Monday, 30 March 2020

Spain in Flames: Asturianos Dinamiteros

After a long (and soon to be forcibly resumed) absence due to house renovations I have decided to break my silence with a small announcement.

Catalan Dinamiteros with the 'Durruti Column'

There are those of us out there who simply cannot put down stuff to do with the Spanish Civil War. I am one of those people. For me the SCW represents the last European conflict with really flamboyant uniforms. A conflict that was not quite WW1 (if only because the Spanish proved themselves woefully resistant to digging proper trenches!) and yet not quite WW2 either. A conflict waged with colonial warfare savagery by the nationalists and by jingoist communist propaganda by the republicans. A war where mild steel was bolted together over cars and called tanks (well, actually they were called Sooty's [Tiznao's] but you get what I mean) and where the division between socialist ideology and fascist ideology is almost like holding up a mirror to the politics of today.

Now, I haven't actually painted anywhere near my complete collection for this stuff BUT it is something that will feature in a big way in the coming couple of years or so.

Because of the obscurity of some of the things that were used in this war, and the paucity of manufacturers supporting these needs in 1/100 (a.k.a. Gods One True Scale!), I have found myself having to go the extra mile for some of the things that I want for the Spain in Flames English version I am setting myself the task of writing in the coming days.

Other than Lluis and Minairons in Spain, and the newly resurfaced No Pasaran! range at QH Miniatures, Martin at Peter Pig is the only credible supplier of SCW stuff in the UK and following Martins willingness to sculpt the Slovak heads that saw such prolific use in my Slovakian army I was lucky enough to meet Martin at Aldersley Wargames Show earlier this month and chew the fat with him for a bit.

One area that his Republican, and more pointedly his Republican Basques (or Euzkadi's) are noticeably deficient are in the area of the iconic Dinamitero. I suggested to Martin that a small range of these would almost certainly find their way into peoples armies and that nobody else was doing them to which he suggested I come up with some sketches. We spoke about other stuff as well (more on these at another time maybe) but especially where the Dinamiteros are concerned he said that if I provided said sketches he would get straight to work sculpting them.

I thought you guys would  like to have a preview of what I knocked up for him.

These are the sketches I sent to him, to which Martin duly responded with a confirmation that they are suitable and that he is busy sculpting them already...

Anyway I just thought you guys would like to take a peek at what I sketched and perhaps what the final sculpts will look like:

Yeah OK, so the heads a bit big on this guy... he obviously has the brains of the outfit!

So, the famed dinamiteros had a brief history dating back to the Asturian miners strikes of 1934 where the mining industry laid down its tools and to which the newly invested left wing government called in Colonel Francisco Franco to suppress it... this he did with some unbelievable savagery using the Spanish Foreign Legion against their own countrymen for the first, but by no means the last, time.

Just as in the miners strikes of '34 when the civil war broke out in '36 the Republic, the Catalans and the Basques were all short of arms as the Nationalists had managed to swipe most of them and maintain control of the areas where the country's main arms depots were located. 


Walking, carrying his sling and loosening one of the grenades from one of his pouches...

Because of this paucity of arms the decision was made to form small cadres of troops who would become proficient with the sling, which they would use to hurl locally manufactured explosives... termed somewhat loosely 'grenades'. They were actually just tins packed with explosives with a fuse...

These guys quickly gained somewhat of a swashbuckling reputation, appearing to know no fear... and lets be honest; swinging those things around above your head with a homemade fuse we can well believe that these guys never went to school and learnt how to recognise danger!

It would seem that dinamiteros were principally from Asturia alongside the Basque territories and as such they were often to be seen fighting alongside the Euzkadi armed forces whom they were sent to assist. It would seem also that there were dinamiteros present with the Durruti Column of Buenaventura Durruti formed in Barcelona, fought a bit around Saragossa before heading south to the defence of Madrid so we know that dinamiteros were present in the Catalan forces as well. I can't find any reference to them being present in any other forces from further south such as Valencia, Madrid or Malaga. Jose Bueno made an image of a Dinamitero in the Communist 5th Regiment but it would seem that this was a mistaken deduction of an old photo. 


Always good to have one guy kneeling, again taking a grenade out of one of his pouches.

One thing that is noticeable about the militia columns of the early days of the Republic before they all got militarised and amalgamated into a conventional field army in April 1937 was the lack of conventional uniforms. Blue overalls took a prominent place due to the availability but especially with the Asturian miners there was no such thing as an orthodox look. They wore normal clothes with the variety of looks and styles that this entailed.

There were certain areas that there were commonalities though and this was mainly in headwear and field webbing.

Great example of civilian clothing with the Pasamontana cap

Where the headwear is concerned I have seen two common types of headwear in the photographs of dinamiteros and that is the ubiquitous basque beret and the pasamontana mountain cap. I've sketched all of mine with berets because I believe that the berets are the easiest to clip off and do a head replacement for the pasamontanas if necessary.

The next and perhaps most iconic item that the dinamiteros carried was the white canvas pouches that the local explosives would be carried in. Each of these packs would fit onto the belt and have pouches for three explosives and would be worn one on the left and one on the right of the belt buckle. The true lunatic fringe could/would also carry a third pack on their backs over their kidneys for a total of nine 'home made bombs'!!! Seriously? WTF?!?!?!



