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Thursday, 17 November 2011

15mm Zvezda Gaz Truck

When I bought myself the Panzer II to build, I also treated myself to the Russian Gaz Truck....for which I had a plan (more later).
The kit comes in the usual illustrated box packaging.
On the back of which are some views of the finished kit rather than the usual exploded assembly diagram.
The box contents were a change for the Zvezda 1/100 models I've built so far, in that there are TWO sprues of parts, a separate assembly instruction sheet and the Art of Tactics data card.
The two sprues are moulded in a dark green polystyrene of a slightly stiffer variety than their German counterparts have been lately. Both are crisp and virtually flash free and somewhat easier to trim and clean up with a file.
Step One: Cut the cab parts from the sprue - cab body & roof + Engine block(!).
As ever, these parts would simply clip together but I used polystyrene cement just to be sure. I cannot understand why they've gone to the trouble of moulding an engine block when they've moulded the cab with solid windows? What might have been better would have been to mould this part in clear plastic so you could paint it leaving the windows clear?
Step Two: The bonnet is moulded in one, but needs to be folded to fit over the engine block (see below).
Step Three: Next it was time to assemble the cab and wheels onto the chassis.
You may be able to see in the picture above that I'd painted the wheels and tyres before assembly.  Be careful to follow the instructions and identify the front and rear wheels correctly. The rear set are double tyred. I found it easier to stick the wheels to the axle/spring assemblies first and then stick the whole assembled axle onto the chassis. The axles are beautifully moulded but delicate all the same, take care!
Whilst not obvious from my photos, I actually attached the cab assembly to the chassis first, before fitting the axle assemblies.
Step Four: Complete the cab by fitting the radiator onto the front of the engine block and then the folded bonnet over the top.
Step Five: All that's now left to do is assemble and fit the load bed and tilt. This kit also appears with the rocket launching array to make a Katusha Rocket Launcher - all that differs between that kit and this is the inclusion of the rear body.
Assembly couldn't be simpler - glue the load bed to the chassis frame and (if you want) glue the tilt to the load bed. The planking detail is all there so it's quite feasible to leave the tilt off.
And there you are! Finished. To paint the model I gave the bodywork a coat of Vallejo Russian Green, followed by the usual Sepia Wash and then a heavy dry-brush of Russian Green + White. The tilt was painted Khaki and weathered accordingly.
I said I'd got a plan for the truck? Well it was to use it on a command base that I'd earlier populated with a T26. Now I wanted to free the T26 up to fight, so I did a quick swap.
 Here is the finished article based with some PSC 15mm Russian Infantry.
In Conclusion.
  • Quick and easy to build
  • Readily available at the model shop
  • Maybe solid cab windows? (though to be fair any resin truck model will be solid so is it a problem?)
To be honest I loved this little model, I think it's great. If you need trucks in your game, look no further.

Friday, 11 November 2011

2 foot City - Crossfire scenario

Keen to try something different, Si set up his three foot square table to emulate the ruined cityscape in Steven's Balagan 2 Foot City Scenario. This was a Stalingrad type scenario which would prove to test our thinking powers to the limit.
The table as set up - with Si's awesome hand built terrain
The table was set out with 8 built up areas - numbered (unsurprisingly!) 1-8. The German Base was top left and the Russian's bottom right. Each side had one company - a CC with 3 platoons (each 3 squads + PC) + 3 HMGs in support & an MFC with 12 x 81mm Mortar Missions. The object was to kill as many enemy as possible and capture as many built up areas.

We rolled a D8 to deploy our troops - this meant that we could possibly end up with troops in the same building - and some did!

This first game was very short, sharp and bloody.
  1.  The game commenced with a random artillery barrage - guess who got that? Yes you guessed right. My Russian platoon in building 7 got a pasting straight away
  2. Then whilst preparing to advance from building 7, the remaining Russians were wiped out by a German assault launched from building 6.
  3. Next the Russians who were sandwiched in building 3 between two German platoons - 1 in building 2 and the other in their base - were slowly brought under control by fire until they were ripe for a close assault to which they eventually succumbed.
  4. Wham Bam that was it, all over............oh dear!
Russians & Germans face off between buildings 6 & 7
The suppressions start to build up...only a matter of time before the assault comes in.
The Germans and Russians exchange fire between buildings 2 & 3
Assaulted from the rear! Germans, from their base building, storm through the Russian position.
For the second game we swapped sides. This time each side had 4 platoons + an Infantry gun and potentially armour reinforcement.

