by: Gareth McGorman [ ]
Among the more notorious of Hitler's desperate measure in the closing days of World War 2, was the decision to arm barely trained civilians and send them into combat. While the well known line from A Bridge Too Far about “Hitler Youth and old men on bicycles” predated the creation of the Volkssturm by at least a month, it provides an accurate description of what they were. They were a poorly trained and armed militia pressed into service in a moment of desperation, and while accounts of heroism among them do exist they were tragically outmatched by any allied force they would have encountered.
Master box’s Volkssturm kit portrays a pair of civilians receiving basic weapons training from Wehrmacht instructors. As is typical of Master box’s kits, the 5 figures included are designed to interact with each other, but can be equally (and possibly even more) effective if used separately.
While the Volkssturm in combat have already been represented adequately by both Dragon and Zvezda, what this kit offers is something much more interesting. Only two of the figures included are actually Volkssturm, and one of them could just as easily be used as a civilian. The remaining three figures are range instructors, and with a few unarmed Wehrmacht figures could very well be used in a diorama portraying Wehrmacht recruits during basic training. This offers a much more interesting possibility to me personally, and is the only kit in Styrene that I'm aware of which depicts infantry being trained on the range at any point in the war.
Figure 1 is an instructor demonstrating the loading procedure for a Kar-98 rifle. Admirably, Master box has taken it upon themselves to cast the rifle in a single piece with the bolt open and a stripper clip being loaded into the magazine. The act of reloading is represented about as frequently as the instruction of this procedure, so the fact that the rifle is here in this configuration is a detail that is greatly appreciated. If you have a figure who is reloading and decide to use this rifle for that purpose, then a standard Kar-98 from the spares box should work.
A note of significance: For the purpose of training infantry recruits all sides used .22 calibre rifles during World War 2. The bullets in the rifle are a little bit too long to be full calibre rounds and for the sake of accuracy, they can potentially be pared down slightly (but before doing so ask yourself if it's worth it and if anyone will notice). Despite the fact that they were chambered for smaller calibre ammunition, training rifles were in every other way identical to German Army service rifles.
Figure 2 is a woman aiming a Panzerfaust. She is wearing an overcoat and as far as I can tell is supposed to be somewhere in her 30s or 40s. This figure, and one of the instructors included are apparently a recreation of an actual photo taken at some point in 1945. She does not looks entirely comfortable with an anti-tank weapon in her hands, and honestly who can blame her? Casting and sculpting here, as with all other figures in this kit, is excellent. The only weak point is the detail on the butt end of the Panzerfaust isn't quite as crisp as I'd like to see. Fortunately, in this hobby (as was the case in 1945 Germany) spare Panzerfausts are not hard to come by, and anyone who's built more than a couple WW2 Dragon kits probably has at least a dozen.
Figure 3 is another range instructor. He is intended to be adjusting the posture of the lady firing the Panzerfaust, but if used separately he could also appear to be describing the size of the largest fish he ever caught.
Figure 4 is a training officer. The most notable thing about this figure is that two options for his right arm are provided. The first option is for those who want an officer who is somewhat soft around the edges and belongs squarely in the rear echelons. For this purpose his is holding a cigarette. If you want a more seasoned veteran to be training the troops the option of an empty right sleeve is provided.
Figure number 5 is a male civilian. He is intended to be watching the NCO demonstrate the loading procedure for the Kar 98 rifle. Since there is nothing about this figure that explicitly indicates that he is Volkssturm, he can just as easily be used to portray a regular civilian in just about any setting.
A few notes regarding this kit: The first thing that is immediately apparent here is that the instructors outnumber the recruits in this figure. Now I have no military experience, but as far as I'm aware, the training instructors generally tend to be far fewer in number than the recruits in most militaries. All of the instructors in this kit will work as regular Wehrmacht training officers and NCOs. There is no shortage of figures on the market portraying German infantry idly looking at things, many of which I am sure would make excellent students. This kit provides an excellent opportunity to put all those figures to good use.
Master box’s diorama in a box concept is a fantastic one, and in my opinion is most effective when the modeller has the freedom to either build as suggested, or use the figures provided to suit their own creative concepts. This kit provides plenty of room for both, and since there are almost no kits intended to represent new recruits receiving training, the three instructor figures come highly recommended for anyone who intends to cover this subject matter. The best figure kits are ones that give you interesting ideas about what is possible and this definitely delivers in that area.