by: Gareth McGorman [ ]
As the First World War on the Western Front devolved into a gruelling war of attrition, the equipment and uniforms worn in battle evolved from the sharp smart looking attire worn by all sides in 1914 into something that more closely reflected the grim new nature of 20th century warfare. The introduction of the steel helmet was one of the first major changes made by all sides, alongside other innovations made throughout the course of the conflict. For the Germans in particular war time shortages caused by the British naval blockade also had an impact on the ability to keep their troops at the front fully supplied. For instance, the Pickelaube helmet worn early in the war required leather imported from Argentina and by 1915, after some attempts at production using alternate materials, it was phased out of use in favour of the Stahlhelm. Soldiers also customized their own kit, and made field improvisations to increase their own chances of survival. As an example, British and German soldiers would paint camouflage patterns on their helmets.
This fine set from ICM is a representation of heavily armed German Sturmtruppen in action during the final stages of the war. All are shown wearing the late war pattern uniforms and poised and equipped for a raid on an enemy trench.
Inside a fairly sturdy box is one sprue holding 4 figures and two additional weapons and equipment sprues. The weapons are from ICM's excellent German Infantry Weapons set which has already been reviewed on this site.
Figure #1 - Officer/NCO
Climbing into or out of a trench, perhaps even mounting or dismounting a vehicle with a Mauser C96 pistol in one hand. There are plenty of possibilities available here. The fact that this figure's sidearm is moulded directly into his hand is a minor source of frustration since there are several very fine alternate pistols included in the kit and having more than one option available in this hobby is always appreciated.
Detail here for this figure, as with all the others is superb, particularly the facial features, puttees and the leather knee and elbow pads. Some care must be taken here with the holster for this figure's sidearm. The weapons sprue does not include an empty holster, so you will need to cut away the pistol grip on that part during assembly.
A soldier running with a grenade in each hand – an activity that seems about as hazardous as running with scissors. He has a grenade satchel slung over each shoulder and a bandolier with some extra ammunition. Both are nicely sculpted.
Figure #3 - Machine Gunner
This figure is kneeling and pointing his weapon in front of him. If the position seems slightly awkward, it seems to me a reflection of the fact that the weapon he is carrying weighed around 18 kilos (40 pounds) and would have been difficult to wield effectively even under the best of circumstances. As such, it is a dynamic posture that would work well in this context. It would have been nice if there had been some detail of the hobnails on the sole of his boots since the soles of both feet are clearly visible, but unfortunately that is not the case. This is true of all the figures in this set, but only a minor quibble.
This Soldier is preparing to throw a grenade. He has one foot raised, as if placed on a parapet, and as with the officer it is appreciated that these figures were designed with the understanding that they would be placed on an uneven surface.
The painting instructions are good, but leave unmentioned the fact that there is more than one viable option for piping colour on the collars and shoulder boards. Red seems to be the most common colour, but this varied according to unit and uniforms varied according to which region the regiment had been raised in. A few reference photos have been provided with this review, and more information can be found at this link. http://www.germandaggers.com/Gallery/CT0W.php
Ideas About Weapons and Equipment
These figures are meant to represent trench raiders, and as such, there is plenty of room for improvisation and experimentation here that can be used as an opportunity for the modeler to try out some new ideas and techniques.
If you have any of ICM's other World War 1 kits in your possession then there is an excellent chance you might have a spare Lewis gun in your collection. It may be worth considering issuing your Machine Gunner with a Lewis MG instead of the MG08/15 provided in the box. German trench raiders generally preferred the Lewis Gun for its lower weight and higher mobility when compared to the MG08/15, and used them whenever they were available. A Lewis gun would also allow this figure to be used for scenarios that predate 1917 since the MG08/15 was not issued prior to that point in the war. Some restraint should always be observed when portraying figures using captured enemy equipment, but this seems to be appropriate. I have attached here a photo of a German section on the march with at least 3 Lewis gunners visible.
For the slightly more daring modeler, there is an opportunity for scratch building here with the officer and the machine gunner (at the expense of covering up all that nice detail sculpted on the torso). Towards the end of the war, many German Sturmptruppen started wearing body armour that had initially been issued to protect machine gunners and sentries from sniper fire. By cutting a few thin pieces of foil or plastic and bending them into shape around the torso, it should be easy to make a reasonable approximation of this kind of armour without too much effort.
The weapons sprues also feature picks, wire cutters and hatchets – all of which would have been carried by assault troops. Having one of more soldiers carrying these kinds of tools with them would not be a bad idea. If you have spare tools from ICM's French, British or American infantry sets then you might even consider using those.
Overall, this is an excellent set. The quality of the moulding is crisp and the subject matter is such that the modeler is left with a great deal of discretion to try something different. The poses a well suited to a trench diorama and have been sculpted with the idea that they will not be placed on a flat surface in mind. If you are planning on building a diorama featuring trench combat, particularly one involving a German attack, then these four figures are ideal for that purpose.
Also, ICM's decision to include a large range of options for additional equipment in all their Great War figure sets leaves the modeler considerable options on how they want to equip their troops, particularly for late war infantry such as these. All of the extra equipment here is usable (with the possible exceptions of the pistol carbines, the Tankgewehr M1918 and the Bergmann MP18 submachine gun). I always appreciate figure kits that allow the modeler a degree of creative freedom, and in this case ICM makes that available straight out of the box.