by: Henk Meerdink [ ]
Because the German Panzer troops of the Wehrmacht and SS were quite separate units, the supply of both was likewise different. The Wehrmacht adopted the well known black woollen Panzer uniform, born out of practicality, early on, and the Self Propelled Artillery troops soon received a uniform of similar cut, in Reed-Green herringbone twill. These garments were very practical, and proved equally popular with SS Panzer crews, and were consequently introduced in 1944 in different camouflage versions.
Although the set is called “German Tank Crew (France 1944)” on the box, the figures depict an SS Panzer crew, in M1944 Camouflage Panzer uniforms, and cannot be used as a Wehrmacht Panzer Crew without some modification. The uniforms as depicted in this set were also only issued in Pea dot camouflage, although it requires only minimal modification to turn them into either the early M1944 Camouflage uniform, and you could even make them into the generic Black Panzer uniform.
As all five figures wear identical outfits, I will first describe/review the uniform, and review the figures afterwards.
Ostensibly a late issue of the M1944 SS Panzer uniform, the details have been finely, and accurately moulded. Starting with the trousers, they are identified as late issue by the external fob pocket on the right front, and the slanted hip pockets with single buttoned flap.
The jackets have a number of identifying features, which have been finely rendered. The cut of the front flap looks more slanted than it should be, SS jackets having a vertical cut rather than the slanted cut of the Wehrmacht Panzerjacke. All figures have a sleeve Eagle which is sculpted well, whilst still faint enough to not stand too proud. None of the jackets have collar patches, which is correct (they were not supposed to be worn on the Panzerjacke, although it was often done regardless), but all have moulded-on shoulder straps, which was another feature that was not officially allowed. The Commander has finely rendered (and oddly enough separate) shoulder straps, with two pips, identifying him as a Hauptsturmfuehrer.
All figures are wearing what looks like the Tank Battle Badge, and the Commander also wears an Iron Cross award. The four crew members all wear the standard enlisted ranks’ belt, detail of which is reasonable, but they are a little too pronounced scale-wise. The Commander wears the Wehrmacht Officers belt, which was commonly worn by SS officers during the war. Holstered side arms are provided for all figures, but wearing of those was not widespread due to the holster easily snagging on protrusions in a tank. Like the trousers, the garments have been sculpted cleanly, following the contours of the movements well.
The crew members wear the M1943 field cap, and three of them have a clearly defined eagle on the left side of the cap and a separate death’s head badge to the front, identifying these as early issue caps. The detail on the fourth cap is difficult to determine. The officers appears to wear the standard Officers Service cap, in the common fashion with the stiffener spring removed to give it a more floppy shape. All figures wear the low ankle boots, which need careful cleaning-up, to avoid damaging the detail of the laces. They are reasonably well detailed.
The figures build up well, and the combination of MiniArt's softish plastic and liquid glue, ensures a clean fit, without need for filler. As you can see in the photos, there are no gaps to fill. Some flash clean-up is required, but there are almost no seam lines to content with.
The Commander figure is standing quite rigidly, looking up into the air, with a signal gun in his right hand, pointing up. This figure is provided with a choice of two left arms, one hanging loose by his side, the other holding the edge of a cupola, allowing for this figure to be posed in the turret, or next to it. The pose of this figure is not very animated, in keeping with its likely position in a cupola, but the face is very nicely sculpted. The parts fit well, and this figure needs minimal clean-up.
The running figure has been sculpted really well, conveying a real sense of movement and urgency. This figure’s face has also been sculpted very well, although he seems to have a fair amount of lustrous hair protruding from underneath his cap. Certainly not following the regulation German hair style of the period. This figure also needs little clean-up.
Figure climbing up on glacis:
This figure has been sculpted to fit with its knee on the front of the glacis, with the right hand on the front left mudguard, and the left arm reaching for the edge of the hull roof above the driver’s visor. The trousers around the left knee have been sculpted to fit on the glacis, of either a Tiger I or Panzer IV, but with a little work the pose can be used on other surfaces. The right hand of this figure is separate from the arm, which is helpful to achieve a good fit between arm, hand and surface on which the hand will rest. This figure too seems to be in need of a visit to the Regimental barber.
Figure climbing into, or out of, a hatch:
This figure is one of the finest of the set, conveying a pose of excellent movement of a crew member in the process of moving his legs into, or out of, a horizontal hatch, leaning on his left arm, and holding the hatch with his right hand. This will fit any vehicle with a hatch that hinges up and over, such as the Pz.Kpfw. IV, the Tiger I loader's hatch, or the Puma for example.
Figure lowering into a hatch:
Unlike the other crew figures, this one is quite static, supporting himself on both arms, halfway in the hatch. This figure has a little bit more of an expression to his face, albeit a distinctly disapproving one.
MiniArt have built up quite a reputation over the last few years, with useful figure sets with innovative poses, often ignored by other manufacturers. The quality of the moulding and casting has steadily improved too, and MiniArt's figures are without doubt among the best available in plastic today. This set is no exception.
Whilst it is primarily a set depicting an SS Panzer crew from (late) 1944 onward, it is possible to modify the detail slightly to use these figures for an earlier period, or (after removing the sleeve and cap eagles) as a Wehrmacht crew. Of course the black woollen jackets had collar patches, but they can be painted on.
These figures are especially welcome, because they give a great sense of action to any model or diorama to which they are added, as opposed to the enormous amount of figures available that simply sit on, or stand by, a vehicle.