Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The PST Zis-5V light truck

The Zis-5 and similar Gaz-AA trucks were the Soviet Unions standard light cargo truck during the early part of the Second world War. Thousands were build based on a Ford design which was licensed built in factories which Ford helped to set up (interestingly a large number of American Ford workers migrated to the USSR in the 1930s to help start up the production lines).

The Zis-5 was the basis for a wide variety of different trucks, 2 axles and 3 axles (Zis-6) versions with different uses, from troop carrying, to self-propelled AA guns to armoured cars.

Aside from huge numbers being deployed by the Soviets a large quantity of these trucks were captured by the Finns during The Winter War and were employed by them (which is where my interest lies).

The PST model
The box title – and artwork – shows that the model is the ‘v’ variant of the truck. This was a wartime expedient due to the lack of priority materials like metals. Apparently metal was earmarked for tanks and planes and so parts of the Zis that had been metal – like the cab and the mudguards – were then made in wood instead.

There are two main sprues, one large one with the majority of the truck including the chassis and one smaller one that includes the ‘v’ variant parts.

Above: The main sprue with all the major parts you need to make a Zis-5
truck with the earlier metal cab and mudguards.

Above: This is the Zis-5v sprue with the wooden cab and mudguards as well as the cargo flat bed.

Now this is pretty cool as it means you can make a pre-1941 non-simplified Zis-5 – with metal cab and mudguards – or you can opt for the post ’41 modifications. The smaller sprue also includes the wooden cargo flat bed and is moulded in a darker colour than the main component parts.

Above: The metal cab components for an pre-1941 Zis-5, these parts are on the main sprue.

Above: The Zis-5v cab options, easily recognisable because of the wooden plank construction. It does retain the metal cab roof though.

There is a bit of flash around some of the parts, but not much and the crispness and quality of detail is not too bad. But there is no windscreen ‘glass’, so you will have to make your own. Strangely enough there isn't a driver figure either, a bit of a pain as I will now have to create one.

Finally, there are some nicely done instructions and a small sheet of decals for a Soviet truck of the period. You will also note that this is an uncovered flat bed version of the truck, there is not tilt cover (tarp) or frame included.

Above: The pre-41 metal mudguards, part of the main sprue.

Above: The Zis-5v wooden mudguards and here you see some of the minor flash but it's not everywhere and is easily removed.

So far so good and I have to say I am quite pleased with the quality of this kit. At £8.70 from Hannants I thought it was a little expensive if you compare it with the average Revell or Airfix kit of this size, but it is a bit more of a niche vehicle I suppose.

What next?
 At this point I would normally describe the construction, but as I will be converting this model into the radio station truck version of the Zis-5 I will be doing this in a separate post. Suffice to say that as a small truck it looks pretty straightforward and quick to put together. But we shall see in Part Two.

This post is part of my radio trucks for a Finnish Army series and you can read the introductory post by following this link: Rapid Fire! Radio trucks for a Finnish Army – Part 1

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Olfa Compass Cutter

I've been waiting for this new tool to arrive so I can get on with my Nimrod turret conversion. It's a very neat little circle cutter, a sort of drawing compass with a blade instead of a pencil.

Above: Here you can see a couple of nice circles I cut in 1mm thick plasticard, just right for my Nimrod turret build. It took a little time to make it through the sheet and I wouldn't recommend
trying anything very much thicker.

It's by a Japanese company called Olfa and I think it's intended for cutting card and fabric but mine easily handled thin plasticard and even slowly sliced through a mil thick plastic sheet with some encouragement! As you can see from the accompanying photo it very accurately cut out a ring of 1 mil plastic for the base of my scratch built tank turret.

The tool itself is very good quality, for saying that most of it is plastic, but the crucial tightening nobs are brass and the blade and compass point are steel of course. The blade is a small craft blade and is replaceable, and the minimum diameter for circles seems to be around 1cm while the maximum size is 15cm.

One very nice feature is that the safety cover for the blade and compass point doubles as the storage box for the 5 spare blades and a nifty plastic 'shoe' for the compass so you don't jab a point in something you don't want to have a little hole in it. The shoe has a non-slip surface so if you're careful you should be able to cut a circle without slipping out of position.

