Blog Awards and more Tanks

A new blog award is doing the rounds. I hate them. You nominate one friend but forget another, so it’s brave faces on top but always trembly lower lips underneath. So I thought that I would explain why I like the blogs that I follow instead:
A Few Rounds More : Not many people concern themselves with 20th century Far Eastern Wargaming, so this blog is a rare treasure.
The Crusader Project : Andreas really knows his stuff and has brought it together in a considered fashion from the Axis side.
A Wargaming Miscellany : Bob’s period of history is the late 19th century, especially naval, and the Spanish Civil War. Again, he knows what he is talking about. Bob organises the Wargames Development annual conference with Tim Gow.
Brazos Evil Empire : Every time that you think you have a handle on Don, he vectors off at a tangent. I never know what he’s going to do next, but I want to be there when he does it.
Vintage Wargaming : Classic wargaming. I’m in it for the nostalgia.
Megablitz and More : Tim is the other half of the Wargames Development team that organise the conference every year. His blog demonstrates that he may be on the way to overtaking Peter Shulman as the General Jumbo of the wargames world.
Whoever dies with the most toys wins.
P.B. Eye-candy : Phil’s training as an art historian shows in his approach to wargaming. History is to the fore, and his models are little jewels. His trademark is the exquisite fully-painted figure with the odd unpainted head-swap to prove that he is human!
Wargaming 4 Grown-ups : Another graduate historian, Graham’s stuff is well thought out and original, with fully painted armies. Just as mine will be some day ….
Olicanalad’s Games :  Superb modelling, finished paint jobs, excellent terrain and a dedicated wargames room. I’m not given to envy, but visit the link and weep :O)
… and that’s just nine, not including the reference blogs. I should get around to listing all the other blogs that I follow on the blogroll. Next week perhaps? In the meantime, I’ve been adding to the DAK tank park.

The grey PzIIIg on the far left is a Zvezda. Except for those wretched split tracks, the Plastic Soldier Company offerings are superior in detail. I made a PzIIIf, IIIg and the rest as IIIhs for the Western Desert. This completes the tank park for 21 and 15 Panzer division. The PzIV is an old Roco, originally in Graham Hockley’s collection. The remaining tanks with green flock bases are metal Piggies, and standardising base sizes is making the collection hang together better. You can blame Olicana Lad for that! I just don’t have the storage space for the base sizes that he uses, but visually, they are excellent.

Axis Airstrips in the Mediterranean – Castel Vetrano

CASTEL VETRANO airfield on Sicily was a pretty simple affair. A single runway with aircraft parked alongside make it an easy strip to represent with a piece of flat card, and is presumably typical of a hastily built airstrip. Here is a picture copyrighted to the Imperial War Museum as picture C 4183  “showing Junkers Ju 52 and Savoia Marchetti SM 82 transport aircraft, January 1942.” :

I can count about 68 aircraft parked around the perimeter, give or take a couple, so that’s two NQM aircraft models on the table. Here is CASTEL VETRANO in the mid-afternoon sun:
tankers 007
Zvezda Ju-52, scratchbuilt tanker, air traffic control van is an Austrian wooden children’s toy, two ground crew stands and a Liberator converted into a Z.1007bis Alcione

Privates on Parade (Soldati Arruolati in Parata)

A splendid box of Italian Desert Infantry arrived from Old Glory Miniatures UK this week. Very lively castings they are too, with much arm waving, shouting and gesticulating. Their jaunty hats and solar topees are most stylish, as are the scarves wrapped around their necks. We shall see if these theatrically martial descendents of the Roman Legions fight as well as did their forefathers.

Stage I : Involved a good deal of  sorting out and parading on the divisional grid square to see where everyone should go. There is usually a lot of shuffling about and raiding of my bits box before ‘eyes front’ and calling the parade to attention. Some redundant Japanese and Dutch Piggies from a previous order were put into the 3rd rank to fill the 45mm mortar slots. The Dutch thought they were being shipped to the Far East!

