Saturday, 25 February 2017

Flames of War: Sculpting the TKS-D tank destroyer and the Polski Fiat 508 Furgon pick up truck...

One of the really cool things about choosing the Polish 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade (10BK otherwise known as The Black Brigade) to game with is that it has the most variety of weapons and equipment of any of the Polish formations that you can field for Flames of War, assuming of course you are using Alex's Poland In Flames unofficial expansion (Because if you are just using the Blitzkreig book to play Poland you will probably starve for a creative outlet) which goes into some serious detail about the formations that were battling over the gateway to the east or west (depending on your direction of march). This expansion, written and edited by Alexander Kawczynski (his blog is Anatoli's Gameroom), is a serious labour of love that deserves real credit.

Even Alex's tireless work on this subject however cannot cover absolutely everything. The State Police which fought over all of Poland are missing, an opportunity for the Pinsk and Vistula Riverine Flotillas was bypassed and of course there are always the little things that slip through, although this could possibly have been due to a lack of extant evidence for their use.

Me? I like to field 'whats ifs' (Please refer to my 10TP and 4TP tank blog) as well as providing a chance for the weird and wonderful if one can find an argument for them. Perhaps taking first place with these arguments is the ones for the TKD Self Propelled Gun and the TKS-D Tank Destroyer, the first tank destroyer in history.

It is likely that the TKD's that were still around were deployed with the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade, and will be the subject of another blog post in the future whilst the two TKS-D's were still with the Black Brigade whom they had been with since late 1937 for field trials and deployment to Zaolzie which I will blog about with gusto here and now!

So we will start with the:

Polski Fiat 508/III Furgon

This is a small Polish utility truck that filled a variety of functions not least of which involved carrying all of the Heavy Machine Gun platoons about the battlefield. Now I have plenty of HMG's in my Black Brigade force and as such I couldn't avoid sculpting this horrible little beast any longer.

A modern rebuild of a 1934 Furgon without the spare wheels and soft top.
I just sucked in my bottom lip and got down to it...

and I hated every second!

The problem with this vehicle is all of the curved surfaces on it and the enclosed cab with no side windows and a curved windshield. Frankly I'm just not up to this yet so I decided to just get done what I could and be satisfied. 

The end result is OK I think but its not entirely accurate and the scale seems to have creeped up slightly on all of the other Fiats that I've done. Not by much, and with a softskin put on the back you will probably not even notice... but I know, and thats bad enough!

Anyway, this is a picture of the Furgon as I aim to finish mine:

The genereal utility version of the Furgon with its soft top on.
The sculpting that I did took a similar course to the other Polski Fiat 508's that I have already done with adjustments made for the cab. I decided to do a fully enclosed cab as I would rather paint black holes instead of actually have holes in my vehicle.

Once I put the softskin on the back it should prove to be one of the easiest to cast and reproduce as there are very few awkward areas that will tear a resin mold.

This is what I managed to knock up:

Not terribly interesting but there we go...

Now onto something a whole lot more enigmatic:

The TKS-D tank destroyer

The TKS-D was a further development of the TKS tankettes that initially had led to the TKD self propelled gun. The development of this little beauty was atypical of normal armoured vehicle development as it was originally conceived as an artillery tractor designed to pull the wz.36 Bofors 37mm anti tank gun and an ammunition caisson.

The TKS-D without the top skirt armour showing its caisson at the proving grounds in Barycz

It was conceived that the actual weapon itself could be dismounted from its carriage and mounted on the vehicle itself to be put back onto its carriage when setting up for anti tank duties.

Photographic evidence suggests that whilst even towing the carriage and caisson the TKS-D was only ever used with the gun mounted and by virtue of this fact became, in point of fact, the worlds first tank destroyer.

Fording a river in 1938 and showing the cannon dismounted from its carriage and placed into the vehicle mount.

One area of massive advantage in this role was its very low silhouette which potentially made it a particularly difficult target to hit.

The TKS-D was developed from a modified TKS tankette chassis, just as the C2P artillery tractor was. There were differences however, for example in the TKS-D side clutches were used in the transmission and bigger idler wheels, set closer to the ground as extra road wheels were used in order to increase the stability of the firing platform and provide better traction.

The main designers were J. Lupuszewski and H. Lipko who worked under the auspice of R. Gundlach who completed two prototypes in 1937 using chassis TKS nr.8897 and TKS-B nr.1510, with the TKS-B chassis already having been retrofitted with new running gear.

