Sunday, October 16, 2011
Introducing the German Mountain Troops
The German Gebirgsjäger were light infantry troops specialized in mountaineering and fighting under winter conditions. Many of them hailed from the Bavarian Alps or Austria's Tirol region. While in the mountains they moved primarily by foot and relied on mules to carry their supplies and equipment. Their coat of arms is the Edelweiss, a white flower that grows at high altitudes. Mountain troop divisions were raised both within the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS. Many fought in the northern front, in Finland and the adjacent Soviet territory, trying to capture the port of Murmansk which was an important source of lend-lease supplies for the Soviets. Others fought in the Caucasus, one unit becoming famous for raising their flag on top of Mount Elbrus, the highest point in that mountain range. They also took part in combat operations in the Balkans, some taking part in the failed attempt to capture the partisan leader Tito in Yugoslavia. Other units fought in the Italian ranges around the Gothic Line and some more on the French Vosges mountains. As the war progressed, they were increasingly used as traditional infantry, some seeing combat side by side with traditional infantry divisions on the eastern front. The book Black Edelweiss by Johann Voss provides a good narrative of the experiences that the 6th SS Mountain Division went through in the Arctic Front and the grueling 1600km march that they undertook by foot through Finland and Norway when Finland and the Soviets signed a peace treaty in september '44. Another book, Seven Days in January by Wolf Zoepf narrates in great detail what this same division went through during Operation Norwind, fighting in the Vosges, and conducting night marches through the mountains during the last major offensive that Germany launched during the war. As far as availability of figures we are pretty much constrained to just one set from Airfix, however there are several other sets such as the Airfix Afrika Korps, or some Revell Engineers who wear similar headgear and can be painted as mountain troops to complement them.
Airfix Mountain Troops - Part 1
This whole set is very diverse and has some very unique figures. Unfortunately many of them can't really be considered fighting poses, but that's still OK given their uniqueness. The guy on the left is one of my favorites, however you will need to deploy him with a few more of his kind, perhaps on a long range patrol. His feet/skis are detachable, so you will need to find a good glue to attach them or put them on every time you send him into action.
Airfix Mountain Troops - Part 2
Mountain troops compensated for their fewer number of submachine guns and semiautomatic weapons by having a slightly larger number of MG42s, as the team on the left shows.
Airfix Mountain Troops - Part 3
A few more climbing guys, a signals man -who would have to rely heavily on good weather, and two more fighting poses. Overall almost twice as many poses as in most Airfix sets. Perhaps one of the reasons why it has become a very popular set amongst collectors.
Click here to see pictures of German Combat Engineers, a possible complement to these figures.
Here are some pictures of the Airfix Africa Corps. If painted grey, they can also be used as Mountain Troops.