Thursday, 27 July 2017

Cold War Czechoslovakia's own armour designs

Image result for TVP 51 Czech world of tanks

Rendering of the Czech TVP T51 design courtesy World of Tanks

Readers of this blog will know we quite enjoy playing with Imagi-Nations, from the 1700's to the Cold War.

One of my fellow gamers has conceived of an interesting  Alternative History scenario, where WW2 never happened. The idea is to build alternative 1980’s Eastern European armies based on what the real countries may have done in that scenario, and thus avoid the relative sameness of all the various Eastern European WarPac armies. 

He started with Poland, looked at who manufactured their equipment and then replaced it with 1980’s functional equivalents from the same countries. Now, one of my Cold War armies is Czechoslovakia, and I wondered what they may look like in this scenario - the answer has proven to be very interesting.

The first thing you realise with the Czechs is that in the 1930’s and 40's they built all their own equipment, they didn't buy it from others as the Poles did. They also were designing and building their own equipment until the mid 50's, when the Soviets effectively put a stop to it. And even then they almost automatically re-engineered all the post-war Russian equipment they were given, used a higher proportion of own designs than any other WarPac member  (their own wheeled APC  the OT-64  and various gun carriages plus co-operation with Hungary to build a scout car, the OT-65) besides their own trucks, guns and aircraft designs. 

So, it’s highly likely that with no WW2 and no WarPac, they would still have designed and built their own weapons systems. Thus with the Alt-History scenario Czechoslovakia it wasn’t so much about which other countries’ 1980’s equipment I would use, but more what would they have built and what may it have looked like (and then how to model and represent it).  

Usefully, it’s possible to get an idea of what was on their mind as their efforts were only finally stopped in the mid 1950’s. From the point of view of the noticeably different weapons systems (in 6mm scale armies) they had:

  • Planned how to update the Pz 38 series – the chassis had proven very reliable in WW2, the gun carriages and Hetzer tank destroyer had had a very good war (the Swiss carried on using a modified Hetzer into the 70’s). This new "Lehký podvozek" (Light tank) light tank was to use the Pz 38 running gear, the much better engines now available, and take lessons from angled armour in its design. The Skoda T-17 design was given a Czech high velocity 75mm gun. Given the success of the WW2 Hetzer & Marder,  Tank Destroyers and Gun Carriages were likely variants. An APC was also in prototype stage, and given the planned armour it would have been a proper IFV.
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T-17 Light Tank

  • Designed an amphibious tank, the U-9376 Leták, in 1954 - several years earlier than the not dissimilar Soviet PT-76 in shape and concept but with a high velocity 75mm gun, not the low power 76mm. There was already a previous floating tank project (VOŽ), and a suspension and floating system were already available. Given teh Czech's used the OT-^2 based on the PT-76 chassis it's not hard to imagine and an APC would have followed.  
Posted Image

Leták Amphibious tank

  • Studied the later war tanks, especially the T-34 running gear and angled armour, and were designing a new MBT based on a number of lessons.  There were a number of evolutions of the “Tank for general use” - Tank všeobecného použití (TVP) - project. Below is the final form, c 1950/51. There are also drawings of a Tank Destroyer based on this hull with a German 128mm gun.
Image result for czech tanks cold war TVP 50/51

Rendering of the Czech TVP T51 design by World of Tanks

Tank destroyer based on TVP 51 hull - initially designed with a c 100 - 105mm gun in mind, allegedly it could carry a Czech version of the 128mm German gun

The For the Record blog has a more detailed discussion of various projects

Thus, in an Alt-History world the Czechs would very probably have built an entire family of light armoured vehicles in the 1950’s, plus an amphibious tank (and given their conversion of the BTR-50 into the OT-62 they would very possibly have built an APC option too), and a post war MBT and (less possibly) a derived Tank Destroyer with their version of the German 128mm gun.

The Czech designs seem in general lighter or average with more powerful engines, and guns at the heavier end of the scale. All these tanks apparently would have had autoloaded guns.

If one assumes they would have built the OT-64 and OT-65 wheeled APCs and their various artillery systems anyway, that certainly gives a good set of weapons systems   

All of these would have been both for home use and export. So, for my Cold War Alt-History army, all (all....) that is required is to work out how these designs would have evolved from entering service in the 1950's until the next generation vehicles used in the 1980's, and then what non-Soviet army TO&E they may have used, and finally how to represent them on the table - but that is for the next blog post...

