Monday, 5 June 2023

Second World War Late War German armour in 20mm

This continues the posts on my German Second World War 20mm collection. The infantry can be seen in this post on the Heer and this one that covers Volksgrenadiers, Volkssturm and the SS.

Here I focus on German armour for the last few years of the war. From February 1943 all German tanks were to be painted in a base coat of dunkelgelb (dark yellow) and so this change in colour scheme is a useful watershed moment that I can use to differentiate the later period of the war from the early years. 

Units and crews had the option to apply two additional camouflage colours over the base of dark yellow in patterns as they saw fit. In most cases the paint was supplied as a paste. It would be diluted with petrol or another solvent and spray painted using airbrushes or applied by hand. Later in the war some tanks would come fully painted from the factory but in most cases there was no standard pattern and so you will often see a wide variety of painting styles and colour combinations even within the same unit.

By 1943 the Pz III and Pz IV had been upgraded with better armour and armament but this was the year where the next generation of German armour would start to be seen in increasing numbers as German industry responded to the challenge of facing superior Russian armour on the Eastern Front. The Battle of Kursk in July of that year would see the last use of the PzIII in large numbers and the arrival of the PzV, the Panther. 

The PzIII and the PzIV would be seen in both the earlier grey colour scheme as well as the later one. I've used the versatile sets of kits from the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) to cover earlier and later models. Here is a PzIII Ausf L with a crew figure from AB

The PzIV would see service throughout the war. Again I've used the PSC sets as a starting point. This is the PzIV F with the short barrelled 75mm gun from PSC. 

From the same set from PSC this could work as an Ausf F2 or Ausf G.

Here is a PzIV Ausf G at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum.

PSC also do the later variant Ausf H with schurtzen armour. 

While the PSC kits are good value and are sturdily built for gaming I do find some of their detail a bit clunky and over-scale. I guess it's a compromise between form and function. Revell do a lovely version of the PzIV H and while the finer details are not as sturdy as the PSC version it does make up a very attractive looking model. Here I've added a crew figure from AB.

It's not very often you have the opportunity to see a working PzIV so it was great to have the chance to see one at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum.

As good as it was to see it at a distance with other tanks of the same era, nothing beats having one rumble right by you as this one did.  

There is a PzIV with the same wire mesh schurzen at the Musee des Blindes, unfortunately the lighting wasn't great for photography.

PSC also do a set of Panthers with zimmeritt. Here is one with a PSC crew figure.

I left the side skirts off another and tried a version of the ambush camouflage scheme.

The Panther at the Tank Museum at Bovington has a more unusual camouflage scheme and doesn't have zimmeritt. 

I've based the camouflage for one of my Panthers on this one at the Canadian War Museum

The scheme is very similar to the one at the Musee des Blindes.

It's rare that you have the chance to see a working Panther but the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum has one. While it's an original Panther with an original Panther engine, this one was restored using parts from several Panthers.

The Tiger I below is from Revell. Normally much pricier than the PSC models I was fortunate to pick this up in a hobby store sale. It's a beautiful kit that gives a very good rendition of the Tiger although given it's an Ausf E it's a shame it comes without zimmerit. The crew figure is from Orion.

I've gone for a camouflage scheme similar to the Tiger 1 at the Musee des Blindes, which unlike the Revell kit does have zimmerit.

This one at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum is an earlier variant and without zimmerit.

The Tank Museum at Bovington has the very well known Tiger 131 which was captured in Tunisia.

Given most of my gaming at this scale is at platoon level there isn't much call for tanks like the Tiger II, so you are no doubt wondering why I have two. These are from Pegasus Hobbies and come as a set. I'd bought them on an impulse in a sale and they sat unmade for several years. As you can see that's no longer the case, although I have to confess they are yet to see action in a game. 

They really are very big tanks and I've managed to see a couple. The one below at the Tank Museum at Bovington (and that's my youngest son with a metal model of one).

The other is at the Musee des Blindes.

The Germans made use of a number of different chassis to make tank destroyers and self propelled guns. This PzIV L/70 is from Hasegawa with a crew figure from PSC.

They have one at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum.

They also have one at the Musee des Blindes.

This earlier variant at the Musee des Blindes has suffered a catastrophic armour failure.

If you look carefully just below the mantlet of the main gun you can see an armour piercing round that has failed to penetrate.

The Hetzer made use of the obsolete Pz38t chassis and this kit is from UM.

It's not a particularly attractive vehicle but there is something about its small, compact nature that makes it quite appealing. The one below is at the Musee des Blindes.

The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum also have one in their collection.

AB Figures do a great set featuring a German tank crew bailing out. They come in very useful when taking pictures for the AARs of our games. Here they are with the UM Hetzer.

