Panzerjägers were originally specialist battalions (‘tank-hunters’) assigned to anti-tank duties, mostly using 37 mm towed guns, and later larger self-propelled guns as tanks became rapidly better armoured, but this set is not about them. Instead, this set contains general German infantry armed with an assortment of hand-held anti-tank weapons, and as we shall see, they are themed for the later part of the Second World War. As the war progressed, the development of the tank was very rapid, including improvement in its protection, and this provoked an equally rapid development of anti-tank weaponry. While larger guns like the Pak 40 were part of the answer, the dream was for a weapon that soldiers could easily carry yet would be effective against most of the tanks of the day. All armies worked on this problem and came up with their own solutions – here we find most of the solutions adopted by the Germans.
All of these weapons will be familiar to those with an interest in the subject, and they start in our top row with the Panzerfaust, one of the best of the German anti-tank weapons because it was easily portable, easy to use and was made in the millions. It has been made many times in this hobby too, so here there is just the one pose, carrying it but apparently expecting to use it soon as the sight is raised. He also has a StG 44 assault rifle slung on his back, and the pose works well as someone stalking a tank, keeping their head down while getting into a position from which the weapon might be effective. Next we have a man sitting on the ground and ready to fire the rather more sophisticated 8.8 cm Raketenpanzerbüchse 54, or Panzerschreck. Based on the American Bazooka, this weapon needed a second man to load it, which is lacking here, and with a barrel length of 22 mm (158 cm) this, like all the models of this weapon in this set, represents the first and very common version rather than the shorter later one. To combat the not inconsiderable blowback from the discharge, this weapon often had a shield added, but this was removeable and clearly one is not available in this case, so instead the operator has followed advice and wears a gasmask with filter removed to protect his face, and probably gloves too. Such men usually had a pistol as a sidearm, but this one has an MP38 or MP40 slung instead.
Those are the two most common poses in the set, which are good choices in our view, but the rest are also very useful. The rest of the top row is filled with men handling mines, specifically the Tellermine 42. The first is carrying a couple of these while the second is kneeling on the ground apparently burying one with the aid of his entrenching tool. As well as concealment in the anticipated path of a tank, these mines could be thrown at a tank, although this was difficult and achieved very mixed results. Nevertheless mines were a suitable method of damaging a tank if nothing better was to hand. The first figure in the second row has a less promising weapon. He has a concentrated charge, which is simply six stick grenade heads wired around a seventh to give a bigger bang. You needed to be within throwing distance of the tank to score a hit, and pretty lucky in where you hit it to do significant damage, but again in the absence of anything better this was done, if perhaps with some desperation. Desperation however is in more plentiful supply with the next man, who seems to be in the act of attaching a magnetic charge, the Haft-Hl3 (‘Panzerknacker’ or armour-cracker). Obviously you had to actually reach the tank for this to work, and the early models gave you a 4.5 second delay in which to reach safety, so were seen as virtually a suicide weapon and therefore not popular with the troops, even when later models gave you 7.5 seconds to evacuate. Adopted in 1942, it was withdrawn in 1944 to the relief of all when the Panzerfaust appeared. Lastly we have two more figures with a Panzerschreck. The first is holding the weapon which is slung around his neck, and the second looks to be some sort of officer, and has slung his over his shoulder. The first of these two figures is also notable for having a rack on his back holding three rounds for the weapon. The standard type of this device held five rounds, so this smaller version is likely to be an improvised piece, which did happen. Neither man looks to be facing a tank at the moment, but many sets have figures of this weapon in action, so these are useful secondary poses.
On the subject of poses, we thought all of these were very good indeed. All those that might be in action are very natural, with none of the straight backs we so often see. With their WWII range Mars have often been very innovative with their poses, positioning the figure on the sprue in an intelligent way to get a tricky position, and this is apparent here too, especially with the man laying a mine. Despite being a single piece, as they all are, this complex pose has been well done, and once again shows what can be achieved with some imaginative thinking. The two standing men not in battle are particularly useful for behind-the-lines situations, so this is a great collection.
The sculpting is good too, and can boast realistic proportions and natural gaits. The clothing makes few demands on the skill of the sculptor, but the weapons are pretty well done and easy to identify. Detail however is a little soft, particularly on the kit that they carry, but this is by no means a big problem. The man laying a mine does have a big problem though, because he is missing fully half of his head (his left half). Although this is partly obscured by his helmet, which strangely is still complete, it is a very odd fault, since a difficult pose such as this might have caused too much plastic somewhere, not too little. The other thing to say about the quality of production here is that there is a fair amount of flash in some places, so trimming is in order.
The weapons here are an array of mainly later-war types, and that dating is also reflected in the uniform on these men. All wear some form of camouflage suit, some with a smock, some with a hood – various designs, but all look authentic and would date these to after 1941. All wear the usual helmet of course, some with a cover too, and there are some long boots as well as what are likely to be later, short boots. The equipment worn includes all the usual items such as bread bag, field flask, cook pot, gas mask cannister and entrenching tool, with some men only having some of these items, though some could also be hidden underneath the suit. Where visible the ammunition pouches match the secondary weapon carried, so like the weapons there are no problems with accuracy here.
Many sets in the past have provided the odd anti-tank weapon or two, generally either the Panzerfaust or the Panzerschreck. This set offers a much wider range of such weapons all in one package, and delivers them on some very realistic poses with good sculpting and no historical errors. Anyone with a late-war German army will probably be facing tremendous attacks from the huge Allied tank forces, and will find these figures indispensable in their efforts to stem the tide of defeat in the last years of the war.