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Battleship Hoche getting Steampunked

I have 2 other gaming interests not written about before - Victorian Sci Fi/Steampunk and Pre Dreadnought warfare, and the Dystopian Wars (DW) game and models satisfy this well enough (though the rules are a bit fussy for big actions, I hope the new Fleet Action rules help there). Anyway, I wanted to build a flagship for my fleet, and I just don't like the DW model for their biggest Dreadnought. I have also always had a yen to own a model of the Hoche, or "Grand Hotel", the most absurd battleship ever built. (I do have French in DW of course, but in my view the French "real life" pre-dreadnoughts are stranger than anything DW imagined).

This is her below, enjoy...

Over-low freeboard, over high superstructure, lighthouse-like observation tower - and a ram to boot! The glorious Hoche (aka Le Grande Hotel) under way....

I saw that Spartan Games, who make DW, sell some of the key bitz for their models like the guns, funnels, bridges and heat lances etc that give their "look" to their models in game so I resolved to dust off rusty balsa-bashing skills and do a scratchbuild of a Steampunk'd Hoche. The deal was sealed when one of my fellow club members said he'd 3D print me the hull.(I later found I could have bought the model in 1/700 from a Russian company, ComBrig, as I found a plan on t'Internet from them - but I'd already started)

Anyway, started a bit of cutting and sanding, and here she emerges, basic superstructure blocks done and test fitted.Not an exact replica, but should give that ludicrous proportions feel!

DW Hoche - the white plasticard thingy going from front to rear superstructure at the top is her skywalk. And the main centre guns really did hang over the hull like that. Oh yes, Hoche had it all...(Fore is to the right by the way, there is an overhang over the front gun still to go on) 

Next - the plasticard rivet sheets over the wood blocks, more detailing superstructure....

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Action at El Forte - Somewhere in Sudan, 1941

First time in action for my newly built early war South African / Kings African Rifles force

A demi-brigade sized force of South African & Kings African Rifles (KAR), typical of the ad-hoc forces used in the East Africa campaign, attempted to raid a major Italian resupply column to El Forte, an Italian fort. The strategy was simple - the KAR battalion, with a Marmon Herrington armoured car company and a motorcycle Recce company attached, would speed off and "cross the T" on the road between the column and El Forte, and attack it head on while keeping the El Forte garrison's heads down.

The South Africans would attack the tail of the column and roll it up, and with scouting Shifta irregular cavalry screening, the SA battalion moved off towards where the column (or at least a dust cloud) could be seen in the distance.

The Italians had other ideas Firstly, a company of Askaris ambushed the KAR trucks as they rode past a village en route. The KAR accellerated on past as they had a long way to go and a South African  company dropped off to deal with the Askaris, which it did, but delayed the SA advance.

This was possibly a good thing, as first a column of Italian motorcycle troops came out the dust, and though the Shiftas dealt with them well enough with some help from the SA Artillery reserve mortars,  they were then attacked by a squadron of Tankettes and 2 of light tanks sporting 20mm autocannonst. The Shiftas took losses from the Tankettes and did what every Irregular unit has done since time immemorial when in trouble - they fled.

Above - Italian convoy screened by motorcycle recce bottom right, SA/KAR forces  top right, El Forte top left

The arrival of the Italian armour stopped the SA advance in its tracks (or more accurately, wheels) and there was an undignified scramble as infantry jumped out their trucks and hunkered down, while the Boys AT squad was deploying as rapidly as it could. In the rear, the SA Artillery 2 pounder AT battery also started to unlimber the minute it could make its way forward enough to a spot where the Italian tanks were visible, but this took time. The South African commander could only growl in frustration as the convoy chugged off into the far distance. The KAR would have to deal with it, the Saffers had more immediate problems - in 1941 a tankette is near invulnerable to anything except the 2 pdrs and the Boys, and can play havoc on infantry and soft vehicles with its machine guns and autocannons.

Italian motorcycles (bottom left) contactt Shifta irregulars (bottom right) while Italian askaris in the village (top right) ambush KAR trucks as they race past.

Meanwhile the KAR force had problems of their own - en route to the Fort the Motorcycles in the vanguard were ambushed by a company of very motivated Blackshirts and more Italian motorcycle troops, and these proceeded to do a lot of damage to the SA motorcycle company, routing it. The  KAR was helped by the Marmon Herringtons arriving and these shot the Blackshirts up, and the remnant Italian motorcycle troops remounted and rode for the fort pursued by two of the armoured car platoons.

