Articles

Strelets – German Army in Stalingrad (M093)_________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer Strelets
Scale 1/72
Set Code M093
Year 2013
No. of Figures 48
No. of Poses 12
Additional Items None
Size Medium
Material Soft Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level High
Glue-ability Average (Super Glue Gel)
Convert-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1942 – 1945


 
 Review 

In comparison with other historical periods, and in conformity with statistics and various relevant data, the largest number of mass-production and cottage industry 1/72 figure sets target the WWII German army, the same situation registering regarding military equipment, WWII German vehicle, artillery, airplane, and vessel kits having a leading position on the market. Over 500 figure sets, incorporating thousands of 1/72 WWII Germans cast in plastic, resin, and metal wait for their clients in classic or e-shops. However, in spite the noteworthy offer, the topic is not fully covered, serious gaps in the field still remaining. The rich variety of uniforms, colours, and camouflage patterns in terms of attire, the huge diversity, impressive performance, and attractive colours of WWII German military technique, the novel organisation of the Army as well as the need of opponents for all the Allied Armies involved in WWII might explain the privileged status the WWII German Army enjoys in 1/72 and other smaller or bigger scales.

Although many representative mass-production companies issue sets in the field, there are some major toy-soldier manufacturers that have not attacked the subject in spite a long and laborious activity, counting in their catalogues hundreds of sets depicting various historical periods. Emhar, Red Box, A Call to Arms, Valdemar, Lucky Toys, MiniArt are just few examples on the matter, and for many years Strelets had been in the same category. Anyway, in 2013 the Ukrainian company came on the market with a surprise set, titled “German Army in Stalingrad” and furthermore, another one linked to WWII Germans is their “Police Battalion”, appeared in the same year and aiming at local troops recruited as auxiliary police on the Eastern Front and equipped with German weapons and gear. Years ago, Strelets announced its intention to produce a WWII German Hospital, but until now that set has remained in the promise phase, no data being available at present. German Army in Stalingrad pleases the hobbyists familiarized with Strelets figures, not only due to the unusual topic for the company, but also through the superior quality of the miniatures. This label has the reputation of sculpturing toy-soldiers quite chunky, with big heads and palms, thick weapons, and soft details, products more suitable for gaming than dioramas. Nevertheless, Strelets style has its fans among hobbyists, but with “German Army in Stalingrad”, it seems the firm wanted to prove they have the necessary means in order to deliver better troopers. The initial masters, promoted on manufacturer’s website, looked great but the commercialized end-product attests Strelets still has to work more for improving their 1/72 soldiers.

Cast in soft plastic, the figurines arrive with flash, some excess of plastic, details are not always sharp, heads are a hair too big, and there are few odd weapons, especially the machinegun fired by a prone trooper. On the other hand, the set records some strong points, in a certain manner setting out as one of the most attractive mass-production offer on 1/72 WWII Germans in terms of winter attire. The diversity of the garment is remarkable, the figures looking like descending from the famous German movie Stalingrad (1993) or from filmed or photographed references taken during WWII. 

All historians agree that Stalingrad Battle, that took place from July 17, 1942 to February 2, 1943, nicknamed by Germans Rattenkrieg (War of the Rats), had a great impact and marked a turning point in the course of WWII, since that moment the German Army losing the incentive on the Eastern Front. At Stalingrad Battle, from the Axis side, not only the German Army, but also Romanian, Italian, and Hungarian Armies participated. According to various statistics, during one of the bloodiest battles in history, 400,000 Germans, 200,000 Romanians, 130,000 Italians, and 120,000 Hungarians were killed, wounded or captured, the USSR losing around 1,200,000 people. Moreover, from the 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, around 6,000 succeeded to return in their home country. Anyway, not only the Red Army actions but also the lack of food, weapons, ammunition, as well as one of the most trusted and key allies of Russians, General Winter, caused the disastrous defeat of the Axis Powers. Of course, regarding Stalingrad Battle there are available thousands of books, articles, photos, footage, and movies reflecting that epical battle, so the present review will just keep referring to it just from the perspective of Strelets’ toy-soldiers. 

