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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Family photos...

Giano, over on Pagina di Giano, has a nice habit of presenting models in 'Family shots', where he compares different makes of the same vehicle, for example, Pz IIIs. I like this idea, as it helps to illustrate the sometimes small, sometimes great, scale differences between 1/76 and 1/72, and the range of approaches to the small scale creation of the same vehicle. When I was converting the Airfix Stug III gift from His Excellency Kinch to the Su 76i, I was struck by just how 1/76-ish the Airfix kit from 1962 was (without measuring it, of course), and how big much small scale armour is these days, even for 1/72. Anyway, as I have only made a small amount of progress on the PSC Sdkfz 251s, I thought I would adopt the Giano approach this evening, and do a 'family shot':

Firstly, a Minimi resin version finished for my Panzer Armee Afrika. Reasonably clear lines, no forward mg or mg shield, no anti-aircraft mg or pintel.

Second, a Matchbox Hanomag which I made in 1982. Little in the way of internal detail, but with both mgs, although the AA one has long gone.

Finally, a Frontline Miniatures resin one - rough and ready, but very good value for money, with little internal detail and no mgs.

And, all three. Size wise, they are pretty close. But none came with crew (or did the Matchbox one have a gunner?), or stowage, or extra bits of any kind.

As for the PSC Hanomags, the delay is in the painting of the crew. Dan M has commented on this blog about the PSC kits, pointing out a problem with the platoon commanders PAK38, and directing me to a very good blog from Sweden, to be found here (well worth adding to one's favourites. The header Jagdpanzer IV is fantastic). The Swedish bloggist, Leif, provides a very good review of the PSC Hanomags, but I notice that he says that the crew must be Waffen SS as they are wearing smocks. That doesn't sound right to me, as I thought the pull over smock came in a variety of camouflage and non-camouflage patterns and was worn by all sorts and manners of German. I may be wrong, but I'm going for early marsh pattern smocks on my little fellows, as opposed to pea dot. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Production line...

... in small scale, using Plastic Soldier Company's Sdkfz 251s:

First thoughts about these PSC vehicles (the first I have built) are that they are well thought out, go together smoothly, and are provided with a very nice range of crew figures and stowage. The crew will be added before the hull top is attached, hence the current state of the production line.

The blank brick wall here reminds me of a side street by my grandparents' home in Bootle in the early 1960s. Steam locomotives pulled goods trains, timber came in from Canada, the back alleyways smelt dank, and the streets were full of gaps from the bombing. All gone now.

The figure walking away from the camera here represents a factory policeman - combined night watchman and armed guard. It's the sort of job (the night watchman) that, in another life, I would have liked. The brazier would have burned bright, the kettle would have sung, and I would have walked my rounds along the damp brick walls. A bit like the opening pages of Herman Hesse's Wandering, where he imagines different lives he might have lived.

It's not just armour on the table. In fact, there's more creeping around going on:

Monday, 29 October 2012

Crept off...

More Milice for the Cohort of the Damned (or the Legions of the Lost Ones. Kipling, it's in yer blood!). New figures, painted by my good self this time. Regulars, in the franc-gardes:

Slightly over-exposed (in more ways than one), this understrength main is creeping about ... but where? Who are those chaps on the hill in the background? And that church doesn't look French...

Yes, it's the Milice who escaped forcible enlistment by the Germans into the Waffen SS. Instead, these are Miliciens that Darnand took to Italy as a battalion de marche, to help out Mussolini's die-hards:

With my favourite dinky Dingo, er, Lince.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

At the tablefront...

... Su76i on the table, albeit only on a proving exercise:

The rather lurid graffiti was chosen to 'lift' the usual Russian tank green finish. My very basic Russian language skills suggest 'Stalinish' as an English transliteration. Stalin-ish - mmm, sort of Staliny ? Staliny on some days only? Sort of jokey Stalin? Fortunately, very fortunately, I can type all that without being killed or sent to the gulag for 40 years. I seem to remember that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was initially held by the NKVD in 1945 with a tank crew who had been overhead laughing at Stalin's moustache. The same moustache beloved of Picasso.

On the same theme, I bought Anne Applebaum's new book, Iron Curtain; the Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, on Saturday. I always find it difficult to read things like that, but I will, at some point.

