Armourfast - German Mortar Team (99006) _________(EXT)
|No. of Figures||20|
|No. of Poses||5|
|Additional Items||Grantwerfer 34, Ammunition Box, Mortar Shells, Kar98K|
During the time, Armourfast/Hat gained the reputation of treating uncommon topics in the field of 1/72 WWII Germans and thanks to these efforts, several blank fields have been filled in. Pretty rare encountered sets, specially designated to certain types of weapons not only have a particular charm, but also improve the 1/72 German Army endowment with extremely useful items.
It has to be underlined since the beginning that the figures belonging to “WWII German Mortar Team”, along with the ones found inside the sister set, “WWII German Machine Gun Team”, actually differentiate than the rest of Armourfast/HaT products featuring WWII Germans. The sculpture and level of details is far superior, making them suitable both for wargamers and diorama builders. On the other hand, the fact that only the just mentioned two sets are released strictly under Armourfast label might emphasise the dissimilarity idea. Likewise, the two sets were the first of Armourfast and installed another custom in the company, respectively bringing on stores shelves twin sisters in the same time.
Except the present kit, another dedicated to mortars received almost an identical title, "German Mortar Teams", and was released by Pegasus Hobbies in 2005. In spite of name similitude, there are huge differences between the two kits, Pegasus featuring both Granatwerfer 34 and Granatwerfer 42 (12 mm heavy mortar). In addition, within the period 2007-2008 Preiser has launched on the 1/72 market two sets focused on Granatwerfer 34 and its crew. One aims the mortar in action, operated by crew of five dressed in camouflage smocks while the other delivers the mortar split in transportation position as well as eight figs wearing M36 tunics. Furthermore, several German mortars are encountered in a number of Esci/Italeri sets, but mostly are ridiculous realized, exceptions representing the mortar from Italeri "German Elite Troops", and “DAK Infantry” definitely much more upgraded than the Esci versions.
Along the war, the German army developed various mortars, the most common being Granatwerfer 36 (50 mm - light mortar)Granatwerfer 34 (81.4 mm - medium mortar), and Granatwerfer 42 (120 mm - heavy mortar). Together with MGs, mortars were the primary support weapons for a WWII German standard infantry company. The first in the series of mortars launched during the Third Reich, the 81.4 mm Granatwerfer 34 was finalised by Rheinmetall in 1932 and entered in service in 1934. Also known as 8 cm mortar, the weapon makes the subject of this set.
The box is the standard version adopted by Armourfast/HaT for their kits, with an artwork showing a crewman next to a mortar. The title does not make any reference regarding what kind of mortar we receive, but the artwork complete the information, showing the famous Granatwerfer 34. On the back side we get the instructions for putting together the mortar as well as some guidelines for setting the crew around it.
Inside the box there are available four identical sprues, each incorporating various mortar pieces, five figures, one Kar98K, two mortar projectiles and a possible ammo box. Although manufactured in soft plastic, it is pretty facile to link the diverse components requiring assembly using super glue, particularly the gel one making a satisfactory bond on the Armourfast plastic.
The mortar, composed from three pieces, namely tube, bipod and base plate, is quite fair illustrated. Even if less detailed than its homologues from Pegasus Hobbies and Preiser, it is good to know that the here portrayed Granatwerfer 34 has almost the same size with the Pegasus one. Armourfast’s mortar did not receive a base plate detailed on both sides, missing those from the ground. Anyway, the up side, obviously much more visible, shows the representative parts such handle and breech. A major detail of a Granatwerfer 34, unfortunately unrevealed here, is the panoramic sight. Still, we get a fine bipod where we can identify some tiny parts such as the cross-levelling hand-wheel. The fastest improvement brought to the mortar by modeller is drilling the tube, an uncomplicated operation that will increase the general appearance of the weapon. In this way it will also better match with the crewman prepared to drop the new round on the tube.
The projectiles looks quite fine, but their heads, instead of being a little sharper, have got a too round shape. Furthermore, the ammo box seems opening on the top while in reality, no matter if it was the metal or wooden version, the mortar shell case had to open from one side. In this light, the box might be appraised not as for ammunition, but as one used to transport other stuff tied to mortars. Nevertheless, taking into account the extremely small dimensions of these parts, such slight alterations may be ignored, especially in wargaming. Along with two spare projectiles, the kit supplies an accurate Kar98K that can be added to one figure with the palm shaped to accommodate either this weapon or a mortar shell. While all the unarmed soldiers possess ammo pouches for Kar98K, providing it represents a good thing, though ideally might have been making available rifles for all four crewmen with such pouches.
