Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Vril and the Hollow Earth.

GröFaZ and ET?  No thanks!
For a few weeks I have been considering the various options when it comes to "weird" World War II.

Now as it is a fantasy subject there is no reason that Minotaurs couldn't be enlisted in the Heer fighting against a race of Soviet Gnomes. However, I wanted to keep the whole thing a little more believable (if it can be plausible in the slightest!)


Interesting but over-done.
It is well known that various German societies and some senior figures were searching for "Vril" or Hyperborean technologies.  Indeed the quest for perpetual motion and free energy was still considered attainable at this time.  

Some fringe types had decided the Earth was hollow (there are still believers) and that an advanced race lived in a subterranean realm illuminated by a hidden Sun!  

Then of course there is the whole "Haunebu" area where the Germans were supposedly cooperating with Aliens to build flying saucers - a crackpot's wet dream!

Anyway the options are pretty simple:
  • Alien Tech - Flying discs, rayguns and Antarctic bases.
  • Anti-grav research based upon "Die Glocke" style experiments.
  • Vril animated machines and creatures.

The concept - Vpz II circa 1943/4.
I have opted for an admixture of Vril and Anti-Grav technology.  

The Anti-Grav will allow me to field small scout vehicles that hover above the ground.  The weaponry will be strictly in-period and I am planning to base this on the Sdkfz 234 series.  

The number of vehicles will be very small as they are produced contrary to Hitler's wishes* and manned by the secretive and paranoid "Projekt Ostara" personnel.

Currently I am awaiting the delivery of the basic chassis from Jez at Old Crow.  The model I have chosen does not really look too futuristic and with a turret transplant should have a real alternative WWII feel - I just hope the turrets I have in my spares box fit as I have not been able to measure or handle the chassis!

The choice of Vril will also allow me field zombies - Hoorah! - as corpses could easily be reanimated by such an amazing substance!

More to follow - albeit slowly - as vacation season approaches...

*A fact often overlooked by "Weird" enthusiasts is that GröFaZ detested the Occult and the bizarre theories of Himmler and Rosenberg.  He was far more interested in weapons specs, troop numbers and production than in the search for an Hyperborean civilisation and magical substances.






Monday, 11 July 2011

Counter-attacks on the Dniepr late 1943


For your delectation another period newsreel showing troops desperately attempting to hold the positions in Ukraine.

Following the post-Kursk retreat, the first major pause was at this river line.  A formidable waterway, the Dniepr would have made a great defensive position.  However, the fortifications were not built and GröFaZ insisted upon holding the "essential" Dniepr bend - resulting in the usual mess.

Some great shots of troopers advancing behind a Tiger I and much more - enjoy!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A walk on the "Weird" side

Warm Acre body SoTR head - an experiment!
Recently I have been taking something of a pause from the grim realities of the historical Eastern Front - I have been thinking about the whole Weird War II genre.

For my more "serious" readers, this wargaming niche revolves around various Occult or Alien intervention during the 1939-45 war.  It can be a pretty dark and Satanic place full of Vampires and zombies or a mech-packed sci-fi battlefield - often a mixture of both.  Now I am the first to say it is all nonsense but nevertheless it can be entertaining to let the mind wander...

I decided to create a small skirmish force for "Projekt Ostara" (more of which at a later date)  Without delving too much into the background story, Ostara is guided by suitably mad scientists under the patronage of some shady figures.  Viral contamination, alien tech and the obligatory walkers are all present - but I wish to maintain a distinctly 1940s feel.

So with this in mind I have been searching for walkers that look "right" - this has been no easy task.  The Dust Tactics and AT-43 miniatures often look quite splendid - especially the former as the designers have taken care to equip the vehicles with "period" weapons.  Although good, all still appear a little "high tech" for me - especially when it comes to the Manga-style feet and legs.  The SoTR offerings from Westwind Productions are attractive but prompt similar concerns about being "too modern" looking.

I had reached the end of my tether and decided to abandon the whole idea but then chanced upon Games Workshop's "Imperial Guard Sentinel".  This bipedal beast is small and rickety looking - just up my alley.  In addition it is a plastic kit - thus making conversion simple.  Most importantly the feet look spot-on!

The Sentinel undergoing back-dating.
After braving the local store (full of sweating teenagers with an over-worked and over-enthusiastic staffer trying to cope) I set to work on removing the GW feel.  At the moment it is in the very early stages of conversion but I think it has promise.  Once the styrene cement has set I will get to work removing rivets and adding some epoxy putty weld seams.  In addition the hatch needs to be worked on so that a commander can be added.


The vehicle is armed with an auto-loading 7.5cm L/24 cannon and is intended to be a recon support vehicle - somewhat akin to the Sdkfz 234/3.  The crew will be (a cramped) two men with a medium range wireless set

I am very interested to learn if others have used these models as a base for "Weird" walkers.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Waffen SS in action early 1943


A very nice episode of "Die Deutsche Wochenschau" - this time showing the Waffen SS in action during "Mansteins Counterstroke" in the Charkow area.

Lots of great afv and uniform shots plus a few personalities including the (in)famous Max Wünsche.  Inspirational stuff for anyone modelling the winterised Wehrmacht!


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wochenbild #12

To cool us down on these hot summer days, a picture showing the freezing conditions of Winter 1941/2!

This photo is from the same source as PotW #2 and once again shows men of Artillerie Lehr Brigade 900.  Only one of the soldiers shown has had the good luck to acquire some locally produced fur clothing - however he still looks very cold indeed.  

