Softskins of the Afrika Korps in 1/72 Scale

The German Afrika Korps (Deutsches Afrikakorps) arrived in Libya in February 1941, following Mussolini’s appeal to Hitler for assistance in light of Italy’s dismal performance fighting the British in North Africa. Within weeks of arrival, Rommel’s Afrikakorps had reversed Mussolini’s fortunes, handily defeating numerically superior British forces time and again in rapid succession, and in the process becoming a source of fascination for many a WWII buff despite their eventual defeat in 1943.

Countless books have been written on this subject and the reader is directed to them. This post is merely intended to provide collectors a survey of Afrikakorps-specific prebuilt softskins available in 1/72 scale. The reader should note that major manufacturers such as Dragon and Panzerstahl have also produced more than a dozen prebuilt Afrikakorps tanks, but information on these is readily available and not the subject of this post.

By my count, there are approximately 20 prebuilt Afrikakorps softskin vehicles. Photographs are provided below. To provide perspective on the size of the vehicles, included in the photos are figures from six of the eight different Afrikakorps sets released thus far. They range from the Airfix set released in 1973, more than 40 years ago, to the Caesar set, released in 2010. The name provided for each of the vehicles and soldier sets is the one given by the manufacturer, thus the lack of consistency in the use of “Afrikakorps,” “Afrika Korps,” “Africa Corps,” and “DAK.”1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda1. Altaya Opel Blitz 3.6-36S (Kfz. 305), 21.Pz.Div., Medenine, Tunisia 1943. Other than the lack of weathering and fake window flaps on the canvas cover, this is a neat little piece that would greatly improve with a simple umber wash.

Figures: Zvezda 6143 German Medical Personnel set. In my view, Zvezda is now producing the best 1/72 scale figures on the market.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda2. Left: Hobby Master HG3903, Opel Blitz German Cargo Truck, 21st Panzer Div, North Africa 1942. This little truck is a beauty. Note the crispness of the DAK palm tree. The divisional and tactical markings on the fenders are an added plus.

3. Right: Hobby Master HG3911, Opel Blitz German Cargo Truck with 20mm Flak 38, DAK, WWII. The Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun is metal and is detachable. About the only quibble with this piece is the lack of divisional markings on the fenders and rear.

Figure: Matchbox PK35 Sd.Kfz. 232 plastic kit. This is one of two figures included in this 1/76 Matchbox kit. The figures themselves are actually 1/72 scale, however.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda4. Left: Hobby Master HG4501 Horch 1a with 20mm Flak 38, DAK 1941. This vehicle came with a Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun worthy of comment in its own right.  Regrettably, I did not photograph it.

5. Right: War Master Steyr 1500 A/01 + 20mm Flak 38, 10th Panzerabteilung, Tunisia 1942. I failed to include the Flak 38 on this vehicle as well.  Though War Master gets credit for including the swastika on the palm tree, they managed to place it facing left, which is incorrect. One wonders whether the “error” was by design to get around laws in various countries that prohibit Nazi symbols.

Figure: Revell 2513 Africa Corps. This particular figure in the Revell set is one of the most ubiquitous in Afrikakorps dioramas, probably due to its casual pose as the vast majority of a soldier’s time is spent not in battle but performing pedestrian daily activities.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda6. Left: Dragon Warbirds 50120 Me 109G-2 Trop & Kubelwagen, III./JG 77, North Africa 1942. This hard-to-find Cyber Hobby exclusive aircraft model included this kubelwagen. Of note are the balloon sand tires, designed specifically for the desert campaign.

7. Center: Altaya Kfz. 15 Horch + 10.5cm le FH18M, Art.Reg. 119, 11.Pz.Div., Kursk USSR 1943. Admittedly, this model is not marketed as an Afrikakorps vehicle, but given the wide use of the Kfz. 15 Horch in North Africa and its dunkelgelb base color, the straightforward application of DAK palm tree decals would easily do the trick.

8. Right: Dragon 7434 Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Mid Production w/Zimmerit & Kubelwagen. This vehicle, which was included as a plus in a Dragon Tiger kit, is identical to the one in the Dragon Warbirds 50120 set described above except for the standard tires and darker desert yellow.

Figure: Airfix 1711 Afrika Korps. Despite its release 43 years ago, the Airfix Afrikakorps set remains one of the most beloved among collectors, for obvious reasons — this was Airfix sculpting at its pinnacle.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda9. Left: Dragon 60514 Sd.Kfz. 223 Leichte Panzerspahwagen, 21.Pz.Div., North Africa 1941.

