Monday, 30 May 2011

Counter-attack at Smolensk - StuG footage

Although a fairly short and grainy movie, this excerpt from "Die Deutsche Wochenschau" has some excellent footage of StuG / Infantry cooperation.

The StuG IIIs are mostly of early "G" pattern sporting bolted armour on the hull front.  Again the battered and broken nature of front line equipment should be noted by modellers!

As a bonus, the Sdkfz 252 Munitionskraftwagen and Panzerwerfer Maultier also make appearances.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Wochenbild #8

Firstly, a big apology to all my regular readers.  This week has been fraught with medical, dental and familial problems.  I have in turn been too preoccupied and too unwell to post.  Hopefully the worst has now past!

I find this photograph very intriguing.  The grizzled soldiers have been snapped during fatigues.  Their "panje" sled is loaded with what appear to be milk-churns, although now they could contain almost any liquid.  This little vignette is of interest in itself but the back-drop is what I find especially noteworthy.

To the rear are the ruins of a Russian village (perhaps the outskirts of a town due to the presence of telegraph lines?)  Both timber and brick/masonry structures are present, albeit much the worse for wear.  In the middle-ground stands a very odd structure.  To me it looks like part of a defensive stockade better suited to a Wild West setting - but perhaps it is something different.

As always, if you can shed any light on the picture - please comment below.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wochenbild #7

The mystery gun / mortar.
Something a little different this week, some monstrous ordnance!

I bought this photo as part of a collection and all the others were clearly taken on the Eastern Front - being scenes in and around villages or men on the Steppe.  This picture was the "odd man out" showing a busy urban rail yard.  Due to the provenance, I assume the photo was taken in the East but cannot be sure.

The gun is a model that I have never identified.  Perhaps a French or Soviet piece pressed into German service?  I am not even certain if this is a weapon mounted upon a flat-bed wagon for transportation or a specialised piece of railway ordnance.  If anyone has any ideas I would greatly appreciate your comments.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Review: JTFM Panzer Grenadiers 28mm

The 10 man set straight from the package.
Today, a first for Frontkämpfer: a figure review!  A popular feature of my other Blog, I think it should be well received here.

We will start with JTFM's Panzer Grenadier set.  Sculpted by Mike Broadbent, this 10 figure set retails at $17.00 (I bought mine for £10.00 from WCP - closeout price)  Although not stated, these figures are depicted in cold weather gear and suitable for late 1943 onwards (due to reversible winter jackets, ankle boots and figures armed with MP43/StG44*)  

The first thing you notice when comparing them to other manufacturers' offerings is that they are beautifully cast but slight.  This is probably a good thing as 28mm figures tend to be very chunky.  In terms of height they work well with Artizan, Crusader, BAM and Battle Honours - but their build is best suited to use with Battle Honours.  

Detail is good, not the best but perfectly acceptable.  When taken as a whole the unit is posed realistically for combat and thus very useful for skirmish wargames.  That said there are some anomalies.  For example the MG42 loader (with separately cast left arm) is standing whereas the gunner is firing prone.  Additionally, the gunner uses the 50 round drum magazine rather than the usual belt and box.  Personally, I do not think they could be used together and look right.

L to R: Artizan, JTFM and Battle Honours.
The faces do not have the detail we expect these days.  They are workable but nothing outstanding.  This suits me as I prefer rank and file figures to be pretty generic - anything too memorable creates a "character".

My hyper-critical eye spotted only three real let-downs.  Firstly the odd shape of some of the helmets - a place many companies fall down.  Some of the examples look wrong, one resembles the 1916 pattern rather than the 1935.  The second problem is the right arm on the loader figure - it appears to be "withered".  Although the chap may be suffering from this deformity (as did Kaiser Bill) it doesn't look good in miniature!  Finally, some of the StG44 wielders seem to have the wrong ammo pouches!  The models sculpted are those for the straight MP40 "Schmeisser".

These problems are not deal-killers but detract a little from the overall impression.

In summary, it is a good set and a welcome addition to what is available.  They are pretty good value and especially well priced if you snag them during WCP's closeout!

Scores out of 10 - thoroughly personal ratings explained:

Sculpting - Quality of detail and accuracy
Casting - Mismoulds and flashing
Variety - How comprehensive is the range
Service - Was the seller easy to reach, polite and helpful
Delivery - How long did they take to get to me
Value - Are they a good deal overall

Delivery time based upon my experience - UK to UK delivery.

Sculpting:                  6.5/10 
Casting:                    10/10 No faults!
Variety of Subject:    8/10  A lot of MP43/StG43s.
Customer Service:    */10  Third party purchase.
Delivery Time:          */10  As above.
Value:                      7/10 (9/10 WCP closeout price!)

*This weapon was around in limited numbers during winter 43/44 - however the high number included suggests the figures are more suitable for the following winter.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Winterkampf 1943: Witebsk (?)

