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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Introducing the German Waffen SS

The Waffen-SS was the armed branch of the National Socialist Party. A large number of its members were volunteers. Many of them were hard core believers in the party ideology; many others saw themselves engaged in a crusade against Bolshevism. In any case, that made them a highly motivated fighting force to deal with. The Waffen-SS also raised mutliple divisions with conscripts from the occupied territories, many of them ethnic Germans. The 38 SS Divisions fought alongside the regular German Army and were under control of the German Army High Command. Their legacy has been tainted because several Waffen-SS units committed crimes against POWs and civilians, and because they were part of the overall SS organization which was responsible for many of the attrocities committed by the Nazi regime. Nonetheless, as a military fighting force, they earned themselves a reputation as elite troops.
The Waffen-SS was often outfitted with cammouflage clothing. In the pictures below you can see two platoons. One of them is wearing the spring/summer cammo pattern in green and the other one is wearing the fall pattern with orange/brown tones. Towards the end of the war, the uniform code was fairly relaxed, if for no other reason that they were suffering substantial supply problems. I've tried to reflect that in the painting scheme of these figures, who are wearing different types of clothing throughout the unit. You may notice that some figures appear in both sets, while some others appear only in one of them, so if you want to see all the figures produced by a given manufacturer you will need to look at both sets and identify the unique poses.
Conte Waffen SS
Nice mix of cammo smocks and regular field grey uniform items. Notice also the helmet covers. I really like the second guy from the right. A very dynamic pose conveying lots of action.

Conte Geman Infantry
These are a few figures taken from the regular German Infantry set and made to wear cammo trousers to give me a few extra poses/weapons to complete the set.

Italeri German Elite Troops
Notice how Italeri shied away from calling them Waffen-SS. I wonder if it really makes a difference in terms of sales. Anyhow, some of their figures are wearing extra layers to keep warm which suggests that these men were fighting in the very early spring. You will see why that matters a bit further below.

TSSD German Elite Troops - Part I
Toy Soldiers of San Diego also called them elite troops. Nonetheless, they came out with a very good set. First manufacturer that I am aware of to produce mounted WW II troops. The machine gun team is also very well done.

TSSD German Elite Troops - Part II
Some more nicely sculpted poses. The guy on the left offers a bit of drama to any scene he participates in. The  man with the sniper rifle is wearing one of those tent quarters (zeltbahn) which could be joined with another 3 parts to make a tent in the form of a pyramid to get some protection from the elements.

TSSD Germans in Long Coats
Well, these guys are not really Waffen SS, but I threw them in to get a few more poses and also to further relax the uniform code in the unit. Since we are assuming they are fighting in the early spring, a coat might have come in handy.

Conte Waffen-SS - Part I
This is the first set of the fall cammouflage pattern. This one contains the commanding officer, which can actually be used to command the spring troops as well. The guy who is looking back is wearing field grey trousers in this set.

Conte Waffen-SS - Part II
This set contains two figures that were not present in the spring cammo set. Can you find them?

Conte German Infantry
As with the green set, I recruited a couple of regular army guys to complete the set, and also because your squad can always use an extra MG-42. The guy who is leaning/running as he fires is one of my favorite Conte figures, so he was easy to include.

MPC and CTS German Infantry
These two guys also came with regular infantry sets. The green set already had a prone guy with an MG-42, so we had to balance that out. The CTS sniper man is wearing cammo clothing which made him an ideal candidate for this unit.

Italeri German Elite Troops
Nice inclusion of a panzerschreck figure. This was the German equivalent of a bazooka, but with a more powerful 88mm round, which earned it its nickname 'panzer terror'.

TSSD German Elite Troops - Part I
This picture is showing the second mounted figure, including a different horse.

TSSD German Elite Troops - Part II
Showing the same figures from the spring set from a different angle.

TSSD Germans in Long Coats
Containing two new guys that were not painted for the spring set. Note also how underneath the coat you can see a bit of the cammo pattern in the guy who is running. Again, assuming they were fighting in the late fall, coats would have been appropriate.

Classic Toy Soldiers Assault Troops - Part I
CTS just released a new set of German 'Assault Troops'. Considering that most of them are wearing cammo smocks I am going to paint them as Waffen SS, to go along with the other figures depicted on this post. I like that some of the poses are a bit different from what has typically been done in the past for such weapons. For instance, the panzerschreck is held by a prone guy and the man operating the MG 42 is not actually firing it, but urging on his comrades.

Classic Toy Soldiers Assault Troops - Part II
These other poses are also nice and interesting. Note the guy with the flamethrower on the right, and the guy pulling the cord off the hand grenade. The guy surrendering is not my favorite as I prefer fighting poses, but even that is original.

TSSD German Infantry expansion set
These are some recently released German guys that complement the TSSD German 'Elite Troops'. They will paint well as SS guys in cammo gear or as regular landser wearing winter gear, as they go well the Germans with longcoats, with the nice added touch that they come with a different head gear. You can't see well in the picture, but the man on the right is holding/throwing a grenade also. The only thing to complain about is that they only released four poses.  

Here are some pictures of the Waffen SS fighting the British in Normandy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

German Paratroops in Action

Berlin, April '45. The end is near. The 9th Fallschirmjaeger division has been gradually pushed back into the city by the Soviet Army and is now engaged in urban warfare. This division was raised shortly before the end of the war and was made up primarily of surplus Luftwaffe personnel. They recieved very little training on infantry tacticts and therefore suffered disproportionately high losses. By the time the battle of Berlin is over it will have ceased to exist. In the images below we see a platoon of paratroopers defending a corner house which has miraculously avoided major damage from the months of allied bombardment and the intense weeks of Soviet artillery shelling.

This is where the paratroopers have decided to make their stand. As a corner house, it is able to control an important street intersection in the city.

