Over time the lists have started to improve, and my stated position has always been that if the lists in Flames of War got to a point to where they were interesting, I'd get back into the game with new armies and projects. Enter the new Stalingrad books, Iron Cross for the Germans and Enemy at the Gates for the Soviets. While not quite as comprehensive as I'd hoped, these are in my view a big step in the right direction allowing the player to create a some very accurate forces... one might even say "interesting" forces... so look what's on the painting table. Yes Virginia, those are Flames of War miniatures!
So what drew me back in???
The 24. Panzer-Division is one of the German units highlighted in Iron Cross. This unit has a very interesting history, and I had the honor of writing some of their background for the new Flames of War release. One of the best references on the unit is Jason Mark's Death of the Leaping Horseman - The 24th Panzer Division in Stalingrad. The book has a detailed history of the unit's campaign in 1942 from the fast advance across the Caucasus to its eventual death by attrition in the streets of Stalingrad. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the unit.
Over the next several weeks I'll be building my first new Flames of War army in nearly 2 years based on this division, and I'll detail the unit choices and how I model the vehicles of this iconic unit. Part 1 is going to be a general overview with some teasers, but future installments will go in depth into each of the platoons!
List Choice and Building the Force
While the 24. Panzer-Division history text precedes the Panzer IV list in the Iron Cross, given the vehicles available to the unit one can just as easily use the Panzer III Tank Company list to represent the division on the tabletop. Based on my research to this point, 24. Panzer-Division was equipped with a mix of Panzer III 5.0cm long and short tanks, as well as Panzer IV tanks with both the short and long barreled 7.5cm guns. I have not yet seen any photographic or other evidence for 7.5cm armed Panzer III tanks or "uparmored" Panzer III tanks in 24. Panzer-Division service, so if you're trying to be historically accurate, these should likely be left out of the force.
In terms of support, I wanted to include some infantry as well (as we are talking about Stalingrad). So I'm adding a second company which gave me some infantry. In terms of the miniatures, I'm still old school when it comes to the "little men" and tend to prefer the metal ones. In that vein, I'm almost embarrassed to say I've had the Grenadiers sitting around for a while, and I do mean a WHILE... as in the very old German Greadierkompanie (GEAB03) box (see photo below). In ages past I managed to get these cleaned up, primed, and even started the Fieldgray base coat and then stopped. So, now they're back! Photographic evidence shows that at least some of the Grenadiers in 24. Panzer-Division were mounted in halftracks, so I'll try to find a way to sneak those into the force at some point.
I'm also including some Panzer II tanks as spearhead as 24. Panzer-Division was well-equipped with these little tanks for reconnaissance roles. I ended up using the North Africa release of the Panzer II platoon (GBX102) (as for some reason I didn't actually have any in my massive stock). You can also use the new GBX108 Panzer II Light Tank Platoon, though it won't be available for a few months.
In terms of other support, 24. Panzer-Division had some Marder III self-propelled anti-tank guns available, and the Marder (7.62) unit provides some much needed (if fairly fragile) high AT weapons - and is accurate for the force. I had several individual blister packs hiding in my stash that had been collecting more than a little dust. At this point you can just pick up the Marder (7.62cm) Tank-hunter Platoon (GBX101).
I'm still finalizing points and list variations at this point, but I'd like to add some artillery (Nebelwerfers have always been a favorite) as well as some anti-aircraft assets. I may try to bring some aircraft in as well, but I need to go through my options in more detail
Modeling the Force Thus Far - A Quick Overview
For both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks in the force, you've got a couple of Battlefront options from which to choose. The more recent plastic Panzer III kits that were introduced with the original 4th edition boxed sets, Panzer III Tank Platoon (GBX96) or (GBX105), can easily be used to replicate the division's tanks. These are reasonably nice kits (though I'll detail some of the issues below). As all of the 24. Panzer-Division Panzer III tanks appear to be of the Ausf J model, you can also use the older resin and metal GE033 as well, which remains a VERY nice miniature. For Panzer IV tanks you have similar options available. The newer plastic Panzer IV miniatures, Panzer IV Tank Platoon (GBX97) or (GBX106), work just great. However, the older resin and metal Panzer IV F1/F2 miniature is also very nice - especially if you have some late production ones - and remains a valid choice.
I ended up using a mix of the plastic and resin/metal miniatures because (quite frankly) that's what I had sitting in my personal stash. In terms of personal preference, I like the detail on the older resin and white metal miniatures a little better overall than the plastic for these particular kits, though each has its own high and low points. Track detail for both resin and plastic is very good because this was the era where the plastic kit tracks were being used as masters for kits using white metal tracks. I like the fact that the Panzer III plastic miniature tries to capture everything from an Ausf J through an Ausf N, with the various armament options and the reversible engine deck. Unfortunately the rearmost access hatches appear to only be accurate for the later versions, but this is one time I'm not so worried and you'll see why below!
Changes in Panzer III production were coming fast and furious during this phase of the war, and as you can see from the photo above, there's a short barreled 5.0cm Panzer III with the later style engine covers. For my force I've ended up with a mixture of engine decks as you can see in the photo below. The photo also shows a few additional features typical of 24. Panzer-Division Panzer III tanks - lots of loose stowage on the engine deck and a storage box added to the hull rear. So if you're not 100% sold on some of the engine deck detail - worry not! You can bury it in stowage!
The photo directly above was taken today as opposed to the lead photo in this post which was taken a couple of weeks ago. As you can see I'm making progress on both the builds and painting (which will be detailed in future posts!). At bottom left you can see the master for the Panzer III stowage box. On the right are the Panzer II light tanks. Painting on the Panzer IV tank platoon is well underway, and I've been using a modulated overall panzer gray with filters and black pin wash. I'll do final weathering once all of the stowage and spare tracks are on!
So there you have it, my toe is back in the water for Flames of War with a force that I think will not only be fun to play, but is historically accurate and provides some fun model-building opportunities with the miniatures. I'm hoping to get this one finished up before the Kursk books come out as these recent releases have raised my expectations.