Thursday, 11 April 2019

Flames of War: Slovak Air Force - Letov S-328

By way of creating a little variety in what I am presenting to this august community I thought this time I would move away from the land based units and share something that I believe to be a globally unique item... and one which I believe has an expansive sense of nostalgia and beauty... the Letov S-328 reconnaissance and light bomber.

The Letov S-328 was an evolution of the experimental S-28 of 1929 and the S-228 of 1931. The S-328 had been designed to Finnish requirements, although in the end the Finns did not accept the type opting instead to take the Dutch Fokker CX. However despite the Finnish withdrawal from production negotiations the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Defence became interested in the type and by 1934 the new biplane had been ordered into production for deployment into the Czech front line reconnaissance squadrons.



The aircraft was powered by a Bristol Pegasus II. M2 sporting a nine cylinder radial engine pumping out 635 hp at sea level and still pushing out 580 hp at 5,000 ft. The S-328 was a sturdy aircraft of all metal internal construction with fabric covering all but the light metal fuselage upper decking.

Armament of the aircraft was normally a pair of fixed forward firing 7.92mm vz.30 machine guns in the wings and a pair of similar machine guns on a Skoda manufactured pintel mount in the rear observation cupola. Racks could also be attached below the wings and beneath the main fuselage for the transportation and delivery of up to 1,000 lb of bombs.

The maximum speed that could be achieved by this aircraft ranged from 174 mph at 5,900 ft to 158 mph at 16,400 ft, an altitude that it could reach in 17 minutes. The service ceiling was 23,620 ft and with the standard load of fuel could achieve an optimal range of around 435 miles, although with tanks this could push out to around 795 miles.


The Czechoslovakian Air Force had six air regiments in its composition in 1938. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd were Mixed, the 4th was a dedicated fighter regiment whilst the 5th and 6th were dedicated bomber regiments. Only the 3rd Regiment, named the 'General Rotislav Stefanik Regiment' was stationed in Slovakia at the time of the declaration of independence, with its headquarters situated in Piestany. On the formation of the Slovak state it was immediately subordinated to the Slovak Ministry of Defence.

In March 1939 Groups I, II and IV included squadrons equipped with the Letov S-328, although interestingly despite its deployment as a light bomber all of the squadrons in the initial composition are listed as Observation Squadrons.

The Slovak Air Force inherited over 300 aircraft of varying and dubious quality when it declared independence and of these 73 were Letov S-328's in the front line squadrons (although a further 101 were held in the Replacement Group founded in March 1939 to replace losses in the front line squadrons and to train new pilots).


Whilst the Slovak Air Force looked relatively impressive on paper the truth was somewhat more sobering. A high percentage of the Air Force pilots and technical ground crew were Czech and after the 1938 demobilisation and subsequent declaration of independence of the Slovak state were largely forced to return home to the protectorate. Of all of the aircraft retained by the Slovaks only the Avia B-534 still had any practical combat value with all other aircraft already obsolete, including the large numbers of S-328's in their inventory.

The new Slovak Air Force had its first blooding in March 1939 almost as soon as they had declared independence when the Hungarians occupied Transcarpathian Ruthenia on 16 March. The Hungarians decided to take advantage of the prevailing chaos in Slovakia and penetrate their perceived ancestral lands in Eastern Slovakia. Slovak units put up a brave but desperate defence under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel August Malar, reorganising themselves on the fly.

They were assisted in the defence of Eastern Slovakia by the Slovak Air Force that immediately committed the 20 Avia B-534's of the 45th and 49th Fighter Squadrons and the 20 Letov S-328's of the 12th and 13th Observation Squadrons to the fray.


As these squadrons were only able to muster around 6 pilots each in March they were bolstered by the temporary assignment of pilots from the 15th Observation Squadron from Zilin as well as pilots and machines from the 37th, 38th and 39th Fighter Squadrons stationed in Piestany.

The Hungarian army and air force were an extremely professional and well trained force and when faced with the disorganised chaos that was the Slovak armed forces the results could be predicted. 

Reconnaissance sorties were begun on 23 March. On this first day the Slovaks lost two of their Avias to the proficient and accurate Hungarian anti aircraft defences, several others also sustained damage.

24 March saw heavy activity all along the short front line resulting in heavy losses for the Slovaks. On this day the opponents were the Magyar Kiralyi Honved Legiero (Royal Hungarian Home Defence Air Force) Fiat 32 fighters from the 1/1 'Ijasz' (Archer) Group from Uzhorod. Through seventeen sorties the Slovaks lost one S-328 and three Avia B-534's with several more being damaged, three of the pilots being killed in action. In the afternoon nine Fiats jumped on a bombing sortie of three Letov S-328's protected by a further three Avia B-534's. In the course of this combat the three Avia's were shot down along with one of the Letovs with one more being forced to make an emergency landing... the Hungarians were unscathed.


Through the course of the Hungarian border conflict the Slovaks had lost of a total of nine Avia B-534's and four Letov S-328's with seven aircrew killed in action and one taken prisoner.

In the invasion of Poland in 1939 the Slovakian state gave permission for the German Luftwaffe to use its airbases and whilst committing its own 51,000 strong Army Corps to the invasion only committed three squadrons to the invasion. The 39th and 45th fighter squadrons were detailed to provide support to German Stuka and Do-17 bomber squadrons. The 16th Observation Squadron conducted light bombing missions, made a general nuisance of itself to the Poles by dropping leaflets all over the place and conducted liaison duties between the Army Corps and Slovakia.


Due to losses due to various reasons including significant desertions and defections by the end of 1939 it became necessary to reorganise the Air Force squadrons again. Due to the shortage of Slovak pilots of the original five fighter squadrons only three were able to be formed by the amalgamation of the others, the 11th, 12th and 13th whilst of the original seven Observation Squadrons after amalgamation only three could achieve full strength and these were the 1st in Zilina, the 2nd in Spisska Nova and the 3rd in Nitra, all equipped with the Letov S-328.

On 1 May 1941 these three Observation Squadrons were all united into the 1st Observation Group stationed at Spisska Nova. By 1943 the three squdron structure had been maintained although the 1st Squadron had surrendered its Letovs in favour of Nazi supplied Fw 189 A-2's subsequently renamed the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron.

On 1 April 1943 the 41st Bomber Squadron was formed as a part of the planned 3rd Bomber Group, drawing on the pilots being trained in the Slovak Flying School and were trained from August 1943 on He-111 aircraft on the Saki Airfield in the Crimea, although two of the crews were actually trained in Germany.


In autumn of 1943 the squadron was transferred to Poprad where it was equipped with old and worn out Letov S-328's. At this time the Slovaks still had 41 of these machines left of which 33 were airworthy. 

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the Slovaks were the first of Germany's allies to cross the Soviet border to assist. They did so with the soldiers of the elite Mobile Brigade and Field Corps. When in August 35,000 men were demobilised to assist with the harvest at home the Mobile Brigade was expanded into a Mobile Division whilst the Field Corps was downgraded to a Security Division. Air Force units were sent into the Soviet Union to support the ground units.

