Today Paul takes the Marder 139 for a spin in the desert.
By 1942, the Germans, well into the Barbarossa campaign needed a new anti-tank solution. The 3.7cm Pak36 was available, but incapable of destroying a KV1. After the success of the 4.7cm armed PanzeJager 1 (combining a Czech gun in an open topped fighting compartment with obsolete Pznaer I chassis) in the Battle of France and the Desert, a decision was made to use available obsolete tanks as the chassis for a tank destroyers with large 7.5cm guns. These would provide fast moving, hard hitting, anti-tank resources. This began with captured French tanks (Marder I), then obsolete Panzer IIs (Marder IIs) and then finally the Czech Panzer 38t (Marder III).
The Marder 139 or Marder III, Sd.Kfz. 139 was a tank destroyer made from the chassis of a Panzer 38t with a metal superstructure bolted on top. The Czech production facility simply modified their production from 38ts to Marder III, retaining the engine position in the rear, as per the existing tank – driving a tall superstructure. The Marder 139 made use of another available resource – captured Soviet 76mm guns. These were simply re-chambered to fire the 7.5cm PaK-40 shell.
The vehicle saw a gun shield and superstructure mounted to the front and sides of a 38t. The commander and loader were positioned on the deck of the vehicle with no top or rear protection and only a small amount of side protection. As well as the 76mm gun, the 38t hull machine gun was also retained.
In 1942, some 344 Marder 139 tank destroyers were built. The Marder III also received two variants – the Marder 138, or Marder IIIH which improved the central mounted firing position, by better utilising the space where the tank’s fighting compartment would sit, and replaced the Russian field gun with a proper PAK-40; and the Marder IIIM with a modified chassis with the engine mounted in the middle allowing the fighting compartment to sit at the rear making for a lower, better balanced design,also armed with the PaK-40. In turn, these were eventually replaced in production with fully enclosed, purpose-built tank destroyers like the Hetzer (al,so based on the 38t) and JagdPanther although the Marder would serve until the end of the war.
The Marder 139s were largely issued to fight on the Eastern Front. However 66 were delivered to the African campaign in the second half of 1942 to the 15th Panzer Division (33rd Panzerjager Abteilung and 39th Panzerjager Anteilung)
With the relaunch of the MW and v4 starting in the Desert, it seems the perfect opportunity to paint up some more of the DAK army I started and abandoned a year or so back. At the time, I picked up a box of the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) German Panzer 38(t) and Marder Variants. The desert is my favorite theater of operations and I am really excited to see how the new MW armies look.
The box contains 5 frames, each capable of being turned into a Panzer 38(t), a Marder 139 or the PaK-40 armed Marder 138 (also known as the Marder IIIH). I chose to make up 4 Marder 138s for my DAK force and the 5th model as a Panzer 38(t) to add to my existing but small early German tank force. The box comes with instructions (more on those later) but no decals.
I have seen some reviewers complain about the number of pieces and the time taken to put together a PSC kit compared with a Battlefront (BF) resin model. This isn’t a fair comparison. The BF resin/metal or resin/plastic is designed for a very small amount of assembly. The PSC kit is very different. It is made with a moderate amount of assembly in mind. It is also just over half the price of the BF competition. Finally it is usually designed to make more than one model (in this case three). Battlefront have recently moved into the plastic market and those figures are still much more expensive then the PSC kits. While the models compete in the same market, I think the PSC kits are designed for a different group of gamers/collectors/modellers than the premium Battlefront models are.
The models all went together very well. As I said earlier, these kits are made up of lots of pieces. There are approximately 25 pieces for the Marder 139. This itself was no issue for me. After the first model, once I became familiar with the kit, the subsequent models went together in about 40 minutes each. The areas where the pieces were clipped from the frame are usually hidden. None of the pieces, including the machine guns, were too small so as to break when I clipped them off the frames. I dry fitted every piece on the first model and all but one fit perfectly. There was a mold line or two that got a small scrape but no other cleanup was involved. There was only one piece that required some modification but more on that later.
In terms of options, there are many. The kit comes with stowage in the form of spare track, crates and Jerry cans. I kept the Marders free of stowage but used a Jerry can and a crate on the 38t. Within the 139 kit itself, there is the option for a tarp covering or a top bar. I selected the tarp as it looked more sturdy for wargaming purposes. There are also a selection of 6 crew figures that can be placed on the back deck of the Marder. Finally, the gun, if not glued in, can move up and down. All these options are very nice and provide great modelling opportunity. Once assembled, there were a ton of pieces left over. I will keep these in my spares box.
Now to the not so good. Unfortunately the instructions are not great. The colour coding shows the 2 machine guns as green which is exclusive to the 38t. However the hull machine gun is actually needed for all three model variants. Not a biggie and easily fixed. The second issue is that the instructions are missing sections. They jump steps and show several pieces on the model but not how they fit together. If you are patient are are willing to dry fit and look at pictures of Marders in the wild, this is not a big deal either. The third and final issue is probably the biggest. One of the pieces just doesn’t fit. It is a small angular piece on the top of the hull beneath the superstructure. It is modeled with a spade but the spade needs to be sliced off (I used a hobby knife) to fit in place between the hull and the box on the right hand side. These are all minor issues and didn’t distract me from an otherwise enjoyable build.
In terms of painting, I hit these with a matt white spray primer, thened brush on Iraqi Sand. The tracks and tarp are German Camo Medium Brown. The crew are painted in Russian Uniform Green. As I understand it, the crew of a Marder were drawn from the infantry and as such didn’t wear the black of a Panzer crewman. After a brown wash, I highlighted the Marder body and tracks in Iraqi Sand. The tarp and crew were highlighted with a mix of the base colour and Iraqi sand.
In the Game
In Version 3, DAK infantry with integrated AT, 8 Marders, 2 8-rads and nebs was a pretty powerful list. The Marder in this list were fast moving and capable of getting to the flanks of heavy tanks. In concert with smoke, they could section off and destroy medium tanks piecemeal in the front. Finally they are a fast moving machine gun platform for mowing down infantry in the open.
Version 4 is new, but some things are clear. Marders, along with with 88s and 17/25lb guns are the biggest guns available in the two new books. 4 Marders come in at 16 points. Compared with 29 points for a single Tiger, they are a low cost, high AT platform. AT 12 will auto-penetrate all of the British armour available in the first release. Coupled with the fact that Marders are a mobile platform, they seem a clear choice. Only one of these units is available in the new Afrika Korps book though. They will need to be used carefully as they will not stand up to return fire.
Roll the photos…
I hope you enjoyed this review.