“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.

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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

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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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“Setting The Scene” by Pat Smith

I was lucky enough to order a copy of Pat Smith’s awesome book “Setting The Scene” before Christmas and it turned up on my doorstep recently. What a happy way to start the New Year!

Now I have always been a big fan of Pat’s amazing 28mm modelling on his Wargaming With A Silver Whistle blog and this new production just continues on Pat’s excellent work. I am not a 28mm modeller and was not planning to do any Winter games or scenes right now, but none of that matters. There are so many good ideas and tips and inspirational photos this book is not to be missed if you are a keen wargamer and modeller who likes to build stuff. This is relevant to whatever scale or period you are interested in, but I guess even more so if you are cemented in World War Two like me.

Pat covers many aspects of terrain building from creating a mat, making trees, rivers, bridges and also tips on painting vehicles and figures. So much eye candy and amazing photos of his stunning results I cannot help but keep flicking through the pages. If you are looking for some inspiration and a standard of terrain to aspire to then I suggest you sign up for the reprint which I am guessing will get a run. Drop Pat a note on his blog and get your copy!

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“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.

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