Friday, October 23

Construction Review: Alpine’s new 35th scale figures of two French tankers from WWII

Who says they only make “Ze Germans?” Alpine Miniatures have releases a twin set of French Tanker figures in 35th scale this month due to compliment the two figures they released last just recently. We will soon have enough Frenchie’s for an "escadron..." Let’s see these figures built up in today’s review…
Construction Review:
Alpine Miniatures WWII French Tank Crews in 1/35th scale
In today’s review we will be looking at two single 1/35th scale figures that combine as a pair in this set from Alpine Miniatures. We will look at them both as single figures and look a little into the equipment and clothing they are donning.

Notice these four with similar aviation helmets to the figure presented here and the fact that they all have something different about them to each other whilst almost dressed the same.
Recently there has been a real flourish of new and until now ignored models in 35th scale. Not just Panzers, Panthers and Shermans but Czech and Romanian tanks and those from Italy and France have been kitted in 35th scale injection moulded (mainstream) plastic. There is always a need to populate these vehicles and Alpine has seen the need to compliment the likes of the Ft-17, Char B and most recently the Tamiya Somua S-35. But exactly how did the French tankers do in WWII?
People might think that the only tanks that the French fought in were the Shermans and others of the Free French Army in the latter years of WWII – but this is a bit of a misconception of the fighting done before the Germans dominated the European continent after 1940. However at the start of the war, France had one of the largest tank forces in the world with comparable numbers to the Soviet, British and German forces, roughly 5,800 tanks were available during the time of the German offensive of 1940. The French tank corps suffered when it came to operational strategy, tactics and organisation than technology and design, with only really the heavily armoured and gunned Char-B any real trouble for the combined German attack. 
Almost 80 percent of French tanks did not have radios, since the battle doctrine employed by the French military was more a slow-paced, deliberate conformance to planned manoeuvres rather than the German approach of combined-arms tactics (often called Blitzkrieg warfare.)
Although the French did fight very bravely it is seen as a fault of their senior leadership that the battle of France was lost (and so swiftly) but the mind-set of the tank designers and so the equipment that the tankers used was already slow and defensive minded. The tactics of the Germans and the momentum this gained in the Battle of France ultimately brought about the French Tanker’s demise until the Free French forces and their non-French supplied equipment became the norm after 1940. I would think that these tankers are either from the pre-war years – as the uniform did not change that much, the Battle of France period or from the Vichy French tank forces in the occupied sections of France during the war.

Let’s get right into it- this is the breakdown of the two singles and the set…
WWII French Tank Crew
#35196
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms / Boxart by Jamie Degenhardt

You have to hand it to this figure – if he were a person he would be a bit of a male model – dashing looking with his leather jacket over thick protective pants and scarf tied around his neck – he certainly looks pretty dashing. All he needs is a little wind!

This figure comes with two head choices. Both of these are wearing helmets and both have the scarf covering any neck joint seams so the necks slot straight into the socket. The resin stubs which join to pretty much every part of this figure’s six parts in grey resin. The stubs for both of these heads are joined at the top of their leather helmets which eliminates any neck joint miscalculations and cuts.
The two head choices are identical though the chinstraps and the helmets are slightly different as you might see when you look at them a little closer. These leather covered bump helmets were often very different in their logos on the front that displayed their regalia on them. The fact that these helmets are different in design is not a surprise as the uniforms for these tankers was loosely controlled and soldiers sometimes preferred or were simply issued with slightly different gear as it aged or became available. You can see the pattern on one of the helmets here but my picture is magnified so it does not show it as clearly as I would have liked. It’s clearer in real life.
 The torso of this model features a large thick leather jacket that the tankers used for fire protection and sometimes warmth when their tanks were not operational and in colder weather. The fact that the winter of 1940 was one of the coldest in recent record till that time makes me comfortable with the thick jacket and lovely looking scarf that is draped around the tanker’s neck.Although I am not sure what this tanker’s pants are made of they are bulged and baggy and they are clasped over the boots by taps on the bottom of the trouser legs. Again that has impressed me quite a bit. You can see the laces and stitching of the boots as well.
In fact the scarf flows right down the front of the pinched leather jacket’s front and into the belt which displays such a small detail as the stitching on the leather. Incredible in this scale and very helpful. You can see the head fits snugly into the torso and is covered by the scarf at the neck.
French Model 1873 Revolver in its bulbous holster is seen here on this figure. This revolver was also referred to as the St. Etienne Model 1873, or the Chamelot-Delvigne Model 1873 revolver. It was the first modern handgun of the French Army.  Although quickly replaced by the St. Etienne Model 1892 in front line French troops, it was largely used during the First World War and still equipped with the reserve and tanker units in 1940.
This gun fits right into the slot on the torso of this figure in a positive snug fit.
The arms on this figure are both a simple remove from the casting block. They also have a small knob on the insides of the arms which can be used to position them. I tend to cut these off but they are helpful.
On these arms you can see the wrinkled sleeves of the leather jacket really nicely sculpted and these would be a joy to paint and detail with their varied depth. The cuff and button fastener detail is easy to see as is the hand detail with sinews and fingers clear to the eye and not in need of separating from resin like many sculptors do tend to do.
One thing before we build this kit – The engineering of Alpine’s kits is always a highpoint and you don’t normally see a neck joint gap anyway. Note the large pistol holster attached to his thick leather belt that has nice stitching evident on the back. This and the pleated back of the leather jacket are very nicely done.

