Sunday, 30 April 2017

Flames of War: Sculpting the TKD

Well we are at the tail end of April now and I haven't yet posted a single blog (this one notwithstanding). Unusual for me these day, so anyway I thought I would see what I've got knocking about so I can at least get one out there.

This is what I've come up with:

Anybody who has even a vague familiarity with me will know that when I get my teeth into something I bite deep. Very deep.

I have to have everything and I have to know everything!

When I started buying all of my True North Polish so many years ago I thought I would just have some Infantry based forces and be satisfied with that BUT over the last 10 years my interest in Poland has not waned at all. In fact quite the opposite. Its now more of a raging obsession that just wont quit! The more I find out, the more I find that there is to find out.

A classic view of the TKD

One of these areas that just seems to keep on giving is the area of Polish idiosyncratic vehicle test beds. You will already have seen the two TKS-D tank destroyers that accompanied the 10BK on their long (or short as the case may be) struggle across southern Poland (a small modelling project that I am very proud of by the way) but what of their older sister concept vehicles? the TKD's?

Well as these are not technically Black Brigade they took a bit of a back seat, BUT as I hadn't posted much due to my work on the Black Brigade taking up a lot of my time I decided that now would be a good opportunity to finish them. is what its all about:

In 1931 the TK-3 tankette, a development of the Carden-Lloyd tankette was accepted for integration into the Polish army (in fact by 1931 most had been upgraded BUT the Black Brigade were still mostly using the original TK-3's). The Carden-Lloyd  tankette however, was also being displayed in a Self Propelled Gun version touting a short barrelled 47mm QF Vickers gun. This was like waving a pretty necklace in front of a Magpie where the Polish staff were concerned and once the Polish military had secured the rights to produce the TK series of vehicles under licence in Poland research and development of a self propelled gun version began in earnest. It was assumed that this gun carriage could be used as an artillery support vehicles that could keep up with the cavalry brigades as well as being deployed as an infantry support weapon.

A scale plan of the TKD

In 1932 the Army Engineer Research Institutes Armoured Weapons Construction Bureau in Warsaw, under the direction of J. Lapuszewski undertook the design task calling the project TKD

A colour profile view of a TKD as it would have been in 1939

The design of the vehicle was an open crew compartment with the sides providing only partial cover. The gun with its shield was mounted on the central axis of the vehicle and protruded over the front edge. Other than this the construction of the TKD was the same as it was for the TK tankette. A driver was positioned on the left of the vehicle, since the weight of the vehicle had increased the suspension was strengthened and the tracks widened.

A study of the front of one of the TKD's

The home designed and built experimental Pocisk 47mm wz.25 Infantry Gun was chosen to be placed into the TKD as there were no other suitable guns in Poland at the time. This was the first modern gun that was actually designed and built in Poland and was built in a short production run. They never entered mass production unfortunately as it was decided not to equip Polish infantry formations with specialist weapons and the armour penetration was not considered good enough. On a plus point however the weapon was equipped to fire high explosive rounds as well as armour piercing high explosive and canister ammunition. 

A study of the rear of the TKD

The gun itself, when mounted on the TKD had a vertical angle of -12 +23 degrees and a small horizontal angle to play with. The TKD also carried ammunition stocks of 55 rounds at full capacity.

Four of the produced weapons were taken to be put into the experimental chassis of the TKD's, although it seems that the 37mm SA.18 Puteaux (found in the turrets of the wz.29 Ursus and some of the wz.34 armoured cars) and the Vickers QF 47mm were also tested on one of the chassis' (vehicle no.1159) but there is no record of the results of these further tests.

Between May and June of 1932 four test vehicles, using chassis numbers 1156-1159 were completed using mild iron in all areas except the gun shield. This essentially meant that the test vehicles, other than the gun shield, were classified as unarmoured vehicles as mild iron could not resist kinetic impact to any appreciable degree.

