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Friday, December 19, 2014

Introducing the Finnish Infantry

World War II for Finland represented three separate phases. First came the Winter War, fought against the Soviet Union between the end of November 1940 and March 1941. During this period, Finland stood alone against the Soviet Union which had some territorial ambitions particularly north of Leningrad in the area known as Karelia. Despite being outnumbered at least 3 to 1 -or worse in some sectors-, and having substantial deficiencies in materiel such as armor, planes and supplies, the Finns fought with distinction along the entire border with the USSR. However the Finns had a couple of substantial advantages. They were used to the harsh winter weather and the heavily forested and snow-covered terrain. This meant that as opposed to the Soviet Army which traveled mainly on roads, the Finns used skis and white clothing or the cover of the long, dark winter nights to move swiftly off-road around the Soviets and harass them with guerrilla tactics or even envelope them and destroy them in smaller groups. What the Soviets expected to be a 2 week effort turned into a tough 3 month campaign. Soviet military blunders certainly contributed, as the Soviet army was still hurting from Stalin's officer purges of 1937. It was not until the Soviets adjusted their combined arms tactics that they were able to break through the static defenses on the Southern front that the Finns defenders had to negotiate for peace at the expense of considerable territorial (11%) concessions.

This peace lasted until the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. Finland, allied with Germany, began its military operations which became known as the Continuation War. During this campaign, Finland was able to recover their lost territories and to its credit, halted at its original border, rendering this sector of the front relativelty quiet, even while Germany pressed on the attack and lay siege to Leningrad for 28 months. Finnish actions were limited to repulsing the occasional Soviet attack, although the Soviets did attempt to wage an air bombing campaing against Helsinski, which had very limited impact. In the summer of '44, 3 days after the Normandy landings, The Soviet Union launched a major offensive along the Karelian Isthmus. In about a month, they pushed the Finnish back close to 100km, roughly to the border established at the end of the Winter War. It was thanks to German support in the form of men and materiel that the Finns were able to stop the Soviet advance. However, this made them determined to negotiate a separate peace, while they still had a 'stable' front and before Germany collapsed. A peace agreement was reached in September of '44, with Finland agreeing to pay 600M in reparations.

The last phase of the war became known as the Lapland War and consisted mainly of chasing the Germans out of Finland, as agreed to by the peace terms with the Soviet Union, even as the Fnnish Army was being demobilized, also per the terms of the peace agreement. This campaign was relatively peaceful, as both sides did not want to fight each other, and consisted mainly of isolated rearguard actions as the Germans moved out of Finland into Norway. The Germans did leave behind considerable destruction in their wake as they burned out buildings which the pursuing Finns might be able to use for shelter, and they also destroyed bridges and mined roads, causing further casualties for years to come. Casualties from these campaigns totaled 26k dead or missing out of 340k during the Winter War,63k dead or missing out of 530k during the Continuation War, and a little over 1k out of 75k during the Lapland War. In terms of Toy Soldiers, ths is a theater that has not really been covered by solider manufacturers and it wasn't until recently that one set became known to me. Let's take a look.

Engineer Bassevich Finnish Infantry - Part I
This is a nicely sculpted set from Engineer Bassevich, which is a Russian manufacturer and understandably has chosen to cover this theater. It contains a total of 10 Finn soldiers, although only 6 of them represent fighting poses. As usual with Bassevich's figures, they are well sculpted with a very nice level of detail. They also represent a good level of diversity on the uniforms being worn, however this might pose some challenges if you are trying to build up a sizeable unit of similarly clad men.

Engineer Bassevich Finnish Infantry - Part II
Of these, my favorite one is the man on the left, standing while firing the sub MG. He is wearing white cammo overalls and a German style helmet. Definitely a great fit for the Winter War scene once he is painted all in white. The officers in the middle are probably some known historic characters, as is the case in some of the other Bassevich sets, but I must say that I would have rather had a couple more action poses than this many officers.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Winter War
Not to leave the Finns without an opponent, this set also contains four Soviet soldiers, although that's hardly going to be enough to mount an offensive. Note also that the set contains two 'border' posts. One has the emblem of the USSR and the other the one from Finland. Again, a nice touch, but I would have preferred to have two more men if I had a choice. Also, if there are going to be only 4 men, why make two of them just stand around? One nice touch is the head gear on the figures. Two of them are wearing the pointed winter caps (I thought they were used by cavalry units) instead of helmets.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Clairet - Toy soldiers