The 1st Observation Group was sent consisting of all three squadrons, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Squadrons with their 30 Letov S-328's. Initially they flew from their airbases in Eastern Slovakia but as the troops pushed deeper into the Soviet Union the squadrons started redeploying to Forward Air Bases into the Ukraine.



The aircraft of the Observation Group carried out repeated bombing sorties against Soviet Columns, along with reconnaissance flights and the habitual liaison duties that was expected of them. According to the reports of the General Staff during the first four months of the invasion the Observation Group conducted 73 reconnaissance flights, 7 bombing and 5 attack sorties. 702 flights above their own territory and 664 flights during advances through Soviet terrain for a total of 1,320 flight hours and 264,000 km covered.

Despite the fact that the Letovs were considered successful in the ground attack role during this period it must be stated that they were attacking in the face of very weak opposition, and despite this losses started to mount with spare parts proving problematic to source. Because of these factors by 25 July the 2nd Squadron was forced to return to Slovakia with the 3rd Squadron following on 18 August leaving only the 1st Squadron in the field. To replace losses, aircraft from the returning squadrons were handed over to the 1st Squadron so that the Observation Group was still able to support the Mobile Division in its drive on Kiev.


Though some of their actions were considered very successful the 1st Observation Squadron had to be pulled back to Slovakia as by this time the squadron strength had been whittled down to only three serviceable Letovs. Most of these losses had been sustained by Flak and general wear and tear of machine parts although it wasn't unheard of for the Flak to be originating with German and on one occasion Slovakian anti aircraft defence units.

In the summer of 1942 the Slovak Air Force again returned to the Russian Front with two squadrons. The 1st Observation Squadron with only six Letov S-328's and the 11th Fighter Squadron with twelve Avia B-534's. By this time the Slovaks and Germans prudently decided not to deploy either into front line service but instead deployed them in support of the Security Division in its anti partisan duties. The 1st Squadron remained in the field until October 1942 when it was finally retired from the field and returned to Slovakia.


This was almost the end of the serviceable life of the Letov's but in 1944 as the Red Bear approached Eastern Slovakia a newly formed Air Arms Group was formed with the 2nd Observation Squadron being equipped with twelve Letovs with a further three held in the central reserve. These aircraft saw no combat against the Soviet Union as at this time the Slovak Uprising kicked off, amongst the usual chaos that the Slovaks had a propensity for. 

By the time of the uprising only the airfield of Tri Duby was under Slovak control and here there were five Letovs present for use. This was the last hurrah for the Letov S-328 which during the course of the Uprising as a constituent part of the Combined Squadron flew a total of 350 Operational Sorties in the two months that the uprising lasted and achieving one of the last air victories achieved by a biplane when on 7 September, half way through the Uprising when a patrolling S-328 was attacked by a reconnaissance Focke-Wulf Fw 189. The Fw 189 was damaged by the twin vz.30 machine guns controlled by the observer and forced to land in an area still under insurgent control.

At least they finished on a high no matter what their previous combat record was.



So, I suppose the first thing that most people will be wondering is where in hell can they lay their hands on a 1/100 Letov S-328 just like this one. Well, at present ladies; you can't! 

I believe that this may currently be the single existing 1/100 example in the world. However it does represent an object lesson in how obsession can lead to extraordinary steps being taken in the quest for 'getting what you want!'

I habitually spend months scouring the interweb to find the bits and pieces that I want in order to put together my weird and whacky playthings and whilst a lot of the time I can claim moderate success where the Slovak air force in 1/100 was concerned I came up with an absolute brick wall. 

I had to consider other options. I have no ability to sculpt these aircraft myself as in all truth I wouldnt even know where to start. I had no 3D sculpting skills either so I couldnt rig one up by myself and I also couldnt find any examples in any 3D library that I scoured... this only left me with two options; forget it (not bloody likely) or bring in the hit men! 

This I did.

I decided that a small home run business selling a range of rare and/or impossible to get a hold of models was the way forwards in order to recoup some of my losses that this venture would no doubt cause. In line with this idea I struck up a conversation with a producer who I had been keeping an eye on for a while and whose stuff was impressing me. We discussed relative costs of sculpting and production and once we agreed prices and business arrangements I contracted an attached 3D artist to begin work. This one took a while due to other commitments getting in the way BUT when it was finally printed off it made quite the impression. Took a bit of effort to clean up but the results cant be argued with in my opinion.


The painting came next and for the most part I have to say was relatively simple.

The whole aircraft was primed with a standard grey primer from a rattle can and left to dry.

Once dry the plane was airbrushed with a uniform layer of MIG 058 Light Khaki Green.

Once this was dry the most painstaking part of the process needed to be done. 0.5mm wide masking tape strips were applied along the rib lines of the upper wings, fuselage, and tail planes. Once this was done the leading edge of the upper and lower main wings had a thin 2mm wide contour tape strip applied to it.

Once secure the airbrush was used to spray a light covering of MIG 059 Khaki Green over the top of the light khaki green. It is important that you do not spray too heavily in this step as it will leave the contrasts between the two layers two pronounced and will look weird. Use a bit of discretion and leave it at a level where the highlighted areas are left apparent but not overpowering.

Once done and dry the masks can all be removed and you should have quite an effective overall feel to the aircraft.

The next colour to be applied is the Vallejo's 993 Flat Aluminium on the underside of the wings and the fuselage. Due to the fact that this colour is so high key I opted not to waste time with contrasting on an area of the plane that will barely be seen. This paint needs to be treated with care and if it wasn't the fact that it is the perfect colour I would opt to ditch it in favour of another colour as the Vallejo paint just seems to be far too thin to be used with the brush and I didn't want to have to go through the grief of masking everything off again.

The next step was the yellow, for which i did have to mask everything off. I applied the masks leaving clear the areas to be airbrushed and mixed up Vallejo's 953 Flat Yellow highlighted with Vallejo's 915 Deep Yellow with a touch of white.

Again all masks were removed and the fine details were now tackled.

A coat of Varnish was applied and then pin lining was done on all of the fuselage panel lines and aileron and flap joints with AK Interactives Wash for Nato Camo Vehicles. 

Once dry the excess was rubbed away just leaving the profiling.

All metal parts were painted with Molten Metal Steel mixed with Vallejo Black. The tires were painted Vallejo Black followed by Lifecolors UA733 Tyre Black as the highlight.

Finally the pilots and propeller blades were painted... although I feel relatively sure you can work out how to do that yourself...



...and so we come to the very last thing that I needed to do for this addition to my Slovak army... the decals.

Now, I am capable of making my own decals BUT the experience that I have had so far has led to decals that are uncomfortably thick and ones that cannot include white unless as an overall substrate to the total image and so one of my Polish friends suggested I approach a gentleman in Poland that both he and his father had used to produce specialist decals.

I thus contracted one Bogdan Zolnierowicz through Facebook to produce for me a decal sheet with enough Slovak aircraft and tank markings to polish off everything that I thought I would need. Along with a couple of sheets of numbers and letters I had enough to produce the exact representation that I wanted and Bogdan's decals were exactly what the doctor ordered.

Incidentally if you want to approach Bogdan for help with decals he says you are all welcome to do so. He may not respond quickly but he will eventually and he is the only one on Facebook with the name.

So there we have it ladies and gents. Another fine Czechoslovakian asset to add to the pantheon.

