Saturday, 6 September 2014

Die cast with a vengence

KV-1E captured by the Finns in 1942 and used against it's former owners!
Source: Precision Panzers
I know it seems that all I do is trucks. Trucks, trucks and more trucks! Unfortunately, due to the nature of the project I am trying to do - a war game army based on the Rapid Fire rules - I'm afraid I will need quite a few trucks (about 15 to be exact). But, of course, there will be other things in the army, it's just that I am a bit meticulous and am working through the army order of battle from the top down, so it's transport, tanks, artillery and then infantry.

What's going on? That's not a truck!
That said, while putting my transport pool together I have been collecting bits and pieces for my other units. And the good news is that I have just completed my first unit inventory that isn't trucks! :)

I've been keeping my eye on eBay for potential bargains and my patience has been rewarded as over the course of a year or so I have picked up three 'die cast' tank models that are what I needed to make up one of the Finnish Continuation War 'heavy tank' companies. Today the last of the three tanks I needed arrived - an Easy Model 1/72 KV-1 Model 1941 Heavy Tank 'Finnish Army' and it only cost £6.

This will join the die-cast Fabbri T-28 and Altaya T-34/76 I have already collected and I admit it is a eclectic collection. But beggars can't be choosers and the Finns were desperate for 'modern' armour during WW2 so they put whatever Soviet tanks that they captured into service.

Obviously you might think that this isn't a very effective 'heavy' tank force - especially by 1944 - and that's fair comment. The T28 was already obsolete when the Soviets used them against the Finns in 1940, the KV-1 was really past it's best by the end of 1942 and the 76mm gunned T-34 was superseded by the 85mm gunned T-34/85 at the back end of 1943. And in any case, by late WW2 only the KV-1 could had the stature to really quality as a 'heavy' - and none of these three had a gun that could compare to the real heavies of the period that were sporting guns of calibers from 88mm to 122mm (a 76mm gun, or thereabouts, was classified as 'medium' by the end of the war)!

A metal die cast Soviet 1940 T-28E (by Fabbri) which I found going cheap on eBay.
It's a simplified model but the tracks are rather nice. By 1944 this outmoded tank
type couldn't have been more than a mobile pill-box.
But...The Finnish front was not the main theatre of battle during World War Two. So while, by 1944,  the Soviets were rolling westward towards Berlin with 122mm armed IS-2s they were still deploying mid-war types against the Finns. So, in all likelihood, by the late Continuation War (Summer 1943 to September 44) the motley collection of Finnish 'heavies' were facing - in the main - second-line Soviet tanks, like lend lease Churchill IIIs (of all things).

Although the Soviets deployed numbers of their very potent T-34/85 (85mm gunned)
medium tank against the Finns in 1944 they also relied on older types, like this
lend-lease British Churchill III. This meant that the Finns were just able to hold their
own (mainly thanks to the heavily forested, non-tank friendly, geography).
"While Finnish Army considered T-28 to be obsolete already in year 1942, the very limited number of medium and heavy tanks in Finnish use forced also these tanks to be kept in combat use. T-28E tanks that were in operational condition took part to some of the battles that Tank Brigade fought in summer of 1944, but due to their obvious weaknesses they were apparently often retained further back and used mainly as fire support for other more modern tanks and assault guns." []

Diecast metal 1/72 Altaya T-34/76 (1941). Although this early model T-34 was
essentially obsolete by 1944 that was only because of it's turret/gun combination. It
was superseded by the 85mm gunned T-34/85 but the chassis remained technically
advanced and the Finns must have appreciated it's 76mm gun. 
About the models
Quality wise all of these models are more than acceptable for war gaming. All the external detail is there, albeit moulded into the surface and some simplification has been done. Having said that they are a better standard of detail than, say, and Armourfast or PSC plastic quick build model.

As you can see with the Altaya T-34 practically all the surface detail is moulded
onto the hull as a one-piece component. But even so, with some judicious painting
it should come up as looking fairly nice.
The Finnish colour scheme for the T-34/76 m41. This also shows how the Finns
'clipped' the original fenders (mud-guards), I guess because of the heavy mud
encountered in the forests of their country.
The Altaya T-34 and Fabbri T-28 are both metal die-cast models, while the Easy Model KV-1 is plastic. Having said that I am impressed with the running gear of the Easy Model, the road wheels and tracks are very nicely done (as are the tracks on all the models, although the T-34's are badly joined).

Painting schemes are all adequate for their intended purpose, but only the KV-1E is actually in a 'Finnish' period camo. But, unfortunately, the grey they have used is actually a distinctive blue-grey (my harsh flash fools you into thinking it is the proper mid-grey). So all three models will have to be completely repainted.

This photo without flash better illustrates the blue-grey colour
that has been used on the Easy Model 'Finnish' KV-1. This is
not correct, rather it should be a plain mid-grey.
Along with the cosmetic paint work there are also some details that will have to be made to make these tanks distinctly Finnish. The Finns modified their captured tanks to suit their tastes, this mainly affects the KV-1 and T-34 as the Finns fitted different shaped fenders and different headlamps. The T-28 is pretty much ready to paint.

Picture source:

Using die-cast or 'ready made' models for war gaming is a no-brainer when they are of this quality, especially if you are willing to wait for bargains to come along on eBay. Obviously if you want a certain level of historical accuracy you might have to do some re-hashing, but it's still less work than a plastic kit.

From a display modeller point of view there may still be some merit in looking at die-casts, especially if you can get hold of models that aren't necessarily available in 1/72 plastic kit form, like the T-28 (there is a very expensive resin Solfig T-28 kit out there, if you can find it).

I'm very pleased with this little collection and look forward to painting them. Despite the variation in types they should it should look a very smart unit when they all have matching Finnish three-colour camo added.

[Incidentally, the Rapid Fire rules for a Finnish Continuation War period order of battle allows for two such 'heavy' tank companies. But to further illustrate the ad-hoc armour inventory of the Finns the KV-1 should be replaced with a T-34/85 (arguably the most potent tank available to the Finns) and I will replace the T-34/76 Model 1941 with a T-34 Model 1943.]


  1. A interesting mix there Stephen. The T-28 will be a lot of fun on the table I reckon.

    1. Hi Paul, from a war game point of view a multi-turreted tank must have some advantages when engaging multiple targets. I know there is a rule for that in the Bolt Action system. So long as one of those targets isn't another tank that is! :)