Rattenkrieg: Stalingrad Part 2, The German 6th Army!

The humble Landsers in the ruins of a dead city…

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R1222-501, Stalingrad, deutscher Soldat mit  Zigarette.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
A German soldier enjoys a cigarette, but the tension on his face never leaves-From the German Federal Archive

“The army’s exact losses are still uncertain, but there was no doubt that the Stalingrad campaign represented the most catastrophic defeat hitherto experienced in German history.” -Antony Beevor, Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943

When the 6th Army and 4th Panzer Division marched into the bombed out city of Stalingrad, they hoped that the fight would be a quick one. The Luftwaffe, in its wisdom, chose to bomb the city into the stone age. This instead made for a labyrinth of ruined buildings, sewers, and streets that instead become the grave for over 300,000 German soldiers. Fewer then 5000-6000 would return home.

For wargaming, the German Army is often depicted as the pinnacle of excellence, an elite force that defeats any foe with ruthless efficiency. Part of the alluring truths of Stalingrad was its utter rebuttal of this notion, and when I recieved my Winter German starter, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make an unstoppable force at its prime when they entered the city. Instead, I wanted to depict the period from November to December when the encirclement of the would-be besiegers happened, and trapped them.

In all honesty, the Winter German kit is excellent, but perhaps a tougher choice to make work then the Blitzkrieg German kit. A few anachronisms sneak in by the fact the kit was obviously stretched to fit the Late War period so popular in Bolt Action. I had to make some allowances.

I had two major rules; no Panzerfausts or Stg-44s could be used. This was annoying since the kit had so many of these two choices. This was still easy enough to work with on the plastic models…but the metal ones were a tougher nut to crack. As well, I wanted no MG42s. While there were prototypes being fielded there in small numbers, I wanted to stick with the MG34 as that was far more common. This ruled out the included MMG team, which will have to be sorted out later.

Lets see how I cracked on!

I built 40 plastic landsers, with one MG34 and one MP40 or PPsh-41 per squad. This was interesting test to see just how far I could stretch the included bits to make it appear as if there were 4 distinct poses. The PPsh-41s came from my Soviet Winter starter, which had them in ample supply.

This NCO has got his hands in mittens to keep them from freezing off. He is moving from cover to cover, not expecting to shoot. This was an absolute pig of a model to put together. I took the extra step of removing the Mauser pouches in favour of the SMG pouches. That wasn’t so bad. The arms on the other hand didn’t seat right, and took some fancy glue work.
Ah the accursed mold lines that you only notice when you take a photo! I quickly fixed that up after I was done taking the photo. This Landser has acquired a Soviet PPSh-41, a popular weapon in Stalingrad on both sides. The Germans even rechambered a few for 9mm Parabellum, but many more were used as is. At this late stage in the battle, it might even be easier to find ammunition for!
Another NCO, another PPsh, this time with a stick magazine. This landser also has taken mittens off a dead Russian, but has taken them off to fire his weapon. They are attached to his sleeves, as his mittens are probably more dear to him then his weapon in the cold.

The NCOs were fun, if a little fiddly to put together. That was almost entirely my fault; I wasn’t happy with just slapping the MP40 pouches on top of the Mauser pouches, and so for the two NCOs(one is not pictured because honestly he just isn’t worthy of being photographed, being rather boring) armed with MP40s I shaved off the Mauser Pouches. No green stuff was needed luckily, and I was able to put the SMG pouches right over where the old pouches were.

The PPSH was very popular in German hands, so I made two NCOs with them instead. I didn’t file off the pouches on those models, but I might find some Russian pouches for them later.

Lets see some more, this time the squaddies.

The MG34 was a fantastic weapon for its time, and I’m glad that it was included on the sprue. I have given one to each squad, with one man acting as a loader and carrying ammunition drums. These were fun models to make, and a fun tiny challenge to make the no variety in arms work with different poses for a degree of diversity.
It is a little hard to see here unpainted, but this Landser has a grenade in his right hand, ready to be lobbed at Ivan.
This infantryman is armed with a Teller Mine; while I am using them as simply ‘Anti-Tank Grenades’ these mines were considerably more powerful in real life. Still, as visual shorthand it should remind me that I can blow up tanks with my squads.

Next up were the metal models. I love metal models…most of the time. These were not bad, but unfortunately they are more geared toward the late war period and I had to make do for now. Still, lets have a look!

A German Captain, complete with a fancy fur-lined coat. This might make him a tempting target for Soviet snipers…
A senior German NCO, which I will be fielding as a First Lieutenant(Oberleutnant). Lots of nice detail here, but no greatcoat, being lucky enough to have a shorter more practical jacket. This I believe was available to a lucky few at Stalingrad, but was by no means common and is one of my many minor anachronisms that I hope to resolve later.
Another great model that appears to be a little anachronistic is this Medic carrying a wounded soldier. They are both wearing the shorter winter jacker favoured in the Late War, and is a field expedient until I can find a suitable replacement.
Finally, some metal models wearing greatcoats! This mortar squad will keep enemies heads down.
Wearing a combination of short jacket and greatcoat, this Artillery observer won’t look too out of place and can remain as is.
This model was almost perfect, wearing the combination short jacket and greatcoat. I could almost forgive the helmet cover which is distinctly later in make….but what I could not forgive was it having a stonking huge STG-44 on his back! I cut it away…
….and added a much more accurate MP40! I got a bit clever here, as my greenstuff skills lie mostly in filling gaps.
So instead I used a bit of metal flashing from his base to make a sling, and attached it to where the plastic MP40 had its original sling.
Short of gluing my fingers together, this was actually pretty easy! While this model is actually from the included MG42, I at least found a new home for him as the Mortar Squad’s spotter!

Now let’s talk anachronisms and gaming. I would, if had been able, supplied all the models in this force with period accurate weapons. However, as the sleeves must remain distinctly greatcoat in appearance, I had to make some allowances. I firstly had to use the included Gewehr 43s, which are standing in for the slightly less anachronistic(if only just!) Gewehr 41. I was not entirely happy with this, but it was a decision to get these guys into the painting queue faster then I would have waited for replacement arms. It also, tellingly, still counts as just a rifle in-game. This to me is a forgivable anachronism, as these are at the end of the day wargaming models. My goal is historical accuracy, but at the end of the day I really just want to play some games too!

Secondly and more egregiously is the metal models…they are definitely meant for Late War, and only a few pass muster. I will be ordering some replacements for them once I get a chance, probably from Great Escape Games. I still made some effort to ‘back-date’ them a smidge, but they still aren’t perfect. However, they will still pass muster for the average layman, and being that I am one myself I will content myself with that for now.

Anyways, with this done I can move on from the irresistible force of the Wehrmacht to the immovable object that is the Red Army. Chuikov’s men are significantly more work to put together, being that their arms and weapons are separate, but Comrade Stalin is a harsh task-master and the city must be held.

I hope you enjoyed today’s ramblings, and I’ll catch you tomorrow! Happy War-Gaming wherever you are, and Auf Wiedersehen Kameraden!