Enough. The question is - what is the next tanky type thing to be built. My small, accessible, stash (the rest hides in the loft) is:


A parting shot. In yesterday's Daily Telegraph (a conservative, and, to some extent Conservative British newspaper) there was a sort of interview with Roger Scruton (a conservative philosopher) which focused on his Anglicanism (membership of the Church of England). Scruton plays the organ in his local parish church, and after some interesting musings on the nature of Anglican belief, he appears to have played the reporter a favourite hymn of his - 'Come Down,  O Love Divine'. The reporter, Sameer Rahim, finished his article with this, and the following reflection of his own:

'As the music plays, it feels like I'm hearing the last withdrawing notes of Scruton's England'.

Roger Scruton is 16 years older than me, but, sometimes, and too often, I feel as if I can hear the last withdrawing notes of England too.  

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Nearly ready...

... for the tablefront. The Su76i has progressed, and is now primed and ready for the paint job:

Actually, it looks quite cool in black.

A great colour for hiding a multitude of construction sins too.

Oddly, the Swiss Army painted their post-war Hetzers black. I wonder what the thinking was behind that? Lots of deep shadow in the mountain passes?

Friday, 26 October 2012

A tale of two...

... information ages. As regular readers of this rambling blog will know, I was very kindly gifted a Stug III by His Excellency Conrad Kinch. This was part of an idea in my fevered brain that I would use the commander's coupla to turn a Ferdinand into an Elefant (let's hope that non-modellers or non-wargame types don't try to make sense of this). However, as it transpired, Trumpeter already 'do' an Elefant, but that still left me with the Stug. But around the same time as all this was cogitating in my brain, I dug out some 40 year old Airfix Magazines. And, in the December 1971 issue there was this article by Terry Gander:

In it, Gander used an Airfix Stug III to make a mysterious beast known as the Su 76i. Gander certainly had his work cut out back in 1971, for, as he said, 'There doesn't appear to be any reference to the Su-76i except in Mr Milsom's book [Russian Tanks 1900-1970 - does anyone have a copy now I wonder?] and the Polish Wozy Bojowe, and they both use the same heavily re-touched illustration. Apart from these two references I could find nothing.' That was then, in the happy age of print and nothing else, when each new gleaning was prized beyond rubies. Now ? Well, I simply typed 'Su-76i' into a search engine, and:


Interestingly, there are important differences between the 'heavily re-touched' photograph in Terry Gander's original article, and the photograph (taken from the website Achtung Panzer), and the drawing. Firstly, Mr Gander believed that the sole photograph he had access to showed a vehicle with vertical fighting compartment sides, but the internet age information shows a vehicle with sloped armour. In addition, the gun, and the gun mantle exhibit significant differences  and, the Gander photograph shows a commanders's coupla (I'll be dreaming about them at this rate!). Now, of course, there's no reason why both 'versions' might not be correct, as they may have been built on Panzer III chassis by different Soviet repair works. However, I've decided to use the clearer, internet age, information I have access to. So far, I've got the basic fighting compartment shape:

Next up will be the more tricky mantle and 76mm gun details.  

One final point - the Achtung Panzer website notes that some Su 76i were captured by the Germans and re-Christened Stug 76mm and used against the Soviets. So, a captured Pz III transformed into a Su 76i, then into a Stug 76mm. Wargame heaven!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Wagons roll...

In lieu of bashing plastic today, I thought I would get some of my toys out of their barracks and photograph them (badly). The nearly finished Afrika Pz III on my table inspired me to review some of my North African campaign kit. Over the last 40 years (!), inspired by the late, much lamented John Sanders, I've collected North Africa vehicles and toy soldiers. The upshot is that I have kit for all stages of the desert war (but with little for Tunisia), from many different sources (including long defunct manufacturers), finished to very different standards, in very different finishes.

First of all, some early British/Commonwealth:

Some DAK armour and support:

Italian transport:

Italian armour from early days until Tunisia in fact.

Italian lorry-borne artillery. This was something of an Italian specialism, and is the subject of the fascinating Italian Truck-Mounted Artillery in Action, by Ralph Riccio and Nicola Pignato (Squadron/Signal, Carrollton, 2010).

