Monday, 16 September 2019

1/72 WWII - Revell Sdkfz 7/1 with flak & trailer

NB: This post was originally published by me ages ago. All of sudden, and for no reason I can understand, it's popped up here, with a publishing date of 16th Sept, 2019. Can anyone enlighten me as to how or why this might happen? I was editing the 'labels' on numerous posts yesterday, to standardise certain search terms, and hopefully make the blog a bit more streamlined. But, as far as I know, I didn't edit this post. And even if I had done, it should still remain in sequence, unless I were to deliberately change the 'schedule publishing' date. Weird!?

I love this model! It's actually more like three kits in one, rather than just one kit. As well as the superb Sdkfz 7/1 half-track, you get the delightfully intricate four-barrelled anti-aricraft gun, and, admittedly not quite so exciting as the vehicle or the gun (but still fun to build), the ammunition trailer.

If any of the models I've built so far have been mouth-wateringly good, then I'd have to say this is one such. It's certainly amongst the best for getting the model-making maw a-droolin'. The styrene itself is almost tasty... it makes me think of top quality dried pasta. It even looks the part! 

As with many 1/72 AFV models, this commences with the running-gear. It's terribly well designed, although some hardcore old school modellers might object to the fact that several multipart wheel elements are provided here as single pieces. Although this does potentially lessen the amount of fun to be had gluing bits together, this kit still has a high enough part count (thanks chiefly to the gun), and  this design approach also has the distinct advantage of simplifying this stage, and guaranteeing a much tidier result into the bargain.

The winch is finger-lickin' good!

Perhaps the best tracks on a 1/72 model ever!?

I simply have to say something about the tracks in this kit: they are, in my view, far and away the best tracks in any 1/72 model I've as yet encountered. They're made form the same styrene as the rest of the kit, and are beautifully rendered. They are as flexible as they need to be, to easily wrap them around the wheels. And, being ordinary modelling styrene, they are totally easy to glue.

The only problem with these otherwise superb tracks is that they weren't exactly to-the-millimetre accurate, in terms of the length needed for a totally snug fit. As some of these pictures show, there are gaps. On one set of tracks the lone gap was negligible. On the other (one would've expected exact symmetry!) the gap was so large I cut a section of track off, so as to spread the gap between two points, with the aim of having two slightly smaller gaps, rather than one large one. 

If this set had included a few spare individual links, to plug such gaps, they would have been 10/10 perfect.

After the running gear and some of the cab were built, it was time to make the ammo trailer. I might like to build another one of these and have the ammo trailer open, with shells being unloaded, etc.

Once th trailer is assembled, it's the turn of the gun. This is a lovely thing, if a bit fiddly to assemble. If I were making it now O might want to replace some of the parts with finer detailed photo-etched parts, e.g. the sights, and possibly even the barrels. The latter might be better for being replaced with turned metal parts. But this was my first such model, and I was content to put it together as it was, straight out of the box.

The whole vehicle has, by this stage, been base-coated in matt black, sprayed with hair lacquer, and then undercoated in dunkelgelb. The only bit of the vehicle to have been painted any more than this is the deck of the fighting compartment, which I decided to have a go at detailing ahead of the rest of the paint job. I must've met I'm quite pleased at how this has come out, with traces of rust and paint scratched off, etc.

Some of the above pictures appear to have got out of sequence! As I'm currently putting the finishing touches to this entry whilst staying in Belgium for the Waterloo 200 celebrations, I'm not going to be so fussy us to rearrange my post just yet (I can do that later). But some of the pictures shown above and below record my progress when painting the internal cab details.

I also painted and added a driver figure (I think I've got pictures of him somewhere, not sure where though!). I've Blu-Tacked the upper cab hatches, in the roof, in their positions, for the duration of the external paint job, with a view to eventually glueing them in the open position, so that interested parties might get a glimpse inside the cab. Even then, I doubt very much will be visible!


Although the armoured cab half tracks aren't my favourites, in terms of looks, this kit is such a joy to build that I almost feel I like the ugly beast. painting the interior of the cab and adding the figure gave me a massive thrill - am I some kind of modelling deviant? - despite (or is that because of) the knowledge that the work would be nigh on invisibly one the model's completed. 

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Book Review: Too Few For Drums, R. F. Delderfield

My wife and I recently went on a terrific short break, staying at three different AirBnB properties, for two nights each, and visiting three different National Trust properties: Petworth House, the Sandham Memorial Chapel, and Waddesdon Manor.

My holiday reading for this break was a deliberate change from the masses of non-fiction military history and modelling stuff I'm mostly reading these days. For a complete change of pace I borrowed Just One More Thing, Peter Falk's autobiography. That was fun. And, closer to home interests wise to this blog, I also took along and read Too Few For Drums, by novelist and Napoleonic history buff, R. F. Delederfield.

As a kid I'd read his Seven Men of Gascony, and loved it. Thanks to a comment on my review of that book, I became aware of Too Few For Drums. The Seven Men story, as the title makes clear, is from the French perspective, whereas Too Few is from the British. Set in Portugal, in 1810, it tells the story of Ensign Graham, a green young officer, and his small 'file', who become cut off behind enemy lines when a bridge is blown before they've got across.

