Friday, 13 July 2012

Rapid Fire! Radio trucks for a Finnish Army – Part 1

Introduction –  The Fiction
The Rapid Fire! Game ruleset insists that your army should include specific items for it to be termed ‘legal’. In the case of my 1943-44 Finnish army this means the inclusion of two radio trucks, a reasonable request you might think as communications is at the heart of a ‘modern’ army. But the reality is in fact quite different and my next project is to construct a set of feasible wireless wagons!

The Reality
To begin with, this is one of those areas where war gaming rules – in this case those for Rapid Fire! – are at odds with the historical facts.

Despite RF! rules requiring the inclusion of a pair of radio trucks for a Finnish Army – one for the Divisional HQ and the other for the artillery battalion HQ – the reality was that in all likelihood the Finns had no such vehicles at their disposal for use by these units.

The Finnish army of this period was notably short of all manner of radio communications equipment. As far as I’ve been able to determine the only unit that, with any degree of certainty, seems to have had radio trucks at their disposal was the 3./PM Rad.P, a Finnish radio intelligence company (see above photo - with thanks to Martti Kujansuu and the Axis History Forum) .

RF! Radio Truck Improvisation
Reality aside, the RF! rules stipulate the inclusion of radio trucks and so radio trucks there shall be!

Hypothetically speaking, the three most likely sources of communications trucks for the Finnish army would have been Sweden, Germany or the Soviet Union. The aforementioned radio intelligence unit used Volvo vans so one might imagine that any further requirements of the army might be met by procuring additional vehicles of the same type.

However, the Finns did make use of huge amounts of ‘war booty’ captured from the Soviets so one could just as easily surmise that amongst the trophies acquired there might have been a certain quantity of radio station vehicles. These could well have been some of the standard Red Army mobile comms units based on the ZIS-5 (double axle) or Zis-6 (triple axle) trucks.

Left: Zis-5 radio station from the Henk of Holland website. These mobile comms units were used on temporary airfields but I will press mine into service as part of a formation HQ.

Finland also purchased a fair bit of war materials from its erstwhile ally, Germany. It would therefore be natural to suppose that they would seek to fulfil any need for such specialist equipment from this technically advanced and industrially productive partner. Something like the Henschel 33 D1 Kfz.72 or the Opel Blitz Funkwagen would have surely been on Finland’s shopping list!

Choosing the Right Wrong Model
Going on the basis that whatever I chose it will, technically, be the wrong choice anyway I have decided to go with one example each of the two later option. One Soviet and one German.

For the Soviet truck I have opted for a model conversion which I happened across on the excellent Henk of Holland model directory website. They depict a ZIS-5V light truck with a scratch built radio cabin atop the rear chassis. It looks like a fairly straight forward conversion, even for a novice modeller like me.

The German option is even simpler as there are several off the shelf 1/72 plastic models available of the Henschel or Opel radio trucks. Score!

Above: The Henschel 33 radio wagon and the Opel Blitz Funkwagon.

As for deployment, logic dictates that the best equipment – the German? – goes to the Divisional HQ while the war booty is allotted to the artillery.


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