Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of miniatures wargaming with an emphasis on 15mm World War II and Flames of War.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Battlefront Bases in General Release

Battlefront will soon be releasing their new plastic bases with figure holes into general release.  One of the more useful sets for me looks to be the Mixed Bases with Figure Holes (XX108).  These bases are appearing in newer plastic and some metal figure sets.  For the plastic sets they work perfectly, but some work is required to make them work for metal figures.

Thus far I've used these on a few metal miniatures, and while it took a little extra work to prepare the miniature before painting (so it would fit in the hole) it saved me time on the back end in basing the miniatures.  The one issue I see is miniatures that are cast prone or otherwise on a large non-circular base.  For those, you'll likely still need a few of the old style bases.  However, given the end product is similar in thickness to a built up thin flat base the two should work well in combination.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fallschirmkommano for 150. Panzerbrigade

As mentioned last time - next up is the Fallschirmkommando platoon.  This one took a while because of the 3 tone camouflage patterns on the tunics.  The painting is based on photos and plates in the Osprey Ardennes 1944 Peiper & Skorzeny reference.  Unfortunately the color plates for the vehicles in this particular work have a lot of errors.  The uniforms for the infantry seem to better agree with other reference works.  I used Luftwaffe blue trousers and helmets for the unit.  For the tunics, I used the standard Flames of War recommended procedure for Fallschrimjäger cammo tunics. 



The group shot above is pretty decent, but no photographs really seem to do justice to the paint schemes at this point.  As with the mortars, I've added a light dusting of snow to represent conditions early on in the fighting when 150. Panzerbrigade was first employed.  For the unit I used the Fallschirmjäger Platoon (GE762).  Overall I found the miniatures pretty good, though some of the faces could be a bit more detailed.






 
Above are some detail shots.  Unfortunately I'm still struggling a bit with the macro lens on my Nikon and I'm just not getting the depth of field I'd like to get on these.  Overall I'm pretty pleased with how the miniatures came out.  I learned a lot about different shading techniques and think I'm closing in on a new technique that will let me be more consistent going forward. 

12cm Mortars for 150. Panzerbrigade

So I'm making a fair amount of progress on my 150. Panzerbrigade army - some of the platoons are (gasp!) actually done.  One of the first ones I finished up was the 12cm mortar platoon.  There aren't a lot of artillery options for 150. Panzerbrigade and generally I've found that I need at least one reasonable arty unit in most tournaments so I went with the 12cm artillery.  As the mortar support for 150. Panzerbrigade was Heer, I used the 12cm sGW43 Mortar Platoon (GE711).  Overall I thought it was a reasonably nice set of miniatures.  Some people haven't liked the crew figures, but I think they painted up pretty well.

The first photo is a group shot of unit.  I've used brown rather than black webbing I've used a dark brown.  Based on the references I own there's a variety in the webbing colors.  I've also put a light dusting of snow on the bases.  I'm trying to model 150. Panzerbrigade when they jumped off in mid-December, and based on the photos I have there was only a light dusting of snow at that point (though there was indeed snow!).

 


Below is a photo of the command squad and a couple of teams in front of one of the new Battlefront Houses

 

 
Here's looking at you!  Okay, just the observer, but he came out pretty decently.

 

One platoon down - several to go.  Next up are the Fallschrimkommandos.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

150. Panzerbrigade List and Miniature Progress

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm currently finishing up my 150. Panzerbrigade army.  The current list is 1780 points (though there's a 2000 point tournament later this month, so I may need to punch it out a bit!) and is as follows:

HQ:

·         CiC and 2iC Panzerfaust submachine gun teams with Jeeps (I typically come out 10 points short, so I can upgrade one to a halftrack) (75 points or 85 points with halftrack)

 
Combat Platoons:

·         Fallschirmkommando Platoon with command panzerfaust SMG team and 9X Rifle/MG teams (275 points)
·         Ersatz Panther Platoon with 3X Ersatz Panthers (550 points)
·         Ersatz Stug Platoon with 5X Ersatz Stug III G (475 points)

