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First Look Review
Polish Army 1939 Paints
The Polish Army 1939 Camouflage Set
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by: Mecenas [ MECENAS ]

Originally published on:


In November of 1918, the First World War had come to an end. The world celebrated. For Western Europe, after four years of cruel struggle, it finally meant a desired peace. November 1918 was also the month when a new country (after 123 years of Russian, Prussian and Austro-Hungarian occupation) came back to the maps of Europe: Poland. For Poland, however, this was not a time for peace yet— she had to fight desperately for her borders to keep that independence until 1922. One of the most important tasks for the new government was creating an army out of nothing. Some soldiers and officers had experience gained in the armies of their occupiers (as citizens they had to serve others), so they became the core of the new Polish Army. For example, from France came General Haller, trained and equipped according to French regulations. Poland’s previous occupiers had left some equipment, too: guns and rifles, airplanes, uniforms, etc. With nothing to start with, the Army had to use everything that could be found in the country, from the rifles and ammo left by occupants to the people who could be the officers. It's not hard to imagine how difficult were those first years of independence when everybody involved tried to create the mechanisms in the Army working together like a the fingers on a hand.

Thanks to Hugo Jaeger (Hitler’s personal photographer) and his use of the early AGFA color films, we can see how Polish uniforms looked, at least at the outbreak of the Second World War. Jaeger photographed some Polish POWs wearing all sorts of uniforms (available on the Life Magazine archive website), and I have annotated several of those photos to show their type and the appropriate color from a new set released by Lifecolor. I am not an expert on these uniforms, just a modeler interested in history, so if you see any mistake or inaccuracy let me know and I hope that together we will find the truth.

The set

The set includes the following colors:

UA 431 – Polish uniform wz.36
UA 432 - Polish uniform wz.19
UA 433 - Helmet dark green
UA 434 – Equipment light khaki
UA 435 – Officer's field uniform
UA 436 – Summer linen uniform

The Uniform Colors
The first Polish uniform was the wz.19 (type 19) developed in 1919. It consisted of trousers (really knickers), and a blouse with a high collar and two pockets on the lower part. Its color was khaki, and the Lifecolor paint for this uniform is UA 432. I have not been able to find any color photographs of this uniform type, but I have included some photos from reenactment groups found on the Internet. The uniform was used right up to the Second World War due to its wide availability in the army’s arsenals. These uniforms were even used in combinations with the later wz.36 (type 36), the last type of Polish pre-war uniform. The wz.19 was also allocated to reserve units created hastily before the war.

The later wz.36 (type 36) was a linen uniform developed in 1936, and calls for another paint we can find in this set: UA 431. There is also a color for the Summer uniform (UA 436), but it’s a pity the manufacturer does not say what type of Summer uniform, since there were at least 2 or 3 different types between 1919-1939, and each of them could has a different color. This uniform is perhaps best-known as being worn by the soldiers of the Westerplatte Peninsula who held out against thousands of Germans for the first seven days of the attack on Poland. Less than 200 withstood assault by Kriegsmarine and Wehrmacht troops supported by the guns of the training cruiser Schleswig-Holstein.

Unfortunately, this is the worst color of all in the set. In fact this uniform was light green, while the paint is more sand/yellow than green. Maybe adding a bit of olive or khaki would give a proper tone, but I did not check it yet. Lifecolor gets a big minus for this, though we have two “positives” for the wz.19 and wz.36.

Officer’s field uniform
The next color is the “Officer field uniform” color (UA 435). According to Army Regulations, officers’ uniforms were generally the same in tailoring as enlisted men. The difference was, of course, in rank insignia, badges, lanyards and some personal equipment. General practice before WW II was for officers to order their uniforms from the local tailor so they would fit perfectly. When the uniform faded or got threadbare, the officer ordered a new one for garrison duty, but kept the old one for field exercises or maneuvers. Another matter we have to keep in mind is that officer uniforms were made of a better material than enlisted uniforms, so they could differ in color. You can easily replicate any uniform of the army officer without bothering about historical accuracy. That’s why, though I at first had some doubts about this color, after consideration of all the pros and cons, my verdict is “positive.”

