by: Darren Baker [ ]
Dragon has released a large number of German figure sets in its recent history, but this offering was missing from the review area and it is a product worthy of a look. Panzer Crew LAH Division Russia 1943 is a five figure injection moulded plastic offering with photo etched additions. This particular product is designed to represent a tank crew of the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or LAH (or LSSAH), this particular unit was formed in 1933 and ceased to be in existence May 1945. The LAH unlike most other SS units took members from across Germany where as most SS units recruited from specific areas.
A short History
Their service during World War Two saw them take part in the opening shots of war with the invasion of Poland, the unit took heavy casualties with the Polish forces causing them 400 dead or wounded in battles that sometimes came to hand to hand fighting. During 1940 to 1941 the unit also took part in the Blitzkrieg attacks on Western Europe, specifically Holland and Greece. It was during this period that they are believed to be responsible for the atrocity at Wormhout on the 28th May 1940 when 80 British POW's were murdered.
From 1941-1942 the unit went into action in the Soviet Union with a force numbering some 11,000 troops. In June 1942 they were moved to France where they were formed into a Panzer Grenadier Division and also getting their own Tiger 1 detachment.
During 1943 the unit was returned to the Eastern front taking part in both the battle of Kharkov and Kursk. During the various phases of the Kharkov battle the LAH lost some 4,500 men but are believed to have cost the Soviets 20,000 dead or wounded and 600 tanks destroyed. During the battle of Kursk the LAH formed part of the fourth Panzerarmee, fielding 100 tanks 12 of which were Tiger I's. As the Kursk battle slowly grew into the major tank battle most know of the LAH were pulled out and sent to Italy due to the Sicily landings by the Allies. Before the end of the year they were again rushed to the Eastern Front where by the end of February 1944 during the battles around Zhitomir they were down to only 3 operational tanks and would have ceased to be if it was not for a rescue by the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions. I believe this product is based on a crew during the Kursk offensive.
During 1944 with thousands of new recruits being placed in their ranks the LAH was not the force it had once been. Now in France and trying to recover their numbers the Allies landed in Normandy and the LAH eventually went into action around Caen, However the war had already turned against them and Allied air superiority cost them dear. During their retreat they narrowly avoided being caught in the Falaise gap but were left with no tanks or heavy artillery and were withdrawn to Germany. In December 1944 they took part in what was to become known as the battle of the bulge, they however again are believed to have taken part in the murder of 83 American POW's. Years end saw the LAH a spent force with very little hardware available to them.
During the end game of 1945 the LAH were sent to Hungary and Austria where they took part in one failed offensive followed by a series of fighting retreats finishing up near Vienna. At war's end the LAH consisted of 1,600 officers and men and 16 tanks which promptly headed west to surrender to US troops and managed to avoid the fate of those captured by the Soviets.
This figure set is packaged in the typical end opening box containing a clear polythene bag which holds a single light grey sprue and small photo etched fret.
The box artwork has been provided by Ron Volstad which looks to accurately depict the stances of the included figures and provides some nice details that may otherwise be missed. The rear of the box shows the parts for each figures and painting instructions, and provides paint codes for Aqueous Hobby Colour, Mr Colour, and Model Master Colour. There are also two oblong areas on the box depicting 2 camouflage patterns which are;
Plain tree No 5 Summer pattern.
Oak leaf A Summer pattern
First a parts breakdown; each figure is made up of
A flat top head
2 legs (three of the figures have a choice of leg portions or full legs)
4 Saur M38 holster
2 early 1943 field caps
3 Panzer version field caps
4 photo etched throat mikes
4 photo etched earphone straps
4 pairs of earphones.
1 pair of binoculars
2 black and white printed maps
The injection moulded plastic portions of this release are as expected of Dragon: a very high standard with no obvious faults at all. The hand and face detail is of a good quality with some finger detail being so fine that I would have expected them to break off when ejected from the mould after the moulding process.
All five figures in the set are depicted wearing a one piece drill coverall which can be black, grey or camouflaged, detail all appears accurate with two breast pockets and two side pockets. This garment could be worn over a uniform or on its own, it is depicted on the box top as being worn over a uniform and this has been faithfully reproduced on the figures. A little scratch work could of course remove the underlying uniform detail in order depict a figure wearing just the coverall.
The shoulder boards are a weak area and will need some work to improve. An important point here is that I cannot see anything on the uniform detail that makes these SS figures unless I am missing something, so for those modellers who do not like to model anything to do with the SS I believe they can still utilise this set.
Crease detail is good and looks to flow rather than being acutely angled, it should be mentioned that there are flat areas on some of the figures to aid placement on a finished model. Details such as the buttons on the breast pockets have been replicated with varying degrees of success from crisp and clear to almost invisible. The cuffs are tight to the wrist and so no need to work that area to improve appearance. The ankles of the coveralls have draw strings and this area has been made to look very natural.
The belt buckles are an area of this product which is weak and so if accuracy has to be just so for you then an alternate depiction for this detail will need to be found, such as the photo etched uniform detail sets that are appearing. The upper portion of the boots look good and I have no issues, the soles of the boots have no detail other than an arch and again this detail can be addressed with some of the photo etched figure detailing sets that provide detail for this area.
The early field cap is good detail wise, but the brim looks a little large to me and I am unsure if this is correct or not. The Panzer version field cap also looks nice detail wise but the cloth patches will need to be added to improve appearance and accuracy. The headphones, straps, and throat mikes are a nice touch and will improve the general look of the finished product, one improvement I would suggest here is to scrap off the cable detail moulded on three of the figures and replace it with a single strand of wire from a phone cable.
I believe this is a very good five figure set of a tank crew who are at ease rather than a combat setting, and if this relaxed pose is something you need or suits your purpose then you could do far worse than purchasing this offering. I intend to use this figure set on a Jagdpanther I am building for the Panther campaign and will supply a build assessment to this review at that time.