Tuesday, June 21

Construction Review: Alpine Miniature's new Kampfgruppe Hansen at Poteau Set

Taesung Harmms from Alpine Miniatures has done a lot of research for his latest figure set as well as having a lot of help from his friends and customers recently. He asked them what they thought about the attire of two soldiers of SS Kampfgruppe Hansen or "Winter Fritz" as he is well known so he could make these figures as accurately as possible. We thought we would show you what these figures look like in some exclusive high res shots with a little about what these soldiers are wearing in our preview.
Construction Review: Alpine Miniatures 
Kampfgruppe Hansen at Poteau Set# 1

2 figures sold together or separately from Alpine Miniatures
In this review:

SS MG Schutze KG Hansen
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim

SS Grenadier KG Hansen
1/35th scale
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim

KG Hansen at Poteau Set #1
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim

Alpine Miniatures has released a pair of new figures in 35th scale sold as single figures but also as a pair in this, the first of what we hope is a few sets that capture two soldiers who were shot on a movie reel. They are sold as a matching pair as well as by themselves, we thought we would look at them both as singles, and as a set, but first we wanted to show you the history from which both of these soldiers were inspired from.
These two new sculpts of two soldiers capture a well-known period of the second world war. In 1944 in the Ardennes as the world held their breath as the German units counterattacked to drive towards the coast and split the allies apart. This high profile campaign was Hitler's last gamble in the west and there were several pictures taken of the battle on both sides. It is from some of these images and films that Alpine's #1(hopefully more to come?) set of the soldiers of SS Kampfgruppe Hansen were inspired.
The shots shown here are some of these very well known shots of one squad of soldiers from KG Hansen in a well-known propaganda film
SS Kampfgruppe Hansen  participated in the "battle of the Bulge" or "Ardennes Offensive" In a quiet sector of the Ardennes in the bitter Winter of December 1944. The cream of what was left of Hitler’s armies and whoever else could be conscripted 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, ammunition and the reliance on having to capture supplies to advance caused the German's advance to dwindle and fail – it was truly Hitler’s last gamble in the west. Famous pictures like these ones made some of the soldiers in them well known from history books, and now from the internet.
The pictures we have been looking at are from a soldier who clearly inspired this new figures in 35th scale from Alpine 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 1.05 minute mark 
The caption of the photo below: “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.”
It turns out that the ambushed American vehicles were from the 14th Cavalry Group and that these photos were taken on 18th Dec 1944 by SS propaganda photographers. The soldiers from Kampfgruppe Hansen and Schnellgruppe Knittel of 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” and the pictures were taken near Poteau, which is roughly NW of St Vith.

Both of the soldiers from this set are seen in this picture, the MG Gunner and his ammo carrying buddy.
Now we are sure of the place but not the names of the soldiers, and although there were myths about a fellow on the history channel claiming to be him 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 sculptor Taesung Harmms has done a lot of research and he has had a lot of help from his friends and customers when he asked them what they thought about these soldier's attire on his Facebook page
A large amount  of  discussion and thoughts with pictures and points of views ensued. We thought we would show you what these figures look like in some exclusive high res shots with a little about what these soldiers are wearing in our preview.

SS MG Schutze KG Hansen
1/35th scale
7 parts in grey resin
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim
Both of these figures are cast in grey resin in seven parts. The resin on this and the other figure is perfectly cast with no flaws that I could discern under examination. Common to both of these is the casting blocks that the parts are attached to as a part of the resin cast process. Smart points of disconnection give these an easy to snip and easy to clean up construction that cuts out wasted time and errors in the construction. The angles that the parts fit together has been simplified by smart engineering and recesses on the torso and neck.
Sculpted by Taesung Harmms in 35th scale from grey resin and in this case of the boxart, painted by Dr Jin Kim, this soldier has been heavily researched by many people over time. "Winter Fritz" is sculpted here with the choice of two headgears, either the bare M43 helmet with a cloth wrap inside it or a camouflage covered helmet choice. Both of these head choices are smoking a "Lucky Strike."

The two helmet choices in real life.