10. Center: Dragon 60498 Sd.Kfz. 222 Leichte Panzerspahwagen, Unidentified Unit, North Africa 1942. A quick comparison of this Dragon piece with its Altaya counterpart to the right immediately reveals why Dragon has been king of the 1/72 scale hobby. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of detail, finish, and weathering.

11. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 222, 10.Pz.Div., Tunis, Tunisia 1943. Given the existence of the vastly superior Dragon 60498, this Altaya 222 model is only for the hardcore collector.

Figure: Atlantic 88 German Afrikakorps. This hard-to-find set was maligned from its release almost 40 years ago (1977). Today, it’s highly sought-after by collectors.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda12. Left: Altaya Schwerer Panzerspahwagen (8 Rad), Sd.Kfz. 232, 5.le.Div., Agedabia, Libya 1941. Dragon has produced an Sd.Kfz. 232 that is immensely superior to this piece. Unfortunately, Dragon has not released one in an Afrikakorps desert livery.

13. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 250/5, Afrikakorps, Tobruk, Libya 1942. Desert campaign enthusiasts will immediately recognize this vehicle as Rommel’s “Greif.” In retrospect, it would have been more appropriate to use a Rommel figure for the photo. As is Altaya practice, neither vehicle has swastikas on the palm trees.

Figure: ESCI 206 Afrika Corps Soldiers. This ESCI set, their second effort at producing Afrikakorps soldiers, was summed up by Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) as a “perfectly solid effort.” The first set, now extremely hard to find, was somewhat unattractive.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda14. Left: Dragon 60294 Sd.Kfz. 251/10 Ausf. C Unidentifed Unit, El Alamein 1942. Photographs exist of the actual vehicle upon which this model is based. Unfortunately, the actual vehicle was an Ausf. B, rather than an Ausf. C, which is immediately apparent by the location of the hull side lockers.

15. Right: Dragon 60281 Sd.Kfz. 251/2 Ausf. C, Eastern Front 1942. Despite Dragon’s “Eastern Front” label, this piece is actually from the DAK, as can be easily concluded from the 21.Pz.Div. formation marking on the vehicle’s front plate. The actual vehicle upon which this model is based was an Afrikakorps 251/1 Ausf. C, rather than a 251/2 Ausf. C. To make it accurate, one need only remove the mortar from the back of the vehicle.

Figure: Caesar H070 German Afrika Korps. This 2010 release is the most recent Afrikakorps set on the market. According to PSR, the figures have “well-defined detail and faultless proportions” and the use of modern molds allowed Caesar to produce figures that are appealing from every angle without resorting to multiple pieces that require assembly, as Preiser often does.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda16. Left: Hobby Master HG5104 Sd.Kfz. 11, 33d Pz.Art., 15th Pz.Div., North Africa. This vehicle carries an interesting but non-standard Afrikakorps palm tree.

17. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 11, 15th Pz.Div., El Alamein, Egypt 1942. To my mind, this is not a bad effort by Altaya and the difference in quality between it and the HM piece is not that great. Note again Altaya’s failure to include the swastika on the palm tree on the port-side front fender.

Figure: Caesar H070 German Afrika Korps. See comment in previous photo.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda18. Hobby Master HG5002 Sd.Kfz. 7 German 8 Ton Semi-Track, Luftwaffe, Africa 1942. While this is, in fact, an Afrikakorps vehicle, HM neglected to include the distinctive Afrikakorps palm tree. I pilfered the palm tree decals from the Airfix A02303 Sd.Kfz. 7 Tractor half-track kit.

Figure: Italeri 6099 D.A.K. Infantry. As can be seen in the photo, the detail on this figure is superb. In PSR’s words “detail is everywhere clear and sharp, while clothing looks natural and human proportions are spot on.”


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, ZvezdaFinally, here’s a lagniappe photo of an Opel Blitz bus, widely used by the Afrikakorps in North Africa.

19. Roden 721 Plastic Kit, Opel Blitz Omnibus (model W.39 Ludewig-built, late). This model is not available as a prebuilt. I commissioned this piece from a master modeler in Poland.

Figures: Various Afrikakorps Sets; Nikolai ARB04 Arabs in the Streets 2 resin set. Without a doubt, resin figures allow more detail than plastic ones as exemplified by the three wonderful figures from the Nikolai set. However, the short runs and resulting high cost of resin sets often present an obstacle for collectors.


I hope you enjoyed the photos. As always, comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcome.

