Sunday, 25 March 2012

Fallschirmjager in Italy 1943

The elite troops of the Luftwaffe, the Fallschirmjager, were used in almost all theatres of WWII in the west, this included Italy between 1943 and the end of the war.

This entry is intended to give a look at the uniform of the Fallscirmjager in Italy and get a feel for how it was used.

The troops of 1st Fallschirmjager Division (FJD) 'Hermann Goring', 1 Fallschirmjager Regiment (FJR) 1 were sent in early March 1943 to counter the expected Allied landings, these were backed up by FJR 3 and 4 in July and in August they all pulled back to the Italian mainland and were soon joined by 2 FJD.

I will be looking at the uniforms of the general soldiers but will touch on officers clothing where it is similar.

Early Fallschirm troops in Italy

As you can see from above, the main point of the uniform is the sand coloured parts.  The basic uniform was as follows:

Head down

Helmet - Sand fallschirm helmet, usually no eagle for new helmets, older helmets may have the eagle with a grey surround where the helmet was grey originally but has been overpainted in sand.
Cap - Peaked cap in sand with sand backed eagle and standard cockade (officers have silver trim to cap)
Sidecap - Sand with sand backed eagle and standard cockade

Tunic - Desert sand tropical tunic, similar to tuchrock with sand backed eagle on right brest.
Shirt - Desert sand shirt with sewn on eagle.

Belt - Brown standard belt with sand, bare metal or grey buckle

Trousers - Tropical trousers in sand, luftwaffe version as used by ground troops in DAK.

Gaiters - Tan or green gaiters with brown straps

Boots - 2nd pattern jump boots in black or brown

Smock - Later patterns of jump smock in standard splinter 'B' (sandy brown/yellow base with large brown patches and smaller green patches and green 'rain'.  Brown/green can sometimes be reversed)  Early green ones may have been seen but were not common.

Helmet cover - not usually seen in Italy but can be a splinter pattern or plain green


Y straps - Standard brown leather Y's or sometimes tan DAK canvas straps were used.

Bread bag - This was the only piece of webbing which was coloured blue.  There would also be sand/tan bags and green ones.

Water bottle - standard brown bottle with black strap or DAK bottle (wooden) with canvas straps. Cups would have been either straight sided metal or standard plastic.

Mess tins - these could be grey, green or sand, personalisation was not uncommon but cammo was rarely seen this early in the war

E-tool/shovel - both types (folding/straight) would have been used but would not be seen on a soldier very often due to the size and weight.  Heads could be black or sand, carriers were black or brown for straight tools and black for folding.

Bayonet - standard K98 bayonet was carried by most (even mg and mortar troops) and had either a brown or black frog.

Zeltbahn/Tent - this would have been carried wrapped in 2 straps with poles in the middle.  It would have been in sand colour or splinter 'A' pattern.

Gas Mask pouch - this would be in green and carry a gas cape for use in the event of a gas attack, these were only really used by Fallschirmjager and never used operationally.  They were usually in green.

Gas Mask Tin - the standard issue tin containing the standard gas mask.  This would be in green, grey or sand.


K98 Rifle - Standard issue rifle but could be fitted with a scope for the sniper role.  Some shorter barrel models and folding stock models were released but these were not in common use.  The standard pouches were 3 pockets on each side in brown/natural finish leather.  The Fallschirmjager had a special bandoleer made for carrying extra clips of rounds, they consisted of 20 pouches, 10 on each side, to carry a clip in each giving another 100 rounds.  These were in green originally, they were also created in sand and splinter colours.

G41 - Semi-automatic rifle, not used very much but liked by the Fallshirmjager as its rate of fire was quite good.  Pouches were all in a tan colour with black lining.

MP38/MP40 - The standard sub-machine gun for all German troops, the sling would be standard brown leather or sometimes a canvas DAK strap was seen.  The ammo pouches were usually in green but could be seen in DAK tan. These were never blue for Fallschirmjager, only Luftland division used these.  There were also some 6 compartment pouches in green or tan colours were used but these were not very common.

MG34 - Standard heavy MG at the start of the war, it was used all of the way through although from 1943 onwards the MG42 was more common.  It would have had a brown sling and the gunner would have had a brown or black tool pouch, the loader would have a spare barrel tube and extra ammo in either belts or tins (sometimes both), these would have been in green or sand colours.