Once again, note the position has been excavated from the snow and ice - in winter the ground was often too frozen to move unless explosives were used.

In the foreground is the rear spade from an artillery piece - at first I thought a leFH 18 but now I am unsure.  Can anyone identify the weapon? 


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Wochenbild #11

Medical wagons somewhere in Russia.
It's been another week fraught with difficulties so the postings have slowed quite a bit.  In the pipeline I have the improvised Panzerjäger and a rather nice recon vehicle based on an historical "what-if".  I am also being side-tracked by a "Weird War" idea that meshes with these projects...

Anyway, number eleven in my series is a rather forlorn scene.  No details on the reverse but the content is self-explanatory.  Medical care was often rough and ready in the East and the dearth of antibiotics in wartime Germany certainly made infection even more deadly.  To be incapacitated in an horse-drawn ambulance or cart might sound scary but the alternative was probably a slow death in the field or worse still capture by the Soviets!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

I.R. Großdeutschland in action - Winter 1941


I was browsing YouTube the other day and found this footage. In characteristic propaganda style the troops are depicted as advancing through the mud and snow en-route to ultimate victory.  In reality the average Landser had by now realised just how ill-prepared they were for a Russian winter.

Nevertheless, the troops storming (most probably staged) the Kolkhoz display a nice mixture of dress and the terrain shows that an authentic battlefield can be achieved with a couple of Isbas and a copse or two.  If you happen to have a few dozen barrels to spare this is the scenario for you!

The footage of the mine disposal is, in my opinion, authentic as the soldier handles the landmines very gingerly!

Incidentally, later this week I am going to touch upon the problem of depicting winter 1941/2 in 28mm.  There is a dearth of correctly attired figures but I think I have hit upon a solution.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Wochenbild #10

Catching up with the news.
A little later than usual - I am sorry but real life got in the way!

Today for your delectation we have four Luftwaffe men and their 20mm (?) FlaK.  I purchased the photo from a dealer who had clearly split up a LW veteran's album.  Some of the photos were taken in the East - others on training/garrison duties on the "Heimatfront"  This picture has a barely legible pencil note on the reverse.  The legend appears to read:  "Stellung Morfecvem"

Although sold as an "Ostfront" photo, I think this has been mis-labelled.  The uniforms are clean and tidy - not something normally seen during Russian winter.  The troops are reading pristine newspapers and their hair is neatly clipped.  Thus I suspect that this photo was taken taken in or around the "bricklayers' village" of Mörfelden (near Franfurt am Main)  What they are guarding is a mystery, although there was a prison in the vicinity.

Still, a nice clear photo.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Welikije Luki - January 1943


Another year, another encirclement -  this time Welikije Luki.  Although over-shadowed by the tragedy at Stalingrad, this battle was yet another case of troops being ham-strung by High Command's insistence that all ground was held "to the last man".

Whether this footage was actually shot in the vicinity is anyone's guess but nevertheless it is of value to both the wargamer and modeller.  Note the extremely high rate of fire achieved by the 7,5cm leIG!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Wochenbild #9

Ex-Soviet bunker - Kholm 1941.
For a change this picture has perfectly legible details on the reverse!  The legend is simple: "Bunker, Kholm".  So it shows a bunker in or near to the city of Kholm in North/Central Russia.  The attire of the soldier suggest Summer/Autumn 1941.  

Within six months the city and ad-hoc garrison were encircled during the first major Soviet offensive of the campaign.  The defence, led by General Scherer is an epic story of suffering, desperation and heroism.  The story of the "pocket" is told in an excellent photo-book: "The Indomitable Defenders of Kholm" well worth purchasing if you find it around.

The details of the bunker's construction are apparent from the shot and it would make a nice little modelling project.  "Logs" from garden canes would be a good start...


Friday, 3 June 2011

Counter-attack in Latvia 1944


Another good film here.  This time a counter-attack to restore contact with forces in Kurland.

Some very nice StuG shots including some soldiers playing "How many men can we fit upon one StuG"  My  favourite part is the StuG commander letting rip with his MP40!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Munitionspanzerjäger 38(t) - Progress

The plating is intentionally imperfect.
I decided to strike whilst enthusiasm was high and time available.  Having cut the shields from "30 thou" plastic-sheet* - I decided they looked too tidy for a scrapyard vehicle.  

Inspiration struck in the form of some Tamiya StuG III schürzen.  Amazingly the front skirt was of almost identical proportions to the forward part of my template.  I have therefore trimmed a couple of these and rotated them into place.  The cut-outs used to hang them on the StuG have been kept in-situ.  Now the vehicle has a more "rough and ready" look.  

The Ultimate Soldier tank hull has had the MG removed - a blank will be fitted to cover the hole.  Additionally the loose glacis plate has been repositioned and super-glued into place.

I think I will secure this "plating" with epoxy putty.  That way I will not have it springing loose at an inopportune moment.  Once securely in place I will add some welding-detail and other bits and pieces including a large wooden ammo locker.

As for the KwK F34(r) - taken from a Hobby Boss T34 - the mount will have (for game purposes) a very limited traverse.  Looking at the aperture and pivot, I would estimate this is no more than a total of 20 degrees (probably less)

To my eyes the project is looking promising. 

*30 thou is over-scale but the thinnest sheet with the required strength.

Imagineering: Munitionspanzerjäger 38(t) mit KwK F34(r)

Munitionspanzer 38(t)
One of the troubles when starting new projects is too much choice.  First of all it is scale, then period - followed closely by the pleasant task of choosing models.  I am often derailed by one or all of the above.  A case of too many toys and too little time.