The whole team wear the same uniform, consisting in camouflage smocks, regular trousers, gaiters and ankle boots. Due to the poses of some troopers, corroborated with the skills of the sculptor, the smocks are effortlessly identified as M42. In the scale, only the flaps of the two waist pockets can make the difference between M38 and M42 types of camouflage smocks. The detail is extremely small and most of the times, after painting, it almost disappears. The camouflage canvases covering the helmets are a nice touch and even one seems to let uncovered the boarder of a helmet, adding extra realism.
A couple of items of equipment are extremely interesting, very unusual in the scale and until now harshly encountered, only the inter-linked set, “WWII German Machine Gun Team” featuring these. When seeing for the first time the product, it is almost impossible not to immediately remark a case located in the middle of the figures, in the place where in general is set the gas mask container. Indeed, it is the gas mask, but the Late War model, packed in a cotton case. Depicting the Late War gas mask in its case is a plus point of Armourfast’s series on WWII German weapons and a greatly saluted approach because a blank space in the field was covered. The second item is even more controversial and can represent at least two things. Featured by all crewmen, the object of debate is a small, round shaped item located between the shovel and the gas mask bag. One interpretation might assess it as a spare gas mask filter, the size and shape making it quite appropriate for this. Although rarely used in the front line, gas masks continued to be produced by Germans until the end of war. Besides, several specialised units such as flame thrower teams, used to wear gas masks while operating the weapon. Bearing in mind the role performed by these figures, in a second interpretation, the item can be taken as a mortar powder increment container for Granatwerfer 34 (M34 Kartusche Vorlack Behälter). The effective range of that mortar was around 2400 meters and for increasing its range, to the mortar shells could be attached a powder filled fabric tube set around the tail fin of the shell. The powder increments were delivered in a small round container, accommodating two charges and had a screw off lid and a stepped bottom section. These characteristic features match with the container worn by the Armourfast mortar crew. The rest of equipment is the one frequently encountered in the scale and usually carried by a WWII German soldier, consisting in "Y" straps, canteens and Zeltbahns for all while only a single figure misses the entrenching tool. Several received bayonets, even one nicely props his hand on the handle and four have got Kar98K ammunition pouches.
The gaiters, an item introduced after 1943, as well as some other uniform and gear components, lead to the conclusion that we are in the presence of a team suitable for the last period of WWII. Without hesitation these soldiers can be enrolled both in Waffen SS or Wehrmacht, the distinction consisting in the specific collar boards and camouflage patterns added by the hobbyist. Another advantage provided by camouflage smocks is the opportunity of painting them in spring/summer or autumn/winter colours, bringing in this way more diversity. Likewise, a white side can be taken into consideration as a proper colour for one side of the smocks. Given the thickness of the uniform, they are more suitable for warm periods, but still may be deployed in colder seasons, including winter.
As personal fire weapon, one figure is endowed with MP40 and the other has an empty hand where it can be attached a rifle or a mortar projectile, both options available on the same sprue. The soldier with MP40 has not visible the ammo pouches designated for his weapon, differing from the rest of the figures that received correct pouches for Kar98K. On the other hand, due to its pose, the figure with MP40 may be appraised as having the appropriate ammo pouches, but hidden by his arm/s. On the left side there is registered a small excess of plastic in the contact area between weapon and body. Although consisting in an extremely small crescent, the excess of plastic might be considered as the upper part of a MP40 ammo pouch and painted in that way, granting an utilisation to an undesired thing. Regarding the fire weapons, not only the MP40 but also the Kar98K are outstanding finished and in scale, vastly differing from similar weapons encountered in various HaT sets related to WWII German Army.
The entire crew comes crouched, accurate realized and rightly fitting with the mortar for creating a terrific ensemble. Between the five figures, one holds binoculars in his hand; most likely he is an NCO, the commander of the squad or group and in a correct advance, does not distinct through other details from the rest of troopers.