Clairet was a French firm which apparently was in production in the 40's, 50's, and 60's. The firm was named after its sculptor François Clairet. They manufactured not only toy soldiers like cowboys, indians, knights, etc., but also many different kinds of animals, many of which François Clairet modeled after the ones in the Parisian Zoo. The initial models were cast in lead, but they later switched to hard plastic. Apparently some of their figures were also issued later by Marx and Wendal. One interesting bit that I read in a discussion forum is that the Clairet figures suffer from a 'bacterial desease' which eats the plastic and makes it leak oils that 'infect' other figures. Not sure if this is true, but that's the first time I hear something like this... I don't really have many Clairet guys, just a few figures from a set that I came across by pure chance. Let's take a look...

Clairet US Infantry
These GIs are a bit unusual. The poses are decent, altough the level of detail is a bit on the low-end of the spectrum, mainly because they only come with weapons and uniforms, but nothing else in terms of extra gear. Considering however that they were probably sculpted 60+ years ago, I think we can say that they were fairly well done for their time.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Austin Miniatures - Toy Soldiers

Austin Miniatures is a US manufacturer based out of Ohio, which recently joined the toy soldier scene. They only have a couple of sets at the moment. Some Cowboys and a set of Marines. They come in a couple of colors and the sculpting is of good quality. They also have a couple more sets in the pipeline. Japanese infantry, which makes quite a bit of sense, to complement those Marines and a set of 1930s gangsters. In the process of buying my set of Marines, I exchanged emails and calls with the owner and his customer service is also very good. Looking forward to their future sets!

Austin Miniatures Marines
This is a fairly recent release from a new US firm. They are made in the style and size of CTS and Conte figures. A nice level of detail and good sculpting. The poses also depict a good degree of action and intensity. And they are all good basic fighting poses. They will certainly blend in well with the rest of the unit. And if you want you can probably paint them as regular GIs, and they will fit right in as well. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Label and Navigation Structure for Site

I recently got some very good feedback from one of our readers who found it a bit hard to navigate the site and find the info that he was looking for. By listening to his feedback, I realized that over time, as the number of posts has grown, my early approach of labeling each post with all the manufacturers and countries/service branches which were mentioned within the post no longer made much sense. So now, instead of over-using the labels, I have created a series of 'index' pages that serve as an intermediate step in the navigation to the actual content.Take a look at it and let me know what you think, particualrly if you have suggestions for how to improve things further. It is your valuable feedback which is helping to make this a better site!

Japanese Vehicles

Click on the links below to see a post on the vehicles used by the Japanese Armed Forces.

Soviet Vehicles

Click on the link below to see a post on the differet types of vehicles used by the Soviet Armed Forces.

Brtish Commonwealth Vehicles

Click on the links below to see a post on the differet types of vehicles used by the British Commonwealth's Armed Forces.

US Vehicles

Click on the links below to see a post on the differet types of vehicles used by the US Armed Forces.

Other Axis Troops

Click on the links below to see posts on a few more Axis Armed Forces

Italian Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on each of the different service branches of the Italian Armed Forces.

Japanese Troops

Click on the link below to see a post on the Japanese Armed Forces.

German Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on each of the different service branches of the German Armed Forces.

Other Allied Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on a few more Allied Armed Forces.

French Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on each of the different service branches of the French Armed Forces.

Soviet Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on each of the different service branches of the Soviet Armed Forces.

British Commonwealth Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on each of the different service branches of the British Commonwealth's Armed Forces.

US Troops

Click on the links below to see a post on each of the different service branches of the US Armed Forces.

Introducing the German Infantry

This post is a consolidation of the four German Infantry posts that I had to split because of the blogger limitations regarding labels. Now that I have simplified my labeling strategy, I was able to combine them into a single one. It probably needs a bit more editing, but at least for now it provides a central location to see all the German Infantry figures made by all manufacturers.