Notice on the both the bare-headed & the cloth covered figures helmet choices the thick cloth covering his ears keeping him warm, just like in the photo.
Now one of the most disputed things on this soldier is what he was wearing, through many discussions and photo examinations it seems he is wearing an early pattern SS oak leaf camo smock. One of the earlier types without the foliage loops or front pockets below waist.on them. In this sculpt the tunic is laden with spare MG42 ammo and the fighting knife that is usually stuck in the man's boot is seen stuck in the camo tunic. Notice the right leg with the ripped pant leg? Attention to detail like this through careful investigation of the source photo impresses me no end.
Developed in late 1937 the camo smocks were manually screen printed and due to the time-consuming task of the printing, only minimal quantities were issued until early 1940 when the machine rolled printing process was developed. The original M38 style smock underwent minor modifications in 1940 and twice in 1942. This oakleaf smock has the sleeve popped on the stitching. It looks like it is being twisted & hiding the laces of the front. If you look at his fighting knife it is clipped on his SS tunic on the inside, just like in the picture below.
The soldier carries an MG 42 in the sculpt and the pictures. He is also carrying a Browning high power pistol in his hand with a holster on his waist. The entrenching shovel he has stuck into his belt is prominent as is the MG42 toolkit, also on his waist. The MG34/42 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 holding the pistol.
The nicely detailed MG bullet belt is draped over the neck with a hollowed space around each bullet looks great here. His gas mask and water flask, with a flat, sagging cloth bread bag (with its strap off the body) are also attached to his back. 
He is wearing what look to be some of the Italian camouflage pants that the Germans seized and used late in the war. Proof of the identification of this item of clothing was for a few reasons. These were explained to me by the sculptor:
"You can see there’s horizontal seam on the thighs. One might think it’s an extra piece added on the knee, but I see that it’s just a seam. If it was an extra piece added on the knee, you would obviously find the stitching on the knee “patch" side. But the stitching is on the thigh side. That is why I think it’s just a simple seam. and you find this type of piecing together in field-mod uniforms made with Italian camo material. Then why isn’t the Italian camo pattern visible? Well, the same reason why the camo pattern is not visible on the smock."
Smarter minds than this review's author have figured it all out for all of the rest of us... You can see also that his camouflage Oakleaf pants can be seen underneath these thick Italian pants because at the knee the pants leg is ripped open, just like in the picture above. The boots are probably German with some US style Gaiters (galoshes) over the tops and the pants tucked into them.

The casting block that features the gas mask, the water flask and cup and the tripod mount for the MG. I would have liked a closed MG mount also is the only thing that I would have added here,
 The left arm looks great in the billowed and pinched smock sleeve. The right hand holding the pistol is also well cast and on this figure it slipped straight into the soct of the right arm.
The other casting block carries quite an impressively reproduced MG42. Thi sis attached to he soldier's right arm through what would be the gun's strap over his shoulder. This eliminated the need for you to reproduce the strap and then to secure it to the figure int he recesses of the sleeves and then the need to attach it securely to the gun. This saves a LOT of work take it from someone who has had to do it in the past.
The gun is nicely replicated from all angles.
 The layers of clothing and equipment are visible here in these pictures
OK - so we put him together - it took a grand total of five-minute from start to finish. Here he is put together with the bare helmet choice
...and with the cloth camo covered helmet.

SS Grenadier KG Hansen
1/35th scale
7 parts in grey resin
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim
This soldier does not seem to be as famous or as well known as his comrade (who is smoking in the centre of the shot below) but you can still see him in the video I posted above, as well as in some of the images grabbed from the film you might have seen over time. He is just as interesting to me as his comrade. Carrying the MG42 ammo and looking just as cold and in need of a smoke as his comrade. He is the one on the right here in this shot.
The second soldier in this set is also sculpted by Taesung Harmms, and again painted by the same box art painter who is showing you just how you can do yourself with some practice and time.

