A week ago Peter and I had our third game so far this year (we are aiming for a total of five for 2010). We had both earlier agreed to try recreating some of the actions that comprised ‘Operation Citadel’ (Unternehmen Zitadelle) and I had selected the assault on Cherkasskoye, which commenced on 5 July 1943 along with the rest of the Operation.

The scenario was Attack/Defense, with myself attacking. I was fielding a platoon of Panthers, a platoon of Tigers and a platoon of StuGs, with the company HQ’s also being Panthers. Here’s the main photo of the board or map for the night’s game: – you can see the road heading North and going through the town of Cherkasskoye. This was the same direction I was heading. More photos of the board/map for the night:  .

The town itself was actually on a slight plateau. I don’t have enough hills to replicate this, so instead it is nestled in a valley between three sets of hills. Hmm, maybe there’s a future project there, make some more hills so plateaus can be used?

We rolled for Weather and got historic results that might actually match the real weather for that day – Clear weather; a Light wind and the wind was heading East.

TURN ONE: The Germans came onto the board: . As they were about to assume their combat formations (in this case, wedges), things immediately started to go wrong. The platoon of Panthers with the Company HQ Panthers were all deployed on the left wing and they immediately drove into a camouflaged minefield. Three of seven were lost: . The StuGs were on the right wing and one of them set off some mines but luckily it wasn’t damaged. The Panthers destroyed by mines was a direct parallel to history…General Otto von Knobelsdorff’s 10 Panzer Brigade (‘Brigade Decker’) were all Panthers and 36 of the 200 were lost to a minefield as they left the town Butovo for Cherkasskoye that morning.

With the Russians well aware that the Germans  were advancing, they brought out their artillery: with the ZIS-3’s on the left flank, directly opposite the Panthers, letting fly with anti-armour shells and knocking out a fourth Panther: . Since I’d spent the turn moving at full speed I couldn’t fire back, which meant it was time for me to face a Morale Check. This was going to be hard as my Company HQ Panthers were both destroyed and they are very important in maintaining Company Morale! I fully expected the roll to be low and the game to be over here at Turn One. In an amazing dice roll my Morale for the Panther Platoon was low causing the surviving three vehicles were going to retreat, but the Company Morale was very high so amazingly my advance could continue!

TURN TWO: The Germans slowed or stopped completely and used Area Fire on as many Russian guns as they could target. Half were destroyed: .

TURN THREE: My Tiger Platoon HQ vehicle was tracked by the Soviets:  but more were chewed up by the Tigers’ 88mm guns which enjoyed deadly accuracy: . A StuG was hit and lost its main gun, but it could still be important in helping seize the objective…it had armour and an LMG so it was ordered to continue its advance.

TURN FOUR: All AFVs moved off at full speed – they had to. They weren’t going to reach their objective, the first house in the town closest to the road, if they did not: . The guns on the left flank let fly at the Tigers and hit but fail to penetrate.

TURN FIVE: The Germans remained moving at full speed: . A Tiger was Shaken by 75mm fire…over on the right, the previously damaged StuG was hit hard and its crew bailed out. This forced a Morale Check – I rolled a 5 and all the StuGs were Shaken for 5 turns. Damnit! They could fire but wouldn’t advance.

TURN SIX: A Tiger was knocked out by some of the surviving 75mm guns:  One was destroyed in reply.

TURN SEVEN: A Tiger sacrificed its advance to swivel and target the field guns. In concert with the StuGs, all remaining Soviet artillery was wiped out. The Russians fall silent!

More importantly, Peter and I had completed Turn Seven and the game was still going! We couldn’t recall this happening before. A truly remarkable night’s gaming!

TURN EIGHT: The advance could now continue and the objective was clearly in sight: . Smoke is laid down on the thickets close to the road & the objective in case there are some remaining small AT guns or PTRD anti-tank rifles. The two fully operational Tigers advance but, as they reached the edge of the fields, Soviet infantry with Molotovs leap out of concealed foxholes and lob their missiles at the Tigers’ engine decks: . They aim was average – one lands on one Tiger’s engine deck but doesn’t stall it’s engine.

TURN NINE: The Tigers have to push past the infantry or they won’t reach the objective in time – risky but I had to press forwards at all costs. A second Molotov landed on the same Tiger that was hit before. This time Peter rolled well and the engine stalled – another Tiger out of action. My three Shaken StuGs, still one turn away from changing status, joined in Area Fire laid down by the HQ Tiger upon the Eastern flank Molotov teams, killing some and forcing the remainder to surrender to the closest StuG.

TURN TEN: The last Tiger, racing for the objective, was set on fire by a Molotov: .