MG42 - Probably the best heavy machine gun, ever!  In use from 1943 onwards the equipment used would have been the same as the MG34 above.

FG42 - This MG was created especially for the Fallschirmjager and was an assault rifle of limited success.  It was to be superseded by the MP/StG44. Ammo was usually carried in a bandoleer similar to the K98 but with larger pockets.

Model 39 grenade - This is the 'egg' grenade which looked similar to the standard allied grenades but had a smooth body. These had a loop at the bottom for fixing to webbing.

Model 24 grenade - The classic 'potato masher' stick grenade, this would be held in the belt or a special grenade bag could be used.   This fitted over both shoulders and could be used to carry up to 8 grenades.  It was seen in plain green or splinter 'A' pattern.

P08 Luger pistol - The classic Luger was used early in the war but was phased out as the Walther P38 was introduced to replace it.  It would be carried in either a hard or soft case, both in brown/natural leather.

Walther P38 - The successor to the P08, it proved more reliable and useful in the battlefield.  It also had a hard or soft case, both in brown/natural leather.

These are the main things a Fallschirmjager would have on them in Italy but obviously every soldier would not have everything in this list, especially the weapons.

Standard Fallschirmjager in Italy, note the mouse grey shirt


Sometimes not all of the uniform was available when it was issued so standard kit would be substituted.  Other times older soldiers could have their kit which they were first issued with and they would keep it as long as possible as it had been modified to suit them.

Fallschirmjager in more standard late war uniform.

Helmet - Fallschirm helmet in grey or standard German helmet in grey or sand.

Fleigerblouse - Standard grey 2 pocket jacket with concealed buttons.

Shirt - In mouse grey with no insignia.

Trousers - jump trousers in green with knee pa access and knee pocket for knife.

These were all seen in Italy but not as common as the standard uniform.

I hope this has helped with the uniforms in Italy and will show you what is available to the re-enactor/modeller.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Seeing the light

Highlighting the way I make models

When I started producing models in my current house, I was using a small coffee table and sitting on the couch.  Now as you all cringe of the thought of such bad posture, it was not too bad (but even so I would not reccomend it!) and worked for a while.  I tried using the kitchen table but this was too anti-social, I couldnt talk to my other half and the TV was not in sight either, this clearly was not going to work!  Then came Christmas.  Last Christmas (2010) we had a real tree, I was lovely, the smell and the look, but now that the 3 month old is 15 months old, pulling was a very real danger.  I reluctantly agreed to get a fake tree and my other half said her mum had a 'Christmas table'.  I was very intrigued how a table could be in the 'Christmas' catagory, was it covered in tinsel? Did it have Santa festooned accross it?  Imagine my dissapointment when it turned out to be a normal square table, about 2ft square with folding crossed legs and a baize top.  Once covered with a nice cloth the tree looked nice, then it was explained the table only came out at Christmas time to put the tree on, seems obvious really.

It was during another coffee table modelling session, with tools falling off all over the place and no space to put  things, I looked up and my eyes fell upon the 'Christmas' table.  Could I give this table a new purpose all year round?  I didnt breach the subject straight away, SWMBO actually borrowed the table from the dredded Mother-in-law (cue shudder) and she has a certain love of this table as it used to be her Dads.  Fair enough, its an old table (possibly even antique?), and so she would have to agree to it's new life.  The subject was mooted to the other half just before the tree was put to bed and she agreed in principle but the final say would of course mean a conversation with the M-i-l!

Completly out of the blue she was very nice about it and actually glad it was going to get some use so she was happy for me to have it rather than it languishing in her basement.  What a difference!  Sitting in the arm charir the table is at a perfect height for working and it is about 8 times the area of the coffee table meaning everything stays where I want it to (meddling toddlers excluded!).  I actually believe this has improved my modelling, not massively, but there has been a noticable improvement.  This is down, mainly, to the fact I dont have to have things sitting on tables/chairs/floor around me and I can lay things out to get thing right first time.  Also I can have a tool kit on the table ready to use at any time.