The TKS-D's had a new extended hull, most of which was taken up with the open topped crew compartment. Each of the prototypes had differences in hull shapes with one of them having a higher circuit wall, enclosing the entire circumference of the crew compartment and that sloped inwards at the top whilst the other only had the top sloped extensions on the frontal third of the vehicle.

The 'other' TKS-D showing the all round armour skirt
The gun sight, aiming mechanisms and loading block were all positioned on the left hand side of the gun so the drivers position was changed to the right hand side of the vehicle with the space behind him being used for ammunition stowage.

Each of the prototypes was also equipped with a two wheeled ammunition caisson that carried a further 80 rounds of AT ammunition.

Climbing a bank and giving a good view of the caisson and the gun carriage sans gun!
Once the two vehicles were completed they were tested at the Army Training Centre in Modlin. By 1938 they were assigned, along with the 4 strong platoon of TKD's to the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade being deployed on manoeuvres in August and September 1938, then participating in the reoccupation of the native Polish Zaolzie province from the Czech republic (this, when looking under the surface is quite a dirty episode of Polish politics which was rewarded with accusation of assisting Nazi Germany in the dismemberment of the Czechoslovakian state, had Stalin mobilising the Red Army and offering to land 700 fighter planes for Czechoslovakian use in the defence of the disputed territory, which was then followed up with some seriously poor political and social practises by the Polish government in the two states that comprised the Zaolzie province essentially turning the majority native quarter of a million Polish inhabitants against its own new government).

Being displayed for King Carol II of Romania in 1938
Further clarity on the actions of the TKS-D's is sketchy at best with no photographic evidence yet surfacing but the most recent research ('Dywizjon Rozpoznawczy 10 Brygady Kawalerii 1938-1939' Eugeniusz Piotr Nowak, 1999) suggests that the TKS-D's were still present with 10BK and along with 4 truck towed wz.36 Bofors, allocated to the Reconnaissance Battalions anti tank company, furiously resisting the advance of two German Armoured Divisions through the Beskidy Mountains (I've  holidayed in the Beskides and they are covered with switchback trails that wind inbetween steep and deep valleys) with one being lost on 5th September during the fighting at Skrzydlna and the second finally falling on 9th September at Albigowa.

Modelling the TKS-D

So this little beauty may be a tiny piece of cordite packing loveliness but make no mistake this was one bitch to put together. Its so small and so intricate with an open interior that I was frequently having to re-cut things, trim them down, redesign and redo parts.

Of all the vehicles I have done, this is the one that has taken me the longest to do.

The schematics of the TKS-D that I found to work off of

Now, fortunately I just happened to have a broken True North miniatures wz.36 Bofors laying around and so I decided that I finally had a use for its barrel! I also had ordered Early War German vehicle crews from Skytrex and I thought that these would do nicely as crews (with a little tampering of course).

I already had wheels with mudguards prepared for my Fiats and thought these could do double duty as the wheels for the caisson. Finally I realised I had no track sections that I could use.

However having an over abundance of TKS' I decided to rip the track sections off of one of these to use for some home casting to provide the track sections for the other TKS-D I need to build and the TKD's.... the rest is all me baby...

... and there we have it. Another rare Polish vehicle done.

At this point I now have another one of these to build as well as two TKD models. Given all of the Half Track conversions that I have ahead of me as well as actually learning how to cast models I have to say that I may very well have bitten off more than I can chew this year so to speak.... however when has that ever stopped me eh?

You just dig in and kick on. See how far you get! :D

Fix Bayonets!!!!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Flames of War: Modelling the Polish wz.34 Half Track truck... and more specifically the C4P Halftrack variant

The Polish wz.34 Halftrack, a home produced variant of the Polski Fiat 621L license built 2.5 tonne truck
So, even though I have made much progress sculpting and modelling my through the giant mountain of vehicles that The Black Brigade requires to field I find myself in the position that I still need to knock up some of the more prolific ones that they used, and one of these which was used in some numbers was the Polski Fiat 621L truck conversion into a halftrack; the wz.34 and its derivative; the C4P artillery tractor.

Ironically though, one of these half track models was also used by the Infantry Divisions heavy artillery batteries to tow the 155mm Howitzers so knocking up some of these ones would also see them serve double duty! Yay!

Where these babies were concerned though I am happy to say that I was aware right from the start that I wouldn't need to do a complete sculpt as the majority of the body shape was already available by using True North Miniatures Polski Fiat 621L trucks and just modifying them slightly. Simply put, I would just need to buy the vehicles, do a bit of nip and tuck, 'eh voila!'

