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!


  1. Absolutely outstanding. Always love your conversion work.

  2. Thanks Tim. I aim to please, although actually in this case I was hoping to help others who want to play Polish as much as I can by showing how you can model your own half tracks. Ive got errors in mine, maybe others can be more vigilant eh? LOL