The paratroopers stand ready, having fortified the house as much as it's possible under the circumstances.

A prone man with a MG-42 is keeping the advancing Soviet troops at a safe distance.

The balconies offer a good field of fire, but don't offer much protection.

A PAK-40 has been positioned inside the house and is exacting a heavy toll on the armored vehicles trying to move through the intersection.

The attic also offers prime observation and firing positions.

The back of the building, facing a courtyard is also being properly defended.

Many of the paratroopers are armed with semi-automatic weapons, which provide them with a good rate of fire, but work best when the enemy is at close range, so these men are holding their fire for the time being.

The commander, positioned in a corner window in the upper floors, signals the rest of his troops to open fire on the closing Soviet troops.

All hands rush to their battle stations.

Those men with carbines are making every shot count.

The attack is coming from both streets leading up to the intersection. Fortunately, the corner windows offer a 270 degree field of fire and the men shift their aim to wherever the need is greater.

The Soviet attackers greatly outnumber the defenders and the Soviet, sensing that the final victory is within reach, attack fiercely. Soon they are within grenade-throwing range.

From the ground floor to the attic, every paratrooper is trying to do his best. They know that this time the fight is to the end.

For the now, the grenades...

...and the automatic weapons are keeping the enemy from reaching the house.

But the enemy has the house surrounded by now. The toopers rush from window to window in a desperate struggle to keep them away from the building.

By now, the MG-42 on the ground floor has been knocked out. The second and last MG is firing non-stop.

The observer in the attic is calling for mortar fire on the courtyard within a few yards of the house. The risk of a shell landing short is well understood, but there are no other options.

The men are starting to run low on ammo, and some are firing their last rounds.

The German men also feel that the end is near and a sense of rage takes over. All they want is to take a few more of the enemy with them.

But despite their best efforts, the casualties start to mount.

The first Soviet troops have reached the house and vicious hand-to-hand combat ensues.

Some Soviet men have managed to gain access to the building through the back door and are already reaching the second floor.

A paratrooper drops a few more grenades into the courtyard from one of the upper floors.

But the Soviet men are already spreading through the rest of the house and it is now only a matter of time until the clear the entire building. The fate of these paratroopers is sealed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Introducing the German Paratroops

The German Fallschirmjäger were an elite formation in the German armed forces. They took part in several important airborne operations in the early years of the war, such as the invasion of Denmark (apparently the first time airborne troops were ever used), the invasion of Norway, the glider landings on the roof of the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael, the invasion of the Netherlands, and the invasion of Greece. Their main role was to drop ahead of the main attack to capture key objectives such as airfields or bridges. They fought with such tenacity that the allies gave them the nickname of 'green devils'. Perhaps their most dramatic airborne mission took place during the invasion of Crete which was a division-size operation combining glider landings and parachute drops. Together with a division of mountain troops, they achieved victory, but at such a high price that from that point onwards, they were only used as ground infantry in places like Monte Cassino, France, and actions in the East, including the final battle for Berlin. Ironically, it was after the 'success' of the Crete campaign, that the allies began to take more seriously airborne assaults and increased the size and role of their own units. In terms of available figures, until recently only Airfix and 21st Century had produced them. As of September of 2013, there is a new player in town, with Pegasus Hobbies having released 10 very welcome new poses.

Airfix German Paratroops - Part I
As usual, Airfix did a nice job with the sculpting and the poses. In contrast with most of their WWII sets, they actually made 14 poses for this set, which is great considering the lack of additional vendors. The size of these figures is slightly smaller than the rest of the Airfix 1/32 figures, but it's still acceptable.

Airfix German Paratroops - Part II
The set includes a good number of automatic weapons, which was a good way to give airborne units a bit more firepower. The prone guy firing the machine gun seems taken directly out of the rubble of Monte Cassino as shown in this picture. The only guy that I would have done differently is the guy wielding his rifle. He is holding it too close to his body, not like you would if you were swinging, but I can see how they had to keep his left arm this way due to the restrictions imposed by the mold making. 

21st Century Toys German Paratroops
21st Century Toys released several series of German troops around 10 and 8 years ago. Most of the figures in each set were German infantry, but each set had 1 or 2 German Paratroops and after a while I ended up with 7 different poses. As you can see, the uniform is not consistent, but since they are already pre-painted I am not going to worry about painting them over. Also, for some reason, several of them seem to be off-balance. Having said that, they still represent a good addition to the Airfix figures.
Pegasus Hobbies German Paratroops - Part I
A nice complement to the existing paras. An officer with a cap to lead them, a man with a heavy MG firing off the hip, and a very much needed panzerschreck. In terms of scale, they are a very good match with the existing Airfix figures. Perhaps the head/helmet is a bit smaller, but it's not going to be very noticeable. Once they are painted they will mix well with the others.

Pegasus Hobbies German Paratroops - Part II
In terms of sculpting, they are just the way I like them. Lots of action in these poses. All of them engaging the enemy and their bodies leaning the way they are supposed to and plenty of detail on them. In terms of new weapons, the panzerpfaust is also a welcome addition to the unit and will be put to good use in close quarter combat against Allied armor.

Action Casting German Paratroops
These are some nice and interesting figures. In particular, I like the man throwing the grenade. It is nice how he is leaning back while his lower legs lean slightly forward. The level of detail on these figures is also quite good, with quite a bit of gear on the figures accurately represented. If you pay attention you can see some of the casting imperfections, but I hope that once they are primed, painted and they get their protective coating, those will be less obvious.

Unknown German Paratroops
These are some figures which came with a building I purchased. They were already painted, although I suspect that might have been done by the previous owner. The scale and the sculpting is fairly decent. Unfortunately, there are no identifying markers in terms of who made them. So if you happen to know, please leave a comment.