21 March 2017

Sd.Kfz.221/2 & Sd.Kfz.231 6-rad

I MUST confess to being rather partial to German WWII armoured cars, particularly those of the 'early war' period. With their sleek, elegant lines and angles I consider them to be just as iconic as the panzers of the same era. This may in part be because they seemed to be a regular fixture in the Warlord, Commando,  Battle Picture Weekly and War Picture Library comics I eagerly read as a lad - usually as transport for a dastardly German officer, who would at the end of the strip perish with a cry of 'Gott in Himmel!' on his lips! Naturally I have used my 1939-40 project, of which this blog is a chronicle, as a chance to procure several models and variants to represent the Aufklärungs-Abteilungs (Reconnaissance Battalions) belonging to the panzer divisions, which were used to locate and probe enemy positions. Certainly from the histories I have been reading (I shall compile a bibliography shortly), it would appear that the motorcycle combinations and armoured cars of these formations were usually the first enemy forces encountered by Allied troops. 

First up we have two Leichter Panzerspähwagen, an Sd.Kfz. 221 and Sd.Kfz. 222. Born from the need for an armoured car with off-road capabilities, work on the Sd.Kfz. 221 was begun secretly in 1935, with 340 being delivered between 1936-39. The vehicle had excellent range (186 miles), speed (50mph on road) and reliability, but its off-road ability was quickly found insufficient on the backwards road infrastructure of the Soviet Union during the autumn-winter of 1941-42. In 1939 frontal armour was increased from 8 to 14mm, whilst sides and rear sides remained at 6mm. Handled by a crew of two it was initially armed with a single MG 13, although from 1938 this was upgraded to an MG 34. This armament was soon realised to be insufficient, so in 1936 work began on an improved model, the Sd.Kfz. 222. The engine was moved from the front to the rear and the chassis was completely redesigned, resulting in a heavier, but more durable vehicle. The internal structure was enlarged to fit three crew, as was the turret so that it could mount a 2cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon, alongside an MG 34. The former, which was also the main armament of the Panzer II, gave the 222 the ability to engage enemy armoured cars as well as increasing their anti-personnel potency. Between 1936 and 1943 almost 2000 Sd.Kfz. 222s were produced, making it the Heer's most numerous armoured car. Later developments included increasing armour and upgrading the main gun. 

Next is a Schwerer Panzerspähwagen, more specifically a Sd.Kfz.231 6-rad. Built upon the commercial 6x4 truck chassis of a number of manufacturers (the Magirus M-206, Büssing-NAG G-31 and Daimler-Benz G3.6) development started in 1932 and continued until 1935, with some 123 vehicles being delivered alongside 28 radio versions designated Sd.Kfz.232 6-rad. It had a crew of four, similar operational range and speed as the Sd.Kfz. 221/2, and could be steered from either end, allowing for hasty withdrawals. The vehicle is instantly recognisable by its long sloping glacis plate, that ran up to turret  fitted with a 2cm KwK 30 L/55 and coaxial MG 13 (again later upgraded to a MG 34). As with most armoured cars of the period, armour was designed to deflect small arms fire and shrapnel and was between 8 and 6mm. Before the war broke out the off-road limitations of 6-wheeled vehicles was already apparent and by 1937 the Germans had begun producing models based on the Büssing-NAG 8×8 truck chassis, which resulted in the Sd.Kfz.231 8-rad. And I need to get one of those! All models from Pendraken Miniatures

05 March 2017

Pz.Kpfw. 38(t)

DEVELOPED by Czechoslovakian engineering company ČKD as a replacement of the earlier LT vz.35, production on what was then designated the LT vz. 38 was interrupted by Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Impressed by the design, the Germans introduced some small alterations before continuing manufacture, rolling out almost five hundred Ausf.A-Ds between May 1939 and November 1940, although there were little visible differences between these variants. Initially re-designated the LTM 38, in January 1940 the Germans changed this again to Panzerkampfwagen 38(t).  Boasting as main armament a 3,7cm ÚV vz. 38 gun, it was both better-armed and armoured than German Panzer I and IIs and had a reputation for reliability, so-much-so that its chassis was later used for the famous Jagdpanzer 38/Hetzer tank destroyer. Some 57 Panzer 38(t)s were used in the invasion of Poland and 237 during the invasion of France and the Low Countries, with 91 of these serving in Rommel's 7th Panzer Division. It's undoing was in the east, where it was no match for the increasing number of T-34s and by 1942 it had been removed from front-line service. Models are from Pendraken Miniatures.

04 March 2017

Pz.Kpfw. I Ausf.B

ALTHOUGH initially conceived as a Reichswehr training vehicle, the Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.B saw action in the Spanish Civil War and during the opening years of WWII. During Fall Weiss it made up about thirty-five percent of the total panzers available to the Heer and in Fall Gelb about twenty percent. It was quickly found to be woefully under-armoured and gunned (maximum armour was 13mm, and armament was turret-mounted twin MG13s), with even the maligned French 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun presenting a lethal threat, and certainly it was no match for the majority of period Allied tanks. However, when used in coordination with other panzers, against unsupported infantry or in reconnaissance roles it could perform well and its high speed (about 30mph on road) was an undoubted asset. Ultimately, like many early war tanks, it was fast rendered obsolete by the realities of modern armoured warfare, and was soon superseded by better-armed and armoured tanks like the Pz.Kpfw. III and IV. 

These models are from Miniature Figurines and, despite what I had heard about problems with flash, were a joy to assemble and paint, so-much-so that I currently have three Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf.Cs on order. Expect much more Jerry AFVs over the coming week!