A Tank Named “Besposhadniy”: Russia’s Illustrious KV-1 Tank

I have consistently and unabashedly stated my somewhat juvenile affinity for tanks with distinctive markings or colorful artwork. I’m hardly alone in this view, as the KV-1 “Besposhadniy” – meaning “Merciless” – is one of the best known Russian tanks of the Great Patriotic War. Its vaunted kill record – 12 tanks plus numerous other vehicles and guns – certainly contributes to its mystique, as does the fact that artists, poets, and dancers, whose names appear on the sides of the turret, donated the funds to purchase it. The patriotic poem carried on its turret undoubtedly adds to its celebrity, and its skipper, ace Lt. Pavel Khoroshilov, further augments its fame. Yet, I submit that it’s the distinctive and irresistible artwork on the sides of its turret that sets it apart from others, for who could forget a cartoon depicting Hitler being blown to smithereens by volleys from a tank with a red star? The cartoon is an apt metaphor for the resolution of the German-Russian conflict in WWII.

The Actual Tank

The “Besposhadniy” belonged to the Soviet 12th Tank Regiment, 1st Moscow Motor Rifle Division, and fought the German 9th Army Group Center in what was for the Soviets the Western Front, in the winter-spring offensive of the Red Army in early 1943.

Below is a photo of the “Besposhadniy” from the Polish publication Stalin’s Tanks, Wydawnictwo Militaria 212. Note that this photo is from the early days of the “Besposhadniy,” as its occupants had yet to paint kill marks on the sides towards the back of the turret.1 ActualThis photo, from Stalin’s Heavy Tanks 1941-1945: The KV and IS Heavy Tanks (Concord 7012) by Steven Zaloga et al, provides a clear shot of the geometric kill marks added by the crew as their victims accumulated.2 Merciless Kill MarksAccording to Soviet Heavy Tanks (Osprey Vanguard 24) by Steven Zaloga and James Grandsen, the stars, disks, and triangles represent 12 tanks, 10 trucks, 7 armored cars, 7 mortars, 5 motorcycles, 4 anti-tank guns, 3 artillery pieces, a staff bus, and a partridge in a pear tree. 🙂

This photo of Paul Khoroshilov, the tank commander, taken from the “Paul Khoroshilov” entry (“Хорошилов Павел”) of the Russian Wikipedia, provides a clear view of the patriotic poem on the side of the “Besposhadniy.”

П.М.Хорошилов

According to Zaloga and Grandsen in Soviet Heavy Tanks, the Russian inscription on the front part of the turret side is a poem that translates thus:

Storming through fire goes
Our KV heavy tank
From the heartland it rolls
To smash the Nazi flank

Crewed by heroic men
Never showing fear
As they carry out commands
Of their homeland dear

 

 

 

 

 

 

This front-view photo of the “Besposhadniy,” shows that it carried its name on the upper glacis plate. I found references – though no photo3 Merciless Namegraphic evidence — that claimed the tank also carried its name on the rear part of the turret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the markings on this last photo of the starboard side of the “Besposhadniy” are barely visible and almost indiscernible, the photo does provide an excellent view of the drive sprocket, idler, and later-type road wheels. Note also the sharp angle of the rear of the hull.

Merciless Starboard Side

The Hobby Master Model

Even a passing glance at the following photos of the Hobby Master HG3010 quickly reveals that HM has produced a beauty of a model. The finish is superb, with very subtle shades of the base color throughout the tank. You will also notice a very finely applied wash on the turret that brings out the bolts on the mantlet. Note also the realistic tow chains on the front plate that extend to the middle of the hull. They’re as realistic as can be found in 1/72 scale. Note also the silver dry brushing on the tracks that make the detail pop out. On the down side, note that the name of the tank is missing from the glacis.4 HMThis profile shot shows off the artwork and markings on the turret well. The road wheels used by HM are the earlier road wheels found on KV-1s and are clearly incorrect, as can be easily seen in the starboard side photo of the actual tank above.5 HMThis photo of the starboard side of the model shows that HM used the mirror image of the markings on the port side. Note that there are no kill marks on the starboard side, which looks to be correct from the photo above.6 HMThis last photo from the rear shows that HM used the KV-1 hull with the gently curved rear. Again, the side photo of the actual tank conclusively reveals that this is incorrect. The rear of the hull should have been sharply angled. 7 HMHere’s a close-up photo of the HM turret. The two columns of text just below the Hitler cartoon comprise a list of artists, poets, and dancers who pooled their resources to donate the tank, naming it “Besposhadniy” to distinguish it from other tanks. Interestingly, among them is Sergey Mikhalkov, commissioned by Stalin in 1944 to write the lyrics of the Soviet National Anthem, and almost 60 years later, in 2001, by Putin to write the National Anthem of Russia.Merciless Turret GuideIt’s plainly evident that the HM “Besposhadniy” is an awesome little model – a proud little replica of the original.