Spending the first winter totally unprepared to confront with the unmerciful winter on the Eastern Front, mainly in the obsolete M36 greatcoat and its subsequent variants, hundred thousands of WWII German soldiers suffered in their thin clothes and heavy fights occurred for occupying any available shelter. Likewise, the difficult situation forced the soldiers to put on them standard items of clothing one over other or to use enemy’s superior winter garment, lots of photos and films attesting the true fact-finding. Furthermore, in desperate cases and for survival purposes drastic solutions were implemented, as hunting animals for tailoring fur clothes or even sacrificing animals found in German service, splitting their stomachs and entering inside in searching for warm. Following the unpleasant experience of 1941 winter, when the awful weather caused the death of a great number of German soldiers, in the second year, specialized attire such as parkas and padded trousers, fur anoraks and caps, Luftwaffe ground personnel quilted jackets and trousers etcstarted to be delivered to troops. Within Strelets’ “German Army in Stalingrad” are met all the below briefly described items of clothing, the set accurately combining greatcoats, dedicated winter garment, and makeshift camouflage.

The M42 parka and matching trousers, forming the two piece winter suit, proved to be more appropriate for the warfare practiced by WWII German Army and became one of soldiers’ favourite choices. Most of the M42 winter suits were reversible, and the first models had a mouse-gray colour. Since 1943 the camouflage was introduced for the M42 winter suit, that being available in nearly all Waffen SS autumn/winter or spring/summer and Wehrmach patterns. Of note is that the other side of M42 winter suit was always white and for maintaining as clean as possible, regulations stipulated the white side to be worn only in camouflage purposes in snow, otherwise the other side being used. The parkas had detachable hoods and images of the period show soldiers with or without that piece. The procedure enforced the winter suit to be returned to depots on April 15, at the end of the winter season, following to be redelivered on September 15, but often the attire was kept throughout the whole year. 

The SS fur anorak was another item of garment for heavy winters and was tested in Norway and Poland in 1940, but only in 1943 started to be wider spread, after it arrived with few modifications on the Eastern Front. The three quarters fur lined anorak with integral hood was created exclusively for Waffen SS aiming at mobile troops like Reconnaissance or Grenadier. However, the item was supplied in limited numbers, and regulations provided for only 10% of the soldiers within the unit to receive it. Due to its weight and lack of ventilation the pull-over pattern was disliked by troops and in 1944 a second version appeared, the main modification consisting in a full length, button up front closure, different than the initial model which had a front four buttons closure plaquet from neck to waist. The first models were delivered in various shades of grey but the subsequent ones were not only gray, but also Italian field gray or Italian camouflage. However, after the appearance of the latest type, it was requested that the previous ones to be returned to clothing depots for full button up front closure modification. Nevertheless, from regulations to application is a long way and in practice the pull-over model continued to exist until the end of war. Bearing in mind the period when the Battle of Stalingrad took place, Strelets correctly depicts the first pull-over type. 

The quilted pattern was developed as an under-suit, for more warm and had to be worn between the winter underwear and the feldgrau uniform. Obviously, it required a larger uniform and because the emerged outfitting issues, the under-suit proved to be fairly impractical, in spite its insulation value. In addition, Luftwaffe padded winter parka, mainly the one developed for the Eastern Front, received a quilted pattern and Strelets includes that here. Such item of clothing could be occasionally encountered at any trooper and often garment featuring the quilted pattern was tailored from captured Red Army winter suits.

Various animal skin or fur vests, coats, greatcoats, and surcoats were tailor-made or captured and utilised as one of the best garment for enhanced protection in a winter freezing day. Those are often seen in images and films, especially those illustrating the Eastern Front.

Due to M42 winter suits or other standard white attire shortage, for camouflage purposes in snow, it was a wide spread practice to use makeshift camouflage tailored directly on the front or even simply thrown over the shoulders. White bed-sheets were the easiest to find and tailor, but there are also funny photos presenting soldiers wearing drapes, tablecloths, macramé or similar white things. The makeshift camouflage is extremely rare in Braille Scale, so Strelets’ incentive is extremely welcomed. 

