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Armourfast - LEFH18 Howitzer 105 mm (89001) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer Armourfast
Scale 1/72
Set Code 89001
Year 2012
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items 1 leFH18/M
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Dark Gray
Flash Level Average
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1943 - 1945

Review 

After some years of inactivity in the field of 1/72 WWII German Army figures, a pretty well-known manufacturer has returned and pleasantly surprised the target groups with a fresh kit. In the mid-2000’s Armourfast issued a series of sets on unusual topics at that moment and still not abounding in the scale, respectively MG and mortar teams as well as BMW and Zundapp motorcycles and riders, the last two being the same kits as HaT’s ones and rather aiming gaming than modelling. Following a strong debut in the field of figs, their MG and mortar teams still impressing nowadays, during the next years the company has started focusing mostly on fast-build vehicles. Anyway, in 2012 the company has come on the market with “LEFH18 105 mm Howitzer”  operated by a four member crew, the kit marking another premiere for the producer as being made of hard plastic while for the earlier figure sets was chosen soft plastic. 

It is not for the first time when the famous leFH18 howitzer is replicated in the 1/72 scale, Revell’s “German Artillery” and Zvezda’s “German 105-mm Howitzer LeFH 18/18m with Crew” giving their interpretations on the cannon inside kits featuring crewmen as well, ACE’s versions coming without any figure. Revell puts forward two initial models of LeFH18, in transport and fighting modes, Zvezda proposes the leFH18/40 type and not the leFH18/M as labelled on the box, while Armourfast finally gives the leFH18/M with wooden spoked wheels for horse-drawn transportation. As it can be easily noticed, the three manufacturers distribute dissimilar versions of the cannon and it is more than great that Armourfast, as the newest one, decided to illustrate leFH18/M, previously uncovered.    

Delivered by Rheinmetall starting with 1935, the 10,5 cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18 (leFH18) became the standard WWII German divisional light howitzer and was used throughout WWII both by German Army and their allies such as Romania, Finland, and Hungary. The cannon proved extremely useful because could engage targets as a howitzer or as a direct-fire gun. In order to increase its range, since 1941 a more powerful propellant was utilised but the recoil became much too heavy for the carriage. For that reason, the cannon was fitted with a muzzle brake, as well as a rethought recoil mechanism and equilibrators, the new model being titled 10.5cm leFH18M (M from mundungbremse/muzzle brake). Being too heavy for its calibre, the German High Command requested a lighter version which appeared in 1943 under the name 10.5cm leFH18/40, the gun being mounted on a modified 7.5cm PaK40 chassis but preserving the 10.5cm leFH18M gun and shield. The last model changed the too small PaK40 wheels and tires with pressed-steel wheels with solid rubber tires. The 10,5 cm leFH18 was drawn by a light tractor, Sd.Kfz 11 being the dedicated one, or by a six-horse team together with a committed limber named after the gun, leFH Limber 18 (sechsspg.leichte Feldhaubitzen, Protze).

Armourfast’s kit has reached the market in a medium-sized box hosting two identical sprues, as highlighted on the package, in the same box being included two cannons and eight crewmen. The front illustration reveals the cannon and crew in action and in close stances and attire with the comprised 1/72 replicas. The package let us know the kit was made in England, and in the last period is more then good noticing a revival of the long-established mass-production figure kits industry from UK. Printed on the back of the box there is the assembly scheme for the gun, so customers can assess the gun since the very beginning but have to wait to open the box for seeing if the figurines correspond with the soldiers introduced by the front artwork because the guide does not give any hint about them. Nevertheless, putting together the crewmen is quite simple and impossible to confound the pieces, on the sprue the necessary parts for each figure being set in the same place. Mostly they arrive with separate arms, a single mini having separate legs and another being cast as one piece. Assembling the toy-soldiers goes extremely smooth, the parts greatly going in positions and the whole operation being finalised in a couple of minutes.