This different cover is rather more suggestive of campaign romance!

I won't go into great detail. The premise is plausible, and Delderfield's deep and wide knowledge of his subject allows him to craft a very beguiling tale. Some of the characterisations are rather thin/clichéd. Only Graham and a female camp follower who joins the file are drawn in any real depth or detail. But it's well enough done to keep the reader involved, and all adds up to a ripping good yarn.

Delderfield unsurprisingly has his chief protagonists come together in more ways than one. But this rather obvious device is greatly tempered by the rumbling ruminations on the class divide between, essentially, officers and rankers. This was something of a leitmotif for Delderfield in much of his non-Napoleonic fiction, I believe. On the one hand it makes for something rather charmingly dated. But on the other it's both unusual in how it's handled, and not quite as anachronistic as it might seem, at first glance.

It's a very easy read. It could probably be read in a day, if you weren't doing anything else. I absolutely loved it. It was perfect holiday reading. And it was nice to read something still connected to one of my major interests, but a lot lighter and easier going than most.  I knock off half a bicorne for the flimsier characterisations of some of the protagonists. But I'd definitely recommend this to lovers of Napoleonic era historical fiction.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Book Review: Stug III & IV, Western Front, '44-'45, Dennis Oliver

Another excellent addition to the very useful Tank Craft series, from the ever-reliable Dennis Oliver.

Oliver has his own preferred format for these that differs somewhat from that usually adopted by other authors contributing to this series, deploying unit histories and schematic diagrams. In this 19th instalment of the Tank Craft series Oliver covers the Stug III & IV, and even then only really looks in detail at their deployment and use on the Western-Front in the last two years of the war, 1944-45. I hope there'll be more titles covering their service elsewhere forthcoming? As Stugs were the most produced German AFV of the war, and served in all theatres throughout the whole shebang, '39-'45.*

Production of the Sturmgeschütz III and Sturmhaubitze 42 at Alkett. [1]

One of the chief attractions of these books are the colour profiles, presented here under the heading 'Camouflage and Markings'. And in this instance we have 11 pages of these, depicting 19 Stug III, and three Stug IV, all illustrating vehicles serving in the aforementioned theatre/period. The 'Model Showcase' section features one Stug IV, and two Stug III, all in 1/35 scale. One minor gripe with the whole Tank Craft series, especially so for me as someone who builds almost exclusively in 1/72, is the rarity with which this scale is represented in the Showcase segments. This said, 1/72 kits are featured, alongside other scales (1/76, 1/48, 1/16, etc) in the usefully informative 'Modelling Products' section.

Camouflaged Stug III, France, '44. [2]

As already alluded to, their remains much of the Stug's WWII story to be told, so I hope more Stug volumes appear in due course. They'd be even better if they were to include some 1/72 kits in the Showcase section. I have four or five Stug models, and intend to paint them for theatres such as Italy and Russia, as well as the Western Front. But even with this tight focus on one theatre and a limited time period, this remains an excellent and, I think, essential reference for modellers and wargamers, etc.

* Oliver says there were none deployed in the initial invasion of Poland, but I've read or heard of other sources claiming there were a few deployed in that theatre.

This wonderful photograph does not appear in the book. [3]


[1] This picture appears in the book. My version, and the caption below, are both sourced from Wikipedia's entry on the Alkett factory.

[2] This image appears on the cover, albeit in a small/cropped form.

[3] That said, many of the images of the late war Stugs covered by this book are either destroyed, abandoned or captured.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Show Report: Colours, 2019

Imagine my gleeful surprise, whilst away on a short holiday with the mrs, on discovering that Colours 2019 was on the very weekend we were staying near Newbury! Well, actually, I'm stretching it a bit. We were staying in Burghclere, in order to visit the Sandham Memorial Chapel, and look at the Stanley Spencer paintings there, on wednesday and thursday. By the time Colours came around, we'd be staying in Aylesbury, and visiting Waddesdon, NT property and former home of the Rothchilds. But, as we were visiting the latter on the friday, I figured we were close enough to justify a return to Newbury on the saturday.

And lo, it came to pass.

French and Austrians clash at Wagram.

It's congested in town...

I'm beginning to wonder about me and wargaming shows. I find them exhausting. And most of what they contain is of little or no interest to me. And also, the types of folk that constitute the wargaming community are, to a fairly large extent, a rather odd bunch, and feel a little alien to me. But despite this, I feel compelled to attend these shows. Or at least a few of them. 

More space to manoeuvre in't country.

A French ambulance on the field of battle. A great touch.

On this occasion there was only one game I felt drawn to enough to want to document it, and that was a 15mm battle of Wagram. There were other games that had clearly been labours of love, with some impressive terrain and figures (I really ought to have photographed the 6mm Franco-Prussian game). But I just wasn't seduced by them on this occasion.

