British Centaur AA tank from Britannia Miniatures

My own self written rules of engagement are that I have to stick to making plastic models of any vehicles for my WW2 armies. However, if there is some unusual vehicle required for a unit that is not available in a plastic kit form, I do have an allowance (Clause 8c) that allows me to buy resin or metal vehicles. I guess this would stretch to die cast as well, although I have not found a need for that yet. To be honest I just like making model kits as opposed to having the vehicle already constructed (or in only 3 pieces).

So on this occasion I needed an Anti Aircraft tank or the Centaur AA. I think its based on a Cromwell chassis but with twin AA guns in the turret. This one comes from Britannia Miniatures in the UK, you can buy from https://www.grubbytanks.com

Andy at Grubby has a huge range of troops and vehicles, including a lot in the “hard to find in plastic model kits” bracket that I am after. I also picked up a Sherman ARV recovery vehicle who will be built soon enough, and a Dorchester HQ truck which looks like fun. This Centaur comes in only a few parts, with a hull, turret, two sets of tracks and wheels, AA guns and hull MG. So armed with some superglue it doesn’t take long to put together. I did take a little while cleaning up the resin hull (the tracks and guns are metal), and next time I will spend a little longer doing clean up. The detail is good and it actually made a nice change to be painting quickly rather than building for hours first. I did add an aerial and one bit of stowage (a box) plus I used various decals. Paint job was a simple olive drab, like always, plus a dark brown wash and plenty of dusty powders for rust and dirt. Worth checking out Britannia for their massive range of stuff, I am sure I will go back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sarissa Precision Ruined Houses

In my mission to speed up my village building and supplement my very slow scratch building process, i could not resist buying some more MDF kits. This time from Sarissa at http://www.sarissa-precision.com

I have seen lots of pictures and reviews of the Sarissa French Chateau in 20mm and 28mm scale and I was unable to resist the lure of  purchase. So I figured I better make it worthwhile by buying a couple of their 20mm ruined houses at the same time. The Chateau build is for another time, as I decided to get cracking on the ruins first. The kits come flat packed in two sheets of 3mm MDF with a further sheet of window and door fittings in card. At less than $15 Australian a pop they are pretty good value. The best thing is Sarissa does the postage from the UK to Australia at two pounds fifty which is amazing. Definitely makes me want to buy more!

The parts pop out of their sheets easily and consist of a floor or two, walls and roof sections. The roof sections have a triangular support that gives the structure some strength. So all you need is some PVA glue and bobs your uncle. Once you have the structure made you can add the windows and shutters, door frames and doors. You do need to think ahead about what you are going to paint before you finish building as it might be tricky to paint some bits after full construction.

Now i really like these kits but did need to add some of my own bits and pieces just to get them up to speed. Firstly its very obvious where the MDF corners are, so i used my gyprock plaster to give my buildings a texture, before i added the details. This covered up the joins and created a more interesting surface. I also could not quite understand the chimney construction, maybe i did it wrong, so i also had to add some MDF to line everything up. The chimney pots i cut off and replaced with some excellent metal ones i had bought from a model shop, which i think was a good improvement. I also added my own cardboard roof tiles onto the roof remains which give more texture to the roof than the original flat MDF. I also added textured bricks carved into the plaster along the bottom of the walls and also bits of rubble and debris inside the damaged walls. It was a lot of fun to customize these little buildings, but i think they would come out nicely whether you choose to do this or not.

Painting took me a while and i just used basic acrylics. I added a couple of French signs to the sides and then added some black and brown chalk dust to the damaged bits to give the finished result a burnt out look. I am looking forward to building the Chateau now after these two. If  you need some quick and easy buildings with a lot of scope to customize then go and check out Sarissa. You can see below how well they fit in with one of my home made buildings – the blue two storey house with a big blown in the middle of it…..

