Having caught up with varnishing and photographing the vehicles I’ve managed to get painted this year, it’s now time to start getting them featured here! There’ll be a bit of an overlap with the Paint & Glue models I reviewed in an earlier post. but that only covered three models out of the 17 vehicles and three guns that I’ve painted this year (and the first one for 2021, the SdKfz 138 Grille, was covered here). I’ve broken these more detailed posts broadly into the theatres and time frames to which they relate, so this one covers the German invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940.
With last year marking the 80th anniversary of the German invasion of France, I made an effort to get some appropriate tanks painted, although never got the chance to get them into a wargame. Dave Stone’s Paint What You Got challenge running though January and February gave me the chance to try and get some more of my 1940 vehicles finished (please remember that 1940 here is the year in question and not the number of vehicles I’ve got still waiting to be painted).
First up is a German Panzer 38(t), one of the Czech tank types taken over by the Germans when they overran Czechoslovakia in 1939 and used by them in the early war years. I already had two 1:72 scale Pegasus Hobbies models of this tank (you can see them here) but this one is a Plastic Soldier Company model. In the picture above, the PSC model is the one in the middle of the picture with the tactical number 301. I wanted a command tank variant so I blanked off the hull machine gun position with a plasticard disc and painted on the rivets that hold it in place. On the real vehicle, the hull machine gun was removed and extra radio equipment installed, with an armoured steel plate rivetted onto the hull. Strictly speaking, this version was a platoon commander’s vehicle, whereas the tactical number on my model marks it out as the 3rd Company commander’s tank, but I can live with that! It’s quite a nice model and although the rivet detail is heavier than that on the Pegasus Hobbies models the two of them go together well.
Next on the list was a German Panzer II light tank, this one a plastic kit by S-Models (shown above). Armed with a 20mm gun, the Panzer II was used as a combat tank in 1939/40 before being relegated to a reconnaissance role during the mid-war years. This was quite a nice model to build and came with an optional brass-turned 20mm gun barrel (quite a good idea, since a plastic barrel would be quite delicate). The model comes two to a box, so I’ve still got another one to build in the future.
As I mentioned above, in January I managed to get my SdKfz 138 Grille painted. That vehicle dated from later in the war, but I also wanted a model of the first version of this self-propelled gun, which was built on the chassis of the Panzer I light tank (see above). This vehicle is an excellent example of making do with what’s around in the time available to get something into service, while work goes on in the background to develop a more capable vehicle (and most armoured vehicle using and producing nations have done this at one time or another)!
Correctly speaking, this vehicle is a 15 cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B, commonly called a Bison. Shown in the photo above with the Panzer II you can see that it’s a relatively small vehicle. Basically, the Germans removed the superstructure from a Panzer I tank and dumped (most appropriate term) a complete 15cm sIG 33 heavy infantry gun onto it, without even removing the wheels of the gun (see below)!
They then slapped on a rudimentary three-sided armoured superstructure to give limited protection to the crew from small arms fire and shell splinters. With space being limited, ammunition was carried in a separate vehicle. The weight of the gun overloaded the suspension somewhat, and I would imagine the vehicle rocked a bit when it fired (particularly at low elevation angles) but these vehicle soldiered on until mid-1943 and provided quite a heavy punch!
The Bison is a single piece 3-D printed model from Paint & Glue Miniatures and quite a complicated shape overall. The model has printed well and although there are some horizontal print lines on the armoured superstructure, these aren’t all that noticeable after a few coats of paint. I maybe thought this model might have been better printed in four parts (hull, gun and two tracks) because it was difficult getting a paint brush into some areas, particularly under the gun, but in the end I just used an Army Painter wash in a dropper bottle to get into those tricky spots (which are not easily visible anyway). Overall, a nice model that captures the character of this vehicle! At some point I might see if I can find some crew figures to go with it, but there’s not much room to get them on or in the vehicle.
Having got some German vehicles done, it was time to go for something slightly different. Belgian vehicles! Yep, you read that correctly, Belgian vehicles (see above)! The Belgian army in 1940 had a reasonable number of tracked vehicles, mainly light self-propelled anti-tank guns, light tanks and very small utility tractors.
The T-13 self-propelled anti-tank gun (shown on the right in the photo above – I hesitate to call it a tank destroyer, although the gun was quite reasonable) came in three different models and the B3 version is shown in the photo. The turret was open-backed with a roof that could be hinged upwards to provide more room for the crew in action. The model, from Early War Miniatures, has a resin hull and metal turret and captures the character of the vehicle nicely. The upper edges of the hull were bent out of shape and I couldn’t do anything about that unfortunately.
The gun mounted in the T-13 was the Belgian FRC Model 31 47mm anti-tank gun and the infantry version of this gun is shown in the middle of the photo above. I scratchbuilt this gun from plasticard in the early 80s but have only just painted it (originally it was for my Hungarian army, but then got a repaint in Belgian khaki)! In infantry units the Model 31 was towed by Vickers utility tractors (shown on the left of the photo) and I think this is also an EWM model (SHQ also make one and I’ve bought both in the past). The single crewman/driver sat in the middle of the vehicle with the engine behind him. There are hatches/lids on either side of the top of the vehicle which I assume held ammunition or other stores and photos of these tractors in the 1940 campaign show infantry riding on the top of these vehicles (balanced somewhat precariously). I painted all of these in Humbrol 26 khaki and put a brown wash over them followed by a sand drybrush. I didn’t go back and shade round the details like I normally do, since that would make them too dark overall when compared with my older Belgian T-15 tanks. I didn’t have a Belgian driver for the utility tractor, so I used a British figure with the helmet filed down a bit at the sides and a crest and badge added from plastic strip. I still need to get some crew painted for the Model 31 gun, but some are on order!
Speaking of the T-15s, they’re shown in the photo above (bit blurry I’m afraid), along with what passed for my early 1980s interpretation of Belgian Chasseurs Ardennais infantry! The T-15s are scratchbuilt from card, wheels included, and I even managed to paint the boar’s head insignia and Belgian red/yellow/black cockade on the turret sides (and number plates, which aren’t visible here). The two T-15s turned out much lighter than the recently painted vehicles, even though I use the same paint type, and the wash is not as dark. The Chasseurs Ardennais infantry were converted from Matchbox German infantry, with the helmets trimmed off and berets added from plasticene (the prone Browning Automatic Rifle gunner is an ESCI German) . At the time I thought all of these troops wore black leather jackets but it turns out most of them wore khaki, with leather jackets being reserved for motorised troops. Nice to know that nearly 40 years later I can point out my own mistakes and back up such decisions with recent research!