Because I wont be selling these though I figured it would help any potential Polish players to give complete instructions on how I went about the modelling of them (You're welcome!) ;)

The evolution of the wz.34 and C4P

Poland was a major user of foreign built halftracks during the interbellum and more than any other was the Citroen Kegresse P17 and P19's designed by Adolphe Kegresse, the former chief of Tsar Nicholas II's motor fleet. On returning to France after the Russian Revolution he continued to develop the half tracked mechanisms, funded in part by the French army.

Kegresse's first completed project was a half track mechanism for the Citroen B2/10CV used for the cross Sahara desert rally of 1922/1923 followed by a journey across Africa in 1924/1925 (La Croisiere Noire)

Watching closely the Polish military determined that this travel mechanism seemed to be an ideal solution to cope with the proliferately poor roads in Poland, and even more so in the East of the country and so, after trialling the vehicle for a year opted to purchase 135 chassis' increased from an initial order of 108.

90 of these chassis were used to build the wz.28 armoured car (Ive done a blog of the three of these that I have constructed by the way) and the rest were signed off for trucks and special vehicles.

In early 1931 a contract was signed with the French who agreed to supply the Polish with a further 94 half tracked vehicles of varying designs (C6 P14, C4 P17 and C6 P19's) and these were delivered between May 1931 and December 1933 in various formats including artillery tractors, staff cars and telephone cars amongst others.

The C4 P17 carried on service the longest as an Artillery Tractor (and there is another post that I have done with regards to the Citroen-Kegresse Half tracks that were still in use in 1939.

The Citroen-Kegresse variants and the ensuing wz.34 designs. Image take from PIBWL (the 1939 Polish military vehicle holy grail!)
The Poles however, went on to develop the wz.34 and C4P from this design.

The Wz.34 Halftrack

Between the two world wars half tracked vehicles  became common currency in a lot of the worlds armed forces as they offered good (or better) off-road traction and mobility at a good relative cost. Look no further than the German Hanomag SdKfz 251 to see the evidence of this in action.

The Polski Fiat 621L 2.5t truck was produced under license in Poland from 1932. The half track version was designed in 1934 by the Armoured Forces Technical Research Bureau (BBT BP) based in Warsaw. The design itself was not a complicated one and was designed primarily to utilise many of the existing truck components including the chassis and engine block. Many of the other components were strengthened or modified including the gearbox which was adapted to better suit off-road movements.

The most obvious adjustment was in actually forming the half tracked vehicle by adding a rear axle tracked mechanism, which originated from the French supplied Citroen-Kegresse P14/17/19 halftracks and Vickers E tank suspension assemblies and modified slightly to derive a Polish version which suited the specs provided to the designers.

A prototype series of the wz.34 was built in 1935 whilst the series production started running in 1936 in PZInz (Panstwowe Zaklady Inzynieryine - State Engineering Works) in Warsaw.

By 1939 some 400 or so wz.34 halftracks had been produced in all versions. At least 80 of them were produced as Artillery Tractors designated C4P whilst many of the others became engineering vehicles and Battlefield Ambulance vehicles whilst the majority of them were designated for troop movements such as used by the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigades Terrain battalions which were equipped with the wz.34 instead of the Polski Fiat 621L truck.

Overall the wz.34 design was quite a successful one and saw a lot of active service in all areas, the main drawbacks of the design resting primarily with the truck engine which consumed far too much fuel and was underpowered for the jobs it was being asked to do!

The most prolific version of the wz.34 were the ones used as all terrain transports, recovery & repair vehicles, field workshops, armaments workshops, trailer tractors and such like in different units such as engineers and railway engineers.

A wz.34 Mobile Repair Workshop halftrack
Two of these halftracks were allocated to each Vickers E or 7TP tank company as repair vehicles, or even more. In the case of the 2nd Light Tank Battalion in 1939 they actually had 12 on strength, whilst in the 21st Tank Battalion (with the R-35's) there were 3. Two of these halftracks were also provided to each armoured train as a repair patrol and were usually carried on the flat cars.

Wz.34's were also used as troop carriers by the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade (10BK) from the summer of 1937. The two regiments in the brigade each had 12 vehicles allocated to them for terrain movement in place of the trucks and were used during the Black Brigades deployment to Zaolzie over the Czech border during the Polish reoccupation of this territory.
However, nothing has yet come to light of them being used in 1939, with no photographic evidence, no written references and none being recorded as being handed over to Hungarian authorities once the Black Brigade crossed the border. However this does not mean that they were not used, only that it is unlikely. The likeliest of reasons would be that the operational reviews of the vehicles after the 1938 field exercises and the Zaolzie deployment was that they simply weren't good enough for what they were required for and were therefore retired in favour of the Praga RV trucks which did sterling service in September 1939.

