Monday, November 10

Build review: MJ Miniatures’ WSS Grenadier in Ardenne, 1944

In his latest bust Man-Jin Kim re-creates a famous scene from the battle of the bulge in the Ardennes in 1944. We put the parts together in our review to see if the WSS Grenadier in Ardenne, 1944 in resin matches not only MJ Miniature’s previous kits but the pictures from history of "Winter Fritz"
Build Review:
WSS Grenadier in Ardennes, 1944
1/9th Scale
Material; resin
Parts: 24
Sculpted by Chung-Sik, Lee
Box-art by Man-Jin, Kim
Including optional parts (right arm for holding cigarette, and an extra holster)

In a second “Blitzkrieg” In a quiet sector of the Ardennes in  the bitter Winter of December 1944. The cream of what was left of Hitler’s armies attacked through a narrow corridor in the forests of Belgium trying to strike out and capture the Meuse river bridges to try and cut the Allied US and British forces in two.
The attack ultimately failed after harsh conditions, a strong resistance by the Allies and the basic lack of fuel caused the advance to dwindle and fail – it was Hitler’s last gamble in the west. Many pictures were taken of the attack by both sides. Famous pictures like these ones made some of the soldiers in them well known from history books and now the internet.
The pictures we have been looking at are from a soldier who clearly inspired this new bust in 1/9th scale by M.J.Miniatures. The only thing that is known about this young soldier is that he was in the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (1st SS) and probably from 1. Pz Gren Regt. The soldier in the photo is often called "Winter Fritz" or "Lucky Strike" on the other side of the pond.

He is actually captured in this short video I found on YouTube at the 1 minute mark
“After an ambush during the Battle of the Bulge, SS-Panzergrenadiers Berthold Nasse, Ernst Kalt and Walter Armbrusch, "Kampfgruppe Hansen", 'LSSAH', smoking cigarettes captured from American troops. Poteau, Belgium. 18 December 1944.” 
Now we are sure of the place but not the names of the soldiers – there has been no real verification of this soldier’s identity and we have done a LOT of reading on the subject. Lots of claims and counterclaims but no real proof that we can substantiate.

The box
Sculpted by Man Jin Kim in twenty four parts of grey resin this bust recreates a Waffen SS Grenadier in the throes of the attack in the Ardennes. He was a MG-42 gunner with the SS-Schütze rank
The parts before clean up
The bust comes in the usual box with the resin inside safely encased in bubble wrap. The parts are all cast in sweet smelling grey resin. There are no surface bubbles that I found on the resin, but the parts all have a few pouring stubs on them that re-used to inject the resin. All of these are easy to remove but the helmet block. This one is more than a little difficult to remove without causing any collateral damage but some careful carving and a flat sanding surface will finish it off pretty well. On the left shoulder of the figure are some large casting blocks and you will have to do a little creative sculpting to remove these. I had three small air bubbles under them when I removed minutes. There are fixed easily with super glue and a sand.

The parts after clean up
Let’s go through the parts – working from top of the soldier and work our way down.

The soldier’s “stahlhelm” steel helmet has the right shape and all of the flush bolts which holds the inside lining in all of the right places. There is a pretty scary casting block stub to get rid of which is a bit of a pain in the rear as it worried me I would lose some detail whilst removing it, though with care taken this wasn’t the case. To be honest it is a pain but I really don't know where else to put the casting point – as you want the pointed joint so you can place the head in exactly the sculptor’s preferred spot.
The head fits very neatly into the helmet via a socket which locates the two together securely and in correct alignment.
The scarf or blanket covering his head is open and wrinkled. From all angles this face and head looks realistic. You can see his long nose, his teeth and eyes and lips look very like the ones in the picture of winter fritz.
The torso is covered with what is thought to be a captured US M42 synthetic G.I. raincoat. The wrinkling around the torso of this figure is sculpted really very well and it is a great base to add the layers of everything else he has attached to him on. There are some recesses and other details which are ready to have the add-ons which fit snugly again inside.
The kit comes with two right arm options and two holsters. One arm holding the pistol and an open holster, the other with some captured cigarettes and a closed holster with visible pistol grip.
You can see him in the pictures both smoking and holding either the Belgian or US made colt pistol which again was probably captured from the GI’s they had encountered.

Here are the three arms together – they all fit in in the joint and socket method again very firmly. As it happens the pistol fit in so securely I had to not pull it out again for fear of breaking something else – this is the strongest superglue/joint fit I have ever encountered!
The entrenching tool does not actually fit together like you see it now. It joins into the belt at just the right angle in a twist you have the shovel sitting rather menacingly into the belt (which in itself is very nicely detailed at the buckle.)
The two pistol holsters are here. One shows the browning in the holster and the other one open. This makes sense whether or not you use the arm with a pistol or the cigarettes in it. The details on the straps and leather as well as the stitching is very well sculpted.
This casting block contains two leather straps and the hilt of the knife this soldier has stuck into the open tunic on his front. It adds more layer and interest to the sculpt and they all fit onto the torso perfectly.
This pouch is for the tools for the MG42 machine gun. It fits neatly into the belt via two notches on the torso. The stitching again is very well laid into the sculpt. 
You can see from this shot the joints that all of these parts fit into. The arm sockets, the shovel and the hole in the belt and the leather case which sits just to the right of the hole in the belt in two notches.
Here you see a little better both of the pouch and the shovel and where they fit. Notice the shovel blade fully tucked behind the belt?
The torso with pistol holster, entrenching tool and pouch in place the leather straps are also in place attached to the belt. This gives the sculpt a lot of depth for shadow and creative painting.
The ammo for the MG 42 is draped and twisted around in an almost unnatural way that only fits on to the torso in one way. It is an odd fit but once on the body it all seems so simple!
The MG42 itself is here in several parts and once built up it looks very convincing. The tripod is supplied folded closed and the barrel is attached to the pistol grip where the butt is also a separate part. You can see as well the small sighting pip on the lower left of the gun. It isn’t that simple though!
I made two alterations to the gun. I drilled a small hole through the rear of the cooler jacket of the barrel. Then using a square file I forged a hole through this part so the long barrel would fit into the cooling jacket as designed.
As well as the hole for the barrel I hollowed out the barrel of the gun. I started with a pin sized drill vice and made a pilot – then again used a slow and careful carving method with the square tipped file which was just the right angle to open up the barrel of this fearful gun. You do not really see it but you CAN see it
So here is the gun. Note the large window on the side of the cooling jacket over the barrel. You can see the parts lick the cocking handle and the tripod which sits folded but slightly sagging so the separate strap which attached to is does not have to be cheated into position.
Notice the pistol grip has a slight extension? This where the gun anchors into the back of the torso of the grenadier. I am very impressed by the gun after it all went together and to know that it is a full gun that goes beyond what others have done in this scale.
So here he is from above and behind all made us so you can better see where the gun attached to the body.
And the lower connection to the strap.
And lastly of course there is this very nice looking stand supplied with the kit which  holds him at just the right height.
And here he is all together - MJ Miniatures’ WSS Grenadier in the Ardennes, 1944
So what do it think? Well the pictures tell the story when compared to the original. Although he isn’t dead on there is a great resemblance there and the engineering and feel of the kit is just right. Not too complicated and not to annoying to get it all made up. I put mine together in an evening and now he sits in my shelf with the other MJ kits looking right in place.
A great bust and really well conceived and engineered.More than anything he looks the part.

Adam Norenberg

You can get your own one of these at the website – thanks to MJ for sending it to us to make up and review.