Fighting men have always needed someone to give them a lead and a sense of purpose, and as bands of fighters gradually evolved into the hugely complex armies of today that need has been ever more essential, leading to sophisticated command structures with carefully defined areas of responsibility and accountability. Although the highest levels of command in the Third Reich were deliberately confused and inefficient, the German Army retained a highly professional corps of officers and administrative staff which served it well during the often very difficult war years, and few sets of German infantry are without an officer of some description. This set focuses just on those officers and their staff.
All the poses on the top row could be put to use as officers, but each has particular characteristics. All have riding-boots and breeches, and a tunic with four pleated pockets that was normal wear throughout the war. Two wear side caps, two more peaked caps and the last a helmet, all of which is perfectly reasonable. A couple have pistol holsters on their belt, but otherwise there is no kit beyond a map case for one and a brief case for another, though the fourth man has both a submachine gun and the ammunition pouches for it, so is of a more junior rank. Indeed this and the last man could simply be staff, or just ordinary infantry, so are particularly flexible in use. No one is rushing around, so clearly not in immediate contact with the enemy. With so many infantry sets providing dramatic poses of officers leading from the front these figures are refreshing, since many officers and staff seldom if ever found themselves literally leading a charge. Some are clearly handling documents or maps, and all are lifelike and welcome.
Our second row begins with a kneeling figure using a field telephone. Naturally no officer is much good if he cannot contact his often widely-spread command to relay his instructions, so communications such as this were vital, and well worth inclusion in this set. The figure comes with no base, but stands well enough. The figure next to him however is another matter. This is the first woman of the set, and although a standing figure she has no base, so has no chance of standing by herself. Why this was done we cannot guess, but it serves only to annoy. She wears standard costume of the various female auxiliary administration services, except that her skirt is hugely too short. The fashion during the 1940s was for the hem to reach just below the knee, and a skirt as short as the one on this figure, though not particularly short to our modern eye, would have been shocking at that time. Anyway, it is far from the correct uniform, so not for the first time the Caesar sculptor seems to have tried to make a figure more feminine by disregarding historical accuracy. Another problem with this figure is the hair, which is long and unrestrained. While not impossible we were very uneasy with this carefree arrangement as almost all hair seen on women of the day in uniform is carefully arranged, if simply to keep it out of the way. To us this figure looks like an air stewardess from a later period, so perhaps the fact that she cannot stand makes no difference as you couldn’t use her anyway!
The last three figures are obviously intended for the Kübelwagen, with a driver, officer with arm resting on the side, and female aide. Accuracy-wise these figures are pretty good, with the standard uniform in all cases, though it should be noted that the officer wears the peaked side cap only introduced in 1943 for most arms. The woman has once more been given a skirt completely wrong for the period, though this is at least less obvious when in the car, but again her hair is too untamed for our liking. Though the figures are quite good (the driver is better because he genuinely holds the wheel with both hands), they are rather too large for the model car provided. Even on the painted example on the box you can see that the officer’s right arm is far above the side, and you can also see that the driver has to practically lean to the horizontal to fit his seat. In fact he needs to lose part of his legs (or have the car built round him) to fit inside at all, so the net effect of these three figures is not at all agreeable, though the idea was very good.
The Kübelwagen itself is a very nice little model which was easy and pleasurable to put together, though a few of the finer details were a little fiddly. Instructions are clear and easy to follow, and it is a very good hard-plastic kit which makes perfect sense in this set, though in reality the figures should have been better designed to fit it properly, even if that meant some compromise on scale in certain areas.
The detail on these figures is of the usual Caesar standard, which is very good, and without any complex weapons to identify, that weaker aspect of some Caesar sets has been avoided. There is no assembly, so clearly a sophisticated mould has been used to produce the poses with arms in front of them, particularly the car driver. However this only applies to some of the figures, so for example the second officer in the top row has excess plastic between left arm and body - something which looks very strange and simply seems to suggest that the master was unfinished when the mould was made. Much worse is the third figure, wearing the coat, who has a huge lump of plastic between both his arms and his body, which looks horrible if viewed from any direction except that photographed above! Even if the clever Caesar mould couldn’t make this pose work, they could simply have had the left arm separate and the pose would have been fine, but as it is this is an ugly mess, and very untypical of Caesar. There is a little flash in a few areas, though this is a minor glitch and no more, but the submachine gun held by the fourth figure is very seriously bent, and moulded as such, when viewed from beneath.
There are few sets that include German officers simply standing and talking, so this is a useful collection of figures. There are far fewer that include female auxiliaries, which were numerous despite the Nazi Party’s patronising view on the role of women in society, so it is particularly galling that the sculptor has let his imagination get the better of him and produced something which is historical nonsense. Our other problem with this set is the surprising amount of ugly extra plastic on one figure in particular - it all just smacks of being rushed and put into production before it had been properly done. So a great idea, and a nice car, but sloppy work on the mould and poor research of the women - we have come to expect much better from this manufacturer.