 
Weapon Platoons:

·         Heavy Mortar Platoon - Command SMG team, Observer team, 4X 12cm sGW43 mortars (160 points)
·         Ersatz Panzerspäh Platoon - 3X Captured M8 Greyhounds (135 points)
·         Skorzeny Commando Groups - 2X Skorzeny Commando Groups (100 points)

 
Total is 1770 or 1780.  Use of the Skorzeny Commando groups is right for the "theme" of the army, but I could drop them for an Me262 air support if the mood struck me.

Enough about the facts and figures, you want to see the PICTURES!  I've based these guys as if they were in use early in the campaign (as the actually were), so the snow isn't hip deep at this point, but it is present.  The HQ are both SS-troops, so I've used pea-dot cammo on them (shown below).  I'm using the Osprey Ardennes 1944 - Peiper & Skorzeny book as a primary reference for the troops, but not the vehicle markings because of known errors in the vehicle markings (which I'll detail in a later blog post).


 
The Fallschirmkommando unit scheme (shown below) is based on the uniform for Fallschrimjäger Regiment 9.  It may not be exactly right for the units attached to 150. Panzerbrigade, but it is a legitimate Luftwaffe scheme.

 

 
The rest of the Fallschirmkommando stands are painted, but the basing isn't quite finished yet.  The mortars are nearly done as well.  I hope to get photos of these posted soon.

Until next time!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

150. Panzerbrigade in Progress

I spent a good portion of the day neatening up my work table, which had become a complete and utter disaster area.  It's marginally better at this point, but will get a lot better once I get my organizers in from Micromark.  Anyway, given I had time to clean off the table, I got the new cutting mat on the work surface and lined up my current project - 150. Panzerbrigade from Devil's Charge (seen below).  I've always loved the converted vehicles for this particular unit, so when the list was released, I just couldn't resist.

 

At this point I'm running with 3 Panthers, 5 Stugs, a full unit of paratroopers, heavy mortars, 3 captured M8's, and a couple of Skorzeny teams.  Overall the unit has been a lot of fun to paint up and model.  I dropped the metal tracks and gun barrels from the Panthers and went with the new plastic ones instead.  The Stugs have a combination of barrels with and without muzzle brakes.  I'll get a more detailed painting guide and more pictures up once they're done (hopefully in a couple of weeks!).

So what's on your table????

Saturday, January 5, 2013

RIP Thomas L. Jentz

I just recently discovered checking the Panzer Tracts website that Thomas L. Jentz has passed away.  For those of you who don't know, Thomas Jentz is one of the cornerstones of tank research and the author of many of the most authoritative works German armor and armored forces in World War II, though he also researched other armored topics as well.  A short list of books he has authored or co-authored includes:

·         Germany's Tiger Tanks D.W. to Tiger I: Design, Production & Modifications
·         Germanys Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy
·         Tank Combat in North Africa: The Opening Rounds Operations Sonnenblume, Brevity, Skorpion and Battleaxe
·         Germanys Tiger Tanks: Tiger I & Tiger II: Combat Tactics
·         Panzertruppen 1 and Panzertruppen 2
·         Co author on the entire Spielberger German Armor and Military History Vehicle Series
·         Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War II - perhaps the first truly scholarly work on German armor

A more comprehensive list can be found at Amazon

Thomas Jentz will be sorely missed in the historical and modeling communities.  His excellent works are one of the primary reasons I got into German armor modeling and his scholarship has always been an inspiration to me.  I want to wish all of his family and friends my most sincere condolences. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Herd of Elefants - Part 1

Inspired by other grand projects I’ve seen, my goal is to ultimately have most, if not all, documented Elefant of Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 653 represented in model form.  There are several good references out there which are included in the Bibliography below.  I’ll start with a review of the basic Elefant miniature from Battlefront and then go from there.