Well, it does exactly what it's meant to and although it's a bit of a niche item it is indispensable if you happen to want nice neat plastic discs. (Which I did!)

I got mine from Amazon Marketplace for £7.99 (postage free) and I think it's well worth the cost. It's an invaluable addition to your tool box, I just have to work out where I buy spare blades.

Above: The neat little safety cover which doubles as a blade storage box. The black disc is the compass point shoe, this stops you getting little holes in your material.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Shell Hole Scenic's M40 Nimrod - Part 3

It's delay after delay with this model. I'm really keen to start the turret scratch build, but I've been so engrossed with getting the hull to a state I was happy with that it's taken me a lot more time to get this far than I anticipated. But, I have now definitely done enough work on the hull and I've given it a primer coat of paint (mainly so I can check to see if I smoothed out all the blemishes in the metal).

I've added the little features that mark this out as the Finnish version of this AA tank rather than Shell Hole's Hungarian Nimrod. I've also added new headlamps and adjusted the drivers hatch so there is a bit of space on the left side (your right looking at the above photo).

At the rear, I'm quite pleased with my quick and dirty single pipe exhaust. It's funny how a coat of paint over your patches of filler can make a model look a lot better...

I do have to say that Shell Hole did do quite a nice job with the road-wheels, and even though the tracks are simplified - with no realistic tread - they compare well with some of the quick build kits I've made.

So, let's get that bloody turret started!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Featured work - Altaya Steyr RSO/01 done right

Yori over at the wonderful Wargaming Historyczno-Fantastyczny Blog (he's Polish) has basically shown me just what can be achieved with the diecast RSO/01 and what a fantastic job he's done...

His scheme is subtle but very effective, with some lovely pin-washing and highlighting. Additionally, he has modified the thin tarp frame to something more substancial and I'm looking forward to the next one of these he's doing as he is making the tilt cover to go with it.

Painting wise Yori's approach was very simple - he just sprays a couple of coats of the Flames of War Warpaint spray over the model's base scheme before applying his shading.

Yori does some really interesting stuff, and all kudos to him as he does his posts in both Polish and English, his site is well worth a look: Wargaming Historyczno-Fantastyczny Blog

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Altaya Steyr RSO/01 diecast model

The German prime mover and Pak40 diecast model set I ordered from eBay arrived today and I have to say that I am very pleased with it. Altaya may not be thought to be as good quality as Dragon when it comes to diecast collectors models, but for war gaming purposes its ideal.

I'm still working out my plan for repainting this vehicle as an example of one of the batch that was sold by Germany to Finland during WW2. But looking at it a couple of coats of Humbrol acrylic spray might suffice (with appropriate masking of course).

I've no information at all about markings or numbering of these tractors in Finnish use and I will be going with a generic Finnish light green finish. But the model is crying out for a tilt cover (tarp) to be made to go over the rear struts.

The accompanying Pak40 - which I needed to complete my 3 gun AT battery - will need some work to convert it from it's travelling arrangement into a firing position. I will have to saw or cut the gun 'legs' so that they open up and there is a annoying screw fixing post on the bottom of the gun which will have to be removed as well. It will need repainting mid-green to match my other two Finnish Pak40s.

I don't intend to buy any more of these, it was a one-off purchase because it represented a good deal as I happened to need both the truck and the gun. The other two heavy towing vehicles I need to go with my Soviet 122mm howitzers will be conversions of ICM's Zil-157 truck kit.

But I have to admit that this Steyr will make an impressive addition to my heavy artillery company!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Many a truth is told in jest!

This made me smile...Actually it made me chuckle...

While doing the daily tour of other modelling blogs I like I noticed that one of my favourites has very kindly added my blog in his links list. Now normally this would be a cause for some self-satisfied ego-boosting, but an unfortunate typo puts me firmly in my place...

Maybe this guys knows me better than I think, or maybe it is a comment on my lack of modelling skill, but on his link menu I am down as 'Kit Nob'!


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.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Shell Hole Scenic's M40 Nimrod - Part 2

Despite promising myself not to muck around too much with this model I ended up doing more tweaking of the front hull than I intended - so the turret will have to wait!