The same is valid for the cannon, putting together the twelve parts of the kit imposing the allocation of few more minutes. Obviously, as a fast build kit, it misses some parts and sculptured details, the most notable representing the lack of a sight and hand-wheels for traverse and elevation mechanisms. Furthermore, the shield is much too thick and in its lower part, which is folded for combat mode, there were skipped almost all details. Small rivets abound on the model, even it can be said these are in excess, and the spades show just few features, the holes in the upper part requiring drilling for an enhanced model. Aiming stakes and a couple of tools are carved directly on trails and shield. In accordance with the folded shield, the legs have to be set opened in combat mode, a little attention necessitating the formed “V” in order not to make it too wide or narrow. Initially, leFH18 wheels were made of pressed steel but for making it lighter, for horse-drawn transportation, were often adopted for the cannon the spoked wooden wheels of the leFH18 limber, plenty of reference images revealing such aspect. Armourfast’s spoked wheels are too thick and in fact this is the general appearance of the entire cannon. The breech is awfully basic and the muzzle brake arrives full at its end, so another drilling operation would be recommended. Closer to wargaming standards than diorama builders ones, the cannon might be slightly improved by thinning the shield and adding extra pieces, if available in the spare parts box. Another important deficiency rests in not including any separate projectiles, tubes, ammunition boxes, significant pieces for displaying such a cannon in action. Nevertheless, such key objects are supplied in large numbers by Revell’s “German Artillery” and evidently can be used in connection with Armourfast’s leH18, both kits focusing on the same weapon.      

By regulations, leFH18 was operated 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 four Armourfast crewmen for leFH 18/M do not impress through their interaction with the gun and their poses do not permit clear identification inside the section, at least a couple being appropriate to occupy different positions. Dressed in the Late War style, they work quite fine with the cannon, though the model entered in service in 1941 took part at fights till the end.  Because of that, Early War items of clothing would have been appropriate, too.

The figure cast as single piece is the easiest to recognize as the commander, dressed in M43 tunic, shirt, breeches, M43 cap, and perhaps riding boots. The attire is in full accordance both with the period and the cannon which looks horse-drawn due to its wooden wheels. Such weapons continued to be horse-drawn till the end of war, so it is normal the chief of section to be dressed like that even if at the first glance it might appear a bit odd. In fact this is the plus-point of the figure, modellers do not have so often the opportunity to find in the 1/72 scale a mini wearing M43 tunic and cap together with breeches and long boots. Furthermore, he can easily embody not only a chief of a section belonging to a horse-drawn battery, but also a regular Late War higher ranked army-men, being acknowledged officers’ preferences to cavalry breeches and boots, apprised as more stylish. Here we encounter not only an elegant but also a skilful chief, the Iron Cross shining on the left side of the tunic attesting his aptitudes. According to his position, he is armed with a pistol in holster and holds in the right hand a pair of binoculars. In spite the nice additions, practically the figure emerges in an often depicted stance and is quite flat realised here, its dullness being accentuated by the straight 90 degrees angle of the raised arm. A similar figure is proposed for the same gun inside Revell’s “German Artillery”, but there is no term of comparison concerning the naturalness of the pose, Preiser sculptors achieving a wonderful miniature, copying the stance adopted by a LeFH18 commander in a famous image shot during WWII.

A very intricate position to identify inside the crew is the one illustrated by the single crouched figure of the kit, holding with both hands a “pipe cleaner” delivered as separate part together with both arms, at him legs also involving assembly. Although somehow more complicated, practically the assembly is very easy, the design and additional system for fixing the legs easing with much the operation. The pose is lively and may portray any of the members managing ammunition. Dressed in shirt, trousers, gaiters and ankle boots, and with steel helmet, he is possibly the best figure of the kit, also featuring a welcome and extremely rare depicted device as well as a wrist watch.

With a projectile in his hands, piece that has to be glued and was shaped together with the arms below elbows, the third figure portrays no. 2 who rammed the round home or one of nos. 4, 5, 6 which handled the ammunition. At a closer look, behind the projectile might be spotted something else, but the level of details and the adopted stance make impossible a clear identification. Perhaps there are some powder bags that standard came in a wooden container accommodating three other smaller containers for powder bags. He put on him a shirt, trousers, gaiters, ankle boots, and on the head opted for a M34 overseas cap. The shirt unbuttoned till the waist represents a very nice touch and he seems wearing a protective glove in the right hand which is normal considering his responsibilities. The pose is quite close to the one used by Revell for the guy pulling the firing lanyard of their leFH18, but once again, the sculpture and credibility of that figure is much above Armourfast’s attempt. Likewise, the round held in hands looks quite small and does not transmit strong feelings.     