The other armoured car platoon fell into the range of the advancing Italian tanks and with some very good shooting were knocked out. The Italian tanks and tankettes were then fired on by the 2 pounders which had now been set up, and the tankettes and one tank platoon were knocked over, the other tank platoon retired at full speed and hid behind a large hill, where the 2 Pdrs couldn't see it.

SAA 2 pdrs open up and the Italian tanks and tankettes (blobs with orange flame top of picture) start to disappear

The SA troops, having no threat from the armour or motorcycles anymore, re-boarded their trucks - when they saw a SAAF Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft fly overheads towards El Forte.

SAAF Hartebeest ground attack 'plane on way to El Forte overflying KAR forces moving towards the fort. Ford trucks and Marmon Herringtons in sight. East Africa was "the last biplane war" as both sides primarily used biplanes in this conflict.

In the meantime the KAR and remaining Marmon Herringtons had reached the road just as the head of the truck column passed by,  and started to shoot it up. Then they got a major shock - what was supposed to be a supply colums turned out to have an entire battalion of infantry at its head (clearly a replacement garrison for El Forte) and they debouched from the leading trucks and formed a battle line while the transport trucks circled around the rear of the firefight and raced for the El Forte.

Italian column moves towards El Forte road, on top right the KAR in their trucks are also racing to "cross the T" ahead of  them 

Worse was to follow - for some reason the trip across the veld in the fine dust had jammed the KAR's rifles (my fellow player threw 4 "1"s for 4 different companies shooting) and they were then badly mauled by the Italian askaris reply fire. The shock was made worse when it was clear that a second battalion of Askaris was moving up from some halted trucks further behind in the convoy, and the troops in El Forte were satrting to get active . It was time for a sharp exit and the KAR re-bussed and scarper...  strategically advanced to the rear.

The SA battalion saw them retreating and being appraised of the situation also decided that a regrouping and re-appraisal may be required!

Duel of Eagles in the skies while on the ground (top left) a vicious firefight is starting between the KAR and Italian askaris

And the Hartebeest? Well, turned out the Italians had had a similar idea and no sooner had it seen El Forte than an Italian Fiat CR-42 appeared on the scene and both 'planes spent 5 bounds "duelling like eagles" and then going home as fuel ran low.

(Rapid Fire rules, 4 player game, and in the kingdon of the Boys rifle the Tankette is like a Sherman and a 2 pdr is an 88)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

East Africa 1940 - Finished

As mentioned in the previous post, I hadn't come to the blog for some time, life etc gets in the way sometimes and truth to tell I haven't built much new, just added to existing forces for various games.

But I thought it was worth noting that the South African/Kings African Rifles force I blogged about earlier in ts buildout is now done, and here are some pix to prove it.

Here is the whole force, in Rapid Fire scale - 2 battalions of South African infantry, one of Kings African Rifles (right hand battalion), loads of Ford 3 and (converted) 1 1/2 ton trucks plus a few Morris 1/2 tonners. In the rear also the  2 pdr AT and 18 pdr artillery batteries and (centre rear) a command group with command truck and Ford staff car. Also in support is an Armoured Car detachment  (left foreground) the Motorcycle company and an Armoured Car company with their trusty Harley-Davidsons and Marmon Herringtons respectively.

WW2 nerds may be interested to know that the South African army in the 1930's opted for a force built mainly around a close copy of the German Motor-Rifle brigade structure, as the distances involved and the relatively dry terrain favours a forec based around wheeled vehicles. That is also why SA took a leading role in Armoured Car development in the 1930's, arguably a skill it has kept going intol modern times. What this means is that its a 3 company battalion wiith more heavy weapons (in theory - not everything was available when WW2 broke out) compared to British and other Commonwealth forces'  4 companies and less generous heavy weapon allocations.

Also, what SA army of the era could be without a Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft, a South African modification of the Hawker Fury/Audax family . Obsolete maybe, but it was there when needed and the opposition was of the same era - East Africa was the last great biplane war and the first test of the SAAF.

