Articles

First to Fight - German Command 1939 (PL1939-018)_________(EXT)

Manufacturer First to Fight
Scale 1/72
Set Code PL1939-018
Year 2015
No. of Figures 21
No. of Poses 7
Additional Items 1 GrW36, 1 tree branch
Size Small
Material Soft Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Average
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1939 - 1945

Review

With the declared goal of portraying the very early WWII German Army, practically their sets targeting the first campaign of WWII, the Polish manufacturer First to Fight (FtF) has strived and succeeded to cover various aspects in the field. With innovative presentation and commercialisation approaches, this producer has released in a short period a considerable number of figure, cannon, and vehicle kits. These are sold together with September 1939 magazine, each number including a kit or figure set and can be bought not only in hobby regular or e-shops, but also from newspaper’s kiosks in manufacturer’s country of origin.

After depicting the regular infantry in the first set, just at two magazine numbers distance, the related commanders have appeared. Usually, officers are included inside generic infantry sets, but within the strategy envisaged by FfF for their line, a specialised offer on the matter was fully justified. Of course, it is not FtF the first company releasing a German command set, perhaps in plastic being the most known Zvezda’s “WWII German Headquarters”, introducing in 1/72 scale some excellent officers and staff members.

In the sealed plastic package of FtF’s “German Command 1939” there is the related magazine and the box, presenting in the front artwork the seven figures, in fairly close stances with the ones in plastic. The set consists in three sprues, two large and one small featuring a single trooper, all being multiplied for three times. Almost obviously, the poses drawn in the artwork are better than the miniatures, which are quite chunky. On the reverse of the box modellers receive a painting guide for Vallejo colours as well as few info about WWII German command.

An extra value of FtF kits represents the “September 1939” magazine and inside its no.18, lots of images and data regarding WWII German command and signal vehicles are delivered. A painting guide for Vallejo colours, photos with the painted soldiers, and a chart exemplifying with FtF figs the KStN for SchutzenKompaine b dated 2.11.1937 can also be studied. In addition, an interesting list with pistols utilised by WWII German officers is accessible together with diverse data about the 5 cm mortar Granatwerfer36 (GrW36), the anti-tank rifle Panzerbuchse 39 (PzB39), and the common Mauser rifle (Kar98K), practically the weapons utilised by the included troopers with the note that the anti-tank rifle is the PzB38 model. While the supplied information is attractive and comprehensive, it is a pity the magazine has just Polish version. However, no matter the written things are not so well understood by those not speaking that language, looking at the reference images and the photos with the painted models might be useful and pleasant.

All figures are cast as single pieces and one of the larger sprues holds four minis and aims at the purpose of the set, while the other is dedicated to GrW36 and its crewmen. The first mentioned sprue puts forward two officers, one radio operator and a trooper firing off a PzB38 while the third one, which practically is a section from a large sprue, delivers a single rifleman. It might look odd the inclusion of that figure here, but perhaps the producer’s intention was to complete the German command with a soldier appropriate to act either as a NCO or a runner. Anyway, each new pose is a joy in a set, so no complains in this field and maybe one day, within future sets, hobbyists will receive his comrades from the rest of the sprue.

The miniatures are appropriately dressed for embodying very early war WWII Germans, with M36 uniforms, marching/jack boots, and without “Y” straps, item of gear introduced after 1939. In conformity with the roles played by the miniatures, the head-gear is diverse, being represented by an officer cap, two M34 overseas caps, and four steel-helmets with straps for holding camouflage cloth or foliage. In terms of gear, this is also in conformity with the rank of the depicted army-men, with clear distinctions between officers and troopers.

ue to their clothes, these soldiers are suitable to perform in a warm or temperate environment. In order to give emphasizes to the early war appearance, trousers might be painted in lighter gray and the tunics in the famous Feldgrau, but for after 1942 representations, the pants shall be finished in the same colour as the tunics. The early-war appearance is correctly advocated by the artwork where the uniforms received the right colours, thus the painting suggestions can be applied on miniatures if the intention is to portray soldiers operating until 1942.

The sprue giving the title of the set accommodates two officers, one holding a document or a map in the left hand and another with pistol in the right hand that points with the left to something. The one with the map has got the standard officer peak cap, binoculars, pistol in holster, and a case on the left hip, most probably the binoculars case, while the other with M34 overseas cap can be apprised as a junior officer due to its pistol holster, map case and back gear consisting in canteen, mess-tin, and gas-mask container, similar with the one of the troopers. Moreover, both officers put on the cross strap, over the right shoulder and across the body and attached to the belt by D-ring belt loops. In the Third Reich many organizations worn the cross strap, but in terms of combat officers, that item was mostly kept only in the early stage of war, being later removed for not divulging the rank on the battlefield. The poses of the two officers does not impress, particularly the lower-rank one featuring a quite unnatural position of the left arm. However, the sculptor should be appreciated for his intention of depicting the figure with a pistol in the right hand, but the weapon, held over the map case, is harder to spot.