The webbing itself would be a very simple affair with a rugged thick leather belt akin to the US Sam Browne belt and either a 'Y' yolk or crossed belts over the shoulders.

One commonly carried item was a sling belt with multiple pouches on. I would jump at the conclusion that these pouches on the diagonally slung belts were used to carry rifle ammunition BUT the damning thing is that I have not seen a single picture of a dinamitero with any firearms with the exception of a single slinger with a pistol and holster. 

witness the pistol and holster...

My thoughts are they are used to carry the usual paraphernalia such as matches and oil for example due to a dearth of weapons 

Everything else would be the normal mix of clothing and footwear...

All of this is obviously a work in progress and if anybody out there can shed a light on their organisation and/or deployments it would be a great help!

Thursday, 12 December 2019

FoW: Slovak Trucks, tractors and Staff Cars

... and so finally we come to the end of our Slovakian odyssey (of course that's not to say in the future I won't consider adding some Praga AV staff cars and some LT vz.38's and 40's) but for now? No!!! That's it! I'm done with all things Slovakian for a while.

I thought we would tie the rope around the neck of the project with a look into the vehicles that I actually sculpted and cast for the army. Just a short section on each, y'know a bit of history (as I am wont to do on occasion) a description of how I painted them and a couple of photos of them in production and finished.



Nothing too labour intensive! I want to finish on a high note if you know what I mean?

So what are we going to take a look at then?

Well first of all it has to be the backbone of the Slovak Mobile forces; the Praga RV truck of which I made three types; the canvas back, the box back and the pioneer truck.

Secondly we will look at the Praga T-9 artillery tractor. A big beast of a machine that sadly only saw a short service lift BUT looks great when its put with its heavy anti-aircraft batteries.

Finally we will take a look at the Tatra 57k 'Hadimrška' staff car. I chose this one over the larger six wheeled Praga AV staff car because primarily it was quicker and easier to knock out, secondly the Germans used plenty of them so they were a good analogue for a German staff car as well and by the time Slovakia marched across the border of the Soviet Union they were using so many different types of automobiles that I didn't think it made much difference what I chose.

So... let us begin!

The Praga RV 

The Praga RV was an army off-road truck model that was designed and manufactured by Praga between 1935 and 1939. It was predominantly used for transporting military cargo and personnel, as an ambulance and for towing artillery in the Czechoslovakian and later Slovak, German and Romanian armies. A total of 3290 vehicles were slated for use in Czechoslovakia whilst the rest of a total of 5500 produced units, were exported to Iran, Peru, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.



The Praga RV engine was able to work up 3468cc providing 68 horsepower at 2600 rpm. The fuel consumption was anything up to 35 litres per 100km which was a respectable figure (the German Opel Blitz for example used 30 litres per 100km which was one of the best in its class). The PRaga RV had three axles of which both rear axles were powered. It had four forward gears and one reverse gear so it was easy to drive too. It had a rated payload of 2000 kg and was capable of travelling at 43 mph for a total of 390 km without needing to stop to refuelling its 137 litre fuel tank.

When carrying infantry the typical capacity was 8-12 men with all of their equipment. 7-11 in the rear deck and one more in the cab with the driver.



On top of all of this it was also capable of pulling a three ton trailer load, be that an artillery piece or other wheeled vehicles although with the trailer the fuel consumption did increase to 49 litres per 100 km.

In 1938 fifty nine of the trucks were chosen to be converted into radio communication vehicles for use with the Fast Divisions and motorised assets.



Feedback on the use of these trucks under combat conditions was favourable with Maczeks Polish Black Brigade's reconnaissance battalion using a lot of them in their campaign across Southern Poland in 1939. The Slovakians kept a hold of these vehicles as long as they could due to their reliability and longevity whilst no complaints were heard from either the Germans or the Romanians!

The Praga T-9 Artillery Tractor

So, this is one of my favourite pieces in case you couldn't tell?

The Praga T-9 was a Czechoslovakian heavy artillery tractor designed in the late 1930's and was used by Slovakia and Germany during World War 2 in order to pull their heavy anti-aircraft artillery.



In 1937 a heavy artillery tractor was developed at the Ceskomoravska Kolben Danek (CKD) plant in Prague for the Turkish army. This vehicle was designated T-9. Turkey ordered a total of 66 vehicles of this type but between 1937-1939 only 16 tractors had been manufactured and sent to Turkey (as seen in the image above).

After the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Germany in March 1939 further production of this vehicle was assumed by Germany and after completion an additional series of 10 vehicles was also produced. Production ceased completely in 1943 by which time a total of 76 T-9 tractors had been manufactured between 1937-1943.



The tractors that were taken over by the Germans assumed the identity Schwerer Raupenschlepper T9(t).

16 of the tractors produced were supplied to the Turkish army whilst the Germans took 55 for themselves leaving Slovakia with a grand total of five where they were used to tow the newly provided 88mm anti-aircraft guns in the Slovak Fast Division.



The T-9 was constructed around a tracked chassis which supported an enclosed unarmoured crew cabin and a cargo compartment that could be covered with a tarpaulin. The cargo deck had room for six soldiers with all of their equipment.

It was equipped with a 6-cylinder petrol engine with a capacity of 14,230 cm cubed, was water cooled with 142 bhp and was adapted to tow a trailer or pull an artillery piece weighing up to ten tonnes as well as being able to carry a further ton of weight on its cargo deck.



