After being bullied into conceding territory to the Soviet Union in 1940 following the Winter War, Finland looked for allies who could give significant support in its attempt to recover what had been stolen, and found one in Nazi Germany. Never a comfortable alliance, it nonetheless meant that in 1941 the Finns could recommence hostilities with the USSR and regain the lost territory, though they refused to go much beyond their borders, to the great frustration of the Germans. The following years (the ‘Continuation War’) were relatively quiet as the Finns held on to their gains and the Soviets concentrated on the far bigger threat – the German invasion. While events elsewhere meant this was often a fairly quiet front between 1942 and 1944, the Finnish Army continued to show remarkable tenacity and professionalism, and their reward was to be the retention of their territory and their independence when a treaty was agreed in late 1944.
The harsh winter weather at this northerly latitude had always been a major factor in military actions, and naturally the Finns were expert at operating in such conditions. While it was not always winter, the popular image of the Finnish infantryman generally places him in such a harsh environment, so this set of soldiers clothed for winter seems a natural choice. Many of the poses are no different to any other infantry set of the era, with men moving or firing their weapons, and on the whole they are well done here. The crawling man about to throw a grenade was not one we liked, mainly because the very straight arm does not at all convince as actually throwing the grenade. The two poses wearing skis are of course much further from the norm, but in essence they are just both firing weapons and so perfectly normal. However the skis do make these more interesting, and we liked both poses. The last figure in the second row is just standing and not apparently doing anything. While such a pose is perfectly valid, in a set with only eight it is a luxury figure that the set cannot afford, and we would have preferred another battle figure instead. This figure may possibly be based on a famous photograph of Simo Häyhä, who was a sniper credited with more kills than anyone else. This gentleman was badly wounded in 1940 and took no part in any fighting during the years for this set, so it cannot actually be him, but this may have been the inspiration, and would perhaps also explain only having one of this pose.
As a winter dress set all these men are of course well wrapped up for cold temperatures. Warm clothing and snow camouflage varied a great deal amongst the Finns – some of it was even supplied by the men themselves as there were shortages of many items. The figures here have a very pleasing variety of items including two-piece suits, greatcoats and perhaps hooded anoraks. Headgear is equally diverse, with some peaked caps, some fur caps and some helmets, the latter coming in both German-style and the native m/40 Finnish pattern. However everyone seems to wear the common Laplander boots, which have the characteristic squared toe, although all lack the turn-up above the toes. Apart from that missing aspect of the boots, all the costume looks perfectly authentic and quite typical.
Much kit might be hidden underneath winter clothing, but some is on show here, and we can see breadbags, mess tins, water flasks and bayonet scabbards. Most of the men have a rucksack on their backs, sometimes covered to camouflage it. Weapons were always a problem for the Finns, particularly when they had to find so many once the Soviet Union invaded, but by 1942 German supplies had eased the problem to a degree. Three of these poses carry a rifle, and although they are not easy to see, we think two are likely to be the common Mosin-Nagant model while the third (first figure, second row) looks like the semi-automatic SVT-38 or SVT-40, a capture from the Soviets. Two others are using submachine guns, and here we thought one was the kp/31, better known as the Suomi, while the other is harder to pin down but may be a captured PPSh-41 with a box magazine. The kneeling man on skis seems to hold a light machine gun, and again our tentative identification would be the LS-26, but hard to be sure. However there are no such problems identifying the last major weapon, the Panzerschreck anti-tank gun supplied in large numbers by the Germans, but only during the spring of 1944, so only valid for the very end of the stated period and early 1945. Assuming our identifications are correct, all the weaponry here is appropriate.
Recent figure sets from Mars have all been of this sort of quality, which is much better than earlier output, but with some lack of detail and what detail is present is very shallow and hard to make out, let alone paint. While the clothing here does not require good detail, the weapons and kit do suffer from often poor definition, and the faces and hands are also quite basic (to be fair, some of the hands could potentially be wearing gloves anyway). The skis for the two poses are separate, really thick, and also rather long, being about 30mm (216cm) in length. Today the length of a ski is supposed to be a little less than the skier’s height, but of course Finnish soldiers in 1942 did not have prepared piste, and had to carry a heavy pack and weapon, so we understand that this longer length is reasonable, although to be honest it doesn’t really notice to the casual observer anyway. The skis fit onto pegs under the men’s boots, but we found there needed to be a fair bit of enlarging the hole or trimming the peg before they would fit together. At least that means once a fit is achieved, it is quite firm. Also the poles held by the first skier are thick, and indeed there only seems to be one of them, so again a fairly unsophisticated sculpt. Finally as can perhaps be seen above there is a more than generous amount of flash in many places, almost everywhere actually, which will be quite a pain to remove.
It looks like this set has been well-researched, so both clothing and weaponry seems fine, given the limitations of the detail on show. The skiers are nice poses, and the rest are more of a mixed bag, though still useable. In our view the standing figure is of marginal value, even though there is only one in each set for some reason (which we have already speculated on), and we would instead have chosen a loader pose for the Panzerschreck, which is an obvious omission. The proportions are quite good, but the detail is poor, though the general look has more quality than older Mars output. The abundance of flash however is a serious annoyance, so while this set has some very laudable qualities, it also has some frustrating aspects which detract from the whole.