Another project finished, so on to the next!

Fix bayonets!


Thursday, 4 April 2019

Flames of War: Slovak Anti Aircraft Artillery - 8.35cm vz.22 battery

Its time for the next chapter in our Slovakian Odyssey and this time we will turn our attention to one of their heavy anti aircraft guns; the 8.35cm KPL vz.22 (KPL standing for kanon proti letadlum).


Now, its a funny thing but this gun seems to have fallen well into obscurity and only really known about by weapon aficionados or else those nutters who have an interest in the Czechoslovakian or Slovakian militaries of the interbellum or the start of WW2.

In the Interbellum the Czechoslovakian army was widely regarded as one of the best equipped and trained in Europe, and rightly so. Considerable credit for this preparedness must go to this gun; the 8.35cm vz.22 which formed the core of the army's anti-aircraft batteries.

This anti-aircraft gun has long been regarded as one of the most successful anti-aircraft guns in history and has earned the plaudit of being the best anti-aircraft gun of the '20's.

At the start of the twenties the situation with regards to anti-aircraft defence for the Czech army was not exactly rosy. All that they had for the entire country was four of the vz.5/8's and another twenty newer 12/20's. Not exactly going to set the world alight!


These weapons were only suitable for use from static, prepared positions alongside the light machine guns carried around by the troops themselves.

The army's High Command recognised the precarious nature of this lack of aerial defence and the likely results of not keeping apace with the fast developing air fleets of its hostile neighbours... happily it turned out that the countries largest arms developer, Skoda and its Pilsen facilities were also acutely aware of this shortcoming.

A focus on the development of new anti-aircraft weaponry was instigated soon after the end of the First World War in which Skoda used the expertise that it had gained in anti-aircraft weapon development for the Austrian army and navy.


By 1919 7.65cm and 8.35cm calibre projects were already started from which came the first generation anti-aircraft guns; the vz.18/19 which immediately scored successes on the export markets.

A test battery of four cannons were exported to Sweden in 1921 with a further 16 being delivered to Spain in 1923 and one being delivered to France for testing as well. The vz.18/19's were modern and effective weapons but transport proved to be a serious handicap for them. 

In the wake of the First World War there was little other affordable option than horse traction to pull artillery weaponry. Motorised tractors did exist but at this point in time were prohibitively expensive. Because of this horse traction was the only option that was really considered. However a six horse traction team effectively limited the pull weight to 2800kg if the weapon was to be kept in motion which resulted in a focus on smaller calibre weaponry with lighter ammunition.


When the Ministry of Defence turned its attention to the provision of anti-aircraft artillery in 1919 the attention of the project's artillery experts zeroed in on the 8.35cm project. When the ministry rejected the 7.65cm model the 8.35cm was quickly tailored for use with the army. 

The new design proved extremely promising. Equipped with a 10kg shell it achieved an exit velocity of 800m/s and achieved a ceiling of 11,000m. Despite these initial achievements however the Ministry of Defence set a requirement that the weapon be made mobile due to its perceived deployment in the field as a mobile anti-aircraft asset.


Because the weight of the weapon itself exceeded the weight that was possible for hippo-traction the Ministry approved the weapon for motor-traction which was considered a cutting edge risk at the time. Unfortunately, owing to the requirement for a lightning fast response time to enemy aircraft presence over the battlefield when with the army it was decided that the weapon would need to have the ability to be fired directly from its transport platform. This issue was successfully negotiated but it meant that the entire chassis for the weapon became prohibitively heavy which adversely affected its overall mobility.

The chassis of the weapon by necessity became very heavy due to the increased strain placed on it through continual firing from the platform itself. This weight proved limiting to its speed of march and resulted in the assignment of heavy artillery tractors to the batteries.


Weapons testing took place between 1920-1922 with the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff going back and forwards with Skoda as the final format of the weapon was sought. For example in 1921 the Ministry of Defence wanted a version of the weapon that could be broken down into three loads for use in mountainous terrain. This was one of the research avenues that was not followed up on.

Much investigative and manufacturing work was completed on the chassis to carry the gun with intensive testing conducted on its performance after repeated firing and hauling over long distances. The experience gained in using the vz.12/20's and firing with the new types of ammunition was put to valuable use at this stage.

In 1922 the final version's prototype was presented to the Ministry of Defence for testing by the army and because it performed so well was put into immediate production and introduction to the armed forces under the formal designation of 8.35cm KPL vz.22. Work on the new ammunition was not completed until 1923 however and when finalised the army received it under the designation OCGN vz.23.


Full serial production for the gun was achieved in 1923 with the first 14 weapons being handed over to the army for incorporation into the anti-aircraft batteries. The next year 35 weapons were delivered. There was then a downturn in supply with the technical arms office in Pilsen only taking receipt of six weapons and a handful of spares over the next three years. Even through these years though Skoda was not idle and conducted intensive auto-frettage testing of the weapon components to increase their service life.

Auto-frettage of components is when they are subjected once or repeatedly to an internal overpressure, the size of which is chosen such that the material in the most stressed areas, i.e on the inside of the component and in adjacent faces is 'plastically deformed'. When unloading the stress the plastically deformed region of the material prevents the 'elastically deformed' rest of the component from returning to its original shape and/or size. This results in pressure stresses on the inside of the component and tensile stresses on the outside of the component inevitably leading to early failure.

If the component is cyclically loaded with internal overpressure in operation the most heavily loaded area is again the inner surface of the component and the adjacent faces. The auto-friction-induced pressure stresses that act here reduce the magnitude of the cyclic tensile stress, thereby extending the crack initiation time. Pressure stresses also slow the crack growth and in some cases even cause a complete stop. The tensile stresses on the outside of the component generally do not, due to their size, significantly affect the life of the component.

The parts can be made of materials that are capable of macroplastic deformation, in which the yield strength does not significantly depend on the direction of the previous load and which exhibit residual stress stability.

This method of production was used for the remaining production run of these guns with the first ones using the auto-frettage method of production running off the line in 1930. The majority of the guns were produced in 1931 when the army took possession of another 45 pieces.

In total the army ordered 144 anti aircraft guns of 8.35cm calibre with the entire delivery run being completed by 1933.


It was recognised as the best anti-aircraft in the world for a long period of time and Skoda had many export requests but the military resisted this strongly and when the Pilsen armoury finally forced the government to intercede it resulted in an economic crisis and all of the potential buyers dropped away for economic reasons. From the export batch several pieces did actually reach friendly Yugoslavia and two reached Estonia but all others remained in Czechoslovakia.

The price of a complete gun was set at 586,000 CZK with a whole battery being offered at 2,346,948 CZK which was an exceptionally high cost for the day but the benefits of the system were easily recognised justifying the costs.



When these guns were first delivered to the field armies it was finally possible to totally reorganise the three existing anti-aircraft units into regiments 151, 152 and 153 (this one will become important to all lovers of the Slovak army), each comprising three sections. From this time it became possible for the armed forces to start testing out the modern processes of anti-aircraft defence by putting all of the tools and machinery of fire control through intensive field testing. This applied most especially to the sights of the weapons themselves and the skills of the crews serving the weapons.