Here are two Marder III Ausf H from PSC. This is an option that comes as part of their Pz38t set. Like the Hetzer it uses the same chassis. The crews are various AB figures.

The Marder III came in three different variants and the Musee des Blindes has an Ausf M and the earlier Sdkfz139 versions, but not the Ausf H.

The StuG IIIG was produced in significant numbers and as the war turned against Germany they proved a cheap and effective anti-tank platform. The one below is from PSC.

The PSC set also includes the options to make the StuH42 variant with a 105mm howitzer as main armament.

There are both versions at the Musee des Blindes, the one below is the StuH42.

The other is a StuGIII with the 75mm gun.

There is an earlier version with the 75mm gun housed in a more square mantlet at the Canadian War Museum, but it is not in the best shape. It was recovered from a battlefield in Italy after suffering considerable damage.

There is the StuGIV variant at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum.

I think it probably goes without saying that this post is a work in progress and the collection is bound to grow larger over time. In fact, looking at my stash of unmade models then I can say that's a certainty.

While I don't have a collection of early war German infantry I do have quite a few vehicles and AFVs for the period and I will put together a separate post on those in the near future.

Thursday, 11 May 2023

Sorting out a few MDF roofs

It's not a coincidence that MDF models make up the majority of the buildings in my terrain collection. For gaming I find they are both sturdy and functional and with solid construction and easily removable roofs and building levels they stand up well to handling. That said, they are not without their downsides. 

One of the tell tale signs common to nearly all MDF models are the lugs and joins. It's their least attractive feature and nothing is more obvious than when they are in the roof. As we stand around the game table, invariably looking down on to the tops of buildings, my eye is always drawn to them. Taking photos for the AARs for this blog only draws my attention to them even more. 

For the last few years I've been making efforts to cover them as part of any new building project. Fortunately there are several easy solutions. The most straightforward is a very old school method - simply cut out pieces of card from something like a cereal box. It's certainly a method I've used before, like when scratch building this 28mm barn for my American War of Independence games.

While it can be laborious it works just fine (and you can see that build in detail in this post if you're interested in learning more).

Those of you familiar with MDF model companies like Sarissa Precision and Charlie Foxtrot Models will know they also produce laser cut roof tiles in grey board or other similar material. I've been using these for a while on new buildings but I'm finally getting around to retrofitting them to a few of my existing models.

Up until now I've been using these below from Charlie Foxtrot Models for my 20mm buildings.

They are easy to cut to the length you need and can be glued in strips directly to the existing roof using white glue or PVA with virtually no wastage.

It's surprising how much difference they make to the finished look.

Recently I placed an order for a few buildings with Sarissa Precision and thought I'd try their laser cut tiles. I accidentally ordered a set that are aligned in a slightly irregular pattern but thought these might work well for a rustic barn. 

I have two identical stone barns from Charlie Foxtrot that were among the very first MDF buildings that I made. They’ve seen a lot of use but I’ve been wanting to upgrade both of their roofs for some time. I thought the look of the Sarissa ‘rustic’ tiling might be quite effective in that setting, but I was disappointed, they just didn't seem right. Firstly, I think they are too irregular. I just don't believe people are that incompetent at tiling roofs, after all humans have been doing this for centuries. I also think the tiles are too thick and overscale for 20mm.

I decided to revert to the Charlie Foxtrot tiles for the second barn and I was much happier.

The Sarissa tiles are not a disaster, although I did consider going back and replacing them at one stage, but I don't think I'd use them again for a 20mm building. On the other hand the Charlie Foxtrot tiles look the correct scale and blend in well with the building. 

I used the same tile set for another Charlie Foxtrot building, this time a wagon shed and once again I'm happy with the result.

The combination of roof tiles and a similar colour palette for all the buildings is an effective way of tying them together so they all look as if they belong in the same location. It helps to create a more natural looking setting when you combine them to make a village.

It's for that very reason that I added tiles to what was otherwise a perfectly good building that a friend had given to me. He doesn't play in 20mm but had a few Sarissa buildings that he had been sent and made. He's a very good terrain maker and when he sent me a picture and asked if I wanted one I was happy to take it.

Much of the colour palette was similar to my own, so it would fit in almost straight away.

However, if I wanted it to blend in with my other Sarissa terrace houses I needed to make changes in two areas. First I would add roof tiles and chimney pots and second, I would paint them to match my existing terrace houses. 

I think this shows the versatility of the laser cut tiles. It's also a very useful way to make use of the various end pieces of the strips.

It's often the small details that can make a difference and I think roof tiles are one of those things that help give more character to an MDF model.

Laser cut tiles are one solution I've found, but not the only one. Railway modelling has a large range of different options. I've used vac-formed sheets of pantiles to cover the roof of this colonial railway station.

Textured paper sheets that I found in a craft shop did a similar job for my jungle huts for the Far East.