Fallschirmjäger German Airborne Troops 1943–1945

ESCI 1:72 Scale Figure Review

Fallschirmjäger German Paratroopers, 1943–1945, 1:72 Miniatures ESCI P-244

Fallschirmjäger wearing tropical uniform and tan aqueous camouflage smocks during the 1943 campaign. The kneeling anti-tank gunners are conversions, combining body parts of two standing and two kneeling figures from this set. The standing figure wears a typical Luftwaffe side cap taken from Airfix Luftwaffe Personnel. The 2.8 cm s.Panzerbüchse 41 heavy anti-tank rifle is from the old Airfix Afrikakorps set. The s.PzB. 41 proved inadequate against medium and heavy tanks encountered on the Eastern Front, and many of these weapons were handed down to Italian forces which kept them in inventory until the Armistice in 1943.

Most of the miniatures in this set carry equipment or uniform items which did not appear until 1943, although some figures will be suitable for earlier campaigns as well. The figures are fun to paint, and the jump smocks look very attractive when finished in plain green-grey, splinter or tan aqueous camouflage pattern.

Contents

  • 50 Figures in 15 Poses – 23.5 mm equal 5'-6.6" Height
    • Fallschirmjäger l.MG No. 1 (gunner), at ease
    • Fallschirmjäger l.MG No. 1 (gunner), resting
    • Fallschirmjäger l.MG No. 2 (loader), resting
    • Fallschirmjäger standing, contemplating grenade
    • Fallschirmjäger standing with Panzerfaust (2)
    • Fallschirmjäger kneeling, firing Panzerfaust (2)
    • Fallschirmjäger standing, throwing grenade (3)
    • Fallschirmjäger advancing with rifle (3)
    • Fallschirmjäger standing, firing sniper rifle (6)
    • Fallschirmjäger kneeling, firing sniper rifle (6)
    • Fallschirmjäger advancing with StG44 (6)
    • Fallschirmjäger running with MP40 (3)
    • Fallschirmjäger advancing with MP40 (3)
    • Fallschirmjäger advancing with MP40 (6)
    • Fallschirmjäger advancing with MP40 (6)

Evaluation

Nicely sculpted figures, wearing the baggy "Knochensack" jump smocks. The figures are anatomically correct, but many of the poses are marred by incorrect or missing equipment items.

Exceptional detail in the uniforms, weapons, and equipment, these uniforms paint up beautifully.

Nice facial features. Unfortunately, the mould line runs right through the face, and it is very difficult to remove.

Good casting quality, crisp detail, and practically no flash. However, most figures have visible mould lines which need to be removed before painting.

The legs of the two kneeling figure types can be used for conversion projects. Combined with upper bodies of the advancing StG44 gunner and one of the MP40 gunners, they make excellent mortar and anti-tank gun crew figures, one facing left and the other facing right. Most of the StG44 needs to be removed from the figure, but the muzzle protruding from the soldier's hand may be trimmed into a 2.8 cm s.PzB 41 or 3.7 cm PaK 35/36 anti-tank gun shell. The latter is the most common German anti-tank gun available in 1:72 scale plastic. The former may be taken from an old Airfix German Infantry or Afrikakorps figure set, with small wheels from an Airfix Spitfire kit glued on.

Support weapons are missing: The box includes only two light machine guns, not enough to raise a typical Fallschirmjäger platoon. One wonders, when will manufacturers learn to include the correct amount of infantry weapons in a set of figures. Military Modellers around the world, experts and beginners alike, continue to shake their heads in disbelief when they see figure sets like this one. It is not any more difficult or more expensive to do things right, but plastic figure manufacturers seem to have a knack at consistently selecting the wrong figure poses and weapons for a particular historic subject.
Not surprisingly, sales of these bungled figure sets fall far short of the manufacturers' expectations, but the problems are carried forward set after set after set. Airfix folded, Atlantic folded, ESCI folded, Revell dropped a large part of its historic figure line from the new catalog, but there is very little indication that manufacturers are interested in what their customers want. On the bright side, Italeri and HaT Industrie have been actively researching the historic figure market, and their products show consistent improvement.

Many wasted poses: To compound the lack of proper support weapons, most of the specialist types in this box are armed or posed incorrectly. German soldiers operating crew-served weapons were issued with pistols, but these specialists carry almost no gear at all, not even canteens. The lack of pistols is a grave oversight, because German paratroopers were all issued pistols with which to defend themselves until they reached an airdropped weapons container.