The armour reinforcements (3 MkIVs + a sIG33 SPG for the Germans & 3 T34s + 2 SU76s for the opposition) were available via dice throws. A score of 5 or 6 activated a vehicle. If you chose to deploy any vehicles in isolation before you'd rolled 5 or 6 for all of them you lost the remaining AFVs. So you had a choice - wait until all were activated or deploy what you have activated when you needed them.
  1. Things started a bit better for me (the Germans) this time. Two Platoons in building 6 successfully pinned down Russians in building 7.
  2. Ultimately the Germans successfully assaulted building 7 with support from the sIG33 and the Infantry Gun in building 3. Though they took casualties in the process.
  3. The remaining Germans troops in building 3 exchanged fire with the Russian troops in building 2.
  4. The German SMG platoon, buoyed by their success in building 7,  assaulted the first built up area in building 2.
  5. This succeeded and they progressed through the building until they were wiped out in the final room.
  6. This left both sides with little in the way of infantry in any condition to continue the fight. So we decided to call it a draw.
Germans & Russians in buildings 6 & 7 exchange fire
The Infantry Gun in building 3 adds it's support
Finally the sIG33 lends a hand and the Germans assault building 7
Building 6 now cleared & occupied by the German SMG Platoon
The sIG33 & SMG Platoon now eye up their next victims
They don't know what's coming......
The Germans and Russians have each other pinned down in buildings 2 & 3
The start of the German assault on building 2 - started well but ultimately failure....
All in all a very enjoyable scenario. Made all the better by Si's amazing terrain pieces. This was a very challenging action to fight - no reactive fire unless you exposed your troops crossing the streets, very limited LOS - and required a great deal of thought before you commenced your move as initiative was very easily lost. Give it a go.....you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

15mm Zvezda Panzer II

On my weekly pilgrimage to the Hereford Model Centre I picked up the new Zvezda Panzer II model for their Art of tactics game. I thought this would complement my early war, grey painted Panzer IIIs & IVs and Sdkfz251.
I love the fact that these are being stocked by your high street model shops and you can just go and buy one at will. At the usual £2.75 it wasn't going to break the bank and would keep me amused for a few evenings.
A quick glance at the rear box art dispelled that myth as it appeared there were only five parts!
Opening up revealed a neatly moulded sprue in grey flexible polystyrene, an exploded diagram and the usual Art of Tactics data card.
Close examination of the sprue confirmed there really are only five parts (if you ignore the flag for the board game). All cleanly moulded, flash free. The plastic as well as being flexible, is quite shiny. This I guess is partly due to release agent. I'd certainly recommend washing the sprue in water + washing up liquid to get rid of this before you start to assemble.
The five parts clip from the mould easily enough with side cutters, but as with the previous kits I've reviewed, they do not file or sand very well. You're better off trying to clean the parts up with a very sharp knife.
First job is to fit top and bottom hull parts together. They're designed to snap together and would quite easily, however, I opted to apply a drop or two of ordinary polystyrene cement to make the bond permanent. You can see from the picture above that the complex mould lines are not only neat and a good fit, but ensure you cannot assemble them back to front!
Next glue on the track units, which as you can see from the location holes/pins shown on the hull side photo, cannot be put on the wrong way. The turret is simply a tight push fit....beware of breaking the lovely little guns! And that's it!!
There really isn't anything else to do.
As this was the only German vehicle on my bench at the time, I brush painted it Vallejo Dark Grey. When dry I painted over Vallejo Sepia wash.
Once this was dry, I gave the model a heavy dry brush with Dark Grey + a little white. Then finally I highlighted it with light grey. The exhaust was painted brick red with Vallejo Smoke Glaze over the top. The tools were picked out in light grey and brown to suit, and the MG painted black. The decals came from my trusty Dragon 1/144 stash - if you make a few of those little twin kits they produce, you'll end up with enough German markings to last you a lifetime!
Finally mounted on a Warbases mdf base with Vallejo Pumice for texture and some static grass. The model is protected from handling by a coat of GW Purity Seal followed by Army Painter Matt Anti-Shine Varnish. Job done! My photo above makes the hull appear too tall, though this isn't the case in the flesh - it's an optical illusion caused by a wide angle lens.
  • Good value
  • Simplicity itself to assemble
  • Neat accurate little model.
Con's (maybe?)
  • No turret hatch to put a commander figure?
  • Type of plastic used.
  • No decals?
I'm struggling really to find any. It's a cracking little kit and thoroughly recommended. Now on to the Gaz truck.......

