First Up!

Normally this time of year sees me preparing stuff for the months to come and this year’s no different. In fact, it’s complete chaos on my desktop, with vehicles in various painting stages queuing up!

But a closer look might reveal a finished vehicle lurking near the bottom left hand edge of the picture!

The vehicle in question is a WW2 German Sd Kfz 138 Ausf H Grille (cricket), though commonly called a Bison I think. They were armed with a 150mm heavy infantry gun and allocated to the support gun companies of panzergrenadier (mechanised infantry) regiments. Earlier variants were built on Panzer I and Panzer II chassis, but the version shown here used the chassis of the Czech LT38 light tank, this vehicle being built by the Germans as the Panzer 38t.

In real life, the tank’s forward superstructure was removed, the 150mm gun mounted in the fighting compartment and an armoured superstructure built up around it to provide the crew with some protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. Its purpose was to provide readily available, short range, indirect fire support.

A later variant used the same basic chassis but with the engine moved to the front of the vehicle and the gun moved to the rear. Both version were relatively small vehicles for the size of weapon mounted (and hopefully that should be evident when compared to the infantry and crew figures in the photos) which meant they only carried a small number of rounds of ammunition on board (and I would imagine they rocked back quite a bit on firing).

The vehicle shown here is a 20mm scale resin/metal model from Early War Miniatures and the Ausf H version is one of my favourite German vehicles. Part of the superstructure had an unwanted resin blob on it which needed filing off and that meant I had to add replacement rivets from plastic rod slices on one of the armour panels, but otherwise it’s not a bad model. I used two crew figures from a Plastic Soldier Company German armoured car kit and it was a squeeze getting them into the vehicle. I painted it in dark yellow with green and red-brown camouflage stripes and then gave the whole thing my usual black/brown thinned enamel wash to add shading and dirt! After that it got a final drybrush in a sandy shade to pick out the detail and I glued in the crew (who’d been painted beforehand). I painted the front two left-hand roadwheels in plain grey and yellow to represent wheels replaced following mine damage, but the different colours are not all that obvious on the finished vehicle.

I finished this model over a week ago, but have had to wait for a calm, dry spell in the UK weather to get it varnished and photographed. As my first model painted this year, it therefore qualifies for Ann’s First of the Year painting challenge and also Dave Stone’s Paint What You Got challenge. Now I just need to get on with finishing some more vehicles on that worktop to create a bit of space!


  1. Damn … I have been resisting all urges to move back into 15mm and/or 20mm with the prospect of Thomo’s Hole finally having a final, permanent location, leastwise for the next 20 to 40 years, and even if it will only be the smallest bedroom of a smallish house, I am working to make that room somewhat TARDIS like. You are now sorely tempting me to 20mm WW2, which I guess I could fund by selling off all my 6mm. Noooooo!

    It is a nice job and a lively little vehicle.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Lovely camo John!
    Germans did way too little infantry support weapons like those self-propelled artillery pieces. Looks hideous (design-wise), you did great! You’re tank hunter-version is also linked below, must suck to be an Allied tanker and have your tank being blown up by that thing. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 5 people

  3. An excellent first miniature for 2021 and a fine addition to the challenge. (Even better it can do double challenge duty too.) Great camo and, oh yeah, nice rivets! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Excellent work on the latest vehicles, John! As always, the camo patterns look great and I think the soldiers have great detail for the scale as well. Its good to see you’ve got some vehicles ramping up for the near future as well. I’ll be expecting more painting progress out of you in the coming winter months πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Justin! πŸ™‚ Actually, I call it a wash but it’s changed over the years. I mix up black and brown and then thin it so it goes on easily but still covers well and then paint the whole vehicle in it! I then dip the brush in turps/white spirit and slap a quick light coat of that on after letting the black/brown mix dry a little. After that it’s a case of dip the brush in turps and wipe paint off bit by bit, but leave it in any recessed areas as shadow. The trick is to remove just the right amount so that large flat areas still look grubby and since the paint frequently dries darker this can sometimes be more difficult. Having said that, if the paint has only just dried you can wipe it again if it looks too dark. I then use the thinned “wash” to pick round any areas in shadow that might have got missed. Have tried with acrylics, but they either go frothy if thinned or dry far too quickly!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You certainly do a great job.
        Personally, I never enjoyed working with enamels, just couldn’t get on with them, but saying that it was thirty odd years ago!
        I’ve never had a problem thinning acrylics down to a wash consistency, or even thinning acrylic washes down further. What did you use that made them go frothy?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks Justin! πŸ™‚ I have no idea what I did, I think I just thought I could thin acrylics with lots of water but it all went wrong (but that was also 30 odd years ago for me). But I’m happy with how things turn out now and I use acrylics for the majority of my painting now!

          Liked by 2 people

  5. That looks bloody great, John! I wouldn’t want to be crewing one of those just for the tinnitis alone -let alone any of the other dangers of being in such a vulnerable little box

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s only slightly less cluttered now because I’ve re-arranged my computer space for working from home – board gets put to one side during the day and that lets me lift the keyboard forward. I’ve also deliberately tried to keep it cluttered to encourage me to work on the vehicles on it and so far it’s working! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  6. A rather decent start to the year, save for the dull choice of subject, what? Things must be really getting desperate if you’re on the verge of venturing into German big cat territory (I mean, we all know where that admittedly attractive camo leads!). May I perhaps prescribe a dose of 1940 Danes, or better yet an expansion of your 19th century colonial French?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fortunately, this is a vehicle painted near the tail end of my 1944 German force and I can’t think of anything else I might add at the moment! I think I bought it more because I like the vehicle rather than thinking about how useful it might be! I’m not going to do Danish troops, although I’ve seen the EWM range and quite like them – it’d just be spreading myself a bit too far (way back in the 80s I painted ESCI plastic French to represent Norwegians though, but I don’t have them anymore).

      At the moment I’m not planning on expanding my 19th century colonial French and that reminds me that I’ve got photos taken of them but haven’t got round to writing a post yet (Vietnamese and Black Flags too). But I do have a mini-19th century project in mind that I maybe need a bit of a push to get started!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Always liked the Grille and the Bison, and just shows how many variants the Germans made with so many different chassis, especially the 38t. The paint job is superb, and the camo really works, if you hadn’t mentioned the rivet repair, I’d never have noticed. I still don’t btw! Nice touch on the roadwheel repair as well. Great work and great post John!

    Liked by 2 people

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