Due to problems with the engine and transmission the Praga T-9 was withdrawn from service by the Slovaks towards the end of their campaign in the Soviet Union and replaced with German tractors instead.

The Tatra 57k 'Hadimrška' staff car

So this innocuous little car was produced by the thousand by Czechoslovakian manufacturer Tatra. The 'k', from the German 'kubelwagon' was a military version of the Tatra 57 produced between 1941 and 1947.



The car was derived from the Tatra 57B, with the chassis being given greater ground clearance than the 57B to enable better terrain negotiation. This was achieved by adjusting the location of the front axle pins and using reinforced leaf springs on both axles.



The front of the body almost matched the 57B but moving from the windscreen back there were a lot of differences between the cars. The angular five seater body had four small doors, a folding canvas roof and makeshift side windows.


A spare wheel and two 20 litre jerry cans were hung on the back on an upright tail wall. Some cars were also fitted with a folding windscreen. In addition to this the car was equipped with a dashboard lubrication pressure gauge, Furthermore, closures for direct dispensing of gasoline or ether were placed in the suction line to facilitate starting the engine in extremely cold weather.



The car was designed and manufactured at the Ringhoffer Tatra Werke AG factory for the Wehrmacht up until 1944 of which a number were provided to the Slovakian armed forces. During 1941, 200 T57k cars were produced, more than 2,000 the following year and more than 3,500 in 1943.



After the war the production of the T57k series continued and amounted to the sum of a further 500 units by Tatra which were used by the newly reformed Czechoslovakian military and Ministry of the Interior before being gradually replaced.



It had a 1256cc overhead valve flat four cylinder engine that produced 24 bhp. Its fuel consumption was between 8-10 litres per 100 km and the bodies that were available included a four seat saloon, a four seat convertible and a two seat convertible. All versions had only two car doors.

So I think thats enough of the history, now why don't we crack on the with the modelling?

With regards to the sculpting and casting of these vehicles I would like to say that its a lot simpler than you may be inclined to think.

Essentially I work from schematics that have been scaled to the size of the piece that I want to produce and then I use different types of plastic sheet, rod and tubes, along with brass sheet, rod and tube and a selection of different sculpting resins to think my way around how to produce the shapes.

Below are examples of the types of schematics I use:




Once the master has been produced I then need to create the mold for it and get them cast up.


You can see an example of one of my finished masters above; the Praga T-9 artillery tractor before the side plates for the track sections are applied to it. This was cast up in three separate pieces, with the main body and the two separate track sections.


... and above you can see an example of a single piece casting. After I completed my Black Brigade project I reflected that one of the most problematic areas was the fact that I had cast all of the wheels separately which turned out to be a monster pain in the ass so when I was sculpting all of my new vehicles with a solid plinth which allowed me to place the wheels directly onto the master without an introduction of a weakness into the vehicle.

One of my previous posts is about the casting up of all of my Polish Black Brigade vehicles so I wont waste time with it here suffice to say that I use two part silicon to create the mold. It is poured over the vehicle I am making the mold for which is placed onto a blu-tack plinth on a wooden base board and surrounded with Lego walls.


When the silicon is poured the whole thing is then placed in a vacuum cylinder until the majority of the air bubbles are forced out of it. The whole thing is then placed on a shelf overnight until ready for the casting.


The casting is conducted in the same process as making the mold except this time instead of the Lego wall and wooden base board the two part resin is poured directly into the mold which is then immediately placed into the vacuum cylinder until the air is drawn out.

If you don't do this the final cured cast of the vehicle will be covered in tiny holes... not a nice end to your work.

Once all of these vehicles has been cast up and placed to one side they then need to be cleaned up. Without a doubt the messiest part of the job.


As you can see from the image above, all of the cast vehicles come out of their molds still mounted on a resin plinth. These need to be removed.


It is this particular part where all of the mess is concerned... a lesson that I had to learn the hard way! With over 40 vehicles to cut off of their plinths with my Dremel disc saw I certainly wasn't expecting what I got.

My work room was covered and I do mean COVERED in resin dust!!!


However the final results can't be argued with.


Truth be told though, after three hours or so of cleaning vehicles with a disc saw I walked out of my man cave somewhat covered and thanking God that I had a decent face mask... could really have done with some decent goggles though... Take note guys!

So the painting of these vehicles is where the real complexity begins, however one good thing is that the same paint scheme is used all the way across all of them. I should also point out by the way that I have opted not to apply mud and spattering weathering to these pieces as I kind of really like the clean but battered look of them. They do have plenty of knocks and rusty battered parts which adds to the scheme but that is where I have chosen to draw the line.

The main paint scheme  is done by airbrush using my MIG Aircobra for the Priming and Basecoating and my Harder & Steenbeck for all of the shading and highlighting as my H&S has a 0.15 needle and provides a hell of a lot more control... but the MIG is SOOOOO easy to clean it just makes sense to use it where I can...



The Airbrushing steps are as follows:
i) The model is primed with a Matt Black Etch Primer
ii) The basecoat is Tamiya's XF-58's Olive Green
iii) The first highlight is LifeColors UA221 Khaki Olive Drab applied in a panel highlight fashion
iv) The second highlight is LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 applied as above but a bit lighter and gathered in along the edges and prominent areas
v) The third highlight is a 50/50 mix of LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 with LifeColor 01 White. This is applied sparingly just along the edges and prominent areas.