The other factor that proves troubling is my severe trepidation - a simple fear of making a mess.  I realised recently that it is almost 20 years since I last completed a 1:35 kit.  This hiatus has caused me to become increasingly indecisive!  These things cost money and I don't want to waste it.  Anyway, it is time to draw a line under this and "Get her done" as our American friends like to say.

Readers will be aware of my preference for "make do" type vehicles.  As I have explained before, improvisation and field modification were very common in the Ostheer - as they are in most armies.  In fact almost every documentary I watch these days has some weird field-mod sitting in the background or rolling past whilst the narrator drones on.  Of late I have toyed with a few conversions but have settled on this creation as my project of the month!

The rugged and reliable (yet under-gunned and armoured) Panzer 38(t) was, from 1942/3,  frequently relegated to service as a Munitionspanzer.  This was a relatively simple conversion involving the removal of the turret and covering the resulting circular hole with a tarpaulin or wooden "lid".  Occasionally these vehicles sport a box-like superstructure that appears to be made from sheet-metal - however this seems relatively rare.

Munitionspanzerjäger 38(t)
My "what-if" vehicle depicts such a Munitionspanzer that has been given a new lease of life at the divisional workshop.

An F34 cannon has been removed from a T34 wreck and mounted upon the chassis.  Scrap metal (old schürzen perhaps?) has been welded into a protective box - giving the creation the appearance of a crude "Marder".

I have no idea if anything similar to this "Imagineered" vehicle was made, but it is certainly possible.  When you consider the various oddballs floating around this looks decidedly conservative!

The photo has been snapped on my iPhone and is therefore not too great.  However the card mock-up (which needs tweaking) should give readers an idea of what is to come...




Monday, 30 May 2011

Counter-attack at Smolensk - StuG footage


Although a fairly short and grainy movie, this excerpt from "Die Deutsche Wochenschau" has some excellent footage of StuG / Infantry cooperation.

The StuG IIIs are mostly of early "G" pattern sporting bolted armour on the hull front.  Again the battered and broken nature of front line equipment should be noted by modellers!

As a bonus, the Sdkfz 252 Munitionskraftwagen and Panzerwerfer Maultier also make appearances.




Sunday, 29 May 2011

Wochenbild #8

Firstly, a big apology to all my regular readers.  This week has been fraught with medical, dental and familial problems.  I have in turn been too preoccupied and too unwell to post.  Hopefully the worst has now past!

I find this photograph very intriguing.  The grizzled soldiers have been snapped during fatigues.  Their "panje" sled is loaded with what appear to be milk-churns, although now they could contain almost any liquid.  This little vignette is of interest in itself but the back-drop is what I find especially noteworthy.

To the rear are the ruins of a Russian village (perhaps the outskirts of a town due to the presence of telegraph lines?)  Both timber and brick/masonry structures are present, albeit much the worse for wear.  In the middle-ground stands a very odd structure.  To me it looks like part of a defensive stockade better suited to a Wild West setting - but perhaps it is something different.

As always, if you can shed any light on the picture - please comment below.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wochenbild #7

The mystery gun / mortar.
Something a little different this week, some monstrous ordnance!

I bought this photo as part of a collection and all the others were clearly taken on the Eastern Front - being scenes in and around villages or men on the Steppe.  This picture was the "odd man out" showing a busy urban rail yard.  Due to the provenance, I assume the photo was taken in the East but cannot be sure.

The gun is a model that I have never identified.  Perhaps a French or Soviet piece pressed into German service?  I am not even certain if this is a weapon mounted upon a flat-bed wagon for transportation or a specialised piece of railway ordnance.  If anyone has any ideas I would greatly appreciate your comments.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Review: JTFM Panzer Grenadiers 28mm

The 10 man set straight from the package.
Today, a first for Frontkämpfer: a figure review!  A popular feature of my other Blog, I think it should be well received here.

We will start with JTFM's Panzer Grenadier set.  Sculpted by Mike Broadbent, this 10 figure set retails at $17.00 (I bought mine for £10.00 from WCP - closeout price)  Although not stated, these figures are depicted in cold weather gear and suitable for late 1943 onwards (due to reversible winter jackets, ankle boots and figures armed with MP43/StG44*)  

The first thing you notice when comparing them to other manufacturers' offerings is that they are beautifully cast but slight.  This is probably a good thing as 28mm figures tend to be very chunky.  In terms of height they work well with Artizan, Crusader, BAM and Battle Honours - but their build is best suited to use with Battle Honours.  

Detail is good, not the best but perfectly acceptable.  When taken as a whole the unit is posed realistically for combat and thus very useful for skirmish wargames.  That said there are some anomalies.  For example the MG42 loader (with separately cast left arm) is standing whereas the gunner is firing prone.  Additionally, the gunner uses the 50 round drum magazine rather than the usual belt and box.  Personally, I do not think they could be used together and look right.

L to R: Artizan, JTFM and Battle Honours.
The faces do not have the detail we expect these days.  They are workable but nothing outstanding.  This suits me as I prefer rank and file figures to be pretty generic - anything too memorable creates a "character".


My hyper-critical eye spotted only three real let-downs.  Firstly the odd shape of some of the helmets - a place many companies fall down.  Some of the examples look wrong, one resembles the 1916 pattern rather than the 1935.  The second problem is the right arm on the loader figure - it appears to be "withered".  Although the chap may be suffering from this deformity (as did Kaiser Bill) it doesn't look good in miniature!  Finally, some of the StG44 wielders seem to have the wrong ammo pouches!  The models sculpted are those for the straight MP40 "Schmeisser".