For daytime firing the DR-III sights were used, whilst nighttime shooting was conducted alongside the vz.28 searchglight lamps. A central fire control system was also engineered along with sound location of targets. The entire trial and error process of all of the elements and systems finally led to the creation of an extremely effective fire control methodology in the early 1930's with Czechoslovak anti-aircraft processes standing at the global forefront.


As the international situation began to deteriorate in the '30's the perceived importance of the role fulfilled by the anti-aircraft artillery increased as well. Efforts to modernise and improve the operational and tactical effectiveness of the batteries was already evident by 1933 with the conversion of one artillery regiment into Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment 154 and the increased delivery rate of the vz.22 which now became the backbone of the Czech anti-aircraft formations until the fateful days of 1938 by which time the dramatic developments in aircraft, and the deployment difficulties experienced when using these batteries made the necessity of a modernisation program for these weapons again necessary. Above all was the lack of a semi-automatic function on the guns which would have radically accelerated their rate of fire up from its existing 12 rpm.


A major impact on modern anti-aircraft artillery design was the ability for coordinated indirect battery fire using central sighting data which was eventually incorporated into the batteries armaments registers as the vz.37 Sight. Under pressure of the climate and local circumstances, and due to extreme costs this measure was temporarily abandoned.

Despite newer models of anti-aircraft artillery coming into service from 1937 at the time of the Munich crisis the vz.22 was still the backbone of the Czech anti-aircraft artillery available. In the 1938 mobilisation, just around the territory of Prague there were fourteen batteries of four guns, accompanied with searchlights and heavy machine guns as well as many other batteries spread around the country.


The increasing importance to anti-aircraft defences that was being placed by politicians and professional soldiers is evidenced here by the fact that after the demobilisation after the Munich crisis the anti-aircraft assets were the only branch of the Czech armed services that was not decreased in size but on the contrary were reorganised and increased in size.

After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia the Germans forcibly took control of 119 vz.22's with a further 72 reserves whilst the remaining 25 in Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment 153 stationed in Bratislava were taken by the newly created Slovakian state.

Whilst the German use is another story not to be explored here we will look at the Slovak story.



AAR153 in Bratislava comprised 24 guns in six batteries of four with one gun spare. It also had a provision of a single battery of four antiquated 8cm vz,5/8's. By the end of 1939 the large calibre anti-aircraft machine gun companies with about 60 2cm Oerlikon's had also been rolled into the organisational structure of AAAR153

In 1940 the AAAR 153 changed its name formally to the Regiment of Anti-Aircraft Artillery and divided into three territorial Battalions (I, II & III) as well as additional army units. The only anti-aircraft batteries allocated for army use at this time were the 4th Light Battery (with 1st Division), the 14th Light Battery (with 2nd Division) and 15th Light Battery attached to the army headquarters.


In March 1941 (note this is a couple of months before the invasion of the Soviet Union) the Slovak army received its first four gun battery of Krupp 8.8cm vz.38 guns, the famous Eighty-Eights! which went to the 8th Heavy Battery in Bratislava.

In July 1941 the regiment was reorganised once again, this time into six Battalions assigned to Territorial Defence and having absorbed a handful of 6-ST6-L trucks from the abolished AR51/II

The 8.35cm vz.22's were used for Territorial Defence only up to 1944 although in gradually diminishing numbers as they were gradually replaced with the better German weapons. 


It is worth noting at this point that up to 1941 NO heavy batteries accompanied the Slovak field armies (or divisions as the case may be) and even in August 1941 when the Mobile Division was formed only the 8th Heavy Battery with its 88's was assigned to it. These 88's were originally towed by the Praga T-9 tractors that were designed for the task but due to  mechanical problems these were quickly withdrawn from use and replaced with the heavy trucks from the abolished AR51 which still proved inadequate for the task.

The one time that the Slovak 8.35cm vz.22's did actually see front line field service was during the Slovak uprising of 1944 where the 10th Heavy Battery was assigned to the protection of Tri Duby airfield and the rebel radio transmitter. This battery remained in Hajniks until the last days of the uprising and was also considered one of the best rebel units available. It was the 10th Battery that prevented the rebel forces retreat to the mountains collapsing into a rout. This battery continually stood its ground against pursuing enemy forces until reaching Donovaly where they were forced to abandon their guns and stores and head into the mountains. This 'Anabasis' is important and remarkable because these guns, long considered unsuitable for field deployment had made it to a height of almost 1000m over poor roads and being pulled by old Skoda Z trucks.



Now, this potted history does raise some interesting questions as to whether or not it is even worth bothering with the construction of the Praga T-9's and the Skoda 8.35cm vz.22 cannons... in short; No! It isn't! unless of course you are interested in gaming a hypothetical 1938 Munich crisis scenario or else the Slovak uprising (although of course you could go through the pain of modelling these for German use as well). Although I guess the T-9's would be handy for pulling the 88's in the early part of Barbarossa.

Now that I've already done it and then found this out I'm thinking that it may be worthwhile actually doing an Intelligence Briefing covering the Slovak armed forces up to 1942....

Anyway, seeing as we are all here I may as well share with you how I did this pointless project! LOL



Unfortunately these were one of the first projects that I did for my Slovaks after doing all of the infantry so I don't actually have a photographic build log for these pieces so instead I will just try to talk you all through what I did instead.

So, the original guns are the now discontinued Battlefront's SU543 Soviete 85mm obr 1939 gun pack which contains one gun and eight crew. The Soviet 85mm was fired from a cruciform platform after removal of wheel and axle assemblies and tow bars. Because of this it was clear that the platform would need adjustment as the Czech gun was fired from its wheeled platform.

The axles for the wheels were realigned and had brass rod inserted to make it a straight axle assembly which were then glued straight onto the platform. Once the wheels (which required no adjustment) were glued on, you then have the permanent height of the gun platform.

The Stabilisation Outriggers are the next thing to be done. Use the old cruciform outriggers and cut away the circular foot off of each of them (and the same goes for those on the main platform as well). Drill holes through the two extended outriggers towards their ends and push plastic rod through and push down to the floor. Shear off the waste about 5mm above the outrigger arms. At the end of each column glue a small plastic disc of an appropriate diameter to represent the feet of the outriggers.

The axis upon which the wheel axles are glued also need to be trimmed back to shorten the arm almost to the edge of the wheel axle blocks themselves.


The forward tow hook on the same side of the platform as the carriage seats is now glued on with its ring resting on the ground. A pair of seats are now modelled out of styrene sheet. I used two blocks glued together at an angle and carved and sanded the seats out of them. Do them whichever way suits you best though!

On the other side you will see another tow hook that seems to be at rest floating in mid air. This is the barrel ring that prevents the barrel of the weapon swinging around when in transit. This is the part that I probably found the most awkward to model. I had to cut out two small rectangular blocks and round off one end into a half circle. On this rounded end a hole is drilled through and a small brass rod is inserted. The two blocks need to have an outside gauge that just fits inside the two foot bars of the barrel ring mount arms. Once this gauge has been achieved the brass rod is glued in place and filed off on the outside of each of the blocks. This block assembly is glued on top of the rear wheel axle block and the barrel ring and arms are glued onto it and left resting in thin air as seen in the photos.


