German Infantry Plastic Miniatures Conversions in 1:72 Scale, 1939–1945

German MG 42 gunner and № 2.

Variety is the spice of life, and figure collectors are particularly interested in obtaining as many differently posed troops as possible. Simple figure conversions can provide greater variety in figure poses. There are many different types of 1:72 scale WW2 infantry miniatures on the market today, mixing and matching their body parts creates endless variety. The figures pictured here are from Airfix. The soldier on the right was made from the upper body of a prone Afrika Korps machine gunner, mounted on the legs of an advancing infantryman. Pattex now offers a plastic glue which will bond polyethylen figures securely.

Parts Required

  • German Afrika Korps, 1:76 Airfix 01711
  • German Infantry, 1:76 Airfix 01705
  • Russian Infantry, 1:72 ESCI P-203, Italeri 6057
  • 0.3 mm and 0.6 mm Pianowire
  • Pattex Blitz Plastik flüssig PE/PP adhesive

Conversion by Painting

Variety of poses may be achieved simply by mixing figures from different manufacturers and painting them in the same unit colours. Almost every plastic figure manufacturer has released World War 2 German, British and American figures in recent years. Many interestingly posed soldiers are available, requiring very little additional conversion work. Some German soldiers from the Afrika Korps range of figures may be used in the Italian and Central European theater of operations simply by painting them in field grey uniforms.

Entrenched Troops

German Soldier in rifle pit.
German soldier, advancing.
German soldier, kneeling.

Infantrymen spend much of their time digging riflepits, foxholes, bunkers and elaborate trench systems which offer some protection against automatic fire and modern artillery shells with impact fuses. Near the front, every lull in the fighting is used to dig in and improve existing defensive positions. Surprisingly, none of the available figure ranges include entrenched figures and prone or kneeling soldiers using their personal entrenching tools to dig in under fire. Entrenched soldiers may be converted by cutting any firing figures apart just below the chest and mounting them on a base, using hot glue.

Excavated dirt piled up around the foxhole may be simulated with modeling paste or household filler. The bottom of the hole is painted black, to simulate depth, and the rest of the base terrained as usual. Fresh earth is easily spotted by an observer, because it is of a darker colour than the surrounding area. Accordingly, foxholes and trenches need to be camouflaged with sod. The soldier pictured here is a rifleman from the superb Afrika Korps produced by Airfix.

Trousers made from Glue

Airfix Afrika Korps figures are nicely sculpted and the casting is very good. Some of the soldiers wear shorts which limit their deployment to the North African and Mediterranean theaters of operation. Equipped with trousers, these figures may be painted in field grey and used anywhere in Europe. That the Afrika Korps soldiers wear their sleeves rolled up adds a nice touch to units otherwise composed of infantry figures entirely in regulation dress. After all, it does get hot in Europe in the summer, and soldiers adjust their uniforms and equipment accordingly.

The conversion is done by carefully removing the seams of the shorts with a scalpel knife, painting several layers of white glue over the legs and gradually shaping them into trousers. Nail polish may be used instead of white glue. This kind of conversion is more time consuming than simply replacing the legs with trousers taken from another figure, but it has its uses.

Swapping Legs and Torsi

The upper body of this figure comes from an Airfix Afrika Korps rifleman. The original German soldier is sculpted with his legs unusually wide apart and delivering a bayonet thrust, a pose which is so unique that it looks strangely choreographed if used more than once in a diorama or wargaming unit. The upper body is well designed and in a very typical halting or advancing pose when mounted on different legs. As a result, this particular figure is usually chopped up and converted.

The new legs belonged to a Russian soldier produced by ESCI. Russian trousers were cut differently from the German equivalent, they were loosefitting around the upper thigh, but that’s hardly noticeable in 1:72 scale, especially not in this kneeling pose.

Both figures were cut below the waist, making sure that the Feldflasche M31 field flask and the gas mask canister stayed attached to the German soldier’s belt. This was accomplished by carefully separating the equipment from the shorts with a scalpel blade, but leaving it attached where it rests against the belt and upper body. The halves of the new figure were planed along the joint, until they fit together perfectly. The figure was then joined with a piece of 0.6 mm pianowire and secured with superglue.

Superglue is not compatible with all plastic figures. When mounting heads, superglue seeps into the figure along the pianowire peg, sometimes causing the chest to split. Apparently, superglue speeds plastic corrosion; the material brittles and the stress exerted by the metal peg is enough to burst the figure. White glue may be used instead, it does not bond with the plastic, but it prevents the figure halves from rotating around the wire peg. The best way to join figures is to weld them together with a soldering iron.

Weapons and Equipment

Historical infantry units require a certain amount of heavy weapons and specialized equipment which is not readily available. This is an area where conversion is almost always required, scrounging equipment from other units:

  • 50mm Mortar, unavailable
  • 81mm Mortar, German Infantry and Afrika Korps, Matchbox and ESCI
  • Observer/Officer with field telephone, unavailable
  • Observer with binoculars, German Infantry, Matchbox; Afrika Korps, Airfix
  • Observer with rangefinder S.F. 14 Z., German Panzergrenadiers, Revell
  • Bicycle, German Mountain Troops, Airfix
  • Signalman with telephone cable, unavailable
  • Feldjäger Military Police with dog, unavailable
  • Flamethrower, German Infantry, Airfix, Matchbox and Revell
  • Radio, unavailable
  • Clustered Handgrenades, German Infantry and Engineers, Revell
  • Magnetic AT Hollow Charge, unavailable
  • Motorcycle Messenger, unavailable
  • MG 42, German Infantry, alle Hersteller; Afrika Korps, Airfix and ESCI
  • MG 42 on tripod, German Infantry, ESCI; Afrika Korps, Matchbox, ESCI u. Revell
  • MG 42 Gunner № 2 with ammo boxes , German Panzergrenadiers, Revell
  • Mines, German Engineers, Revell
  • Mine Detector, German Engineers, Revell
  • Pack Mule, German Mountain Troops, Airfix
  • Panzerbüchse AT Rifle, Siberian Rifles, Revell
  • Panzerfaust, German Infantry, Revell
  • 8.8 cm RPzB 54 “Panzerschreck”
  • Medic with Stretcher, unavailable
  • Sniper, German Infantry, ESCI
  • Goliath Tank, Explosive Devise, German Engineers, Revell
German soldier, attacking.

Painting Instructions

The figure pictured below wears the field grey uniform of the Wehrmacht. The upper body comes from the same Airfix Afrika Korps soldier we used for the kneeling figure conversion above, with legs from an advancing Russian soldier made by ESCI. Notice that the top of the field flask and the gas mask canister are attached to the figure’s belt. Both items were left attached to the upper body and separated from the shorts the figure was originally wearing. The new trousers fit perfectly.

  • Field grey jacket and trousers
  • Lace on collar and trim around the shoulder strap in Waffenfarbe
  • Neutral Grey boots, Y-straps and ammo pouches
  • Dark grey gas mask canister
  • Brown field flask cover with dark grey cup
  • Beige Brotbeutel M31

The same conversion techniques may be used to create an amazing variety of World War 2 French, British & Commonwealth, American, Italian, Russian and Japanese figures.

Converting Miniatures