A proper completion for the WWII German Headquarter is the radio section, one of the most common types of portable transceivers being Torn.fu.d2, a back-pack communication device with 3 km range and a special battery for extra power packed in a case. Such radios were generally operated by a three member crew armed with Kar98K as personal weapons, but FtF allocates here a single figure for multiple purposes, performing both as radio operator and his assistant carrying the battery case. Knelt and holding the transceiver between his legs, pressing the left headphone with the hand, this is one of the most often encountered stances of Braille Scale radio operators. Still, the miniature raises interest from another perspective, due to the battery case he transports on the back. It is quite odd the same person to operate the radio and carry the battery pack in the same time, practically embodying two soldiers. Nevertheless, the miniature should not be thrown away, possible scenarios might be that the initial radio operator was injured or had to leave the device, his assistant which initially transported the battery pack, replacing him. In some extent, another member of the radio team proposed by FtF could be represented by the standing soldier with Kar98K. Although available in fairly numerous numbers, all 1/72 Torn.fu.d2 radios arrive incomplete, manufacturers skipping to depict the battery pack, thus the value of the FtF fig is much increased. The battery pack is quite fairly detailed and it is excellent that the wire connecting it to the radio is more than visible. As regards the transceiver itself, this is simplified, smaller than normal, and without very sharp details as dials, plugs, knobs, and switches as well as the headphones wires. Contrasting with the small appearance of the device, the antenna looks thicker than it should be, but with some patience, it can be made thinner or even replaced. The radio operator is equipped with bread bag, mess-tin, canteen, Zeltbahn, gas-mask container with gas cape pouch in front, and shovel with bayonet, in front featuring the right Kar98K ammunition pouches, though the rifle is not delivered and the modeller could eventually bring such weapon from his spare box.

The last figure on the sprue with officers is a soldier firing off a PzB38, the anti-tank rifle being intensively utilised by infantry, paratrooper, and cavalry in the early part of the war but becoming obsolete when the armour of the vehicles became thicker. Inspired by a Russian anti-tank rifle, PzB38, very similar with the most known PzB39, but without the carrying handle on top of the barrel, was a single-shot rifle, produced in less than 2000 copies, and firing Patrone318 which was capable to penetrate a 30mm plate of steel at a range of 100m. For speeding-up the loading process and make the rounds more accessible for the gunner, two 10 rounds cartridge-holding cases were disposed on each side of the rifle. Moreover, the soldiers endowed with such weapons received two PzB ammo pouches in front, each accommodating a 10 rounds cartridge-holding case, and pistols as side arms. The WWII German anti-tank rifle is a scarce presence in 1/72 mass-production tender, until now just Waterloo 1815 making it in soft plastic, but in a simplified manner and without cartridge-holding cases. On the other side, Preiser proposes within “Advancing Grenadiers with MG 1939-1945” a superb PzB39, fully detailed and with separate cartridge-holding cases and folded and unfolded options for the bipod. Even if not striking with its sculpture and having a folded bipod, the FtF version of the anti-tank rifle makes a pleasant impression due to its correctly placed and angled 10 rounds cartridge-holding cases. Furthermore, its user is even more valuable bearing in mind this is the single figure in 1/72 scale featuring the anti-tank rifle ammunition pouches, an outstanding and highly praised detail. The gunner also received a pistol in holster and a shovel with bayonet attached, his equipment being completed by canteen, mess-tin, bread-bag, Zeltbahn and gas-mask container with gas-cape pouch in front. He fires off the weapon from standing positon and the folded bipod imposes the modeller to place the gunner next to something where he can prop the weapon. Perhaps in this purpose the manufacturer considered useful to supply on the same sprue a quite fine tree branch, but it would look bizarre to set it in a vertical position and with the gunner behind it.

A reasonable and justified question is what a 5 cm GrW36 section has to do in a set targeting WWII German command. No matter the reason, this is certainly an excellent incentive and addition to the comprehensive catalogue of 1/72 WWII German soldiers. Even if there are hundreds of sets dedicated to the topic, GrW36 has never been reproduced within mass-production sets, thus another premiere labelled FtF. The fact that the company decided to finally make it available in the scale reiterates the good knowledge of the market and the efforts carried out by the team in order to cover the existing gaps in the broad tender on 1/72 WWII German army figs.

The 5 cm calibre GrW36 represented the light WWII German mortar and was manufactured by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG until 1941. Designed to increase the firepower of the infantry, the weapon weighted 14 kg, could fire between 15 and 25 rounds/minute, had a range up to 500 meters, and did not feature a bipod. Due to the hard to understand sighting system and not notable results on the frontline, the production ceases in 1941, but the weapon remained in service till the end or war, mainly used in defensive positions, including Normandy.

