Overall, this is a nice set with some great diorama accessories and really cool bits. I had a blast connecting the radio components! However, there are a few small shortcomings which I will discuss later on.
Part 1: Major Achbach
DiD's Major Achbach figure is based on a German officer, played by actor Benno Sterzenbach, from the 1966 French comedy "La Grande Vadrouille" (The Big Runaround) or, as re-titled in English, "Don't Look Now…we're being shot at!" In this movie Major Achbach searches for a downed RAF bomber crew and the French citizens who are helping them escape to Vichy France. It's a funny movie and worth watching if you get the chance - a short YouTube clip is linked at the end of this post if you want to check it out.
I don't really regard this set as a proper movie tribute figure, but I am going to do some comparisons as if it were - just for fun.
A screen-shot from the movie.
Despite privations due to the war, Achbach has clearly been eating well and, although somewhat portly, he is a strong, aristocratic man with an intimidating presence (with officers cap he measures nearly 13" tall, which to scale is 6' 4"). Kidding aside, the added heft is due to a padded suit under his XXL size officers uniform. As a result, Achbach will be standing for this review because the padding severely limits sitting poses.
This vintage lounger ad simulates the best sitting pose I could get out of Achbach.
The headsculpt bears a strong resemblance to actor Benno Sterzenbach's stern looks in the movie, but it's not what I would call an exact likeness. Sterzenbach uses many exaggerated and silly expressions that are not reflected in this sculpt, but that's probably a good thing (not that this really matters). In any event, the sculpt is beautifully done with super detailed eyes, life-like skin texture and paint ops.
DiD have recently improved their officer caps and this one is quite nice with its white piping and silver braided hat cord. The eagle, cap wreath and cockade are revised with better detail and scale proportions. These same eagle/cockades can also be found on DiD's recent caps from Sergeant Major Wolfram and Captain Thomas. Fit is slightly tight, but it does go on with some careful pressure.
Tunic tailoring is crisp with accurate cutting, although I did need to trim a few loose threads. As mentioned previously, it's an XXL size and may be loose on other body types. The collar appears black in these photos, but it is actually a very dark green color with velvet-like texture. In terms of 1/6th scale German officer collars it's decent. However, it doesn't truly have the elusive, tight closure that is so characteristic of these collars - no-doubt a difficult bit of tailoring in 1/6th with real-world fabric thickness. The pebbled buttons are nice, but these have a bit of 'flash' (molding lines) around the edges that somewhat detract from the overall finish. The tunic closes with snaps (and a hook on the collar) - buttons are non-functional.
Riding boots are a supple pleather and have a good fit with the figure and breeches.
New from DiD - these litzen are molded plastic with ornate thread detailing (sorry it doesn't show up in the photo very well). They seem slightly long for officer litzen. My guess is these won't be to everyone’s taste, but I happen to like them myself. They're not pre-attached, so you could easily choose to add your own insignia (kudos to DiD for allowing this option).
Achbach didn't wear a Knight's Cross in the movie, however DiD has chosen to provide one. It's cast from metal with a clean finish and ridged border detailing.
The Glory Ventures breast eagle is something I added instead of using the included eagle.
The major rank shoulder boards are molded silver loops attached to white fabric. They come in place on the uniform, but would be very easy to remove should you wish to change rank. If you're going for movie-accurate, you'll want to swap these out for shoulder boards with black waffenfarbe. Perhaps Achbach was a pioneer at some point during his military career.
Yikes! what's up with the finish on this iron cross? Definitely detracts from the figure and needs replacing or repainting. On the other hand, the Verwundetenabzeichen detailing is superb - look at that pebbling effect in the background.
Note the stern look that matches DiD's sculpt.
The ribbon bar that Achbach wears in the movie appears to show (L. to R.): Iron Cross II Class; Two Blue Long Service Ribbons; 1938 Sudetenland Annexation Award and the golden-brown striped Westwall Award.
DiD's representation of this is fairly close, but their first and last ribbon colors are different. Since DiD's tunic displays the Iron Cross II Class ribbon through a button hole (which is not how Achbach appeared in the movie), they must've decided to change the ribbon bar. Going by what's on the DiD part, one could speculate the first ribbon is for a WWI Hanseatic Cross award. Considering that the movie is set pre-November 1942 in Vichy France; and given there are two long service awards with gold eagles indicating 12 years each (1942 minus 24 years = 1917); and there is a brief movie scene where a befuddled Achbach momentarily commiserates with his prisoners as they discuss WWI, I think it's plausible Achbach was a Great War veteran who had won this award. The last ribbon on DiD's bar appears to be a German Social Service award which seems improbable (but not impossible).
Furthermore, I like the concept of the ribbon bar, but it looks like a decal and seems out of place amongst the 'real material' accessories.
