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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.'

Sunday, 23 February 2014

PSC Pz IV endstates...

... just when one wants fly-by-the-seat-of-one's-trousers' photography to work reasonably well, someone infects the kit-bashing, toy soldier blogosphere with a desire to become a keen amateur. The impact has spread, on undoubtedly occult and arcane lines even unto this blog! As a result, my photographs of the Plastic Soldier Company Pz IVs are poor, even by my standards. So, you will have to forgive, and use your imagination:

Above and below, two of the PSCs constructed as Pz IV ausf. H.

The camouflage pattern on the side skirts was lifted from photographs and a colour plate from Hilary Doyle's Osprey on the late mark Pz IVs - a very useful reference.

And, the remaining kit from the PSC box of three, finished as a Pz IVF1 for Rommel:

Below, the PSC version is accompanied by an out of focus Frontline Wargames resin Pz IVD (does anyone remember the marvellous Airfix Magazine article from the early 1970s which celebrated the arrival of the Airfix F1/F2 with conversions to a Pz IVD and a Pz IVJ ? The former was very nicely presented,  I remember, with crew emerging from every turret hatch, and a peasant woman (and duck?) greeting them as liberators (eastern Europe, and early, then, but not Poland in any case; though perhaps Polish-Galicia).

And, below, the PSC on the left, with a 30 year old Airfix version on the right. The Airfix version has endured some 10 house moves in that time and has only lost one half of the turret hatch!

You can see that there is a noticeable 1/72 v. 1/76 difference here, but as one whose wargaming mind was formed in the days when the wargaming clergy were happy to mix 1/76 with 1/87, I don't really care.

So, what's the verdict on the PSC Pz IVs ?  In a word, worthwhile. There are detail issues, for example, the notek light is merely a raised blister, and there are, if one knows enough, issues re the rear of the hulls, and, probably, with the turret side hatches, but they look the business for the wargames table! They are excellent value for money, you get three at once, and you don't give sterling (TM, rUK) to the Chinese (I see the US think China is shaping up for a bit of aggro over Japanese islands).

Friday, 21 February 2014


... cheered on by DaveM, I went for the ochre look for the PSC Pz IVHs:

Here they are with the base coats in place. I used Revell acrylic ochre, which, like all the Revell acrylics is pretty thick, not far from being a paste - rather apt I suppose for German late war tank painting. So, this is what three pretty heavily diluted coats looks like over the black undercoat. Reasonable, I'd say, and, yes, I really do think I prefer the more yellowy look to the greeny hue.

And, being Friday, it was time for a beer:

 Brakspear (pronounced brakespear) Oxford Gold. I'm an Oxford man myself (Nuffield and Wolfson), so I'll have to say it is a fine beer - and it is! Light, clear tasting. Good stuff.

And I like the bee emblem too. Bees and beehives have a long history as symbols, of course; first because of sweetness - 'out of strength came sweetness', and then of a native, English, socialism. By the early 19th Century, the English working man and woman used the beehive as their political symbol - much, much more useful and gradualist a symbol than that which emerged from the twisted imaginings of German philosophy. The hammer and sickle was little but a threat, but the beehive and the bee - good enough to adorn an ale.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


... totally inappropriate quotation from Shakespeare to start with: 'If I love you not, chaos has come again'. For two adult sized chocolate buttons (new product from Cadbury's - doing its bit to make sure that the British keep up in the global fat race with the USA and Australia), who said that and in which play?  Actually, it just goes to show how the English Midlands (where Dottore Front lives) is a cultural powerhouse - Shakespeare and Cadbury's chocolate.

Anyway, as I was saying, chaos rules on the modelling table, with the hateful multi-poise horrors taking pride of place:

Oh, how I hate multi-poise!! But, on the up side, PSC provide a nice mix of gunners with smocks (excellent for LFD men), and in standard uniform.

Also on the chaos front:

The PSC PZ IVHs - sitting, sulking, in their undercoats, waiting for me to go through the usual dunkelgelb agonies. Do I go for more 'greeny', or more 'yellowy' ? Some time ago, DaveM posted on this blog with a range of options, but, sadly, I am still tormented when it comes to dipping the brush into the chosen pot.


the chaotic Vampire (please, DO NOT 'CLICK TO EMBIGGEN' as the Irish peeler say).

O me miserum!!

Monday, 17 February 2014


...or FD(L), or LFD...

depending on when exactly, and if you are speaking German or English. Longer term readers of this blog (yes, Mum), will know that I have a 20mm soft spot for the Luftwaffe Field Divisions, and have occasionally gamed their tin and resin heroics, for example, here, and here. The poor, benighted FD(L) fellows struggled valiantly, mainly on the Eastern Front, but, I suppose, fought in vain. Their divisions were very weak in supporting arms (though sometimes accompanied by Flak 88s),  but, from a toy soldier point of view, they did seem to utilise a wide variety of vehicles (interestingly, they did not depend on horse drawn transport, unlike most of the Heer). In terms of artillery and anti-tank support, they frequently used the Pak 97/38 - a interesting hybrid, being a modified French 75mm on a Pak 38 carriage. Previously, I have used Pak 38s to support my FD(L) chaps, but a good review of Plastic Soldier Company's Panther A with zimmerit on Leif's website led to something much better than having to use Pak 38s:

Yes, PSC's Pak 38! 
Except that it has this option:

The lower gun barrel above is the modified French 75 that enables one to produce the FD(L) weapon of, well, perhaps not choice, but necessity.