In spite being a most useful weapon while this is the single interpretation of it, the 5 cm forwarded by FtF is very simplified, having a gaming look and also being slightly under-scaled. It received a shorter and thinner tube, a small base plate and the elevating screw emerges extremely slim. The weapon also lacks proper representations of traverse system as well as hand-wheel, trigger lever, sight, and tube handle. Practically, the most distinct components are the base plate handle that is cast full, and the two leveling handles, but also those are displayed too close to the tube. Obviously, the tube is cast full and requires either drilling or at least merely suggesting the opening with black. However, being the one and only transposition in the scale of such weapon, the modeller will hesitate to throw it away and let the crew without purpose. Thus, efforts for trying saving it should be considered, a good paint-work and a proper emplacement, partially hidden by its crew, could be salutary.

As regards the GrW36 crewmen, the manufacturer proposes two soldiers, one crouched, holding between his legs an opened 5 cm mortar rounds container and prepared to hand over to his comrade the next round, and another prone, propped in the left hand for rising a little in order to drop into the tube the projectile he has in the right hand. Not astonishing with their sculpture, these poses might pass as acceptable, satisfactory interacting with the weapon if they are removed from their bases. Little strange is that the projectiles they hold, besides being ugly sculptured, hardly would enter in the tube, being a hair larger than the tube opening. Anyway, because of the really tiny dimensions, the discrepancy is not easily perceived, especially from a fair distance. Theoretically, GrW36 was operated by a three member crew, layer, loader, and ammunition bearer, theoretically armed with pistols while they have to transport the mortar load, too. One man carried the base plate and the traversing and cross-leveling mechanism, another the tube and the elevating screw, and the third transported the ammunition. According to their Kar98K ammo pouches, the two crewmen made available by FtF would have been armed with rifles instead of pistols. As gear they received the standard items, namely canteens, bread bags, mess-tins, Zeltbahns, gas-mask containers, gas cape pouches on the chest and one of them gave got shovel with bayonet attached. A special piece is the pad attached to a pair of “Y” straps on the back of the prone guy, highlighting that soldier carried the base plate of the mortar. Such pads were also used for transporting the 8.1 cm GrW34 base-plate and were necessary not only to fix it, but also to protect the back of the wearer against the weight of the component.

The solitary figure on a section of a sprue that might perform as runner or NCO for encompassing the topic of the set, received the classical equipment formed by canteen, bread bag, mess-tin, Zeltbahn, gas-mask container, gas cape pouch on the chest, and shovel with bayonet attached. Armed with a Kar98K, the ammunition pouches are not visible due to the way he keeps the rifle. A little too bent on a side, perhaps because a mould error, the miniature fits to perform either on the frontline or in a safer area.

With an average sculpture, still the anatomical proportions are okay and from the distance, the miniatures might look reasonable. Faces miss crisp details and often are further mutilated by seam lines and flash, impossible to be cleaned without touching also the initial work. Likewise, in some cases the sculptor strived to carve fingers, but also those are not so attractive. The same situation repeats in terms of attire and gear that received correct small details, including shoulder and collar boards, buttons, buckles, straps, creases etc, but those are somehow hidden or diminished by the general appearance.

Mould and cast are weak points of FtF minis which arrive with flash, seam lines, and some excess of material in particular points. Another drawback is the material the figures are cast in, a combination between rubber and soft plastic. When wanting to remove the extras, hobbyists must prepare for a difficult operation, the material having the most regrettable and annoying propensity of producing fluffs. Enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils are satisfactory hosted, but for better results, priming the figures is recommended. The only good thing at this kind of plastic is that it excellent takes cyanoacrylate, opening the gates for conversions or possible upgrades, super-glue gel being the most indicated adhesive, not only for creating a powerful bond, but also for granting modellers few seconds for further readjustments.

Principally targeting gaming, the figures are set on individual bases, the manufacturer placing them on really very thick ones. These devices are extremely annoying at the mortar crew, hampering them to interact with their weapon while that is not at the same level because it did not receive a similar stand. Corroborated that with the quite ugly look of the bases, it would be better removing the miniatures and glue them on other bases or directly in the diorama. The operation is facile, the material not opposing any particular resistance to a modelling knife or razor blade.

Matching in terms of size, gear and clothes the comrades previously and later issued by FtF, these soldiers are in the small/medium side of 1/72 scale and can find a huge number of troopers to work with. They adequately interact with troopers released by Caesar, Airfix, HaT, and Esci, but obviously, these are not the only choices in the field.

Taking into consideration the remarkable grade of novelty FtF’s “German Command 1939” introduces in terms of 1/72 WWII Germans, and here should be emphasized the 5 cm GrW36 and its crew, the PzB38 and the related pouches, the special battery case for Torn.fu.d2 transceiver, this could be straightforwardly assessed as the most interesting and useful figure set issued on the matter by the company. Primarily addressing to gamers and collectors, due to its highlights, the offer might tempt diorama builders and with some extra cleaning and paint work, the final appearance can be satisfactory, especially if they are sneaked between better figs and not set in the foreground. 

Historical Accuracy 8
Anatomy 7
Poses Quality 8
Details Quality 7
Mould Quality 7
Sculpture 6
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 7