 GE132 – Elefant

The good:  Overall the shape and scale of the vehicle is good and the detailing is fairly accurate.  Assembly is very straight forward, and the miniature is sturdy – which is a big plus for something that’s hopefully going to see a fair amount of use.  Parts breakdown makes sense – two track units, hatches, and the gun.

The not as good:  Tail light, jack, jack box, and tool box missing from the rear of the vehicle.  No spare track links provided (though these were common stowage items – you could probably get away with using Panther tracks, but you’ll have to change the guide teeth).  One of the gun sight slit hatches is missing from the superstructure roof.  The left and right engine vents are too wide and approach the center vent too closely – side vents are also larger than the central vent when in actuality the reverse was true.

The inconvenient:  Obviously since this was a rare bird, there’s only one miniature to go with, so you have to do a fair amount of conversion to get the breadth of the vehicles actually fielded.  The molded in tow cable is on one side only (there are ample examples of vehicles with one, two, or none).
 

Accurizing

Some of the issues with the stock miniature are relatively simple to fix.  I’ve built-up a jack box and cast resin copies of it.  You can take a jack out of the Panther box and add it to the rear superstructure.  Adding a rear light is also fairly easy – just build up one from styrene strip.  I’ve also added the extra hatch on the top with styrene sheet and strip.  I don’t bother with the surgery on the engine hatches at this point (and probably won’t ever).  Adding the tool box to the rear is also fairly simple – just use a thick piece of strip styrene cut to the right dimensions and add zimmerit with green putty.  I also add a small strip of styrene to connect the front and rear fenders a bit better than you get with simply attaching the track units to the hull.


Out of the box

The miniature as packaged will build up several vehicles without major modification.  These include:

·         East Front:
o   Vehicles 223 and 224 (red, white outline)
o   Vehicle 232 (red, white outline)
o   Vehicle 234 (red, white outline – it’s possible the Munch book misidentifies vehicle 234 as vehicle 334, as the first digit is missing and the contrast of the center of the number is low like the number is red, not black)
o   Vehicle 322 (solid black)
o   Vehicle 301 (number unclear in photos)
o   Vehicle 323 (black, white outline(?))
o   Vehicle 331 (black, white outline)
o   Vehicle 332 (black, white outline)
o   Vehicle 334 (solid black – or black with white outline – two primary references contradict)
o   Most other vehicles used by 653 on the Eastern Front (no number in many photographs)
o   One of the two survivors which fought in Berlin as a part of s.Pz.Jg. Kompanie 614. (no number) – note four were assigned to sPzJg Kompanie 614., but only two actually made it into the fighting in Berlin.

·         Italy:
o   At least one 1st Company Elefant (with no number visible)
o   It’s also “close enough” to model Elefant 124 of the 1st company (though this particular vehicle had horizontal zimmerit around the closed vision ports). 

 
Minor Surgery

Toward the end of the conversion run, four vehicles were fitted with a modified rear hatch consisting of two leaves as opposed to the single large hatch.  It’s a fairly simple matter to add some styrene hinges and overlap to the rear hatch of the miniature.  At least one of these served in the HQ Company of 653. Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung (no number). 

The pictures below show the first build-up of one of these vehicles.  Note that I’ve already added details discussed above.  The split hatch is accomplished through cutting and shaping strip styrene.  I find a tool called “The Chopper” to be invaluable for this sort of work.

 

 




Part 2 will cover the Elefant that require more work and markings for the unit.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Modeling the Initial Tiger I in Flames of War

Waldemar Trojca gets me in more trouble than any human being I know.  He has recently published the second volume of his acclaimed Tiger Technical and Operational History series, but the first volume had me in enough trouble.  Going through the excellent research and color plates, I discovered Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502 and its unique Tiger I tanks which served in the Soviet Union during the winter of 1942-3.  By February 1943, the first company was down to five tanks, so they repainted their winter camouflage and renumbered them one through five.  Two of the five vehicles are early production Tiger I tanks.  For these the standard Flames of War miniature (GE070) will work fine with little modification (such as the removal of the shovel on the front hull).  However, the other three are initial production Tiger I tanks which vary from the Flames of War model in many distinctive and critical ways.  Not being content to "make do" I decided to begin the conversion from "early Tiger I" to "initial Tiger I" to correctly represent the unit on the table - after all, how hard could it be???

