“The Battle For Arnhem 1944-1945” by Anthony Tucker-Jones

The Battle for Arnhem 1944-1945

Another favourite classic war film of mine, and I am sure many others too, is “A Bridge Too Far”. People always mention the historical inaccuracies and problems with the filming and actors’ egos etc but I really enjoy it as a war movie. It is up there with “The Longest Day” with an all star cast and blockbuster sets and great effects for the time.

Behind the Hollywood version there is a truth that is both an amazing and bold military plan, verging on the foolhardy, and a great story of bravery and survival. Unfortunately the plan ultimately failed, but if successful could have shortened the war and stopped further suffering in occupied Europe. This visual history of the Battle Of Arnhem is an excellent summary of all the actions through some text and many pictures. It was more of a series of battles rather than one big one, involving airborne landings to capture bridges and create a pathway to the main objective of the Arnhem bridge. Once objectives were captured an armoured force was to make it’s way as a relief column to clear a pathway all the way to Arnhem. Field Marshal Montgomery underestimated the strength of German forces in the area and their ability to regroup and counterattack resulting in the failure of Operation Market Garden.

As a wargamer of World War Two I have a great interest in all aspects of this operation and I am very keen to recreate parts of the Arnhem battle. An airborne assault on a canal bridge or an armoured column under attack on a long road. There are many great ideas here. The photographs are fantastic and show many scenes of all the engagements and situations throughout the campaign. The writing is very clear and concise and accompanied with some very informative maps. Tracking the action and linking it to the pictures is easy and it makes for an excellent read. If you have any interest in Operation Market Garden and the Battle For Arnhem then this book is for you. Of course now I will need to dust off my copy of “A Bridge Too Far” and watch it again!

 

 

 

 

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“Wargames Terrain and Buildings – The Napoleonic Wars” by Tony Harwood

Spending my time reading more while the model kits and paints remain locked away in our soon to be finished renovated home. Frustrating but lucky I have a decent supply of interesting books to fuel my hobby urges.

This one is all about scratch building terrain for your wargames table. Making terrain is one of my favourite parts of the hobby and I am always keen to read about how other people do it. What techniques they use, how they decide on what to build, and what materials they turn to. It is a very satisfying feeling to produce your own terrain and really not as difficult as some people may think. Using household items and readily available products you can achieve some really good results with some patience. Of course everything always boils down to how much time do you have? Buying houses is a much quicker option, but home made results I think are usually better.

Tony Harwood, in his book, goes through five or six of his terrain projects in detail and shows us clearly how he achieved his excellent results. This book is aimed at the Napoleonic period, but do not be put off if you are interested in World War Two (me) or the ancient world or anything else. It has relevance to anyone who wants to learn more about building terrain in any period in any scale. Tony starts with a sketch of the piece he wants to build, usually inspired by a photo or something he has seen in a book. Then a framework of cardboard, foam board or foam is built up to create the basic shapes. For extra strength he covers structures in paper and PVA glue. One thing he does not seem to do is leave window openings or removable roofs. Both for realism and playability I do like to leave windows as proper openings into the building and have removable roofs if possible to allow troops to be placed inside.

The go to material for Tony is DAS clay which he uses liberally in every project. This fast drying clay is brilliant for creating terrain as it can be moulded into anything and can be cut and carved. Once you have covered your structure in clay you can carve texture like bricks or stonework into it and make some very realistic effects. What I liked about Tony’s projects is he is happy to change his idea during the process and add and subtract bits and pieces to improve his design. Roofing is dealt with either store bought pantiles or cardboard roof tiles, both inexpensive or free solutions. There is an abundant use of bits of foam, balsa wood, plasticard, paper, card and even skewers. All stuff you can get hold of very easily.

I really enjoyed this book. Its a nice quick read with very clear and concise instructions. Tony’s techniques can be applied to any terrain structure you can come up with in any period you are keen on, so do not be put off if Napoleon is not your cup of tea. I love making terrain and this just adds fuel to my itchy fingers!

 

“M7 Priest: Rare Photographs from Wartime” by David Doyle

I have been unable to get any models built in the past month as we have been out of the house while getting some renovations done, and then we were overseas for three weeks on a most excellent holiday! So I am missing my hobby a bit and getting itchy fingers.

But luckily I can still read and write. My latest reading material is about another awesome Allied design from World War Two, the M7 Priest. It was a powerful 105mm howitzer placed on a Sherman hull, used for supporting infantry and attacks with some heavy firepower. It was used very effectively during the war and even after in later conflicts. I had just purchased two Priest kits made by Unimodel so it was excellent timing that I had this book for inspiration for when I actually get around to building them. Plastic kits of the Priest in 1/72 scale are very hard to find, and I think Unimodel must be one of the only manufacturers.  The Plastic Soldier Company make a Sexton, and I think Revell do a 1/76 scale Priest, but Unimodel maybe the only 1/72 scale producer.

Anyway the book is full of fantastic pictures, as the main title “Images of war” suggests. It does detail the design and development stages of the Priest, plus some specifications and performance of the vehicle. But most of all there are many, many shots of the tank in action in many different situations. They were used in multiple roles from blasting strong points, longer range artillery and even transporting troops. The main design was constant but details were fiddled with over the years and these slight differences are illustrated very well throughout the many photos.