Evidently, not only garment, but also footwear, principally the famous marching/jack boots, were unsuitable for the Eastern Front snows and low temperatures, so in the following year the German High Command took the necessary measures for supplying the units with warm boots. Leather and felt boots and over-boots and  straw over-boots were the most usual ones, the over-boots being created to be worn over the marching/jack boots and proved to be popular among troops. 

The Strelets set consists in four identical sprues, each accommodating twelve distinct poses, the common amount shared by many mass-production sets on the matter. The front artwork shows a photo of reenactors wearing various WWII German attire and it might be interpreted as a guideline for painting the miniatures. On reverse of the box there is another image, more useful this time because it introduces all poses of the set, the figure masters being gathered in a single picture. The client can visualize directly in the store what he is going to buy, but, as previously pointed out, the masters are much superior to the figs, so little disappointment can emerge after opening the box. 

Depicting both advancing or in combat troopers, the twelve poses might pass as pretty vivid, eight figures standing, three being couched, and one prone. Weaponry distribution within the unit is fairly common for Stalingrad, three soldiers making use of Kar98k, three having MP38/40 and two getting the new Gewehr43 rifle. Moreover, one MG is allocated to the squad and the commander has a pistol in his hand. It also should be appreciated the attempt of including weapon straps, although most of those are too thick, it is a noteworthy effort. Considering the intention is to reproduce soldiers fighting in a city where fierce combats took place even in the same building, each floor being lost and regained more times in the same day, the sculptor wanted to highlight the hand-to-hand idea though a soldier waving a shovel in the right hand, such tool being transformed into a reliable weapon by many troopers. In the same purpose, the gear featured on these army-men is fairly light, obviously the combatants preferring to move easier when attacking than carrying extra kilos. The regular items are differently allocated to members, but we can see here canteens, mess-tins, bread bags, gas-mask containers, and shovels with or without bayonet attached.

However, the most attractive thing at this set is the impressive amount of WWII German winter attire introduced, the same applying in terms of headgear. Three soldiers dress the M42 winter suit, two put on the SS fur anorak, one is in a quilted parka, five wear the obsolete greatcoat while the commander preferred an animal skin coat. Nonetheless, the initial diversity is even pushed forward with the items of clothing arranged over the garment in camouflage or warm purposes, two opting for bed-sheets, one for a vest, one for a M42 parka, and another for an eiderdown.

For better concealment in snow it was a regular practice for WWII Germans to wear white bed-sheets and a huge amount of films and photos from the period show those as well as some very bizarre makeshift camouflage achieved with white drapes, tablecloths or macramé. Likewise, for keeping warm in the unmerciful Russian frost, soldiers grabbed what they could, the thick civilian eiderdown certainly offering more protection than regular clothes. In this light, the addition of a trooper wrapped in an eiderdown is very welcome and brings an important contribution in better achieving the true appearance of the WWII German soldiers on the Eastern Front. For a fighter having to stay outside more hours in a period when temperatures often reached -40 °C, in a trench or somewhere else, an eiderdown could represent heaven and save his life. 

Concerning headgear, the figure creator took the opportunity and strived depicting a multitude of covers or the same type but differently accessorized. Thus, there are featured steel helmets with cloth cover, with net for foliage, with band for fixing foliage or camouflage cloth, with goggles, and of course, simple ones. The next is the M34 cap, worn normally or under camouflage cloth or toque, practically all the proposed miniatures having toques and five finger knitted gloves, representative elements of the WWII German winter equipment. Likewise, one soldier received a dog fur cap and the officer puts on the standard cap for his rank. The set forwards lots of wonderful ideas and one of those is toques worn in various ways, either wrapping the neck and face as it should be or fitted over cap. In the 1/72 scale, the great majority of mass-production troopers with toques have got steel helmets and it is really nice seeing something else, toques combined with M34, officer, and fur caps.