One noteworthy thing was that the event was staged on three levels. I think the last Colours I went to was in an entirely different building, and all on the ground floor. The spaces it occupied today were bright, airy, and not as crowded as either Partizan or Salute get.  I still had my 'dizzy spell', where I feel like I'm about to feint or pass out. I seem to get this at all the shows! I used to get the same thing when I went round art galleries as an art student. I'm not sure if this is physical or psychological, or what!?

My sole book purchase.

I had hoped to buy a couple of books from Paul Meekins, but I left it too late to make my desires known. By the time I emailed, the van had already departed for the show. And they hadn't just so happened to pack the two titles I was interested in, as sometimes fortuitously happens. The only book I bought Naval, Marine and Air Firce Uniforms of WWII, by Mollo and McGregor, a Blandford title that's a companion to a similar title focussed on the land based forces of WWII, I got from Anita Books.

My sole model purchase.

Figure and model wise my swag bag was also very minimal: an Italeri 1/72 Elefant, some decals for WWII German stuff (Decal Details), a couple of 10mm baggage wagons (Lancer Miniatures) for my Russia 1812 Napoleonics, and some circular MDF bases, for 15mm Napoleonic commanders.

Sundry odds'n'ends: decals, baggage wagons, bases.

I kind of enjoyed the show, in much the same way I've kind of enjoyed all the shows I've been to in the last few years. I think what this is all pointing to, for me, is that I need to get down to really finishing my armies, building some terrain, and fighting some battles at home! 

Monday, 26 August 2019

Kit Build/Review: 1/72 Forces of Valor King Tiger

I bought this King Tiger kit, by Forces of Valor [sic*], a new brand to me, from the Ely model shop. Partly on account of it being quite cheap, and partly 'cause I want to build a King Tiger and paint it up in the unusual (one known/documented example, I believe?) octopus camo' scheme.

But I also wanted to have it in zimmerit, which the octopus King Tiger isn't. But hell, this is my model, and historical accuracy or authenticity isn't the be all and all. So, goddamnit, I'm going to have a bit of fun with some historical licence, and combine the two things I love in one King Tiger.

All the main bits zimmerit-ed.

The zimm' took bloomin' ages! We have a guest round, and we had a barbecue dinner out in the garden yesterday evening. With all that going on and the intense heat, even though I started on it about 3pm, I didn't finish till about 1.30 am this morning! 

I do my zimmerit using white 'superfine' Milliput, which I spread as thinly as I can. In some places I try to work around detail, preserving the raised profiles of other details if poss'. In other locales - such as the sides of the hull in this instance - I'll remove surface details (tools and cable in this case). 

Once the surfaces are covered in as thin a layer of Milliput as I can manage, I use a very small flathead screwdriver to form every single indentation of the zimmerit individually. It takes aeons, but I like the irregularity. I almost bought some PSC Panthers with zimmerit already on 'em, at the recent Other Partizan, but didn't because; 1) they are to pricey, 2) the zimmerit is just to uniform/regular.

Rubber band tracks, plus... 

... other bits? The commander and two'grommets'.

The running gear sprue.

Running gear assembly is crisp and easy.

Removing some zimmerit to accommodate drive wheel assembly.

The running gear in this kit is very nicely designed and manufactured, being clean and crisp and going together easily and in good solid alignment. One excellent little detail is the way the two drive wheel mounting parts have different sized male/female gubbins. The tracks are some kind of stuff rubber/vinyl typed deal. A bugger to glue, alas. I used superglue, which got me there eventually.

Something I'd never seen before: a vinyl/rubber commander figure, and two grommets, or big fat washers. The latter are part of the turret/gun mount assembly. Without them the gun will just flop and flap around. Being on a different sprue, in a different material, there's a chance you might overlook them.. er, well... I did!

Cleverly designed, with different male/female bits.

Thar she blows!

If I hadn't opted to do my DIY zimm', this'd've been a pretty quick and easy build. With the zimm' and one or two balls-ups, it's wound up being a bit of a marathon. But it's a nice model, and I'd heartily recommend it as a base-kit, for wargamers in particular. Is solid, looks great, and is fun to build.

With the kit more or less completely assembled, you can see where I've removed parts of the mudguards. With just a small missing segment near the front on the  left, and a larger central section on the right. I also added some battle damage, in the form of two shell penetrations, and some dings on the left 'fender'.

King Tiger, sho' has a big butt!

Here's the larger gap on the right side.

Still need to zimmy up the machine gun bulge.

At this point I added one or two tools, to replace those I'd removed before adding zimmerit to the hull. I chose not to use all the spare track on the turret, as I didn't want to cover up all the zimm', or for that matter, the camo'  (when I get round to it). And then it was undercoat time. I noted only afterwards that I still need to zimm the mg!

Basic build and undercoat done.

Note added tools.

What a handsome beast!

Lean? Hmmm... not sure. Mean? Most definitely.

A nice ground level view.

Next step? Paint the beast.

* American spelling, I'm guessing. But then they have '501st SS Schwere Paner Abteilung'! So maybe it is just a typo?