by: Karl Flavell [ ]
Smolensk and Roslavl were two battles fought early on in the Eastern Front campaign. Both were victories for Germany and buoyed their confidence as the Soviets fell back further into Russia and the German advance gathered speed.
This release portrays three German soldiers from this time period. Although they are classed under the Eastern Front campaign for the purpose of sales their uniform would quite easily place them in any of the early war period campaigns i.e. Poland, the Low Countries, France and Greece.
Inside the box you get two Wehrmacht soldiers (one NCO and a private) and one SS machine gunner with a Zb26 which makes a nice change to an MG34. The box art done by Dmytro Zgonnik illustrates the figures beautifully. In an unusual step the front of the box also displays " Bonus" in the form of some of the flexible plastic tunics. Is this a bonus I asked myself? Read on
Opening the box everything is fairly typical of a new DML release. One grey sprue which has the figures, one sprue of personal kit, one sprue of weapons, a sprue with the Zb 26, a sprue with four folding entrenching tools and finally a dark yellow sprue of tunics and one pair of boots. Moulding on all items is sharp and there is loads left over for the spares box after building the figures which is always a bonus. Whilst the weapons are Gen 1 the LMG's have hollow muzzles which is always a nice touch. Personally I prefer these weapons as with Gen 2 the separate bolts on rifles, receivers on MP 40's never look right after assembly seeming too high. Having said that the MP40's always look a bit anorexic, these look right. All three wear the M36 tunic and high marching boots which is correct for the period. The M36 tunic is identified by the pleated pockets which are cleanly moulded. The folding entrenching tools are an unusual choice. Whilst they were issued from 1938 the war it is more typical to see the Kleines Schanzzeug in period photos which was the rigid shovel in a leather carrier. . Onto the figures.
Figure 1- This figure is an SS machine gunner, equipped with a Czechoslovakian Zb26 MG. This weapon was used extensively in the early war period by the Waffen SS. As the Wehrmacht regarded the Waffen SS as "asphalt soldiers", supply of uniform, weapons, vehicles was a major issue in the early campaigns as they did not have their own supply system in place at first so the SS had to make do with what they could get off the Wehrmacht. By 1941 however they had their own supply system in place which begs the question why isn't he wearing a camouflage smock or carrying an MG34? Either he is in a rear based unit or a member of an Einsatzgruppen. I'd feel more comfortable using him 1939-1940 rather than in Russia. In the Zb 26 they found an accurate and reliable weapon. Ironically this weapon is what the British Bren Gun was developed from. The Zb26 comes on a separate sprue and is fantastic. Moulding is very sharp and the weapon looks to be perfectly in scale. It comes with both folded and open bipods and three spare magazines. A lot better than the ones in the old Dragon weapons sets.
The figure is fairly straightforward as illustrated in the box art. He does not display the SS runes due to the somewhat bizarre laws in some countries banning all Nazi insignia but a black patch is used to denote them instead on the box. (I usually use Archers Transfers for SS collar runes) It depicts the gunner standing upright holding the muzzle of the Zb26 with the butt resting on the ground. On his chest he wears the Zb26 ammo and spares pouches which when compared to photos look to be correct with the straps etc. cleanly moulded. He carries normal belt order of bread bag, water bottle, mess tin, folding entrenching tool, bayonet and gas mask. Building him was straightforward with no problems but DML seem to be going over to hollow tops on their legs. Not really an issue but care must be taken to get them level before attaching the torso. Oddly he does not carry a pistol which was standard for machine gunners but there are plenty on the kit sprue. Moulding is sharp with minimal clean-up of moulding lines. Hands are nicely done although the facial expression is a bit nondescript. The collar is deep so the head sits in nicely. An unusual figure as by 1941 the Waffen SS had their own supply system so a strange figure for the declared period.