At its turn, footwear is properly represented by leather and felt boots and over-boots as well as by a pair ofstraw winter over-boots, developed as a replacement for winter leather and felt over-boots. For some army-men a correct identification of what they shoe is harder because they have the trousers over the footwear. Still, bearing in mind the shape and thickness, it might be assessed they received leather and felt boots or over-boots. One pair of leather and felt over-boots is easier recognized at the crouched soldier firing off his MP38/40 and the previous assessment also bases on a comparison of these boots with others worn by the guys with trousers covering the footwear. Nevertheless, the issue is not so important considering that leather and felt boots, ankle or marching/jack boots were intensively worn during winter by WWII German soldiers, either in Stalingrad or somewhere else. Memorable is the scene from Stalingrad movie (1993), when after the tank battle, a soldier comes extremely satisfied with a pair of leather and felt over-boots taken from a dead soldier and starts replacing his marching/jack boots. 

A problem may emerge if the hobbyist does not want to arrange the unit in a snow environment and the presence of the white bed-sheets may give some head-aches. For such cases, the most convenient and accurate solution would be interpreting the white bed-sheets as camouflage cloth and painting those accordingly, in various Waffen SS or Wehrmacht patterns. WWII German soldiers granted special attention to camouflage and proved an impressive creativity for adapting the available resources in that purpose, modifying standard items of garment or cutting parts from Zeltbahns or camouflage canvas. In the same time, except those wearing the SS fur anorak, the rest of soldiers can belong both to Wehrmach or Waffen SS. Obviously, they may be involved not only at Stalingrad, but also in any of the numerous winter battles the WWII Germans fought since 1942, due to the specialized winter attire entering in service after that year. The figures certainly have an Eastern Front look, but they can go on the Western one as well and in some extent, those in greatcoats might be deployed in Early War conflicts, too. 

Four figures wear parkas and matching trousers, three standing and one prone firing off a machinegun. As a consequence of the very poor sculpture and cast, the type of his weapon is impossible to be identified, it could be either MG34 or MG42. The bipod is very thick as well and the miniature is quite funny because no ammo belt or drum magazine is attached to the weapon. This should not wonder too much, probably the initial intention was to include a MG loader who could hold in his hands an ammo belt, but for unknown reasons, such figure did not arrive. In order to solve the ammunition problem without the support of a separate loader and if the hobbyist wants to avoid counting in his collection a MG gunner firing with air, then he must adjourn in the correct place a drum magazine or an ammo belt. Of course, taking into account the complete lack of details and the crude sculpture, the best would be completely removing the weapon and adding a new one, Dragon and Preiser or even Caesar making available some fine hard plastic MG34 or MG42 inside various figure kits. A good thing is the MG gunner received pistol in holster and the appropriate MG tool pouch, and it seems he has pulled the toque below his eyes, which definitely is a nice touch, too. 

One of his standing comrades in parkas fires off a MP38/40 and has got a grenade under the belt but just a single ammunition pouch on the left hand side. The other, with Kar98K slowly advances, looking like being prepared to take aiming position when needed. This last miniature is extremely interesting from many perspectives, below his parka being noticed a greatcoat. Similar figures are really inexistent in mass production 1/72 sets, so a great novelty in the field. Caesar proposes within “WWII Panzergrenadiers (Ardennes 1944)” all troopers in greatcoats with M43 camouflage tunics over and within “WWII German Army (Staingrad)” with makeshift camouflage but other examples might exist in the cottage industry tender, for instance Weathering Factory having a miniature with camouflage smock over greatcoat in “Various Germans 1941-1945 Russia/Ardennes”, but as previously pointed out, the Strelets figure is different. Furthermore, the same soldier has fitted over his helmet a camouflage cloth, kept in place by a strap made either of leather or rubber, bicycle envelopes being often utilized in that purpose. Neither new, nor unique in Braille Scale, the attractiveness of the present camouflage cloth rests in the way the sculptor succeeded to reproduce the shape and folds, extremely natural. Due to its appearance, it is clear this is not the camouflage cloth standard created for the helmet, but an improvised one, the WWII German soldiers intensively applying such method especially with white cloths, as repeatedly revealed by references recorded during the war. Nonetheless, a piece of cloth cut from a Zeltbahn could be worn in the same way, so there is a painting choice for the hobbyist, either white or in various Heer or Waffen SS patterns. 