These problems are not deal-killers but detract a little from the overall impression.

In summary, it is a good set and a welcome addition to what is available.  They are pretty good value and especially well priced if you snag them during WCP's closeout!


Scores out of 10 - thoroughly personal ratings explained:

Sculpting - Quality of detail and accuracy
Casting - Mismoulds and flashing
Variety - How comprehensive is the range
Service - Was the seller easy to reach, polite and helpful
Delivery - How long did they take to get to me
Value - Are they a good deal overall

Delivery time based upon my experience - UK to UK delivery.

Sculpting:                  6.5/10 
Casting:                    10/10 No faults!
Variety of Subject:    8/10  A lot of MP43/StG43s.
Customer Service:    */10  Third party purchase.
Delivery Time:          */10  As above.
Value:                      7/10 (9/10 WCP closeout price!)

*This weapon was around in limited numbers during winter 43/44 - however the high number included suggests the figures are more suitable for the following winter.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Winterkampf 1943: Witebsk (?)


Regular readers will be aware of my fascination with the hard fighting of 1943/4. Although by this stage of the war Germany was on the strategic defensive, well planned operations could still achieve success against the Red Army.

Had GröFaZ not insisted upon defending all territories and instead granted a degree of freedom to his commanders, I feel the Soviet Steamroller could yet have been halted even post-Kursk!

This film has a fair mix of footage (some Ferdinand shots clearly not from winter 1943/4) Of special note are the armoured "Maultier" truck supposedly serving with mountain troops and a PaK43 firing a shot or two.!

Modelers and terrain builders should note the trenches: they are both shallow and narrow! Painters should find the grubby and unkempt appearance of the troops into account.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Modified T34/76 1943 - A question of scale?

Battered and filthy T34 with PZ. III schürzen - Spring 1944.
The T34 - a truly legendary vehicle!  It didn't have the best gun, armour or top-speed but in terms of balancing the three (and units produced) it is in my opinion the greatest tank of World War II.

So, it's clear - I like the tank.  However, I do not have a Red Army collection and have no wish to start.  A problem? Not at all - as these vehicles were frequently pressed into service by German units.  Some tomes such as the hallowed "Encyclopedia of German Tanks" will have you believe that T34s were used by Germany on a very limited basis.  Photographic evidence shows that this is nonsense!  For some examples visit the excellent "Beutepanzer" site and have a look for yourself.

T34/76C with improvised skirts.
Now, the decision becomes a little harder.  Do you want to model a vehicle simply over-painted, a "Germanised" vehicle with new cupola etc or perhaps a conversion?  

I have opted for something a bit esoteric, namely a T34/76 C with field-fitted Schürzen.  Before you cry "he's mad!" I ask you to consider these photographs.  One appears to sport modified Panzer III skirts and the other has items that look to be built from scrap metal.  The vehicles are still obviously T34s but are very different to the norm. 

Armourfast: Cheap and cheerful.
For once, I have the parts to build these in more than one scale.  In 20mm / 1:72 I have an old Armourfast T34 1943.  It is not a great model but is cheap.  I have also a wealth of thin metal and plastic sheet that can be easily  fitted as improvised skirting.  Fortunately, schürzen will disguise some of the less than perfect detail (or lack of said) sported by this kit.  

If I was starting the project afresh, I would opt for the Panzer IV and T34 from PSC - the spare skirts on the former could be used to great effect.  Indeed the 15mm collector could use PSC's offerings to the same end.

Potential skirt donor.
In 28mm / 1:48 (quiet!) I have a complete set of skirts from a Tamiya Panzer III N and an unbuilt Hobby Boss T34/76.  A simple tweak and readjustment and you can make yourself a skirted beast with minimal effort.

Sadly, the 1:48 version is going to be far too large to accompany my BA 3/6 "Stummel" but then you cannot have everything.

A great model for the 1:48 adherent.
I think I will go for the smaller option first as it is less work - I have a tendency to start too many projects simultaneously and get demoralised.

Talking of the "Stummel", it is time to don the dustmask and get all the parts sanded...





Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wochenbild #6

T38 abandoned in the mud.
Firstly apologies for the lack of posts this week.  My attention has been focused upon home - my eldest's birthday and my health problems have been flavour of the week.

Anyway, to today's photo.  This is a first for Frontkämpfer as it shows a tank - albeit not too impressive a vehicle!  Here we see a Soviet T-38 relegated to duty as an unusual photo-prop.  Designed as a reconnaissance vehicle, the T38 was rendered amphibious by large flotation tanks (as was the T37)  Armed with a 7,62mm MG and sporting very thin armour, it was near useless in combat.  Surprisingly the top speed of these little "tankettes" was just 40kmh.  Another peculiarity was the lack of radio on most T38s - particularly strange given their scouting rôle!

As was the case with a great many captured vehicles, the T38 was pressed into German service as both a tractor and anti-partisan AFV.  There are reports of this tankette being converted into a mount for a 3,7cm Flak but I have yet to see any evidence of this conversion.

Once again, there are no details on the reverse of the photo.  The conditions suggest Spring or Autumn but as these vehicles were used until at least 1943, dating is difficult.  However, 1941/42 is probably the most likely window.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Wochenbild #5

At least the chap on the right appears happy!
As I have said before, many of the photographs in my archive have, on the reverse, notes giving information about the location and/or the unit depicted.  Sadly this picture has nothing of use.

