Tuesday, July 7

Preview: Alpine Miniatures two new figures - singles or as a set - from the 12th SS in WWII in 35th scale

Alpine Miniatures has surprised everyone with the very quick release after their preview of two new Waffen SS soldiers the other day. They are already painted up by the talented Dr Jin Kim and take their space in our preview of both figures from Alpine this July...

Alpine Miniatures new products ready for shipping by July 13 2020.

Taesung Harmms has sculpted both of these figures in 1/35th scale, and they are sold as separates or as a set. We will look at both of them alone and the weapons and equipment they carry before we look at them as a pair and how they fit together as a set. 

The runes, Cuff emblem and Unit logo of the 2.SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend"
The setting: 12th SS during WWII
These figures are both from the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitler Youth or 12.SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend" in German. This was a German armoured division of the Waffen-SS during World War II that was formed mostly of junior enlisted men drawn from members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were from other Waffen-SS divisions. Waffen SS soldiers from the 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” were all conscripts from the ages of 15 to 18 years of age. 

The pictures in this article all feature soldiers wearing either the Italian m29 "Telo Mimetico" cloth or the "Plane Tree" or dot camouflage garments featured in the boxart painting of these figures.
They were thrown into battle in the action around Normandy during the D-Day landings from June 1944 onwards. These young soldiers were often fanatical in their fighting, and although they were young, they were well armed and well indoctrinated in the Nazi cause. This nationalistic zeal and some desperation of the situation they found themselves fighting in made them feared on the battlefield.
Normandy 1944
On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the 12th SS HJ Division was one of three Panzer divisions held in reserve by Hitler as the Allies stormed the beaches at Normandy beginning at dawn. At 2:30 in the afternoon, the HJ Division was released and sent to Caen, located not far inland from Sword and Juno beaches on which British and Canadian troops had landed. The division soon came under heavy strafing attacks from Allied fighter bombers, which delayed arrival there until 10 p.m. The Hitlerjugend were off to face an enemy that now had overwhelming air superiority and would soon have nearly unlimited artillery support. The Allies, for their part, were about to have their first encounter with Hitler's fanatical boy-soldiers.
The fanaticism and reckless bravery of the Hitler Youth in battle shocked the British and Canadians who fought them. If they were encircled or outnumbered, they fought-on until there were no survivors. Often when they did not surrender, young boys, years away from their first shave, had to be shot dead by Allied soldiers who were old enough, in some cases, to be their fathers. The "fearless, cruel, domineering" youth that Hitler had wanted had now come of age and arrived on the battlefield with utter contempt for danger and little regard for their own lives. This soon resulted in the near destruction of the entire division.
By the end of its first month in battle, 60 percent of the HJ Division was knocked out of action, with 20 percent killed and the rest wounded and missing. Divisional Commander Witt was killed by a direct hit on his headquarters from a British warship. Command then passed to Kurt Meyer, nicknamed 'Panzermeyer,' who at age 33, became the youngest divisional commander in the entire German armed forces. Three high-ranking for officers of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend" photographed together in Normandy on July 28, 1944. From left to right: SS-Sturmbannführer Erich Olboeter, SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer, and SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Mohnke. This photo was taken at the time of the award ceremony for the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes Olboeter. Interestingly, all three dressed in camouflage fabric Italy Telo Mimetico M29 (Olboeter pants which have two large pockets on the front). 
After Caen fell to the British, the HJ Division was withdrawn from the Normandy Front. The once confident fresh-faced Nazi youths were now exhausted and filthy, a sight which "presented a picture of deep human misery" as described by Meyer.
In August, the Germans mounted a big counter-offensive toward Avranches but were pushed back from the north by the British and Canadians, and by the Americans from the west, into the area around Falaise. Twenty four German divisions were trapped inside the Falaise Pocket with a narrow 20-mile gap existing as the sole avenue of escape. The HJ Division was sent to keep the northern edge of this gap open.