The famous SS fur anorak is here put on by two standing soldiers, one adopting a low profile, advancing with his MP38/40 in front and beautifully hung by a strap around the neck. The army-man fixed a grenade at the back under his belt, and it is very lightly equipped, so most probably, he goes to attack a Red Army position even if he wears a M34 cap with toque over it. The advancement of this trooper might be supported by another fighter in SS fur anorak which embodies a sniper. Such specialized soldiers are rather rare in 1/72 sets and also his rifle requires special attention, being again unique in Braille Scale mass-production tender. He certainly illustrates a veteran who wrapped his weapon with a rag for better concealment and for preventing any shine. It was the practice of sniper aces of all sides to camouflage their rifles in that way, so it is awesome Strelets makes available such mini, also proving the careful study of the market needs and expectations. Stalingrad battle remains famous in the history also for the key role the snipers played in it, emphasized by the huge number of their confirmed kills. Of course, both sides had their aces, in the WWII German army the men from Tyrol incorporated in Mountain troops units being appreciated for their skills and feared by the opponents. Many movies, including “Enemy at the Gates”, with all action taking place exclusively in Stalingrad, have as start point snipers activities and part played. Some modellers might find somehow odd to get a standing straight sniper, but a real soldier could take such positon next to a window frame or fence, shell hole, trench etc, so the adopted stance can be useful in gaming or diorama purposes. 

Next in the attention of the present review comes the section wearing greatcoats, apart the one already mentioned as having one with parka over it, four other soldiers from Strelets’s “German Army in Stalingrad” dressing it. Two crouched and two standing preferred the outdated greatcoat but at least the crouched troopers improved their concealment by using camouflage cloths. The one firing off his MP38/40 received both ammunition pouches and the supplementary cloth is thrown over his shoulders, tided in front with a knot. The piece credibly waves in the wind for a more than accurate and freezing appearance. Definitely it had to be a very strong wind out there in order the cloth to flutterin that manner, and thanks to sculptor’s wonderful idea, the moddeller is immediately transferred on the Eastern Front during a winter windy day. The freezing aspect is further enhanced by the second crouched figure, also having a camouflage cloth on his back but put on the head, too. In addition, the toque is pulled right below his eyes for better protecting the wearer against the frost. This soldier received a Gewehr43 rifle and the appropriate ammunition pouches, even if just a small part of those is visible due to stance. Staying still, holding his rifle with both hands, he makes great pair with the crouched colleague firing off the MP38/40. It should be stressed that the camouflage cloth finely lays on this soldier, turning him into an extremely useful and rare miniature, too.

One standing trooper in greatcoat, advancing through heavy snow considering his moves and the snow goggles he wears, did not improve his concealment but the warm, wrapping himself in a thick eiderdown. Obviously, it is a civil pattern, fairly carved by the sculptor and the hobbyist can paint it in any colour he wants, yellow, green, blue, or red being common colours for such thing. The soldier keeps his Kar98K in front and he got dog fur cap and a rolled blanket or surcoat, sustained on the back via a strap passing across the chest. Although not putting anything over the mantel of the last figure in greatcoat, the creator considered necessary to add something interesting to it, namely a pair of straw winter over-boots, below being spotted the marching/jack boots. The figure portrays an army-man walking or on guard, holding his MP38/40 in front and has got beard and band on helmet.

As customary for infantry sets, the present one includes a grenade thrower, performing the action fairly credible with the right hand while in the left keeps a Kar98K. The trooper is interestingly dressed, with a camouflage vest over his parka or tunic and having over the helmet the special net for foliage. Obviously, the vest fit for being painted either in white or in different SS or Wehrmacht camouflage patterns, images of the period presenting both versions while the model was easily tailored on the front line. 

Of special interest is the soldier charging with his shovel an enemy position, this fighter dressing a quilted parka and regular army trousers. In the left hand he holds a MP38/40 and although he has got both ammunition pouches appropriate for his firing weapon, it seems he remained out of ammo and now attacks the opponents with the shovel, a knuckle duster often deployed in hand-to-hand combats. However, the sculptor did not ignore the related carrying case of the shovel, displaying it in the correct location on the back of the mini. The army-man keeps a pair of goggles on the helmet, and it might be apprised as the most energetic pose of the set. Moreover, the quilted jacket is extremely rare in Braille Scale, so another very useful miniature whose facial details are fine as well. Theoretically, the quilted jacket had been worn by Luftwaffe units but in the field, especially in places like Stalingrad, it was not unusual to put on the warmest clothes soldiers could get, so the figure not necessary must portray a Luftwaffe ground unit member or paratrooper, but also a Wehrmacht or Waffen SS trooper.

