Perhaps the biggest shock to the German Army in WW II was their almost total lack of preparedness for the savage Winter of 1941-42 on the Russian front, which some say was the harshest of the entire war. Because Hitler was convinced Barbarossa would be over in a few months, few of the troops had proper cold weather clothing. The Nazi regime was forced to go to its civilian populace for hand-outs under a program called Winter Hilfe
(“Winter Help”) that played on the fears of families with sons, brothers and husbands serving in the army. Faced with the reality of a second Winter in Russia, the Wehrmacht developed a variety of cold weather uniforms and white camo. Most were issue items, though some were improvised in the field.
Dragon Models has released a set of four generic figures dressed for cold weather, and intended to be accurate in any Winter situation from 1943-44. In something of a departure from most figure sets, all four soldiers are posed sitting, as if taking advantage of the back of a passing tank for a ride. Part of Dragon's original (non-Generation 2) ’39-’45 Series, the set includes two riflemen outfitted with the M1942 greatcoat, and two figures dressed in the M1942 reversible tunic. One is armed with an MG-42 machine gun (but with no loader nor extra ammo), the other is equipped with an MP-40 sub-machine gun (known to the Allies as the “Schmeisser” after its inventor, Hugo Schmeisser).
The figures come in the usual one-piece Dragon box with attractive front art and a back-panel painting guide. The kit contains five sprues:
The major components of the figures
Helmets and tunic hoods
3 sprues of weapons
Dragon's recent figures should prove even to skeptics that styrene can now approach the detailing of many resin figures. While the delicacy of resin casting can’t yet be duplicated in styrene, designers are getting around the problem by “cheating” a bit: increasing the number of components used. Details like long overcoats that used to be molded in one piece are now separate components, allowing the coat wings to open in a more-realistic fashion. Similarly, the M1942 reversible tunic’s neckpiece is a separate part instead of being molded onto the figure as it would have been in years past. But the best touch I've seen to date are the separate parts for some of the hands.
The molding is good, though there is some flash and seams that will require clean-up. It's a shame Dragon hasn't been able to come up with a solution to seam lines down the front of boots and other materials with multiple folds. The array of weapons is of middling quality with none of the separate bolts, for example, one sees on Gen 2 rifle sets. But overall they look good. A fret of PE slings would have been nice.
Some problems include the choice of footwear: all four figures are shod in the Winter felt boots issued mainly to the Waffen SS instead of the M1941 laced ankle boots with covers that regular Heer
(Army) troops received. Officers are seen in these boots, but most sources show the enlisted men in the laced-up footwear (Source: Osprey Publishing's The German Army 1939-45 (4): Eastern Front 1943-45
). There is, however, some opinion that too much is made about differences in the equipment of the regular army and the SS. But if you are looking to do regular army grunts, that is, in my opinion, an oversight. Several of Dragon's recent figure releases have been taken from the Waffen SS, so if these are meant to be generic figures, I would have preferred more generic footwear. All four helmets are the M1935 variety, a missed opportunity for excellence in my opinion, since a few more blobs of styrene could have allowed an alternate helmet choice: the M1942 reversible white/Zeltbahn 31 fabric cover. Fortunately resin heads exist to rectify the latter problem.
While the greatcoats can only be field gray, the reversible tunics are just that: you can switch between the white shown in the painting guide to the Zeltbahn
31 camo pattern. Winter conditions weren’t all as horrible as on the Eastern Front, so a white uniform would be a blinking beacon in Italy during the Winter months of 1943 or 1944. The figures in the reversable tunics could be modified for Waffen SS, too, though unfortunately, the painting guide only has the tunics in white with no suggestions for other camo options. If you are unsure about painting your own camo patterns, the Shinsengumi camoflage decals are the answer (click here
Dragon’s recent run of armor-related figures has given the modeler a wide and growing range of options for vehicles and dioramas. These “tank riders” could just as easily be switched with a little modification to half-tracks or even be shown at rest beside the road or in a building doing what most soldiers do a lot of: waiting for something to happen. While the set isn't Generation 2, and Tristar already released some time ago two sets of Winter Panzergrenadiers riding on tanks, they are still a useful all-around option for peopling a vehicle.