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Zvezda - German 80-mm mortar with Crew (winter) 1941- 1945 (6209)_________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6209
Year 2013
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items 2 GrW34, Wargaming cards, bases and flags
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly cement)
Conversion-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939  - 1945

Review

With the intention of issuing the necessary figurines for the newer “World War II: Battle for Moscow 1941” starter board-game, for the winter WWII German soldiers Zvezda followed the strategy applied to the infantry dressed for warm or temperate environments, wearing the famous M36 uniform and gathered within “Operation Barbarossa” and “Blitzkrieg 1941” games. Standard infantry and its main support weapons, MG34 and Grantawerfer 34 (GrW34) were included inside all those, together with a Headquarter. In addition, outside the games, each unit has been commercialized within a small set incorporated in Mini-Box series, apart the sprues with commanders which remained just in the game package in the attempt of making those more attractive. 

The three mini-boxes on WWII German winter soldiers have been launched in the same moment and as usually, the infantry set received the first inventory number. At least theoretically, that set is followed by the mortar one while for the summer infantry the second was the MG34 and after few weeks arrived the GrW34 kit. Of course, this is just a curiosity, without any relevance and much more important is the fact that for the winter mortar set, titled “German 81mm Mortar with Crew 1941-1945 (Winter)”, the manufacturer has enclosed two dissimilar sprues, each accommodating a different team while in the summer mortar Mini-box, the same sprue has been duplicated. The novel approach stresses the experience gained by the company and in a certain manner, it is more valuable. Besides, both the depicted activities and the poses adopted by the new figurines are remarkable, illustrating two of the most common hypostases mortar teams could be found, one in combat and the other transporting the weapon to a fighting position. 

Produced since in 1932 by Rheinmetall but entering in service in1934, GrW34 remained active till 1945, seeing action on all fronts. The minimum range was 60 meters and the maximum 2400 meters, the firing rate being established by the crew skills, between fifteen to twenty-five rounds per minute. For longer distances, to the mortar shells could be attached a powder filled fabric tube set around the tail fin. The standard HE as well as smoke, target illumination and target marking shells were fired by both GrW34 versions, the standard and the shorter tube one, initially created for paratroopers (8 cm Kurzer Granatwerfer 42, nicknamed Stummelwerfer), and then used by all units. Sd.Kfz.251/2 half-track featured GrW34 as main weapon, but for more mobility, soldiers mounted it on more vehicles. 

GrW34, an 81.4 mm calibre weapon represented at the outset of WW2 the heavy mortar of the German Army, later becoming the medium one after the development of Granatwerfer 42 (120 mm) and other heavier mortars. Statistics highlight the mortar as the deadliest weapon in WW2, causing the largest number of casualties and the German High Command paid enhanced attention to that, incorporating within infantry platoons a mortar operated by three soldiers since the beginning of the war. A little after, numerous German companies, especially infantry and Panzer Grenadier, received in the organization scheme a special mortar group/squad, generally endowed with two GrW34 operated by a varying number of crewmen, seven or eight for each weapon being the most common. However, the GrW34 continued to be handled by three soldiers, the rest of crew members being riflemen, commander and driver or horse(s) leader(s). The intensive training sessions and the experience gained on the frontline, transformed the German mortar crews in feared and mortal opponents while GrW34 could translate the transportation to action mode in a very short time, deployed both in assault and defence and engaging enemy infantry, buildings and vehicles, including light armoured ones.

The well-known Zvezda mini-box houses this time two sprues, an assembly instruction sheet and one gaming card. In the main artwork there are noticed four mortar-men split in two teams, at the borders of an Eastern front village, a little furtherer three rifle-men approaching. As customary for this manufacturer, the main characters from the artwork will be met after opening the box, the related poses being introduced again by the back artwork, three small images showing each team on their individual bases as well as another, shared by all and included for gaming purposes together with the correspondent flag. In addition, the back artwork offers an image with the inter-linked gaming card, displaying on top another image with the masters of the mortar crew in combat. Each team received a distinct spure, also featuring the gaming accessories such as bases, flags, and trench representations. A drawback of the kit, as the rest of the other Zvezda artillery and mortar sets, is the lack of spare projectiles and ammo boxes, although in the artwork there are revealed more ammunition boxes, unfortunately the sprues comprise none.

