German panzer units are rightly considered one of the major combatants of the Second World War in Europe, with some of the best tanks and some of the best tactics. Those that operated and supported those tanks were proud of their achievements, and of the public acclaim that followed their victories in 1939 and 1940, yet they were not nearly as invincible as some might believe. The better tanks appeared later in the war, but even they were prone to mechanical breakdown, and to being disabled by enemy action, so when the tank could no longer move the crew had to bail out and fend for themselves. This set from Caesar seems to reflect that event, with a somewhat eclectic assortment of figures.
Every figure here is dressed in the standard short-waisted, double-breasted panzer jacket and lose trousers gathered at the ankle over boots. This was meant to be the uniform for when inside a vehicle, but was widely worn at other times as it was both smart and distinctive. The figures on the top row all wear the usual steel helmet, those in the second row wear field caps and the three in the last row wear the officer’s peaked service caps. All this is appropriate to panzer units so is accurate for these figures.
The figures in the top row more or less match the assertion of the set’s title that they are in combat. The first couple certainly look to be in battle, but the rest seem much more relaxed and not in the presence of the enemy, even though they all carry a weapon. Those weapons include a carbine, a couple of MP38 or MP40 and two machine guns that are probably the MG42. As well as the helmets, these men wear a fairly minimal set of ordinary infantry kit, along with the ammunition pouches appropriate to their weapon. Machine-pistols were attached to the inside of many tanks for use if the crew had to abandon them, but the carbine and machine guns are more of a surprise. Perhaps these are weapons picked up from the battlefield, or maybe the machine guns are to be mounted on some vehicle (crews of self-propelled guns also wore this uniform, and later others including even some panzergrenadiers, so these may be they). Even so, describing these three poses as in combat is something of a stretch.
That stretch extends even more for the second row, none of whom give any indication of combat. These men all wear field caps and are either in relaxed poses or else ones suggesting maintenance or reloading of their vehicle. The three with hands raised seem to be doing something, but all the hands are empty, so to make sense of these figures you will need to place a shell or something in their grasp. All these poses are nice, and quite realistic, but not in combat, and none of them has any equipment.
The final three figures include one man clearly using his submachine gun and two others apparently well away from any combat. Again the poses are good, even if not what you might have expected, and again they have no equipment apart from pouches for their weapon.
The sculpting is excellent, as you would expect from Caesar. The clothing all looks natural and is well detailed. Strangely the weapons are not so well done, which is why it is impossible to be sure what model of weapon each man holds, although from any distance they would look perfectly acceptable. There is no flash anywhere, and no unwanted plastic, so some of the more complex poses have benefited from the Caesar special mould to achieve a very good and lifelike pose in one piece. However there is some assembly, because the last three figures in the top row and the last in the bottom row have separate right arms. These come on a separate sprue, but the size and shape of the pegs and holes means they only really fit the intended figure, and their pouches help to confirm the match. Of course you could mix and match, but some trimming would be necessary, and the fit would not be the impressively snug and firm fit all these have. Quite why these figures were given separate right arms when some equally complex poses were done as one piece is unclear, but everything goes together really well and the resulting poses are excellent.
Although there are now a few sets of panzer troops on the market, these naturally focus on the maintenance and other behind-the-lines activities, as does our second row above. No one has done such men actually fighting before, so this set is a first, at least in part. This is always good to report, and the very good sculpting and excellent means of assembly are a pleasure too, though it would be good if Caesar could make their weaponry a bit clearer. All the poses are very natural, and authenticity is perfect, so our only particularly negative comment is that so many here do not seem to be in combat. However for those looking to expand their collections of German panzer troops this is a great addition for an unusual subject.