So that's the airbrushing complete and don't be overly concerned if your third highlight was too heavy as the next step will, if done correctly will tone the whole contrasted effect down.



vi) Now we apply the Filter over the whole thing to unify the colour aesthetic and clip the contrast a little. I apply MIG's Filter 1506 Brown for Dark Green.
vii) Once dry, wipe off any serious excess from where it may have pooled but otherwise leave it untouched.
viii) At this point I apply the first layer of Varnish. It doesn't matter which varnish you choose so long as it fixes the Filter layer as its an oil based layer.

Once the varnish is dry its time for the next layer which is where the real depth starts to come out.



ix) Over every detail laden part of the model apply a Wash. I use AK Interactives Wash 075 Wash for NATO Camouflage Vehicles. Don't be shy with this step. Slap it on aplenty! Then leave to dry for a while.
x) Once its dry use cotton buds (cue tips for you Yankees out there...) and use a gentle white spirit to wipe away the excess leaving great detail and shadowing around all of your detail areas and a general lowering of the overall chroma luminosity. Personally I use Winsor & Newtons Artists White Spirit as I had a bad experience with normal white spirit and have no wish to repeat the disaster!
xi) Once the whole piece is dry to the touch apply another layer of varnish to fix everything in place.

... once all of the actual painting steps proper have been squared away the last thing to do on the miniature is actually the rusted patches. For this just use an old kitchen sponge and dab on Vallejo's Panzer Aces 302 Dark Rust along the edges of the gun shield and other edges and spots across different patches of the model.



These Dark Rust elements then have the heaviest sections lined with Vallejo's Model Color 819 Iraqi Sand. These lines need to be very fine but also work well to work in as actual scratches into the overall paint scheme.

The canvas backs on the Praga RV's and the Tatra 57k had a base coat of MIGs Khaki Green No.3 (Brit 1939-42). The first highlight was applied with Vallejo Model Color 821 German Camo Beige and a final highlight of Vallejo Model Color V819 Iraqi Sand

The windows are all painted the same way with a GW Base Abaddon Black with thin white lines (any white will do) to emulate reflections.

The very last thing that needs to be done with the painting is the wheels and tracks. The wheels are painted  with LifeColor's UA733 Tire Black and highlighted with Vallejo's Model Color 995 German Grey.



The Praga T-9 tracks are somewhat of a different proposition though with a number of steps as follows:
i) A basecoat of Vallejo Panzer Aces 304 Track Primer is applied all over the tracks
ii) Vallejo Model Color 863 Gunmetal Grey is drybrushed across the tracks
iii) A wash of AK Interactives 083 Track Wash is then applied across the tracks.
iv) A light coating of AK Interactives 065 Afrika Korps Filter is then applied to the bogies
v) Once the above coat is dry the profiling of the tracks and bogies can be done using AK Interactive's 075 Wash for NATO Camo Vehicles with the excess then wiped away and then left to dry
vi) Now is the time to apply your weathering pigments if you choose to go this far,

Varnish one final time with a super matt varnish and just to finish everything off completely put a super gloss varnish over any windows that you have painted and that as they say is that!

So there we have it ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of my Slovakian adventure. We've covered a lot of ground and I hope that if there are any of you out there that want to do a Slovak army that all of these posts will provide you with a solid basis of being able to put your own one together...

Now go have fun and remember to pack your bayonets!

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

FoW: Slovak Artillery - 10cm vz.30 battery

Of all the weapons used by Slovakian troops through the Second World War perhaps the most iconic and identifiable as Slovakian is the 10cm vzor 1930 Houfnice with its massive curved gun shield and wide solid rubber tyres.

Nobody makes these beauties in 15mm scale so today I thought I would introduce my own humble offering and take you through the history of these guns and how it was I came to knock a battery together...


The requirement for a new light field howitzer was established by the Czechoslovakian army in the early '30's and in line with the military's requirements the 10cm vz.30 was the result. Based on specifications provided by the Institute of Military Technology the construction of the gun was began by Skoda, and who aimed to make it the most modern piece in its class.

Skoda had previously developed the FE Howitzer for Yugoslovia in the 1920's and used the mount for the development of the new artillery piece for the Czechoslovakian military. Due to the fact that the weapon used a circular underlay wheel, this automatically led to the use of a trunk carriage. However, by simply replacing the axle, it was possible to change the transportation mode from hippomobile to motor and vice versa.


The barrel of the gun itself was an auto-fretted mono-block affair, equipped with a sliding breech block with a liquid brake mounted on a spur headstock. The end of the barrel was fitted with a muzzle brake on one end and a four fuse, horizontal wedge at the other.

The gun was also fitted with an independent drum sight with telescope, automatic recoil dispersal and mechanical balance equalisers.

The gun carriage and trail were manufactured from steel and were split into the upper and lower carriage. The upper carriage made up the gun cradle and was kitted out with the liquid brake, the gun balancer, the recoil dispersal mechanisms and the control bars.


The lower carriage supported the axle and wheels which were wooden spoked with either iron hoops for the hippotraction guns or else solid rubber wheels if motor traction was to be used.