So I have my perfect surface, but another bone of contention between me and 'her' is the lights.  Good lighting is a must for creating good models, you can spend a good chunk of a weeks wages on a 'modelling' light but I have always made-do with the main light in the room.  SWMBO, on the other hand, only every wants the little lamps on.  These are only just enough to enable you to navigate through the room, nevermind produce a model to any degree of accuracy.  Then came a suggestion, 'Why not get yourself a lamp?'.  The little lightbulb above my head went on (but not the main light, she wouldnt allow that!).  A quick internet search left me a few questions still to be answered and I decided to only buy one I had seen and know would be good enough for me.

A trip to Newbank garden centre produced my solution.  An angle poise lamp with a small but very weighty base in matt black.  I would have liked a clip on lamp but the sides of the table arn't great and are quite thick so getting a clamp to fit was a problem.  This lamp has a tall enough arm not to get in the way but still flexible enough to get it exactly where I want it.  The best part though was that it only cost a tenner!  Yes £10 for a quality lamp, OK it was end of line reduced from £24 because it had a tatty box but its a lot cheaper than others.

I have now realised that one of the most important parts of model making is the light which you have at the table, without it you will not be able to see the extra little details to make your model stand out from the rest.
Bright and spacious, better models will result

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Phantom Menace

Anyone notice the theme ;)

Well since others have put up their 2012 plans already I will follow suit.  Not because I want to be like everyone else, far from it, honestly, no really...

....oh sod it, if it works for everyone else then why not copy them!

So what will 2012 bring to the cutting mat?

Well the title is a clue, 2012 will feature quite heavily on the aircraft that is in most Cold War/Modern aircraft builders stash, The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.

I was not one of these modellers who, when they decide to model aircraft from the last few years, instantly jumped for the Phantom, I started my serious modelling with military armour kits and progressed to WW2 fighters then to jets (although I started modelling with a Vulcan but thats another story!) and as I got into Fleet Air Arm aircrft I stumbled across an aircraft I recognised.

F-4K '007' Launches from the waist catapult of 'Ark Royal'

The pictures I saw straight away inspired me, the catapult launches in billows of steam, the fast approaches and rapid stops on the wires, and the most awe inspiring thing of all, the roar and whine of the Rolls Royce Spey.  I was instantly hooked and looked for a model in my chosen scale, 1/72.  That's where I came slightly unstuck, the only model of the FG.1 (F-4K) was made by Fujimi and it has been out of production for a good few years. Luckily there have been quite a few releases of the Navy version and after a few eBay out-bids I finally won one.  Now these are not cheap as they are sought after but not too expensive (cheaper than some new Hasegawa 1/72 models).

Kit bought and delivered it was instantly ripped open and started, now with hindsight I may have got an aftermarket cockpit, the office in the kit is good but the seat could do with updating.  Unfortunately I have already constructed it and most decals are on.  It will be returning to the table soon to be finished and weathered.

The next Phantom I bought was not bought because I wanted it, it was part of a set I bought on eBay.  I wanted the set for a few of the other kits but when I saw it I changed my mind.  It is a Luftwaffe F-4F and has special decals for the display scheme.  I did not think it was too attractive and was about to be put down at the bottom of the stash.  I then saw the other schemes, standard Luftwaffe and for some reason I was hooked, OK its only greys with little decals but I like it! Maybe because it is really understated, maybe I'm just boring!

So my model finding did not really include Phantoms, I had 2 and did not really 'need' another.  A trip to the IPMS show at Telford in 2011 changed that.

I had by now built a few 1:48th kits and I thought I'd keep a look out.  Just as I was giving up the search I searched though the large stack at the back of a stand and came across this.  It was marked at £59 but I bargained it down to £40.  Not bad I thought, its a BIG kit and one not seen often.  I was in for a shock when I opened the box though, inside was a full set of whitemetal landing gear, an etched fret for the canopies, whitemetal refuelling probe and other detailing parts, well over £30 worth of detailing packs if you bought them in the shops.  So this was a bargain and a half in the end (well it was for me, it was still a huge box to take up room for SWMBO).

Now the bug had bitten and a search on eBay tuned up this Phantom, again a 1/48 from Hasegawa.  Don't know how I manage it but this one turned up with resin seats!  These are a great improvement over the kits own and this pushed me to buy a set for my other Phantom.  Luckily this one was hidden from SWMBO until it was safely stashed.