  • The two machine gunners cannot be anywhere near the combat zone; one is using his weapon as an armrest, with the barrel stuck into the dirt, and the other is standing at ease, in formation. Nobody else is in formation, making this solitary pose rather pointless.
  • The only No. 2 gunner in the set is resting his foot on a single ammunition box, very little ammo for an airborne operation, and he has no magazine in his MP40.
  • One of the Panzerfaust gunners has cradled the weapon in an 18th Century style march-attack pose. To make matters worse, the Panzerfaust is sculpted in perpetual motion, due to gravity, for ever slipping off the man's shoulder.
  • One of the grenadiers must be in a philosophical mood, deeply contemplating a stick grenade. This figure might be saved by placing a bottle of French wine in his hand instead. Like the No. 2, this man carries an empty MP40 in his hand, instead of slung over the shoulder. Neither of the grenadiers has extra grenade pouches, and nobody else in the set carries an egg or stick grenade on his body. Clearly, these are not the airborne assault troops one would expect.
  • The second grenadier has a sniper rifle slung across his back. That mistake is relatively easy to correct by slicing the telescope off carefully. Unfortunately, the rifle is also defying gravity. The weapon does not hang on its strap, it has actually flipped 180 degrees, barrel up, and the muzzle is pulling the strap into the air. To make sure that his rifle cannot fly off without him, this clever trooper is wearing his webbing gear over the rifle strap, a rather impractical fashion.
  • The standing and kneeling riflemen in this set are incorrectly armed with sniper rifles, but they are neither camouflaged nor posed like snipers. The standing firing figure is another wasted pose, only a fool would stand upright in a firefight. If a standing and firing figure were required in a diorama, it could easily be converted from a kneeling rifleman. The most useful figures for diorama builders and wargamers are in advancing and kneeling poses. Soldiers in combat spend most of their time observing, covering an area or advancing cautiously. The set includes four advancing poses which fulfill this role very nicely, but they are not enough to create platoons and companies.
  • The StG44 gunner is left-handed. It is well documented that elite troops train to be ambidextrous in their use of weapons, but the left-handed firing position is only really useful in streetfighting, where it allows the firer to make maximum use of right-hand cover. On patrol, soldiers covering to the right-hand side of the advance do not actually need to fire left-handed, unless the terrain provides close-range ambush positions. If fired upon or if an enemy position is detected, the unit adopts firing positions in line, facing the enemy, and everyone may fire right-handed. The trouble with the unusual pose of the StG44 gunner is that all six castings of the figure are posed this way, and that's an unusually high proportion of left-handers. The figure does come in handy as a kneeling anti-tank gunner or mortarman, suitably converted with legs from one of the kneeling parartroopers.
  • Finally, one of the firing MP40 gunners has no magazine in the weapon, and none of the MP40 gunners carry more than one pouch of spare magazines.

Officers and NCOs are not included. Section and platoon leaders would carry binoculars, torches and map cases, and they might wear the Meier-Mütze cap in the field. Considering how many poses have been needlessly wasted in this set, the ommission of NCO and officer types is unfortunate.

  • 86% of the men are without entrenching tools.
  • 42% of the men wear improvised chickenwire helmet covers, instead of the much more common cloth covers.
  • 30% of the men are without canteens.
  • 14% of the men are without ammunition pouches for their personal weapon.

Incorrect painting instructions. Trousers and helmets should be blue-grey, not blue. Bandoliers should be blue-grey, although tan or blue-grey bandoliers were worn with the tropical uniform. Pistol holsters and belts should be brown, not black.

The ESCI figures are the best and most useful plastic Fallschirmjäger in this scale, despite the many bungled poses. By comparison, Airfix Fallschirmjäger are too small even for 1:76 scale, and Revell Fallschirmjäger are inconsistent in size and sculpting style. Some of the Revell poses, the radio operator, the standing MP40 gunner, the kneeling firing and the pointing riflemen may be mixed with these ESCI troopers, but it will still be difficult to build a typical Fallschirmjäger platoon from these two figure sets. The ESCI figures are the most detailed of the bunch, and they do convert very well. With a little modelling magic, maybe the missing figure types can be built from parts available in the ESCI Fallschirmjäger and Afrikakorps sets.

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