Thursday, December 6

Construction Review: Alpine Miniatures 35th "WSS MG Team at Kharkov" set & single figures...

To match their previous sets of Karkov SS soldiers Alpine Miniatures has released a new set of two soldiers from what could be the same group. SS Machine gunner and his ammo carrier dressed in the "Kharkov Parka" are the subjects of our build review today. See if they are up to the high standard we have for Alpine's works in our review...


Construction Review: Three sets from Alpine miniatures (2 X singles & 1 pair set)

WSS MG Gunner Kharkov
Product No# 3556
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Calvin Tan
Figure comes with two head choices

WSS Ammo Carrier Kharkov
Product No# 35237
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Calvin Tan
Figure comes with two head choices

WSS MG Team at Kharkov Set (2 figures)
Product No# 35237
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Calvin Tan
These figures both come with two head choices each.


These sets are available from the Alpine Miniatures Website.

On seeing this latest release from Alpine Miniatures we noticed that it is not the first time that the Battle of Kharkov in 1943 had been covered before. Twice, in tow former releases we looked at here on the news we have built up figures that could accompany this set. Both the WSS Grenadiers at Kharkov Set (35237) and also the Joachim Peiper Kharkov Set (35201) can easily fit into the same diorama as these two new figure releases.
The Battle of Kharkov was any one of four World War II battles in and near the city of Kharkov. In usage the term is sometimes indistinct, perhaps meaning the collection of all fighting at Kharkov including and in between the four named battles, or perhaps meaning just one of the battles without specifying which. For example, soldiers have received awards "for their action in the Battle of Kharkov".

The four battles of Kharkov summarised:

-1st Battle of Kharkov, an October 1941 battle in which German troops captured the city
-2nd Battle of Kharkov, a May 1942 battle in which Soviet forces attempted to retake the city
-3rd Battle of Kharkov, a February 1943 battle in which Soviet forces were driven out again, and the Germans forces retook the city.
-4th Battle of Kharkov, an August 1943 battle in which Soviet forces retook the city. This operation is usually referred to as the Fourth Battle of Kharkov by the Germans and as the Belgorod–Kharkov offensive operation by the Soviets.


This summary and timeline put our guys - in winter (The battle was in February '43) AFTER 1942 when these Parkas were introduced as subjects from the Third Battle of Kharkov in 1943.
Why though, is this period of time in 1943 and the Battle of Kharkov so interesting to figure makers and modellers? We think because of the ferocious nature of the fighting and the large, thick new uniforms the SS men wore that gave them a distinctive look. During this period, the soldiers of the German army received more of the better quality winter clothing they needed. More specifically the fur-lined parka that is synonymous with the battle, called the "Kharkov Parka" by many people.
M42 fur-lined pullover parka is often called the “Kharkov Parka” by the troops and was manufactured from 1940-1943 and issued until the end of the war. It became synonymous with that battle as many soldiers were lucky enough to be able to be issued one in time for that winter. the parka was very commonly worn by the soldier of the Elite units due to the very high cost of material and time, the parka was never enough to go around in history, and various types of the fur lining were used on this garment.

A repro parka on the bottom left, and an MG ammo carrier in one on the bottom right.
The shell of our parka is made of heavy zeltbahn style cotton poplin in the typical field-grey shade and lined with genuine sheepskin. The sleeves were padded with woollen material and the hood lined with the sheepskin as well.
Several pictures of elite soldiers from that time that could be used in the making of these figures– here are some and some others I have found which could help the modeller with their own kit…


The two new figures and set from Alpine Miniatures:
The two figures we are looking at in this review feature this Kharkov park heavily. Both are sold as single figures, and as a set that are suitable to be placed in the same diorama. both are sculpted by Taesung Harmms, the owner of Alpine Miniatures. Both also come with an alternate headgear choice (with the same face) and lastly, both of these are painted up on the boxart by Calvin Tan. 


These figures come each inside their own zip-loc bag that holds the parts, cast in light grey resin, safely. The box is a plastic and lime container that is small in size, it takes only the space needed to fit the two figures and small paper box art inside them. Inside the box you will either find a single figure or two figures depending on the option you went for (single or set) and the paper printed box art of the kit. 
The resin casts:
Cast in a very light grey that is always difficult to photograph (sorry) the resin inside is far from a problem. Although there is a little "flash" of extra material that will need to be cleaned up, as well as some removal from casting blocks, the figures are very well cast, with all the detail well formed where it needs to be, and no holes or other defects. Kudos to the sculptor who has included a LOT of detail into these two figures and some smart engineering choices that greatly help construction which we will see when we look at each of the figures in detail and in construction.
First, let's look at both of the figures in isolation, their parts, the fit of both figures to see them with both head choices, and lastly together so we can see if these two suits being posed in the same diorama or scene as a pair. Let's begin.