TURN ELEVEN: More Molotovs land on it and it’s engine fails:  All Tigers are immobilised and I only have a few StuGs remaining. Morale fails – it’s the end of the game. If that fourth Tiger hadn’t been immobilised, it would have reached the objective in two more turns:  …so close and yet so far. Peter reminded me that although it may have got to the objective, the objective had to be secured…and he had troops defending it. Here’s another photo of the death of the last “big cat”:  .

CONCLUSION Peter had deployed all his forces very historically, placing two very large and thick minefields forward and on my flanks to force me to go straight down the middle of the board. This meant I would then have to run a gauntlet of his artillery.

I deployed my forces  historically and tried to get them into wedge formation, but the hurriedly-mounting immobilisations and losses never saw a perfect wedge for any platoon achieved.

Peter won the game but historically the Germans were eventually able to take Cherkasskoye late that afternoon.

The book I used as my source for planning the game and in assisting me writing this AAR was “Kursk 1943: the tide turns in the East” by Mark Healy, published by Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 1993.

Here are my Panthers with their star aerials which were endorsed on the night:  .

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Tonight at the Mitcham meeting of NWA, two colleagues whom have been assembling, painting and playing 20mm WWII wargames for far longer than myself both commented quite favourably on the star/umbrella aerials that I’d made for the Panthers. These colleagues are people whose opinions I value highly, so for them to admire my work not only confirms that the materials I chose for this second attempt at making star aerials was correct but also that they feel they are realistic enough…in effect, endorsing them.

I’m so proud!

