Saturday, 28 January 2017

Sculpting the Black Brigade vehicles (that nobody else makes)... and a few 'what ifs'

So its now almost 1/12 of the way through 2017 and it occurred to me that I haven't so far posted any updates about what I've been doing since publishing my post about my targets for this year ahead.

Fear not though; I have been BUSY!

If you cast your eye back, I said that this year I was not going to let a lack of decent Polish 10th Motorised Brigade vehicles being manufactured hold me back!

A Black Brigade TK3 with a Polski Fiat 508 staff car in the background

I have been sculpting a range of Polish vehicles from 1939 that nobody else makes in 15mm scale for Flames of War. I was SO disappointed with the vehicles that were available for use with the Black Brigade that I just put off modelling the project in its entirety. In fact I found that the only vehicles I could find that I would be happy to use were Battlefronts TKS tankettes and True North Productions Polski Fiat 621 Truck (although even that  has its problems!) so after reading Mikes efforts on his Miniature Ordnance Review blog where he shows how he sculpts some Black Brigade vehicles I was inspired to take the plunge myself and start sculpting my own in order to cast them up and pack out my 10th Motorised and Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigades with nice vehicles that barely exist anywhere else on the planet.

I also decided that it would be nice to have a few 'what if' Polish vehicles for those vehicles that very nearly made it into production but weren't able to because of the German invasion...

The problem is that before last year I had never sculpted anything before and there are quite a few vehicles that the Poles did have in 1939 that need to be done, and here is the complete list of what I have decided to do (bearing in mind that all I have done before now is one crappy Vickers E tank)

i) 11x 4TP tanks (a nice 'what if' light tank that was designed to take the place of the TKS
ii) 11x 10TP tanks (a nice 'what if' Polish Cruiser tank that was due to go into production)
iii) 2x C7P Armoured Vehicle Recovery Tractors
iv) 4x Vickers E (type A) Light Tanks (2 machine gun turrets)
v) 6x Vickers E (type B) Light Tanks (47mm armed single turret)
vi) 6x Polski Fiat 508 Lazik staff cars
vii) 4x Polski Fiat 508 Motorised Tazcankas (open backed light truck mounting an HMG)
viii) 4x Polski Fiat 508 Furgons (light pick up truck)
ix) 6x Polski Fiat 508/518 light artillery tractors
x) 10x Polski Fiat 621 truck canvas backs
xi) 4x Praga RV truck canvas backs
xii) 4x C4P Short wheel base half track artillery tractors (Polski Fiat 621 truck conversions)
xiii) 4x C4P Long wheel base half track artillery tractors (Polski Fiat 621 truck conversions)
xiv) 6 x C4P Terrain Transport Halftracks (Polski Fiat 621 truck conversions)

Those of you that have been following me for a while may remember the Vickers  E tank that I did in 2016.

An original Polish Vickers E tank... what its supposed to look like!
I was pleased enough with the results of this tank that I felt I had enough confidence to go and do all of the other vehicles that the Polish Black Brigade (the hallowed 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade) and the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade were using in 1939.

The Vickers E sculpt that I did back in February 2016

If I have learnt one lesson whilst doing this, it is that I am SLOW when it comes to sculpting. Im no expert at sculpting so I'm naturally going to be a bit slower than the average Norman...

Other than the lack of accurate tanks being produced by anybody for the Black Brigade there is a universal lack of the small softskins that they used.  The only manufacturers doing the Polski Fiat 508 Staff Car is True North Miniatures and the model is, frankly, underwhelming.

The Black Brigade also used Polski Fiat 508's and 518 parts for small cargo trucks, and light artillery tractors... as well as motorised Tczankas. It was these that I decided that I would attempt first.

The first to be addressed was the Polski Fiat 508 Lazik staff car. These were handed out to officers by the bucket load, and here is one of the examples in a photo taken just before the war:

off road tyres fitted and troops showing off their leather coats and Austrian helmets from 1916
In the interests of scale each of the squares on the green cutting mat is 1cm by 1cm by the way.

I decided that the model that was available was very typical of the True North vehicle casts and was undersculpted and poorly proportioned so I decided to have a stab at this one first:

This is the one that I came up with. The wheels are all being done separately as there are different types of tyres for different types of vehicles so I collected all of the tyres together and started doing a set of conversions. The additional bits and pieces such as windscreen frames and bracket clipped rifles and such like will all be an additional cast to be glued onto the model after casting.