One downside of trying to assemble larger units is that most of the time you end up having to deploy multiple guys with the same pose in order to make your numbers. That is still the case for most countries/branches of the service that participated in WWII. In recent years, a series of new sets have improved the situation for American GIs and for Soviet Infantry. However the ones that have really made it possible for me to get to my magic number have been the German Infantry. A company -100 strong- of unique poses. All painted in the same style to blend them into a single unit. Note that I avoided pre-painted figures and figures that had winter uniforms or cammo smocks. I also tried to stick to 'action/battle' poses, therefore you won't see any marching guys or dead guys. Lastly, I did not want to have more tha 10 prone figures. The chosen ones are featured below, grouped by manufacturer.

Conte Collectibles German Infantry Set 1 

Conte Collectibles German Infantry Set 2 - First Half
Note that Conte introduced plug-in arms which allows the creation of new poses by just exchanging the weapon/accessory. In the case above, the guy with the MG-42 is the same figure as the guy with the phone.

Conte Collectibles German Infantry Set 2 - Second Half
Again, by using pluggable arms, I was able to create four figures out of two base running guys.

Conte Collectibles German Infantry Set 3

Airfix German Infantry

Airfix Afrika Korps
Here I borrowed figures from a different 'branch of service', but once they are painted they look like German Infantry, which I guess is what they actually were. 

BMC German Infantry

Classic Toy Soldiers German Infantry - First Half

Classic Toy Soldiers German Infantry - Second Half

ESCI German Infantry

Marx German Infantry - First Half

Marx German Infantry - Second Half

Matchbox German Infantry
Note that to the right there is a bazooka/panzerschreck guy which to my knowledge is not part of the original set. It came in a bucket of clones, but it must be based on Matchbox figures as the sculpting and all his equipment is just like the other guys'.

Matchbox Afrika Korps
Again, here I borrowed from another 'service branch', but they look like normal infantry...

MPC German Infantry
These guys are not my favorite. A bit too stiff for my taste, but I included some of their poses so that they would be represented.

Revell Afrika Korps (left) & Reproductions of Marx 6" figures (middle, right)
Same branch story with the Revell guy. The manufacturer of the 54mm versions of the 6" Marx guys is unclear to me. I bought them advertised as SWTS figures (Steve Weston Toy Soldiers), but I have not been able to comfirm that claim. He does not mention them on his web site.

The whole unit.

In the pictures above I described all the German Infantry poses that I have already painted. Those pictures left out some poses that I decided not to paint. At the time I was aiming to paint 100 different poses with the goal of using them for war-gaming, so I left out the poses that were least appealing and those that were the least useful in a war-game. This blog however would be inclomplete if I were to leave them out from the catalog of figures that I have been assembling. The following pictures are meant to remedy that.

MPC German Infantry
The prone guy was left out because I had set myself a limit of 10 prone figures, and he was on the longer/taller side. The guy on the left did not seem like he would fit well on a war-game. He would fit better in a football game asking for the ball to be thrown at him. The guy on the right got disqualified because of his sculpting. He looks like a 2-D figure.

Marx German Infantry Marching Soldier
This guy did not make it simply because he would not be of much use in a war-game where you want more action/fighting poses. But I do like him. I actually plan on painting him and about 49 other marching guys that I have been collecting to make a nice parade scene at some point.

BMC German Infantry MG Team
This machine gun team was cut because of similiar reasons as the MPC prone guy. I already had 10 prone figures and these were the least well sculpted of them all. Even to take this picture I had to find an angle that would make them look a bit better.

BMC Dead German
At the time I painted all the other German figures I thought that there was not much use for a dead guy on a war-game. Since I started working on this blog however, I have come to realize that these poses would make the posts with battle scenes more realistic, so now I wish I had painted them. I guess I will get to it at some point.

Conte Dead German
Same story here. Good sculpting by Conte. Even their dead guys look good.

Marx Dead German
The last of the three casualties.

German Infantry happens to be one of the most popular sets amongst manufacturers. In this post I would like to show 66 new German Infantry figures, in addition to the 100 unique poses that I described in the first post about German Infantry. Most of the figures in this post are already factory-painted, except for the Atlantic guys, which I would have painted myself had I found them on time to include them with the rest of the other guys from the other post. But sooner or later they will get there.