For obtaining a most credible appearance, the product arrive in pieces, as in reality the weapons being divided in three parts, tube, bipod, and base-plate and the figures in half bodies and with separate arms. Engineering is almost perfect, in spite being quite complicated to identify the proper answer for the intricate activities intended to illustrate, Zvezda team managed ideally from this point of view. The parts impressively match in positions, without gaps and although the pin and hole system is employed and works fine, being a hard plastic product, a drop of the ordinary polly-cement will ensure better fixation and careless handling. The printed guide draws clear instructions on how to assemble the miniatures presenting the base options, too. Even if not displayed, concerning the mortar in combat there is another choice, specially distributed for static model builders not wanting to use any of the supplied devices. On each correspondent base there is carved the base-plate, but fortunately, a third one is made available as a separate piece and is found on the sprue accommodating the advancing mortar team. Thus, on that sprue will be encountered two base-plates, one going on the back of a soldier and the other, for the mortar in fight, in case the hobbyist wants to exhibit the weapon in a diorama or on his own bases. The correct allocation of the two base-plates cannot be confound, the assembly guide highlighting that the one with a big circle on the side facing the ground must be snapped on the back of the human transporter. The comparison between the two Zvezda mortar kits with summer and winter crews and the contained GrW34s should mention that the fresh versions feature very fine panoramic sights and cross-leveling devices, things annoyingly missing at the earlier Zvezda mortar with men dressed for fine weather. However, the new GrW34 in combat allocated to the winter soldiers did not receive the chain linking the two legs of the bipod for better fixation in position, but that item was optional and not mandatory, so the new version is superior and more precise. Such details are of foremost importance and give emphasis to the experience accumulated by the company since the launch of the previous GrW34 in 2010. 

Both the transported and the combat mortars are highly detailed, the manufacturer succeeding to finely capture in 1/72 scale most of the key components, the base-plate receiving the appropriate socket for the tube and the handle for transportation, the proportions and shape of tube being accurate, the piece also revealing thesafety ball. The folded and opened bipods look awesome, with incredibly thin and top detailed legs. Moreover, the two mortars have got sharply sculptured traverse and cross-levelling systems, guide tubes and hand-wheels, an excellent impression making the panoramic sighs, too. Missing only few insignificant characteristics such as the rings used to fix the strap of the tube for shoulder transportation and with slight details on the side facing the ground, the tubes also requiring drilling, based on the rest of qualities above described, it can be fairly apprised the mortars allocated by Zvezda for the crews in winter clothes are some of the best in Braille Scale. A large number of mass production manufacturers have made attempts on GrW34 and crew, within more or less accurate and detailed sets. Armourfast’s “German Mortar Team”, Pegasus Hobbies’ “German Mortar Teams”, Preiser’s “8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in combat” and “Infantry riflemen with mortar, lined up”, and Zvezda’s “German 81mm Mortar and Crew” are the sets available in the field at the moment. Taking into consideration the shape and top details of Zvezda’s mortars displayed in “German 81mm Mortar with Crew 1941-1945 (Winter)”, it might be considered those area little overcome only by Preiser interpretations, both in combat and transportation modes. In addition, other GrW34 are encountered within generic infantry, Afrika Korps, and Paratrooper sets, few companies including on the sprues the famous mortar. ESCI’s “Afrika Korps Geman Soldiers”, “German Soldiers”, and “Afrika Corps Soldiers”, Italeri’s “German Elite Troops”, “DAK Infantry”, and “German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform)” and Plastic Soldiers’ “Late War German Infantry Heavy Weapons” are the correspondent sets, but most of the times, the weapons are either overscaled or lack key details, some of them, especially the ESCI ones being funny or even ridiculous. 

Aiming at displaying soldiers in winter and in relation with the famous Battle for Moscow as the main goal of the figures, these army-men arrive dressed in M40 greatcoats, with steel helmets and marching/jack boots. Toques and five finger knitted gloves are also worn, although due to the fine size, the palms could be painted as without gloves, but for matching the overall appearance and purpose, hand protectors would be more appropriate. A plus-point goes for the correct endowment of all the four troopers with personal weapons, as specialized soldiers, mortar crewmen received pistols and here they keep the associated pistols in holsters. For the advancing team, the gear is almost complete, having “Y” straps, belts, shovels, mess-tins, canteens, bread bags, gas mask containers with gas cape pouches rolled around, but the Zeltbahn misses at the soldier carrying the base-plate, while the normal location of that item was taken by the mortar part. Mentioning that for the crouched team shovels were skipped and one of them has got a map/dispatch case, the rest of their equipment is identical with the just defined one. Though labelling in the title the period 1941-1945, these miniatures can be utilized without any fear during the entire period of war, including early stages, as Wehrmacht or Waffen SS units. The WW2 German greatcoats had a multitude of models, from army depots or tailor made, but mostly maintained the cut inherited from WWI, M36, M40, and M42 being the usual ones. On account the French cuffs, the model here portrayed might be assessed as M40 but it could be earlier or later versions as well. For instance, in 1/72 scale, the main difference between M36 or M40 is established by the colour of the collar hobbyist will paint, blue/green for the early models or feldgrau for the following ones. 

