Escalating Tensions Part 18 – In Burlap Clad

As mentioned in the April update, my plan to do more Germans in May was somewhat waylaid. I said this was because the PzIV/70 were late in getting to me but that wouldn’t be entirely true as my thoughts had started drifting whilst painting the last lost of Germans.

No, instead of Germans I decided I wanted to do Normandy British, specifically a Churchill squadron.

I’ve had late war British since the Airlanding chaps dropped in v2 but the force was very focused on the Airborne forces with only a token armoured presence. However, over the years I had picked up the bits to do more. I had acquired a collection of the rather ugly Open Fire Shermam V (enough for a full squadron plus dome extra Firefly for Late, late war), a couple boxes of Comets and Cromwells (one of the latter having since been used to make a Centaur unit) plus a box of metal Rifle infantry. All of this was all unpainted and largely still shrink wrapped in box. But, at some point, there must have been a Plastic Soldier Company sale because there was also three boxes of Churchills, two of 6pdr (with Loyd tows) and one box of infantry support weapons.

(There was also a PSC kickstarter for 25pdr that I may have got a little carried away on…)

At any rate, talk of playing a big game with my Paras had got my brain back in British and I decided to make a determined effort to at least get the Churchill done in May.

Assembly

During April, between German units, I built up the content of two and a half Churchill boxes. I say two and a half because one Churchill was conspicuous in its absence, only its spare bits left on the sprue. A quick check of my photos showed that I had started a Churchill NA75 conversion which makes sense as I think they had been bought originally to do North Irish Horse. What mattered though was I was down a Churchill.

Still, that left a HQ troop (1 Churchill IV* (75mm) and two 95mm howitzer armed Churhill V) and three troops, each with two 75mm IV* and a 6pdr armed IV. More than enough for most 100pt games.

Having built up 12 Churchill, I had one last task in mind, something to make them stand out. Stowage was one thing and I certainly had a deep dive of the bits box to fit them out with plenty on the rear deck; too much, as it turned out, as I had obscured the mid deck exhaust. Easily corrected, thankfully.

Rear mud guard shelves 

No, what I had in mind was far grander; hessian camo.

Hessian camo basically took the concept of helmet scrim and applied it on a tank level, with lengths of hessian scrim weaved into shrimp nets then draped all over the tank.  

Seen here on a Cromwell

There are various ways of replicating this effect and I had tried two previously using techniques covered in this Battlefront article by Jeremy here. The first involved layering on green stuff:

Still bummed out these guys haven’t appeared in v4…

And the second involved paper tissues.

This did hide the horrible mould line on the ancient Skytrex Cromwell

Both were… fine but didn’t capture the layered look of the nets.

Then I stumbled on a more recent tutorial by Evan that I instantly fell in love with as it captured the layered look of Hessian camo. It also seemed surprisingly simple, using just strips of printer paper and pva glue.

I did a quick test run on a left over Churchill III welded turret and was happy with the output of it.

From there, I applied it to the twelve Churchill over the course of a couple evenings.

I even did an extreme test piece with a Sherman V completely covered.

Segments a bit too wide for my taste.  Need to be be a bit finer.

Painting

With the tanks all kitted out, I decided it was a good time to work out quick unit this was! Whilst the original plan at the time of purchase had been to do Italy, I decided to keep the focus on Normandy.
I elected to do 7RTR, part of the 31st Tank Brigade. 7RTR had been 10RTR, a “hostilities only” regiment, but had been renames after the previous 7RTR had been wiped out in the desert.
The 31st Brigade was one of the first Churchill units to enter Normandy, taking part in Operation Epsom. 7RTR would be detached from the Brigade and end up supporting the drive to LeHarve. After that, they would rejoin the Brigade, convert to Crocodiles and spend the rest of the war as part of 79th Armoured Division. As the senior battalion in the Brigade, 7RTR had red squadron marking and an arm of service number 991 on a green background with a white diagonal line.

Copied from Flames of war.com

SCC15 woes

One of the first hurdles to overcome was also the most fundamental, replicating the ever nebulous SCC15 “Olive Drab”.  Previously I have tended to use Russian Uniform with an all over black wash, later refined to a pin wash.  However, the recent successes with Pre-shading via the airbrush left me wanting to try and apply that to painting massed British armour.  

A quick google suggested that Vallejo Model Air “German Green” or “Russian Green” were considered the two paints closest to SCC15.  I used some old Lee turrets as test pieces and tried the two paints over a pre-shade based on Vallejo Surface Primer Black and a few on Vallejo Surface Primer Bronze Green.

In short, it was a disaster.  None of them looked especially correct or better than the benchmark Sherman painted in my original method.

I had a bit of a crisis of painting faith at this point but my painting cohort suggested trying the pre-shading with thinned Vallejo Model Colour (VMC) Russian Uniform.  After all, I had sprayed Russian Uniform through the airbrush to paint the Centaurs and my Team Yankee Chieftains. 