In 1930 the army was equipped with a test battery, which was subjected to the usual rounds of rigorous testing, conducted by the army itself. Unfortunately these tests stretched on until 1933. Several modifications to the design were suggested. Most were not caused by design error but rather by the army continually changing the goal posts and modifying demands and requirements.


An example of one of these tests and the results would be that the removal of the muzzle brake when firing confirmed to all that the accuracy of the weapon deteriorated. Overall however, the weapon impressed and the artillery experts rated the weapon positively and recommended pushing it into production.

In July 1933 the new gun was introduced into the Czechoslovakian military inventory under the designation 10cm lehky houfnice vz.30 and made an initial order of 164 pieces to be crewed by seven men apiece.

The first pieces were delivered in 1935 although the entire order was only completed after Munich in '38.


With this weapon the Czechoslovakian army gained a world glass gun, however it was soon determined that the gun was a little too heavy to retain in its hippomobile function as its weight meant a sacrifice of mobility. Because of this fact most of the howitzers were concentrated in Motorised Artillery Regiments 51-54 which were a part of the army vanguard and separate artillery units within the new Rapid Divisions.

For towing the Czechs mainly used the Praga RV truck.


When Slovakia was all but forced to declare its independence in 1938 a number of this type were stationed within the borders of the new Slovakian state including Motorised Artillery Regiment 54 which was stationed at Nitra.

Following the German confiscations and appropriations by May 1939 the Slovakian state had been left a princely total of thirty.


Following the artillery park reorganisations of 1939 the 10cm vz.30's were collected together into Artillery Regiment 51 comprising of three four-gun batteries of this type (along with others) and Artillery Regiment 52 with a further three four-gun batteries (with other types as well)

In November 1939 AR52 was disbanded with its guns being distributed amongst the other artillery regiments with AR51 moving to the Army reserve.


The new Artillery Regiments 1 and 2 according to the new TO&E's each had three front line battalions each with four four-gun batteries. Battalion 1 had sixteen 8cm vz.30's and 10cm vz.30's whilst the fourth (reserve) battalion had another four 10cm vz.30 howitzers to hand.

Artillery Regiment 51, now in the Army Reserve now comprised had lost all of its 10cm vz.30's although the newly formed Artillery Regiment 11 (motor traction) had a mobilised strength of 27 10cm vz.30's.


At the beginning of the Russian campaign when I/11 went over the border with the Mobile Group it was equipped with three batteries of three 10cm vz.30's each. The other two battalions followed up with the Army headquarters.

When the Mobile Brigade was formed on 8 July 1941 I/11 was augmented with a further four 10cm vz.30's to bring the battalion strength of these guns up to three batteries of four guns.


On 12 July 1941 the Brigade received the whole of AR11 with its full complement of 24 10cm vz.30's.

However, by the beginning of August AR11 was once again reduced in size, this time down to a single light battalion comprising three four-gun batteries of 10cm vz.30's and a combined gun battalion with a single battery of four 10cm vz.30's. The remaining guns were pulled back to Vinnitsa and left in reserve.


The Mobile Division was formed at the end of August and AR11 was incorporated into it again at full strength.

After the Security Division lost all of its artillery attempting to help the Germans in resisting the Soviet Kharkov counterstroke in May 1942 it was decided in July 1942 to attempt to partially refit it with the remaining two battalions of AR31 but in the end only one battalion was sent in August 1942 and in this battalion there was only a single battery of 10cm vz.30's two of which were then lost to partisans on the Pripet River in April 1943.

In October 1943 the Security Division was remodelled as a Technical Division, transported to Italy to build things and lost all of its artillery which was sent home.


In the meantime the Mobile Division had also lost guns and by March 1942 Artillery Regiment 11 only had two three-gun batteries of its 10cm vz.30's remaining.

It was decided at the beginning of 1942, due to ammunition supply problems to again reorganise the Mobile Divisions artillery which started to replace the Slovak guns with German guns moving the remaining 10cm vz.30's into the reserve pool.

In the retreat of February 1943 the Division lost almost all of its guns including the six 10cm vz.30's. When it was reformed in the Crimea and by April 1943 the Division was again able to field three batteries, although the second battery comprised of only two 10cm vz.30's and the third (reserve) battery only three 10cm vz.30's.


In May 1943, whilst stationed in Simferopol the Germans started replacing the Mobile Divisions weapons with German guns and the entire remaining park of 10cm vz.30's were returned to Slovakia.

However that is not the end of the tale for the 10cm vbz.30 because when Germany occupied the rump of Czechoslovakia the Germans successfully snatched the majority of these guns from the Czech and Slovak artillery parks and they saw useful service throughout the war. Even in March 1945 there were still ten of these howitzers serving on the German front lines.

After the war there were still several surviving howitzers within Czechoslovakian territory and on the reformation of that country they were briefly included within the TO&E's of the newly reformed Czechoslovakian army where they soldiered on well into the '50's before being sent to the knackers yard to be melted down into glue! Oh wait, that was Boxer wasn't it?

So anyway, there is a bit of the history of this type of gun but how do we go about putting them together seeing as nobody has seen fit to actually manufacture a decent proxy in 15mm.

Well lets see shall we?