The Rub

So what’s the rub? And there’s always a rub! Well, in addition to using the wrong rear hull and road wheels, HM used the Model 1941 initial turret, rather than the Model 1941 up-armored turret. The three-way comparison below graphically demonstrates the problem. On the actual tank the bottom part of the turret goes straight back and then turns in behind the turret ring at a sharp 90-degree angle, whereas on the HM model it curves around the rear of the turret ring. The Easy Model version, on the other hand, used the correct turret, as discussed in the comparison section below.

Merciless Turret ComparisonSecondly, as indicated above, HM used a mirror image of the port side graphics on the starboard side — literally — without regard to the fact that the name “Besposhadniy” would be backwards — as in a mirror. Thus, the port side carries the inscription “Беспощадный”; the inscription on the starboard side, Besposhadny Backwards 2, is gibberish — unless, like Da Vinci, you’re adept at mirror-reading.

Hobby Master / Easy Model Comparison

Let’s compare the HM version of the “Besposhadniy” with the Easy Model 36288. Here are five equivalent photos of the EM version.9 EMLike the HM, the EM lacks the name on the front plate. The EM also lacks the tow cable included on the HM. The EM version has a much darker shade and lacks any kind of dry brushing on the tracks. Here’s a portside view.

10 EMNote that the turret is the correct Model 1941 turret, with the skirt of the turret going straight back and then turning in at a sharp angle, as opposed to curving around the rear of the turret ring. Note also that EM did not make HM’s risible mistake in using on the starboard side the mirror image of “Besposhadniy” used on the port side of the turret. 11 EMNote also that, unlike HM, EM used the correct later type of road wheels. In defense of HM, the wheels could have been changed in the field; a turret swap, however, would be highly improbable.

Here’s a rear-side view. Note that EM also used the correct hull with a sharply angled rear, as opposed to HM, which used the curved rear.12 EMHere’s a close-up photo of the EM turret. While EM used the correct turret, note that the tampo-applied markings are not as well defined as those on the HM. Though they’re not out of register, they’re simply not as crisp.13 EM TurretFinally, here are some side-by-side photos of the two, with the HM on the left and the EM on the right. 14 3-4 Port Comparison15 3-4 SB Comparison16 Front Comparison17 Top Comparison18 FacingHere’s a lagniappe photo of the EM version to show off the Hat 8263 WW2 Russian Tank Riders.19 BonusThe Upshot

While I’m tolerant of most imperfections in a model, I agonize where the inaccuracy lies in the use of a wrong turret or hull – characteristics that I consider immutable. By that standard, the HM “Besposhadniy” — with its incorrect turret, rear hull, and road wheels — is fatally flawed. The absurd error in using the mirror image of “Besposhadniy” on the starboard side exacerbates the problem.

The EM version, on the other hand, is accurate throughout, though the lower quality of its finish and markings leave something to be desired. Thus, we’re left with a difficult choice: HM’s inaccurate high quality versus EM’s accurate but lower quality. I leave that choice to the reader as I love them both; they both represent an illustrious tank with a fascinating origin, outstanding combat history, patriotic slogan, and striking artwork.

Final Thoughts

Collectors often forget that these models represent vehiclesekipaj crewed by young men who fought and often died together. As a reminder, here’s a picture of three members of the crew, though I was unable to identify them. I would appreciate help in doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to leave the reader with a first-hand account of the “Besposhadniy” in combat from the memoirs of Yegor Sergeyevich Tsarapin, the mechanic-driver of the tank, taken from the aforementioned Russian Wikipedia entry. The passage vividly illustrates the tremendous courage of the crew:

In February of 1943, defensive fights started in north of Zhizdra. Blazing like a torch, “Besposhadniy” rushed towards the enemy artillery gun. The crew caught on fire, but continued attacking, ignoring the pain from their burns. Twenty meters, ten meters, and now the enemy artillery gun is being crushed under the heavy tank treads. Only then did the crew begin to put out the fire. I had a burnt back, a broken leg, and three fractured ribs. Egorov [the radio operator] could not feel his right hand. Filippov [senior mechanic-driver] wanted to help me out and take over the driver’s seat, but he was not able to as his lower back was badly burnt. We barely extinguished the flames on ourselves. You could see the crew members’ poorly dressed and still bleeding wounds through their ragged overalls, torn and burnt. We shouted to Fateev [the gunner], “you’re quite charred,” and he replied: “start the engine/move forward!” Collecting the last remnants of our energy, we once again rushed forward, knocking a Nazi tank along the way. By the time we reached our troops, Fateev [the gunner] was dead as well as Paul Khoroshilov [the commander]. We buried them together.