Basically, I wanted to do a minor conversion to the Nimrod's front hull to make it look more like the Finnish variant. But while doing this I ended up hacking around with the drivers hatch area, which I think Shell Hole Scenics got wrong. It's still far from correct but I'll settle for this...

And I modified the rear hull, giving it a pretty rudimentary Finnish-style single exhaust. To be honest I could have made a better job and added more detail, but I just wanted to give the impression of the Finnish tank, not build a display model...

Finally, while I liked Shell Hole's Bofors gun for detail there was something about the diameter of the 40mm gun barrel that was niggling me. If I had to guess, at 1/76 this looked more like a 30mm cannon, it just looked a bit too small to me. So I bought a turned brass barrel from Millicast for £2.50 and it's much more to my liking...

So, having taken a bit of a detour with this project it's time to get back on track and deal with the main focal point of this model - the turret!

Next: Converting a Hungarian Nimrod turret into a Finnish Landsverk turret!

Toy army - buying diecast models

I got into modelling to model, build kits in other words. But having began to dip my toe into the murky waters of building a war game army I am having to be a little more pragmatic. Building a war game army out of kits alone could get rather expensive and time consuming so I was pleased when the opportunity came along to buy a couple of diecasts which will help me fill some gaps in my Finnish inventory and save me some time and money in the process.

The first was a surprise find in my local ModelZone hobby shop - they had an Altaya T-34/76 Model 1942 on their sale rack for just £4.99. This fitted my plan exactly as I just needed one of these to complete one of my tank battalions.

Next up was a nice little find on eBay. Again it's an Altaya model, this time of a Steyr RSO/01 + Pak 40 Anti-Tank Gun 2.Pz.Div. Normandie (France) 1944.

I needed a RSO/01 for my heavy artillery company (the Finns bought about 30 of these from Germany) but plastic kits of this vehicle - if you can find them - are quite expensive display quality ones. So the Altaya looked a reasonable solution, but what made it a bargain was that it comes with a towed Pak40.

I just happen to need one more Pak40 to complete my Finnish AT company, and so at £9.99 for both - the RSO/01 and the Pak40 - it was a no brainer!

One word of caution if you decide this is a good idea is that the Pak40 is in the fixed towing position - you will have to do some knife work to convert it into the firing mode. Additionally, I am not sure how easy it is to repaint these sort of diecast models. Will the printed on decals cause problems and show through?

But anyway, for about £15 (the price of an AMC RSO/01 kit alone) I have two vehicles and a gun to add to my army!

This will save me time, money and allow me to concentrate my modelling time on other vehicles that have really captured my imagination.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Keep on truckin' with an Opel Humbug!

Sometimes I think that I just bumble along in my new hobby coming up with one crazy idea after another. My current craziness is the idea of creating a fleet of trucks for my Finnish artillery battalion by  converting readily available kits into makes and models that were actually used by the Finns.

Problem is, I was doubting that this was a credible idea and although I have already started buying some of the donor kits I was thinking that maybe this was too rediculous or convoluted an option. That was until I read the a recent post on the Plastic Warriors blog where Paul (the author) does exactly the sort of conversion I was considering...

The above photo shows his converstion part completed - he calls this his 'Opel Humbug' as it is the mating of an Airfix Opel Blitz's bonnet and the cab of another Airfix truck, the Thornycroft recovery truck. It's a lovely job which shows just what can be done as the Blitz now looks more like one of the heavier trucks that the Germans used. Of course it's completely made up but it certainly has an air of authenticity.

So, my idea of converting the Airfix Opel Blitz into 1937 model Fords isn't such a unfeasible idea after all. If anything my conversion will be a lot less complex than Pauls.

See his full conversion WIP here - Plastic Warriors: Airfix Opel Blitz Humbug

Well done Paul!

Note - Why would you create a 'made up' truck?
Well, not all types of vehicles used in WW2 are available as kits, or if they are they are usually niche resin models which are sometimes quite hard to get hold of or prohibitively expensive, particularly for the war gamer.

The important thing for the war gamer is to have something that has the look of authenticity. I don't believe the average war gamer is as keen to source a rare model from an obscure foreign retailer at an absorbitant price just to have exactly the right vehicle on the table. Better to have a quick and cheap 'looky-likey'!