So, first of all you should procure for yourself a box of Battlefronts plastic Italian 100mm Howitzers. These are actually REALLY nice and can serve as direct replacements for the appalling metal ones that Battlefront has been peddling for years (especially for the Polish, Hungarian and Romanian armies).

On each of these sprues you will need to keep the wheels, the rear of the chassis and the barrel. The shield can be ditched and you may want to keep the ammo boxes for a bit of extra business on the bases.


Now, here is where the real modelling starts.

Get yourself a brass sheet no more than 0.5mm thick and slice off some rectangles 17mm by 20mm. I did a test model first and then put three more together afterwards but as Ive already done the heavy lifting for you, you may as well just go ahead and cut four of them out.

I chose brass for this part as brass is relatively easy to cut, bends well and holds its shape well once heated if bent. I decided it would make the ideal material to use on the gun shields which had massive curves on them... they would also be strong.


The next thing to do is mark out the parts of the brass sheets that need to be cut out to create the gunshield shape.

The flat sections of the gunshield; the two tabs at the open end of the gunshield is 4mm deep by 6mm wide. Obviously if both tabs are 6mm wide then the channel that needs to be excised must be 5mm across as well.

The channel is excised down to 3mm from the bottom of the gunshield.


The next thing to do is to bend the lower gun-shield leaving the two tabs at the top straight. You can see the profile of the bend in the blu-tack just below the gun-shields.

First score a line across the front and the back of the gun-shield along the line where the flat tabs will join the curve.

To achieve the bend in the shield I used a Staedler Technical Liner pen and kept rolling the shield back and forth until I achieved the shape that I wanted.

Once the curved shape was achieved I then used needle pliers to bend the tabs away from the curve to the correct degree.


So these were my first attempts at building the forward sections of the guns chassis but after cutting the first pair out and test fitting them I determined that they were too low and had an incorrect shape so I scrapped these and went back to the drawing board.


I redrew the design on 1mm thick plastic card which had 20mm x 10mm rectangles cut out of it.

The design, as shown above was drawn onto the card and care was taken to cut out the templates exactly so that they could be perfectly matched up in pairs.

I cant give you the exact measurements as there are all sorts of funny angles and curves on this but I would recommend you study the above image and replicate as close as possible.


By now you should have four (or three if you have done a test model) gun-shields and twice as many forward chassis attachments.


It was time to start collecting all of the pieces together now prior to actually assembling the guns.

You will notice that on the inverse angle on each of the forward chassis attachment about half way along the total length (about 10mm) a small notch is taken out of each piece. This will be where your guns wheel axle will rest.

You will also need an axle for each of your guns made from 1mm diameter brass rod with a total length of 17mm


Now you need to prepare the plastic styrene pieces prior to assembly.

Firstly take your gun barrel and slice off the end of the barrel down to the barrel locking collar taking care to pay attention to the inverted curve that will form the upper front edge of the recoil cylinder.

The new extended barrel will be made from styrene tubes with a diameter of 2mm and a length of 11mm.

The front of the gun chassis is cut away where the solid tail of the trail separates into two arms that carry forwards to the chassis front.The front edge of the solid trail is filed flat ready to accept the new chassis structures.

The seats are cut from the now discarded front of the chassis and set aside temporarily. 


Each pair of wheels is now joined together by supergluing the brass axles into a 1mm diameter bore at the inside centre of each of these wheels.

A pair of new chassis sides are taken and each of the short arms are glued to the front outside edges of the flat chassis rear that were saved taking care that the chassis shape now forms an angle like that of a shallow roof of a house.

The two new forward chassis pieces are bridged and stabilised using a 3mm wide piece of styrene plastic just a couple of millimetres back from the front edges of each of the chassis fronts.

Please note at this point that the leading edge of each of the new styrene chassis arms has a slightly inclined edge in order to accept the curved gun-shield.

The seats, previously removed from the supplied gun chassis are both now reattached in the same approximate position.


The new barrel is now constructed by cutting away each of the mounting pins from either side of the barrel rear and a 1mm diameter hole is drilled in its place.

The new styrene plastic tube barrel is now also glued to the front of the existing barrel, breech block and recoil tube.

This new barrel extends 11mm past the front of the existing locking collar.

Use a very VERY thin styrene strip no more than 2mm wide to wrap around the end of the barrel to create the muzzle brake (although I'm not sure that something like this would qualify as a muzzle brake and may in fact be called the barrel fillet).


The gun-shields ribs and top arc are now created.

The top arc which almost looks like the profile of an old stone humpback bridge is cut out to the same width as your gun shield with the inside arc being as wide as the gap in the shield centre with a consistent diameter all the way around the arc.

This piece is glued at about 100 degrees to the flat tabs on the gun shield so that when the gun-shield is mounted on the gun itself this top arc will remain horizontal to the horizon.

A 2mm wide strip of extremely thin styrene now needs to be glued along the inside edge of the top arcs inner curve and glued up against the gun shield. Be careful here because slight angles will need to be shaved off of each front edge of each of these strips.


In this image you can clearly see the shield rib that braces the curved shield from top to bottom.

This one is actually relatively simple to execute. 2.5mm wide thin styrene strips are glued along the inside edge of the barrel channel on the shield with one end extending over the shield on the bottom and up to and against the inner curving rib of the top arc.


Once all of these pieces have been allowed to dry completely the front edges of the ribs that protrude out from the front face of the shield are cut away and filed down to leave a flush edge as illustrated in the photograph above.


