The rise of the SS or Schutzstaffel
(“protection battalion”) is one of the more interesting (and diabolical) stories in the whole sordid history of Nazi Germany. Originally a band of thugs and bouncers intended to protect Adolf Hitler from Communist street gangs and hecklers at Nazi rallies, it grew under Heinrich Himmler’s protection and political power to become perhaps the most-powerful force within the Third Reich. Charged with a variety of nasty tasks, including running the concentration camps, the SS established its own military wing in 1933 called the Waffen-SS. Starting out as 120 volunteers under Hitler’s former chauffeur, Josef “Sepp” Dietrich, the group eventually comprised nearly 40 divisions. The Waffen-SS had the best materiel, as well as the worst reputation for cruelty and atrocities.
Yet modeling Wehrmacht vehicles and figures without including the Waffen-SS is difficult. They often had the newest tanks and AFVs, and their distinctive uniforms and markings make them stand out from the regular Heer
(army) units. Archer Fine Transfers has captured their unique look in a series of uniform patches, shoulder boards and helmet markings (reviewed here on Armorama
) for 1/35th scale. This review is of the uniform patches.
What you get
In the simplest terms:
1 sheet of patches
1 sheet describing SS ranks
1 sheet of Wet Medium Paper
Most Waffen-SS soldiers wore collar tabs with the distinctive “runes,” along with a variety of other collar markings, including the Death’s Heads insignia. Officers wore mirrored patches with a single oak leaf, a symbol that grew out of the early paramilitary groups of the Nazi Party, but with roots in European military history.
As part of the effort to make the Waffen-SS an elite apart from the regular army, the group adopted its own peculiar rank designations. The sheet reflects that with enough patches for 20 figures, including Schütze
(variants on “private”), Sturmmann
(staff sergeant or tech sergeant); Hauptscharführer
(master sergeant or sgt. major); Obersturmführer
(colonel); and Oberfüher
, but with no equivalent in any other army).
The set also includes the prized cuff bands of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler
(“Life Guards of Adolf Hitler”), Wiking
(the non-German division with volunteers from Scandinavia and Holland among others), Deutschland, Der Führer, Germania (one of the original regiments), Totenkopf (both camp guards and a field division) and Das Reich. These bands were more than decorative; when the Leibstandarte
fought poorly near the end of the war, Sepp Dietrich made them cut off their cuff bands.
For caps, there are cap Eagles and Death’s Heads, and NCO sleeve ranks, too.
As with other Archer Fine Transfers uniform patches, these are among the best items in their catalog, both for the attention to detail and the precision of the execution. This is the kind of detailing that is simply impossible to hand paint, and the few water-slide decals out there are infuriating to apply to figures this small. I have used the Archer Wet Medium Paper on other projects, and the results are truly eye-opening: if you have never used dry transfers or have been afraid to try them, this should push you over the edge.
Whatever your opinion of the Waffen-SS, they make up a significant portion of the wartime history of the Wehrmacht. Kit & figure manufacturers have devoted a significant number of offerings to this group, and Archer’s uniform markings are a superlative way of representing them accurately.
Our thanks to Archer Fine Transfers for providing this review sample. Please mention you saw them on Armorama when ordering.