War has always been a great stimulus to technological advancement, and World War II saw a great many innovations ranging from medical science to the future space race. This set is a bit of an assortment of German weapons, two of which were developed following new directions in the art of war. The first, the SdKFz 2 Kleines Kettenkraftkrad, began development in 1938 and was aimed at the new science of airborne warfare, while the second, the Raketenwerfer 43 used the relatively new science of rocket-propelled ordnance. Only the third, the Granatwerfer 36, dated from well before the War, although even then the designers were well aware of the likelihood of future conflicts in a very dangerous world.
The headline piece in this collection is the SdKFz 2 Kleines Kettenkraftkrad, better known as the Kettenkrad. It was originally developed as a light artillery tractor for use by airborne forces, and while not intended to be dropped by parachute, it was small enough to fit inside a Ju 52. It was half motorbike and half tracked vehicle, and it worked very well, although by the time it entered service, in 1941, airborne operations were no longer in fashion after the high cost of the Crete operation. Nevertheless it was widely used, mainly as a supply vehicle in terrain that other vehicles could not handle. Although it handled the difficult conditions on the Eastern Front and proved very useful, its small size and limited towing ability (no more than 450kg) meant it could not carry large amounts of supplies.
The model here was made by S-Model in the traditional hard plastic, and fits together very nicely. Naturally as a small vehicle, the model itself is a bit fiddly, but the result is a great little model which looks to be well-detailed and entirely accurate. Caesar have provided three figures for it, being the driver plus two men to sit on the back, facing backwards. All of these fit the vehicle really well - it is a bit of a squeeze at the back, but then so it was in real life. The driver fits the seat and grasps the handlebars (with no assembly, thanks to a clever mould), while the other two hold rifles as they travel along. All are wearing standard German Army uniform with long boots, as would be seen for most of the War.
Our second row shows the 8.8cm Raketenwerfer 43 Gun and 'crew'. The Raketenwerfer 43 was an anti-tank gun that fired rockets rather than shells, and was issued from 1942. It was a good weapon, but by the time it went into production the American bazooka had appeared, and the Germans realised the rockets could be fired much more cheaply than with this small artillery piece, as a result of which the Panzerschreck was produced. While it had better results than the Panzerschreck, it was much more expensive to make and harder to move, so was made obsolescent by the hand-held weapon.
This model is made in the same relatively soft plastic as the figures, but the very small number of parts mean it is not too difficult to put together. The end result is quite nice, and reasonably accurate. The figure to its right is the only real crewmen. He kneels and holds a rocket in his hand, but unfortunately not one for the Raketenwerfer 43. When captured, many allied troops thought it took the same rocket as the Panzerschreck, and were photographed with these, but in fact the rockets for this were much shorter, so the rocket in this man’s hand is much too long to be correct. Also, he is the only crewman. The second man in this row is observing through binoculars, so may well be associated with the weapon but is not actually serving it, so a single figure for it seems rather mean to us.
The third row begins with a weapon that first entered service back in 1936 ' the 5cm Granatwerfer 36. This was the smallest mortar in the German Army (barring enemy captures), with a barrel just 49cm long. As weapons and mortars got bigger, so this type became obsolete later in the war and was withdrawn from front line service in 1943. Here it is modelled as one piece along with the first operator, yet thanks to some more clever moulding it looks quite good. The man is correctly handling it, and his comrade with the case of 10 rounds is positioned to the right, ready to load and fire.
Finally we have three infantry poses. They seem to be here largely to flesh out the set, but are perfectly good for all that. All carry a submachine gun, but the kneeling man has a map case, so seems to be an officer. The other two have the usual items of kit, as do the riders of the Kettenkrad, and everything is authentic for the early and middle parts of the War.
Sculpting is the usual Caesar standard, with good detail and some outstandingly natural poses, as we would expect from them. There is no flash, although a couple of the infantrymen do have an area of excess plastic around the left arm. The two kneeling men have no base, but both do stand by themselves, although quite precariously.
Although this is a set of odds and ends, everything that it delivers it does with great style and very good accuracy. This kind of merging of soft figures with hard-plastic kits is popular and makes best use of both materials. We would have liked to see a couple of generic kneeling figures to serve the Raketenwerfer 43, even at the expense of the fine but unremarkable infantry men, but otherwise this is another great set that adds another piece to the enormous Caesar WWII German range.