Atlantic German Infantry - Part 1
This set reminds me of the Airfix poses. The guys are a bit thinner, but many of them are in very similar positions. Note that the prone guy on the left is supposed to be operating a machine gun, but I bought these on eBay his machine gun was missing. Maybe that's why nobody outbid me! I've got a few other MGs as among my loose accessories, so eventually, when I paint them I will provide him with a weapon.

Atlantic German Infantry - Part 2
The prone guy throwing a grenade is a good idea, but the figure is not well balanced, so you need to prop him up a bit from the front if you want to avoid having his feet stick up in the air. A little rock or tree stump will do the trick. In this picture I used his neighbor's foot.

Dulcop German Infantry - Part 1
These guys were hard to come by. In fact I only managed to get 7 out of the 8 poses. The guy who is firing from the kneeling position is missing. A few of the poses resemble Airfix a little bit. Perhaps what I like the most is the variety of weapons.

Dulcop German Infantry - Part 2
There are a couple of funny details though. Not how some men seem to be sculpted in a different scale. Also, the helmet on the guy on the left. Was that meant to be a paratrooper helmet or did they just did not sculpt the edge well enough? Anyhow, a nice set to round up your collection.

Dulcop German Infantry - Part 3
This is the last man in the set. He came in a different plastic. Not just the color, but it is also harder and feels a bit easier to break. If not for the color, he seems to have been cast from an original mold. As you can see, he is a typical pose in most infantry sets. His carbine seems to be a bit small, but other than that he is a solid guy. 

Lido German Infantry - Part 1
These guys are pretty rare. The poses are fairly decent and a bit less common. There are a couple other poses out there that I am trying to get my hands on. The three with color on them were painted by a previous owner, but they used to come in plain grey. The guy on the right is operating a flamethrower. The original figure used to have a flame at the tip, but this one is missing it.

Lido German Infantry - Part 2
Here is a close up of the two guys in their original color. As you can see, they are well detailed, down to the facial expressions. The main thing that jumps out as being a bit off is the machine gun that the man on the left is holding. 

Lido German Infantry Hong Kong Clones - Part I
I recently found the whole set of Lido Germans. They are not originals, but at least I got all 8 poses. 
One of the 'new' poses is the second guy from the right. Not my favorite one though. He is about to throw a grenade, but he is in a very awkward position, and the grenade is not even German.  

Lido German Infantry Hong Kong Clones - Part II
The other two new poses are the ones on the left. Another grenade thrower -with a real German grenade and a man engaged in hand to hand combat. These two are much better and round up the set nicely.

Lido German Infantry Hong Kong Clones - Part III
Since they are clones, I wanted to show them next to the original figures to show the difference in size. Since the molds are generated from actual figures, some shrinkage is innevitable as you can appreciate from the picture.

Trojan German Infantry
This is another scarce set. They appear to have been produced factory-painted, although as you can see, not with the most accurate color scheme. The level of detail is not as good as what you would expect from original figures. They almost feel like clones. Maybe they are and I just got duped when I bought them!

Classic Toy Soldiers German Medical Team - Part 1
This is a recently released set from CTS. It contains a mixture of medics and casualties. It is nicely detailed and when painted they will blend very well with other German figures, such as Conte's. The only thing to criticize about these figures is the shape of some of the helmets, which seem to have a softer edge than expected -like the kneeling guy's helmet.

Classic Toy Soldiers German Medical Team - Part 2
Here you have one more casualty -who does not seem to need any more medical attention, a man carrying a stretcher and a presumed prisoner. Not sure what the prisoner has to do with the medical team, but since these are all non-fighting poses, I can see how he fits in in that respect. Overall a nice set from CTS who will go very well with the FOV ambulance.

Classic Toy Soldiers Artillery Crew - Part 1
CTS just released a set that was sorely missing: an artillery crew. Italeri had also produced a PAK 40 with crew, but you had to buy them as a set, so you could not really staff any artillery pieces purchased without a crew. Well, now you can. The set comes with an observer/officer and two loaders.

