Samstag, 29. Dezember 2012

Battlegroup Oder #3 (StuH 45)


one of the joys of modelling late war German armys are prototypes, Kummersdorf-Funnies, Frankentanks ... no idea how you would like to name these German "what ifs".
Here is modell that is totaly what if: The Sturmhaubitze StuH 45. This machine is a mix up of "Kleine schwere Panzer" from Pegasus and some parts from the StuG G set of Plastic Soldier Comp. (PSC).  Pegasus gave the modell some strange "Schürzen" that had to be re-move. Otherwise it is a fantastic modell. I painted it up with Vallejo colours (brush paint) plus a random hair-spray white wash (Tamiya) plus a pin point wash with GW inks. Foud it quite lovely.

For wargaming....
When playing the German side I have the idea to give them every third or fourth turn the opportunity to have some random prototypes as reinforcement. This StuH 45 will be one of those protos. Some more will come up.

Dienstag, 25. Dezember 2012

Battlegroup Oder (StuG´s) 2#

today is Christmas and I like to say MERY CHRISTMAS to all you guys.
Well - may I be allowed to add a quite personal note: These last days have been some of my best christmas days during the last years. Both of my brothers -Staffan and Ake- came here with their wifes to meet up my own family for some days. We don´t meet quite often...
Grown up on the Swedish Kattegat coast we all left home some 25 years ago just to find a new place somewhere on this planet. Ake is with British Petrol (now in the Gulf); Staffan still in Sweden and a Malmo lawyer man; myself an engineer in Berlin, Germany. Strange... living in this globalized world is strange.

Back to modelling:
I managed to build up at least two StuG´s these days. A StuG howitzer 42 from the Dragon range and a StuG 40 from Revell. Having these two modells together I must say I am quite partial with Revell. The Revell StuG is a bit simplified (only a bit) but every part went together fantastic. Even in it´s winter white wash it looks extremly convincing. Highly recommended.
The Dragon is.... OK. High priced (18 Euros), many fiddly parts and I dislike the Dragen PE track wich tends to break up fast. Anyway both are fine and both made the first armoured vehicles for my Oder Battlegroup. At least on more StuG will come up to complete a StuG squad ot three vehicles.

Donnerstag, 20. Dezember 2012

Battlegroup Oder #1

My wargaming friends and I decided to meet up for another gaming weekend. It is some kind of tradition for us to meet on the last weekend of march.
We usualy play Rapid Fire! but these days we are alle hyperinfected by "Battlegroup Kursk" and thought to give this a try. Theme would be the fightings along the river Oder during Februar 1945.
We will have some research during the nexts months, but much of building and rebuilding during the next months.

These days I finished up my first platoon of germans. Some of these are seen here before, they are 20mm and from the CP, TQD and Caesar range. As these "men" dislike walking through the winter wounder land they were givn an Opel Blitz. Obviously this truck was intended to the white-helmet elite but who cares these days?

Montag, 3. Dezember 2012

StuIG 33 - A "what if" late 1944 vehicle.

Some days back Company Armourfast called up for a little competition. Competition theme is the Armourfast "StuIG 33". I joined this competition and did a little "tutorial". Here is the complete text of tutorial plus the images.

A “What If” StuIG 33 (the darkbirk way).

It is quite known that only 24 vehicles of the StuIG 33 were build up in a short period of late 1942. These vehicles carried a 150mm infantry gun with a remarkable punch on buildings, bunkers and strongholds. This gun was so reliable - German Army later mounted it in a heavily boxed superstructure on a modified Panzer IV chassis and called this Sturmpanzer IV/ Brummbär.

Twelve of the StuIG 33 got lost in the Stalingrad rubble. It is told that the other vanished in the summer fighting’s of 1943 in Russia. The emphasis here lies on "vanished" as I never saw any pictures of StuIG “Panzerwrecks” of the later 1943 period. History books plus storytellers from the world of www wants me to believe that these Sturmguns are all gone by the end of 1943. Are they? Hmmmm…. I suppose yes -. They all got lost.

But here my little story begins.
What if some StuIGs survived the 1943 struggles and made their way to the turn of the year 1944/45? How would such a vehicle look like in the end of the war?

Generally I think German army won´t change much on an old Panzer III chassis. Panzer III was at the height of it´s zenith in 1942/43 and nothing much was to add. Only two upgrades came into my mind.

First thing is Zimmerit. The non-magnetic Zimmerit cote was introduced in December 1943. A surviving StuIG would certainly have a Zimmerit cote; not only because the Zim was available, fashionable... or just used. Let us think practical: The StuIG is a natural born street fighter with a good chance to have close hostile infantry contact every fighting day. Zimmerit would have improved survivability of such Sturmis. Magnetic anti-tank mines used by Infantry would have less effect.

The Second aspect is improved tracks. Tank movement in open field is influenced by the high ground pressure these tanks have. In the Russian winter world of wetness, mud and snow (plus rubble from ruined stone houses) we will have an effect in the operation mode of tanks. Vehicles will stuck, slide and sink.
To cope this German Army developed track improvements for Panzer III and IV. These improvements were known as “Winterketten” and “Ostketten”. These tracks had side extension that reduced ground pressure and improved movement. It is quite realistic that a StuIG in late 1944 would have “Ostketten”.