Stage II : Fill in the missing bits. You can see the scratchbuilt grey-painted 81mm mortars filling a shortfall in the orbat in the front and back. Not OG’s fault – they sent what I asked for, but when the alternative to ordering a pack of 5 mortars is 50, then my razor saw and aluminium rod came out instead.
Stage III : Adjust headgear. This meant filing the ‘Jap hats’ to remove peaks and sun flaps, then filing a groove to turn them into ‘chip bag hats’. A couple of head swaps added pith helmets. Cork is my favourite basing material at present. It cuts and sands easily, is reasonably dimensionally stable  and will accept pins stuck directly into it.

Stage IV : Undercoat. In this case, with a khaki Humbrol spray. I can now relax with a clear conscience that this division is no longer on the ‘lead pile’ and could, at a pinch, fight as a green formation tomorrow if called upon. The metropolitan division is now formed up, so the next step will be to finish the Bersaglieri and Blackshirt Legion regiments.
In the Good Old Days, I used to treat undercoated troops as green, upgrading them gradually as they fought battles, acquiring more paint detail until they eventually became veteran. It provided an incentive to finish stuff.

Signature Equipment – Lorraine Schlepper 15cm and Other Tracked Guns

Back in my days as a recce officer for an amphibious engineer troop, the concept of a piece of signature equipment was drilled into us. In my case, it was a Ferret armoured car with a huge cargo rack on the back and an Avon inflatable dinghy perched precariously on top. See one of those lurking on a river bank and it was a fair bet that come dusk, a corps level bridge would be floating there. My driver was good at hiding his Ferret in big bushes whilst his boss swam or rowed over the river towing a piece of string to measure the gap!

Panzer II sIG 33

The SIG 33 was one such signature piece in the DAK . Twelve? made it to North Africa:
All vehicles were grouped into 707th and 708th sIG Kp (Sfl.) – heavy infantry gun companies and were shipped to Libya, North Africa from February to April of 1942. They proved to be prone to constant mechanical breakdowns and only few were operational by using other ones as sources for spare parts. Eight were lost by December 2nd of 1942, while other six served with DAK – Deutsches Afrika Korps until spring of 1943 when last of them was eliminated (abandoned).”
For real afficionados of esoteria, apparently one PzIII chassis was converted in the field into a sIG 15cm. See plan 9 below or go ahead and build one. You know you want to!

The Panzerjäger I 4.7cm served in 605 Battalion at Korps Level:
“Twenty-seven Panzerjäger Is equipped Anti-tank Battalion 605 in North Africa. It arrived in Tripoli, Libya between 18 and 21 March 1941. Five replacements were sent in September 1941, but only three arrived on 2 October as the others had been sunk on board the freighter Castellon. At the start of the British Operation Crusader the battalion was at full strength, but lost thirteen vehicles during the battles. Four more replacements were sent in January 1942 so that it mustered seventeen at the beginning of the Battle of Gazala. Despite the shipment of another three vehicles in September/October 1942 the battalion only had eleven by the beginning of the Second Battle of El Alamein. The last two replacements received by the battalion were in November 1942.”

Another signature piece, the Lorraine Schlepper 15cm (SdKfz 351) was issued to 15th (10) and 21st (11) Panzer divisions in time for ALAMEIN, so wargamers (including me!) want to see them on the table as a signature piece of equipment. Given that the total guns (21) are only two strength points (s2), split between two divisions, how can this be achieved?