WSS MG Gunner Kharkov
Product No# 3556
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Calvin Tan
Figure comes with two head choices

Packed in its own zip-loc bag, this figure came from the box in seven parts of light grey resin. Again here sculpted by Taesung Harmms, and again with two headgear choices while both figures have that same face. This face is a little more angular than his comrade, with thinner features and a higher cheekbone. Again the two headgear choices are a flat forage cap with the "Death's Head" skull and crossbones and the German eagle and swastika above that. There are some examples of Kharkov SS men with the same cap on below sculpt pictures.
The second choice with this soldier again is the M40/42 steel helmet. This is seen exactly like his comrade's helmet, and below this picture, you can see a gunner and his mate in Kharkov wearing these helmets, the parkas and even the gunner's MG toolkit.


The largest part of the figure is, of course, the torso. he is wearing his "Kharkov Parka over thick, padded, probably double sided pants, over the parka his "y" shaped equipment webbing both pull at the jacket, with the creases shown in the sculpt in detail. The thick jacket also folds in large creases around the legs and the sides as it follows the body's contours. The high, leather and felt lined boots have the pant legs tucked into them also. These boots were originally introduced after the first devastating winter in Russian as the standard leather marching boots didn’t provide the warmth required in the extreme cold. The felt and leather boots came in two styles with a lighter weight style which offered warmth and enabled the wearer to retain a degree of mobility
In the pictures of the torso below, you can see more of how the parka folds and creases over the body and how the equipment acts upon it. The loose hanging bread bag on the rear hip of the soldier is seen here attached to his rear left on the belt. Notice that on his front right hip attached to his belt we see the MG 42 toolkit, also on his waist. The MG 34/42 was manned by a tow or three-person crew with one individual being designated the "#1 gunner". The gunner was equipped with a specific gunner’s belt pouch which carried special tools and accessories for the weapon. Here you can see this pouch under the right arm.
The left arm of the soldier is seen here - it comes separately and a simple joining of it tot he torso that takes just a few minutes. the fingers of the man pop out the bottom, you can see he is wearing the thick ribbed woollen gloves these soldiers were issued with.
 Illustrated below is the torso and arm lined up ready to be fitted together. See also in this picture the pinched jacket around the waist under the belt he wears.
The gunner carries an MG 42 on his shoulder, and this one is a new casting, I can see this because of the strap which hangs over the shoulder in front of the soldier. I have included pictures of an original MG 42 for you below to see just how finely replicated the sculptor has made in resin here.
Notice on the right-hand side of the gun the open side to enable easy removal of the blisteringly hot barrel and exchange it for another that often the loader/ ammo carrier carried. More on this later...
On small casting blocks here that need some slightly careful work for removal are the other parts of the soldier that need to be added. The and that is on the lower left holds the bi-pod legs of the MG 42 - again you can see the thick, ribbed woollen gloves of the soldier, the centre is the soldier's flask and cup, while on the below right the Walther pistol case that carried his short range self-defence weapon which was issued to all machine gunners for close combat defence.

Putting him together:
With these figures, you will note something just like we did. The use of sockets and joints. Starting from the head, where the removal of the casting stub gives you two necks that fit neatly into the torso's collar. The SS tabs cover any seam in the neck joint quite neatly.
The hand that holds the machine gun bi-pod legs is next. The socket and joint are, here again, allowing the hand to go right into the correct place so no error of fit catches you at the end, and the hand fits in there securely also.
 Two views of the machine gun placed correctly on the shoulder here now. Note two things, the strap of the gun hanging down in front of the shoulder and something you cannot see is the small pin-point and lug that is on the gun making sure the gun is correctly placed.
 From the front - note the collar tabs denoting his soldier as an SS Sturmmann (with the SS tab on the other collar.
 This picture below really does capture the similar pose, holding the MG 43 on his shoulder - this could well have been used when sculpting the figure the pose is so close.
Lastly, here is the figure - first with the steel helmet choice...
...and next, the flat forage cap choice all put together.



