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!

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