Regular readers will be aware of my fascination with the hard fighting of 1943/4. Although by this stage of the war Germany was on the strategic defensive, well planned operations could still achieve success against the Red Army.

Had GröFaZ not insisted upon defending all territories and instead granted a degree of freedom to his commanders, I feel the Soviet Steamroller could yet have been halted even post-Kursk!

This film has a fair mix of footage (some Ferdinand shots clearly not from winter 1943/4) Of special note are the armoured "Maultier" truck supposedly serving with mountain troops and a PaK43 firing a shot or two.!

Modelers and terrain builders should note the trenches: they are both shallow and narrow! Painters should find the grubby and unkempt appearance of the troops into account.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Modified T34/76 1943 - A question of scale?

Battered and filthy T34 with PZ. III schürzen - Spring 1944.
The T34 - a truly legendary vehicle!  It didn't have the best gun, armour or top-speed but in terms of balancing the three (and units produced) it is in my opinion the greatest tank of World War II.

So, it's clear - I like the tank.  However, I do not have a Red Army collection and have no wish to start.  A problem? Not at all - as these vehicles were frequently pressed into service by German units.  Some tomes such as the hallowed "Encyclopedia of German Tanks" will have you believe that T34s were used by Germany on a very limited basis.  Photographic evidence shows that this is nonsense!  For some examples visit the excellent "Beutepanzer" site and have a look for yourself.

T34/76C with improvised skirts.
Now, the decision becomes a little harder.  Do you want to model a vehicle simply over-painted, a "Germanised" vehicle with new cupola etc or perhaps a conversion?  

I have opted for something a bit esoteric, namely a T34/76 C with field-fitted Schürzen.  Before you cry "he's mad!" I ask you to consider these photographs.  One appears to sport modified Panzer III skirts and the other has items that look to be built from scrap metal.  The vehicles are still obviously T34s but are very different to the norm. 

Armourfast: Cheap and cheerful.
For once, I have the parts to build these in more than one scale.  In 20mm / 1:72 I have an old Armourfast T34 1943.  It is not a great model but is cheap.  I have also a wealth of thin metal and plastic sheet that can be easily  fitted as improvised skirting.  Fortunately, schürzen will disguise some of the less than perfect detail (or lack of said) sported by this kit.  

If I was starting the project afresh, I would opt for the Panzer IV and T34 from PSC - the spare skirts on the former could be used to great effect.  Indeed the 15mm collector could use PSC's offerings to the same end.

Potential skirt donor.
In 28mm / 1:48 (quiet!) I have a complete set of skirts from a Tamiya Panzer III N and an unbuilt Hobby Boss T34/76.  A simple tweak and readjustment and you can make yourself a skirted beast with minimal effort.

Sadly, the 1:48 version is going to be far too large to accompany my BA 3/6 "Stummel" but then you cannot have everything.

A great model for the 1:48 adherent.
I think I will go for the smaller option first as it is less work - I have a tendency to start too many projects simultaneously and get demoralised.

Talking of the "Stummel", it is time to don the dustmask and get all the parts sanded...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wochenbild #6

T38 abandoned in the mud.
Firstly apologies for the lack of posts this week.  My attention has been focused upon home - my eldest's birthday and my health problems have been flavour of the week.

Anyway, to today's photo.  This is a first for Frontkämpfer as it shows a tank - albeit not too impressive a vehicle!  Here we see a Soviet T-38 relegated to duty as an unusual photo-prop.  Designed as a reconnaissance vehicle, the T38 was rendered amphibious by large flotation tanks (as was the T37)  Armed with a 7,62mm MG and sporting very thin armour, it was near useless in combat.  Surprisingly the top speed of these little "tankettes" was just 40kmh.  Another peculiarity was the lack of radio on most T38s - particularly strange given their scouting rôle!

As was the case with a great many captured vehicles, the T38 was pressed into German service as both a tractor and anti-partisan AFV.  There are reports of this tankette being converted into a mount for a 3,7cm Flak but I have yet to see any evidence of this conversion.

Once again, there are no details on the reverse of the photo.  The conditions suggest Spring or Autumn but as these vehicles were used until at least 1943, dating is difficult.  However, 1941/42 is probably the most likely window.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Wochenbild #5

At least the chap on the right appears happy!
As I have said before, many of the photographs in my archive have, on the reverse, notes giving information about the location and/or the unit depicted.  Sadly this picture has nothing of use.

In the foreground we see two men sawing logs for firewood.  The younger of the two wears what appears to be a Red Army greatcoat and the kneeling fellow is wearing the extremely effective "Telogreika" winter outfit issued by the Red Army.  My guess would be that both of these men are "Hiwis" performing manual tasks for the German military.

The background shows a rather dejected looking German sentry guarding an 88mm FlaK which is deployed in anti-tank mode.  Although a very large weapon with an extremely high profile, it can be seen that when properly emplaced only a small portion was visible above ground-level - the gun barrel must be less than a foot from the snow's surface.  Note what appear to be kill rings on the barrel - clearly the crew has had some degree of success!  In my opinion, such an emplacement would look very attractive on the table-top.

