Belgium Or Bust!

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!

40 comments

    • That’s very kind of you, Harry, thank you! πŸ™‚ Apologies for the tardy reply, but I’ve only just seen your comment. I think my scratchbuilds are OK as wargames models and that’s what they were meant for anyway! Started building them back in the 70s (yes, really) mainly because the choice of available models was limited then. Nowadays, the number of manufacturers and 3-D printing means it’s quite a challenge to not find a model of something I like!

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        • Will be good to see what you get printed! I’ve found that it’s let me fill in some small gaps in my armies with vehicles/tanks that were quite rare, so I’m pleased with the prints that I’ve got! πŸ™‚

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          • I posted a few pics on my last blog post John. One of the best prints is a Poco fighter from the Brandon Sanderson book Skyward.

            Are you printing your own or purchasing prints? Shapeways is stupid expensive. I paid for my Photon printer within a week based of the cost to print at the best quality from Shapeways.

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          • I enjoyed reading your post on the printing, quite readable and easy to follow! πŸ™‚ I don’t have a printer and not sure whether I’ll get one, since I’ve got more than enough to paint. Shapeways are expensive, and I have issues with their fine detail material taking paint and drying properly, never mind the price of the models. I’m OK with the white strong flexible material, even with its slightly grainy finish and some people design their models hollow so it cuts down on material. For those odd models I want now I’ll just use Butlers Printed Models and Paint & Glue Miniatures, both being UK based so fine for me. I’m less fanatical about overall finish these days (so print lines don’t bother me too much) and more than happy to get models I otherwise wouldn’t have. Next couple of posts should contain a few more printed models! πŸ™‚

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          • Glad you enjoyed it. I had hoped it would be a short primer of starting in the 3d world. The Shapeways price increase made it unfeasible for me to print with them. The print resolution has come up so much that the lines that are left are generally small enough to ignore, especially at game distances!

            Cant wait to see more.

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    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ I’d put the T-15s down to being some of my better attempts I must admit – had to make the plans from photos at the time, but they’re still reasonably accurate I think! I don’t think I’d have the patience or find the time to make them now unfortunately!

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  1. What a great post! Loads of great information and some wonderful pictures too. The T-15s and gun are awesome scratch builds, you would honestly never know they weren’t commercial models.

    I have to say though the Vickers Tractor is my favourite, probably not what you want to hear but it is so dammed cute!

    Cheers Roger.

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    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ Until you mentioned it, I’d never thought about the fact that the full range of materials are there in such a small selection of models! It’s also quite rare for me to have scratchbuilt anything in plasticard rather than cardboard – usually it’s only artillery, where you need the extra stiffness of the plastic in thin sections like gun trail legs (I think the only tanks I’ve scratchbuilt in plasticard are two Japanese Type 95 light tanks).

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  2. Excellent work all the way around, John! Not only did you have a lot of hobby progress to share but I think you do a great job painting vehicles giving them enough wear to look used but not to look like they came from the post-apocalypse! πŸ™‚

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      • Ha, go figure! πŸ˜€ I’m always amazed at how companies like AK Interactive can make so many different products for those who model and play in the WWII setting. They have different kinds of dirt and grime products based on the color of the vehicle you’re painting. There is no other wargaming setting that gets that kind of special treatment!

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  3. Love it John! black instead of khaki! like me and Napoleonic brits wearing blue grey trousers where as it was grey!
    I do love the little T-13, it reminds me of one of my favorite tanks ,the Stuart!
    Oh and seeing your post has done wonders for my soul, getting back to normal ,cheers mate!!!

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    • Thanks Pat! πŸ™‚ I have no problem owning up to my mistakes (as long as I realise I’ve made them of course – ignorance is bliss remember)! I like Stuarts as well, they’ve got quite a bit of character. Great to see you posting and getting stuck back in to your dioramas after the move!

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  4. Great post John, as usual, and the models are very nice. I really like the Pz II, and I have (as you know) a bunch of those both for 1940 and Afrika Korps use. The Belgian colors are really nice – will you be doing an ACG1 soon?

    And the Chasseurs ardennais should be remembered – too bad about their eventual fate.

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    • Thanks Mark! πŸ™‚ As usual, the colour information is variable on the vehicles – my 1983 reference shows them in the colour I’ve used for the T-15, but a more recent comment describes Belgian khaki as closer to US olive drab, whilst at the same time a photo of a T-15 shows it as quite dark (although I think it’s been oiled up for a parade). The T-13 and Vickers tractor are painted in the same Humbrol 26 khaki as the T-15, but the shade seems to have got a bit darker over the years (and the brown wash is thicker/darker). Hadn’t really thought about an ACG1 although there is a model of it available so I could get one. I think I could maybe do with reading up a bit more on the Belgian and Dutch armies in 1940 as well!

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