All of these will be started this year, weather they will be finished is another thing!  I am truly a Phantom Phan now and no doubt more will find their way into the pile but for now these are my highest priority.

Now to leave you with the song dominating my playlists. It's originally by the awesome Fleetwood Mac but this is an epic cover by Taking dawn, listen for the drums at the end!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Empire Strikes Back

30 years ago this year, Argentinia invaded the small and sparsely populated islands of the Falklands in the South Atlantic.  For years this had been a British colony but the Argentines had always disputed its rule and on Friday 2 April 1982 a task group landed on Falklands soil with the aim of 're-patronising' them for Argentina.  The then ruler, General Galtieri (as acting President of the military junta) thought the attack would win him more favour in response to the poor favour the Argentines held him in at the time.  For the fist few weeks this seemed to be going the way he wanted but this was all to change with the arrival of a large Task Force from the North.

The Task Force was assembled within a few days of the invasion and set sail initialy for Ascension Island in the Mid Atlantic.  This was to be a staging post for the force to equip for war and the journey down was utilised to 'cross ship' stores, ships had joined the task force from all over Europe, some even brought out of retirement, so training rounds were replaced with Live ammunition and food was stashed wherever it could fit.  Ascension was also home to Wideawake airfield which the RAF was to use as a stepping stone to launch its 'Black Buck' missions with Vulcan bombers and Victor tankers making huge journeys south to bomb targets of importance as a 'show-of-force' to the Argentine aggressors.

Part of the Task Force which sailed consisted of the two Aircraft Carriers, 'Invincible' and 'Hermes'.  Both had a flight of the Navy's new 'Sea Harrier' FRS.1 aircraft and just before arrival at the Falklands 'Hermes' received a small number of RAF GR3 Harriers from the ill-fated 'Atlantic Conveyor'.  These too had to be modified on the journey south as there was no current air-to-air capability but the technicians came up with a modification for both types before arrival in theatre.

The two Navy air groups were 800 NAS on HMS Hermes and 801 NAS on HMS Invincible.  899 NAS was also used but it was split between the 2 ships, as were the crews, and merged into the respective air groups.  The Navy 'SHARS' were used to provide air defence for the fleet against the Argentine A4, Dagger, Pucara and Mirage attack aircraft as well as limited strike rolls against grounded air targets (such as Pucara aircraft at Stanley field).

The RAF GR3's made their way first to Ascension and then on to the Atlantic Conveyor container ship to be transported down to the Task Force.  This was due to most of the 1(F) Sqdr crews being on leave and space on the carriers limited until  lot of 'cross-decking' was completed.  There were also 4 GR3's which made it from Ascension to Hermes in one trip, escorted by Victor tankers in a huge journey. The GR3's were needed to operate in the ground attack roll supporting the ground assault as well as 'softening up' any targets of opportunity.

The Harriers were put to good use in suppressing the Argentines both on the land and in the Air (there was not much of a sea presence after HMS Conqueror succeeded in sinking the ARA General Belgrano, the Argentines instead choosing to withdraw most of the fleet to defend Argentinian mainland coastal waters).  There were some casualties but these were not as bad as first predicted and certainly were a lot lighter than the casualties suffered by the Argentinian Air Force and Navy aircraft.  All in all, 10 Harriers were lost (4 GR3 and 6 FRS.1 but one (ZA174) was lost when it slid off the deck of HMS Invincible!) compared to 75 aircraft lost by the Argentines, although a lot of these will have been destroyed on the ground or by Naval ships.

Tamiya 1:48 Harrier FRS.1 61026

Tamiya's Sea Harrier is one of the oldest moulds still in the Japanese manufacturers range and on initial inspection can be a little disappointing, but don't let that put you off!

The first thing that you notice is that the panel lines are raised.  This is a very poor detail by modern standards but they are not the huge ridges kits of this age sometimes show.  They are a lot more refined and, as we will see later, can be hidden rather well.  One can always sand off these or even re-scribe the panel lines but I think this would be a step too far.

The kit starts where most do, in the cockpit, and I must say it is not too bad.  There is plenty of raised detail and there is a transfer included so meticulous painting of gauges is not required here.  The side panels are slightly different though, they show relief but do not have the same transfers to make life easy.  A small amount of black paint on a few gauges will make them stand out more.

