After their disastrous initial response to the German invasion in 1941, when perhaps 90% of their tanks were destroyed or lost to the enemy, the Red Army gradually began to rebuild its armoured arm. It would take time, but by 1943 the excellent T-34 tank was available in significant numbers, and both training and tactics had improved considerably, meaning the Soviets were increasingly able to best their opponents as they fought to free their motherland. By concentrating on the later war years, this set depicts these men at their peak of their effectiveness, and on this occasion the set has also been given the theme of cold-weather clothing, complementing Orion’s earlier set of Summer Dress Tankmen. The winter was a favourite time for Soviet offensives as they were better able to cope with the conditions than the Germans, although of course mechanical difficulties due to the extreme cold were shared by both sides.
Keeping the tanks operational in sub-zero temperatures was one challenge, but the crew too had to be kept warm. In cold weather the standard clothing was a leather coat and trousers, sometimes with thick boots, but these were expensive and often crews were issued the quilted telogreika jackets and trousers instead. Some were fortunate enough to receive three-quarter length sheepskin coats with wide collars, and a fleece-lined winter version of the standard Soviet tanker’s padded helmet was also available. All these items are to be found in this set, providing a variety and mix of items which satisfyingly reflects the far from uniform appearance of the actual men. Three of the poses wear normal overalls, but the rest all have suitable winter clothing, and all of it has been well produced. The long coat of the middle figure in the bottom row may be a civilian item, which is also not out of place in such a collection. The coats are a good length, the overalls in the usual style - in short all the clothing here is as it should be.
Naturally tank crew are mostly invisible when they are in action, so as with other similar sets we find a variety of poses involved in maintaining and arming a tank, plus a number of men that appear to be in combat, having presumably already suffered the loss of their tank. The crewmen handling ammunition, carrying buckets and generally looking after their machines are a very nice selection, and would grace any tank park scene. All are full-figure and with bases, which is good although some look to be inside the tank itself, so these may find that they lose their legs before going into battle. The poses in the top row are the ones apparently in battle, and we really did not care for the man about to throw the grenade as he just does not look natural and is particularly flat and cumbersome. The others are OK, although we preferred the non-combatant poses overall.
Many of the figures carry sidearms, which is good, and the two men who have drawn them look to be carrying the TT M1930 pistol, the usual sidearm for such troops. However the detail is not particularly clear, and that goes for everything here. Clothing is generally OK but weapons are fairly indistinct. The faces are mostly very good, although occasionally losing detail when not directly facing the mould. Hands however are quite another story, as many of them are just blobs or simply stumps, and while the lack of finger definition could sometimes be attributed to the wearing of mittens, those with much or most of the hand missing entirely have no obvious excuse. The proportions are good, and for the most part the folds in the clothing are convincing, while happily there is only a limited amount of flash in a few areas.
Naturally the onset of winter had a greater impact on the Eastern Front than any other during the Second World War, and the increasing number of sets such as this specifically aimed at winter fighting are a welcome if belated recognition of its importance. Given the usual limitations that any set of tank crewmen faces, we thought this was a very fine effort with good accuracy and most, though not all, good poses. Some finer detail did let it down somewhat, although the missing hands may be a consequence of casting problems and may vary between copies of the set, so while not perfect this is a perfectly usable set with some very appealing figures.