The last major piece of construction work for this weapon is the gun itself. The barrel and recoil buffler is removed. The barrel is removed up to the ring notch in the barrel situated behind the barrel clamps securing the buffler housing to the barrel. The buffler is removed completely. 

A styrene tube is cut in half and added to the back of the gun as its new Breech Cradle. Another section of styrene tubing is used as a new barrel. No muzzle brakes were on these barrels BUT they did have a strengthening ring on the muzzle face so some very thin styrene strip was glued around the end of the barrel to simulate this.

Finally the recoil bufflers are made out of two equal length strips of styrene tube just less than half the length of the barrel. They are filled or drilled and small brass rods are inserted and left with 1mm length extruded from the body of the bufflers. 

All of these elements are then glued onto the remaining gun breech and glued to the platform pintle.

The last step is to construct the pneumatic balancing gear for either side of the barrel. A pair of styrene discs are glued onto the breech block facing outwards and positioned just behind the point where the new barrel is glued onto it. A short styrene tube is glued at 90deg on the outside edge of this disc and running down to the cradle at the level of the Elevation Handwheels and glued onto the upper face of the cradle at this level

...and there you have it. A completed gun!


Before we go any further I should also point out that the majority of miniatures in this battery are the original Battlefront 15mm Soviet crew with a few Romanian artillery crew with their heads nipped off and replaced with Peter Pig heads to turn them into Slovaks. Either the ones with the Slovak Helmets that Martin sculpted for me or else the ones with the Soviet Pilotka Caps are suitable. The Soviet crew needed no adjustments so long as you are capable of painting Slovak puttees over the originally sculpted leather boots.

The first thing that I normally do when putting together a battery once the guns are built is actually to paint all of the crew that serve the guns and where my Slovaks are concerned this obviously took a bit of work so let me take you through it all!

So, where painting all of the infantry is concerned its a relatively simple affair. They are done the way that I do them to look good from about 5ft away. Scrutinise them from up close and all of the flaws in the painting will probably slap you in the face.

The first step is to prime, and as with most of my other historical stuff, I prime with a black etch primer. You can buy these from any hardware store but the 'etch' in the primer ensures an exceptionally strong substrate to the acrylic layers that will go over the top.

The lions share of the work done on WW2 miniatures is the main uniform and where the Slovaks are concerned after a somewhat lengthy research period I decided to ditch the colour photos from the past and go with the uniform colours that all of the re-enactors in Czechoslovakia are using at the moment. In my experience all re-enactment guys are anal about accuracy so I would trust their opinions a lot more than raggedy old photos that have been recoloured.

My base coat was done with Vallejo's 887 Brown Violet for the deepest layers of the uniform. The first highlight, which presents the largest overall surface area that will be seen at the end was done with MIG's 113 Khaki Green No3 (Brit 1939-1942) with the final highlights along all of the raised edges being completed with MIG's 058 Light Green Khaki. This covers all of the cloth uniform and the puttees.

The helmet has a single coat of 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 897 Bronze Green and Vallejo's 887 Brown Violet with the blue helmet band having a basecoat of Vallejo's 925 Intense Blue, highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 925 Intense Blue and Vallejo's 943 Blue Grey. The little Slovak crosses are all hand painted with thinned down Vallejo's 820 Offwhite.

Everything else is relatively quick and simple after painting the uniform.

All of the Canvas bags and straps have a basecoat of Vallejo's 921 English Uniform applied with block highlights of AK Interactives 3072 M-44 Uniform Green Ochre Khaki whilst the leather belts and ammo pouches are basecoated in Vallejo's 045 Charred Brown and highlighted with Vallejo's 983 Flat Earth.

The boots are any matt black whilst the Gas Mask Tins are basecoated with Vallejo's 980 Black Green and highlighted with Lifecolor's UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2.

The rifle bodies are basecoated with Vallejo's 826 German Camo Medium Brown with the highlighted grain lines painted with Vallejo's 981 Orange Brown. All metal work is painted black firstly and highlighted with Molten Metals Steel. The rifle straps are basecoated with Vallejo's 880 Khaki Grey and highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 880 Khaki Grey and Vallejo's 819 Iraqi Sand.

Where the skin is concerned you can paint it how you please but personally I use one of AK Interactive's paint sets for 'Flesh and Skin Colours' and I've never looked back!


All of the bases are actually really simple. I buy all of my bases from Tony at East Riding Miniatures. Hes a bit of a legend and REALLY helpful. They are all laser cut MDF which allows for easy scoring of the base surface.

I then glue the miniatures to the scored surface and apply a thin layer of tile grout over the top. Once this is dry I glue a layer of one of my sand mixes over the top. Generally speaking I create my own mixes for base coverings as I REALLY don't like a lot of the crap you buy from the shops. Its generally speaking far too gaudy in colour or uniform in texture for my tastes.

I like the generally fine sand BUT I like to have lots of the little stones in there so I can create some colour contrasts with the dirt on the bases.

Once dry the whole base is given a basecoat of Vallejo's 826 German Camo Medium Brown and given a heavy drybrush of Vallejo's 814 Green Ochre.

All of the little stones on the bases are then given a basecoat of Vallejo's 995 German Grey and roughly highlighted (to create a jagged uneven texture) with any lighter grey of your choice but personally I go with Vallejo's 992 Neutral Grey.


The sides of the bases are now painted Matt Black. I never used to bother with this BUT I've really gotten into the clean precise look this lends to the bases. I love it now.

Now we come to the final stage of the bases which is the covering. The static flock that I use is my own mix. I go for something that approximates the dead and dry grass you find on the Steppes with perhaps a little more green in it than usual. This allows an overall base aesthetic that can be used the length of Europe in my opinion.

To provide the final textural boost to the bases though I use a variety of clumps. I had a LOT of problems finding ones that I felt were suitable but after a couple of years I came across a company called Tajima Miniatures whose self adhesive tufts are without a doubt the best I have ever found. I use there stuff by the bucket load now, in great variety. 

These all add to the final colour and texture of the bases of this army.

Now that the bases and the miniatures are all squared away the only thing left to do is sort the guns themselves out...


So the painting of the guns is where the real complexity begins. I should also point out by the way that I have opted not to apply mud and spattering weathering to these artillery pieces as I kind of really like the clean look of them. They do have plenty of knocks and rusty battered parts which adds to the scheme but that is where I have chosen to draw the line.

The main paint scheme of the guns is done by airbrush using my MIG Aircobra for the Priming and Basecoating and my Harder & Steenbeck for all of the shading and highlighting as my H&S has a 0.15 needle and provides a hell of a lot more control... but the MIG is SOOOOO easy to clean it just makes sense to use it where I can...

The Airbrushing steps are as follows:
i) The model is primed with a Matt Black Etch Primer
ii) The basecoat is Tamiya's XF-58's Olive Green
iii) The first highlight is LifeColors UA221 Khaki Olive Drab applied in a panel highlight fashion
iv) The second highlight is LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 applied as above but a bit lighter and gathered in along the edges and prominent areas
v) The third highlight is a 50/50 mix of LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 with LifeColor 01 White. This is applied sparingly just along the edges and prominent areas. 



