Tuesday 31 May 2016

Painting Progress: 10mm Napoleonic Russian Grenadier battalion

Determined to return to my Napoleonic 1812 armies, and in true Napoleonic fashion, I decided I'd try to paint a battalion a day over the 1/2-term break. I only got as far as priming and (temporarily) basing this lot on Saturday, and then I got as far as pic three below, by Sunday, whilst ... on bank holiday Monday. 

Well, you get the picture; I'll be lucky if I finish one battalion at this rate!

Before I could start in properly on these fellows I noticed (only after undercoating, as can be seen in the above pics) that one of the figures - a lone Pendraken amongst an otherwise Magister Militum battalion - was sans shako plume. So I cannibalised one from a spare figure, and super-glued it in place. As a by the by, it's interesting to see how different the above pics -taken on my iPhone - are, from those taken on the iPad under exactly the same lighting conditions.

A Humbrol grey acrylic basecoat, plus a few major blocked in areas, inc. dark brown base for flesh!

I'm using some pictures from the Blandford Colour Series title, Uniforms of 1812, by Haythornthwaite and Chappell. Most of my uniform reference books remain packed away in boxes, as we await the purchase of our new home. It's fortunate I stumbled across this handy little book at Salute, as I can't face attacking the Eiger of book boxes! 

Rear view, as above.

At Partizan I was somewhat tempted by a big expensive book in Russian, except that not only was it over £60, but it also only had a small portion of the book given over to the Napoleonic era. I saw an amazing (but even more expensive) Russian book on uniforms - but this one, I think, dedicated to the Napoleonic period - on the Ken Trotman stand a few Salutes back. I do wish I'd bought it! But I think it was £120 or more!

Most major colour blocks in place. Starting in on detailing colours.

But the long and the short of it remains that I have far more and far better ref. on the French and their allies than I do regarding the Russians. It's a good job there's the interweb as well. I've been offline a lot recently, due to being between Holmes, so to speak. Posting to the blog has been a right pain. I finally caved in and got a TP-Link portable hub thingy. It's made getting online easier, but not hassle-free, as we live in an area with appalling network coverage (for most networks, apparently!).

Still a ways to go, but flesh helps them to start looking more human and complete.

Reading the Haythornthwaite entries on Russian Grenadiers, as well as studying the pics, was most useful. I believe I've now picked up some useful general info on Russian line infantry organisation, including some interesting and useful uniform info. It seems that the vast bulk of the Russian infantry will have looked much the same, with units differentiated by very minor details, such as colours and numbers on their shoulder-straps, and the two-colour combinations on the shako 'rosettes' (or are these their pom-poms!?).

More detailing. Boy does it take time and effort!

I've recently bought two work aids, specifically for painting miniatures: a self-illuminating lamp-cum-magnifying glass, and a magnifying visor. The batteries in the lamp stopped supplying sufficient juice after 30mins use (so that may well go back to john Lewis!), hence my buying the visor. The visor is very good, but I'm a long ways from being used to using it. I did use it a fair bit whilst painting these - most the time atop my noggin as an expensive headband - but I figure I'll just have to get used to it at my own speed.

Day three (four, I guess, technically!?); knocked off one a.m. with figures looking like this.

When I think about the mountains of figures I have that need painting, it fills me with foreboding. How on earth will I ever paint them all?

The two pictures above show the present state of these figures, as of Tuesday, May 31st, at two of the clock, post-meridian. 

I quite like them in their current pristine, simple state. I recognise that shading is not on, with so many figures at such a small scale. Were I doing a small diorama, with just a few figures, I might really go to town on them. But given that I want to field large armies, I think it'll have to be a wash, at best.

Anyway, after four days of painting these buggers in almost any free time I could muster, it's time for some couch action, with a mug of hot Java and David Chandler's Campaign's of Napoleon, wherein he's currently guiding me across the bloody fields of Waterloo. It's splendid stuff. And I intend to post on the topic of tip-top trilogies ASAP!

Monday 30 May 2016

Miscellaneous May Modelling Madness

Perhaps the heat (hah, right!) is getting to me? Anyway, yesterday I decided to embark on two fairly random bits of model making madness. 

The first was to take a leaf from a fellow modeller's book*, and drill lots of tiny holes in the side panels of my Revell Sdkfz 7/1. 0.5mm is the appropriate diameter, but my preferred micro drill bit (mit ein grosser shank) is broken. So I used a bit from another set. And it wasn't long before I'd broken that as well! Dang nab it, I must gets me some more 0.5 bits! Perhaps a whole bunch?

So, that particular bit of rod for my own back lunacy is now on hold.

The second undertaking was some drastic Frankenstein style limb swapping, on the 54mm French Nap Hussar I recently bought/built. I realised, some time after cementing the dashing beau sabreur, that I had mismatched the arms; his left arm was dolman, his right pelisse (avec le furry wrist trim). 

