Prior to the Great War Germany had had the Seabattaillon, naval infantry or marines that performed many security tasks including police actions in the colonies, but with the loss of the Empire such units disappeared. However the German Navy had small units of land-based soldiers by 1939, charged with protecting land naval installations, and on occasions such men were called upon to assist in purely land operations, generally when they were close at hand. Since they were not primarily infantry their performance was not impressive in these roles however. Later in the war as events turned against Germany units were formed from sailors who no longer had ships to man, since sailors had already gone through basic training. However again the results were not impressive, but when at the start of 1945 there was a desperate need for manpower to defend the Reich, thousands of sailors were sent to Stettin to form the First Naval Infantry Division, and later a Second. The First operated on the northern flank of the German line from February 1945, but naturally could do nothing to turn the tide of the war.
On some occasions when such men were temporarily turned into infantry, they were uniformed much the same as the Army, but on several occasions they took the field still in their naval uniforms, which is how these figures are presented. Every man here has the standard double-breasted pea jacket with trousers either outside or tucked in to boots. Under the jacket most seem to wear a jumper, so they must be in a cool environment, but the jacket of the officer is closed to the neck. Some of the men wear the standard German helmet, which was also issued to the Kriegsmarine, and others have the Bordmutze side cap, which is a surprise for troops in action. That aside this uniform is accurately modelled here.
For kit all have standard issue items as would have been found on any infantryman. They have the mess tin, bread bag and water bottle, all supported by a waist belt. One man also has the cylindrical gas mask canister, but this would have been unusual on naval personnel, and may well contain something other than a gas mask later in the war. The front of the belt is hardly visible on any of these figures, so we cannot say what ammunition pouches they might have, but three do have a bayonet scabbard for their rifle. Finally the officer has revolver holster and map case, so reasonable kit all round.
Such naval troops were not given high priority when it came to weapons, but most of those on show here seem to be standard German weaponry of Kar 98k rifles and MP38 or MP40 submachine guns. The magazine-fed machine gun has no detail so could be either an MG38 or MG42, but the officer’s weapon is interesting. With an apparent wooden stock and a side-mounted magazine, this looks like the MP34 or MP35, which is not often depicted in the hobby but is not out of place here. Several of the men have stuffed grenades under their belts, and the man carrying the ammunition box for the machine gun also has an ammunition belt round his neck.
The quality of this set is in line with others from Mars produced at the same time. That means it is a great improvement of most previous production, and the faces in particular are nicely done here, but there is still a softness to the detail, which is not always as strong as we would like. The ammo belt on the walking man has no texture at all, and a lot of the hands are very poorly done. The general proportions are OK, but the poses are a bit too awkward in some cases, such as the first figure in the top row, who holds his submachine gun under his left armpit, which avoids extra plastic but is an unconvincing position for the man. The walking man has his right arm pressed tightly against his side, so again awkward and not convincing. However this does mean there are no large areas of unwanted plastic, but flash is quite considerable on some, and all have a very obvious line right round them where the moulds meet, so will need a lot of trimming to look their best.
While some of them have been poorly realised, the choice of poses is perfectly reasonable, and on the whole the accuracy presents no problems either. However it should be noted that our numbers for each pose are based on complete sprues, but in our copy of this set we found some figures cut off and replaced by loose figures in any of the other poses, apparently random. So exactly how many you find in your box will probably differ from the above. Although both quality of sculpting and amount of flash are improvements on earlier standards, there is still some way to go in these departments. While they did not play a large part in the war, these naval troops were certainly to be found on several battlefields, most notably in the defence of Berlin in 1945. On at least some of these occasions they wore ordinary naval uniform, so these figures are welcome as the first time such troops have been modelled in this hobby. If the need is great enough then some will have no problem incorporating these figures in their plans, and they do offer something a bit different from the usual Wehrmacht troops, but there is still a significant gap in quality between these and the best around.