Here he is all built up with the first helmet choice with the heraldry on the front…

And the second… the body language of this soldier is of an inquisitive looking man peering into the distance. 





WWII French Tank Crew #2
#35197
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms / Boxart by Jamie Degenhardt

The second of these figures is a little “sugar bowl.” His hands are on his hips as he looks on to the distance - maybe looking for “Ze Germans?”
This soldier is the same format as his comrade. He is dressed similarly but the choice of two helmets is slightly different. The first being the padded metal helmet and the second being a very interesting looking all leather helmet like a flyer would wear. Take a look at the pictures of this example that was recently sold at auction that I know was used for the inspiration of this head choice - very similar isn’t it?
The second head choice is a little more like his comrade – with the unit regalia seen on the front of the helmet. Both of these figures are joined to the casting points at the neck. As long as you cut them straight and correct these heads will slip straight into the high neck of the figure in a nice open socket very snugly. I also noticed how pointy this soldier’s figures are – his nose and chin – very different to his comrade.

He is a little similarly dressed to his comrade. His brown leather tanker’s jacket is thick and the buttons, collars and the pleats on the rear are just as intricate. Though this is different to his mate in that the stitching is different and the pleat goes horizontal on the front of the figure and his upper body right around the figure. The pleats of folded leather under this seam pull and twist at the waist where they are gathered under the belt and the pistol holster. Again this belt has the circular stitching embroidered clear to see with the eye.
Obviously he is just as stylish as his mate but in his own way! His thick pants are noticeably open at the ankles and although they are here just like his comrade they are left open by straps down near his boots.

The belt and pistol case are both there in similarly impressive and again sit inside the notch on his belt and it sits firmly into his torso without any carving or trimming and this allows you to paint it separately from the body. 
Again the arms come on the same casting block. They are seen bent and his hands are resting on his waist. The creases of the jacket are just right and especially the pinching and overlapping of the arms I like. The buttons of the cuffs and the hands are very nicely detailed and these along with the jacket will come up very nicely on the finished figure.
Here he is all built up with the first helmet choice – the pilot’s helmet which I really like a lot…
And the second with the badge on the front of the padded helmet - again the body language of this soldier is of an man peering into the distance – but this time with a slight air of “impress me” with his hands on his hips... 



WWII French Tank Crew Set
(2 figures)
#35198
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms / Boxart by Jamie Degenhardt

The pictures show the figures together – both with the two different head choices in turn. Although they are similar they are not at all the same in body language and dress – enough is different to make them interesting as a pair  - even though they are both tank men and probably from the same tank. Often in tanks like the Ft-17 that was the whole crew!
If you had been reading this review you might have guessed at how much these figures impressed me. The small details that the sculptor – boss of Alpine Miniatures Mr Taesung Harmms seems to deliver always kid of taps you on the shoulder and says “this is how it is done.”
 
The engineering as well is impressive – with all parts fitting without a problem and the notches and sockets add to the precise fit and correct alignment of the figure. No air bubbles were present and only the smallest removal of resin is needed.
 I had no real interest in French Tankers – until now…

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Alpine Miniatures site for sending us their figures to make and review..
Just before I finish here are these two figures painted up - just so you see how good you can make these with a bit of skillful painting...

WWII French Tank Crew
#35196
/35th scale
The pictures show the figure with 2 different heads.
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms / Boxart by Jamie Degenhardt
 


WWII French Tank Crew #2
#35197
1/35th scale
The pictures show the figure with 2 different heads.
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms / Boxart by Jamie Degenhardt
 


WWII French
Tank Crew Set
(2 figures)
#35198
1/35th scale