A wz.34 Ambulance Halftrack
Another uses of the wz.34 (which I wont be modelling by the way in case you were interested) were as field ambulances with the Polish Red Cross, which weren't actually a part of the Polish field armies but were an independent organisation working alongside the army, enabling the army to save budgets.

The C4P Artillery Tractor

From late 1936 C4P tractors were issued to the 1st Motorised Artillery Regiment (1. Pulk Artylerii Motorowej - 1.Pamot) replacing the older Citroen-Kegresse P14 and P17 halftracked tractors that they had had for the last couple of years. Not enough C4P's were able to be produced before the outbreak of war  to totally replace all of the existing French tractors meaning there were stocks of these still used in the war.

The 1.Pamot was a peacetime asset that was garrisoned in the town of Stryj, now located across the Ukrainian border. According to a TO&E of 1938 the 1.Pamot comprised a Light Artillery Battalion of 2 batteries of 75mm's Field Guns and 1 battery of 100mm howitzers, and a Heavy Artillery Battalion of 2 batteries of 120mm Field Guns.

Until 1935 the 105mm wz.23 artillery pieces and the 155mm wz.17 Howitzers were also constituent parts of the Motorised Artillery.

During the mobilisation of the summer of 1939 the 1.Pamot was able to create three Motorised Artillery Battalions (dywizjon artylerii motorwej - dam). Two of them were light artillery battalions that were each assigned to the two motorised brigades that Poland was able to field. Each light battalion had two four gun batteries.

The 2.dam was assigned to the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade and was equipped with two batteries of 4x75mm field guns although it is likely that the 2.dam was equipped with the older Citroen-Kegresse halftracks.

The 16.dam was assigned to the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade and was equipped with one battery of 4x 75mm field guns and one battery of 4x 100mm howitzers.

The 16.dam was provided with 18 C4P's that were used for towing the field guns and howitzers. The guns were towed along with their caissons, whilst other tractors were designated to tow ammunition trailers. All guns and equipment were fitted with pneumatic tyres.

One of 6.dam's C4P's abandoned in September 1939
The third mobilised motorised artillery unit drawn by halftracks was the 6.dam which was signed off to Army Lodz. This was a heavy artillery asset that fielded three 4 gun batteries of the older 120mm Schnieder wz.1878/09/31's. This battalion was fighting from September 13th in the Zamosc area and was equipped with tractors that had the short platforms and open backs.

Modelling Polish Halftracks of September 1939

Anybody who plays anything motorised for Poland 1939 is going to face the problem that there is next to nobody out there who manufactures the wz.34 and the only ones that do, do it badly (well theres a shock!)

There are perhaps two saving grace here however, and that is firstly the fact that almost all of the half tracks were variants of the wz.34 and secondly there is one manufacturer who produces the Polski Fiat 621L truck at a quality that is good enough for our uses, and that of course is True North Miniatures owned by Andy at Old Glory UK.

These trucks from True North take care of anything you need to do with the body other than the dicing and slicing which I will explain about shortly... but what about the track sections?

Well the company I buy my Citroen Kegresse P19 Artillery tractors off (QRF Miniatures) were happily willing to sell me a load of extra track sections and with a slight adjustment these served adequately as the wz.34 track sections.

Wz.34 Terrain Transport

Of all the half tracked vehicles used by Poland in 1939 this one was the most prolific, and thankfully by far, the easiest to produce!

For this model all I did was simply take the True North Miniatures Fiat 621 truck and remove the back wheels and use my Razor Saw to slice off the spare wheel that is slung under the very back of the chassis frame.

One of the double back wheels is cut in half with the outer half being used to mount on the left side of the cab with a small rectangle of styrene mounted on the top of the hub as a retainer.

The QRF Miniatures Citroen Kegresse track sections each had the front two bogie wheels cut out wit the rough edges sanded back and the tracks themselves reworked so they looked tight on the bottom but loose on top. A length of 1.5mm brass rod played the part of axle and the unit as a whole was then glued to the bottom of the truck chassis

Once the back of the vehicles was glued on two small curved lengths of brass strip were used to build new fenders which link the vehicle cab mounting to the flat bed on the back of the vehicle.