Figure 2- This figure depicts a Wehrmacht NCO standing cocking his MP40. On the box art his collar displays the white tresses of an NCO but it's down to the builder whether they want him as an NCO or private by painting or not painting it on. This is my favourite out of the three figures. His stance is more interesting for one. Assembly is straightforward and the right arm is moulded with a notch at the top to hold the MP40 in the right position for the left arm to come across to the weapon. The left hand is cleanly moulded so that his index finger and thumb grip the cocking lever. He carries one MP40 ammo pouch and a pistol on his front which was typical of a German senior NCO but alternatively you could give him two MP40 pouches if desired. His belt order consists of a bread bag, water bottle and folding entrenching tool. These are moulded cleanly and are in proportion. There's a bit of clean up required where his head meets his body as he's not wearing a shirt under his tunic but depending on how you position his head you won't see it. The collar is deep so the head sits in nicely. One anomaly I did pick up however is his gas mask strap. It goes to the right on front and on the back which means it never meets up so this will have to be carved off and a new strap made using your preference of material or omitting it entirely. Strange that no one picked this up before production but not a major problem. To me this figure can be used in all sorts of situations. On a captured enemy position during the "reorg" period reloading his weapon seems the most appropriate setting for him. I positioned his head downwards (rather than forwards on the box) as to be looking at dead Russians on the captured position so he's already spoken for use in a diorama. Detail is sharp throughout and in proportion. A very useful figure.
Figure 3- This figure depicts a Wehrmacht private holding his Kar 98 in a relaxed position. As with the other two figures he's dressed in an M36 tunic and high marching boots. He wears the feldmutze forage cap as opposed to a helmet but that option is there if required. Naturally the top of his head will need levelling out as it is moulded to fit the feldmutze which sits neatly in the groove. These were worn throughout the war despite being officially replaced with the einheitsfeldmutze which was the soft peaked hat introduced in 1943. I had problems with this figure. Without doing some surgery I couldn't get his rifle into the position shown on the box art. He wears standard field gear for a rifleman, two ammo pouches to his front and on his back carries a bread bag, water bottle, mess tin, folding entrenching tool and bayonet. Unlike the other two figures there is a recess which the gas mask sits in to marry up with the moulded strap.
The Bonus-On a dark yellow soft plastic sprue is the bonus. This sprue carries four M36 tunics in various positions and a pair of jackboots. Moulding is very sharp and goes as far as showing the internal adjustment straps on one tunic and breast eagles where seen. Nice but three of them are lying flat on something while the fourth is hanging up. To be honest I'm not sure how or where I can use these. The hanging tunic? No problem as that can be hung off the side of a vehicle or inside a building but the others? I'm not sure how pliable these are but they're too wide to lay on a vehicle seat.I don't know what to do with them really with them being flat and wide. To call them a "bonus" is a bit of a cheek really. They're just in lieu of another figure and to be honest I'd have preferred another figure.
A bugbear of mine appeared with this kit. Dragonís inability to decide on the size of stick grenades. There are three on the figure sprue which lack the flared lip at the base of the charge so they're wrong and can't be used. There are three on the equipment sprue with it so that's better. However, when you compare both of them to a stick grenade from an older set they look like kids toys (see photo for comparison. Larger grenade taken from the Sturmpionier 6126 set). The older grenades have sharper detail and look right. Both Wehrmacht figures should have grenades as per the instructions. Two in the belt of the NCO and one in the boot of the private. I left them out in the build as I intend to replace them with older ones. I just wish Dragon would stick to one size!
My overall impression of this set is rather lukewarm. Yes, they're nicely moulded, lots for the spares box but they're... well, pretty boring really. This isn't a set that screams out "BUY ME". I usually look at figures with a diorama in mind. Some figure sets are that interesting they inspire me to build a diorama around them just so that I can use them. These sadly are background men. All three are fairly typical of Dragon's releases these days, uninspiring. It gives the impression that the Germans lost the war because they just stood around aimlessly and didn't actually do any fighting. This set would appear to be an afterthought with the "bonus" thrown in as they couldn't think of a fourth figure standing around. Rightly or wrongly that's how it looks to me.