I finished the first batch of support for my Chain of Command British platoon the other day – a Churchill, a Sherman, two Universal carriers with Bren teams, and a Six Pounder. I have dabbled in vehicle modelling a bit over the years, but this is the first time I’ve put all the steps together. Because you need so few vehicles for Chain of Command there’s no real excuse to just dunk them in magic wash, and it was great fun anyway.
I chose vehicles from units that supported the 43rd Wessex division at some stage in the North West Europe campaign. That’s a fairly wide selection, but I narrowed it down by looking at the independent armoured brigades, which bore the brunt of the support work but are so under-represented on wargame tables. Decals are a bit of a trial to find, but Dan Taylor Modelworks came to the rescue with two very useful sets.
Irate, a Churchill IV (actually I have no evidence that it was a IV) from 9th Royal Tank Regiment, 31st Tank Bde, is from the Plastic Soldier Company. It’s a nice kit but the Besas are a little agricultural… one thing I noticed after I built the kit was how heavy it feels!
Some units removed the section of track guard near the turret because they feared that if it was damaged it might jam the turret, but I imagine there were consequences for any tank-riding infantry. As I only saw a few photos of tanks in Normandy that were missing it, I just removed the front section of the track guards, a job that PSC have made easier by leaving a little trench on the inside. Removing them really makes the kit look the part, but it’s a shame that PSC simplified the tracks. I also replaced the commander with an AB figures one, added a few bits of stowage, and drilled out the main gun barrel. I missed the small sink hole above the pistol port on the right hand side of the turret, which is pesky because I’d actually read about it in a review!
The tank is painted in a mix for British Olive Drab, SCC 15, which was adopted from April 1944 in order to standardise the colour of British made vehicles with US supplied ones, but it isn’t really that similar. I used Mike Starmer’s (Mike Starmer is the man for WWII vehicle colours, for the UK at least) mix for the colour using Tamiya paints (5 XF81 : 1 XF58 : 1 XF71), because I’m used to airbrushing with them, but I used his mix for Vallejo paints (1 70888 : 1 70924) for any touch-up work and I can barely see the difference, in 1/72 at least.
Decals are from the Dan Taylor Modelworks ‘Churchill units in NW Europe 1944’ set, with a spare yellow triangle on the turret rear (for colour, I have no photos of the original tank) from the spares box, and the name was made up from individual letters from a Modeldecals set for RAF and RN aircraft.
Aberdeen is a Sherman II of 4/7 Dragoon Guards, in the 8th Armoured Bde. The model is from Armourfast and although it’s fairly crude, it is more accurate in shape than a number of others on the market. The kit went together in about ten minutes, but I added a few lifting hooks on a whim. You can, if you choose to, go to town on this and make a really good model. I left the .50 cal off the roof, but I’ve seen a number of photos of British Shermans with them, early in the North West Europe campaign at least. The commander is another excellent AB figures one. The model is painted in Tamiya Olive Drab, with some Dark Yellow in the mix to lighten it. The decals are from the Dan Taylor Modelworks ‘8th Armoured Brigade & Gold Beach’ set.
The Universal Carriers are from the Plastic Soldier Company. The guards at the front of the tracks are pretty difficult to put on, so test-fit and take care there. It’s difficult to get a good flow going making these because the driver and gunner have to be installed when you are building the vehicle itself, so I had to stop building to paint the crew. Also, the Bren guns have no chance of fitting – they are way too wide to fit through their slot, especially in the stowed position (on a diagonal, the butt sat in a bracket on the ledge near the gunner’s left elbow), and it’s too long to be fitted in a firing position if the gunner is there. I’ve seen that others have used the AB figures carrier crew figures successfully. Despite those little foibles they really look the part. I’ve ordered some British small arms from Sgts Mess to see if their Brens will fit. The carriers, from 4 Somerset Light Infantry, 129 Bde, 43rd (Wessex) Div, are painted in the same SCC15 Olive Drab as the Churchill.
The 43rd Wessex decals came from Skytrex, but sadly their Arm of Service markings are not sufficient for an infantry unit, and some of them are in threes on the sheet, which is not so good when there are two of them per vehicle. Anyway, one of the carriers has a slightly different little white number in a red square on its rear track guard, which is not the end of the world. The Skytrex decals are of the sort where the backing paper is on the front, as it were. So you cut the deal out, hold it onto the model, and then wet the backing paper. I found that pretty straightforward once I put a little dab of water where the decal was going, to hold it in place. It’s a little less nerve wracking than Little Big Men decals, which are self adhesive and stay right where you put them, which is tricky when you’re putting a decal on a 1:100 scale shield.
The Six Pounder is also from the Plastic Soldier Company. It’s a great little kit and it went together easily.
After the painting and decals, I gave the vehicles a coat of Pledge One Go, which is the nearest thing we can get locally to the magical Johnson’s Future, apart from the addition of ammonia as a cleaning agent. The latter gives One Go an unpleasant smell that my cat found quite interesting. Tanks in Normandy got very dusty, so I had lots of fun with the weathering. I started off with a pin wash of a thinned down mixture of black and burnt umber oil paints, around the hatches and vents. Then the vehicles got an overall wash with thinned down Vallejo wash. Next came an airbrushed coat of Airfix ‘Sand’ wash around the tracks. For the Six Pounder I brush painted the wash onto the wheels and went over the raised part with a cotton bud dipped in thinners. I tried misting the Sand wash onto other areas but that looked a little spotty, so I took to it with a cotton bud. Instead, I used the method in this video – brushing pigment on, and then vigorously waving a rattle can of matt varnish at the model. It took a couple of goes but I’m happy with the results.