Oh yeah, I also opt to close in the cab of the vehicle by using really thin styrene sheets. I would rather paint windows that have empty spaces with no glass...

Eh voila! The first of many half tracked vehicles completed.

Early model C4P artillery tractors

Now, I'm not convinced that any of these tractors were still in existence when the Nazi's invaded as I have never seen any photographic evidence. I have a suspicion that at the very least all of them had been upgraded by the time the war started and supplied with closed cabs. However when all is said and done, these are a funky little option that I also cant find any documentation stating that these were no longer in use and as such I decided that having four of them would be a good little addition to a Polish Army.

An early model C4P artillery tractor with the canvas roof over the rear crew compartment and the forward open cab area

These ones are however, the most complex of all of the Polish half tracked vehicles to produce.

As with all other halftracked models the rear wheels are removed, although with the early model C4P the rear chassis under slung wheel was left in place.

The chassis arms were shortened so that the overall length of the vehicle was shortened to the appropriate length.

The track sections were prepared as with the wz.34 and it is here that everything changes!

In place of the cab an engine hood extension was built using three deep rectangles of 1mm styrene sheet which was then sculpted to provide a straight sided and curved top with the application of Magic Sculpt epoxy resin which was then sanded back.

The double seat was built using stacked styrene topped with sculpted epoxy resin with the curved protective bodywork which surrounds the seating provided by a length of 1mm styrene that had been curved into shape over a heating source and then trimmed down to size until perfect.

Once complete the drivers compartment was test fitted with miniatures designed for driving vehicles just to make sure that no further adjustments were needed.

The rear compartment had to have the rear 1/3 cut off of it, and I lined this up with one of the vertical metal bands so that this could do double duty as the rear cab end posts. Once the horizontal rear third was removed a longitudinal section three wooden planks wide also needed to be removed and this was done using my razor saw with the two remaining halves pinned back together with a styrene bench being created and glued into place against the back wall.

Four post holes were then drilled into the corners of the rear cab with brass rod filling the position of the lower half of the posts that provided the frame for the canvas cover of the forward and rear cabs.

The bottom of this rear cab has to be sanded down so that the lift of the body above the track sections is not so pronounced that the canvas hood looks like a high ceilinged Victorian house! Once this is done two lengths of brass strip are cut and shaped to represent the fenders that run the full length of the track sections with a sharply curved front end that joins to the forward cab area and the rear shallower sloped section that fits alongside the vehicle tow mount. These are both glued to the bottom of the shorter and narrower rear cab area.

The frontal window frame and the rear vehicle tow attachment were made very simply out of shaped styrene carefully cut to shape and glued to the vehicle with the front window frame also being epoxy resined into place and then shaped and sanded.

Finally, this tractor had to have a canvas roof built for it using the same method I used for the other canvas backs. A styrene fbox was created which had brass rod fitted to it in the shape of the actual canvas frame on the real vehicle and then epoxy resin is applied, shaped, sculpted and sanded to give the final version of the canvas roof... and there we have it! Only three more of these to do!

Late model C4P Artillery Tractor (Short Chassis)

It is this one that I believe was likely to be the most prolific of the half tracked tractors that the Poles used in 1939. I also believe that it is these that the early model C4P artillery tractors were upgraded to and are simply the same vehicle but with an enclosed cab.

A late model C4P showing its full cab and with its 100mm howitzer still limbered up. A great study of Polish camouflage.
This is a relatively simple conversion from the Fiat 621 truck to the finished halftrack.

The chassis frame is shortened as with the above version, along with the underslung rear wheel being removed with razor saw and the rear crew compartment is shortened and made narrower to the same directions as given above.

The track sections are prepared as before as are the track fenders which are identical. This time however one of the rear wheels is sliced in half with the front half mounted alongside the left door as with the wz.34 half track conversion.

The rear crew compartment has two brass rods bent to the shape of the canvas roof frame and fitted into the four drilled out post holes.

..and finally the frontal cab has all of its windows sealed using styrene sheets and the rear vehicle tow asset is constructed with styrene and glued onto the back of the chassis on its own mounting.

Boom! Done! (and yes, for those of you who are observant you will spot that I had actually forgotten to adjust the Citroen Kegresse track sections on this one! 6 weeks sculpting and modelling Polish vehicles does strange things to a mans head!)

Late Model C4P Artillery Tractor with shell storage cases

There is one final version of the C4P to build that is a little more mysterious than the others. With the previous three versions of the wz.34 and C4P there is definitive and available photographic evidence that the vehicle actually existed.