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Not Forgotten - Rifleman Harold Marsland

This is the story of my Great Uncle Harold Marsland. He was just 20 when he was killed during an assault on the Schwaben Redoubt, on the 3rd September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 2, A 2 C and 2 D.
307542 Rifleman Harold Marsland
Service History.
Harold was born in Leeds on 26th January in 1896. After enlisting, Harold found himself drafted into the 1/8th. Battalion (Leeds Rifles), The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). I think it is unlikely he was a pre-war territorial soldier as he would have been only 18 when war was declared. His elder brother Jack, served with the 17th. (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regt. (Prince of Wales Own) - a Bantam Battalion - and, having been taken prisoner in 1917, survived the war

West Yorkshires regimental cap badge

The 1/8th. Battalion (Leeds Rifles) during the Battle of the Somme
On the 1st. July the attack was made against the German second army and by nightfall Britain’s Army had recorded her bloodiest day. 

The 1/8th. Bn.West Yorkshire Regt. (Prince of Wales Own) was held in reserve on this day in support to the 1/5th., 1/6th. and 1/7th. Battalions. These battalions didn’t go “over” until approx. 3.45pm on the 1st. July, though they were in positions within Thiepval Wood from 2.15pm. They were due to attack Thiepval village at 4pm after many hours of simply “hanging around”.

The cap badge of the 1/8th. West Yorks.- The Leeds Pals.

The 1/8th. (1 company ) finally “went over” at 8.30pm to form a defensive flank in front of the Schwaben Redoubt and to reinforce 107 Brigade. There had been many casualties and they eventually withdrew. By 2nd. July, the 1/8th. was scattered with some troops in the front line and some behind the lines. (Incidentally, whilst there’s no actual reference to gas being used, but the description of Thiepval Wood on the night of 1/2nd. July describe it as “reeking of gas fumes” and of men stumbling about in their respirators. No specifics are given, but this shows that it must have been used.)

Despite the highest losses ever recorded for the British Army in battle, Haig continued in a series of lesser attacks, almost breaking the German line on the 13th. - 14th. July.

1/8th. Attack 3/9/1916
The day Harold died the battalion history record that the 1/8th. was to take part in an attack on Thiepval. The battalion moved into Aveluy Wood on 2nd. September and into the frontline trenches Near Thiepval on 3rd. September.
Detail from the Trench map

By 05.00am on that day the battalion was ready. At that hour the artillery barrage began and fell accurately on the German line. As the barrage lifted the men went steadily forward attacking from a line roughly following the present Mill Road with the 1/8th West Yorks. on the left flank, alongside the River Ancre. But by 05.03am the enemy opened up from a position known as the “Pope’s Nose”, roughly on the site of the present day “Ulster Tower” commemorating the ill fated attack made by the 36th. (Ulster) Division on 1st. July 1916.

Although the first wave of Yorkshiremen suffered little from it, the second wave, on leaving their start point, were badly caught in the firezone. The first wave managed to reach the enemy’s front line and for a little while it seemed the attack would succeed.
Detail of the attack - Map Published in Regimental History.

However, at 07.04am the 1/8th. West Yorks. reported that they were being counter-attacked and they were driven out of the German line. By 07.40am the division was being relieved and the attack had faltered. By 10:11am the remains of the Division were back at its starting point.
Harold - Middle Row (Seated) far right.

The casualties for the day were heavy, the 1/8th loosing 9 Officers and 294 other ranks, one of whom was Harold.

For the six days prior to the attack, the Battalion had spent every waking hour man handling spare ammunition and rations through Aveluy Wood, acroos the River Ancre and along the miles of "Black Horse" road to the forward dumps of Thiepval Wood. At the end of every exhausting trip they were put to work again maintaining the frontline trenches and digging saps towards the enemy.

The Officers and experienced NCOs anticipated the planned attack with misgivings. They knew the men of their battalion were exhausted.

After the attack, Haig wrote in his diary on the 4th September the following entry;-
"I visited Toutencourt and saw Gen. Gough. The failure to hold the position gained on the Ancre is due, he reported, to the 49th Division. The units of the Division did not really attack and some men did not follow their officers. The total losses of this Division are under a thousand! It is a Territorial Division from the West Riding of Yorkshire. I had occasion a fortnight ago to call the attention of the Army and Corps Commanders (Gough & Jacobs) to the lack of smartness, and slackness of one of its Battalions in the matter of saluting when I was motoring through the village where it was billeted. I expressed my opinion that such men were too sleepy to fight well, etc. It was due to the failure of the 49th Division that the 39th (which did well and got all their objectives) had to fall back."