The ribbon bar, Iron Cross and Wound Badge are all pin-on decorations. I have mixed feelings about these - while similar to 1:1 award pins, they can be difficult to affix and sometimes appear clunky to scale. Using a sewing needle to pre-puncture the tunic helps to make attachment less bothersome.
Wristwatch is attractively detailed. The band is a bit thick and fiddly to fasten. You may want to do this first before placing it on the figure's wrist. Simply take off the hand and slide the buckled watch into place. Tweezers and patience are helpful too.
The detailed PPK is 'functional' and comes with a beautifully rendered holster.
Functional slide and hammer.
Leather-like holster easily fits the PPK.
Part 2: The FU 9 SE 5 Radio Set
This set inspired me to dig a little deeper into the world of German radio equipment, which, as it turns out, is a bit more arcane than I expected. My sources are listed at the end of this review should you wish more information. The following is a brief summary of what I discovered mixed in with figure review comments.
The highlight of this set is a wonderfully detailed FU 9 SE 5 radio receiver / transmitter combo that's constructed from metal. Features include: functional clasps, movable control knobs, detailed batteries, cables, headphone, microphone and accurately detailed labeling. Paint work is a very clean, matte-finish dark-gray which contrasts against the bright color radio controls (a little weathering would further enhance these pieces). There are some 40 points of articulation where either something can be turned, plugged-in or attached. Truly an outstanding piece that was fun to assemble, though not without a few faults.
Wooden table and chair are beautifully finished and make a great diorama accessory.
Putting this equipment in historical context, the FU 9 SE 5 was used for medium range communications between divisional and regimental infantry staffs of the Wehrmacht. It is comprised of a Torn. E.b receiver and a 5 W.S.c transmitter which I will detail separately.
As a side note, there is a brief scene in the movie where Achbach is using a Lo1UK35 Kriegsmarine radio (which was used for short distance coastal fortress / ship communications). I suppose this could explain why DiD included an FU 9 radio with der groß Major - though technically it's not movie accurate.
Torn. E.b Receiver
The designation 'Torn. E.b,' refers to 'Tornister Empfänger' type b, which translates into English as 'Knapsack Receiver.' It was a common, general-purpose radio receiver with a tuneable frequency range of 100 to 6970 kHz over eight bands. Weighing 29 lbs., it could be carried on the back of a soldier.
Power was supplied in the form of a 2-volt lead acid 2 B 38 storage battery (Heizbatterie), paired with either an E.W.b. 2-volt vibrator power supply unit, or a 90-volt Petrix dry battery (DIN/VDE 1600 Anodenbatterie). The batteries, cable and headphones were carried in a separate accessory case (Zubehör) that could be attached to the receiver case.
DiD has equipped their set with the E.W.b vibrator.
If, like me, you are wondering what a vibrator unit is, suffice to say that it created a higher voltage from the 2-volt battery, which was necessary for powering the radio's vacuum tubes (nowadays we have transistors and semi-conductors).
The 2-volt lead acid 2 B 38 storage battery and E.W.b vibrator unit with tie-down straps.
The E.W.b vibrator cable connects to the 2 B 38 battery through a small hole in the compartment sidewall - just barely visible in the photo above.
Detailed power cable, antenna connector and ground connector wires.
The 5-pin power cable for the Torn. E.b is routed through a hole above the vibrator unit.
During transport, cables and headphones were stored on the shelf above the vibrator.
The brown 'G' ground cable connects to the lower "Erde" fitting on the 5 W.S.c. The brown ‘A’ antenna cable connects to the higher 'Empf.Ant.' connection on the 5 W.S.c.
The headphones are standard Wehrmacht 'Dfh.a' ('Doppelkopffernhörer' type 'a') and plug into one of the two available connections on the Torn. E.b receiver. A station clock, clipboard and pen are included for logging messages and times.
The headphones fit fairly well with earpieces that can swivel for adjustment.
5 W.S.c Transmitter:
The designation '5 W.S.c' is the abbreviation for '5 Watt Sender type c,' which translates from German as '5 Watt Transmitter.' The 5 W.S.c was a general, medium frequency (950 to 3150 kHz over 4 bands), low power transmitter used in divisional and regimental nets of the German army. Transmitting range was 10 miles for radio or 36 miles for telegraph. Weighing in at 46 lbs., the 5 W.S.c could be transported on the back of a soldier, carried in a wagon or by vehicle.
Power to the 5 W.S.c could be supplied in one of three ways: 1) by T 5 pedal generator, 2) vehicle battery used with a U.5a1 dynamotor, or 3) small gasoline motor generator. Method of power would be determined by the needs of the military unit to which the sender was issued.