 

Cobbled Streets and Town Square

I am never been satisfied with my cobbled streets made out of purchased, patterned card and stuck onto MDF. They still look flat and a bit unrealistic. But I refuse to pay any big money for roads when they should be easy to make. So I cut out the usual shapes and strips of 3mm MDF and gave them a 1-2mm coating of ready mixed plaster. I get a big tub of Gyprock Topcoat from Bunnings which will last for ever. Its great for doing texture on buildings too. Make sure the coating is pretty smooth, although it doesn’t need to be a perfect finish, and leave it to dry overnight.

Then comes the entertaining bit…… First of all I draw horizontal guide lines every 5mm across of all the pieces you want to do. Although you can make the distance smaller or wider depending on how big you want to make your cobbles. I invested in a $10 etching tool on eBay from China. What a great machine. It runs on AAA batteries and its shaped like a big pen so you can sit and carve bricks and cobbles all day long. And it does take all day long. Its much easier and quicker than trying to carve with an old scalpel or blade. Jump on eBay and grab one. It still took me ages to engrave a town square, a couple of roads and another little square. Once the cobbles are carved its just a question of painting them grey and throwing some brown and black washes over them. I did add some brown, black and sand coloured chalk powder on them too. Dirty them up a bit.

You can see in the first picture the effect of the cobbled square and street. Also as a comparison I put my old card cobbled square and streets next to them so you can see the difference. It was a good opportunity to get out all my houses and put them together. Here is a mixture of home made, laser cut MDF and cardboard kits. I think they all mix in together quite nicely, and no two houses are ever identical.

Must get cracking on my village church…….

 

 

 

Metcalfe Models Terraced Houses and Corner Shop HO/OO Scale

I have continued building my Normandy village and trying to mix my home made, scratch built, but time consuming houses, with some purchased models. This time i have made some more of Metcalfe Models excellent card models. One grey stone terraced houses with backyards and a similar grey stone corner shop. Metcalfe Models do not ship overseas so i had to buy them from another useful modelling ship called Antics On Line. I think they are around 9-10 pounds per kit, so pretty good value compared to other resin and MDF buildings.

The quality of the card and the printing is most excellent. I do remember my brother back in the 1980s building some Superquick card models which always felt a bit flimsy and never looked like anything but rather crap card model kits. The Metcalfe kits are really well designed and once you have put them together feel very solid, robust and anything but a wobbly bit of card. Its all printed on good heavy card and all the bits pop out very easily once you have cut along certain edges with a sharp knife. During the construction there are plenty of inner supports which keep the whole thing very square and stable. The windows work well and even give you options to have a couple open as well as other options for curtains and different coloured doors. The buildings are mounted onto their own card base and Metcalfe give you individual adhesive paving stones to create your own pavement around the houses. In my build i left off the bay window on the terrace as i didn’t think they had those in France in the 1940’s. The dormer windows on the roof did remind me of a typical Normandy house so i think they do not look out of place. One thing i do need to fix is the corner shop is O’Briens Bakery. I need to find an alternative Boulangerie sign.

OK so after finishing your model you do need to rough it up a bit. I used plenty of powdered chalk in black, brown and white brushed all over the place. This covers any white bits of cardboard and also gives the houses a more weathered, realistic look. I also glued the whole thing onto a 3mm MDF base and weighted it down. Otherwise i did have some significant curling up around the edges. It also gives it more strength.

Next up i am making a new town square so will place that into the middle of my now quite sizeable Normandy village. Still need to make that church……..

Unimodel and Armourfast Sherman Tanks in 1/72 scale

Colonel Mustard has been off line for a while due to an unfortunate battle with a local Australian spider, which he soundly lost. So after a month long fight with serious pain and immobility i am finally recovering. It was a war against neurotoxin that i couldn’t win!

