Frankenstein’s Panthers

In order to run the Too Fat Lardies’ ‘Pint Sized Campaign’ for Operation Martlet, I needed to convert some of my kit stash into painted models. I had lots of fun because some of them were second hand and others were old kits which, although cheap, aren’t exactly quick build if you want a decent replica. But I had them and I couldn’t be bothered selling and replacing them.

For the Germans I needed a Panzer IV and Panthers.

The scenario involving Panthers calls for a section of two of them from a panzer battalion, along with two SdKfz 250s from the reconnaissance battalion, but I read somewhere that the two units fought separately during Op Martlet, and I want to see what a tank attack looks like, so I consulted the points charts for Big COC and found that I could replace the SPWs with another Panther.

One of the Panthers came from a collection of built Matchbox kits I won on eBay. I bought another Matchbox one from the guys at Sparrow Castings – that one had a short-cast lower hull, but more on that later. I also had two Airfix Panthers, bought for a princely $7 each when the exchange rate was good. So… what to do to make a third Panther G?

RawMaterials

How to make three Panther Gs. Step 1.

The Airfix Tribute Forum came to the rescue here – a better modeller than I had combined an Airfix Panther with a Revell Jagdpanther (the 1/76 ex-Matchbox one), and I happened to have one of those in that eBay lot. So I recycled one of my Airfix Panthers – the upper hull and turret went with the Jagdpanther rear and lower hull, the Airfix lower hull replaced the short cast lower hull on the Matchbox kit. I replaced the skinny and short Airfix main gun with a cut-down spare 88mm from the Revell 1/72 Jagdpanther. The Panthers all received plasticard schurzen and mudguards, in order to make them look more similar to each other.

For a paint scheme, I found a photo of a Panther of the Panzer Lehr division with a nice banded camouflage, so I went with that, and the decals came from my spares box. I think they turned out OK, but the schurzen are a little too far from the hull because of the width of the vinyl tracks.

Hybrid panther

A Panther built from spares.

The Pz IVs were from Fujimi – $5 each from Hobby Search 1999. I had two of them so I made them both. They are a fiddly kit, and the schurzen in particular did my head in. I must confess to musing on accidentally backing the car over them so I could get Plastic Soldier Company ones.

Continuing the Pz Lehr theme I bought some decals from Dan Taylor Modelworks – these were interesting because the tanks had been decorated with the family shield of the battalion commander, presumably in memorium as he was killed on 11 June 1944. I didn’t improve my mood to see that the Pz IVs I was modelling actually didn’t have their hull schurzen mounted.

For the British I needed a Firefly, a 17 pounder anti-tank gun, and a Churchill AVRE.

The Firefly came from my eBay win. Although there are a few photos of Fireflies in Normandy with their sand skirts fitted, cutting them off the kit makes it look a lot more like a Sherman. I also added some applique armour on the hull and turret sides.

The AVRE was from the Plastic Soldier Company, and went together perfectly – drilling out the ‘Petard’ mortar makes a real difference there.

The 17pdr is from Revell’s reboxing of the old Matchbox kit (I still have the Morris truck from the one I originally got about 38 years ago). It took me a couple of goes to get the trail legs right on this kit, so I was obviously more intelligent back in my youth.

Just for luck, and for further nostalgia, I built an Airfix Sherman, which was boxed as a Sherman flail, but Sherman flails were based on the M4A4 so I have a Revell Firefly lying around for that. The other Sherman I have is from Armourfast, and it’s a big 1/72 scale, so the Airfix Sherman, which is a fairly perfect 1/76 (although I read somewhere that the turret might be 1:78) is a little small. To compensate for that I added a layer of plasticard to the hull sides and rear, and around the turret. The turret took a lot of filling and sanding to get right. I also replaced the gun, which is the only thing on the kit that is really undersized – and for that I used (drum roll) the gun from the Airfix Panther I was recycling!

I used Dan Taylor decals for the British vehicles, from the set for Gold Beach and 8th Armoured Brigade, with disappointingly-low-on-colour-density red triangles from an I-94 decal sheet. The Sherman was interesting, there’s a throwaway comment on the instructions for the decal sheet that the tank is that of SGT Dring, without further elaboration. A chance find on another website revealed that SGT Dring knocked out several tanks during Op Martlet. So it’s nice to find a fact to link the model to the game.

UnpaintedTanks

More tanks than I really need. The Panthers are, left to right, Airfix hybridised with a Matchbox Jagdpanther, Matchbox with Airfix suspension, and Matchbox. The StuGs are Plastic Soldier Company 15mm, destined for the Eastern Front.

FinishedTanks

And with a paint job. I think I need to add more dirt.

The commanders for all the vehicles are from AB figures, bar Pz IV 631 which has a CP Models commander. Most received a fairly bog standard paint job. The AVRE commander received a Navy Blue beret – only AVRE drivers were from the Tank Corps, the rest of the crew are of course Royal Engineers. There is discussion online about the colour of AVRE crews’ berets, whether Tank Corps black or RE Navy blue, but on the BBC People’s War archive an AVRE crewman recalls that their Tank Corps drivers were reluctant to give up their black berets… so there you have it. CP Models seem to like unusual uniforms and weapons, but good poses, so the commander of that Pz IV is wearing field grey overalls.

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