The answer, of course, is VERY hard.  The initial production Tiger I differs on nearly every important surface of the vehicle.  Stowage is in different places, the front fenders are different, the turret stowage boxes are field modifications from a Panzer III, and so on.  Starting with the rear hull, there is less stowage and the exhaust system is different from the early production Tiger I.  Unfortunately it was easier to remove all of the detail and replace it than it was to simply modify the existing details.  The photo below shows the rear hull with replacement fittings.  The miniature was slightly concave, so there is extra green putty building up a smooth rear hull.  The photo below that shows the prototype exhaust pipe (at left) along with the prototype front fender (which had a distinctive diamond tread surface).  The prototype exhaust was built from aluminum rod, styrene sheet and tubing.  A micro-punch was used to create the rivet detail.  The fender is simply some mesh glued over the top of a styrene sheet cut and bent to the right size and angle.  I've cast up several copies of both of these parts as each tank requires two exhausts and two fenders.

 

 
Additional modifications to the hull are fairly extensive as much of the stowage is moved or absent.  The small side tow cable is not found on the initial production Tiger I, nor is the front shovel or the S-mine launchers.  These were all therefore removed.  The bolt cutters are also in a different position.  Perhaps the most significant change was the location of the primary tow cables.  Rather than the connecting eyes being stowed forward, they are stowed aft on the initial Tiger I, which meant the entire tow cable had to be replaced.  I used styrene sheet, copper wire, and resin copies of the eyes from the original miniature as replacements.  The initial Tiger I also had only five, not six, gun cleaning rods.  These were replicated with stretched sprue.

 

 

 The turret also required minor modification.  Essentially the molded in turret stowage box had to be removed.  This will be replaced with one from a Panzer III.  Instead of sacrificing multiple Panzer III miniatures, I've cast up copies of the stowage box to use on converted turrets.

 

 

 
Now that the primary surgery is done, I need to finish neatening up the miniature for assembly and painting.  The fenders and exhausts will be attached prior to painting, but I generally wait until after painting to attach the tracks.  The Tigers of the 502nd are all gray with substantial whitewash.  I'll also need to make up custom decals as the markings are completely unique to this unit, but it will give me a chance to try out my new dry transfer maker!
 
Ultimately this will all go into an Eastern Front army using the Schwere Panzerkompany 1942 list.  I know it's not the most competitive list out there, but it will be RIGHT for these guys.  I'm also including some winter mid-war grenaders in the mix, so it should look great on the table, even if I die heinously!  I'll post more "in progress" photos as this one works its way through the queue.
 
 

Too Many Panthers?

One criticism leveled at many late-war German armored company lists in Flames of War is that there are "too many Panthers" and "not enough Panzer IV's."  The perception being that the Panther was a rarer tank on the battlefield compared to the Panzer IV.  While player preference may be changing with the introduction of many high-AT Allied weapons in the Bulge and forthcoming Market Garden releases, I wanted to take a look at the actual production numbers to understand how common the Panther tank really was relative to the Panzer IV, especially in late war.  One of the best resources for this sort of data is Jentz's Panzer Truppen Volume 2.  This book is a treasure trove of raw data, but it is generally not presented in a very visual format.  When it is, somewhat clunky black and white bar graphs are used.  So I took that data and reformatted to highlight the production and inventory levels of both vehicles.

The first data I examined was the actual production rate of both the Panther and the Panzer IV.  The graph below shows that starting in 1943 Panther production (in red) ramped very quickly effectively matching Panzer IV production (in blue) by the end of 1943 and actually outstripping it in March, 1944. 