The “Besposhadniy” lasted just over nine months, from late May 1942 to early March 1943, before it was sent for repair. During that time, the tank crew shot down 27 enemy tanks, 9 mortars, 10 guns, 17 machine guns, 30 vehicles, and 13 units of armored vehicles, according to the Russian Wikipedia (though Zaloga reports different numbers). After the war, “Besposhadniy” was transferred to the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow, where, sadly, it was melted at the “Hammer and Sickle” Moscow plant in 1948.

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I want to thank Tim L., friend and fellow collector who provided invaluable research, photos, and observations. Sincere thanks also to my colleague Elmira B., who translated the first-hand account of the “Besposhadniy” in battle. Thanks also to my friend Joao S., of Cascais, whose incredible painting skills brought the Hat figures to life.

Operation Eiche: The Liberation of Benito Mussolini in 1/72 Scale

I recently read Fallschirmjager at the Gran Sasso: The Liberation of Mussolini, by Oscar Gonzalez Lopez. The Fallschirmjager’s daring rescue of Mussolini on September 12, 1943, is one of the most famous raids of WWII and needs no recounting here. Suffice it to say that Lopez’s account is an excellent read with a somewhat new interpretation of the raid — essentially giving credit to Major Harald Mors, who planned the rescue operation, rather than the flamboyant Otto Skorzeny, who it is claimed was given credit at the time for propaganda purposes.

Here’s one of many photos taken during the rescue operation. Skorzeny, with binoculars, appears on the far left, next to Mussolini.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

On the book cover was this wonderful illustration by Ramiro Bujeiro, inspired by several photos taken during the raid, including the one above. In addition to the colors, I loved the way Bujeiro captured an entire event with just six elements: Mussolini smack in the center, Skorzeny walking behind him, the paratrooper representing the 82 Fallschirmjager who took part, the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch essential for the escape, the Campo Imperatore alpine meadow, and the Gran Sasso Mountain in the background.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

Following up on Bujeiro’s painting, here’s the recreation in 1/72 scale — just six elements.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

I don’t know whether this photograph was originally in color or was later colorized. Either way, I tried to capture the fall season look of the grass at the Campo Imperatore meadow.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Mussolini: TQD Castings TQD112 WWII Era Kriminalpolezei metal figure set with machine gun cut out;
  • Skorzeny: Italeri 6134 German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform) set;
  • Fallschirmjager: Italeri 6134 German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform) set;
  • Aircraft: Falcon Models FA724005 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, “Gran Sasso”;
  • Meadow: Styrofoam base painted with acrylic colors to look like Campo Imperatore;
  • Background: Photo of actual Gran Sasso Mountain.

I hope you enjoyed the post.  As always, your comments are welcome.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and Happy New Year

The Tiger in Winter: To celebrate the season, here are photos of 1/72 Tigers in winter camouflage.  

Front Row, L to R: Dragon 60001, Dragon 60410, and Dragon 60097.

Back Row, L to R: Dragon 65004, War Master TK0031, Easy Model 36214, and Easy Model 36208.

The Santas and hot Santa Helper chicks are made by Preiser.

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master Winter

Here’s a portside view.

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master WinterWhite Rhino and Bumblebees: Here is a photo of a Nashorn and a couple of Hummels.

L to R: Altaya Nashorn, Dragon 60288, and Dragon 60190.

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master Winter

Other German Winter Vehicles

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master Winter

Cheers!

Luftwaffe Flakartillerie 88mm Flak Gun Crew in Action in North Africa in 1941

This photo is from Waldemar Trojca’s 8.8cm Flak 18-36-37, Katowice-Speyer 2005. Erwin Rommel used the 88mm Flak gun extensively as an antitank weapon in North Africa, having learned its value in that role in 1940 at the Battle of Arras, in France. Some mistakenly claim Rommel was the first to use the 88mm as an antitank weapon. All that can be said with confidence is that he was among the first.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here’s the recreation. The original photo doesn’t depict the detail or disarray surrounding the gun but photos of other 88 guns do. Thus, as you will readily notice, I took lots of artistic license.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here’s a view directly facing the gun. The 88s could take out enemy tanks a mile away but you first had to spot them. The soldier up front has a range finder, while the officer on the right has binoculars. At the far right are scissors binoculars, which are sometimes present in these scenes. I “borrowed” them from the Revell German Armoured Infantry set.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here are a couple of photos of the gun itself. The gun suffers from several inaccuracies, which I’ll cover at some point in a separate review.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here’s a close-up of the gun.  Note the awesome kill rings.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

I converted the Altaya Flak 37 from its traveling position to a stationary gun and then pilfered the trailer. The trailer is plastic with metal axles that had to be cut from the metal base of the gun. I painted the trailer desert yellow, applied decals, and gave it a wash. The detail on the trailer is quite nice as it is plastic and compares well with the Airfix and Hasegawa kits, though it’s not as detailed as the Revell kit.