The idea of enclosing GrW34 in two modes, combat and transportation, looks awesome, particularly bearing in mind that until now, in 1/72 scale only Preiser has depicted a packed mortar within the notable “WWII German Infantry riflemen with mortar, lined up”. Nevertheless, Preiser set is much better, not only because it puts forward a complete eight member crew, but also presents the accurate way of transporting the weapon as well as the padded carriers specially issued for base plate and bipod. Regulations assigned three soldiers to carry GrW34 during infantry transportation, one the tube, the second the bipod, and the third the base plate. Still, the norms are silent as regards which member of the team had to carry a particular part, but those were most surely transported by gunner and his two assistants. Zvezda planned just two soldiers for carrying the three parts of the weapon, one having the tube, the second the base-plate and both holding the bipod. Nevertheless, such situations could intervene on the battlefield, in urgency situations or lack of enough personnel, the other crew members being killed, wounded or busy with other stuff such as cover fire until their comrades moved the mortar in a different position. Practically, these two troopers suggest a critical situation, changing the location of the weapon in a short distance, aspect highlighted as well by the lack of related padded carriers for the base-plate and bipod. Anyway, hobbyists wanting to get a more accurate image of a GrW34 mortar team transporting the weapon may complete the members with conversions of these figs or of the waking soldiers available inside Zvezda’s “German Infantry in Winter Uniforms 1941-1945”.  In this light, the base-plate can be allocated to another trooper or simply let by that but bringing inside the team a commander and some ammunition bearers, related ammunition boxes being on disposal inside Preiser and Pegasus Hobbies sets targeting GrW34.

On many occasions Zvezda has demonstrated beyond doubt they know how to make lifelike, accurate and finely detailed individual poses and even if groups are more difficult, when it has been the case, the company dealt the problem in a brilliant manner. An excellent example in the field provides the amazing “German Medical Personnel 1941-1943”, where two outstanding two figures assembles, embodying stretcher bearers evacuating wounded comrades, limp to customers. This time the two figure assemble carries the bipod, sculptured together with the right arm of both soldiers. In order to ease the paintwork, wise it would be painting the figures and the bipod separately, before putting together the whole assemble. Likewise, if gluing the arms, it is recommended before pressing in the final position to check how the troopers align and reach the ground, for avoiding any odd appearance or balance problems. Both the artwork and the assembly guideline commend modellers to set first the soldier who transports the base-plate on his back, followed by the one with the tube in the left hand. Still, the way of holding the bipod and the fact that it is about the right arm at both make possible, with few minor interventions in the contact area at shoulders, to invert the places, asking the guy with the tube to be the first. Of course, such thing is really not necessary but it would become suitable if owing more boxes of this set, for introducing some diversity. No matter which one is the first, these troopers advance in an eye-catching manner, bent a little in front due to the burden, the moves being also marvelously accompanied by the way their greatcoats fold.

Concerning the mortar in combat, Zvezda again limited in providing just two crew-men which arrive in crouched stances, most probably the gunner and one of his assistants. A soldier holds a projectile in the right hand, waiting for the moment to drop the bomb in the tube and represents a quite repeated stance within mortar sets. Nevertheless, this one looks awesome thanks to the fine sculpture of his clothes, face and also the shell appearance is more than great, with finely sculptured tail and war-head. The artwork and the guide endorse setting him to the right side of the weapon, and definitely there it is the best place for him although if the crew is completed with other conversions, he may take position everywhere around the weapon.

A much more interesting approach is adopted for the second crew-men and it is the first time when 1/72 hobbyists may encounter a soldier operating in the same time both the paramount sight and the traverse hand-wheel. He must be arranged to the left side of the weapon, and it is truly astounding how the engineers projected the miniature for fulfilling the tasks. He leans a little forward for reaching both devices and also there is a difference of level between the right and left legs, the right sole being a hair higher while that foot must stay on the base-plate of the mortar. If gluing the arms and the mortar bipod and tube, in order to not to alter the creator’s marvelous work and for realizing the best interaction with the weapon, it is highly advocated to check first how the left and right palms reach the sight and traverse hands-wheel situated on the other side and only when those are appropriately grabbed, to permanently cement the arms and the bipod, tube, and eventually base-plate. When assembly is correctly finalized, the weapon and the trooper will form an extraordinary and eye-catching assemble, unique in Braille Scale, so the manufacturer should be warmly congratulated for the brilliant idea and its practical implementation. On the other hand, just two men for a mortar crew are quite scarce although sometimes filmed references shot in the period during fights, reveal GrW34 operated by a single soldier, who even succeeds to fire lots of projectiles in few seconds, taking those from an already prepared pile. Still, the customer who wants to increase the crew, at least at the minimum enforced three members, can easily convert one of the crouched or prone troopers available inside the other two Zvezda sets with infantrymen in warm clothes. For underlining the role as a mortar crewman, a shell or an ammunition box would be ideal to such conversion.