I tried to gingerly pry his whole arm off, but it looked like it'd simply snap orff in the wrong area. So I got a spare arm with the right apparel, chopped out the appropriate part (forearm to wrist) - flying by eye and seat of pants - and repeated this process on monsieur le sabreur

I'm no Baron Larrey, but, almost miraculously, esp. so given my impulsive manner of going about this, without bothering to measure, etc., the 'new' arm slotted in pretty much ferpectly. My little bit of plastic surgery was a success!

I've subsequently base-coated the rider and his mount, ready for painting.

* I forget where I saw it, but he'd done exactly what I'd decided to. And very well to!

Friday 27 May 2016

1/72 Hasegawa Tiger I Ausf E

This was the other kit I bought at the recent Partizan. I built it today, in just a few hours, which is my fastest build to date. I love this kit! Why? Because it was so easy to build. All the parts fitted like so many fairy-tale glass slippers on Cinderelly's little feet.

I can't judge how well this model represents the tank it portrays, as I'm not sufficiently au fait with Tigers (nor any materiel of this sort, to be ferpectly honest). And it is rather basic in some respects; just take a butchers at those blank-disc wheels above!

But the finished model, and the road to getting there, are - in my opinion - tickety-boo. There are a load of excellent little touches in the design and construction of this model that make it a real pleasure to build. 

For example, the axles for certain sets of wheels (and the corresponding holes in the appropriate wheels) are of differing diameters. Perhaps not authentic re the vehicle itself, but brilliant in terms of ease of construction. And the missing detail is, frankly, superfluous anyway, as it's invisible.

Anyway, backtracking a bit; this tank kit is unusual in that it starts with construction of the gun and turret, followed by the chassis/casemate, etc., leaving the running-gear till later. Every single component of this kit reeked of tidy-minded and well thought out design. I was particularly struck by this when assembling the hull.

Admittedly this is neither the most complex nor most detailed kit out there. But neither is it in the Roco Minitanks or Armour Fast camp, having sufficient parts to really merit the term 'build'. Pictured below are the completed turret and hull, with all road-wheels attached, with just the hull detail - front and rear - plus 'mudguards' (if such they are?) remaining to be glued in place.

Even the old rubber-band tracks in this kit are decent, being easy to construct and affix. I finished this just after midnight, and decided to put up a post pronto. I'll give it a base coast tomorrow (well, later today, I guess!).

But my immediate conclusion? This was a very well-spent fiver! A great little kit, fast and fun to build, and looks good once made. In contrast to the Itaeri Hetzer, posted recently (and also acquired at the recent Partizan), the two crew in this kit fit in the tank perfectly.

Definitely recommended.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Book Review: The Illustrious Dead - Stephen Talty

The Grande Armée, defeated by... a Microbe!?

According to this fascinating book it wasn't the Russians that defeated the largest army ever assembled, when Napoleon and HUS allies invaded Arissia in 1812. Nor even was it 'General Winter', as the tale is usually told. Sure, they played their parts. But, according to Stephen Talty, it was the Typhus microbe that really defeated Napoleon's forces in 1812.

Very enjoyable! There are vast numbers of books on Napoleonic history, and a good number of those are about Napoleon's fatal misadventure into Russia, which, it can be argued, marked both the high tide and the definitive end to his Imperial fortunes. One of the things I like about this situation of super abundance is that authors are frequently forced into choosing ever more specific corners of these epic conflicts, or new and different angles on them, in order to give their contribution to the crowded field any chance of gaining notice.

Squalid open air bivouacs, breeding grounds of death.

In another Faber du Faur illustration the cause of death is less clear, could thus be typhus?

Talty's book on the massive and much-covered 1812 campaign in Russia addresses the role Typhus played in the obliteration (decimation is too weak a term, the ratio of losses being closer 9:10 than 1:10) of the Grande Armée, the largest invasion force assembled since Xerxes legendarily large force.

Talty writes very well, and I love his book. I can imagine the more pedantic of Napoleonic buffs - a numerous species - picking apart some of his specifics, but I think he gets the important stuff, and in particular the bigger picture, exceedingly well. His harping on the theme of typhus could be potentially galling. But one can't deny it's role, nor, as the book goes on, wonder why more attention hasn't been devoted to this aspect of the campaign before.

Early US Army deodorants proved unwieldy! [1]

On first reading, when the jacket blurb suggests that herein Talty 'tells the story of a mighty ruler and a tiny microbe, antagonists whose struggle would shape the modern world', it might appear, to the seasoned reader of Napoleonic and 1812 literature, rather a ridiculous idea. But it isn't.

And for me, as someone who became a fairly avid reader of evolutionary literature, sparked by the fairly recent 200th and 150th anniversaries of Darwin's birth and the publication of On The Origin Of The Species, to suddenly read stuff about the ancient prehistory of the planet in a book about the Napoleonic wars was certainly unprecedented and... well, frankly, wonderful.

Stephen Talty (pic. used with permission).

I think Tolstoy would have applauded Talty's work, as it supports his view, as advanced in his masterwork, War & Peace, that so called 'Great Men' are in fact subject to forces both beyond their control and, as with Napoleon and his generation [2] and Typhus, beyond their comprehension.