Lorraine Schlepper 15cm
The Author’s FoW Lorraine Schlepper 15cm (SdKfz 351), purchased before all the commoner British equipment, naturally! An SdKfzW 250 stands in as a limber

Plan A: Just substitute a Schlepper for the divisional 105mm gun – 155th Artillery Regiment from 21st Panzer division -   (Lorraine Schlepper  15cm (s3) may be substituted for the 105mm), Sdkfz 10 Limber (s3), 50mm Pak (s3)
Plan B: Substitute a sIG 33  (s1) for the Regimental 15cm guns in 707/708 infantry gun companies from 90th Light division and lump it in with one of the regiments.
Plan C: Add the Schleppers as an (s2) and sIG 33 (s1) Korps level unit in with the PanzerJaeger I of 605 Bn. Reduce each 105mm divisional strength to (s2) and (s1) to compensate (This would be my normal preferred option, but not in this case).
Plan 9 from outer Space: The number of hulls is insignificant. Ignore them. (I didn’t say that Plan 9 was a good plan!)

Rinforzi in arrivo (Reinforcements arrive*)

A couple of boxes of goodies arrived in the post this week. Peter Pig was the quickest, followed shortly by a box of Zvezda from Wonderland Models in Edinburgh. What I should have done this weekend, is get the plastics made up and onto bases for spray painting. What I actually did was to reorganise my existing Italian infantry bases in anticipation of a Command Decision order.

For anyone who is wondering, quite legitimately, why the author of umpire guidelines that specify no base sizes, is rebasing his toys, the following explanation may help :  Real estate and manpower.

My Billy Bookshelf Boxes are of a size that is a fraction too small for most armies’ early war divisions at full orbat. Now that I am modelling mid war divisions, tactical units (platoons and companies) are usually smaller than they were at the beginning of the war. Whereas 30-plus sized platoons were common, now they are more like 20-25 men strong. I use roughly 30mm square (or round) bases a lot, but now 25mm is becoming more common with two figures per base; so smaller base sizes and a bit of judicious thinning of the orbat is enough to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

A quick Excel template was useful for making sure that slots in the Orbat were not missed inadvertently, but my orbats are not usually full anyway. Italian XX Corps is coming along nicely. Modelling two armoured divisions, a motorised division, and an infantry division with both colonial and metropolitan troops in it, should suffice. I may be able to get away with just one Besaglieri and one Blackshirt Legion regiment each, as I don’t expect that both armoured divisions will be dismounting their infantry and attacking at the same time. I may well be wrong. A few quick conversions of LMGs into 45mm mortars were required to balance the orbat.
More senior viewers could be forgiven for not spotting in this scale the elegant conversion, with brass rod, of the two prone crew in the front row and the two chaps in the second row behind the MMGs! This qualifies as a ‘not-pointless project‘, defined by Phil Steele, as Peter Pig makes a perfectly good 45mm mortar. However, I have an excess of LMGs, for which NQM doesn’t differentiate, and more 45mm mortars are needed. So that’s that!

* This translation was just plugged into Google translate, so if anyone knows the correct Italian, I would be grateful to hear it.

Trains to Tankers

The cake decoration train sat on my workbench for a week as I scratched around for a ‘look’ to disguise its origin. At first it looked a bit like a Radschlepper Ost as the wheels that I found were proportionately oversized for the body. No RSOs ever made it out to the Western Desert though.

Radschlepper Ost copyright

But a bit more rummaging located some 1/72 Airfix 88mm trailer mudguards, which have proved useful before for wooden trucks, so the final product looked more Italian than German. 30 Corps will probably end up using it as a captured tanker anyway.

The end result is closer to the Camioneta Fiat Modello 42, without being in any way an accurate likeness. It’s the sort of thing that the Fiat designers might have come up with if they only had an old cake decoration to start with!

Camioneta Fiat Modello 42 uncredited on the Axis History Forum

Undercoat on the Fiat Torta Decorazione Treno Carburante Petroliera (snappy name, no? ). 

A few coats of paint are what’s needed now. I should keep it simple, but the scheme on the Camioneta above looks rather alluring! It’s funny how the unpainted patches that the eye misses always leap out in photos.

Commonsense prevails. Simple desert scheme it is! the three tanker types in the fleet to date.