Of course, I couldn't just buy a box of guns, I also took the opportunity to buy PSC's, three in a box, PzIVs:

With choice of F1, F2 or G, and H models.

Now, as we all know, PSC kit are very much a case of pros and cons (Skids' song, anyone?). In general terms, the pros are good ones: made in the UK, very good value for money with multiple units per box, easy build and sturdy for wargame use, and, usually, plenty of crew and bits and pieces like jerrycans. On the downside, there can be issues relating to detail that sometimes seem too noticeable (I previously reviewed PSC Crusaders in that light: here). However, on balance, PSC makes very useful table top hardware, and they certainly can't be faulted for thinking about putting the 75 barrel in the box:

even if the trails seem to be a tad on the short side...

And the first PzIVF1:

Destined for Rommel's desert fellows.

And, a nice touch:

the weighted track.

(Finally, a footnote on the Vampire. I have to confess that, somehow, horribly, I managed to make a mess of the cockpit - I plead the effect of my old, tired eyes. And, so it is in the shed, waiting until I feel buoyant enough to tackle it again. Sigh.)

Sunday, 9 February 2014



I spent a good part of this morning crawling around with a roll of masking tape, masking off bits of my bathroom so that it could receive a slightly early Spring repaint. Fortunately, like most British people, I live in a very small house, so, unlike Mole in Wind in the Willows, I didn't get browned off with the refresh. Mind you, it is certainly a universal truth that masking tape best likes to stick to itself.  I spent part of this evening masking up the Airfix Vampire, and proved the truth of that observation, this time in Braille scale:

Irritatingly, the RAF clearly thought it a good idea to run their training ID bands almost up to, but not quite, the booms - not an easy thing to mask in 1/72 on such a small aircraft. However, I am still enthusiastic about this little project, and yesterday discovered a copy of:

in my local newsagent. For a mere £7.95, I got 130 pages of wonderful period photos (from the doubtless vast 'Aeroplane' archive), and articles on the development of the type (and the Venom and Sea Venom), flying the thing, and plenty of material and photos of foreign users and licensed builders of the Vampire. Cracking stuff. Two things stood out for me. Firstly, for someone used to the small numbers of aircraft in the current RAF (we shall say nothing of the awful fixed winged fiasco that has engulfed the FAA. Good job China is only just out into blue water - I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be if I was an Australian or Kiwi in that particular respect), the numbers of Vampires built seem huge. For example, 349 at Hatfield, 979 at Chester, 242 at Christchurch, 1311 at Preston, and 97 at Ringway, and that's not to mention Indian, Australian, French and Swiss production. I know that, of course, modern aircraft are infinitely more capable than aircraft like the Venom, that the F-35 looks like being an amazing piece of kit, and the future is pilotless/remote, but, still, numbers count to some degree, especially when one thinks of rates of attrition (remember the loss rate of Tornadoes in the First Gulf War?).  The second thing that struck me was the losses of aircrew in training. One chapter in the book/magazine is a reminiscence by an former Vampire pilot about his conversion training onto the type. n the comparatively short period of that training, one instructor and two trainees were killed in three separate incidents. On the death of the instructor, the author wrote: 'No one seemed particularly concerned, but flying was cancelled for our course for one afternoon as the instructors all went to his funeral'.

Thursday, 6 February 2014


... Victory.

And a Ripping Yarn.

Reading the novel Innocence by that very English writer, Penelope Fitzgerald, while on the train to a meeting in London, I came across this: 'in Florence they went to the Caffe Voltaire, in Via degli Alfani, and discussed the purpose of life. This, undeniably, was reproduction'. Whether or not this is the case (the ascetically religious might deny it), the important thing is that by reproducing one might create a wargames opponent. This, happily, has been my lot, and my reproduced wargaming opponent came round to the Hobbit hole this evening to try our joint hand at the board-game, 1812, The Invasion of Canada. I do have a half completed 20mm plastics project of the War of 1812 (the better half, you understand), but, at the moment, this is the only way Front Snr and Front Jnr (or should that be Front VSnr and Front Snr, given that Front Snr has, himself, reproduced a Front Jnr... if you take my meaning). In any case, the board war rather neatly followed the historical experience:

Above: an overview of the basic game set-up, for the opening shots of 1812, with the land of the free to the left, and the USA to the right. US regulars are blue, with militia in white (Dr. Front's team), with British regulars red, Canadian militia in yellow, and native Americans in green (middling Front's side).