With this one however I cannot find a single photograph anywhere and in fact, other than images provided by other model manufacturers I can only find a single image plate of it:

Late production C4P artillery tractor with enclosed cab and flat bed storage boxes
So this one is built just as with the one before except that the chassis frame isnt shortened and the rear flat bed is not shortened except to cut the rear wall away. The rear third of the flat bed is converted into two separate boxes using styrene sheeting with benches constructed and placed on the inner side walls of the rear crew compartment as shown below.

Truth be told I actually cocked up the measurements on the rear section on this one as the boxes shoujld be bigger than they are so I am intending, on the other three of these that I will need to build I think I will shorten the rear chassis frame and flat bed and then the dimensions of the two boxes mounted on the end of the rear compartment will have dimensions closer to the real thing.

So there we have it. Four new half tracks for my Polish army.

Anybody else who wants to play the Black Brigade (or the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade) will have to, at some point make an effort to get a hold of some half tracks and the beauty behind these is that you don't need to sculpt, convert and cast your own. You simply need to buy a collection of Fiat 621 trucks from True North Miniatures, get a hold of some track sections and put some effort in with the Styrene and there you go, some of your very own half tracks!

Now, after 6 weeks of sculpting Polish vehicles I'm really starting to miss my brushes so I am going to take a break two vehicles short (the Polski Fiat 508 III Furgon and the TKS-D) of everything I need to do and head off and paint some PHR for Dropzone Commander for a bit!

Fix Bayonets bitches!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Flames of War: Sculpting the Polish C7P Artillery & Recovery Tractor

So, I am finally coming to the end of all of this sculpting business I have set myself... and by end I mean the first milepost in a ridiculous mountain of vehicles that I have set for myself over the next couple of years! LOL, but where the Black Brigade is concerned now that I have finished sculpting my C7P I only have two vehicles left to sculpt, the Polski Fiat 508 III Furgon pick up truck and the TKS-D tank destroyer that the Reconnaissance Battalion was rumoured to field a pair of in September 1939. Small fry!

So the C7P was a bit of a challenge as there is a superstructure that requires rather a lot of detailing at ridiculously small sizes. Quite a challenge... but what actually is the C7P?

THIS is a C7P, allocated to the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade

C7P (Ciagnik Siedmiotonowny Polski - 7 ton Polish Tractor) was a Polish tracked artillery, recovery and combat engineering tractor used by the 2nd Polish Republic before and during World War 2. 

The tractor was designed by the design bureau of Witold Jakusz of the PZInz company between 1931 and 1934.

C7P Artillery Tractors

In March of 1934 the Polish Army, following appraisals of many other prototypes, finally approved the C7P tractor to be its standard heavy tractor vehicle. It was considered essential for towing the heavier guns in the Polish arsenal such as the 220mm Mortars.

Around the year 1925 the newly reborn German military had started to modernise and expand the border protection emplacements along the Polish border areas and it was planned that at the possible outbreak of war between France and Germany in the future Poland would advance to occupy these fortified areas of East Prussia and Western Pomerania. A few old Italian 210mm mortars left over from WW1 wouldnt be enough to do the job!

In 1929 talks were opened with the Skoda works about a  newly designed 220mm Mortar that they had just presented to the world.

Following the application of over 70 modifications and adjustments to the design of the Skoda mortar 27 of them were supplied to Poland by Czechoslovakia between 1935 and 1936 and entered service as the '220mm mozdzierz wzor 32' (Mortar Model 32)

One problem that continued with these mortars however was the provision of ammunition. The High Explosive shells that were in development were not finished by the time the war broke out and the mortars were instead supplied with anti-fortification shells which yielded a terrific explosion and concussion wave but very little in the way of fragmentation pieces.

At the time of developing this Skoda weapon it was decided by Polish High Command that the 1. Pulk Artylerii Najciezszej (1st Heavy Artillery Regiment) would operate as a totally motorised asset. As mentioned above, various tractors were tested in 1931 and ended up with the C7P being the only one that fulfilled all expectations.

For transportation purposes the mortar could be reduced to three manageable sections (the barrel, the bed and the base plate) which each pulled on a Czech designed trailer and so three tractors were allocated to each gun. Additional tractors were allocated to pull ammunition trailers which were designated 'R' and were of Polish design. Delivery of these trailers however was slow and as a stopgap a number of Polski Fiat 621 trucks were redesigned as Ammunition Carriers.

Following the issue of mobilisation orders on the outbreak of war the 1. Pulk Artylerii Najciezszej was able to put three independent squadrons into the field; the 11th, 12th and 13th). Each squadron comprised of three two-mortar batteries, so each battery listed as having 11 tractors, making 33 for each squadron.