Given the production numbers, one would expect the number of Panthers in the total inventory to rise relative to the Panzer IV assuming similar rates of attrition.  Looking at the actual German panzer inventory by month, this is exactly what one sees.  The graph below shows both the number of Panzer IV's (in blue) and Panther (in red) in the German arsenal growing steadily from January 1943 through mid-June 1944.  The slope of the Panther line, however, is much steeper, so that by June 1944 there are roughly as many Panthers in service as there are Panzer IV's  (just north of 2200 of each).  Past that point and through the end of the war, the number of Panthers in service is actually greater than the number of Panzer IV's.



Clearly June 1944 was an inflection point in German armored strength.  Despite Allied bombing and reversals in Italy and on the Eastern Front through 1943 and early 1944, the German Panzer force continued to grow.  However, June 1944 saw both the Allied invasion of Normandy and perhaps more importantly from a pure numbers standpoint, Operation Bagration in the East.  The chart of Panzer loses below shows a sharp spike in June-July 1944 coinciding with these operations. 


From a pure numbers standpoint it is clear that at the time of the Normandy invasions and Operation Bagration, the Panther was just as common as the Panzer IV on the battlefield.  Past that point, the Panther actually became more slightly more common than the Panzer IV.  Another point to consider is the fact that armored divisions typically were organized using a single model of tank at the company level, so Panthers and Panzer IV's would each form their own companies, so "Panther heavy" German armored companies do actually have a strong historical basis.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

206 Panzerabteilung List and Photos


To supplement my earlier write-up on the 206. Panzerabteilung, here's the army list and some older photos of the completed project.  The army list for this one is fairly extensive as the tanks are so cheap.

HQ: 

·         Beutepanzerkompanie HQ:  Company command Panzer 35-S 739(f), 2iC Panzer 35-S 739(f) + Sd Kfz 9 (19t) recovery half-track


Combat Platoons:

·         Beutepanzer Platoon:  Command Panzer 35-S 739(f) + four Panzer 38-H 735(f)
·         Beutepanzer Platoon:  Command Panzer 35-S 739(f) + four Panzer 38-H 735(f)
·         Beutepanzer Platoon:  Command Panzer 35-S 739(f) + four Panzer 38-H 735(f)
·         Beutepanzer Platoon:  Command Panzer 35-S 739(f) + four Panzer 38-H 735(f)

 
Weapons Platoons:

·         Schwere Beutepanzer Platoon:  Command Panzer B-2 740(f), two Panzer B-2 740(f), two Panzer B-2 740(f) flamm
·         Bodenständig Anti-tank Gun Platoon:  Command SMG Team + three 7.5cm PaK40

 
Support Platoons:

·         Bodenständig Tank-hunter Platoon:  Command Marder I + two Marder I
·         Bodenständig Heavy Artillery Battery:  Command SMG team, Staff team, two observer teams, four 15.5cm sFH414(f) Howitzer
·         Bodenständig Grenadier Platoon:  Command Panzerfaust SMG team + six Rifle/MG teams
·         Bodenständig Pioneer Platoon:  Command Pioneer Panzerfaust SMG team, pioneer supply truck, nine Pioneer rifle teams
·         Luftwaffe Anti-Aircraft Assault Platoon:  Command SMG team, two Luftwaffe 8.8cm FlaK36 gun with eight crew each, two Sd Kfz 7 half track


First up are the two Somua command tanks, these are all "pre-decal" - I'll be setting up another photo spread soon where I get the vehicles with their final markings documented, as actually getting the right number system was a real pain!  All of the tanks have been painted with Testors Model Master acryl paints (Panzer Dunkelgelb 1943, Panzer Olivgrun 1943, and Panzer Schokoladenbraun RAL 8017) applied with an Iwata airbrush over a primer coat (I've been using Mr. Surfacer 1200).  In the pot the Schokoladenbraun looks too dark, but when airbrushed over Dunkelgelb, the result is a very characteristic red-brown.  The Commander figure is a head swap based on the original French figure.