So that's the airbrushing complete and don't be overly concerned if your third highlight was too heavy as the next step will, if done correctly will tone the whole contrasted effect down.

vi) Now we apply the Filter over the whole thing to unify the colour aesthetic and clip the contrast a little. I apply MIG's Filter 1506 Brown for Dark Green.
vii) Once dry wipe of any serious excess from where it may have pooled but otherwise leave it untouched.
viii) At this point I apply the first layer of Varnish. It doesnt matter which varnish you choose so long as it fixes the Filter layer as its an oil based layer.

Once the varnish is dry its time for the next layer which is where the real depth starts to come out.

ix) Over every detail laden part of the model apply a Wash. I use AK Interactives Wash 075 Wash for NATO Camouflage Vehicles. Don't be shy with this step. Slap it on aplenty! Then leave to dry for a while.
x) Once its dry use cotton buds (cue tips for you Yankees out there...) and use a gentle white spirit to wipe away the excess leaving great detail and shadowing around all of your detail areas and a general lowering of the overall chroma luminosity. Personally I use Winsor & Newtons Artists White Spirit as I had a bad experience with normal white spirit and have no wish to repeat the disaster!
xi) Once the whole piece is dry to the touch apply another layer of varnish to fix everything in place.

... once all of the actual painting steps proper have been squared away the last thing to do on the miniature is actually the rusted patches. For this just use an old kitchen sponge and dab on Vallejo's Panzer Aces 302 Dark Rust along the edges of the gun shield and other edges and spots across different patches of the model.

These Dark Rust elements then have the heaviest sections lined with Vallejo's Model Color 819 Iraqi Sand. These lines need to be very fine but also work well to work in as actual scratches into the overall paint scheme.

The very last thing that needs to be done with the painting is the wheel rims which are painted  with LifeColor's UA733 Tire Black and highlighted with Vallejo's Model Color 995 German Grey.

Varnish one final time with a super matt varnish and that as they say is that!


Remove from workspace and attach to the finished bases at your leisure!

...and there we have it again ladies; another battery to use for your Slovaks (or Germans if you are feeling adventurous!)

Until next time... FIX BAYONETS!


Monday, 1 April 2019

Flames of War: Slovak Anti Tank Artillery - 3.7cm KPUV vz.37 battery

So the next part of my Slovakian odyssey that I have chosen to share with everybody is the development and use of their very distinctive 37mm anti-tank guns; the 3.7cm KPUV vz.37, a later development of the 3.7cm KPUV vz.34. KPUV stands for 'kanon proti utocne vozbe' [anti-tank cannon] and just before 'the war' these lil' badasses were considered all singing all dancing! 



From 1936 the Skoda factories in Pilsen were supplying the Czech armed forces with the A3 anti-tank gun designated the vz.34 although almost as soon as they started delivery demands were submitted for the delivery of an improved and modernised version to be designated the A4.

The basic requirement was that it break through not less than 3.2cm armour thickness at a range of  1000m or over.


Setting to, the designers deemed that they were no longer restricted by the weight barriers that they were originally limited by and instead opted to focus on new developments of ammunition and utilising longer barrels that would also have increased longevity.

In addition to these steps a new irregular shaped gun shield was designed that would provide superior protection to the gun crew as well as the application of new wheels and axle.


A single prototype was handed over to the army for testing and performed well, reliably penetrating the 3.2cm cemented armour target at over 1100m but the staff were reluctant to introduce it to the armed forces due to fears over supply of two different types of ammunition to guns of the same calibre.


The designers overcame this problem by provisioning the A4 with the same chamber as the A3 so that all existing ammunition could be used with both A3 and A4's. The newer A4's were also still able to use the newer ammunition types.

In the summer of 1937 the new weapon was introduced into the armed forces and immediately went into production. 


The designation of the new A4 was formally named KPUV vz.37 and was provided in three different types; the first type which was to be provided to the infantry was provided with spoked wheels and was termed Model P. The second type, the Model J was for the cavalry and was provided with disc wheels with rubber tyres and had a new limber and caisson whilst the final type was the Type M with disc wheels and rubber tyres and was to be provided to motorised troops only.


The first 35 KPUV vz.37's were delivered in December 1937 and production continued thereafter at a rate of around 80 per month.  

By the time of the Munich Agreement of 1938 Czechoslovakia had over 390 Type P Infantry versions available and over 300 of the Type M. Including the older KPUV vz.34's the Czech army was capable of fielding over 1000 modern anti-tank guns which had reliable enough statistics to prove a threat to all German armoured vehicles then being fielded.


As of 15 March there were over 995 already in service with another 1600 on order.


Following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the general demobilisation of the Czechoslovakian army and the declaration of independence of Slovakia, the KPUV vz.37 proved to be particularly attractive to the Germans who left only 158 (along with another 113 vz.34 guns) for use by the Slovaks acquiring the rest for itself renaming it the 3.7cm Pak 37(t)


The allocation of these weapons within the Slovak army seemed to evolve quickly with a solid structure becoming apparent in short time. 


In 1939 Mobile Group 'Kalinciak', that participated in the invasion of Poland, possessed a single company of six 3.7cm KPUV vz.37 guns. This would appear to lead to the conclusion that this company had two platoons each of three gun sections with a single gun each


In 1941 the Mobile Group that crossed the Soviet border contained a single platoon of three guns in JPO-2 (the reconnaissance group), the II Battalion 6th Motorised Infantry Regiment possessed a single platoon of four guns whilst the Armoured Battalion had two companies with a total of nine guns (work that one out! I think its more likely to be a single company).


When the Mobile Group was expanded to a Mobile Brigade at the start of July of that year the Motorised Reconnaissance Group had a single platoon of six guns (although I think this is an error of recording and the group most likely had two platoons of three guns each, in keeping with the Czech and Slovak pyramidal organisational doctrine), II/6 still retained its standard four guns, the Armoured Battalion, now a Regiment had a full provision of 27 guns, indicating the existence of a full anti-tank battalion of three companies, each of three platoons with three gun sections of one gun each.


After the battle of Lipovec it was understood that the Slovak Brigade was not powerful enough to take on a full division in prepared positions and as such the Slovak forces were again reorganised towards the end of July and early August.


Within the Mobile Division, Infantry Regiments 20 and 21 each had 12 anti tank guns indicating a single company of three platoons with four guns in each platoon. The Reconnaissance Group had a single platoon of four guns and the division level anti-tank company also had a provision of 12 guns.


The Security Division existed from 1 September 1941 and had a total of 24 3.7cm anti-tank guns provided to it. According to Nafziger the Slovak's 101st Infantry Regiment had an anti tank company with 12 guns provided to it,the same can be assumed of the Security Divisions second infantry regiment; the 102nd Infantry Regiment to bring us to the total of 24 guns.

...and so, after a little potted history of the gun, lets take a look at how I built them.


So the first thing I had to do was pull the pieces together and I eventually opted for the wheels off of a pack of QRF's Czech 47mm Kanon PUV in the German anti tank gun range and the cannon and trails from a pack of QRF's Belgian SA-FRC 47mm anti-tank guns. 


The initial steps that I took to prepare the assets was that I filled the central bores on the wheels with Magic Sculpt, levelling the exposed top off. 