Of course no force is truly finished, there are new 1/72nd Marmon Herringtons now out, so I will just have to buy a company of those to join my new (came out last year, SHQ) lead ones. And my opponents has bought two Fiat fighters for his Italians, so I can see a Gladiator in the future.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

New Byzantine cavalry

Blogging has been a bit sporadic of late, mainly because I've not much new to say - mainly been playing with stuff I've already done (SA 1940 done, but not used yet). But, this being a New Byzantium blog, I thought I'd talk about the latest (later) Byzantine cavalry I've built and a picture of the whole Komnenan Byzantine army in action in a recent Sword & Spear game, it was 600 pts a side so a Big Game - stand by for serious gaming porn!

Latest units are the Vardariots (I used Old Gory Bulgars), re-done Turkopoloi (Perry plastic Arab light cavalry) and (for earlier Later Byzantine armies) a unit of Klibanophoroi (Gripping Beast). The old Old Glory Turcopoloi have been re-modelled as a border thematic unit, with Cilician flavour.

Below is the Byzantine army formed up....pesky Pechenegs and Cumans in the foreground....

Image take on the dreaded Seljuqs, who are over here


And here we are as battle is joined, Byzantines on the left, more Pechenegs in LH foreground


Sadly the Latinikon was routed, the Turkopoloi put up a dismal performance, my elite Archontopoloi ran - if it wasn't for the infantry centre standing firm and crunching all to fore and the Varangians protecting Our Glorious Emperor it would have been a disaster, another Terrible Day.

Good news was the Vardariots put in a good performance, a rare case for one's latest newly painted units. 

As it was it was just a big loss, more like Myriokephalon than Manzikert.....but getting all those toys on table was great fun. It is nice to have 400+ 25mm figs, mainly cavalry on a 12 x 5 table

Sword & Spear is a brutal game at 25mm with cavalry armies as they are on top of each other very fast and the rules really bias for decisive combat  - so you can get a big game like this done in an evening. But if you get on the wrong end of a few dice throws it's curtains, curses and collapse

Monday, 8 August 2016

East Africa, 1940

The next project - 20mm East Africa, 1940 - 41 is under way.

When Strelets brought out South African Union Defence Force infantry, this was a signal to start building something I've had in mind awhile -a South African / Kings African Riflles (KAR) force for East Africa. A friend of mine at the club has already built a colonial Italian army, so there is a ready opponent. If anyone is interested in raeding more about this Early War campaign, there is a very good web book by Neil Orpen over here.

Also, the S Africans fought with their solar hats a bit in early North Africa and Madagascar so can be used there, also they look quite a lot like early war British in the Far East, and African troops actually fought in the Far East from 43 to 45 (in some pretty major actions from Imphal on) so they are a decent force to give my Japanese a game - the African troops and Japanese had some major battles, including use of tanks (both sides).

The saga of provisioning the trucks is in this earlier post

Anyway, pix of progress to date

I've used the Strelets figures for the South Africans and Airfix Gurkhas and Australians for the KAR , backed up with a few SHQ heavy weapons figures for mortars, Vickers, HMG and also for Marmon Herrington armoured cars (still to be done).

(Below)- The Army as it stands so far. Two SA Battalions and a KAR one. Whole force is built to Rapid Fire Brigade size, the 2 trucks rear left are the HQ and Pioneer's trucks, still have to make the infantry models for them and get the small Tilly cars for the various Liaision vehicles and artillery spotting jobs that Jeeps took over. Also missing are a squadron of Marmon Herrington armoured cars which are on order, and a Motorcycle Recce Co for which I have no idea where to get models from.

SA Force.JPG

(Below) SA Infantry Battalion - In the 30's SA had based its army on the German motorised battalion model so used that at beginning of WW2. Most HW are done, 2" Mortars still on order. I'm quite proud of my Ford "15cwt" (ahem, prob looks more like a 20cwt SWB) conversion truck (left hand truck)


(Below) Kings African Rifle (KAR) Bn used the Britih organisation. Need to get a 2" mortar and a Boyes AT rifle for them, now that SHQ make them fo Gurhas and Australians.


(Below) Close up SA Infantry with solar hats, they used these in early desert as well (and at 20mm scale, 2 feet away v difficult to tell difference with a Tin Hat ;) )

SA Infantry.JPG

(Below) Close up - KAR with bush hats, used Gurkhas and Australians for them - not quite right but good enough in 20mm. Will build a 2nd battalion in time. Major question for both is what flocking to use so they can also be used in other campaigns (SA in North Africa, KAR in India/Burma).