Note the detail work on the towing bar and on the “forks” to which the gun attaches. Because the plastic is very hard, it was actually easy to carve them out. For the first time in many years, I reluctantly applied decals using Microsol on very old Afrikakorps palm trees from Almark. The result exceeded my expectations and I cursed myself for not having tried decaling sooner.

This photo also shows the brass ammunition and wicker ammunition baskets well. Note that I drilled out two holes in one of the baskets. It turned out to be easier than I expected.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

The crew was included in the Italeri 8.8cm Flak 37 AA Gun kit. Of note is the soldier with a Hermann Meyer cap, to my knowledge one of only two modeled in plastic. (The soldier talking to Rommel also wears a Meyer cap but that figure is made of white metal.) Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) described this set as follows: “All the figures are crisply sculpted and crisply moulded, and while some of those handling ammunition have a little excess plastic, no one has any flash and these are very good quality figures . . . . At an average 24.5 mm the height of the men is good, so with the very good detail these are excellent.” (See PSR’s review at http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/ShowFeature.aspx?id=48.)

While I had the figures painted previously, I decided that I would paint shoulder straps, buttons, belt buckles, and other details. This is a Luftwaffe Flakartillerie regiment so shoulder straps are silver on a red base. I developed a headache as I focused my eyes on these suckers. If you’re over 50, don’t try this at home. 🙁 

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

The Rommel figure came from the ACE Desert Fox’s Kfz.21 kit. I have several different painted Rommel figures in 1/72; this is the best of the bunch. As previously mentioned, the officer talking to Rommel wears a Meyer cap, clearly identifying him as Luftwaffe. He comes from an SHQ white metal set that includes a Rommel figure leaning over a map. This vignette is based on a well-known photo of Rommel talking to Generalmajor Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke, wherein he wears a Meyer cap.1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

The half-track is Hobby Master’s Luftwaffe Sd.Kfz.7 8-Ton Semi-Track, with decals poached from the Airfix half-track kit. Disappointingly, Hobby Master lazily released it without markings despite the promise implicit in their pre-production photos, which included the DAK palm trees. I had intended to apply divisional markings to the half-track as well but held off because I wasn’t sure to which division the gun belonged. Trojca attributes the gun to the 1./Flak Rgt. 33, which was attached to the 21.Pz.Div., while Panzerstahl attributes it to the 1./Flak Rgt. 43, which was attached to the 15.Pz.Div. In retrospect, I wish I’d given the half-track a wash to bring out its details. The tarp and Jerry cans are from ValueGear.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Note the faded Luftwaffe marking on the helmet of the soldier with the dark tunic. To my old eyes, he came out better than I expected.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Finally, this bird’s-eye view shows the entire layout well. Note the tracks in the sand. Kinetic Sand is simply amazing.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Gun: Panzerstahl 88043, 8.8cm Flak, 43rd Flak Reg., 15.Pz.Div., Deutsches Afrikakorps, 1942; 
  • Trailer: Altaya 8.8 cm Flak 37, 2.Pz.Div. Moscow Area 1941 (cut out from metal base) (decals from Almark T1 Afrika Korps Palms);
  • Half-Track: Hobby Master HG5002, Sd.Kfz.7 8-Ton Semi-Track, Luftwaffe, Africa 1942 (decals from Airfix 2303 kit, 88mm Gun & Sd.Kfz.7 Tractor);
  • Crew: Italeri 7512 kit, 8.8cm Flak 37 AA Gun with Crew;
  • Field Marshal Rommel: ACE 72289 kit, Desert Fox’s Kfz.21 with Rommel Figure;
  • Generalmajor Ramcke: SHQ DK20, Rommel Command Group;
  • Dog: Preiser 14165, Dogs and Cats;
  • Scissors Binoculars: Revell 02511, German Armoured Infantry;
  • Ammunition Baskets: Hasegawa 31110 kit, 88mm Gun Flak 18 (4 baskets); and Fujimi 76026 kit, 88mm Flak 18 (4 baskets);
  • Ammunition: Thor Hobby A7203, Brass WWII German 88mm L/71 Gun Ammunition (Set 2);
  • Sandbags, Crates, Fuel Drums, Jerry Cans, and Tarp Roll: ValueGear, various sets;
  • Grass: Noch Scenemaster, Spring Grass Tufts;
  • Sand: 150-101 Kinetic Sand by Waba Fun. Had to wrest it from my kids. 😈 

I hope you enjoyed the post. Please forgive the long-winded narrative and thanks again for your indulgence and encouragement.