The Cannons had their barrels cut off with the filing countersinking into the body of the breech up to the point where the barrel meets the actual breech block.

After studying the trails I decided to ditch the two arms and make my own. I cut them away and drilled holes through the width of the body to take a brass rod as well as drilling down into the top to accept another shorter brass rod on which the gun would actually be mounted.


The image above shows the central bore of the wheels being filled with Magic Sculpt and once dry filed flat. This creates a surface upon which a number of rivets and bolt heads will be attached.


The image above shows the breech block with the barrel having been cut away and the body filed away back to the point where the barrel originally joined with the breech itself. This creates a square bottomed bowl that a new barrel will be inserted into.


The image above shows the cut down trail of the cannon with both of its arms cut away and the relevant holes drilled into and through it to accept the brass rod.


The bag of cheap brass tubes that I bought from China for use as gun barrels. Easy to cut, bend and shape!


In the picture above shows two lengths of the brass tubing shown in the previous image, one that is 20mm long and the other that is 11mm. There is also a 2-3mm section of plastic rod that has been bored right through, in order to fit over the end of the main barrel up to half way down its length.


The image shows the three pieces assembled with the two barrel sections glued one on top of the other and the muzzle brake attached onto the end of the main barrels.

There are a couple of extra steps that need to be done at this stage. Firstly the muzzle breaks need to be rounded off by sanding and the recoil buffers on top of the main barrel need to be filled with some kind of epoxy resin such as Magic Sculpt and a short section of thin brass wire inserted leaving a 1mm section extruded from the buffer itself.


Once the barrels are completed the next thing to do is the arms of the gun trails. For each gun being made a single rectangle 25mm long by 2mm wide and 1mm deep is cut and a line scored diagonally from corner to opposing corner on the largest flat side.


These scored plastic strips are then cut. Now I am not the greatest when it comes to precision cutting but the way I counteracted my own inaccuracy was by using a Stanley knife blade that I placed along the score line and pushed down. This provided me with perfect cuts every time.


The image above shows the correct orientation of the gun trail arms with the sloped side uppermost. Also notice the angled cuts at the head of each arm, cut at the angle which you want the arms attached to the trail body. This depends very much on the arm splay that you would like although I would advise checking the splay can still keep the arms on the width of the bases.


In the above picture you can see all of the additional details that need to be added to complete the gun trail arms. 

These include thin brass wire that has been bent around a needle nosed pliers to create the handles glued to the outside of the trail arms. Thin plastic rod that has been used for the push bars just ahead of the trail spades which are simply 5mm long by 2mm wide sections of brass strip bent at 90degrees 1/3 of the way down and glued to the sharp end of the gun trail arms. Finally on the inside edge of the left hand trail arm is a tow ring made out of plastic rod and tube.


The barrels are now assembled with the other parts to create the finished guns. The completed barrel sections are glued into the box hollows in the breech blocks which also have a small section of plastic strip glued to the left outside edge of the breech blocks rear with a small disc glued onto the right hand side and a small section of plastic rod glued along the lower edge on the left hand side.


Its now time to start working on the gun shields. The shield design is quite complex to the point that I wouldn't even know where to begin giving the dimensions so let me just say that the shields are about 25mm by 25mm. Pay attention to the wavy tops that need to be cut into them and pay close attention to the lower outside edge angles that need to be dealt with.


Above you can see the gun shields after they have been cut and filed to smooth out all of the edges.


Once the base shield shapes are completed the additional steps need to be started. Firstly two holes need to be drilled on the lower ends of the shield either side of the barrel channel for the shield hooks.

Four thin plastic rods need to be glued across the top of the shield as the measuring sticks on the actual gun shields. These are book ended with small plastic blocks with three paper thin plastic sheet strips glued across the rods themselves as the leather straps on the actual guns.

Two small squares of extremely thin plastic sheet are glued onto the right hand side of the shield for the viewing hatches, each of which has a small piece of thin plastic rod glued to the outside of the hatch to approximate hinges.


The hooks are created from thin brass wire which are bent as shown above using needle nosed pliers. The precision of the shape of each of the hooks is not so critical as they are very small elements of the guns themselves and as they are positioned under the actual guns is not even so noticeable that it will draw too much attention... although it goes without saying that at least an attempt on precision being made is preferable.


The image above shows the completed gun shields with the hooks pushed through the drilled holes and the rear sides filed flat with the rear of the gun shields.


Where the wheels are concerned I glue a slightly larger disc to the middle of the flattened central bore and glue six tiny rivets around the central disc.

All of these were cut from thin plastic sheets using a selection of micro hole punches which I bought as part of a cheap set from China. Well worth it as a lot of my sculpting of vehicles requires rivets!


At this point brass rod needs to be pushed through the body of the trail. I think I used 1mm brass rod for this and 1.5mm brass rod glued into the top of the gun trail body. The total width of the brass rod that goes through the width of the gun trail body needs to be only as wide as the gun shield once the wheels are mounted. You only need a shorter length of brass rod to be mounted to the top of the gun trail body so long as the gun body can be mounted a couple of millimetres above the trail body itself.


That should give you the completed elements for each gun that now need to be put together.

Once the guns have all of the elements assembled the last thing that need to be added to complete the construction are the two plastic rods that attach the upper rear face of the gun shield to the gun breech block.


These completed guns are now ready to be painted and once we have checked that they all fit on their bases properly we can begin!


Before we go any further I should again point out that every single miniature in this battery was a Battlefront 15mm Romanian OR Japanese (the anti-tank crewmen from this range just could not be argued with!) until I nipped off their heads and replaced them with Peter Pig heads to turn them into Slovaks. Either the ones with the Slovak Helmets that Martin sculpted for me or else the ones with the Soviet Pilotka Caps.

As with my previous artillery post the first thing that I do when building a battery, once the guns are completed is to paint all of the crew that serve them. This obviously took a bit of work so let me take you through it all step by step!


So, where painting all of the infantry is concerned its a relatively simple affair. They are done the way that I do them to look good from about 5ft away. Scrutinise them from up close and all of the flaws in the painting will probably slap you in the face, but from 5ft away I personally think they look tip top!

The first step is to prime, and as with most of my other historical stuff, I prime with a black etch primer. You can buy these from any hardware store but the 'etch' in the primer ensures an exceptionally strong substrate to the acrylic layers that will go over the top. Essentially the etch is a minute amount of acid that eats into the outer layer of the material being sprayed on creating a microscopically uneven surface for the paint to bind to... and don't worry its well below the level that is visible to the naked eye!


The lions share of the work done on WW2 miniatures is the main uniform and where the Slovaks are concerned after a somewhat lengthy research period I decided to ditch the colour photos from the past and go with the uniform colours that all of the re-enactors in Czechoslovakia are using at the moment. In my experience all of these re-enactment guys are anal about accuracy so I would trust their opinions a lot more than raggedy old photos.

My base coat was done with Vallejo's 887 Brown Violet for the deepest layers of the uniform. The first highlight, which presents the largest overall surface area that will be seen at the end was done with MIG's 113 Khaki Green No3 (Brit 1939-1942) with the final highlights along all of the raised edges being completed with MIG's 058 Light Green Khaki. This covers all of the cloth uniform and the puttees.