We now assemble all of the main guns pieces together, mounting the gun by way of pushing a brass rod through holes drilled into the top of the forward chassis arms within the curve of the gun cradle.

The ends of this brass rod are then cut off and filed flat.


The wheels and axle can now be mounted in the notches that were created on the bottom of the chassis.


The furniture for all of the guns is now created.

The shield seat's sides are made from angled pieces of plastic styrene sheet that have been filed to follow the curves of the gun-shields with a small styrene square bridged between them to create the seat.

A piece of 0.3mm brass rod only 1mm in length is glued at a 45 degree angle on the top leading edge of each seat side to represent the shield seat handles.

The same brass rod is then used to create an open ended rectangle 5mm wide and 5mm long with 2mm of each of the ends drilled and glued into the shield seat sides.

For the hand wheel that sits under each of the shield seats I used a load of Adler Miniatures 6mm Napoleonic Artillery Caisson wheels with half of the spokes cut away mounted on a small piece of 2mm styrene rod glued against the shield body to make the hand wheel sit almost as proud as the seat itself.

The brass handle on the left hand side of the gun shield half way down its arc is also made from thin brass rod cut into 4mm lengths with just the very ends of the rod bent down in 90 degrees using needle pliers.

Finally a small vision port is constructed out of very thin styrene sheets that each have a measurement of 2mm x 3mm with tiny styrene triangles glued against the upper and lower right hand edge to emulate the hinges. This is all glued to the right hand tab on the upper gun-shield. 


These last pieces are just a bit of architecture to break up the flat space on the side of the chassis front. The large discs are 3mm in diameter whilst the smaller discs are 2mm.

They are stacked the 2mm on top of the 3mm and then glued over the points where the brass rod extending from the cradle would be.


Your gun-shields are then mounted on the front of the guns with the bottom solid band of the gun shield being glued directly to the slightly inclined forward facing ends of the newly constructed forward chassis arms. 

The degree of inclination will directly effect how close the curve of the gun-shield follows the wheels (and you should be aiming for a uniform 1-2mm gap all the way around)


I think the guns would actually have had bracing struts going from the inside of the shield to the top of the wheel axle as well in order to support the shield properly but I have not been able to find any evidence of this and as such just satisfied myself with gluing them to the chassis arms...

...a decision I may come to regret later I think...


So anyway, you should now have four completed beauties with which to complement your Slovak army with.

Lets move onto the paining and modelling of the battery.


...and there we have it. Above is an example of a completely painted battery of these beauties! I will take you through the painting colour schemes and methodology that I employ. A bit complex but personally I love the results so I'm happy with what I've got :)

Before we go any further I should also point out that every single miniature in this battery was a Battlefront 15mm Romanian until I nipped off their heads and replaced them with Peter Pig heads to turn them into Slovaks. Either the ones with the Slovak Helmets that Martin sculpted for me or else the ones with the Soviet Pilotka Caps.


The first thing that I normally do when putting together a battery once the guns are built is actually to actually paint all of the crew that serve the guns and where my Slovaks are concerned this obviously took a bit of work so let me take you through it all!

So, where painting all of the infantry is concerned its a relatively simple affair. They are done the way that I do them to look good from about 5ft away. Scrutinise them from up close and all of the flaws in the painting will probably slap you in the face.


The first step is to prime, and as with most of my other historical stuff, I prime with a black etch primer. You can buy these from any hardware store but the 'etch' in the primer ensures an exceptionally strong substrate to the acrylic layers that will go over the top.

The lions share of the work done on WW2 miniatures is the main uniform and where the Slovaks are concerned after a somewhat lengthy research period I decided to ditch the colour photos from the past and go with the uniform colours that all of the re-enactors in Czechoslovakia are using at the moment. In my experience all of these re-enactment guys are anal about accuracy so I would trust their opinions a lot more than raggedy old photos.


My base coat was done with Vallejo's 887 Brown Violet for the deepest layers of the uniform. The first highlight, which presents the largest overall surface area that will be seen at the end was done with MIG's 113 Khaki Green No3 (Brit 1939-1942) with the final highlights along all of the raised edges being completed with MIG's 058 Light Green Khaki. This covers all of the cloth uniform and the puttees.

The helmet has a single coat of 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 897 Bronze Green and Vallejo's 887 Brown Violet with the blue helmet band having a basecoat of Vallejo's 925 Intense Blue, highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 925 Intense Blue and Vallejo's 943 Blue Grey. The little Slovak crosses are all hand painted with thinned down Vallejo's 820 Offwhite.

Everything else is relatively quick and simple after painting the uniform.


All of the Canvas bags and straps have a basecoat of Vallejo's 921 English Uniform applied with block highlights of AK Interactives 3072 M-44 Uniform Green Ochre Khaki whilst the leather belts and ammo pouches are basecoated in Vallejo's 045 Charred Brown and highlighted with Vallejo's 983 Flat Earth.

The boots are any matt black whilst the Gas Mask Tins are basecoated with Vallejo's 980 Black Green and highlighted with Lifecolor's UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2.


The rifle bodies are basecoated with Vallejo's 826 German Camo. Medium Brown with the highlighted grain lines painted with Vallejo's 981 Orange Brown. All metal work is painted black firstly and highlighted with Molten Metals Steel. The rifle straps are basecoated with Vallejo's 880 Khaki Grey and highlighted with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo's 880 Khaki Grey and Vallejo's 819 Iraqi Sand.