These dials are articulated! However, there is a small error with the 5 W.S.c main control switch (top center dial) which is set to the extreme left beyond any of the marked settings. Unfortunately it appears to be glued into position and not easily corrected. A second radio set that I purchased loose has its control dial set to 'Aus,' so apparently this is an intermittent type error.
Ich bitte um Verzeihung, ich habe nie versprochen, dass du einen Rosengarten
The microphone plugs into the 5 W.S.c 'Mikrofon' connection - but beware, the enemy is listening. The lower 'Taste' connection is for a telegraph button (which was not included in the set).
Although not bad for what they are, can't say that I care for the paper model designation stickers, they seem out of place on a set of this caliber. I imagine they were a compromise on DiD's part to help reduce cost, but, screen printing or dry transfer would have been much nicer. Should be easy enough to remove, and furthermore, I suspect most folks will want to display their radio sets beautiful faceplate and battery detailing, so the covers will likely be stacked nearby and not as obvious.
The Zubehör cover does have a functional battery cable door.
The metal tabs on one side of my particular 5 W.S.c cover were bent inward and required some careful manipulation in order for the clasps to fasten. Fastening the coverlids in place requires some care; they don't fit over the radio faceplates as much as on top of them. The clasps are what will hold them in position.
Both of the Torn. E.b covers are labeled 'Zubehör' for accessory. The receiver cover should actually be labeled 'Empfänger' for receiver.
Intricately detailed labeling for connectors and controls appear to be decals, and not paper stickers.
The sender coverlid is labeled '5 W.S.c' while the serial number plate on the sender itself is labeled '5 W.S.b' in tiny letters. Not really a big deal, the serial number plate is only readable from a few inches away (and from what I understand the b/c model differences were internal components only). In a way, the fact that it's noticeable at all is testament to the incredible level of detail DiD have put into this piece (albeit even if it's slightly inaccurate). I'm going with the spec plate being correct and the coverlid incorrect.
Receiver underside (top unit) and battery case topside (bottom unit) - these parts don't fit together due to misalignment.
The Torn. E.b has a back-pad to make carrying more comfortable.
Stacking of the Torn. E.b Emphänger and Zubehör is off due to a very slight sizing misalignment of the bottom/top parts. This also prevents the side fasteners that hold the Torn. E.b to the battery case from fastening correctly (the apex of the triangular knob should face downward). It's possible that some careful filing and profiling of the feet can correct this fault, but I haven't yet tried it.
Plastic coffee pot and cup 'branded' with the Wehrmacht eagle. The station clock is cast metal painted as wood. The mikrophon is also cast metal.
Parts I didn't use: extra hands, gloves, cigaretten, carrying straps for the Torn. E.b and a breast eagle.
What I'd Like to See Included With Communications Set 2
I'm not sure if DiD will actually release a Communications Set 2, but if they do, these parts would complete Set 1:
The Torn. E.b has batteries, but the 5 W.S.c does not have a power supply. This begs speculation that a possible Communications Set 2 might include a pedal generator. Would be really cool if it's done in a similar fashion to DiD's previous articulated bicycles!
Messages sent at the divisional/regimental level would have been sent by telegraph and encoded/decoded by an enigma machine. Neither is included, but perhaps they'll also be part of a forthcoming Communications Set 2.
An antenna is also missing. Wouldn't be hard to scratch build a field-improvised antenna by running a long line of wire tied to a pole or tree. But a proper antenna would be nice.
The Cyberhobby Communications Sets from 2007-2008 included an FU 9 set and here are some pics for comparison. The Torn E.b in this set is a later model lacking the regenerative feedback dial seen on DiD's rendition. These sets were cast in resin and are definitely less detailed.
The folding seats that came with these C-H sets were a neat item.
"Feind hört mit!"
Generally I try to keep my reviews factual and impartial, however they are my observations and opinions - which you may, or may not agree with. In either case you are welcome to express your own thoughts and opinions, should you be so moved.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!
Awesome thread from Funksammler on the Wehrmacht-Awards forum showing an overview of WWII communications equipment. Excellent descriptions and beautiful photos of the equipment, which explain how it was used.
WWII Communications Equipment Thread
LA6NCA website showing his German radio equipment collection, with many excellent images and period documents.
A 1944 U.S. War Department intelligence report on the 5 W.S.b on the Lone Sentry website.
5 Watt Sender War Department Report
U.S. War Department Handbook on German Military Forces (see Chapter VIII, Section IV for Signal Equipment)
U.S. War Department Handbook on German Military Forces
Information on the Torn. E.b from U.S. Army LTC William L. Howard (Retired) hosted on the Army Radio Sales website.
Torn. E.b Info
A modern video showing a Torn.E.b from 1942 receiving AM radio.
Torn. E.b Video
The Pumpkin Scene: