Monday 31 August 2020

Book Review: Haynes, Flak 88 Owners' Workshop Manual - Chris McNab

I recently bought and built a 1/72 Flak 36 88mm gun, by Hasegawa. Looking at that and my other 88s, one an Airfix 1/76, the other a Zvezda 1/72, I felt a hankering for further knowledge. A quick look online revealed the existence of this Haynes 'Owners' Workshop Manual' title. Looking around for the best deal, I found The Works had new copies for just £7. So I shoe-horned a trip to the Huntingdon branch into our daily round yesterday, and bagged my swag.

Funnily enough on perusing the photographs I found that there were many that I'd already hoovered up in my online quest for ref, whilst building the Hasegawa kit. But no matter, I prefer having these images in print to looking at them digitally. There are, of course, also lots of images I didn't have. Although actually I do have lots of photos uncannily similar to the Muckleborough images to be found here, from my own trip to that terrific collection.

At this point, although I've dipped into the text - especially as and when I've chanced on stuff that tickles my interest - I've mostly used this excellent book as a purely visual aid. An invaluable source of reference and detail, it's sheer unadulterated fun just perusing it, and a font of inspiration for detailing and colour schemes, etc.

A typical spread, packed with useful images and info'.

Some little details that I've discovered or learned more about, thanks to this book, include: the stakes (extra precautions against movement/recoil) attached to the folding legs; the numerous types of shells and their containers (I particularly like the wicker boxes); crew size/roles; the electronic gizmos; the sextant, tools, toolboxes and the jack (for removing the trailing arms from the bogies); associated radar and other ranging and sighting stuff; the different types of bogies, etc. 

I'm left wanting to both build more of this fascinating gun, and to better detail the models I already have. The three I've made so far all have the shield. I fancy having a similar 'unit' without the shield. And it'd be nice to have some deployed off their bogies, and some on them. Yet others could be on their bogies but in transportation mode. Then there are the prime movers. And it'd be nice to have a few oddments like searchlights, acoustic locators, stuff like the Kommandogerät 36, etc.

Anyway, my first Haynes WWII manual, but not my last, methinks. Love it!

Friday 28 August 2020

Book Review: The Women Who Flew For Hitler, Clare Mulley

This superb book tells the highly engaging stories of two quite different German female aviators, both of whose youth and professional adult lives were lived out as test pilots under Hitler's Nazi regime. 

Both devoted patriots, Hannah Reitsch, the younger of the two, whilst never a party member, was an ardent supporter of Hitler and his whole Third Reich project, albeit in denial re the Holocaust. Melitta von Stauffenberg, a few years older, was, by contrast, of partially Jewish ancestry, and married into the family of aristocrats who famously came closest to assassinating the Führer. 

This is an excellently written work, weaving the two ladies' lives - both very exciting, interesting and unusual - into the fabric of truly momentous times. Fascinating, moving, highly informative. Just all round excellent, giving a different and very refreshing perspective on an oft-visited era.

Book Review: Tank Attack at Monte Cassino - Jeffrey Plowman

Although my reading has ground almost to a halt recently, I did read this excellent book a few months back. And finally I'm getting round to posting a review!

A fascinating account of a little known action in the long arduous campaign to take Monte Cassino. The somewhat crazy idea of outflanking the dominating heights of Cassino with a tank force - an undertaking which required the building of a road - in terrain highly unsuited to armoured warfare, ended up being something of a shambolic failure.

The attacking force is a mixture of Indians, New Zealanders, Americans and British - French and Poles also figure in the bigger picture! - fighting Germans (Italy having capitulated by this point). The book draws a vivid compelling picture of events, enlivened by firsthand accounts and illustrated with contemporary photos. 

A segment at the end covers the battlefield as it is now, for those interested in visiting. I'd have preferred more/better maps, as following the action during the narrative isn't always easy. Several appendices add further supporting info. 

All in all, an impressive and fascinating work. I'm left wanting to read more about the whole Cassino campaign. Thoroughly enjoyable!

Kit Build/Review: Hasegawa 1/72 88mm Flak 36

I quite like building the same thing by different manufacturers. It's nice to have several of any given thing, so one has a unit, for future gaming. In this instance this is my third 88mm Flak gun. One of the others is an Airfix 1/76 version, the other 1/72, by Zvezda. This Hasegawa is the later Flak 36, and comes with crew, ammo and boxes, and the two trailers.

I knew I didn't want to build the crew. For one thing the figures ain't great. And for another, I wanted the crew to be bigger (more figures, not taller or fatter!), better posed/sculpted, and probably dressed differently. I've seen so many pictures of 88mm crews, and very often, due no doubt to the intensity of the physical work, and perhaps the location/climatic conditions, they'll be dressed more casually.

I laid all the parts out, per the steps in the instructions, ready for clean up.

Step one.

Step two.

Step three.

Step four.

Step five.

And so on...

Nearing completion...

Boom...  done. Now it just needs paint and decals. 

The trio of 88mm guns.

So, the model is made. It's better than the Airfix kit, by a long margin (and bigger). But it's not quite as finely detailed as the Zvezda. Actually this might be better, for wargaming purposes. Too fine detail - as many kits for 'pure' model-makers are these days - and the resulting piece is too fragile. At this point I'm not sure how to paint it. But I'm intending to paint it ASAP, and get the decals on. I need to change my long established m.o. of building and then abandoning kits unfinished/unpainted!

Book Review: Images of War - Hitler's Anti-Tank Weapons 1939-1945, Hans Siedler

This is a very handy little book. Following a brief scene-setting introduction, over five chapters - Early Years (1939–41), Operations in Russia, Stop-Gap Solutions, 1943, The End - Hans Siedler gives us a brief history of German WWII anti-tank guns. 

Copiously illustrated, as befits any title in this ever growing series, with contemporary black and white photos, and with three useful appendixes, the titles of which hint at the scope of the coverage - Towed Anti-Tank Guns, Converted Anti-Tank Guns, Hand-Held Anti-Tank Weapons - whether you're a wargamer, modeller, or just a WWII history nut, this is a great resource. 

The text is very basic, but sound enough, as far as it goes. Text and images take us from the early war 3.7 Pak 36 to the late-war Pak 43; alongside this there's the development from lightly armoured/gunned Marder variants up to the Elefant and Jagdtiger (the latter the heaviest AFV of WWII); and there are also the handheld weapons, from the Panzerbusche to the Panzerschreck, with disposable Panzerfaust figuring large as the war draws to its inexorable end.

Also duly noted are the many instances of hybrid vehicles, some related to types already mentioned - the evolution of the Panzerjagers can only be briefly covered in such a slim and wide-ranging book - and others such as when guns of various types were mounted to half-tracks, or on vehicles such as the RSO. A nice little touch, after the appendices, are the two contemporary German images showing how to use and the structure of the popular mass-produced Panzerfaust. 

Hardly the definitive work on such a potentially huge subject, nevertheless this is an easy to read, well illustrated and highly enjoyable addition to the very useful Images of War series. I love it!

OMG! I really don't like 'text-speak', but... OMFG!!!

My new workbench, under construction (now finished).

It's been ages since my last post on here. Tracking my former activities, it's like I've fallen off the mini-military thing altogether, since... well, ummm... I only managed two posts apiece in January and March this year! I've actually been doing next to nothing. I can only think of one kit build - a 1/72 German ambulance - in this period, and even my reading has ground to very near a complete halt.

So, why the cessation of activities? Well, somewhat strangely, perhaps, the whole Covid-19 lockdown thing hasn't meant having the time to do my military stuff. Instead I've been either indulging in bouts of rest - watched loads of soccer and snooker! - or working on home improvements. Major projects include the continued build of our greenhouse, re-roofing my shed/workshop, and building myself a workbench. Minor stuff includes renovating a snooker table, installing a shower, an outside tap, putting up numerous shelves, clothes hangers, etc, and reorganising my workshop.

My DIY 'jazz' greenhouse,* as it is now, i.e. still a WIP.

* Jazz because it's more or less completely improvised.

Alongside these activities there's been a host of other even smaller things, and the upshot has been that my mini-military and related hobbies have been put to one side, for much longer than anticipated. Reading wise I've done a little more, and intend to post a slew of book reviews over the next few days/weeks, to get back in the saddle. Model-making and 'toy soldier' wise, however, it's gone right off the boil.

Took the old corrugated roof off the shed, and put a flat OSB/felt roof on.

Yesterday, having finished painting the interior of my new shed roof - the new ceiling - I decided to treat myself. Our car had been off the road for two weeks, in for repairs, and getting out on the road for some fresh air, and a little jaunt to Ely - for. the model shop and bookshops - seemed like a swell idea. 

I'm on immuno-suppressant medications for psoriasis and psoriatic-arthritis, and have been in 'shielding' during lockdown. In part that's also why I've been doing less mini-military stuff, as I've been shattered, which is a symptom of both my ailments and the meds. So getting out like this was a major change/treat in itself. I wound up buying two great art books at the Ely Oxfam, which frequently has a much better than usual selection of interesting books. One caught my eye in particular, featuring as it did, Ingres' iconic painting of Napoleon on his coronation throne.

My book acquisitions.

Then I went to Ely City Cycle Centre, the old-fashioned department store with a pretty good model section. The best selection of models I'm aware of, in easy reach of us. They've changed it around, again, plus there's a one-way system in place, due to the Coronavirus situation. Their 1/72 Revell kits are way overpriced, which ruled them out. In the end I plumped for a Hasegawa 88mm gun, and a Roden Opel Blitz L701, Einheitsdiesel, with all wood cab.

I wanted to take time out, and actually build one of these kits as well. But there was still plenty in the way of chores, so I didn't get started till 9-10pm. I'll be posting that evening's build as soon as can.

My two model purchases.