Where the skin is concerned you can paint it how you please but personally I use one of AK Interactive's paint sets for 'Flesh and Skin Colours' and I've never looked back!


All of the bases are actually really simple. I buy all of my bases from Tony at East Riding Miniatures. Hes a bit of a legend and REALLY helpful. They are all laser cut MDF which allows for easy scoring of the base surface.

I then glue the miniatures to the scored surface and apply a thin layer of tile grout over the top. Once this is dry I glue a layer of one of my sand mixes over the top. Generally speaking I create my own mixes for base coverings as I REALLY don't like a lot of the crap you buy from the shops. Its generally speaking far too gaudy in colour or uniform in texture for my tastes.


I like the generally fine sand BUT I like to have lots of the little stones in there so I can create some colour contrasts with the dirt on the bases.

Once dry the whole base is given a basecoat of Vallejo's 826 German Camo. Medium Brown and given a heavy drybrush of Vallejo's 814 Green Ochre.


All of the little stones on the bases are then given a basecoat of Vallejo's 995 German Grey and roughly highlighted (to create a jagged uneven texture) with any lighter grey of your choice but personally I go with Vallejo's 992 Neutral Grey.

The sides of the bases are now painted Matt Black. I never used to bother with this BUT I've really gotten into the clean precise look this lends to the bases. I love it now.

Now we come to the final stage of the bases which is the covering. The static flock that I use is my own mix. I go for something that approximates the dead and dry grass you find on the Steppes with perhaps a little more green in it than usual. This allows an overall base aesthetic that can be used the length of Europe in my opinion.


To provide the final textural boost to the bases though I use a variety of clumps. I had a LOT of problems finding ones that I felt were suitable but after a couple of years I came across a company called Tajima Miniatures whose self adhesive tufts are without a doubt the best I have ever found. I use there stuff by the bucket load now, in great variety. 

These all add to the final colour and texture of the bases of this army.

Now that the bases and the miniatures are all squared away the only thing left to do is sort the guns themselves out...


So the painting of the guns is where the real complexity begins. I should also point out by the way that I have opted not to apply mud and spattering weathering to these artillery pieces as I kind of really like the clean look of them. They do have plenty of knocks and rusty battered parts which adds to the scheme but that is where I have chosen to draw the line.

The main paint scheme of the guns is done by airbrush using my MIG Aircobra for the Priming and Basecoating and my Harder & Steenbeck for all of the shading and highlighting as my H&S has a 0.15 needle and provides a hell of a lot more control... but the MIG is SOOOOO easy to clean it just makes sense to use it where I can...

The Airbrushing steps are as follows:
i) The model is primed with a Matt Black Etch Primer
ii) The basecoat is Tamiya's XF-58's Olive Green
iii) The first highlight is LifeColors UA221 Khaki Olive Drab applied in a panel highlight fashion
iv) The second highlight is LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 applied as above but a bit lighter and gathered in along the edges and prominent areas
v) The third highlight is a 50/50 mix of LifeColors UA224 Olive Drab Faded Type 2 with LifeColor 01 White. This is applied sparingly just along the edges and prominent areas. 


So that's the airbrushing complete and don't be overly concerned if your third highlight was too heavy as the next step will, if done correctly will tone the whole contrasted effect down.

vi) Now we apply the Filter over the whole thing to unify the colour aesthetic and clip the contrast a little. I apply MIG's Filter 1506 Brown for Dark Green.
vii) Once dry wipe of any serious excess from where it may have pooled but otherwise leave it untouched.
viii) At this point I apply the first layer of Varnish. It doesnt matter which varnish you choose so long as it fixes the Filter layer as its an oil based layer.

Once the varnish is dry its time for the next layer which is where the real depth starts to come out.


ix) Over every detail laden part of the model apply a Wash. I use AK Interactives Wash 075 Wash for NATO Camouflage Vehicles. Don't be shy with this step. Slap it on aplenty! Then leave to dry for a while.
x) Once its dry use cotton buds (cue tips for you Yankees out there...) and use a gentle white spirit to wipe away the excess leaving great detail and shadowing around all of your detail areas and a general lowering of the overall chroma luminosity. Personally I use Winsor & Newtons Artists White Spirit as I had a bad experience with normal white spirit and have no wish to repeat the disaster!
xi) Once the whole piece is dry to the touch apply another layer of varnish to fix everything in place.

... once all of the actual painting steps proper have been squared away the last thing to do on the miniature is actually the rusted patches. For this just use an old kitchen sponge and dab on Vallejo's Panzer Aces 302 Dark Rust along the edges of the gun shield and other edges and spots across different patches of the model.


These Dark Rust elements then have the heaviest sections lined with Vallejo's Model Color 819 Iraqi Sand. These lines need to be very fine but also work well to work in as actual scratches into the overall paint scheme.

The very last thing that needs to be done with the painting is the wheel rims which are painted  with LifeColor's UA733 Tire Black and highlighted with Vallejo's Model Color 995 German Grey.

Varnish one final time with a super matt varnish and that as they say is that!

Remove from workspace and attach to the finished bases at your leisure!

Go have fun!