by: CK Tang [ ]
While kit offerings of WW II Mountain troops cannot be considered rare, with DML having at least 4 dedicated kits on the subject matter, a kit featuring Waffen SS Mountain troops as in this set is relatively rare. I have to confess that I have never been keen on kits featuring SS subjects despite their enticing and varied camouflage schemes. I realize theyíre just another scaled representation of a piece of history but its just one of those odd, personal hang ups I have. However, this is one is an exception as they are several interesting features that were difficult to resist.
Featured on DMLís standard 1-piece box is an excellent illustration by Ron Volstad showing the 4 figures in their element, the mountains presumably somewhere in the Balkans, their main area of operations. The painting scheme and assembly instructions are adequately illustrated at the back.
figures & equipment
There are 3 sprue trees in total. The main sprue tree holds 4 figures and their personal equipment while the remaining 2 holds the weapons. There is an additional MP 40 found on the main sprue.
The figures are not in a full action pose but rather in preparation for an attack or ambush. The urgency is evident as one of the kneeling figures appears to be directing the other 2 upright figures who are lugging the portable mortar and ammo. The remaining figure is lying prone on the ground with binoculars in hand surveying the ground ahead. The figures are compatible in pose which is not always the case as in one of DMLís other more recent Gebirgsjager offering. The set that featured here had some hairline cracks running across the torso of the some of the figures which are likely to have occurred during the molding process. As such some light sanding will be required.
The facial expressions are by no means Gen 2 standards but are one of the better regular DML figure kits Iíve come across in that all 4 faces have distinguishably different features and expressions. A casual, dry fit of the 2 prone figures yielded a generally decent fit although light sanding will be required at some of the joints of the 2 lower halves of the body given the smock is a one complete piece wraparound. A very good feature and what Iíve not seen in many of the pre-Gen 2 kits was the flattening of the portion of the body where the bread bag sat on the body. This essentially aids in the fitting of the personal equipment and saves a fair bit of sanding and fitting.
The figures are all decked out in pullover, camouflage smocks or "Tarnjacke". The smocks were relatively detailed complete with loops where vegetation was secured for additional camouflage. The figures came with a nice variation of woolen puttees and gaiters in addition to their mountain boots. One of the unique features of this set and in some ways of the actual unit itself which got me interested was the Fez hats. The Moslem members of the division which made up a significant portion of the division were allowed to wear the Fez although it was also worn by the non-Moslem members as well. In addition to the Fez which came as 2 portions, the hat itself and the hair tail portion DML has made an attempt to include the standard Eagle emblem over a SS skull found at the front of the Fez. Unfortunately both the molding of the eagle emblem and the skull were a tad on the soft side. The soft molding of these otherwise distinctive details extended to the mountain boots as well especially the under-soles. While not critical for the 2 standing figures it is obvious in the 2 prone and kneeling figures.
Absent was the Handscar insignia of a hand holding a scimitar on the collar tab seen in the photos Iíve come across on this unit. While the Fez was not a must wear, the collar tab insignia was a standard feature in all the photos which Iíve come across. The same insignia was also absent in the boxart. However, my research was rather limited and it may just be a mistake on my part by assuming that it appeared on all troops from the Handscar unit.
The weapons set consisted of 2 Kar 98K, 2 MP 40 and an unusual addition of a FG42 with the piece de resistance being the 5 cm. leichter Granatwerfer 36 portable mortar. This unique weapon is also featured in DMLís most recent Gebirgsjager release. Despite its reported complex nature its weight of about 14 kg was probably a decisive factor in its adoption by the Mountain troops where almost everything had to be carried manually where they fought. All weapons were relatively detailed and better then some of resin ones out there.
While not totally unique this set is definitely not one of your run-of-the mill SS figure kit. Despite the slightly Ďsoftí molding of some of the details this is still a relatively good value for your money kit. For modellers keen on all SS related subjects this would be a welcome addition whilst for those looking for standalone figure sets this would look quite presentable in a nice little vignette with a mountain setting.
Unlike the Gebirgsjager who fought on all fronts, the SS mountain troops who were associated mainly by name (Gebirgsjager) were formed as occupational forces rather than pure frontline troops. They usually took on duties such as quelling local revolts and resistance movements and developed a rather dubious reputation unlike the Gebirgsjager fine conduct. The 13th Mountain Division, ďHandscarĒ was formed in Spring of 1943 with their ranks made up of largely Bosnian Moslems. Their name was related to their divisional collar tab, a hand holding a scimitar. Pitted against Titoís partisans following their formation, they were reformed following a second mutiny and a large scale desertion. The reformed division was eventually sent to the Eastern Front where they remained until the end of the war.