Friday, 26 February 2016

Flames of War: Sculpting the Polish Vickers E Tank

There will come a time in every Flames of War Polish players life when he looks at the Black Brigade and go 'Oooooooh I MUST have!!!!' However there is one thing that will stand in their way. One giant turd in the sandwich that will stop any collection of 10th Motorised Brigade force being made possible... and that ladies and gentlemen is a complete, utter and abject lack of decent sculpts for the Vickers E tank that is out there.

There are of course a couple of manufacturers out there that do these tanks but they are SO unbelievably bad that one can only assume that the sculptor forget to use scale plans of the tank on the day he/she sculpted it OR of course the other possible reason being that they were testing their sculpting abilities wearing a blindfold.

My solution was to throw my dolly out of my pram and sculpt my own. Ive been following other peoples blogs and talking to friends about doing home casting and I decided to attempt a sculpt of one before I went ahead and purchased a Vacuum Cylinder. I'm satisfied enough with my results that I decided it was worth the attempt so I now have a brand spanking new Vacuum Cylinder sitting under my desk at the moment.

A column of Vickers E type B's on the move
The Vickers E or Vickers 6-Ton tank was a British design that was designed privately by Vickers. It wasn't sold to the British army but was instead exported to numerous operators around the world, including the Soviet Union who improved the tank until arriving at the T-26 and Poland who continued the development until arriving at the 7TP. The British arm evaluated the design and rejected it over queries concerning the reliability of the suspension.

Typical of its day the Vickers E only sported about 13mm of armour and carried a low velocity 47mm QF main gun (on the type  B only, the type A having two machine gun turrets side by side), although it was one of the first mass produced tank to have a co-axial machine gun. It had an operational range of 99miles (160km) with a maximum speed of 22mph (35km/h)

A spick and span image of a Polish Vickers E tank complete with company markings on the side of the air intakes

Experience with the Polish machines showed that the engine tended to overheat due to poor airflow over the air cooled Puma engine. This was addressed by the addition of large air vents on either side of the hull. Poland purchased 50 and licensed it for local production but only put together 38 out of the 50, using the unassembled 12 for spare parts. The Poles modified it with larger air intakes, their own designed machine gun, 360 degree Gundlach periscope and 5 or more of the tanks being kitted out with two way radios.

Out of 38 original tanks that were supplied with two turrets 22 were eventually modified to have a single modified turret. The tanks were in bad shape by 1939 having had 5 years of intensive use as Poland trained up its newly developed armoured arm. However the tanks did perform well in the September campaign as a part of the 10th Motorised Brigade (the Black Brigade) and the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade.

A light tank company would be kitted out with 16 tanks. 10-11 single turret type B's and 5-6 type A's with double turrets, each platoon having three single turret tanks and two double turret tanks. The 10BK had the 121st Light Tank Company attached whilst the WPMD had 12th Light tank company.

A destroyed Vickers E of the 10th BK being given the once over by German troops
It was fighting with the 10BK that the Vickers E really made a name for itself. The tanks were used to  support the motorised cavalry in delaying the actions of two German armoured divisions who were trying to advance through the Beskidy mountains. Due to the scarcity of armoured forces the 121st Light Tank Company was held as a central reserve with the Brigades tankettes and used for local counterattacks when German breakthroughs were threatened.

Through a series of delaying actions, three of the Brigades tanks were separated and joined local actions around Nowy Sacz with the 21st Mountain Division. The brigade eventually lost the rest of its tanks through a series of attritional actions, eventually running out of petrol to supply the vehicles.

Colonel Stanislaw Maczek, commanding officer of the 10BK described losing all his tanks due to a lack of fuel in his memoirs "... In my thoughts Im sending warm thanks to this brave company: for saving the day at Naprawa, for outstanding participation in the assault at Kasina, for doubling and tripling its presence on the Brigades eastern flank, for they were supporting the units morale just with their presence; for they did not shirk from the hardest tasks saying that they are only old training junk!"

The final actions of the company were six tanks who had been supplied with a home made petrol mix of kerosene and mentholated spirits, fighting with the 6th Infantry Division as they attempted to withdraw over the River Tanew. During these final battles the company commander, Captain Raczkowski was injured and commanded the company from a stretcher, laying across a staff car.

A view from the front of the Vickers E showing how far it has been restored

One of the three lost Vickers E tanks that was fighting alongside the Polish 21st Mountain Brigade was found submerged in a  river around the town of Nowy Sacz in the '90's by a farmer. It was rusted and decayed right down to the frame but the tank was painstakingly excavated and restored.

A close look at the Vickers E leaf suspension on the bogey cradles
Whilst not rebuilding the tank entirely the extant parts of it have all been restored with about half of the tank being left without armour plating so that tourists can see inside of the vehicle.

It now rests in the Krakow Military Museum in the September Campaign section.

The suspension and gear arrangements with the huge Polish air intakes on the back of the  tanks engine deck

For those who have a real passion for the 10BK history, this is actually one of Maczeks tanks, one of the Black Brigades vehicles, one of the vehicles that fought and shed blood for Polands independence and helped the Black Brigade become the only Polish formation on the field that was never defeated!

I have had my hands on this tank. It was like touching history!  

A close look at the 47mm QF artillery piece and .303 coaxial HMG
So, having decided that the Vickers E models that are out there are totally unsuitable for use in a 10BK force, and by totally unsuitable I mean that they are probably the worst representation of the vehicle that they are supposed to represent that I have ever seen, I decided to take the plunge and do a sculpt of my own.

I used a Battlefront T26 as my base model. carved up the superstructure to give flat sides on all but the engine deck and attacked the rebuild from there.

A view of the side of the completed sculpt of the Vickers E

The turret was the most difficult thing to do with this tank taking me three attempts to get to a place I was happy with. I used a toothpaste tube cap to provide the angled sides of the turret and a mixture of 1mm Brass tubing and guitar string to provide the weaponry.

A view of the completed sculpt from the front
The grills that cover the engine air intakes was a bit of a compromise for me. I decided that there was no point in trying to sculpt a grill with as many divisions as the actual tanks have and instead opted to just go for the effect. I trialled a few different options eventually deciding that green stuff indented was the most practical way forwards.

A view of the completed sculpt from the side rear
The last major consideration was whether or not to do the sculpt complete with rivets. I had finished the sculpt and was relatively satisfied with the result. In that it was certainly better than any options I could buy... but then I kept looking at Mike from Miniature Ordnance Review's sculpts for his Vickers E's and decided I really couldn't be satisfied with a rivet-less tank.

I purchased a 0.3mm rivet punch and spent two nights just punching out rivets.

These things are SOOOOOOOOO tiny that when you punch them you generally have no idea where they are because they just look like dust... until they are put onto the tank and stand loud and proud!

They are so small I had to put them on with two needles. One of the glue on the vehicle and one dipped in water so it could pick the rivets up and move them onto the vehicle. 

A view of the completed sculpt from the rear

 So there you have it! A completed Vickers E type B ready to attempt casting with.

Once Ive mastered how to use sculpting materials I will also have a solid Black Brigade and Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade force to play with in Flames of War... but first Im going to go and finish some French Indochina war Commando's :D


  1. Impressive details...and photos!

    1. Thanks Phil, lets see if I can work out how to cast it without destroying the mould every time eh? LOL

  2. Wow that's a very nice sculpt! I really want to see your Black Brigade once finished!

    1. Really glad you like it mate. To be honest though, I'm quite a way from doing my 10BK as I have half a dozen more or so vehicles and pieces to sculpt before I'll be ready to dive into learning how to cast... BIT when I do actually manage to get it all done there will be blogs galore!