The creation of the Volkssturm was a desperate measure taken by the German authorities in late 1944 as the war was going badly and the Allies were moving on the Third Reich from both east and west. This new militia contained all men between 16 and 60 not already called up to military service, so included all ages, but particularly the old and the very young. This was not ideal basic material for an effective military force, but when you add in very motley weaponry, little training and poor morale, the result was inevitably of very little use in the war effort. However they served in large numbers in the last months of the war, particularly on the eastern front and in the final battle for Berlin, mentioned on the box artwork.
This game piece for the Zvezda Art of Tactic system follows the usual infantry model, containing five figures in four poses. These figures are primarily meant to be placed together as a single token on a large base as shown here, but are also provided with separate bases, as pictured above. As game markers the poses are not particularly active, and indeed at least two are clearly not in action, but all the poses are fine. The first is walking with a Panzerfaust on his shoulder, and while this pose is represented as a very mature man on the box, the diminutive size of the figure suggests the sculptor had a youth in mind. The second figure is kneeling and holding what looks like a MP-28 submachine gun, while the other kneeling figure holds a Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr, a simplified and easy-to-produce weapon specifically manufactured for the Volkssturm. The last man has a rifle slung – it looks like an ordinary Kar 98K carbine – and is simply standing.
Although intended to be uniformed, this was often impossible, despite trawling the country for uniforms from any source. Most here seem to have civilian costume, but the third figure is lucky enough to have a proper uniform. Two wear civilian hats, but the other two seem to have the peaked service cap of the popular mountain troop style. What they all have is an armband on the upper left arm, which was often the only official indication of their membership of the Volkssturm. Of special interest is the last man, who has a gorget at his throat. This would be to indicate he is part of the ‘Tank Warning Service’, and an unusual aspect of the Volkssturm. That apart, while clothing and weaponry was extremely varied, all these figures are reasonably typical.
As always, the sculpting is excellent from Zvezda, and while the figures need some assembly, the parts are a tight fit so no gluing is necessary. These are beautiful and accurate figures, and while the real thing was largely a waste of human life to no real benefit to anyone, their numbers make them a significant part of the final battles of the Reich and a useful addition to the game.