An attractive approach is registered in terms of the commander, wearing an animal skin greatcoat, toque, officer cap, and felt and leather boots. A pair of binoculars is on his chest and a belt with pistol holster is adjusted around the waist. He holds the pistol in the right hand, and the pose might be considered a little strange, while the officer goes forward but looks and fires backward. Some possible interpretations might be an officer retreating and shooting an enemy running after him or imbolding his unit to follow him. The coat is fairly done, it looks like a civil pattern and has the collar up for more warm. According to regulations, WWII German officers and certain NCOs had to procure on their own expenses the uniforms and images of the period reveal their preference for animal skin or fur coats during winters spent on the Eastern Front. 

The historical accuracy is faultless and more than attractive, but unfortunately the quality of the minis is affected by some lacks of sculpture, mould, and cast, as well as by the plastic utilized. The clothes combine both good and weak parts, in some areas receiving creases while in others not and the same applies to buttons and similar niceties. A plus are the stitches of the animal skin coat but the fur, both on it and on the SS fur anoraks could be better. In addition, the generous hoods of the SS fur anoraks arrive too small and stay quite odd but at least the hoods of the M42 parkas are better. Even if not disturbing with much, the camouflage cloths/sheets and the eiderdown set over the greatcoats should have been thinner. Size of weapons and gear as well as their characteristics do not impress, being a bit overscaled and with soft details. Canteens are very big and with thick straps and as earlier emphasized, the MG is almost useless. The proportions of bodies emerge little strange, with heads bigger than normal and not so well detailed faces. The extreme conditions the Germans had to fight in Stalingrad are also emphasized by the beards at least two figures received and though the sculptor strived to depict eyes, noses, and mouths, the final result out of the mould is not so exciting. Luckily, the toques, hiding most of the cheeks and chins, diminish and cover somehow the unpleasant appearance. Palms are big and rudimentary sculptured, with hard identifiable fingers and even if gloves have to be painted, this does not improve with much the general aspect. The same material and sculpture style is noticed on Odemars, nowadays Ykreol figures, the sets by these manufacturers abounding in brilliant ideas, but crude implementation as well. 

The Battle of Stalingrad entered in the attention of several manufacturers, in terms of WWII Germans the most well-known being Caesar’s “WWII German Army (Staingrad)”. However, there are hundreds of 1/72 WWII Germans prepared for winter and most of them, no matter they aim the Early or Late War period, fit in Stalingrad environment. Despite the slightly overscaled heads, palms, gear, and weapons, the overall look impose these figs in the medium side of 1/72 scale but they can properly combine with taller miniatures as well. More companies produce WWII winter Germans and some of the best companions for these troopers would be Revell’s “German Infantry”, Italeri’s “German Elite Troops” and Esci/Italeri Nebelwerfer crew. Likewise, Zvezda German winter series and Caesar’s “German Infantry with Winter Gear” put forward army-men prepared for winter that work well with Strelet’s soldiers. Of course, Caesar has lot of sets featuring WWII Germans in various winter clothes, but those are smaller than the Strelets fighters. Except the prone MG gunner, the rest of miniatures are on bases, that, if necessary, can be removed quite fast due to the composition of this soft plastic.

In principle addressing to gamers and collectors, thanks to the unicity in the scale and attractiveness of some items of garment, the Strelets German Army in Stalingrad may make curious and get the interest of static modellers. In a certain manner, they can find place inside a diorama, at least receiving a back-ground role. The credible way the camouflage cloths waves in the wind and the thick standard garment or field improvisations transpose the hobbyist into a frosty climate and when looking at all unit, it is almost impossible not to feel cold and mercy for the poor soldiers portrayed by these miniatures.

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 7
Poses Quality 8
Details Quality 7
Mould Quality 7
Sculpture 8
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 8