To control the conquered peoples of Europe, and particularly to counter any signs of resistance, the Germans employed a bewildering array of different units, mostly attached to the Army, SS or Police, although the distinctions between these were sometimes very unclear. For the purposes of our hobby the good news is that most of these units were dressed and equipped much like the regular Army, with the differences being mainly in insignia and other small details that are largely irrelevant to figures at this scale, so they can be portrayed using any of the many existing sets of infantry and a suitable paint job. This set from Orion however has chosen to portray two types of security personnel that have previously been less easy to depict.
Our top two rows show men that are dressed in normal Army uniform for the period of World War II, but with the distinguishing feature of a crescent gorget on the upper chest. Several types of men wore this uniform and accessory, including the Feldgendarmerie des Heeres (Army gendarmes), SS-Feldgendarmerie (SS gendarmes), Feldgendarmerie der Luftwaffe (air force gendarmes), Zugwachabteilungen (train guards), Bahnhofswache (railway station guards), Kommandantur guard troops (military HQ guard) and Feldjägerkorps (late war military police). While any of these might find themselves in action against resistance movements, we will assume the intended subjects are the units most likely to be in actual combat with partisans – the
Feldgendarmerie of the Army and SS, and the later Feldjägerkorps. The men in these units are broadly described as military police, but their duties went far beyond policing the Army or SS, and included direct action against partisans and resistance.
Their uniform was that of the Army plus the suitable insignia which at this scale would be largely tiny. The main distinguishing feature was the gorget, which all these figures (except the officer) are wearing. Here it is nicely sculpted but without any design engraved on it, allowing whatever variety the customer may choose. Although they often operated close to the front lines, such policemen were almost never seen with the items of kit found on regular infantry, and this is true also of these figures, which only have a water bottle in addition to their normal belts. Those carrying a rifle (the usual Kar98k) have the infantry twin sets of three-pouch ammunition holders, but one of these was often replaced by a pistol holster, so we were disappointed to not see this happen here. Equally those carrying the MP38/40 submachine guns have the twin pouch sets, again lacking the common pistol holster. Apart from the torch several have attached to their belt support, and some sort of map case for the dog handler, this is the only visible kit on show.
The poses for these men are a mix of running and fighting postures, but some of them we thought were strange choices. The man with rifle to his shoulder and front foot raised is awkward and unconvincing, and the third man in the middle row is hard to explain. He has a traffic wand, which was normal equipment when directing traffic, one of their many duties, but he is not holding it. It is sort of attached to his wrist, or rather it passes straight through it (they did not have a hand strap in any case), so we failed to understand what is supposed to be going on here, but the result is very strange. The dog handler is a great idea, but the lead is quite short, and the only ways of having it meet the dog’s collar mean the man is not running in the same direction as the animal, so poorly thought through. The officer holds some sort of cane but is in a reasonable pose, as are the remainder of the poses. Given their primary function as policemen we thought a pose standing still as if on guard or on patrol would have been very useful, but it was not to be.
This brings us to the second part of this set – the bottom row. The three armed men are wearing civilian dress – suits and overcoats – so are clearly supposed to be the dreaded Gestapo (Geheime Staats Polizei). When in the field the Gestapo usually wore civilian dress like this, although uniforms might be worn if they risked being mistaken for partisans themselves. The clothing and hats are typical of the time, so these three work well. Each man has drawn his pistol, the classic Walther P38 or the Luger by the looks of it, and two are running. The first two pictured poses are very good to our eye, but we did not like the third because of the high left arm, which looks very unnatural. The surrendering figure at the end, dressed in a more informal shirt, trousers and jacket, is clearly the object of their attention, but again is in typical civilian dress.
All these figures were presumably sculpted by the same hand, but they are not all of the same quality. The level of detail on clothing is pretty good, and consistent, although the rifles are largely featureless and the submachine guns are not the best either. The lack of any form of badge, arm or cuff band can be solved with paint, but perfectionists would have preferred to see these sculpted on the figures to begin with. Some of the water bottles are poorly done, however, and the bizarre traffic wand has already been mentioned, while the dog handler seems to have the remains of a bayonet that was crudely removed from the final sculpt, leaving just the socket, but by far the biggest complaint is the proportions of some of the men. The gendarmes have a very high waist, and the running man (third in top row) is overwhelmingly legs, with a waist where his chest should be. He is an extreme, but we were not happy with the anatomy of many of the top two rows of figures. That same running man also has another problem. He is running and holding his rifle by his side, to a degree, but clearly the mould was nowhere near deep enough to make this pose work, so he is actually carrying a featureless sort of sawn-off shotgun, which is about 10mm in length when it should be over 15, so looks absurd.
There are some nice poses here (we especially liked the first two Gestapo poses), and also some really poor ones. The detail is good in places too, yet on the weapons it is dreadful. There is not too much flash, although the dog’s legs do suffer the most from this. Accuracy is generally good if sometimes a bit debateable (lack of pistols), so this is quite a mixed bag of figures in terms of quality. The bottom row in particular offer many other possible uses, as they are basically just armed civilians which could also work as partisans, criminals, police, gangsters, etc, so this set has some nice ideas and some useful figures. Unfortunately the lack of quality control on some details and many of the proportions damages it considerably. Also the lack of one or two poses of gendarmes in more typical sedate poses, as might be seen in many a street scene or area just behind the front line, is an opportunity missed to our mind. To sum up, good Gestapo but some ugly Feldgendarmes, so not a great product overall.