WSS Ammo Carrier Kharkov 
Product No# 35237
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Calvin Tan
Figure comes with two head choices
Packed in its own zip-loc bag, this figure came from the box in eight parts of light grey resin sculpted and cast by Taesung Harmms. As with all of Alpine's figure releases you have two headgear choices with this kit, and both of these have the same face but with different headgear. The first being the steel M/40/42 helmet, or the M40/42 flat overseas cap, complete in the cap's case with the death's head of the SS and the German eagle on the front in silver stitching. You will see in the face of this figure the "bum chin" cleft in it? The flat forage cap enables you to see the hair tuft thickly protruding out of the left-hand side underneath the hat.
The regulation German steel helmet is the other choice - with the usual connection points of the harness underneath protruding from the sides of the helmet. I think this is a better choice for this soldier even though you see less of the excellent face, I suppose because it just makes him look tougher... below the sculpt are some pictures of the SS men in Kharkov wearing the steel helmet.

This soldier is also wearing the "Kharkov Parka" as his buddy. We won't go over too much ground here again, but pointing out the differences we see. The twisted scarf covers the neck joint, and the collar tabs - subtle differences already - while the bandoleer of MG 42 ammo sits over his shoulders. You see the German Landser's belt with stamped print on it that holds the square ammo pouches for his Kar.98 rifle that this soldier carries on his back as his own personal weapon. Notice that this SS man has his pants over the boots he is wearing.
From the rear we see the real meat of this sandwich with the hood of the jacket - fur lined, with folds and thickly padded creases in the rear where the belt pinches and traps it. The bread bag of the soldier is again present, you will notice the hole in it. This is a socket that the pin that is moulded into his rifle sits in. The detail keeps coming, right down tot he drawstring on the ankles of the pants hanging down over his boots.
The "soldier's bride" the Kar.98 rifle is here on its own casting block. This does not need a rifle strap as it is cast into the torso already. The real thing is below for comparison.
 Below is the other casting block that comes with this figure. On it is the thin rectangular box of the Mg 42 ammo with a hand moulded into the handle that removes any attachment issues, the flask and cup of the soldier and lastly the spare barrel carrier of the Mg 42 which is called the Laufschützer 42.
 Do you see here the ribbed texture of the gloves on the hand holding the ammo box?
The Laufschützer 42 was a specific barrel carrier for the spare barrels of the MG 42. When firing the MG 34 and MG 42 continuously the German soldiers were presented with a harsh and difficult task: changing the barrel. The MG 34 and MG 42 where both made with a quick-change barrel and to help in the changing of the barrel. The barrel is then placed in the Laufschützer or barrel carrier to cool down and a cool new barrel is inserted. According to regulations, the barrel had to be changed after 150 rounds fired continuously. Every MG team had one or two spare barrels in spare barrel carriers with their field equipment.
Lastly, we see in this picture below how the ammo carriers worked with the spare barrel strapped to their bodies.
Putting him together:
OK, so this soldier took only a few minutes to clean up and put together also. Firstly the neck joint - again a hole and high scarf that covers any seam on the neck.
 The two head choices here with a better view of the fur lined collar.
The side view of this soldier showing the ribbed, gloved hand of the man that sits inside the cuff, again eliminating visible seams.
Before we go on, kudos to the sculptor here for making so many smart engineering decisions. the parts all fit so very well and were simple to clean up and get ready to put together. It sure makes a difference when the bits can be put together in slightly incorrect ways. This makes a difference to the end product and experience so well done.

Here is the figure put together with both of the head choices - first with the steel helmet choice...
...and next, the flat forage cap choice all put together.



WSS MG Team at Kharkov Set (2 figures)
Product No# 35238
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Calvin Tan
Two figures both come with two head choices each.
Here are these two figures put together after construction. The two do suit each other in two ways, the clothing - both period correct and the wrinkled look making them suitable for the same environment. Also the second factor of both machine gunner and the assistant who carries the ammunition.
Eagle-eyed viewers will see I have swapped out the two alternate headgear's on both of these soldiers as we have a walk abound of them after completion
Both of these men work in tandem to keep the gun working, and both of these men have a similar lope to the side almost while they look on to the scene of the diorama that you, the model builder create in front of them. You could well use the other two figure sets we showed you at the start of this review, or by themselves in a pair.
I prefer them AS a pair actually, much more than a lot of previous releases they do compliment each other.

A great new set that will add a lot of authenticity to any late WWII European theatre diorama, but more to a scene on the Russian front and more even to a scene from the third Battle of Kharkov. Well done to Alpine on another excellent addition to anyone's bench-top battlefield.

Adam Norenberg


Thanks to Alpine for sending these two figures to us to build and review for you all - Both of these figures are now available from Alpine Miniatures Online Webstore of their distributors worldwide.


Here are these two figures built up and shown painted by the master Calvin Tan on the Alpine Miniatures Website...