At the outbreak of war each squadron remained in its depot area at the artillery ranges near Gora Kalwaria until called upon.

11. Dywizjon Artylerii Najciezszej (6 mortars and 33 tractors) was given its marching orders on the night of September 4th/5th. The squadron was moved through a variety of locations until it finally found itself at its final position in the Tomaszow Lubelski cauldron on September 22nd due to orders to support retreating infantry struggling to disengage with the pursuing Nazis.

Despite using anti-fortification shells, these 128kg shells caused terrific damage to the Nazi psychology and was twice instrumental in this battle in forcing out German troops from newly won territory with their spectacular explosions.

Artillery duels also occurred with German batteries, although the effects on the Polish squadrons was negligible, although finally advancing German armour was able to destroy almost all of the 2nd batterys tractors. When all of the ammunition was finally expended and a breakout on foot alongside other troops proved impossible due to the Nazi encirclement the Poles opted to destroy all of the mortars in situ!

12. Dywizjon Artylerii Najciezszej (6 mortars and 33 tractors) left the depots on the night of 6th September. Three days later, whilst en route to Lwow, they met up with the 13th Squadron and travelled together for a while.

On the night of 16th/17th September both squadrons were ordered to move to the Romanian Bridgehead (A last ditch defensive position amongst hills with the friendly Romanian border at their backs allowing a safe fall back position if all else failed) although this plan also collapsed soon after due to the Soviet stab in the back on 17th September.

On September 21st the Squadrons troopers dismounted and assisted in the struggle for Kamionka Strumilova, then mounting up again continued onto Grabowiec where they were attacked once more. Enough tractors and guns were damaged that the troops were forced to scatter.

13. Dywizjon Artylerii Najciezszej (6 mortars and 32 tractors), on departing company with the 12. Dywizjon Artylerii Najciezszej, the 13th chose a route to the Hungarian Border (the safety destination for the Polish army once the Romanian Bridgehead became untenable) via  Brzezany but was attacked en route by Ukrainian nationalists and was finally surrounded by Soviet troops on 19th September with all assets falling into Soviet hands.

The Soviets captured seven mortars which certainly included  one from the 11th or 12th Squadron that was not evacuated from the Nazi-Soviet territorial dividing line in time.

C7P Recovery Tractor

The secondary recipients of the C7P tractors were the armoured units in the Polish army.
According to a mid 1939 inventory some 18 tractors had been allocated among the armoured battalions as follows:

Centrum Wyskolenia Broni Pancernych (Armoured Training Centre) at Modlin, equipped with Vickers E tanks, tankettes, wz.29 Ursus Armoured Cars: 7 Tractors

2nd Armoured Battalion at Zurawica equipped with Renault FT-17's, Vickers E tanks, 7TP tanks and  tankettes: 5 Tractors

3rd Armoured Battalion at Warsaw equipped with 7TP tanks: 4 Tractors

4th Armoured Battalion at Brzesc equipped with Tankettes and wz.34 Armoured Cars: 2 Tractors

In April 1939 Dowodztwo Broni Pancernych (Armour HQ) ordered 32 C7P's for immediate delivery. This order status up to September 1939 however remains unclear. Whilst we can be certain that some of this order were delivered to the Glowna Skladnica Broni Pancernych we cant be sure how many and where they were distributed to.

What confirmed information remains in existence points to the fact that 4 Tractors were delivered to the 21st Tank Brigade equipped with the French made R-35 tanks and the handful of Hotchkiss H-39's, mobilised at Luck, and three others remained within the 5th Armoured Battalion at Krakow.

According to a Table of Organisation & Equipment of 1939 each mobilised company of 7TP tanks should hold a single C7P tractor and tractors were also sent to both the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade (10BK) and the Warszawka Brygada Pancerno-Motorowa (Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade) before the outbreak of war.

There are plenty of photographs to be found of the Black Brigade on deployment to the Czech border in 1938 where the C7P's are shown alongside the tanks of the 121st Tank Brigade, however there are no photographs yet found of the C7P's taking a part in the September Campaign other than one photograph of German troops recovering some of the Black Brigades Vickers E tanks using a recovered C7P inferring that at least some C7P's were deployed along with the 10BK

A C7P under German control recovering one of the Black Brigades Vickers E (Type A) tanks...

Modelling the C7P

...and so we come to the modelling and sculpting of very own C7P! 

