When Finland was attacked in November 1939 the country had only a modest anti-tank capability. The entire population of the country was only about four million, so naturally the army was small and the budget for new weapons very limited. However the very forested and rugged nature of much of the country meant that enemy tanks were often forced to keep to the roads, where they were much easier to ambush and knock out with whatever weapons were available.
There are two main weapons in this set, so we will start with the larger of the two, the 37mm Bofors anti-tank gun in our second row. This weapon was developed by Bofors during the 1930s, and when the invasion began Finland had about one hundred in her armoury. It was a good weapon, capable of knocking out most tanks of the time, and was effective during the Winter War (1939-40). However like all 37mm weapons, the rapid development of tanks with heavier armour meant it soon became obsolete in that role, but it remained in use for the next few years as an infantry support weapon. The model here is greatly simplified as usual, but is true to the basic overall shape and design. Far from a precision model (there are limits to what can be done with softer plastic like this), we found the method of assembly hard to work out, and the lack of any picture or instructions from Strelets was no help at all. In the end we asked Strelets for guidance, and they provided some images from the computer design. One image in particular made it clear what should go where, so to assist others we include it here. The image suggests a level of precision which is far beyond the actual model, and we did find the assembly to be fiddly and requiring a lot of patience, but in the end the result went together without need for gluing.
The second main weapon is in our bottom row and is the Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle. As with the 37mm gun, anti-tank rifles would soon prove harmless to the new heavier tanks developed just before and during the war, but they were cheap to develop and produce, and several countries persisted with them in the 1930s. This one was developed in Finland, and was a gas-operated semi-automatic with a 10-round magazine. It was a good example of the type, and very accurate, but at the cost of being particularly heavy and with considerable recoil, so was not easy to use in the field. In any event it was only accepted for service in September 1939, and as a result in the Winter War just two were available, but many more were produced for the Continuation War (1941-44). While it could not harm the newer heavy tanks, it served throughout the war against lighter vehicles and even as a sniper’s tool. The model here is a single piece, as witnessed by the offset bipod, which is an awkward compromise, but is properly detailed and about the correct size too.
The crew figures for these weapons all appear to be wearing M36 uniform of tunic, trousers and long boots, along with the standard peaked field cap. However the detail is not clear enough to be certain, and many of the poses largely obscure their uniform so there is much wiggle room there. One man wears a helmet, which seems to have lugs at the sides, so presumably dates from the Great War, which would be perfectly authentic. Also, the prone man operating the L-39 wears some form of hooded coat. There is very little kit on show, with most of the poses having just a knife on their waist belt (a very common item). A couple have a bag held by a strap over one shoulder, one has a water bottle and two have ammunition pouches on the belt.
Apart from knives three of the men have no sidearm, two are equipped with a rifle and two more have a submachine gun. This looks to be the Finnish kp/31 or ‘Suomi’ submachine gun, but the rifle lacks detail. One man also has a pistol holster on his belt, so all the small arms here look appropriate.
The poses are mostly of men crouching and watching what is going on. The two in our bottom row are the most specific, as the first is looking through binoculars while the second is using the anti-tank rifle. Of the rest, one man clutches a shell for the Bofors and another holds something which may be extra magazines for the L-39, but hard to be sure. Otherwise not much is happening, which is fine in itself, but it means no one here is actually touching the Bofors. This is hardly an unusual problem with 20th century gun crews in this hobby, but it does present a rather odd spectacle of men grouped round the gun but no one actually using it. The last figure in the top row particularly caught our attention, and we did wonder if he was supposed to be seated on one of the trail pads, but he is not, so we did wonder just what he is supposed to be doing. So apart from him the poses are reasonable, but the set lacks anyone using the gun, so is incomplete.
Sculpting of the men and guns is good but not great. The poses are nicely done and natural, and what detail is required is pretty good. There is some flash to remove, which is more noticeable on the parts of the Bofors as these need to be cleaned a little before putting the piece together.
So this is a useful extension to the available weaponry of the Finnish army, and our only real complaint is the lack of interaction with the bigger gun. Such poses tend to be difficult however as they require outstretched arms, so are best done as multi-part, which does not work in this sort of material, so the omission is understandable. As a simple representation of these weapons and accompanying crew/infantry, this set works well.