At first glance, a little strange might appear the inclusion inside a set aiming mortar crew of a soldier firing off his MP40. This fact could surely happen in reality and does not taint the quality or historical accuracy of the set. Probably it was wanted to portray a soldier providing close fire coverage for its comrades while they handle the mortar. Furthermore, the approach is fully justified after studying the composition/distribution of personal weapons within WWII German mortar group provided by KStN. For instance, in the 1944 mortar group of a Panzer Grenadier armoured company, MP40 were used either by the drivers or the commander of the entire group, formed by two squads. However, the situation should not restrict only to those examples, in real war even other crewmen could make use of a MP40.
Two poses have got projectiles in their hands and if it desired, as it was stressed above, a third one can receive a projectile or a Kar 98K. Anyway, he may be left with bare hands and emplaced as if adjusting a device fixed of the mortar. One of the figures with projectiles already sculptured in hand feeds the weapon while his colleague prepares to bring closer the new round. Although the number of troopers allocated by KStN for a Granatwerfer 34 team depended on period and type of company, normally the mortar was operated by three soldiers. Taking into consideration the two soldiers holding projectiles as well as the one with empty hands, it can be said that the Armourfast kit fulfils its task in depicting the whole crew of the weapon. Additionally, there are delivered two figures that may easily be integrated in a mortar squad in the role of commander and driver/rifleman. As specialised troopers, most of the crew members operating a Granatwerfer 34 were armed with pistols. Wearing Kar98K ammo pouches is not quite a mistake, but it would have been if the sculptor had made three of these soldiers with pistol holsters.
The uniforms are nicely detailed, with natural creases and visible tiny elements such as collar boards, gaiters latchets, buckles, and tabs of the gas mask cases. The bodies are well proportioned and in spite their small appearance, great sculpture is registered at facial expressions and fingers. Another important thing is the inexistence of differences between the sizes of gear or bodies between poses. Likewise, flash is insignificant, fast to remove and excess of plastic is present only in a small amount at the figure with MP40 in the contact zone between body and weapon. At painting there are not any problems with the material used to manufacture the set, it accepts very well enamel, acrylics and artistic oils.
Targeting diorama builders and wargamers, the manufacturer did not ignore bases, attaching each figure on one device. Probably those building static models will want to remove the bases and the softness of the material clearly eases the manoeuvre. Furthermore, being crouched these troopers have a good stability, most of them not requiring supplementary things for keeping their balance.
The soldiers are a little bit smaller, but definitely they are not at 1/76. Based on the size of bodies, weapons and gear, as well comparing them with similar products of plenty other firms, it should be stressed that the Armourfast army-men can be enclosed within the category of 1/72 figs with small aspect. As a result of their size and attire, particularly camouflage smocks, these soldiers perfectly match with Caesar’s “WWII German Panzergrenadiers Set 1” and “WWII German Panzergrenadiers Set 2”, Pegasus Hobbies' "Waffen SS - Set 2" as well as with those from HaT’s “German 75mm IG 18 Gun” and of course, Armourfast's "German Machine Gun Team". All these sets so exceptional complete each other that represent a "must have" for all which want to portray a scene implying a large amount of figures. Additionally to the just mentioned sets, figures dress in the same style, but a little bit taller, are supplied by Italeri/Revell "German Elite Troops", Italeri “German PAK 40 AT Gun with servants”, Pegasus Hobbies "Waffen SS - set 1", and "Germans in Berlin 1945", Preiser "PAK40 Crew" as well as Revell "German Engineers". At the beginning it was pointed out that in the scale there are few specialised kits targeting Granatwerfer 34 and crew. Preiser mortar included in “8 cm Granatwerfer 34 in combat” excellent fits with the Armourfast figures, while the shells and ammunition boxes can be replaced by those available in the just quoted sets. Hobbyists wanting to show an entire squad will find inside the sister sets excellent companions for achieving this goal, especially because those troopers have exactly the same attire and gear, including Late War gas mask and the small round container.
In general, Armourfast products focus on German Army in WWII are more addressed to wargamers, but not the same thing can be said regarding the present set as well about "WWII German Machine Gun Team". These figures seem to be designated for diorama fans too, the level of sculpture and details being far superior to the rest of sets produced by Armourfast/Hat and wholly comparable with the most detailed mass production minis. "German Mortar Team" definitely offers an extremely useful team, not only the poses and high level of sculpture, but also its specific destination, highly recommending it. To all its qualities should be added and underlined the unicity of several items in the scale and excellent reproduced here.