In the foreground we see two men sawing logs for firewood.  The younger of the two wears what appears to be a Red Army greatcoat and the kneeling fellow is wearing the extremely effective "Telogreika" winter outfit issued by the Red Army.  My guess would be that both of these men are "Hiwis" performing manual tasks for the German military.

The background shows a rather dejected looking German sentry guarding an 88mm FlaK which is deployed in anti-tank mode.  Although a very large weapon with an extremely high profile, it can be seen that when properly emplaced only a small portion was visible above ground-level - the gun barrel must be less than a foot from the snow's surface.  Note what appear to be kill rings on the barrel - clearly the crew has had some degree of success!  In my opinion, such an emplacement would look very attractive on the table-top.

If forced to speculate I would go for winter 1941/2 as the gun is not whitewashed - by the second winter of the war this was in fairly plentiful supply.  However this is far from conclusive.  The location is anyone's guess - as no buildings are visible.  Though the flat terrain may indicate "Somewhere in Ukraine"!

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Return of the Stummel™

Off-setting the gun works aesthetically.
Due to popular demand the Panzerspähwagen BA(F) 203(r) "Stummel" is back from the dead.  This historical "what-if" generated so much enthusiasm it would be unfair to just consign it to the trash heap!

I haven't done much so far but the idea is taking shape.  I fiddled around with some pieces of cereal box card during an episode of the awful "Sex and the City" and found the best solution.

The shields are high and the vehicle will be rather ungainly, this is something I like, as it is not a work of art - rather a utilitarian field-mod.  I have tacked the basic plates onto the hull and need only sand them to the right angles.  This will be done when I smooth out the (still to be filled) faults on the FoA casting.

The small size of the BA-3/6 is going to dictate a three man crew - two on the L24 howitzer and a driver.  The MG port will be covered as this area will be used as storage for the shells etc.

I think it is going to work out OK and the planned tarpaulin will hide the fact that the hull is solid.  More as I get it!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Imagineering: Panzerjäger T-70 743(r)

Artillerie Schlepper T70 & PaK40
Regular readers will be aware that I wish my 1943/44 "Mini-Kampfgruppe" to sport a couple of unusual vehicles.  Originally, I was thinking of converting a BA-3/6 armoured car but after a great deal of thought, I reckon this is simply impractical.  Thus, I have spent a great deal of time this week thinking of an alternative.

The component parts.
Like most of us I have - to the disgust of my Wife - a large collection of unmade models and left-over parts stashed around the family home.  When starting a new project (or resuscitating an old one) I like to delve into this stockpile and see what I can use.  Invariably I find things I have  forgotten about and as such the process is always enjoyable.

After shelving the "Stummel" idea I had a second dip and found an unassembled JTFM T-70 bought a couple of years back.  Digging deeper unearthed a couple of PaK 40s (one Artizan & one unknown)  This haul got me thinking...

Improvised R35 Panzerjäger.
During WW2 many captured tanks (and even armoured cars) were stripped of their turrets and pressed into service as "Schleppers" or tractors.  Used to tow various ordnance they were a cheap (partial) solution to the military's horrendous equipment short-fall.  There is much photographic evidence of once towed weapons being field-mounted upon their prime-movers.  A great many weird and wonderful vehicles can be tracked (ho ho) down if you trawl period media.

Another strange field-mod.
As the T70 was used to tow the PaK 40, I see no reason why an improvised Panzerjäger would not have been made.  The chassis is certainly capable of handling the weight and firing stresses - so why not!  Also, having the requisite parts to hand helped me decide - minimal extra outlay is required!  So to cut to the chase, I will be starting to build such a model over the next few days.  

Any comments or suggestions are most welcome - please feel free to post them below.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Inspirational oddball Jagdpanzer

After realising my Artizan figures were just too large for the proposed BA-6 "Stummel" - I started thinking laterally.  My options are simple, either shelve this attractive conversion or buy some smaller figures.  As I find the idea of converting this model pretty interesting, the latter is the logical choice.

Westwind "true" 25mm Germans.
When it comes to true 25mm figures the only ones I can think of are the venerable "Berlin or Bust" range from Westwind Productions - this is a company that caused me a whole lot of trouble last year so a third party seller such as Maelstrom would be the sensible choice.  Some of these models are great, others suck - but they are the solution if I wish to use diminutive 1:56 models!

Casting around for an alternative stummel,  I found a weird Jagdpanzer.  The site at which I found the photo, wrongly described it as a Panzer IV mounting a PaK 40.  However the gun shield clearly indicates that the weapon is a PaK 38 (5,0cm)

Field converted Jagdpanzer IV mit PaK 38!
Now why you remove a turret with a 7,5cm piece and mount a lower calibre weapon is unclear.  Perhaps the turret was damaged beyond repair?  Alternatively perhaps this was a Munitionspanzer that changed role.  I doubt we will ever know.

Either way it is a very interesting creature and shows, yet again, that almost anything goes even during the mid-war* period.

In my "bits box" I have a discarded Solido Panzer IV hull and a Russian 7,6cm gun.  Perhaps Major von Hächtel would prefer this to the "stummel"?  That way his men could remain Artizan and his mount would still be unusual...

More discussion about this vehicle can be found at:

http://www.network54.com/Forum/47207/thread/1120723933/Strange+Panzer+IV+version

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=118225

It is argued, quite convincingly, that this is a bridge-layer converted to a panzer-jäger.