Once again I tried pre shading over turrets sprayed Black and Bronze Green, as well as a control that was just Russian Green sprayed evenly over Bronze Green.

Black Preshade, Bronze Green Preshade and flat over Bronze Green

It wasn’t terrible… but it still wasn’t winning me over compared to the non-pre shaded example.  It was at this point that Coxer suggested ditching the pre-shade and trying modulation, building up Russian uniform directly on the Bronze Green, but leaving it showing at the panel edges, then adding a final highlight of VMC “Green Grey”, also thinned for the airbrush, in the panel centre. 

Finally, I had found a finish I liked!

Chipping and Tracks

The chipping and tracks were as covered previously; chips were VMC Black Brown sponged on areas of wear whilst tracks were VMC German Camo Medium Brown drybrushed with VMC Black Grey.

Hessian Camo

I was in two minds about the camo going into painting it.  I had seen some photos that made it look like only green scrim was used, others seemed to show Khaki whilst a photo of the rolls of scrim showed both of those plus a brown option.  A quick experiment on multi-coloured scrim left me unconvinced so I decided to go mono-tone, using just Khaki through artistic licence as it best contrasted with the main tank camo,

I painted the khaki using the same method I used for stowage and the crew khaki tank overalls; a base coat of VMC Brown Violet, a midtone of VMC Khaki and a highlight of VMC Stone Grey.

Markings

I had intended to do the markings by transfer but was struggling to find anyone who had 31sts tank brigade’s markings in stock.  As such I decided to free hand them, using VMC German Camo Bright Green for the symbols and VMC Ivory for the numbers and the outline on the Diabolo shaped symbol (not historical but was worried the symbol disappeared onto the green finish without it).

With the turret sides obscured by camo netting I added a squadron marking to the turret rear.  No idea if 7RTR did this IRL, but it helps me keep the units squared away.

Finishing

With the tanks mostly painted I applied MiG “Brown for Dark Green” filter to the green areas of the tank.  Whereas I had struggled to really tell what the filter was doing to the Dunkelgelb, the effect was more noticeable on the modulation, tying the three colours together and making a smoother transition whilst also making it look a little less washed out from the Green Grey highlight.

After that was dry, I sealed it with Vallejo Mecha Gloss via the airbrush.  This provides a better finish for the next stages.  I applied a Allied Star transfer to the turret roof, then washed the tracks and lower hull with a liberal coat of Citadel Nuln Oil, pin-washed with Citadel Nuln Oil Gloss and dirt washed with thinned VMC Tan Earth as I do with all my tanks.

Painted Miniatures

Churchill IV, IV* and V; B SQDN, 7RTR, 31st Tank Brigade

HQ Troop plus three Troops

Churchill IV* (75mm) – Squadron HQ

Churchill V (95mm Tank Howitzer) – 
Squadron HQ

Churchill IV* (75mm) – Troop Commander

Churchill IV (6pdr)

Photo courtesy of Mike South Studios

Games!

With a decent chunk of the UK population vaccinated and cases at a low level, the first set of lockdown restrictions were lifted.  Whilst Dice Saloon was still restricted to being a shop only, the rules did allow for a large game in Mike’s barn, where a decent air flow could be guaranteed and plenty of space to maintain distancing.

We played a 150pt game of Counter Attack with my Germans counter attacking vs Mike’s “Big Red One” infantry and Nathan’s “Spearhead” armour.  The game was a suitably bloody affair with my rustiness acting as a handicap to Mike and Nathan who were new to v4 (though v2-3 veterans).  It was great to be rolling dice again.

Conclusion

The month didn’t start smoothly but I still managed to meet my immediate goal as well as getting a bit of a head start on June’s task; painting up a company of British Infantry.  The twelve Churchill’s painted gives a decent base formation to work with:

I may well divert some Stuarts and M10C from my US starter box to get SCC15 applied instead of Olive Drab!  I suspect that will be July’s job.

There is also a danger of distraction as, conscious that Bulge books are somewhere on the horizon, I managed to net a third box of Comets off E-bay.

That gives me a HQ troop and three four-strong troops using Nachjaeger for guidance.  I suspect, given v4’s cost penalty for speed, its probably going to be excessive for a standard game (a playtester friend cryptically stated “you probably have one box too many”), but hey, that’s why I have a friend with a huge barn for larger points games!

In terms of the 2021 goals, we can add twelve more AFV and 72pts to the year’s output.  That brings the running total to:
196 figures (52 AFV, 120 infantry, 14 helicopters, 6 fixed-wing and 4 gun teams)
254 pts – though we are continuing to mix LW WW2 with TY points!

That’s it for this month.  Stay tuned for more Escalating Tensions next month!

Category: AARBritishD-DayEscalating TensionsFlames of WarGermansLate WarList DiscussionNormandyPaintingPainting GuidePlastic Soldier CompanyRamblingV4

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.