Again this figure has two choices of headgear like his comrade. The steel helmet again, but Alpine are good at giving us variation with both the camouflage cloth covered helmet and the bare metal version. However, unlike the first soldier this grenadier has no warmth protection under his helmet.
These two headgear choices are exactly what the other soldier in this set is wearing. M43 helmets with, and without camouflaged covers (with the foliage keepers.) Both of these faces are sculpted finely, the eyes and the ears are nicely done and he looks different to his comrade enough for a good painter to really differentiate the two. The head comes from the casting block simply at the right angle for the head to sit neatly in the collared socket. This socket eliminates any seam line on the neck as well.
The main thing that dominates this figure is his large m31 zeltbahn over a greatcoat. The m31 zeltbahn Quarter shelter/poncho was a standard issue item and came accompanied with tenting accessories that consisted of the M1892 tent rope, the three-piece M1901 breakdown tentpole, and two M1929 tent pegs enabling the individual to utilize his Quarter shelter with others to form a tent.
Here is a diagram of the shelter/poncho as it is used.
...and an example of a pattern that might have been used by this soldier on this folded poncho.
Developed in late 1937 the camo smocks were manually screen printed, but only minimal quantities were issued until early 1940 when the machine rolled printing process was developed. The original M38 style smock underwent minor modifications in 1940 and twice in 1942. 

Some examples of the Zeltbahn in the raincoat style.
When worn over the body like this it was called a Regenmantel or rain cape. Simply by buttoning up the shelter quarter in different ways, 3 different versions could be made, for the unmounted landser, the mounted version split at the legs to leave more space for horseback riding or for cyclists or motorbike riders with the undersides all buttoned up for draft protection.

This oakleaf smock has the sleeve popped on the stitching. It looks like it is being twisted & hiding the laces of the front. If you look at his fighting knife it is clipped on his SS tunic on the inside. As can be seen with both the sculpt and in the reference picture of this figure, the shelter quarter is worn over the greatcoat that this soldier has on. He is pretty well protected from the elements as all of the soldiers are on this cold day in Belgium in 1944. Here he is our man for reference on the far right...
Around his waist, you can see the Zeltbahn pinched by the regular serviceman’s belt that has the stick grenade shoved into it and some soft pouches for his Kar.98 rifle which is strapped to his back. Speaking of the rifle he carries - here is the both sides fo the rifle with enough detail to pass for even the biggest stickler for detail. You need to be careful removing he attachment at the barrel but otherwise i like waht i see here.
The other moulding block has three parts attached, the water flask and cup, the ammo box for the MG and the hand that attaches to it as well as the other forearm. This is hollowed out at the sleeve end which gives a great effect of hollowness whilst the woollen ribbed gloves are there to see in the smallest of detail.
As well as the MG42 ammo box he carries this soldier has the standard issue flask, bread bag but no gas canister on his back. His thick pants flop over his short length later-war issued lace-up boots. Here are the recesses left by alpine for everything to sit snugly to the body so it looks naturally attached and not added without weight. The long trench on the back sits the rifle in nice and snugly.
While the hand carrying the ammo and the arm sit nicely in the sleeves, this gives yet more depth and a hollowed out look to the thick sleeves which these appendages sit snugly into. 
Great engineering on Alpine Miniatures part, and I would expect nothing less. This has impressed me and reminded my why I noticed their work in the first place. It takes out the guesswork and makes the figure so much more solid once assembled. Even the rifle straps sculpted into the body firts the rifle perfectly.
There is enough different about this soldier to serve as a point of difference to the MG 34 gunner in any dio you make. Here he is put together - first with the cloth covered helmet choice.

...And with the bare bone-dome.

KG Hansen at Poteau Set #1
1/35th scale
Two figures in one box set
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim
Well here are these two soldiers – they look quite complementary but also pretty different in body language and equipment. Well-chosen by alpine for these differences, but will we see any more of this set in the future? On this evidence let's hope so. Here they are both together made up at different angles and with the two headgear choices intermingled.
The good thing is if you like this set that the text from Taesung on the Facebook page says that of Alpine do a set there will be four other soldiers to come with these two figures… (a 6 figure series with 3 sets) in walking, running poses just like what you see in the video and pictures posted above.
What to say about these two? The subjects for me are brilliant choices, the setting for most people will be a popular choice, and the sculpting and engineering is well as the body language are just good, good, good. It's hard to review things that you fundamentally just can't fault without sounding like a gush. Hopefully, this review's photo and artefact evidence prove the validity of the objects cast here. In this case,  it's a pleasure to have these in my collection knowing that I will use these as the focal point of a diorama in the future.

Keep on raising the bar Alpine - we really don't really mind...

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Alpine for sending these figures to us for reviewing - check out Alpine Miniatures Website for distributors of these figures – they are available now.

Here are some great pictures of these figures painted up in the case of the boxart by the talented Dr Jin Kim. This is what these figures could look like under a talented brush if you try...