*Many odd conversions are seen during the "Endkampf" but it is clear that the Heer (and Waffen SS) modified vehicles throughout the war.  The uniforms of the troops in this grainy picture suggest winter 1941/2 or at a push 1942/3.   

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Wochenbild #4

Anti-mosquito protection.
When people think of the Eastern Front, the usual picture is that of unfortunates exposed on the frozen steppe.  Whilst this is certainly part of the picture, the climate and terrain of European Russia presents other hazards to the unwary.

Amongst these are mosquitoes! Prevalent in the Central and Northern forests, these blood suckers caused a great deal of discomfort to troops unused to dealing with them.  Whether these annoying and painful partisans were following Comrade Stalin's call to repel the invaders is unknown - nevertheless they were a menace!

Just as winter clothing and camouflage had initially to be improvised, so too did anti-mosquito protection.  In this photo we see three unnamed soldiers going about their business in a forest position.  Tucked under the field caps of the soldiers on the left and centre are cloths that act as rudimentary protection for the sensitive neck area.   The fellow on the right has something a bit more elaborate that may indeed be a proper anti-mosquito net (always in short supply)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Ersatz Stummel - in the resin / metal

I have just pulled a couple of models for comparison.  The metal one is a "Chieftain" Sdkfz 250 converted to 250/8 "Alte".  This vehicle was actually made and saw action on the Ostfront.  However it is pure guesswork as to whether the gun was countersunk into the glacis or mounted on top of the hull.  I decided to go for the option similar to the early Sdkfz 251/9.

Relative sizes of 1:56 Sdkfz 250/8 and BA-6 "Stummel"
The resin model is the BA-6.  I have mounted the gun (with some Blu-tack) in the location that enables the most room to serve the weapon. 

Gun mounts are miscasts from S&S models.  I got my hands on these almost eight years ago and they have been boxed since then.  Some serious work is needed to make them look OK!

The red areas approximate the location of armour plate shields with the horizontal lines showing the supports for a canvas tilt - well it would be depicted during winter and a tarp hides a multitude of sins!

Major von Hächtel would be peeping out next to the gun surveying the bleak terrain and wishing he was back home in Beimbach.

Is this workable?

Please excuse the messy nature of the 250.  It's dimensions are slightly "off" (look at that rear hull plate!) and that is why I shelved the project - it annoyed me

Ersatz Stummel - continued

Second generation mock-up.
Having had a look at the "mock-up" below I think the armament was wrongly situated - as suggested at TMP.

I have dropped it back and things look better.   It would also allow the hull MG position to be used as a radio-operator's station.  Essential, considering the beastie is supposed to be a command vehicle.

The only problem is going to be if there is sufficient room to load the weapon in this configuration.  It is going to be a very tight fit.  Either way I will not be sure until I dig out the components...


Panzerspähwagen BA(F) 203(r) "Stummel" ?

"Beute" Soviet BA-6.
Of late I have been looking for a "mount" for "Major von Hächtel" the commander of my 28mm Kampfgruppe.  I have considered using a Panzer, SPW or even a "beute" T70 but all seem a bit boring.  Then last night I found an unmade "Force of Arms" BA-6 in bubble wrap!  The cogs started whirring and an old idea was suddenly resurrected.

The BA-3/6 was captured in large quantities by the advancing Wehrmacht.  They were used widely in security units but also found their way into front line units.  Sometimes you see them with the bulky T26 turret removed and an MG fitted in improvised shields of varying complexity.  I have even seen one with what looks like a 2,0cm KwK 30 in a semi-fixed mounting.  So far so good.

Mock-up for the BA-Stummel.
I want something a little unusual for the august Major and started thinking along the lines of an 7,5cm L/24 howitzer - as mounted on Sdkfz 233 (6* and 8 wheel) 234/3, 250 (old‡ and new) and 251.  I created a little mock-up with MS paint and it looks acceptable in terms of size.  When comparing the details to the Sdkfz 250 it is obvious that the BA-6 is indeed of a similar size and weight.  So I wonder: "Is there sufficient room in the rear  compartment to handle the weapon?"

So many unofficial conversions are apparent in photos and newsreels that I am of the opinion that "if it could be done, it probably was"  I am sure the recoil would not be great for the BA's health in the long-term (then neither is a PaK 38's good for an Sdkfz 250 - but it is a known field-mod!)  However, expediency on the battlefield seemed, as always, to be the greatest consideration.  If you look at "Endkampf" kit you can see some seriously strange conversions - so my argument is that von Hächtel was just a bit ahead of his time in winter 43/44!

Early production Sdkfz 251/9.
I would be most interested in any comments from people who are familiar with the internal layout of the BA-3/6 and could tell me if there was room enough for two standing crew members after removal of the turret.





*There are unsubstantiated reports of the short 75mm being mounted on the 6-rad Sdkfz 232. 

‡The prototype Sdkfz 250/8s were built (1943) on old style chassis.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Defensive fighting 1943



Another fairly interesting movie. Unusually the footage doesn't appear overly staged and the less than glamourous nature of positional warfare is shown.

Sturmgeschütz and infantry cooperation is again in evidence. As the most common of of all German AFVs the StuG III was the vehicle most likely to be encountered by the average "Frontschwein"

This newsreel has the "feel" I wish to capture in miniature for Kampfgruppe von Hächtel - there is even a box-body truck in evidence!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Cut price "Yesteryear" softskins

Ford/Gaz vans with Artizan figure.
After deciding that I would create a 28mm Kampfgruppe in addition to my 20mm project, I started looking around for trucks that would work alongside my figures.  