The last, holding nothing, evokes a crewman pulling the lanyard for firing the gun, so perhaps we get no.1 consigned with that duty. Of course, in order to underline the idea, a scratch-build lanyard made either by hard plastic melted sprue or metal wire can be easily added. Still, bearing in mind his empty hands and stance, the modeller has more choices for this figure which is suitable to fulfil multiple tasks such as spinning a traverse or elevation wheel or pressing a lever. In line with his comrades, he wears shirt, trousers, gaiters and ankle boots but diverging from the rest, is bare-headed.

The soldiers embody artillery-men but their garment is more than suitable for various ground units, starting from maintenance troops to infantry-men. In addition, with little work on gaiters, these might be remodelled into upper parts of tropical ankle boots and thus the troopers are appropriate for Afrikakorps, too. According to the way they are dressed, the crewmen carry out the activity in a hot summer day in the Late part of WWII, the environment being highlighted by the rolled up sleeves of the shirts and the period by the ankle boots with gaiters, items in service from 1943. The lack of gear, ammo pouches, and weapons stresses the fact the cannon is set quite far from the front line, executing a regular bombardment over enemy positions from a safe distance. The footwear featured here was specific to infantry and motorised artillery not to mounted personnel and enters a little in contradiction both with the riding boots and breaches worn by their commander as well as with the wooden wheels of the gun attesting it is about horse-drawn cannon. Nevertheless, cavalry and soldiers assigned to horse-drawn artillery and transport maintained breeches and long riding boots throughout the whole war. A situation as depicted by these figs still could emerge, the crewmen with ankle boots travelling by limber that provided four seats.

Though the poses have some downsides, the garment came out very crisp and with many small details such as buttons, collar boards, fine pockets and flaps, insignia, trousers tabs, and several proper creases. Anatomy can be assessed as average, with good and not so good parts, the arms looking a hair too thick and the palms too big but with fingers in place. At their turn, heads are a little over-scaled but nothing disturbing and the size facilitated sharp facial details, with nicely sculptured eyes, eyebrows, noses, mouths, ears, cheeks, chins, and hair. Aiming at wargaming, all the crewmen are set on individual bases and for achieving an enhanced interaction with the cannon, these devices can be immediately detached with few simple cuts under the boots.

Cast is of proper quality, both gun and figs revealing an average amount of flash and seam lines while a low surplus of material is found at the figure with projectile in hands. In addition, all parts go well in places and putting together the entire kit takes less than a quarter of hour. Armourfast’s hard plastic corresponds to another pleasant surprise, the material being quite flexible and able to support various shocks or accidental bends without breaking. Furthermore, removing the small amount of flash and seam lines is a real joy, the plastic not making any fluffs or additional worries. Besides, it wonderfully takes in modelling glue (polly-cement) as well as enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, maintaining the painting job even if the pieces are handled in excess.

Some modellers might wish to complete the crew of a leFH18 cannon and while these Armourfast figs are encompassed by the tall side of the 1/72 scale, proper comrades with close size, dressed in the same way, and in suitable stances should be searched inside the outstanding Revell’s “German Artillery”, and “German Navy”, Miniaturas Alemany’s “Tiger Maintenance Group” as well as inside plenty of other sets released by cottage industry reps targeting Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe or mechanics topics. Apart from dissimilar attire, complementing Zvezda’s leFH18/40 two crewmen is another great task and match for Armourfast’s crew, either by using their own gun or Zvezda’s one.

In spite targeting more wargaming, even static model builders might find several opportunities inside Armourfast’s leFH18 kit, in particular the crewmen emerging as the most important asset due to their rarely encountered in 1/72 scale combination of Late War footwear with summer shirts. Furthermore, because of their appearance, the minis are multi-functional, proper not only for guns, but also, with minor changes, for portraying a large array of WWII German units as well as some Allies ones. The cannon itself hardly suits to improvements for meeting diorama builders criteria but is a good deal for gamers, the simple assembly recommending it to inexperienced ones, too. Marking the return of Armourfast in the field of 1/72 WWII German figures after a quite long period, the new approaches make to be hardly waited the next sets issued under this label.                  

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