If you have an interest in this particular vehicle or you are planning to build one in small scale this book is a great source of visual inspiration. I will be picking a couple of pictures out to use to base my kits on when my Priest models get to the front of the queue. I was very happy to add this book to my growing collection of reference material for military vehicles from World War Two. If you like tanks you will enjoy this book.

Escape From Stalag Luft III

One of my favourite movies of all time must be the Great Escape. Watching Steve McQueen try and hurdle the barbed wire on his German motor bike, and losing my mind when Gordon Jackson gets caught out at the train station with the simple words “Good Luck”. It is one of the greatest War movies of all time, capturing the spirit of Allied POWS trying to continue the war effort, and their never say die initiative and ingenuity. Its a classic, although its roots are firmly entrenched in the horror and suffering of war.

When you read Bob Vanderstok’s book about the escape you can see how the movie captures the actual events and personalities involved so well. As a Dutch pilot Vanderstok actually had to first of all escape Holland and make his way to England where as a RAF pilot he was then shot down, captured and sent to Stalag Luft III. So in reality he escaped twice. The book is a riveting read from start to finish. The lengths the prisoners went to, from unsuccessful escapes, to planning and resourcing via any means necessary, are just amazing. The escape was a fantastic achievement and a great climax to the book, although obviously tainted with great sadness as many of the escapees were captured and killed.

If you love the movie you will love the book, so I suggest you buy a copy! If you haven’t watched the classic The Great Escape you need to sort that out too quicksmart!

“Objective Falaise” by George Bernage

falaise

Another excellent publication from my friends at Pen and Sword. I have read a couple of books before by Mr Bernage and they are always very interesting.

“Objective Falaise” is jam packed with maps, photos and first hand stories from a couple of Allied offensives after the Normandy invasion. They revolve around the attempt by the Allies to surround the Germans near Caen in the Falaise Pocket. As an avid wargamer the book gives plenty of scope to adapt many of the stories and situations into a scenario for the table top. For someone interested in World War Two military history its also a very well written and invaluable resource for an important post D-Day confrontation.

The maps and photos are particularly good, some of them copies of original combat maps, from larger scale maps of the terrain down to more small scale maps with individual tanks marked. The photos also show some “then and now” type comparisons. Also very cool photos of actual wrecks in situ and even bits of tanks that a farmer salvaged and kept on his farm.

My favourite part of the book is the story behind the demise of the famous Tiger Tank commander Michael Wittman. It gives a full run down of his last fight and images and maps of how the situation unfolded. Excellent stuff. This part will definitely be used by me in a table top scenario some time in the future.

My only real criticism, which is common for this kind of book, is the lack of one main map with a step by step chronological guide that links all the text and stories together. Without this type of easy to follow reference I did get a bit lost in the story and how each day progressed. Too many small maps that were hard to read in relation to the overall tactics and movement. So I did get a bit lost from a geographic perspective. Overall its a good read and very useful and interesting for historians and wargamers alike.

 

 

 

 

Modelling Waffen SS Figures by Osprey Publishing

I picked up this excellent book from the Book Depository for less than $20. I am currently working on stack of figures for my German forces from CP Models and AB Figures and needed some more inspiration for my camouflage uniforms.

Although aimed at the 1/35 scale figure modeler there is still a lot to like for the smaller scale hobbyist like me. And probably you too if you are reading this. The author details three or four different German SS figures and his process of building, converting, adding and finally painting. What he does with converting some of the figures and the detailing them with extras of his own is quite amazing. There are definitely tips and tricks to be learnt for the 1/72 scale figure modeler and painter from this book.

I was most interested in his guides for painting camouflage schemes. He does a great Oak Leaf, Plane Tree, Pea Dot and Italian camo on various 1/35 scale figures. It gives you an excellent guide to what colours to use and what patterns to apply. I will be trying this out on my pile of little guys soon when I get the chance. This book is a nice quick read but definitely worth adding to your library, especially if you are keen to keep perfecting those camo schemes.

I have been up to my neck building more German armour and have not managed to finish anything so posts have been a bit scarce this month! A Stug III and a Stug IV should be at the finishing line soon!

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“Churchill Tanks” by Dennis Oliver

Another excellent publication from Pen And Sword’s Tank Craft series arrived for me before Christmas and it has taken me a while to sit down properly and give it my full attention.

The Churchill tank is another iconic armoured vehicle from World War Two. Its unique boxy shape and tracks make it one of the more unusual looking tanks from the war. It was also developed into various different engineering models,  including a bridge layer and flamethrower version.

Dennis Oliver covers every aspect of the Churchill in great detail and this is a good book for anyone with a historical, modelling or wargaming interest in the tank. He goes through the use of the vehicle in all of its units at the back end of the war. I particularly like the details on individual tank names that were used and that’s something I plan to adopt when i am building my next Churchills. The historical details are accompanied by numerous excellent illustrations and photographs, more great inspiration for whatever you want to do.

There is also a comprehensive guide to the various choices modellers have to build their own Churchill kit in most scales. This is aimed more at 1/35 scale modellers but inspiring none the less for everyone. There are more great pictures of completed kits by highly skilful modellers. I love reading about and looking at tanks, so if you are like me you will like this book!

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