So chimera models like Pauls are excellent way of representing the exotic without having to break the bank or spend a lot of time scratch building.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Wow! Airfix Opel Blitz £4.81 on Amazon!

Nothing much to report today - I'm pretty much in production line mode with my Finnish artillery and so I won't bore you with that. BUT as I'm looking for towing vehicles for my Finns I saw that Amazon are offering the Airfix Opel Blitz for just £4.81 (free delivery if you have Prime).

Now OK - I did say only yesterday that the Opel Blitz DID NOT figure much in the Finnish inventory (contrary to some war gamers' opinion, including the Flames of War guys) but at £4.81 I can afford to chop this kit about to make a pretend Citroen or Volvo!

...And it doesn't matter that's it's 1/76 rather than 1/72 as I will be modifying them, so there won't be any point of reference scale wise. They will just look like smaller light/medium trucks.

I was additionally motivated to buy a couple of these by the review of the kit done by Paul over at the Plastic Warriors blog.

Edit: Blimey! They went quick - there's just one left (there were loads this morning)! Never mind, they are getting more in.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Planning a Finnish War Game Army - Part 4

Rapid Fire! Finnish Artillery Battalion Organisational Chart
Well, my organisational tinkering continues and I am still a little confused but at least I am starting to formulate a plan that I am reasonably happy with. Here's the latest plan for my Finnish artillery (many thanks to Bob Peyton for his help with this)...

Now, again, I have used some artistic licence - partly because my research into the Finnish Army of this period does not seem to agree with that of the original designer of the Rapid Fire! charts, but also because this first army is experimental and I don't want to get too bogged down in technicalities. What I want is cool looking models!

You'll probably think 'that's a lot of artillery', but to maximise a Finnish Army's viability on a war game table (against a very well equipped Soviet force) the artillery element is absolutely crucial and does go some way to redress the imbalance in effective armour.

Some of the figures still don't exactly make sense to me AND I have replaced the reliance on horses with an influx of trucks for towing. Like the German Army the Finns were always short of trucks but I fear a large number of horses will be a painting project too far for me at the moment!

Notes on accuracy of the RapidFire! chart options: 
The Rapid Fire! chart designer seems to have completely overlooked the amount of Soviet equipment that was captured by the Finns, in particular the 76mm K/02 field guns and T20 light artillery tractors (they quote a '75mm field gun' as the standard light gun). And while they also quote the 105mm gun option as being the WW1 vintage Schneider the Finns had a range of 105s at their disposal, including the German LeFH18 (which I have chosen).

Above: Finnish 76mm K/02 destroying a Soviet T-70 tank at Uomaa region 7th July 1944.
Source: photo from book Suomi Tahtoi Elää ja Ankarat Vuodet

By way of trucks, the Finnish field artilley units apparently had the following at their disposal:

189 Citroën
32 Ford 95/40
23 International K-7 (6 wheeled)
31 International K-7 (10 wheeled)
22 Scania-Vabis
33 mixed models

388 light trucks (mostly captured Soviet and civilian trucks)

Interestingly, I haven't come across any photo reference of the Opel Blitz - which many war gamers seem to use as the standard Finnish truck - being used. I don't find this surprising as the German Army was always short of this truck itself, so selling them in any quantity to others seems unlikely.

It's all very complicated isn't it?

I came across this post on the Axis History Forum which seems to contradict my opinion about the Opel Blitz in Finnish service:

"Q. >Did the Finns also use Opel Blitz or GAZ and ZIS trucks for transportation?

 A. Yes, all three. Germany sold Finland 790 Opel Blitz 3,6 trucks - 700 of them in year 1941, 50 in year 1942 and 40 in year 1943. During WW2 Finnish Army captured 5,247 trucks from the Soviets and took about 2,500 of these to its own use - this included some 900 ZIS-5 and much larger number of GAZ, which was the most common captured truck. The number of captured GAZ-AA trucks pressed to Finnish service was 1,428. Source for information: Book "Puolustusvoimien moottoriajoneuvot 1919 - 1959" (Motor Vehicles of Defence Forces 1919 - 1959) by Markku Mäkipirtti."