 

Next up are a couple of shots of the Char's.  These were a bit easier to mark because they used conventional numbers I had decals readily available for.  First is the command tank followed by a "group shot."


 


Next up is an "in progress" photo of the Somua and Hotchkiss tanks in horde formation.  You can see that the open white German crosses have been applied to many tanks.  Bear in mind every French tank in this force has had at least the commander's cupola converted to the German style!

 

Finally here are a couple of photos of the Marder I tank destroyers.  I hadn't gotten the crew in them at this point (they're in now - will include in the next set of pix!).  However the markings are relatively complete - including the self propelled tank destroyer unit marking on the front of the gun shield!





I'll get updated photos of the vehicles and their supporting cast in the next few days. 
 
As I mentioned previously, the army played better than I thought it would in a tank heavy tournament (the "Tanksgiving" event hosted by the local club was for tank companies only!).  I tend to run a "mega-kampfgruppe" with eight Hotchkiss, two Chars, and the 2iC Somua.  Against other enemy armor, that tends not to work as well, but against infantry it can be devastating - though its utility has been somewhat limited by the new V3 tank fallback rules.  Generally if you're playing a Beutepanzerkompanie, your tanks will go after enemy infantry and guns, while your guns and Pioneers will tackle opposing armor.  Overall, the army takes a lot of finesse to play, but it's a fun break from a typical LW German armored company with few vehicles on the table.

Thoughts on Eras in Flames of War

Flames of War is an evolving wargame which has traditionally been divided into three eras:  Early War, Mid War, and Late War.  Mid-War was fleshed out first and covers the years 1942 and 1943.  Late War starts in 1944 and has been the major era of focus through much of Second Edition and Third Edition, with numerous compilations which have taken the war through the Battle of the Bulge.  A recent article by John-Paul of Battlefront miniatures indicates that trend will continue over the next year with the build up to Berlin.  Early War covers 1939 through 1941 and first appeared a few years ago with Blitzkrieg and has since expanded to several books, though the War in the East has not been released.

Even though Battlefront does a decent job of setting point values, one problem dividing the war neatly into three eras is the "early era" lists have trouble competing with "late era" lists because technology advanced so quickly during World War II.  Pure 1942 lists frequently have trouble fighting outside of their theater in mid-war because of developments in 1943 which expanded the power of most of the major combatants, especially the Germans who introduced the Panther, the Ferdinand and a host of other new vehicles in time for the Kursk offensive.  In Early War, the Soviets introduce the T-34 and KV series of tanks into broad service starting in 1941.  In Late War, the expanded availability of high AT value Allied guns gives the later lists a lot more hitting power than their early to mid 1944 counterparts.

Is it time to look at breaking out the eras of Flames of War into more phases to allow for more even match-ups between forces?  One thought would be:

1939-1940:  EW (could perhaps be extended to all operations pre-Barbarossa)

1941:  EMW

1942-mid 1943 (pre-Kursk):  MW

Late 1943 through mid-1944 (Jan through August):  LW (through the Normandy-breakout and Bagration, but pre-Market Garden)

Mid 1944-1945:  VLW

The advantage is it makes it easier to balance forces within the era, but there are several disadvantages as well.  One is that it would be harder to have large tournaments as there would be a smaller pool of army lists.  Additional sub-categories would also make it harder to find a pickup game as well.  It also takes away from some of the inherent simplicity of the overall system, which is one of the hallmarks of the game.

Feel free to discuss below!

Panzerabteilung 206 in Flames of War

I recently took a Beutepanzerkompanie from Earth and Steel to a Flames of War Tanksgiving tournament - the army did surprisingly well (2-3, 5-2, 6-1) and did win Best Painted.  Perhaps the most satisfying part was I was able to represent Panzerabteilung 206 fairly accurately on the table.  Here's the army background and modeling notes.  Given the D-Day compilations will be getting an update in June of this next year, I'm interested to see what changes (if any) there will be to this fun little force!
 