So onto my latest Sherman tanks for my British forces. I needed to build up my Shermans to get to a full three troops. So i picked up a couple of boxes of Armourfast Shermans from Hannants in the UK, plus a Unimodel Sherman from my favourite Ukrainian hobby store. The Armourfast tanks are amazing value at 6.25 GBP for two. They are about as simple a kit as you could get, you can count the number of parts on one hand. That said the detail is average, but what do you expect for such a cheap price? If you are prepared to dress them up with some extras they can really turn into a great little wargaming tank. I added some tools, some lifting rings, headlights plus spare tracks and stowage. Oh and of course an aerial. You do not get decals with the kits, so i used some Canadian markings i had from The Plastic Soldier Company. Once you have tarted up your Armourfast kits they really turn out well. If you want to bulk up your tank regiments i cant recommend them highly enough.

The Unimodel Sherman is a proper model kit. I really enjoy building Unimodel kits. Lots of parts, fun to build, but definitely a challenge. Detail and end result was definitely better than Armourfast. I only added some stowage and an aerial. The kit comes with some very tricky PE parts. I managed to ping the headlight protectors across the room never to be seen again and had to make my own out of some thin wire. So don’t try this kit if you have deep carpets……. losing bits is a risk. Unimodel gives you some cool decals so I called this Sherman “Comet”. The only struggle was fitting the top hull to the bottom which left a huge gap at the front. So i had to file down parts of the lower hull around the front wheels in order to get it to fit. I would leave the front part of the hull off the lower hull section and do a dry run first before gluing as you may have the same problem.

All the tanks got the usual olive drab paint job with some dirt and dust and mud. Fun times.

Galmanche Scenario with Combat HQ

Even though i was not too keen on on Too Fat Lardies I Aint Been Shot Mum, due to the card activation system they have over there, i do like their scenarios. I thought i would give one a go using the Combat HQ rules that i have been playing with. The map was pretty straight forward with two small hamlets behind a wall of trees East – West as per the photo below. The trees across the middle are impassable to vehicles. The ploughed fields, wheat fields and orchards i counted as broken ground. Orchards provide light cover to anyone in them. All hedges were light cover and minor obstacles. The Germans were defending with three platoons of three sections each armed with a panzerfaust. Also an HQ with a Panzershreck, a Pak 40 AT Gun with tow, a Forward Observer commanding a battery of mortars off table, but no armour. They could set up concealed anywhere South of the tree line. The British consisted of a company (3 platoons of 3 sections), two troops of tanks (3 Cromwells, 1 Firefly per troop), a Company HQ of PIAT and Light Mortar, plus a Forward Observer in a Dingo Scout Car. They could enter from the North East corner. The British had to drive out the Germans from all the houses to win. The Germans had to hold at least three buildings to win. Morale failure by either side would also end the game.

Galmanche

First up i like to have all my squads individually based. Rather than using the basing convention of 3 figures to a squad as per the Combat HQ rules i just use individual figures that must remain within 1 inch of each other. It means the squad foot print is larger so your command groups of infantry can cover more area. It does not make any difference to anything else. As each German section contains a panzerfaust it means I can have 1 figure in each section carrying one, then when he has taken his shot I switch him out for a rifleman. This negates the paperwork requirement of tracking who has fired his panzerfaust and who hasn’t. Also I bave many cool panzerfaust firing figures so i want to use them. I also tripled the range of the panzerfaust to 3/6/9 inches (Short/Effective/Long) as the Germans were at such a disadvantage to the British armour. The ranges for panzerfausts and panzershrecks are on the short side and they need to be increased to give them any chance of ambushing tanks. Otherwise they end up being pounded by HE and every attack is a suicide run to get close to their targets. I also use Forward Observers as dedicated units in my version of Combat HQ, and if they are destroyed you get a higher Target Number when requesting support (+1) if not a FOO making the request.

Anyway enough rule chat, onto the action. The Brits attacked with a full platoon, FOO and one troop of tanks down the East side heading for the farmhouse, and another platoon heading for the middle of the trees, and kept the third platoon and second troop off the board.

