After the heavy losses suffered in the invasion of Crete in 1941, Germany’s paratroopers would mostly be used as elite infantry, staying very firmly on the ground. They participated in all of Germany’s major actions, including in the Ardennes and of course on the Eastern Front, both of which required winter clothing. By the later stages of the war there was a good range of winter clothing available to such troops, and also some new weapons, and we shall see both in this set from Mars.
The figures all wear or carry the standard Fallschirmjäger helmet, which naturally marks them out from the rest (although by this stage of the war some Fallschirmjäger wore the ordinary brimmed helmet). The last two figures wear the peaked field cap (Einheitsmütze) instead. Many, perhaps all, also wear the toque, the tube-shaped garment that covered the head and neck. The rest of the clothing is winter or camouflage items, mostly quilted, although one man seems to wear just the ordinary jump smock. Everything here is authentic and properly done.
The first man in our top row is firing an FG 42 assault rifle, a weapon developed specifically for the Fallschirmjäger and first mass produced in 1944, although prototypes were used in action in the previous year. This one is nicely done, with telescopic sight, folded bipod and bayonet tucked under the barrel. This figure also wears the Fallschirmjäger ammunition belt round his neck, which would hold more 20-round magazines for his weapon. He has a grenade tucked into his belt, and his kit includes the usual bread bag, mess tin, water bottle and gas mask canister, which were the same as in the army. Surprisingly, he also carries a further bayonet, which makes little sense as this weapon carried its own integral bayonet and could not have a standard army bayonet attached, but his posture is nice and dynamic.
Figure number two in the top row also has a new automatic weapon, which is the army’s StG 44 assault rifle. This time the name gives a good indication of when the weapon was first put into service, so another late-war innovation. He has the correct pouches for the magazines, and the same kit as his comrade plus an entrenching tool. Again the pose is very natural and realistic.
Figures three and four continue the run of interesting weapons, for both have the Gew 41 semi-automatic rifle. This was a step on the path to the fully automatic rifle, and served throughout the latter part of the war, but it was made in relatively modest numbers and was soon superseded by the better Gew 43, which is not included in this set. The rifles both have the 10-round magazine (which was not detachable on the Gew 41), and in fact both could be taken for the Gew 43 were it not for the different design of the muzzle. The first of these two figures has a Panzerfaust on his back, but he also has a bizarre sculpting error, which is that the butt of his rifle appears out of his elbow. About the best that can be done with this is to trim off the visible butt, after which it won’t really notice.
The first figure in the second row holds yet another interesting weapon, and in an interesting way. He has the excellent MG42 machine gun, but is firing it from the shoulder. This would not be easy, especially if any sort of accuracy was desired, and usually it would be far better to take a moment to deploy the bipod and go to ground. However this method was used, and indeed there is a well-known photograph of a Fallschirmjäger doing just this, though we would say this was probably far from a typical sight on the battlefield, and so an unconventional choice for a set with only eight poses. At least he has a magazine fitted, rather than using a belt.
Figure six presents yet another new weapon, this time the recognisable Panzerschreck. This was the German late-war man-portable anti-tank weapon, and a more expensive but reusable alternative to the single-shot Panzerfaust. Here it has been nicely sculpted, but it is evidently being fired, yet lacks a shield. While the shield was detachable, if it was missing when fired then the operator would be well advised to wear a mask, yet this man wears none, so is in for a painful lesson. In addition, he is firing it whilst standing, which was possible but again not recommended since it made it much more difficult to keep steady and so achieve any sort of accuracy. The figure can be redeemed however if he is resting it on a wall or similar object. This man carries an FG 42 , which is a cumbersome impediment when you have to carry a Panzerschreck around. Normally such men were armed just with a pistol, but this man lacks this. He also lacks a comrade to load the weapon, which is a common problem in figure sets.
The third figure in the bottom row is a radio man. He wears headphones (and probably also a throat mic), and so presumably is plugged into the rectangular block on his back, which must be the radio. Most radios were much too bulky to be what is intended here, especially when you include the battery, so this it probably meant to be a Feldfunksprecher, a short-range radiotelephone. Since there is no detail on this piece it is impossible to know, but it is the correct size, and has the operator's equipment stowed around it, which is also correct. This device could also be operated by the man carrying it, although it lacks the aerial that would make that possible here. This man is holding a pistol, which is perhaps meant to be a flare pistol, but he also carries an MP 40, which is merely seriously impeding the movement of this left arm.
The final figure is also the least controversial. He seems to be an officer, as he has binoculars and carries an MP 40 as a sidearm as well as a pistol. We are used to officer figures peering through binoculars, but this one is particularly nicely done. He probably wears the cap to help us understand that he is an officer, when the helmet would have made more sense, but this is a nice figure.
Sculpting is generally excellent, with lovely sharp detail on the quilted clothing and the weapons. Faces and hands are good too, and the proportions are perfect. The poorly-done butt of the last figure on the top row is about the only problem with the sculpting, and this is fairly easy to hide. The poses are well-animated rather than the stiff offerings some sets provide, and while there is flash it is not particularly bad.
So with great sculpting and no accuracy issues you would think this should count as a great set, and for some perhaps it does. Our only concern was with some of the choices, because this collection of figures is very far from how a typical unit of paratroopers in winter dress would appear. No one is carrying just the ordinary Kar 98K, so there is a heavy slant toward exotic weapons. Also, several two-man devices (the MG 42 and Panzerschreck) have only one man, so again not ideal choices for a set with only eight poses. As an addition to some other set of winter paratroopers with a more typical line-up of weapons this would be very good, but as such a set does not exist at the time of writing, we felt this was the one weakness in this relatively small set. Having said all that, the figures are individually very well produced and look great, so many customers will be well pleased with them.