I now don’t have to experiment any further – I’ve got the right-sozed materials and the right technique.

~~~

Peter and I had the best game yet of ‘Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist’ tonight. The scenario was part of the battle of Kursk.

A battle report / AAR will be coming in the next few days.

Panzerbefehlswagen Panthers

August 22, 2010

Back in March this year my Panthers rolled off the production line at Tankoberg and I gave you all a good look at them. I mentioned that aerials would have to wait until I had more supplies of brass wire.

Not only have I been able to obtain plenty of brass wire in the gauges I had previously used, I was able to get plenty in other gauges as well. For those that are interested, I use Detail Associates’ brass wire: . I had held off doing the Panthers’ aerials as I wanted more 0.022″ wire, which I have decided is my standard for aerials from now on (only using the 0.033″ to represent very thick aerials…some StuGs had them).

I had been able to buy 0.012″ and 0.015″ which meant I was able to try some thinner wire for star aerials/umbrella aerials, as I felt the last lot of star/umbrella aerials looked too thick, too heavy, too out of scale and thus totally unrealistic (well, totally unrealistic for my taste).

The last lot were also the first lot of star/umbrella  aerials…you can see them  on some Sd. Kfz. 234/2 Pumas on this link. I commenced assembling them on this link, you may want to read that first, and I completed them on this link.

Here are photos of the second lot, finished and in situ: .

What was different this time? As decided in those posts from last year, the main aerial is of 0.022″ thickness, and the prongs/ribs coming off the main aerial are 0.012″. Also, I used Zap’s Zap-a-gap Medium viscosity instead of the Flash Cyanoacrylate in Thick viscosity. The Flash thick cyanoacrylate made the join look far too oversized. They are still oversized, but I feel I’ve reached the limit, given the techniques and materials available to me.

Most importantly, I feel that I’ve reached the right balance of appearance with practicality/durability with this second attempt. I could have used even thinner wire, but in my opinion it wouldn’t be durable enough. Thinner wire would require some putty or plugging with bits of plastic or filling with extra glue as the drillbit I use to drill the aerial’s anchor hole into the vehicle is already the finest I have and the 0.022″ has plenty of space when it’s placed into that hole, so going even thinner seems silly. Also, when bumped the 0.022″ springs straight back into place whereas the 0.012″ stays bent and that means I have to spend time bending them back into paint and repainting paint that flakes off bent wire…so the practicality/durability combination seem to have been found for star aerials in 1/72 scale, as far as I’m concerned.

The first two of what will end up being a platoon of six Pumas are done. I even numbered them ‘1″ and “2”:

Puma #1 Puma #2

As you can see, I went for both a dust coat but also a bit of dirty water and some mud splashed around on them. #2 has some rather unusual stowage on its rear deck – a case of 120mm mortar shells plus two boxes of  81mm mortar shells (left over from my Pegasus Hobbies mortars). I chose a while ago to give my AFVs plenty of interesting and unusual stowage courtesy of Scott Nicholas, whose own collection of 1/72 & 1/76 WWII Germans for Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist set extremely high standards for me in terms of painting, detail and stowage.

Now here they are together: Pumas 1 Pumas 2

Do please note the rear jerrycans with the white painted crosses on them – I felt that if these guys were doing deep recon, they may well want to take plenty of drinking water with them.

I’ve really enjoyed putting these Hasegawa kits together. Yes, they involve lots of parts and lots of stages but the final product is trouble-free and looks very accurate. Even the wheels, which I thought I might do incorrectly, came out perfectly. I know some people don’t like the tyres on these kits, but as a wagamer I’m not fussed by them.  Looking at those photos from Sd Kfz 234/2 by Francisco Javier Cabeza & Carlos Martín and then comparing them to Hasegawa – certainly, they don’t have the newest and deepest tread on them, but why should they? Why not have them well-worn?

I’m putting the finishing touches to a crewman for their 234/3 kit which should be finished by next weekend. It’s taken more time because of the detail for the crewman and the fiddliness of the gun – but it too has turned out well. It’ll get more paint and extras than these Pumas – you’ll have to wait to see exactly what more and what extra!

After working through information sources like the Bundesarchiv, “German armoured cars of World War Two”, some Squadron/Signal publications as well as search engines like Google and Duck Duck Go, I decided I needed to see what the definitive text “Encyclopaedia of German Tanks of World War Two” (Peter Chamberlain & Hilary Doyle with technical editor Thomas Jentz, 1999, Cassell:  London) could tell me about star/umbrella (some were called ‘crow’s foot’) aerials (as I knew some of the pictures included vehicles with these types of aerial).

The Panzerbefehlswagen mit 5cm KwK39 L/60 entry showed two different vehicles that both had an aerial with 4 clearly identifable prongs. The prongs all began where the main aerial ended and radiated out at a 135 degree angle. This is probably a ‘crow’s foot’ aerial.

The Artillerie-Panzerbeobachtungswagen (Panzerkampfwagen III) (Sd Kfz 143) had an identical aerial, clearly painted dunkelgelb.

The Sturmpanzer IV (Sd Kfz 166) had a very different arrangement. It had quite a tall aerial with at least three prongs. The aerial extended upwards quite a way beyond the short prongs…in fact, the prongs are probably about 1/3 of the way from the top of the aerial, and are probably only about 1/6 of the length of the main aerial.

Two different Panzerbefehlswagen mit 7.5cm KwK42 L/70 (Panther) vehicles has two diferent star aerials.  One was an aerial with 6 clearly identifable prongs. The prongs all began where the main aerial ended and radiated out at a 135 degree angle – a variation on the ‘crow’s foot’ aerial. The other was a tall aerial with 6 prongs, the prongs about 1/3 of the way from the top of the aerial, like that for the Sturmpanzer IV (Sd Kfz 166).

When I reached the section on semi-tracked vehicles, the types of star aerial I had seen most of prior to this research began to crop up. The Sd Kfz 250/3 without frame aerial had a star aerial with 6 prongs, the prongs beginning at the end of the main aerial. The Sd Kfz 250/5 leichte Beobachtungspanzerwagen had the same.

Armoured Cars – the S Pz Sp Wg (Fu) (Sd Kfz 232) 8-Rad had the same as the Sd Kfz 250s mentioned above.