After tests of the vehicles were completed the TKD's were formed into an experimental platoon and sent out to complete field trials. They were assigned to the anti tank squadrons of a cavalry brigade for the 1932 and the 1933 manoeuvres which showed that they met tactical requirements well.

The experimental TKD platoon photographed in the mid '30's with the Polish interwar camouflage scheme on display

The gun however had too weak armour penetration and was not in general supply in the army. Because of these things, and having no other weapon in the Polish army that would satisfy tactical requirements for the project it ended up falling by the wayside and being forgotten.

In the years to come the TKD prototypes were still deployed in the 11th Experimental Armoured Battalion in the Armoured Weapons Training Centre in Modlin.

In 1938 interest in the TKD started to gain a foothold again and the experimental platoon was assigned to the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade although there is some discrepancy as to whether the entire platoon of 4 TKD's were assigned with the 2 TKS-D's to the 10BK or only 2.

They were deployed with the 10BK for the autumn manoeuvres in August and September 1938 and then soon after took part in the deployment for the reoccupation of the Zoalzie province whilst the Nazis were busy dismembering Czechoslovakia. The province was taken over by the gunboat diplomacy of Jozef Beck.

One of the TKD's can be seen centre right behind the TKS-D in the foreground whilst on manoeuvres with 10BK

Further knowledge of the deployment of the TKD's is unknown. According to some unconfirmed information they took part in the defence of Warsaw in 1939 but what is known for sure is that they were no longer deployed with 10BK but were definitely used in a combat environment in 1939 although their combat capabilities were very limited by the fact that they were not in fact armoured vehicles.

An abandoned TKD with gun dismounted photographed by the Germans sometime in September '39

A view of the same TKD viewed from the rear with a column of Germans marching past.

Building the Beast!

If anything these were even more complicated to make than the TKS-D's because they were smaller, not benefiting from an elongated hull, and had a degree of increased complexity with regards to all of the hardware that was put into it.

The two finished model TKD's, each mounted on a small flames of war base

Unlike the enlarged crew of the TKS-D's the TKD only had a crew complement of 2 so I only had to find two crew members to put into these instead of the larger crews of the TKS-D's but one thing that held up the construction of these was that I had to find a suitable cannon that could represent the 47mm Pociusk that was used on them. After finding something I felt I could nip and tuck I still had to wait for it to arrive.

A closer look at the build

Once I had possession of the cannons I then had to work out a way to fix the modified version to the vehicle chassis and then design and sculpt the gun shield with its extreme angle folded over the top of the vehicle.

A square on front view of the build. Lots and LOTS of rivets!

As you will be able to see from the photographs I have used a mixture of brass, magic sculpt and styrene sheets in the overall construction of the models, including appropriating German vehicles crews and head swapping their heads with Peter Pig Polish beret heads.

A view showing some of the interior detailing required on these open top rust buckets with spud guns

The mudguards for the vehicle were made out of sheet brass cut into strips and then hand bent to provide the rounded front ends of the fenders and then bent between two pliers to create the flat edges bend at the rear of the fender

A side view showing how the fenders were made out of brass and formed using schematic contours

As I was somewhat of a pauper where it comes to ability in sculpting my track sections I simply ripped the track sections off of an existing TKS model that I had and simply made up some instant moulds with some of that Instant Mould stuff, I cant remember what its called BUT this worked great for the TKS-D's but by the time I came around to casting up some track sections for the TKD's the mould edges were starting to degrade quite heavily so I was starting to get soft casts. 

Another view of the TKD build showing some more of the internal detailing

However I reasoned that with the weathering that I am now doing on my Polish vehicles I can disguise these flaws quite easily!

A final view of the loveliness that is a TKD made of Styrene, Brass and Magic Sculpt!

Anyway, after such a long wait for my stuff to turn up that allowed me to forge ahead with these finally all of the necessary tasks were duly achieved and I finally had two TKD's finished and ready to take their place in the hallowed ranks of the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade.

The next stuff you will be seeing from me will actually be Polish 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade stuff... the Black Brigade! the meantime...

Fix Bayonets!