If forced to speculate I would go for winter 1941/2 as the gun is not whitewashed - by the second winter of the war this was in fairly plentiful supply.  However this is far from conclusive.  The location is anyone's guess - as no buildings are visible.  Though the flat terrain may indicate "Somewhere in Ukraine"!

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Return of the Stummel™

Off-setting the gun works aesthetically.
Due to popular demand the Panzerspähwagen BA(F) 203(r) "Stummel" is back from the dead.  This historical "what-if" generated so much enthusiasm it would be unfair to just consign it to the trash heap!

I haven't done much so far but the idea is taking shape.  I fiddled around with some pieces of cereal box card during an episode of the awful "Sex and the City" and found the best solution.

The shields are high and the vehicle will be rather ungainly, this is something I like, as it is not a work of art - rather a utilitarian field-mod.  I have tacked the basic plates onto the hull and need only sand them to the right angles.  This will be done when I smooth out the (still to be filled) faults on the FoA casting.

The small size of the BA-3/6 is going to dictate a three man crew - two on the L24 howitzer and a driver.  The MG port will be covered as this area will be used as storage for the shells etc.

I think it is going to work out OK and the planned tarpaulin will hide the fact that the hull is solid.  More as I get it!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Imagineering: Panzerjäger T-70 743(r)

Artillerie Schlepper T70 & PaK40
Regular readers will be aware that I wish my 1943/44 "Mini-Kampfgruppe" to sport a couple of unusual vehicles.  Originally, I was thinking of converting a BA-3/6 armoured car but after a great deal of thought, I reckon this is simply impractical.  Thus, I have spent a great deal of time this week thinking of an alternative.

The component parts.
Like most of us I have - to the disgust of my Wife - a large collection of unmade models and left-over parts stashed around the family home.  When starting a new project (or resuscitating an old one) I like to delve into this stockpile and see what I can use.  Invariably I find things I have  forgotten about and as such the process is always enjoyable.

After shelving the "Stummel" idea I had a second dip and found an unassembled JTFM T-70 bought a couple of years back.  Digging deeper unearthed a couple of PaK 40s (one Artizan & one unknown)  This haul got me thinking...

Improvised R35 Panzerjäger.
During WW2 many captured tanks (and even armoured cars) were stripped of their turrets and pressed into service as "Schleppers" or tractors.  Used to tow various ordnance they were a cheap (partial) solution to the military's horrendous equipment short-fall.  There is much photographic evidence of once towed weapons being field-mounted upon their prime-movers.  A great many weird and wonderful vehicles can be tracked (ho ho) down if you trawl period media.

Another strange field-mod.
As the T70 was used to tow the PaK 40, I see no reason why an improvised Panzerjäger would not have been made.  The chassis is certainly capable of handling the weight and firing stresses - so why not!  Also, having the requisite parts to hand helped me decide - minimal extra outlay is required!  So to cut to the chase, I will be starting to build such a model over the next few days.  

Any comments or suggestions are most welcome - please feel free to post them below.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Inspirational oddball Jagdpanzer

After realising my Artizan figures were just too large for the proposed BA-6 "Stummel" - I started thinking laterally.  My options are simple, either shelve this attractive conversion or buy some smaller figures.  As I find the idea of converting this model pretty interesting, the latter is the logical choice.

Westwind "true" 25mm Germans.
When it comes to true 25mm figures the only ones I can think of are the venerable "Berlin or Bust" range from Westwind Productions - this is a company that caused me a whole lot of trouble last year so a third party seller such as Maelstrom would be the sensible choice.  Some of these models are great, others suck - but they are the solution if I wish to use diminutive 1:56 models!

Casting around for an alternative stummel,  I found a weird Jagdpanzer.  The site at which I found the photo, wrongly described it as a Panzer IV mounting a PaK 40.  However the gun shield clearly indicates that the weapon is a PaK 38 (5,0cm)

Field converted Jagdpanzer IV mit PaK 38!
Now why you remove a turret with a 7,5cm piece and mount a lower calibre weapon is unclear.  Perhaps the turret was damaged beyond repair?  Alternatively perhaps this was a Munitionspanzer that changed role.  I doubt we will ever know.

Either way it is a very interesting creature and shows, yet again, that almost anything goes even during the mid-war* period.

In my "bits box" I have a discarded Solido Panzer IV hull and a Russian 7,6cm gun.  Perhaps Major von Hächtel would prefer this to the "stummel"?  That way his men could remain Artizan and his mount would still be unusual...

More discussion about this vehicle can be found at:

It is argued, quite convincingly, that this is a bridge-layer converted to a panzer-jäger.

*Many odd conversions are seen during the "Endkampf" but it is clear that the Heer (and Waffen SS) modified vehicles throughout the war.  The uniforms of the troops in this grainy picture suggest winter 1941/2 or at a push 1942/3.