If Im to be honest I was looking forwards to doing this one, although perhaps a little intimidated because once again I would utilise Battlefronts 7TP tank track sections, to make my life that little bit easier (and of course fill in the spaces that Im incapable of completing myself).

The body was a different matter though. I would normally choose the easy option and go for maybe a T-26 body and build up the new superstructure on top of that but there was such a radical rebuild for this hull that I decided that it would probably be easier to just build a completely new hull from scratch and then build up the detail layer from there. Following my builds of the 4TP and the 10TP this completely new hull build didnt offer me any problem so I opted to start there.

The first thing to do was to ensure that the track sections were ready to be put straight onto the side of the new hull when built so I had to file the inside edge totally flat by getting rid of the Battlefront fitting guides whcih slot into Battlefronts resin hulls. Once this was done, consulting schematics I just had to fit the steps to the hull side on the track sections and file flat the middle sections of the long fenders so the little bars that are normally in evidence are removed.

Moving onto the body, the first thing that I did was, using 1mm styrene sheets build the basic hull and superstructure shapes and fill them with epoxy resin to give the model some serious rigidity so it doesn't get compressed in the mould making process later on.

Where curves were needed in the final design were needed, layers of styrene were used, with each successive shape layer stacking on top of the one below, but with the edge being withdrawn a determined amount with the final top styrene layer being the same size as the top of the curved areas shape. 2 part Epoxy Resin was then applied to bulk out the remaining ziggurat appearance of what is meant to be a curve and then left to cure over night.

The engine section at the back was built using 4 layers of 1mm styrene laid vertically with a heavy application of epoxy resin on the top to give me something to work with the create the sloped finish whilst the front was left off for the fine detailing stage.

Once the epoxy resin had set the next task was to regulate the body shape by cutting, slicing and sanding back the resin that was there to fill gaps, or provide a surface to work on such as the curved edges of the roof sides and the top cover for the engine section. Any areas that were far too heavily extruded were sliced back with some of my weird and wonderfully shaped scalpel blades and then the remaining surfaces were all sanded back with a variety of chisels slowly and steadily until the shape required was arrived at.

The final job was to apply all of the fine detailing and this is where these kinds of models really come alive.

The firsts step was to apply the remaining superstructure elements such as the superstructure window plates, the roof air vent and the towing equipment hanging off of the back. The latter two both required independent unit builds that were then applied to the vehicle and then, in the case of the roof air vent, was resined into place, left to cure and sanded back.

The superstructure window plates needed the most care and attention as each side has two plates at angles to the metal track sections complicated by the frontal window section of the two side sections travelling out to the second section from a thinner superstructure frontal plate which has the six windows on. Once the angles were worked out however these didnt prove too much of a problem.

The frontal window plate however was a little more problematic due to the thinness of the upper three windows that needed to be cut out from the styrene sections that were 0.3mm thick for these sections. With such small sections being removed the styrene had a tendency to crack under the shearing stress that the mini scalpels were applying. Eventually on the third attempt I drilled the corners of all windows and just executed straight cuts between them. Problem solved!

Superthin styrene (0.1mm) sheeting was used to model a new frontal glacis plate which then had the hatches scribed into them before being glued on top of the existing superstructure.

The engine grill for the back of the engine section was completed, just as on the 4TP and the 10TP, using a fine brass mesh which was laid on top of freshly prepared epoxy resin and pushed into it slightly. 20 minutes later a clay shaper was used to scrape away all of the resin that had come through the mesh so that the shape of the mesh was proud of the resin. This was then placed against the front edge of the sanded and shaped engine block. Again left to cure over night the edges of the join were sanded back and shaped the next day.

All panel lines were scribed and all hinges were constructed using 0.5mm styrene rod and 0.1mm styrene sheet.

The side windows of these vehicles, were not actually windows but open access areas that were covered using canvas sheets so these obviously also had to be modelled. Here I rolled out the epoxy resin (Magic Sculpt) until it was perhaps 0.3mm thick and then using a flat shovel bladed scalpel was gently lifted off the work mat, and then using clay shapers was modelled into the access areas and then shaped. All in all I'm most proud of this work on this model as I believe that it looks convincingly real to the naked eye, and with no paint!

Finally, after all of the body details had been applied only the rivets were left to do.


and finally they were done! Et voila

One other little mountain finally conquered. There are other bits to add, such as the vertical handrails but these I intend to model in brass, and after the casting is proven successful!

So, what do you guys think of this little guy?

Now where was I? Oh yeah;

Fix Bayonets!