Another point of interest in these two figures is the use of the Schwimmwagen  - popular with the soldiers because of it's mobility and cross country ability.
However, Allied air superiority and massive artillery barrages smashed the HJ as well as the Germans trapped inside the pocket. Over 5,000 armoured vehicles were destroyed, with 50,000 Germans captured, while 20,000 managed to escape, including the tattered remnants of the HJ. By September 1944, the 12th SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend numbered only 600 surviving young soldiers, with no tanks and no ammunition. Over 9,000 had been lost in Normandy and Falaise. The division continued to exist in name only for the duration of the war, as even younger (and still eager) volunteers were brought in along with a hodgepodge of conscripts. 
In September, SS-Obersturmbannführer Hubert Meyer was placed in command of the division. In November 1944, the division was sent to Nienburg in Germany, where it was to be reformed. The majority of reinforcements were transferred from Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine personnel. Hubert Meyer was replaced by SS-Obersturmbannführer Hugo Kraas, and the division was attached to the 6th SS Panzer Army of SS-Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich, which was forming up for Operation Wacht am Rhein (the Second Battle of the Ardennes, popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge), a large-scale offensive to recapture Antwerp and halt the Allied advance. 
The operation opened on 16 December 1944, with Kampfgruppe Peiper from the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler breaking through the American lines with some difficulty. After the 12th SS reached the front, it was met with heavy resistance from American troops stationed on the Elsenborn Ridge. Despite repeated efforts, the division could not budge the American defenders. As a result, the division was ordered to swing left and follow the advance line of the remainder of the 1st SS Panzer Division. American troops prevented the division from reaching its objective, and after the destruction of Kampfgruppe Peiper from the LSSAH, the advance of Dietrich's forces was altogether stopped. 
On 8 January Hitler gave the authorization to withdraw. The attack was ultimately a failure. The 12th SS had been severely mauled, with only 26 tanks and assault guns and an average of 120 men remaining in each battalion. In total, during the offensive, the division had lost 9,870 men which included 328 officers and 1,698 NCO's. By 28 January 1945, the 12th SS, along with all the German forces, had been pushed back to its starting positions.

Two men of the 82nd Airborne Division bringing in a young German Waffen-SS soldier, captured outside Bra.
Into 1945 & Operation Spring Awakening
On 14 January 1945, Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army was ordered to Hungary, and the division, alongside the LSSAH as a part of I SS Panzer Corps arrived in Hungary in early February 1945. The division took part in Operation Spring Awakening, (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) another operation to retake the Hungarian oilfields. The attack got underway on 6 March 1945; after initial success, the combination of the muddy terrain and strong Soviet resistance ground them to a halt. On 16 March, the Soviet forces counterattacked in strength, driving the entire southern front into a retreat towards Vienna. 
The Soviet forces took Vienna on 13 April. Retreating through Odenburg and Hirtenberg, the division reached Linz, Austria near the American lines. On May 8, 1945, numbering just 455 soldiers and one tank, the 12th SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend surrendered to the American 7th Army.

These figures:
The timeline of the unit's inception in September 1943 means that the soldiers in this sculpt are captured in the time of the second half of WWII after the D-Day invasions - any time after then would be suitable for what they are both wearing so a quick overview of their history in that time beckons...

WSS Grenadier Officer "HJ" 
Kit No #35278 
1/35th scale
Cast in light grey resin 
The pictures show the figure with 2 different heads.
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr. Jin Kim
This figure of an officer of the 12th SS is seen I think in a letter ar gear as painted by the box artist Dr Jin Kim. The tunics were made by tailors of the unit into the German-style made with original M29 "Telo Mimetico" Italian camouflage material. Variation of tone between parts of the jacket are dued by different grades of usury of the material. At the command post of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 25 / 12.SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" in Caen, Normandy, late June 1944. The 12th SS Officer in the left of the photo below wears much the same Italian uniform camo pattern as the figure in this set. Notice also the shoulder sleeve rank badge of SS-bersturmbannführer Heinz Milius.
Following the capitulation and disarmament of most of the Italian armed forces in 1943, stocks of Italian material were used by Germany to meet the increased demand for equipment in the face of the slowly deteriorating wartime economy. The German armed forces not only issued already existing stocks of Italian shelter halves and ponchos, but they also used the Italian camouflage material to make a wide variety of uniforms and field gear items. Many uniform items were tailor-made or theatre made including tunics, smocks, trousers, coveralls and caps, but the material was also used to make some standard-issue items such as M31 zeltbahns and fur-lined anoraks/parkas (typically made out of mouse grey material). An important thing to note is that items made using Italian camo material were used by all branches of the German armed forces serving in the Italian theatre of operations (Heer, SS, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine).

The officer on the lower left wears this same Italian camouflage pattern HJ tunic
The pictures below you can see the figure unpainted, notice the SS-Untersturmführer's rank insignia on the Officer's right arm, the depth of the sculpture's chest /torso section, straps, harness, field optical and the map pouch slings all take up real estate and give the soldier's torso a lot of detail and depth.
The SS-Untersturmführer's rank insignia 
The two headgear choices for this soldier are M42 steel helmets - one with just bare metal and the other with the double-sided cloth cover.
One of these is the (Stahlhelm M40) helmet, very much a marker for identifying nearly all German front line soldiers. This one has just the simple chin strap over the front visor.
The other option is the cloth camouflage covered helmet with foliage loops. The boxart captures the second pattern cover, (Circa 1942-1945), with three panels of water-resistant, cotton duck construction, helmet cover with the machine roller printed, reversible, spring/autumn, Oak-Leaf "B", repeating splotch camouflage pattern. An earlier pattern lacking foliage loops was replaced in 1942 with a version that had loops like this one in the sculpt does. Instead of a drawstring, the cover was secured to the helmet with a series of steel or aluminium rocker clips. The version with the loops was by in large the most commonly worn cover by the Waffen-SS during the Normandy campaign. Both sides of the helmet cover reflected the seasons, It depends what time of the Normandy battle you would want your soldier to feature in. 
The torso - covered with the M29 Telo Mimetico (camouflage cloth) HJ tunic. This camo was the longest-used military camouflage pattern in the world (from 1929 until 1992). There were at least three quite different patterns used by the Italians (and Germans) during WWII. The SS got a large supply of this cloth and Italian stock after the surrender of the Italians the year before. This was either used or adapted by company tailors into the uniforms of the 12th SS and a lot of them are seen wearing this gear in Normandy. 