Sculpture impresses, the garment incredibly folding and following the moves of the soldiers. Furthermore, the tremendously realistic appearance is accentuated by the fact the coats are opened at the bottom and not modelled full as usual at most 1/72 manufacturers, including famous ones like Preiser or Pegasus Hobbies. Such feature not only brings an important contribution to the overall aspect but also permits to be seen the trousers and upper side of the boots. In general greatcoats miss insignia except the shoulder boards, precisely illustrated by the company at each soldier. Most of these figures wear greatcoats where we can see a number of buttons in front, those on the back tails being skipped in all cases. The toques received fine creases and the footwear has clear details such as the stitched central, vertical spine to the reverse and the rear heel panel. From the point of view of size and characteristics, the personal equipment fit similar items proposed by prominent toy-soldier makers. Additionally, Zvezda is renowned for the good proportions of bodies as well as for the perfection of faces and hands, eyes, eye-brows, noses, and mouths being impressively carved as well as the palms where all fingers are immediately perceived, also naturally grabbing the objects. With reference to palms, it should be restated these can be painted as in knitted or leather gloves or even bare hands, their size allowing such interpretation, too. Helmets can be reproduced as in the artwork or painted in white or camouflage colours, often the German soldiers using white paint or wash for improved concealment in snow. In the same time, there are suitable few colours for the mortars as well, gray, dunkelgelb, camouflage, or even white wash over the base colour finely fitting and representing a tool for emphasizing the period and possibly, the environment, in which the weapons served.

Produced in the excellent Zvezda hard plastic, suitable both for game table while it supports well various powerful shocks, having a significant coefficient of bending, and for static modellers because it permits easy conversions achievable with the ordinary polly-cement, cast and mould might be considered as great. No spaces remain between parts involving assembly and details are most of the times very sharp. Besides these, flash and seam lines are at low level and excess of plastic completely misses. The material terrifically reacts to enamel, enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, without casting any influence on the original characteristics of the colours, also preserving the artistic effort even if the miniatures are handled intensively. Concerning conversions, the separate limbs ease the operation and supplementary gear or weapons can be instantaneously added, in hard plastic Preiser, Dragon, and Caesar offering a large array. Hard plastic arms in greatcoats are a scarce presence in the 1/72 scale, but Preiser’s “Military Police. Guards” gives some options and also the limbs of the figures from the three winter soldiers Zvezda mini-box series can be mixed between. For snapping the units on the provided bases there are pins in the soles, knees, and bipod legs and if wanting to display them in other places, it might be necessary trimming off which is an extremely facile intervention. Apart the trooper setting the traverse and sight, the rest have an excellent balance, including the standing ones while they are inter-linked via the bipod they hold. Because the miniature dealing with the sight and traverse hand-wheel was designed to have the right  leg on the base-place, in case using it without that device, hobbyists should consider gluing another object under the sole, such as an ammunition box, branch, brick etc or to find a suitable up in the terrain.

As all the comrades issued by Zvezda, whether dressed for summer or winter, these crewmen belong to the tall side of 1/72 scale, and the ample catalogue of WWII German soldiers in greatcoats contains more offers from Revell, Pegasus Hobbies, Strelets, and Preiser as well as from cottage industry representatives such as Juwella, TQD Castings, Weathering Factory, and El Viejo Dragon. Moreover, Caesar and HaT have winter troopers wearing the same attire, but those miniatures are slightly smaller than the rest and it would require a studied emplacement if displayed in the same diorama. However, the mortar-men proposed by Zvezda represent the single mass-production interpretation of a crew in winter clothes, reiterating the excellent knowledge of the company regarding the targeted market.

In a fairly crowded bazaar of 1/72 GrW34s, the top-quality execution of the models, the high accuracy and the brilliant approach of providing crewmen in out-of-ordinary stances for the mortar in combat and during infantry transportation, reconfirm and justify the position Zvezda has started to occupy in the hearts of hobbyists, no matter if they come from the gaming, diorama, or collectors’ corner. Addressing to all categories and modelling abilities, at a very cheap price for the superiority and utility delivered, Zvezda’s winter mortar-men set out as a key asset for those wanting to properly reproduce the WWII German infantry in a cold weather scenario.  Moreover, purchasing more boxes of this superb set comes out as an excellent deal, not only from conversions point of view, but also the eventual spare mortars can be easily distributed to crews made available by other manufacturers but benefitting by less precise and detailed weapons.

 

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