Here Comes The Cavalry: WWII Horses in 1/72 Scale – Part 2 Update

Waterloo 025 WWII German Cavalry (Set 1)

I was working on posting Part 3 of this Cavalry series but I couldn’t reconcile myself with the alien face on the officer in Part 2. As PSR pointed out, “there are a few areas of unwanted extra plastic where a separate arm or head would have been a better approach.” This is one of those flaws in a set with otherwise “excellent sculpting.” I tried to paint the top of the left side of the face to make it look like hair but the result was still unsatisfactory so I reworked it with a hobby knife — my first plastic surgery (lame pun intended).

Before:

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

After:

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

While I was at it, I gave the horse a white blaze and painted the stirrups.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

I’m much happier with it now.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

As I indicated previously, Part 3 will cover German cavalry odds and ends.

Here Comes the Cavalry: WWII Horses in 1/72 Scale – Part 2

Waterloo 025 WWII German Cavalry (Set 1)

As promised, this second installment on WWII cavalry is the Waterloo 025 “WWII German Cavalry (Set 1).” Happily, the title implies the existence of a Set 2, which – not so happily – has yet to be released. Plastic Soldier Review (PSR), the most authoritative 1/72 scale plastic soldier website, described this set as follows:

“The general standard of sculpting is excellent, with great proportions and all the detail you could want – the sculptor has even gone to the trouble of including a watch on the wrist of the man signaling from the saddle.” PSR concludes: “[T]his is a really nice set with excellent sculpting and almost flawless accuracy, so apart from our comments on avoiding excess plastic there is really nothing to dislike about this attractive set of figures.” http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=2045

First, here’s a photo of the unpainted figures from PSR. I note that the set came with three other dismounted cavalrymen, which I did not photograph as I intended to focus on those with horses.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025
Photo used with permission from Plastic Soldier Review.

This first photo shows all three cavalrymen from a distance. Please keep in mind that the figures are greatly magnified, which reveals all their flaws. To the naked eye, they look far better.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

Yep, those are apple trees. I don’t know whether they can coexist in the same terrain with pine trees but, oh well, there you have it. Note the feedbag hanging from the neck of the officer’s horse. Note also that the soldier with his right hand up is supposed to have a map in his left hand.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

Note the watch on the figure with his hand up – likely the only watch in 1/72 scale (at least with respect to WWII figures).

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

Here’s a close-up photo of the officer.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

I’m unhappy with the left side of the officer’s head and plan to rework it at some point.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

I clipped the bases on these figures but, unlike the Revell figures, it was a monster to get them to stand. I had to use a log to prop up the horse of this soldier.

1/72, Animals, Cavalry, German, Horses, Soldiers, Waterloo, Waterloo 025

I hope you enjoyed the photos. The next cavalry installment will be of German odds and ends.

Here Comes the Cavalry: WWII Horses in 1/72 Scale – Part 1

Although cavalry charges were virtually a thing of the past by the start of WWII, the horse continued to be used extensively for transportation of materiel, artillery and, of course, troops. It is estimated that Germany and the Soviet Union employed 2.75 and 3.5 million horses, respectively, during the war.

Given these significant numbers, it is quite surprising that so few 1/72 WWII cavalry sets have been produced – about six, by my count – plus some odds and ends. I’ll attempt to present each set, one at a time, during the next few weeks.

We’ll start with what is probably the best set that includes horses produced thus far – the Revell 02515 German Artillery set.  

Revell 02515 German Artillery of WWII

First, here’s a photo of the unpainted figures from Plastic Soldier Review (PSR), the fabulous 1/72 scale plastic soldier website. I note that the set came with seven other figures firing the artillery, but I did not photograph them as this post focuses on those with horses.

02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, Soldiers
Photo used with permission from Plastic Soldier Review.

This first photo is of the set as it was intended, with six horses pulling the limber, which in turn pulls the 10.5 cm le FH 18 Light Field Howitzer.  

02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, Soldiers

PSR described this set as follows:

“Revell have consistently shown that they are the masters at producing artillery sets, regardless of era, and this one does them proud once again. The Revell trademark quality runs right through these pieces, with good detail, excellent realism and almost no flash. The mounted figures could even be of some use portraying German cavalry. . . . [This is] an outstanding set which is well loved and rightly so.” http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=443

In fact, as PSR suggests and as many collectors have concluded, I found the set more satisfying with the three mounted soldiers as cavalry separated from the limber. I do realize that it’s unlikely that the two horses alone could pull such a heavy load but the mounted figures are so beautifully sculpted that it’s a shame not to have them as stand-alones.