Here below you see a youthful soldier of 12th-SS Hitlerjugend playing with a kitten on the glacis plate of his Panzer MKIV. He is wearing the distinctive Italian camouflage material popular to the unit in Normandy. His Iron Cross First Class is pinned to his pocket.
The back of the figure shows the standard Y-shaped harness the soldier wears that has a separate Walther pistol in a holster attached to it. These were typical of officers at the time, the Walther being simpler and cheaper to make than the older Luger pistols. The pants of the figure crease and bend at the ankle as he leans slightly to the left.

As he points toward the right you can see the separately moulded Mp40 which is no doubt supplied attached to the soldier's hand so that the joint seam is at the cuff of the jacket instead of the gun itself. This makes a seamless joint and strengthens the join at the soldier from the gun to the hand.

WSS Schwimmwagen Driver "HJ"
Kit No #35279 
1/35th scale
Cast in light grey resin 
The pictures show the figure with 2 different heads.
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr. Jin Kim
This is a full-bodied soldier seen at the wheel and made to fit a 35th scale Schwimmwagen. He is a 12th SS-man also, with a mid-late war standard looking uniform with some different flourishes that set him apart from his comrade.
The unpainted figure is seen here inside the Schwimm, you can see how he fits the car pretty well, and a good thing too, as too often you have to cut and trim your figures to fit the vehicles they are supposed to be made for - this guy has a few tips and tricks by the sculptor that enable him to blend right into his chair behind the wheel.
A Volkswagen Schwimmwagen of Kraderkundungs-Zug of Panzer Regiment 12, 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. Normandy, Summer 1944. This is a photo that inspired this figure.
You can see more clearly out of the Schwimmer how the body look sand what he is wearing in the sculpt. The two head choices are also provided for this figure - depending on how you want to paint him, the reversible helmet cover and the share steel helmet with goggles on the front of them.
He wears on the plain helmet what looks a little like the Model 306 flight goggles (Schutzbrille mit Behalter) that became a standard issue for pilots from early on in the war.  The aviator style lenses with separate grey/green painted aluminium frames and rubber eye sockets. Goggles are attached to the frames by small metal clips which also act as locking clips to secure the lenses in the frames.
On his torso, he is wearing what looks to me to be an  M42 Type 2 "Plane tree" camouflage smock. (tarnjacke). The M42 first appeared in WWII photos during the battle at Kursk in July 1943 (in very small numbers.) By the Summer of 1944, they are the most prevalent pattern seen. The "M42" or "Type II" (both names being collector inventions) featured improvements over the earlier designs of Tarnjacken. 
The waistline was raised several inches with two cargo pockets placed just below it, and sets of loops were added around the shoulders to hold foliage. A real version of the reversible M42 Plane Tree camouflage smock (Tarnjacke) below,

The rear of the camouflage smock for reference...
You can see from the soldier's back that he is sculpted to fit recessed into the seat of the Schwimmwagen. This means he will sit naturally into the seat rather than on top of it like several figures do - it will give the figure a more natural look and feel.
While the body language of the soldier is seen to pretty passive, with his right arm on his knee, it lends him to be listening or looking on to a situation rather than speeding down the highway. You can see his shorter, later-war boots with galoshes over the ankles.

WSS "HJ" Officer & Driver Set
Kit No #35280  
1/35th scale
Cast in light grey resin 
The pictures show both of the figures with 2 different heads each.
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr. Jin Kim
These two figures make a pretty natural set to be placed together in a diorama. The officer talking tot he driver or messenger - it makes sense and the body language of both suit each other nicely. The gear both are wearing is contrasting but similar so you could easily envisage these soldiers being from the same unit and timeframe. They look great together, and I think there are other soldiers from Alpine's catalogue that could make a bigger set from these soldiers.
If you like these they are released on July 13th - you can order these two figures separately or as a set as well as any other of Alpine's figures directly from their website if you live in the US, or through their distributors worldwide.