 
Unit History and Background

With the fall of France in 1940, the Germans captured vast stores of French equipment, including large stores of French tanks.  Some of these were used as the basis for the construction of self propelled guns and tank destroyers.  Others were used with only minor modifications as Beutepanzer.  Given the fact that many of the French designs were quickly rendered obsolete by advances in tank technology during World War II, most units equipped with French Beutepanzer were not intended to be committed to front-line use.  Instead they generally equipped secondary units such as training brigades, reserve units, or units used in anti-partisan warfare. 

 


Panzerkampfwagen 35-S 739(f) from Panzerabteilung 205

Even in 1944, many of the French Beutepanzer and conversions were still operational in second line units mostly concentrated in France.  Given the fact Hitler expected the Allied invasion of France would occur at Calais, the Germans concentrated many of their best units in that sector.  Normandy and the Cotentin Peninsula were considered unlikely locations for an invasion, and many reserve and training units were concentrated in that area.  Panzerabteilung 206 was on such unit.

Unlike 21. Panzerdivision which was equipped with a mix of modern German tanks and tank destroyers on converted French chasses, Panzerabteilung 206 was a reserve panzer unit equipped entirely with French Beutepanzer.  The elderly French tanks were handed down to Panzerabteilung 206 and its sister unit Panzerabteilung 205 from 14. Panzerdivision and 21. Panzerdivision.  At the time of the Normandy invasion, the 206th had a paper strength of 28 Hotchkiss, 10 Somua, and 5 Char B-2 tanks, though not all of these were operational.  The Hotchkiss tanks were a mixture of long barreled and short barreled tanks.

 


Position of Panzerabteilung 206 on the Contentin Peninsula on D-Day and its movement to support Cherbourg

On D-Day, Panzerabteilung 206 was on the far northwest portion of the Cotentin Peninsula on the Cap de la Hague.  Major Ernst Wenk commanded the Abteilung, and he was ordered to move to Cherbourg to bolster the defenses there.  They fought a valiant defense alongside 709. Infanteriedivision, but were ultimately wiped out by the advancing Allied armies.  Some reports indicate the unit had been destroyed by the fall of Cherbourg on June 26, 1944.  Others indicate remnants remained and were destroyed in the retreat to Paris in mid-July 1944. 
 

The Vehicles of Panzerabteilung 206

Panzerabteilung 206 was equipped three primary types of French tanks:

·         The Char B-1 (bis), known as the Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f) in German service - both standard 7.5cm howitzer armed and flamethrower conversions were used.

·         The SOMUA S-35, known as the Panzerkampfwagen 35-S 739(f) in German service

·         The Hotchkiss H-35/H-39, known as the Panzerkampfwagen 38-H 735(f) in German service.  Panzerabteilung 206 used both kurtz and lang models of this vehicle denoting the short-barreled 37mm SA 18 gun and the long-barreled L/35 37mm SA38 gun respectively.
 

Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)

Vehicle:  Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)
Crew:  4
Weight (tons):  34
Armament:  One 7.5cm KvK35(f) L/17 (or one Flammenwerfer), one 4.7cm KwK35(f), one 7.5mm Reibel machine gun
Armor (front):  56-60 mm
Armor (side):  46-60 mm
Armor (rear):  46-55 mm
Speed:  28 km/h
Range:  150 km

Around 60 Char B-1 (bis) were converted into a flamethrower version with one or more of the flamethrower variants shown at right.  Generally the cupola was also modified to a German split-hatch style as well, though the original French armament was otherwise retained.

 
Panzerkampfwagen 35-S 739(f)

Vehicle:  Panzerkampfwagen 35-S 739(f)
Crew:  3
Weight (tons):  20
Armament:  One 4.7cm KwK35(f), one 7.5mm Reibel machine gun
Armor (front):  36-56 mm
Armor (side):  35-46 mm
Armor (rear):  25-46 mm
Speed:  37 km/h
Range:  257 km

The SOMUA S-35 was one of the best French tanks available in 1940, but by 1944 it was hopelessly outclassed by newer tank designs.  Panzerabteilung 206 had several of these tanks available, and they were generally used as command tanks for the various platoons.  All of the SOMUA were converted to the German split type hatch.  The view at right is a rare view of the top of a bogged down Beutepanzer, but it is interesting because the hatch is clearly visible.