Here we see British advance on the right flank and the German FOO in the trees. The British got their 25 pdr battery going early onto the tree line and caused a bit of suppression. The Germans suffered badly from terrible command dice rolling and had at least four command failures giving the British 2 or more extra dice. Early on the British armour was able to make a number of double and triple moves, with the speedy Cromwells avoiding the German mortar rounds and getting close to the farmhouse. Only a squad was defending  the farm and once their panzerfaust missed its target the Cromwells wiped out the whole squad with MG fire.

Above German Mortar fire getting a bead on advancing armour and doing very little damage. One of many command dice failures by the Germans (black dice). The Cromwells get up close and wipe out the squad in front of the Farm.

IMAG1081More Germans move to try and defend the farm, still under artillery fire. Already the British grabbing initative with their excellent command dice rolls was having an impact with the Germans having to react with fewer order dice.

In the middle of the trees the British attacked the one German squad that was dug in and managed to close assault with two sections. Close Assault is deadly in Combat HQ. The German squad was annihilated for the cost of one British section. Another German squad made a double move and managed to wipe out the British section in Close Assault, who were in turn wiped out by the remaining British section from that platoon. Suddenly the Germans had lost 3 squads quickly and the British were in the trees.

The tank troop on the East flank continued to maneuver around the farm to the South with a plan to attack the Germans from the rear. The German commander was now realising he should have moved his Pak 40 AT Gun earlier. His only option was to send the panzershreck team to try and intercept the Allied Armour. Throughout the whole of the game German AT weapons were thoroughly useless and on another day they could have won the game. Meanwhile the second British tank troop came charging towards the Western houses, so at least the Pak 40 gunners could warm up some shells and get ready for some action.

The panzershreck team couldnt hit a barn door and get wiped out by the Cromwells, who continue at a fast pace and get behind the AT Gun who is set up at the Western crossroads. The Farm buildings in the East are taken by the full platoon of British infantry. Finally the Germans hiding in the West end of the trees manage to ambush the second troop and blow up one Cromwell. And finally the AT Gun is turned around and hits the approaching Cromwell from the South. However this exposes his backside to the oncoming second troop who quickly blow him to pieces. More misses from panzerfausts in the ruined houses and the game is up for the Germans as their morale drops below zero.

So a good fast game, which the British won very easily due to quite excellent command dice roles always giving them a big advantage in orders. The Germans defended OK but should have had their AT gun in a more useful position, and they also left themselves a bit thin trying to defend the whole front rather than concentrating on one area. If they had scored a few more kills with their AT weapons it may have been a different story.

“Objective Saint-Lo” by George Bernage

Anyone with an interest in the Normandy landings would be keenly interested in the action around Saint Lo that happened in June and July of 1944. This book, published by Pen And Sword, who kindly provided me with a copy, goes through day by day accounts of the action. Beginning at Omaha beach it gives various accounts of the American and German actions from there up to the attacks on Saint Lo. George Bernage has collected actual first hand notes from various people who were actually involved as well as his own version of events.

From a factual point of view this book has lots of information, including a lot of maps and a lot of details of units involved in each engagement. So if you want to find out factual information regarding this period then this is a source. Trouble is i found things very difficult to follow throughout the whole book. The text does not flow and the story is often lost as there is no linked narrative that takes the reader easily through the story. I often found myself lost in facts and lists and had no clue where we were. Even when first hand accounts are directly quoted i sometimes found it difficult to place them in context of the overall story. Adding to the confusion are the maps which quite often are very difficult to interpret. Maybe i am being harsh but i found this book very tricky to read and follow exactly what was going  on. As a bunch of individual tales and events from around St Lo it is a informative book. As a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and a feeling at the end of satisfaction that your story is complete, this book fails.

As a bunch of information, historical facts, unit details, first hand accounts of events that happened at that time, plus maps of all the areas involved for reference, this book succeeds. Its a bit like someone making a scrap book with all sorts of relevant information and not really linking them all up together. The abundant photographs are fantastic and well worth having a look at. I think if i want to recreate any engagements from this part of the war on my battlefield this book will come in very useful. But from an enjoyable and exciting reading perspective it misses the mark.

IMAG1103