02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, Soldiers

Note that while I removed the bases from the horses, Revell engineering is so precise that the horses stand without any problem. They’re a joy.

02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, Soldiers02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, SoldiersI should point out that the set came with two guns, one with the trails closed for hitching to the limber, and one with the trails open ready for action. As mentioned, I also note that the set actually comes with seven other figures engaged in the act of firing the Howitzer. I may do a post on the five 10.5 cm le FH 18 Light Field Howitzers that I have in 1/72 and may display them at that time. For those interested, the fawn came from the Merten 2410 set.  

02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, Soldiers

02515, 1/72, Artillery, Cavalry, German, Horses, Revell, Soldiers

I hope some of you found this interesting. I intend to present the Waterloo 025 WWII German Cavalry set in Part 2.

Planes, Camels and Donkeys: Transport in North Africa

This photo is from George Forty’s Afrika Korps at War, a serendipitous find years ago at the Strand Bookstore “18 miles of new, used, and rare books” in New York City. Anyone who has not been there should put it on their list when visiting New York. The contrast in this photo between modern transport and centuries-old transport in North Africa during WWII is striking.

Hobby Master HM HA1812 1/72 DAK Afrikakorps Afrika Korps Bf 110 & Camel and Donkey

Here’s the recreation.

Hobby Master HM HA1812 1/72 DAK Afrikakorps Afrika Korps Bf 110 & Camel and Donkey

Here’s the color photo.

Hobby Master HM HA1812 1/72 DAK Afrikakorps Afrika Korps Bf 110 & Camel and Donkey

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Aircraft: Hobby Master HA1812, Bf 110E-2, ZG 26 “Horst Wessel,” North Africa, 1941;
  • Arab: Hat 8250, Taaishi Camelry;
  • Camel: Airfix 01719, Arabs;
  • Donkey: Matchbox P5008, ANZAC Infantry.

At some point I intend to reshoot this scene with an unsaddled camel and more Bedouins.

According to PSR, the “donkey” in the Matchbox set may actually be a mule.  Here’s a close-up to help settle the issue. 🙂  22 Donkey L (800x553) - Cropped

Water Fill-up: Everyday Life in the Deutsches Afrikakorps in 1/72 Scale

Some time back, I bought a CD entitled Through Their Eyes from a seller in the UK. The CD is a compilation of three private photo albums of Afrikakorps members that contain hundreds of candid photos. Some of the photos are quite interesting; some not so much. Some are high quality; some less so. Regardless of the quality, the disk was a veritable gold mine of photos that captured everyday life in the Afrikakorps.

The photo below is of a scene that probably took place behind the lines in North Africa on a daily basis — filling up the ubiquitous jerry cans with the most precious commodity in the desert: water (some would say fuel was even more precious). The photo is copyrighted by James Payne. It is reproduced here for discussion purposes.

Hobby Master HM HG3911 1/72 Afrika Korps DAK Opel Blitz Truck & Water Fill-up

Here’s the recreation.

Hobby Master HM HG3911 1/72 Afrika Korps DAK Opel Blitz Truck & Water Fill-up

I’ve concluded that these recreations sometimes look better when more is included so this color photo encompasses the entire truck. I clipped the base of the figures to try to make them look more realistic. They do look better, in my not unbiased opinion.

Hobby Master HM HG3911 1/72 Afrika Korps DAK Opel Blitz Truck & Water Fill-up

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Truck: Hobby Master HG3911 Opel Blitz with 20mm Flak 38, DAK (canvas cover from another HM Blitz);
  • Figure standing on wooden plank: Preiser 72509 German Air and Ground Crew;
  • Figure filling up jerry cans: Airfix 1755 Luftwaffe Personnel;
  • Figure kneeling drinking water: Caesar H070 Afrika Korps;
  • Water tanks: Woodland Scenics D212 Fuel Tank Kit;
  • Palm trees: Woodland Scenics plus several unknown Chinese brands;
  • Retaining wall: IMEX 519 Battlefield Accessories;
  • Jerry cans: ValueGear V03D Jerry Can/Tarp Roll Set German;
  • Sand: 150-101 Kinetic Sand by Waba Fun; and
  • Plank: The soldier with the pith helmet is standing on a plank made of real wood — it’s a coffee stirrer. Very Happy

Here’s the notional picture. What a difference a little paint can make.

Hobby Master HM HG3911 1/72 Afrika Korps DAK Opel Blitz Truck & Water Fill-up