Ostketten plus Zimmerit. These two aspects were my thoughts before working on this particular Armourfast StuIG 33. Armourfast came around with the StuIG in early 2012. The model could be done straight forward; within 2 hours including a fast painting. I did it quite different. I needed some 30 hours.

I started working out of da box with nothing special except drilling out the holes of the wheels. As on all Panzer III renditions Armourfast gave us wheels with simulated wheel-holes. For more accuracy these have to drill open (see pictures).

Next thing is improving the tracks with Ostketten. German based company MACO ( gave us a set of remarkable single pieced tracks for Panzer III and IV. The set includes standard track, Winterketten plus Ostketten for later war vehicles. MACO tracks are easy to work with (quite similar to the Revell tracks); highly detailed and an extreme upgrade for any Armourfast Panzer III or IV chassis. I used a Dremel tool to flatten the original Armourfast track. Right after this – I lubricated the MACO track. Ostketten from Maco fit well and I am extremely pleased with this track upgrade. MACO is highly recommended for Armourfast track improvement!

Next on the list is Zimmerit. How to reproduce ZIM in braille scale? I am still not through with this. My first idea was to work with Fimo (made by Staedler check out Amazon) modeling paste that could be rolled out quite thin to be later carved with a tool. The problem on Fimo is heat. Fimo is soft and will stay soft until it is hardened by heat. Fimo could be headed in a kitchen oven (never put plastic models their) or by a hair-dryer. For my excuse I did not dare to heat up Armourfast plastic with my wives hair-dryer. (I tried Fimo for Zimmerit on an old Esci StuG plus a Hasegawa Jagd IV; and this work fine for me). 

Well the second best in line is always green-stuff. Green stuff is my friend and I used it here. I rolled out green-stuff on the sides and endings and carved it with a self made wooden tool. The green-Stuff ZIM came up nice but on photographic close ups it looks a bit clumsy. Well... drop me a note if you have a better idea for reproducing in-scale Zimmerit.

Painting. The vehicle was primed with a dark sand color from the Games Workshop range. Brown and green camouflage paints were later on added by brush. After being somehow satisfied I fixed up the result with a dull coat from the can.
For the winter-whitewash camo I used the quite known “Hairspray method”. (I suppose this needs no explanation here). Right after I added several pinpoint washes with different shades from the games workshop range. The tracks were painted black, washed with red-brown sepia and highlighted with some small amount of steel color. Finally some homemade mud was added on the tracks.

The figures. The commander is from the Preiser range. Must say that I do like their multi-pose figures very much. It is always a pleasure to work with Preiser. The grenadier is from UK Company TQD. He is extremely good casted and seems to be fallen out of some old Osprey book. As I told earlier on several places on the web: TQD has some of the best figures in the 20mm scale. I used colors from Vallejo and Games Workshop to paint up these “men”.

The Base. The base was build-up from a rough piece of Styrodur like you get it in DIY stores. I add some 300 pieces of extremely small Styrodur-bricks to build up the rubble. Some plastic made spare parts were also used. Alls was sprayed with dark earth colors and later on painted with several reddish shades of brick-red, English red, burnt sienna, etc.. Right after I gave the base a “wash” of hairspray and added a thin layer of backing powder to represent the fresh snow. Again backing powder proved to bee quite realistic snow. The result was sealed with dull coat.

My conclusions.
Except for the American kit´s (Sherman’s) I build up most of the Armourfast (Panther D and Jagdpanther are also on my not done list) offers. The Panzer III chassis is extremely nice and useful. This here is my second build up of the StuIG (my Stalingrad StuIG could be seen on this forum). The StuIG 33 on Panzer III chassis is the best vehicle from the Armourfast range. For me it is just knocking and I won´t stop boring you with my renditions of this Sturm gunny. Just for the peace of your mind I deeply recommend to build up an Armourfast StuIG every year.

Armourfast models lack details on the track. Nothing new, we all know this. Tracks from German supply Co. MACO could be a nice and reliable solution for Armourfast Panzer III an IV tracks.

Why… WHY did Germans ever invent Zimmerit? Did they ever know what a pain it is to convert this non-magnetic paste into the 1:72 world? Green stuff is nice in any respect but for Zimmerit I will need something different. Next time….

Finally. Hope that much, much more StuIG 33 were to be seen here in this little competition. I hope you like this vehicle, the pictures and the little tutorial. Any questions (don´t hesitate to write PM to me) will be answered.

Per-Birk (aka darkbirk)

Dienstag, 27. November 2012



yesterday morning I was quite pleased to notice that this humble blog was awarded.
Awarded – yeeees. 

Thanks to a Canadian Army Chaplain I was given the honorable international 

Harry Samuel Liebster Award 

for outstanding bloggery. I am speechless...
Reverend, thank you very much for pointing this blog to the world. Will go on with my work.