The next one to be done was, to my mind, probably one of the most important and that was the Polski Fiat 508/518 light artillery tractor because it is these that were used to haul all of the anti tank guns of the motorised brigades.

It looked like this:

Polski Fiat 508/518 Light Artillery Tractor
I always thought that these were quite attractive little vehicles and the Germans half inched loads of them after 1939 to use for themselves so they were obviously good at what they did!

Here is what I came up with:

The heavy machine gun company of the two motorised brigades that Poland had were also each equipped with a platoon of motorised taczankas, which were light trucks with flat backs upon which was mounted a heavy machine gun and its operator.

A Polski Fiat 508 Taczanka in the 1937 Warsaw military parade
There are hardly any photographs of these vehicles in existence anywhere... so with my Mark I eyeball deployed this is what I was able to cobble together:

I don't know why but I really like these little Taczankas and I can see me getting plenty of mileage out of them when I use my 10Bk in Flames of War...

Anyway, I'm sure you will all notice that there are no wheels on any of these light trucks and cars so far:

My selection of wheel conversions for the Polish light trucks

On the top left you will see the original wheels as received. The top right are the weird rear wheels on the Artillery Tractors and the Tazcankas with the drums over the hubcaps. The four wheels below this have different sculpted hub caps which are covered in radial indents whilst the two on the bottom left have the quarter fenders over them which are mounted on the sides of the trucks. I still need to do two more of these quarter fender wheels but with the radial indents.

The next big issue that I had was with the True North Productions Polski Fiat 621 trucks. They are sculpted with an open back, which is a bit of a bummer as nobody manufactures Polish troops seated in trucks... or even truck cargo back benches. 

Because of this I decided that it would be prudent to sculpt a canvas back that could be inserted into the open cargo bed.

This is what one of the trucks looked like with its canvas back deployed:

Polski Fiat 621 truck
This was one of the first things I did as I figured it would be a relatively simple reintroduction to sculpting but... oh my God! What a ball ache! Some very frustrating times whilst doing this. I started off with a Styrene box which I then put brass wires to represent the ribs which I then finally sculpted over the top with Magic Sculpt...

These canvas backs come right out and should be the easiest thing I have made so far for the casting process!

Anyway apart from the three softskins and the canvas backs for the Polski Fiat 621 truck I also decided to nail the tanks.

The 4TP and 10TP prototype tanks that Poland had  never entered mass production due to the fact that the 4TP, despite being an intended replacement for the TK3's and TKS' that the motorised brigades used, it was determined that the design would be obsolete by the time full supply to the army and cavalry was reached whilst the 10TP was actually ready to go into production... just as the Nazi's invaded BUT wouldn't a few 'what if' games be cool to play with these tanks?

The 4TP was a light tank armed with a heavy machine gun and a 20mm autocannon and looked like this:

A 4TP being given the once over by Polish mechanics. Note that no weapons are mounted.
This one was a massive MASSIVE learning curve for me, and I had to use a range of different materials and techniques to get this thing made. You will notice from the photos that I am still waiting for some suitable brass rod to arrive before I can sculpt and attack the 20mm Autocannon and the bogie assemblies still need some fine detail applied to them...

...and finally the vehicle that I am currently working on is the Polish 10TP Cruiser Tank.

A prototype Polish 10TP tank photographed in early 1939
This tank was a beauty and possibly one of the most beautiful armoured vehicles of any nation in 1939. It was designed using as many components already in existence to facilitate easier battlefield repairs and cannibalisation, including using the turret of the 7TP tank witih its excellent Bofors 37mm Anti Tank gun and coaxial heavy machine gun. Following a failure to secure a license the Polish Military Engineering design bureau designed its own version of the Christie suspension system and put it all together into this tank. Following intensive testing, including a road test of about 600km without breaking down the tank was approved by army high command and was put forwards for manufacture... just before the Nazi's invaded and scuppered it!

I have a long way to go with this bad ass so far but here is where I am with it so far:

It doesn't look like much at the moment but once all of the epoxy resin has regulated the sides and hull superstructure it will look a lot better. I'm really excited about this one!

So there you go, as I said; I have been busy but oh my God I am sooooooooooo slow! Still nothing good comes easily!

Ill keep you guys in the loop as I produce more of these vehicles. Now...

Fix Bayonets!


  1. Great looking models, love the Fiat 508...

  2. You are insane :) André Silva (Portugal)

  3. Cheers guys. Glad you are liking them. Andre, you dont have to be insane to work here but it most definitely helps! :D