An Allied invasion of Northern France was well anticipated by the Germans in 1944, but they failed to contain the invaders when they came, and there followed a long fighting withdrawal. With ever more Allied successes in both East and West most Germans realised the war was lost, yet fought hard against increasingly overwhelming odds. That army had learned many lessons from the bitter fighting on the Russian front, and presented a very different picture to the one that had invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland and the rest only a few years previously. Gone was most of the smartness, but instead there were many practical innovations, although chronic shortages of materials also played their part in the change.
By this late stage of the war much more use was being made of camouflage clothing, and several figures in this set seem to wear the smock. This baggy item is properly sculpted apart from being given a drawstring threaded horizontally whereas it seems to have always been threaded as crosses. Most of the rest wear the Zeltbahn 31, a triangular camouflaged item that could be worn as a poncho or cape, or combined with others to construct a basic tent. However the sculptor has failed to understand the basic shape of this garment and made it a very strange multi-sided thing with completely incorrect shape at both front and rear. The majority of the helmets have a camouflage cover, while some have straps across and around them for the purpose of holding twigs and other items as camouflage. In the past these were often the strap from the bread bag, but by this date this item was no longer issued so may have been improvised instead. Only one man – the kneeling sniper with the telescopic sight in the second row – has actually placed such camouflage on his helmet however. Short boots and anklets are common to all here, including the officer, who wears a double-breasted short jacket much like the tankers jacket, as do a few of the soldiers. Valiant correctly point out that this could depict some of the panzer units that fought in Normandy.
The top three rows show the poses that come as one piece or are only intended to be as shown. The four figures in the bottom row have one or both arms missing, and the full sprue contains a wide variety of arms to complete these figures, so those pictured are merely samples of what can be achieved. Some of the arms carry certain weapons while others are open-handed to take some of the other weapons on offer. As a result there is a rich diversity of poses on offer here. We thought both the fixed and interchangeable poses were pretty good, although the rather conspicuous officer will not be to the taste of some.
Thanks to the choice of limbs and weapons the weapons range is extensive, and Valiant point out that some mixing can also be done with their previous Classic German Infantry 1944/45 set to improve things further. All the usual suspects are represented here, but there are a couple of less common elements that deserve a mention. First is the MG 15 machine gun in the second row. This was a 7.92 calibre machine gun routinely fitted on many Luftwaffe planes, but long before 1944 this calibre was found to be insufficient and the guns were instead given to the infantry, who were always short of machine guns. When this was done they were normally given a bipod, although they could even be mounted on a tripod, but Valiant have given theirs a clamp which has been attached to a tree stump. We can find no evidence at all for this device. The second weapon of note is the mortar, which is the large 120mm sGrW 42. The model here is in four pieces and is a pretty good representation of it.
The look of these figures is the same as previous Valiant figures, i.e. quite stocky and really a bit oversized for true 1/72 scale. The figures are quite tall compared to many other sets of Germans, and the weapons are noticeably bigger than they should be. Leaving aside the style the sculpting is very crisp and sharp with very good detail, although where figures are in profile to the mould some detail is lost down the front and back centre. Also we found some sink holes in a few places. Flash is quite variable, from non-existent to quite noticeable, but generally is not a serious problem. As these are made from a very hard plastic they take glue very well, which is as well as there is much assembly. Still the parts fit together comfortably enough.
Not all Germans looked like these figures during the fighting in northern France, but these are all authentically dressed (given the accuracy problems we have already noted) and properly armed. They will mix well with other Valiant products but less successfully with output from other companies, but their best selling feature is surely the variety of weaponry and poses that can be achieved.