The Panzerfunkwagen (Sd Kfz 263) 8-Rad had an aerial with 5 very long prongs radiating from the main aerial, but the main aerial continued upwards after the prongs for another foot, then had a thin vertical prong off it’s top. This seems to be the same as that star aerial photo I found in the Bundesarchiv and which I linked to in an earlier post.  “Encyclopaedia of German Tanks of World War Two” suggests that that particular vehicle may in fact be a Sd Kfz 247 Ausf B, by the way.

The photos in “Encyclopaedia of German Tanks of World War Two” are sometimes  more illustrative than those in “German armoured cars of World War Two”, as they are published showing the vehicle at a further distance from the camera – so you can see the whole aerial. This is certainly true of the photos of the Sd Kfz 234/2 Puma – you can see a 4-prong ‘crow’s foot’ aerial in the former text, whereas you have no idea it’s a star aerial at all in the latter.

A learned friend tells me that it’s extremely likely prongs could be folded out (as seen in the photos)  or folded back against the main aerial if circumstances required. Some prongs may even have ben able to be folded out to horizontal.

It’s best for me to conclude that there were a number of types of star aerials in use, with different main aerial lengths, different numbers of prongs and different prong lengths. Not all prongs were fixed, either. As long as you are consistent by giving all identical vehicles identical types of star aerials, that should satisfy most serious WWII buffs. I’ll be sure to do this with all my Pumas and with any other vehicles I decide  (or assembly instructions insist on or the texts indicate) will have star aerials.

I used Brass Wire that I bought from a model train hobby shop (which is also where I get a lot of my terrain materials, like Woodland Scenics products).  The main aerial is made from 0.033″ diameter wire, with the prongs coming off it made from 0.022″ diameter.

Now, as you saw from my August 23 blog post, “ICM’s Sd.Kfz. 222, cars, bikes and aerials!“, the finished star aerials look a little bit thick and chunky. To do a new set of vehicles (since I’ll do any more 234/2s with the same wire for the sake of uniformity) I’ll be using thinner diameter brass wire – probably the 0.022” for the main aerial and then the next thinnest type that I can purchase from the model train shop for the prongs. I’d probably also use a less viscous bottle of Flash Cyanoacrylate, so that I don’t have to trim away any excess dried glue. Still, these were the only materials I had on hand or could purchase – so, I’m fine with what I’ve done so far and learnt from the process. Next time, I’ll try to order some materials in advance and not rush things.

I’d done some research to try to determine how many prongs these aerials had – the historical photos I had access to in various books showed vehicles with 6 prongs, vehicles with 5 prongs and vehicles with 5 main prongs plus one small horizontal prong. Hasegawa’s instructions for the kit seem to advocate a 4 prong aerial. Since I rediscovered the online Bundesarchiv earlier in the month, I spent some time ploughing through that, doing very general/broad searches like ‘ostfront 1941’, ‘ostfront 1942’ etc.

Here is one illustrative result: GrossDeutschland on the march.  You can see that, unlike Hasegawa’s suggestion that the main aerial stopped at the prongs, that the main aerial did go a little higher or feature a verticle sub-prong after the prongs. I have photos of two different Sd. Kfz. 263s (in Milsom & Chamberlain’s 1974 book ‘German armoured cars of World War Two’) with 5 prong aerials but showing that the main aerial continued after the prongs or had a vertical sub-prong. I’m not sure about how often a horizontal sub-prong just under the bigger prongs was used (you can see what I’m talking about in the Bundesarchiv example above). Looking through images using different search engines, I mostly saw 5-prong versions of what Hasegawa recommend modellers do. I’ve no doubt that there were different types of star/umbrella aerials…I was just hoping to find something more definitive than I did.

So far, ICM 1:72 kit #72411 has been very straightforward to assemble. Part fit has been very good. There’s been a little bit of flash on the mudguards but otherwise it’s needed nothing but glue and cleaning up where I’ve cut each piece from it’s sprue. Assembly instructions are pretty clear – there’s one stage where one action is meant to be done three more times…but you get the drift from the pictures.

Also rolling along the Tankoberg assembly lines have been a Hasegawa Kubelwagen and BMW motorbike w/ sidecar – kit #31112 which I picked up last weekend at an IPMS Swap & Sell.

I’ve been experimenting with something else, too. After researching and consulting a number of sources online and in person, I decided to go ahead and try to make star/umbrella aerials for my Pumas, as I am well aware that they were used on these vehicles. Consulting photos in books and from the Bundesarchiv (the picture archives of the Federal Archives of Germany) left me a little unsure of how many prongs such an aerial should have…some vehicles had 6 prongs, some had 5. I decided to go with 5 for my Pumas after seeing a 251 with a 5-prong aerial and two different Sd. Kfz 263s with 5-prong aerials.

They aren’t so hard to make. Here are the steps I took:

One: Collect these materials – brass wire of two different thicknesses; some superglue or, in my case, Flash Cyanoacrylate (dangerous stuff but powerful); needlenose piers; wire cutters and lastly clamps or a modeller’s mate like this one to hold things for you.Aerials 1.

Two: shape the thinner brass wire into a triangular shape. Aerials 2. Also cut yourself a reasonable length of the thicker brass wire – in my case, about 5 – 6 inches.

Three: bend the two ends so that they run parallel and can touch each other flatly. Lock the thick brass wire into one clamp of the modeller’s mate and lock the thin brass triangular bit into the other clamp – bring the flat ends of the triangular wire so that they touch flatly along the thick wire and superglue them into place: Aerials 3. Let everything dry.

Four: repeat Two and Three with another triangle, except it needs to be at an angle of about 75 degrees to the first triangle. You’ll need to cut off one side of the glued-on triangle to permit this. When all is dry, cut off the side of the second triangle – now you should have 4 prongs radiating off from the thick brass wire.

Five: make the last prong and glue it on to make 5 prongs – hopefully the two triangles you glued on and cut away result in 5 fairly evenly-spaced prongs. Aerials 4

Six: when everything’s dry, take out of the clamp and use a scalpel to cut away any excess lumps of glue.

Seven: use the wire cutters to cut the prongs to a suitable anduniform length: Aerials 5.

Eight: stickytape the aerial to something and undercoat it: Aerials 6

Nine: glue into place on the vehicle and paint when the glue’s dry. Aerials 7 It’s that easy!