Whilst traditional military history buffs might quibble with occasional details of uniform, formation or technology, I think many will find Talty's fluid and exciting narrative skills convincing. His descriptions of the actions at Smolensk and Borodino are amongst the clearest and most enjoyable (if, granted, not the most complete or detailed) I've read.

All in all, an excellent, enjoyable, quick and easy read, and a welcome plugging of a gap in our understanding of this much written about campaign, which succeeds in both finding a new and interesting angle of approach and retelling the familiar story in a vivid compelling manner.


[1] I jest! Actually this pic shows DDT being used to prevent typhus.

[2] Even the medical expert of the Grande Armée, Baron Larrey, was hopelessly off the mark when it came to pathogenic organisms. The enemy in this case wasn't hiding on the reverse slope, they were simply invisible.

1/72 WWII - Italeri JagdPanzer Hetzer

I'm not exactly sure why, but I've always liked the look of the little Hetzer tank destroyer [1]. This one from Italeri (is this another of their old Esci models, re-released?), has the late-war big exhaust muffler thing, and a remote machine gun on top. As pictured on the box artwork, there are also two crew. More on these guys later!

Three sets of camo and markings are shown on the back of the box [2], with decals included for each variation. 

I built this pretty sharpish, after buying it for £5 at Partizan, in whatever free moments I could grab. And, despite one or two minor niggles, and excepting one or two rather more major gripes, I've enjoyed making this model. Minor niggles include such things as some parts (of the running-gear, in particular) not being sufficiently easy to align correctly, and the bits of spare track mounted on the body requiring their inner 'teeth' removing (a step not mentioned in the instructions), in order that the track retaining parts fit into their holes.

The instructions use photographs of the kit, and are serviceably clear.

To be sung Elvis-style: 'You can do anything you want, just lay offa my two beige sprues!'

The first of the two more major gripes has to do with the extreme difficulty these particular (but perhaps also this style in general?) link'n'length tracks presented. I've tried doing what I did here before - and, as I recall it, with more success previously - whereby I lay the tracks out and glue them together in two segmented lengths, per track, before finally draping them over the running-gear, and adjusting the fit.

It's a pity 1/72 is probably too small a scale for tracks to be supplied as individual links that somehow  clip together, into a fully flexible track, as Dragon's 1/35 'Magic Tracks' do. The closest I've ever seen to such an arrangement is not, perhaps surprisingly, these link'n'length numbers, but the flexible one-part tracks made of normal styrene, thin enough to bend snugly around the running-gear, on Revell's SdKfz 7/1 (the kit with a four-barrelled flak gun on the back, which I posted about here).

As is so often the case, it's the running-gear first.

Then upper and lower chassis/body. Gun cleaned up, barrel drilled-out.

As can be seen in this pic, there's some detail on the gun that will be invisible when the model's completed!

Gluing strips of the link'n'length tracks together, using lolly sticks to prevent them gluing themselves to the work surface, and to keep them properly aligned.

After excruciating agonies - continually dropping individual track links; extreme difficulty in properly aligning the links (on almost every plane/axis!) - the tracks in situ.

At this point I meant to spray the interiors, as I hoped to have hatches open, and crew inside. But, as the crew didn't fit...

Nearing completion of the build.

The second of my bigger gripes is that the two Panzer crew figures supplied don't fit inside the hatch openings. Okay, they're not the greatest figure sculpts, but I would've liked to have used them in this Hetzer model nonetheless. Instead they'll go in the spares box for use elsewhere. I tried to adjust the angle of the binocular holding arm of one of them, but I didn't achieve the result I was after!

I actually really like the crew figures, although, out of the vehicle their poses make them look rather like zombies.

Like all but one or two of my WWII models, this joins the growing armament awaiting proper painting. I finally have a decent dual-action airbrush as well, so it's just a matter of finding the time to get started using it!

My conclusions regarding this particular model? Well, it looks, judging from the figures primarily, like quite an old kit, but it's still pretty cleanly moulded, and - aside from the fiddliness of the tracks - goes together pretty well. 

A nice ref. pic. of the real thing. It'll be fun trying to emulate that rusty patina!

It is a pity the crew don't fit. Although, having said this, it might be possible to assemble them in such a way (stick the torsos through the upper casemate from below, and then glue on the arms!?) as to have them inside the vehicle.

I've docked thus kit one balkenkreuz on account of the tracks, and another 1/2 cross 'cause the figures won't fit inside. But it's still fun to build (tracks apart!), and makes a nice looking addition to my growing fleet of WWII German armour. 

On the workbench, amidst other ongoing stuff, primed in grey.

So, despite the relatively low score 'be given this model, I might well build it again one day. Although if I do I'd prefer to source tracks elsewhere. Oh, and the crew might have to go under the knife, for a bit of waistline weight-reduction surgery! But I think I'll be more likely to try a few from other brands first.


[1] I suspect the reason is something to do with pics of the vehicle in Panzer Colours, a book that fired my imagination and engaged my enthusiasm on this topic as a kid. 

[2] The black and white instructions include colour and marking info on four vehicles. I haven't checked, but I assume that's the three shown in colour on the back of the box, plus one more!?