Now the most important fitting in the 'office', the Ejector Seat.  This leaves more than a lot to be desired, it is truly pitiful!  I have seen more meat on a whippets thigh, there is no depth to the headrest or seats and no sides at all! But all is far from lost.  There are a lot of aftermarket manufacturers offering details and seats are one of the best catered for parts.  There are numerous seats on offer but I only discovered the anorexic seat during construction so opted for a bit of scratch building.  I added a wedge of plasticard for the headrest and filed it vertically to create a shallow channel as on the real thing.  I also added thin plasticard cushions chamfered at the edges to soften the look of them.  Seat belts were added from cut down Tamiya masking tape which was then painted and glued on.

Another feature of the model is the fact a basic Pegasus engine is included inside the aircraft.  As it is it is far too basic to display but with a bit of wok with some plasticard and fuse wire I'm certain it can have the 'wow' factor.  The access hatches above the engine are also a separate part and this helps if you would like to use these to show the engine.  I opted to show the hatches closed but I think I will re-visit this kit soon and another build will include a fully detailed Pegasus and open hatches.

The rest of the build is as it is in the instructions, there are no real traps or pit-falls to mention, which is to be expected from a Tamiya kit, even one of this age.  I finished the aircraft in Humbrol Acrylic 123 Extra Dark Sea Grey (EDSG) with black nosecone.   The transfers included are for pre-Falklands schemes with white undersides and tri-colour roundels.  I opted to use third party decals instead as I wanted a Falklands Veteran.  The decals I chose were the Xtradecal Falklands Harrier set from Hannants.  This sheet includes every Harrier used in the South Atlantic and also has a lot of useful stencils to replace the Kit ones.  The Harrier represented in my model is 006 of 801 (899) NAS (XZ451) which was the first Harrier delivered to the Royal Navy and shot down 4 Argentine aircraft including a C-130 by Lt Cdr Nigel 'Sharkey' Ward.  The thing about these decals is that the roundels correctly have the light blue ring between the dark blue and red, this was where the white ring was overpainted and so showed up lighter.

I would suggest this kit for anyone and is a very good entry level kit for starting in 1:48 and with a little work in the cockpit and the Xtradecal set a great model can be created.

Italeri 1:72 RAF Harrier GR3 'Falklands' 1278

Being a newer kit, this GR3 features the correctly engraved panel lines.  These are very fine but I think they may be almost too fine, I like to see them hen painted and I highlight this with washes but it is almost impossible to do on this kit as they are so fine.

Again starting on the cockpit the detail is a lot better but the seat is still slightly lacking.  I chose to live with this as it is such a small part and is hidden lower than in the FRS.1, the usual Tamiya seat belts appear here.  There are transfers for the panels (all 3) but they are very basic.  Again in this small scale I chose to keep them as I couldn't see myself picking out individual parts in the panel!

As with the Tamiya kit there is no problems with the build, it goes together really well and very easily.  There is a small range of ordnance, I chose the 1000 bombs and the tanks but there is also AIM-9's and BL755 cluster bombs.

I used the kit transfers for this one as they are good and the colours are spot on.  They represent XZ988, a GR3 which was lost a Goose Green from AAA fire with Sqdr Ldr Bob Iveson at the controls.  He ejected safely and evaded capture for 3 days before getting back to friendly lines.  The other schemes cover a 4 Sqdr aircraft from 1982 that did not make the Falklands and a 1 Sqdr aircraft from Norway in 1986.

This kit fits in nicely with Airfix's 1:72 Harriers and is a great addition to the  fleet.

The Falklands ended in the Argentine surrender on 14th June 1982, the Sea Harriers had shown how effective they were as a fighter but also showed the weakness of the Radar, the lessons learned though went into creating the FA.2, a truly superb aircraft which went on to serve in the Royal Navy and Joint Harrier Force until premature retirement in 2010.

The GR3 was replaced by the GR5 which was updated to GR7 and GR9 standards and retired in 2011 to much disappointment.  A once great force of the most useful fighters in the world for fast deployment is now no more and the remaining airframes are to be shipped to the USA for further use, another pointer to the life the airframes still have.

I will update the hostory of the GR9 and FA.2 when I complete them.