There is a good selection available in a variety of scales but most are quite pricey.  I suspect I am not alone in preferring to spend my limited funds on something a little more exciting than dull, yet essential, trucks.  

Providence threw me a line.  I saw my son, Fritz, playing with a bright yellow vintage truck and thought this looked to be of approximately the right size to use with 28s.  After a bit of research I discovered his decidedly "Soviet" looking truck was in fact a "Model A" Ford.  These were manufactured in the USSR during the early/mid 1930s as the "Gaz A".

Gaz "AA" Trucks.
Rather than steal the young fella's toy I had a snoop around a local "car boot" sale this morning and found a chap selling boxed Matchbox "Models of Yesteryear" for the princely sum of £1.00 each.  I found two Model A vans and whilst not ideal (I would have preferred flatbeds) they are good enough for me.

With a minimal amount of work (largely a re-spray) these will be passable as ex-Red Army vehicles pressed into Heer service.  I am sure purists will tell me that the Soviets didn't produce vans or that the wheel-spoke count is wrong - no matter!  Considering the price is similar to a couple of cans of soda, I don't think I could ask for a better deal! 


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Wochenbild #3

"Ortskampf mit Partisanen"
This week's photograph shows men of an unknown unit taking a pause from the "Ortskampf mit Partisanen" (Village fight with Partisans) - according to the note on the reverse.

The anti-Partisan war was a particularly savage and oft-forgotten aspect of the Ostfront.  To keep open the tenuous supply-lines, Germany was compelled to commit large forces to security duties.  These operations ranged from simple "policing" to all-out warfare against well-supplied paramilitaries.

To protect them from the cold the soldiers wear a variety of greatcoats - all of which proved entirely inadequate to deal with the severe Russian winters.  The man second from the left wears an especially long coat which may be either a special "sentry duty" pattern or alternatively a "liberated" item.

What makes this photo particularly interesting is the ersatz winter camouflage.  The soldiers sport bedsheets or (night)shirts worn over over the greatcoat in an attempt to break up their otherwise dark silhouettes.  Such measures were widespread during winter 1941/42 when troops had to improvise locally due to the High Command's failure to make provision for the Eastern conditions.

From his lack of winter kit, I assume the NCO in the centre of the picture has dashed out to get his photo taken before returning back to his billet!




Friday, 22 April 2011

Panzerjäger mystery - solved!

Panzerjäger UE in all it's glory!
Deephorse of TMP has supplied a link that identifies this little vehicle as an example of the catchily named:  "3,7cm PaK 35/6 auf Infanterie Schlepper UE(f)"  In other words a 37mm PaK slapped on top of a French UE carrier.

If the link is followed you can see the newsreel shot developed as a still and it is much clearer.

Thanks for sorting that out!

Unusual Panzerjäger continued...

Clockwise from left: Mystery, Pz I A, PZ I B and Pzjäg I.
After floating the matter at TMP it has been suggested that this vehicle may well be a Panzer I with a PaK 36 replacing the turret.  This would make sense as the Pz I was still in action during 1942 and would be far more useful as an improvised self-propelled mounting than as a tank or reconnaissance vehicle.

With this in mind I have been poking around looking for photos of the Panzer I (models A & B) from a similar angle.  Results as per the crude photo-montages.

Clockwise: Mystery, PZ I A & PZ I B.
I am not convinced.  It is certainly not an Ausf B as the rear muffler just isn't there (see Panzerjäger I also) However, is it an Ausf A?  Well, at first I thought it may be but the "A" had twin mufflers on the rear mud-guards.  There is indeed a tubular looking item on the right mudguard bit this is in the wrong place (too far forward) and the wrong shape.

Could it be a Panzer I but have the gun facing the rear?  Possible but to me the angles look wrong, as does the "vertical" plate which is not tall enough.  I would say the clincher against this is that the vertical and side plates are at right angles whereas the Panzer I had "bevelled" corners.

The picture is poor and could indeed distort things but I am still at a loss!

Very perplexing.

Rostov 1942 - Unusual panzerjäger

PaK 38 mounted upon Sdkfz 10.
After years of viewing newsreels and old photos I am fully aware that German soldiers performed unofficial "field modifications" in an attempt to improve their combat effectiveness.   

These oddballs crop up quite often and this suggests to me that such modifications were far from unusual.  Considering the nature of the Ostfront and the strained supply lines, it is logical that troops would make do and mend with what was to hand.  However, many of these conversions are quite elaborate - I would assume the level of modification would reflect the skills of a given unit's workshop personnel.

Anyway, looking at a newsreel concerning the recapture of Rostov in July 1942, I found a couple of interesting vehicles.

The first appears to be a fairly well known modification , whereby the PaK 38 was mounted upon it's Sdkfz 10 prime mover.  Some of these have armour plating on the front and others a more elaborate armoured cab.  In many books this vehicle is said to be a Waffen SS "special" but I have seen plenty of them crewed by Heer soldiers.  In this newsreel there appear to be two examples, one in Army use and the other alongside men of SS Wiking - perhaps it is actually the same vehicle?

Rostov 1942 -  "Ersatz" panzerjäger.
Of greater interest to me is another vehicle shown street fighting in Rostov.  This is clearly a PaK 36 (or it's 45mm Soviet clone) unofficially mounted on some kind of chassis.

This outdated weapon was certainly mounted upon a great many vehicles as an "ersatz" panzerjäger.  Ostfront PaK 36  field-mods I have seen include: Krupp "Protze", Renault UE carrier, Horch 4x4, Sdkfz 10, Bren Carrier and Komsomolets tractor.  However, the vehicle used here is not immediately obvious.