KAR Infantry.JPG

(Below) The Guns - SA Artillery 18 pdrs with my converted Ford SWB "15cwt" 4x4 Marmon Herringon truck tows- still not sure of the gun colour, I think they were dark green but may have been dark Khaki. Shields were apparently stripped off for weight reasons. Crew are WW1 Brits with Wolsely Helmets, bought some time ago before all the Early WW2 minor Commonwealth countries' stuff was available - now you can buy SA gunners I suppose I will have to replace them with those sometime....


I'm tempted to get a battery of 3.7" Mountain Guns too as I understand it both were used in direct fire mode so can be on table.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Truck for all (WW2) seasons

When Strelets released their box set of South African WW2 Union Defence Force (UDF) 20mm plastic figures, this was the sign to set out on a project I have long wanted to do - the SA and KAR (Kings African Rifles) forces that fought against the Italians in East Africa in 1940/41 (a friend of mine at my club has just such an Italian army....) and they are also good for the early desert war (so long as you add in a decent no. of Men in Tin Hats)  and the little known invasion of Madagascar.

The next problem was to source the trucks. I needed many, the pre WW2 re-arming UDF had based itself on the German motorised divisions as the best solution to move forces fast over large expanses of usually fairly dry terrain,  and so had a LOT of trucks. The main infantry transport trucks were Ford 4x2 30 cwt (1.5 ton) trucks, the UDF commandeered nearly the entire production of trucks in 1940/41. Chevy and Dodge produced most of the 15 cwt trucks for the UDF.

The Great WW2 Truck Conundrum

But while rooting around for a model to use, I noticed something else. Every other country with Ford (and Chevy, Dodge et al) plants in country, started to turn these trucks to military use. This included Germany, who also had Ford plants. Not only that, they were supplied to the Soviets in large numbers.  

But here is the Great WW2 Truck Conundrum. This truck was used by nearly everyone in WW2, yet apart from a few (pretty expensive) resin models and a (very) few LRDG models with cut off cabs, you just cannot get these models in 20mm scale. You'd have thought something that you can use for every darn army in WW2 in every tear and sector would be a popular kit, but no.

The Ubiquitous Truck - The UDF Entering Abyssinia 1941 (above) and (below) in Italy 1944/5 (below)

South African 3-ton truck

(Below) Australian Artillery tractor with 4x4 Marmon Herrington transmission , then Ford in German service, then Russian. The Russian one sports teh 1942 -onwards grill shape, and (to quote) "Together with his civilian ancestor, the 2G8T, from which he differed in the engine type and some minor modifications, the total amount of delivery sums up to 61,000, making the »Ford-6« the second most delivered truck."


Anyway, I happened to notice that a Russian kit manufacturer, PST, makes the Long Wheelbase Ford in Soviet service with exactly the right shape but has the the 1942-onwards grill, and for a reasonable price. I decided that (given the entire lack of these very common trucks in any wargames army, and thus the total lack of demand) that only the most rivet-counter wargamers would notice the difference between the '41 and '42 grills, or tell the difference between a '42 Ford or early war Chevy, and brought PST trucks on board in big numbers for my UDF army.
Converting from 30cwt to 15-20 cwt truck

Its just a matter of changing wheelbase length and back of truck, and the PST kit lends itself to an easy conversion - bringing the back wheelset forward, chopping the flatbed off at the 3rd stanchion, and ditto the side boards and tarp cover is a very simple operation 

Conversion from 30cwt LWB (left) to SWB (right), the SWB model can also be used for 1 tonner (20 cwt) that can (ahem) proxy for 15 cwt trucks without looking too out of place. More of the UDF truck park being built is in rear of photo...)  
The Truck for all seasons 

Having now built a bunch of these trucks, and looking at the meagre collection of trucks in my collection of US, later Commonwealth and Soviet 20mm armies it also became clear that, if painted with a suitable brown-green-dusty paint scheme all of them could use it as well. (Germans a bit harder as Ford Germany was cut off and never upped to the '43 grill, but hey who cares - could be captured ones right?)

As to colouring, this a picture of a South African truck in Italy 1944/5 (Dodge, as it happens - Chevies & Dodge's had a similar experience to Fords) - generic green-brown + dust s probably OK for all Allied armies at any rate, Jerry will just have to have captured ones when I play them :)

Thus I now have the Truck for All Seasons, for all my armies, (albeit with a little bit of licence....)