Panzerkampfwagen 38-H 735(f)

Vehicle:  Panzerkampfwagen 38-H 735(f)
Crew:  2
Weight (tons):  12.1
Armament:  One L/35 37mm SA38 or 37mm SA 18 gun + one 7.5 mm Reibel machine gun
Armor (front):  29-45 mm
Armor (side):  34-40 mm
Armor (rear):  22-40 mm
Speed:  36.5 km/h
Range:  150 km
 
The diminutive Hotchkiss tank served as the backbone of Panzerabteilung 206.  Hopelessly outclassed by even more modern light tanks, it was a useful vehicle for training and in combat with partisans and other irregular forces lacking substantial armored assets.  Unfortunately for the 206th, the Allied forces were not at the same disadvantage.  All of the Hotchkiss tanks were also converted to a German-style split-hatch cupola design as shown above in a photo of another unfortunate bogged-down Beutepanzer. 


Panzerabteilung 206 in Flames of War

The Beutepanzerkompanie list in Earth and Steel is a solid historical list which allows the player to field either Ersatz Abteilung 100 (which was a training unit) or Panzerabteilung 206.  With a little imagination it could also be used to represent Panzerabteilung 205, though that particular unit was assigned to another Panzer division for the defense of Normandy.

 


Modified Char B-1 ready for priming

In keeping with the theme of the army, I limited myself to the vehicles to the organization listed on page 180 of Earth and Steel.  The force is therefore comprised of S-35 command tanks with H39 tanks filling out the ranks.  I also included the Schwere Beutepanzer Platoon with two flame-tanks.  I even included the battery of 7.5cm PaK40 guns.

Modeling the force was a challenge as nearly every tank had to be modified in some way to get the turret hatch correct.  Battlefront has since released a conversion Beutepanzer cupola, but the product released is accurate only for the Hotchkiss style of cupola.  The SOMUA and Char's used a modified version of the original French cupola.

The picture at above right shows two of the Char B-1 tanks (one conventional and one flame tank) ready for priming and painting.  The original kit cupola has been sanded down and a resin cast of a scratch-built master has been used to replace the existing cupola.

 


SOMUA with modified turret hatch

The SOMUA was modified in a similar manner with the original cupola being filed down and a resin copy of a scratch-built new hatch system was added (shown at left).  The command tank utilized the kit crew figure with a German head swap. 


 

Modified H39 Turret

The Hotchkiss conversion was a bit more involved since the original kit cupola had to be removed entirely and both cupola and hatches rebuilt from scratch.  I also took the opportunity to add additional rivet detail to the vehicles to improve the accuracy of the Battlefront turret.  The picture at right shows the modified turret.  Resin copies were used for all of the models, but the additional details were added by hand on each vehicle using a punch and die set and thin styrene.

Markings for the unit were based on those seen on the tanks of Panzerabteilung 205 since no photos of Panzerabteilung 206 are available that show the markings clearly.  Panzerabteilung 205 utilized a white number system with a black outline.  The same effect was reproduced on the Beutepanzerkompanie using a two-layered decal system.  First a solid white number was put down on the tanks, then a black outline number was added on top of the previous decal to complete the design.
 

References
Chamberlain, Peter, Hilary Doyle, Thomas L. Jentz Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War II (Revised Edition), Arms and Armour Press (London), 1993.

Jentz, Thomas L. and Werner Regenberg Panzer Trackts No.19-1 Beute-Panzerkampfwagen, Panzer Tracts (Boyds, MD), 2007.

Niklas Zetterling Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness, J. J. Fedorowicz Publishing (Toronto), 2000.