Equipment colors
I am afraid that this is the weakest point of the set. Neither helmet dark green nor the equipment light khaki match the real colors. Helmet green (UA433) is much too dark. It would be better to try to darken the wz.19 uniform color a bit than to use this paint. Polish helmets wz.31 were produced in just two factories Huta Ludwików (Ludwików Foundry) and Huta Silesia (Silesia Foundry). If you spend a little time, you will discover the differences in the shape of the helmets between the two producers. The real helmet paint was mixed with crushed cork and tree bark for texture. One difference between producers depends on the size of cork used. But if you look at many helmets, you’ll see there was no one, true tone of the paint. Yet none of them were as dark as the Lifecolor paint.

The final color included in the set is UA 434 (“light khaki”). There were only a few things in the soldiers’ equipment that had this color: a bag for the gas-mask wz.32 WRS, the haversack, wz.28MG ammo-pouches and maybe some tarps or other minor things. I have included a photo showing the bag for a gas-mask wz.32 from my collection. It is in very good condition, and there are even small stamps visible, so I guess that the color the original, more or less. This same type of bag can be seen in one of the pictures by Hugo Jaeger: a girl in a Summer tunic is wearing it. The color is almost the same as in the photo of the mask pouch from my collection.

Yet the Lifecolor paint UA 434 is very similar to their color for the Summer linen uniform (UA 436) with the same defect: it is more sand/yellow than green. The only option to get the proper color for this equipment is to mix it with other paints (once again UA432 added to the UA434 should give a good result).


Time to say something about the set in general. Finally we have good-quality paints dedicated to the rather niche topic of the Polish Army in 1939. Maybe not all of the colors have a perfect match to the original tones, but I absolutely realize that sometimes this is simply not possible to achieve, especially when the originals had different colors. Anyway, those colors which are not perfect are easy to upgrade with a few drops of other basic tones, which everyone of us has in his own palette. So with a bit of sense, you can fix this, depending on the purpose of painting. It's a pity Lifecolor did not provide a color for the brown leather equipment, which would be useful for painting belts, carbine ammo pouches, shoes, pistol holsters etc. This would allow us to paint everything for Polish soldier figures using only the paints from this particular set.
One word of caution: do not touch the bottles too often, because the paint used for color descriptions on the labels has a tendency to disappear when rubbed by your fingers. I suggest using a permanent marking pen to inscribe the numbers or color names on each container

I have painted a sample of each color from the set which you can see in the attached photo. I have used a broad soft brush for this purpose; the paints have not been thinned. The left side of each sample shows the result of painting with only one layer; the right side shows two layers. Each time I tried to paint as thin a layer as possible.

My general verdict of the Lifecolor “Polish Army 1939” paint set is RECOMMENDED.

1:35 scale figure sets of the Polish soldiers and officers pre 1939

35001 — Polish Infantryman 1939
35002 — Polish Infantry NCO 1939
35003 — Polish Infantryman w/ wz.35 “Ur” AT Rifle 1939
35017 — Polish Infantry Officer, Wizna, September 1939
35018 — Polish Sentry, Westerplatte, September 1939
35019 — Westerplatte (#35017 #35018), September 1939

35901 September '39 – Polish soldiers (2 fig.)
35902 September '39 - Polish soldiers (2 fig.)
35903 September '39 - Polish soldiers (2 fig.)

6344 — "28th Infantry Division" set contains a Polish POW soldier amongst Germans

513 35001 - Polish 10th Cavalry (Motorised) Officer 1939
515 35003 - Polish Tank Crew (set of 2fig.) 1939
516 35004 - Polish Infantryman 1939
517 35005 - Polish Motorized Artillery Officer 1939
518 35006 - Polish Mechanic Washing a Tank 1939

E008 Polish soldiers 1939 r. – set I (5 fig.)
E009 Polish soldiers 1939 - set II (5 fig.)
E014 Polish soldiers 1939 r. – set IV
E041 Polish officers of the 10th Cavalry (Motorized)-1939
Highs: It simply is-- and a great and proven quality of Lifecolor paints. A rare niche category gets its own paints.
Lows: Some errors and inaccuracies in the colors according to the authors refferences.
Verdict: Recommended. If you are not a rivet-counter and you can live with some minor inaccuracies, you get a good paint set ready-to-use for almost any configuration of pre-war Polish Army uniforms.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: XS5
  Suggested Retail: $31.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jan 06, 2010

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