Classic Toy Soldiers Artillery Crew - Part 2
This crew can also be deployed to serve an 88 gun. They look equally good and the size of the shell might be more in line with an 88.

21st Century Toys German Infantry - Part 1
21st Century Toys released several series of German Infantry over 8 or 10 years. Some of them were released with their playsets. Unfortunately I did not keep track of what figures came with each set, but I have tried to group them in the pictures by the paint scheme used, which should not be that different from how they were grouped when they were released. Overall, 21C Toys did a nice job with the sculpting and paint work. The first series though were made of a plastic that was a bit brtittle and some of the weapons would break, but that was improved in the later series.

21st Century Toys German Infantry - Part 2
The only thing I don't like about these figures is that the men come glued to the base and sometimes they glued them way off-balance as you can see in a couple of the guys in this picture. I suppose you can try to fix that yourself, but I have not wanted to risk breaking them by trying to pull them apart from the base.

21st Century Toys German Infantry - Part 3
While some of these guys are not action/combat poses, they come handy for scenes where you need some guys in guard duty. Forces of Valor has released some accessories that are ideal for road blocks and go very well with some of these guys.

21st Century Toys German Infantry - Part 4
This was among the last and best series released by 21C. Note that the base is different and also the quality of the painting and even the sculpting is improved. The base for the prone guy is a bit too bulky for my taste and forces you to set him in an urban setting, but the nice thing is that the figure can be removed from the base, so you get the best of both worlds.

First Gear German Infantry
These are new production figures of the old Britains Deetail figures. They only make six poses and they have given them bases with round corners. The uniform is painted grey which makes more sense to me than the blue of the originals.

Britains Deetail German Infantry - Part 1
These are the original figures. I have placed them in the same order as the new First Gear guys for ease of comparison. As I said, I am not sure why they gave them blue uniforms, but I still like them. There is something special about these old figures with a heavy, metal base that makes them just cool to have.
Britains Deetail German Infantry - Part 2
Here are a few more poses. Note that some of these guys were manufactured in two parts, with arms that can move up and down, but can also come apart. That can sometimes be a problem and some of the guys that you can buy second-hand are sometimes missing arms. Note that a few of these guys still retain some of the stickers on the side of their helmets. A couple of rare poses are the guy with the flamethrower and the guy marching.

Britains Deetail German Infantry - A few modifications
Now, here is a more common pose. Unfortunately most of the guys I have in this pose are missing their weapon, which in the original seems to be an anti-tank rifle. So I have given these guys a variety of weapons/accessories and tried to make something good out of the situation.

Britains Deetail German Infantry - Mortar Set
Here is another nice set. The mortar can actually 'fire' mortar shells. It has a small spring inside and a little lever on the back that compresses it so that when it is released, the shell is fired. Unfortunately I do not have any of the shells that came with it, but you can improvise your own kind of shells and have some fun lobbing some shells at the opposing army.

Forces of Valor German Infantry - Part 1
These are the first series of FOV German Infantry. The paint job on the figures is very realistic and the poses depict a decent level of action. The scuplting is on the blukier side, particularly when it comes to details like hands and facial expressions. The bases are also detachable and they constantly come off.

Forces of Valor German Infantry - Part 2
This is the most recent set of FOV German Infantry. They still have the same detachable base system, but the sculpting of hands and faces has improved. This set comes with a nice MG mounted on a tripod. The plastic for the MG however is really felxible and you will need to spend some time straightening it with hot water. Hopefully it stays that way, as mine hasn't.

Forces of Valor German Infantry - Part 3
These were actually released before the previous set, but as you can see, they are not meant for battle, but rather for some specific diorama scenes. The sculpting of these guys is actually better than that of their other figures. You can tell that they were made by the same people that sculpt the guys that come with the FOV vehicles.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part I
I was pleasantly surprised by this set. My first set of Starlux figures. The poses are 60 mm in scale, but are really close enough in size to 54mm that they blend quite well with the rest of the 1/32 guys. The sculpting is nice and detailed, and the poses well balanced and proportioned. Quite surprising for the time when they were made. My only complaint is the paint job. I am not sure if this is how they were painted at the factory or if the previous owner gave them a touch up. Particularly the faces/eyes are a bit odd.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part II
Here are two more figures that I recently found. Unfortunately one of them had the rifle tip broken, but they are still quite nice and match the other guys perfectly. I like the stance of the man on the right. He really looks ready for some action.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part III
Here are a few more guys. By now I am starting to realize a manufacturing pattern used by Starlux. If you pay attention, the manufactured the bodies and arms separately and then they glued different arms to different bodies to create a large combination of figures. Conte used the same approach with his first set of Germans.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part IV
A not very common pose is the one carrying the anti tank rifle.
And we also have an officer wearing a field cap.