Italian recce forces, including two armoured cars from the elite Italian African Police:

Italian medium artillery - another elite arm, often fated to die at their posts:

But, I must kit bash...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


... T34s. I've finished the two renegade T34/76s, and managed to photograph them spectacularly badly, but you can see the general idea here:

The commander's coupla and the outsized balkenkreuz, along with the three colour finish certainly makes a difference, although it must still have been a pretty hairy task to take one of these into action.

The 'Mickey Mouse' version (i.e., no coupla added) has, it seems to me, an even more changed silhouette thanks to the stowage bin and the side skirts. From a distance, it actually has something of the look of a desert Crusader about it, which struck me as odd. The 'Mickey Mouse' was so-called (by the Germans) because when both hatches were open, the famous mouse's ears appeared. How strange that such a cheerful fellow should have been so popular in terms of mascots (I can think of German, Romanian, Italian, as well as US and British kit adorned with the mouse) of war and killing.  What did that mean?

According to the various internet sites that I've looked at with regard to German (and Italian) use of captured T34s, somewhere between 600 and 700 were taken into the Axis ranks. To put that into perspective, the Italians only produced 710 M13-40s, according to Nicola Pignato's Italian Armored Vehicles of World War Two (Squadron/Signal, Carrollton, 2004). The Germans were, of course, masters of recycling captured kit - the NSKK, for example, reconditioned 4,500 British lorries that were abandoned at Dunkirk. It strikes me that wargaming armies for the Germans, especially on the Eastern Front, should contain much higher numbers of foreign and captured kit than they, typically, do. In fact, I can only think of 21st Panzer on the Western Front in 1944 as an example where wargaming the Germans with foreign kit is the norm.

On other fronts, the extra Armourfast PzIII that I had left over from adding to the T34s is nearly ready for Rommel:

Next up - the Su76i, and the Elefant.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

More creeping about...

... reinforcements for the Milice, as more part-timers answer the call of the damned:

Armed courtesy of the UK arms industry and the RAF.

Meanwhile, my T34s are still on the repair and upgrade production line:

(This photograph is taken from a fascinating Russian site, which can be found here.)

Sunday, 21 October 2012


... not the unlamented Moscow publishing house of Cold War infamy, but slow progress today for my T34s under enemy colours:

Even very simple tasks (like reading stories to my grandson) seem to take a good deal out of me at the moment, but I did manage to add side skirts and a Pz III turret bin to the second T34/76. I'm looking forward to doing the paint and marking on both of these, which will really make the difference.

Because I didn't go for the Pz III coupla on the second T34, I was able to make up the second Armourfast Pz III as intended:

A very simple representation of the vehicle, but it will do, and will join my DAK forces in due course.

So, that leaves me with the SU76i from the Stug III plus bits; a bergepanzer III (see Dan's suggestion to my last post); and, of course, the beast that began the whole thing - the 'Elefant'.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Dr Frankenstein...

is alive and well and lives in West Mercia. Today, fresh parts arrived to feed my insatiable desire to create hybrid creatures. Dan of Gunners Wargaming is clearly a cognoscenta of these dark arts himself, as he immediately recognised that the disembowelled Stug III in my previous post is destined to be bent and twisted into the new form of a Su76i. But that is not all, ahahahaaaaa. These innocent boxes:

Hid these body parts:

And already the first freak is created:

With Panzer III commander's coupla and notek light.

I will return to the gloom of my laboratory (that's the late Mr Bloody Broon's fault with his energy saving light bulbs!) to create more freaks of the battlefield. I have the taste for it now!!!

Friday, 19 October 2012


... from Ireland. The noble Kinch's kind gift arrived today - the first of the hoped-for reinforcements. My Lord Kinch sent me this old timer:

I only built one of them in my youth - it was, I remember, a rare beast on the local hobby shop shelves.

A straightforward kit:

But long-lived. Look at this date:

A world ago - only 20 years after the subject of the model was doing its worst, but it is now 50 years since the first plastic Airfix Stug hit the shelves. 1962 -  four years before UK manufacturing reached its zenith, six years before the pathetic, essentially misogynist 'summer of love', over a decade before we turned our back on our friends, both Antipodean and North Atlantic, and still in the happy days before social fragmentation made us into the mess we are in now.

Enough! After a quick check through some references, I set to work.
First, the hull:

And after...

Anyone know what it is to be yet?