At first, the US took the initiative (drawn from a bag) and, unlike the beginnings of 1812 in reality, eschewed the Niagara front, although in the shot above the British-Canadians have fought back across their border.

Given this was a Hobbit match, English ale was drunk. What is interesting is that in my drinking lifetime (c.1976 to date) I have seen the triumph of big brewery p**s and CO2 in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by a fightback by the pressure group CAMRA, then the rebirth of small breweries across the land. The ales above were taken almost randomly from the shelves, but, as you can see, are all very clearly 'branded' as ENGLISH ales. This says something about the politics and culture of a country (indeed, countries) in transition...

But, to return to the you can see above, the board moves quickly reverted to the historical experience, and fierce fighting on the Niagara front soon saw the Yankees of 1812 taking to their heels.

Shortly after that Niagara clash, the came was concluded (by time), with, as you can see below

a number of British-Canadian successes (the flag markers). 

Last weekend, The Sunday Telegraph carried a very interesting article about the voyages of a World 
War I merchant submarine, the Deutschland. It was a private venture by the firm that now trades as Hapag-Lloyd designed to beat the Royal Navy's blockade. It did a couple of successful trips to the USA before the Americans entered the war and the submarine was taken into the German Navy. The newspaper story hung on the fact that the skipper, Cpt. Paul Koenig was married to an Englishwoman, Kathleen, and at the outbreak of war, the two had parted on amicable and purely patriotic grounds.

The whole story was, for a change from a newspaper, news to me, and I quickly repaired to that wonder of the internetron, ABE Books, and, for a trifle bought a copy:

of Koenig's account, The Voyage of the Deutschland. This copy is a first edition, published in New York in 1916 by Hearst's International Library Co., and is, therefore, a fine historical artefact in its own right. Its previous owner, now in all probability long gone to the land of shades/into glory, was R.L.Hough. And now, for a while, it will be mine.

Monday, 3 February 2014


There are a number of problems that are associated with the common necessity of using one's dining table for kit bashing. Firstly, there is the lack of space to eat. Secondly, there may be problems associated with one's better half (this, I am happy to say, is not a problem I suffer from - Mrs Front is a kindly woman). Thirdly, there is the potential for cross contamination - food into kit, for example; which is why I do not listen to the radio while eating. But, until now I had not had a problem with balls.

 As you will know if you read my last post, I was looking forward to trying out 'Liquid Gravity' as ballast for the Airfix Vampire. I closed up the fuselage yesterday evening, and carefully poured the tiny Liquid Gravity balls into the nose space. Well, I tried to carefully pour the balls. Only they kept jamming the nozzle of the container, and there was a limit to how much I could cut off the nozzle or the cap would no longer fit. So, while trying to free jammed balls from the nozzle, I carefully rested the fuselage while I used both hands to attack the nozzle. The fuselage tipped over, and hundreds of tiny metal balls made a run for it! I gritted my teeth, refilled the fuselage nose then added the super glue to solidify the whole caboodle. Ignoring the gritty metallic sounds under my shoes, I went to bed, leaving everything to cure.

Breakfast - coffee and cereal. But I just couldn't resist picking up the Vampire fuselage. All seemed well. Then I decided that the bang seat handles that I had added from wire really were over scale. I picked off one handle with tweezers, then knocked the other one off, but into the well of the cockpit. Shaking the thing to free the red and yellow bit of wire seemed to make no difference - I could still see, but not get at, the damn thing. Then I noticed balls. Tiny little balls. Escaping, despite the super glue. I put the assembly back on the model mat and returned to my breakfast, cursing. By the time I got to the bottom of my cereal, I had begun to wonder why the damn stuff seemed crispier than usual. Then my spoon began to scrape on the bottom of the bowl. Balls, tiny metal balls...

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Very little...

... progress.

First things first. After my last post - only the second in a month !- Paul, that paragon of kit bashing/refurb/mass production/Antipodean heroism, asked for a front view of the Western Desert Chevvy from Minimi Miniatures. So here it is:

Looks good - Yankee styling at its late 1930s/early 1940s best. Seen in this photographic blow up, the lack of a number plate is quite noticeable. I must attend to it.

Now, as the heading says, I have made very little kit-bashing progress at all since the start of 2014. All I can say to excuse myself is: work, family. However, the last few evenings saw some small advance on the new Airfix Vampire trainer kit, with the cockpit tub complete:

It went together nicely, the instrument panel decal is very neat, and all I added was in the way of crude safety harnesses out of Tamiya tape, and bang seat handles out of wire.

The next step is the sandwich step and weighting the nose. I usually do this using scraps of lead, but this time I will be experimenting with this product:

It is like tiny ball bearings, which are poured into the nose cavity and secured with super-glue. Let's see if it does the trick and stops the Vampire doing a tail sit.

I do hope to post at more than two a month from now on...