Elite Command German Infantry
This is a set of 4 metal figures representing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and some of his infantrymen. Compared to other metal figures, like King and Country and so on, they are not as nice. In fact, I bought them thinking that they were plastic figures as that is the focus of my collection. As far as the resemblance with Rommel, I think it requires a bit of imagination to get there. 

Armies in Plastic WWI German Infantry - Part I
Lastly, if for some reason you find that you don't have enough German Infantry options you can always throw in some late WWI guys. These already had steel helmets. The only thing that is noticeably outdated is the use of the puttees up to the knee. Most WWII German soldiers used ankle puttees during the second half of the war when leather became scarce and jackboots were no longer manufactured. But I have seen one picture of a WWII officer wearing puttees up to the knee, so that opens the door for these guys!

Armies in Plastic WWI German Infantry - Part II
As you can see, the AIP figures are not the most detailed -for instance, the faces look a little plain. The poses in some cases do not show enough movement for my taste, or the movement does not 'flow' as is the case with the grenade man on the right. Still, they are good enough if you need to add extra manpower to your unit.

Timpo Swoppets German Infantry
Here is a sample of Timpo Swoppets German Infantry figures. A bit hard to find, particualrly with helmets and weapons. As you can see, some of the poses are better than others. I personally prefer the three guys in the middle over the two on the sides which are leaning in a bit of an unusual way. 

Timpo Swoppets German Infantry Mortar
I am quite happy with the state that this set is in. All parts seem to be there, including helmets, and as you can see, it was a fairly decent set. In addition to the actual mortar and its crew, it also comes with a few extra shells and a detachable bush which can be swapped for another plant of your choice :-). A nice addition to the collection.

Speedwell German Infantry - Part I
These are not quite 54mm. They are at the most 50mm in size. They are very rare and therefore a bit pricey. At the same time, the sculpting is nothing extraordinary. The poses are a bit stiff and the level of detail is not quite there. Also n terms of the color scheme that they came painted in, it is also a bit unusual. Perhaps they could be used as Afrika Korps troopers.  

Speedwell German Infantry - Part II
Here are a few more poses. From what I've heard, I am still missing one additional pose: an officer with a moveable arm holding binoculars Note that these guys have different head gear. The man on the right seems to be wearing a paratrooper helmet. Again, the poses are a bit stiff. 

Cherilea 60mm German Infantry
These are old Cheriela DAK figures, cast in darker colors to represent regular German Infantry. As you can tell there must have been multiple iterations based on the colors represented. One thing to note is that even if they are cast in darker tones, the laced up boots and the officer's (Rommel?) shorts still give away the fact that they were originally sculpted as Afrika Korps figures. In terms of the sculpting, it is well done in terms of the posing and the level of detail. There are two more poses in the set. One wounded man crawling and another one charging forward.

DGN German Infantry - Part I
This is one of the weakest sets. The figures are under scale and the detail is not what it could be. For instance, the shape of the helmets is definitely not the distinctive German style. While they did try to add the ledge at the bottom, it did not turn out quite right. The bipod on the kneeling machine gunner is also quite large and the barrel a bit short. 

DGN German Infantry - Part II
Here you can also see how some of the figures are quite short, particualrly the grenade thrower. The mortar man also poses a bit of a challenge when it comes to getting him to stand straight and not fall over.

DGN German Infantry - Part III
These are the best poses when it comes to head gear I think. Only the sub mgs are a bit on the larger side. Other than that, these figures are fairly decent. This is another set for which I only have 11 poses.

Click here to see a post of the German company in action.
Here are some pictures of German Paratroops in action.
Here you can see German Waffen SS in action.