I suspect it is an half-track or "beute" AFV of some description.  I doubt it is another Sdkfz 10 as the details appear incorrect.  Sadly this was the best still I could take from the newsreel in question.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

StuG action - Early 1943


Poor sound quality but some interesting shots in this short movie.  Of note is the vehicle stowage - modellers remember you need to clutter your afvs!  Also the "winterkette" on the StuGs.  How accurate the date is I am unsure but the equipment (and abandoned mid-production T34/76) look correct for early 1943.  The houses suggest Central or Northern theatres.

If this doesn't inspire you to get Ostfront skirmishing, nothing will!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sdkfz 251 in "28mm" - A comparison

Sdkfz 251/10 B in Ukraine circa 1942.
The iconic "Hanomag Sdkfz 251" SPW (Schützenpanzerwagen) is a near essential purchase for anyone wanting to build a Panzergrenadier force.  Until a few years back (well a decade or so!) your options were largely limited to the venerable Solido diecast.  Things are now quite different.

In the following article I will show four different models available to the wargamer.  It may surprise some to see just how much the size of these vehicles varies - although all are marketed toward the "25/28mm" gamer.

In order of size (biggest to smallest) here goes:

Second City's 251 B.
First up, the offering from Second City. Priced at £7.00 it is clearly a "budget" option.  This is sadly apparent when it comes to quality - the resin casting is full of flaws - looking almost hand-poured!  The vehicle looks to be based upon a late "Ausf B" model and is thus usable for the duration of the Eastern War.

This kit comes in five parts (body, tracks and wheels)  No machine guns are supplied.  The vehicle is large being near to 1:48 scale (In fact I suspect it is a cast of a commercial kit)  That said, if your funds are limited and you are prepared to do a fair bit of work, this may be an option to consider.  Personally, I am tempted to take a crack at one and see if I can make it look acceptable - that is if it doesn't dwarf my Marder III!

BAM/Warlord's 251 D.
Next we move to Bolt Action Miniatures' ausf D (very late 1943 onwards) priced around £18.00.  My samples were bought  (4 years ago) before Warlord Games acquired BAM and they prompted a mixed reaction.  The kit comprises five parts (Hull, track and wheels on a base plus MGs and shield) and apart from the base they are well cast.  The latter was a real mess on both examples.

The track details had been chipped off before packaging and unless these were covered in scale "mud" they would disfigure an otherwise fine model.  I remember asking BAM for replacements and getting these only after a few less than pleasant exchanges.  If Warlord has rectified these casting and service problems I would wholeheartedly recommend the model, if not I would be wary.  Sold as 1:56 scale the height appears spot-on, although they look a little narrow compared to an Artizan figure.

AGNM excellent 251 B.
Third is an Army Group North model (£20.00 in the UK from The Wargames Command Post)  Again, this is an early variant (ausf A according to "Ditto" at TMP) this time with three rifle/vision ports on each of side of the hull.  It is a three piece model with only the MGs to add to a large resin moulding.

This hunk of resin is beautifully cast with no flaws present.  Like the BAM/Warlord model, this 1:56 beastie looks to be of correct height.  However, this time the width looks a little better.  The one problem is the length, I think it is slightly shorter than it should be.  I haven't measured it but my ageing eyeballs suggest that an extra 5mm or so would improve things.  This is a fairly minor niggle considering the overall excellence of this model - recommended.

The diminutive Westwind version.
Finally, we have an Sdkfz 251/9 from Westwind Productions priced at £14.00.  This is the only 100% metal kit and is thus a pretty heavy item.  The detail on the kit is good (this is an ausf C) but my examples (I had two) were of variable quality.  The first had large areas that were missing due to poor casting!  Westwind replaced this promptly and the replacement was fine - so I guess I was just unlucky - again!

The model is formed from hull halves that, for some weird reason, join vertically passing through the front, deck and rear of the vehicle.  This is a very poor design feature as the resulting seam is extremely hard to fill.  Additionally, the joining of two large hunks of metal is not for the faint-hearted.  When it comes to scale these are 1:60 and therefore very small compared to modern "heroic" 28s.  Westwind produce their own range of "25mm"  miniatures that work well with this model but I doubt many would wish to mix these little fellas with the more modern style of figure.

As an incidental note, I have seen Westwinds SPW used to great effect with Valiant Miniature's supposedly 20mm figures!

There are other options nowadays, Tamiya (1:48) and JTFM/Die Waffenkammer (1:56) spring to mind.  Sadly I don't have these to hand for comparison.  Both look to be of great quality albeit in different scales.

Comparative sizes of the four models.
To summarise, much will depend upon your choice of figures and your other vehicles.  As I have said before, the weird and unrealistic proportions of most 28mm miniatures make choosing appropriate vehicles difficult.

Whilst spot-on in terms of height, both the AGNM and BAM/Warlord models are not really big enough for an heroic 28 crew.  If you tried to seat ten miniatures in the rear you would soon see that it just won't happen.  Even if you imagine that your little men are suddenly rendered malleable, it is readily apparent that they are too broad and squat.  The vehicle was cramped - but not that tiny.

Reenactors and their mount.
Then again the Second City vehicle is enormous and your PzGrens would be riding in luxury!  The over-scale problem is most obvious when you look at the drive wheels - they are monstrous.  However, if you are using 1:48 diecasts or plastic models, the over-sized problem is redundant.



Personally, I would say that any of the first three can work with heroic 28s - just don't mix and match.