The helmet has a single coat of 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 897 Bronze Green and Vallejo's 887 Brown Violet with the blue helmet band having a basecoat of Vallejo's 925 Intense Blue, highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 925 Intense Blue and Vallejo's 943 Blue Grey. The little Slovak crosses are all hand painted with thinned down Vallejo's 820 Offwhite. Normally I would provide at least one highlight on a helmet BUT the combination of white Slovak crosses and the blue band provide enough contrasts for the eye in such a small place that a highlight becomes unnecessary.

Everything else is relatively quick and simple after painting the uniform.


All of the Canvas bags and straps have a basecoat of Vallejo's 921 English Uniform applied with block highlights of AK Interactive's 3072 M-44 Uniform Green Ochre Khaki whilst the leather belts and ammo pouches are basecoated in Vallejo's 045 Charred Brown and highlighted with Vallejo's 983 Flat Earth.

The boots are any matt black whilst the Gas Mask Tins are basecoated with Vallejo's 980 Black Green and highlighted with Lifecolor's UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2.

The rifle bodies are basecoated with Vallejo's 826 German Camo Medium Brown with the highlighted grain lines painted with Vallejo's 981 Orange Brown. All metal work is painted black firstly and highlighted with Molten Metals Steel. The rifle straps are basecoated with Vallejo's 880 Khaki Grey and highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 880 Khaki Grey and Vallejo's 819 Iraqi Sand.

Where the skin is concerned you can paint it how you please but personally I use one of AK Interactive's paint sets for 'Flesh and Skin Colours' and I've never looked back!

All of the bases are actually really simple. I buy all of my bases from Tony at East Riding Miniatures. Hes a bit of a legend and REALLY helpful. They are all laser cut MDF which allows for easy scoring of the base surface.

I then glue the miniatures to the scored surface and apply a thin layer of tile grout over the top. Once this is dry I glue a layer of one of my sand mixes over the top. Generally speaking I create my own mixes for base coverings as I REALLY don't like a lot of the crap you buy from the shops. Its generally speaking far too gaudy in colour or uniform in texture for my tastes.

I like the generally fine sand BUT I like to have lots of the little stones in there so I can create some colour contrasts with the dirt on the bases.

Once dry the whole base is given a basecoat of Vallejo's 826 German Camo Medium Brown and given a heavy drybrush of Vallejo's 814 Green Ochre.

All of the little stones on the bases are then given a basecoat of Vallejo's 995 German Grey and roughly highlighted (to create a jagged uneven texture) with any lighter grey of your choice but personally I go with Vallejo's 992 Neutral Grey.

The sides of the bases are now painted Matt Black. I never used to bother with this BUT I've really gotten into the clean precise look this lends to the bases. I love it now.

Now we come to the final stage of the bases which is the covering. The static flock that I use is my own mix. I go for something that approximates the dead and dry grass you find on the Steppes with perhaps a little more green in it than usual. This allows an overall base aesthetic that can be used the length of Europe in my opinion.

To provide the final textural boost to the bases though I use a variety of clumps. I had a LOT of problems finding ones that I felt were suitable but after a couple of years I came across a company called Tajima Miniatures whose self adhesive tufts are without a doubt the best I have ever found. I use there stuff by the bucket load now, in great variety. 

These all add to the final colour and texture of the bases of this army.

Now that the bases and the miniatures are all squared away the only thing left to do is sort the guns themselves out...



So the painting of the guns is where the real complexity begins. I should also point out by the way that I have opted not to apply mud and spattering weathering to these artillery pieces as I kind of really like the clean look of them. They do have plenty of knocks and rusty battered parts which adds to the scheme but that is where I have chosen to draw the line.

The main paint scheme of the guns is done by airbrush using my MIG Aircobra for the Priming and Basecoating and my Harder & Steenbeck for all of the shading and highlighting as my H&S has a 0.15 needle and provides a hell of a lot more control... but the MIG is SOOOOO easy to clean it just makes sense to use it where I can...

The Airbrushing steps are as follows:
i) The model is primed with a Matt Black Etch Primer
ii) The basecoat is Tamiya's XF-58's Olive Green
iii) The first highlight is LifeColors UA221 Khaki Olive Drab applied in a panel highlight fashion
iv) The second highlight is LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 applied as above but a bit lighter and gathered in along the edges and prominent areas
v) The third highlight is a 50/50 mix of LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 with LifeColor 01 White. This is applied sparingly just along the edges and prominent areas.

So that's the airbrushing complete and don't be overly concerned if your third highlight was too heavy as the next two steps will, if done correctly, tone the whole contrasted effect down.

vi) The next step is to apply the colour swatches over the body of the gun that will provide the camouflage pattern. With the green camouflage base now finished off I add swatches of Vallejo's 914 Green Ochre and Vallejo's 826 German Camo Med. Brown to leave an equal balance of all three colours.
vii) Now we apply the Filter over the whole thing to unify the colour aesthetic and clip the contrast a little. I apply MIG's Filter 1506 Brown for Dark Green.
viii) Once dry wipe of any serious excess from where it may have pooled but otherwise leave it untouched.
ix) At this point I apply the first layer of Varnish. It doesn't matter which varnish you choose so long as it fixes the Filter layer to the miniature as its an oil based layer.

Once the varnish is dry its time for the next layer which is where the real depth starts to come out.

x) Over every detail laden part of the model apply a Wash. I use AK Interactives Wash 075 Wash for NATO Camouflage Vehicles. Don't be shy with this step. Slap it on aplenty! Then leave to dry for a while.
xi) Once its dry (or dry-ish) use cotton buds (cue tips for you Yankees out there...) and use a gentle white spirit to wipe away the excess leaving great detail and shadowing around all of your detail areas and a general lowering of the overall chroma luminosity. Personally I use Winsor & Newtons Artists White Spirit as I had a bad experience with normal white spirit stripping away four layers of paint and primer and have no wish to repeat the disaster!
xii) Once the whole piece is dry to the touch apply another layer of varnish to fix everything in place.

... once all of the actual painting steps proper have been squared away the last thing to do on the miniature is actually the rusted patches. For this just use an old kitchen sponge and dab on Vallejo's Panzer Aces 302 Dark Rust along the edges of the gun shield and other edges and spots across different patches of the model.

These Dark Rust elements then have the heaviest sections lined with Vallejo's Model Color 819 Iraqi Sand. These lines need to be very fine but also work well to work in as actual scratches into the overall paint scheme.

The very last thing that needs to be done with the painting is the wheel rims which are painted  with LifeColor's UA733 Tire Black and highlighted with Vallejo's Model Color 995 German Grey.

Varnish one final time with a super matt varnish and that as they say is that!

Remove from workspace and attach to the finished bases at your leisure!

So, there we have it. A nice new battery of anti-tank guns and without a doubt one of the most complex builds you will have to do for your Slovak army. It looks like there is a hell of a lot to do to the point that some people will be intimidated by it. My advice would be to just get through it by concentrating on one step at a time. In no time at all you will have it all finished and be some of the only people on the planet to own a battery of these weapons in 15mm...

...oh yeah, and I'll deal with the trucks and staff cars in another post!

Fix Bayonets!