, but after studying it a little, the feeling is completely changed, the special items released with high accuracy for such a scale really pleasantly surprising. For many decades the production of a Sturmpioniere set has been intensively lobbied on various channels by the hobbyists and finely Zvezda brought something new on the matter. Nevertheless, both the present set and Revell’s one are not fully covering the Pioniere topic, interesting items of gear, clothes, and weapons employed by those brave units still waiting in the que to be shaped in the 1/72 scale.

        

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