Since the release of Bulge British, I’ve been working on a Comet force for 3RTR as it raced to the Baltic coast. Part of that project has been refining the Hessian strip camo netting that I started on my D-Day Brits.
British Camo Nets were based on (or actually were!) shrimp fishing netting which crew then wound strips of dyed Hessian material in to add contrasting elements to break up the shape of the tank. It was up to the crews how densely they did this and a quick sift through the historical photo record shows quite a variation.
On my D-Day tanks, plus my previous attempts before then, I had tried a fairly dense “full coverage” look on the Churchills and M10C using Evan’s method with strips of printer paper. However, looking at the contemporary photos of the Comet, the new tanks seemed to favour a sparser coverage of the strips on the net.
I had been giving some thought on how to capture this look and noted that I had already done something like it on the gun barrels of the m10C, wrapping camo netting around the barrel and sticking strips of the paper individually to the netting.
Would that work on a larger scale? I took a deep breath, took one of the Comets and tried it out.
The first tank was well received so I built the rest of the troop like it, plus the 2iC.
I kept getting asked how to do it but I then realised something, I hadn’t taken any photos of the process! Just throwing that blog content away! Thankfully I had a new Challenger to hand so I decided to get one camo’d up to record the process. Without further ado, let’s look at the process.
What you’ll need
- Netting – I had a sheet of scale appropriate camo netting I had got from the long departed ArmiesArmy but some gauze bandage, pre-dyed, will work as good.
- Printer paper – I used an old Battlefield Hobbies shipping invoice (destroy the evidence). Cut into 1mm x 3-5mm. Vary the length but keep them thin.
- Super glue
- PVA / Wood glue
- Tweezers are handy to have
First we need to cut our netting to size.
For doing the gun barrel, cut to the length of the barrel, less muzzle break if present. Cut the width to about a cm so that it can wrap around the barrel twice. We don’t want to go around too many times and make the barrel too thick. Draw a thin line of super glue along the top of the barrel and fix the net to it.
For doing the turret, we need to decide how far around the turret we are wrapping around. British tanks can be seen with netting on just the front arc, around the front hemisphere and even all around the turret.
The netting is generally secured around the top edge but it can sometimes be sitting on the roof, with periscopes pushed through. Once we decide how we want it to wrap around we need to cut the length to suit. Width should be just under the height of the turret unless we plan to bunch it on the turret top. We now need to do a dry fit so we can centre the length of the net on the gun barrel.
Now dab the superglue in small dots on the top corners of the turret, poke the gun through the net and work your way around the turret, fixing the net in place and poking the search light through. If you are going to bunch the netting on the turret top then leave a surplus above the roof, other wise just leave a millimetre or so above the turret.
For the hull, we cut the netting wide enough to match the hull width and long enough to follow the contours down and drape over the glacis plate.
Draw a line of superglue along the top of upper hull and fix the netting on.
Once the superglue is dry we need to get the PVA out. Pour out a small amount and water it down so it’s very funny. Then, use an old brush to soak the PVA, removing excess with a cotton bud or similar. We need quite a bit to soften the net but we don’t want it to build up and choke the detail of the net.
Once it’s soaked, we use the Tweezers and brush to nudge the net around. We need to nudge the net around so that driving lights, periscopes, vision blocks, gunner sights and co-ax MG poke through and are unobscured. We also need to keep the netting away from the muzzle break and the tracks. Crew egress should also be a high consideration! Don’t worry if the netting extends below the turret; we can cut it away when it dries.
Whilst the PVA is still wet, we move to the next phase which I like to call the Hedgehog phase. take your tweezers and dip one end of the little strips of paper and dip into super glue. Stick that end to the netting then move onto the next. Keep the density roughly consistent over the surface but be sure to vary the depth and height of the fixing point. On the barrel, put some strips pointing directly down but put some at an angle and some ointing up so we can curl them over the surface.
Let the superglue dry for a few minutes but we need to keep working whilst the net is still…moist. Pick up thy ol’ paint brush and soak each strip in watered down PVA until the strip starts to go soft. Now, use the tweezers and try and weave some of the strips under each other and the net, twist others and leave other untouched. This is very much more an art than a science so just do what looks good to you.
Give the lot one last soak in PVA, mopping up the excess with a cotton bud. That should leave you with something like this:
And there you go! Once you get used to it, you can easily do a troop at a time. I managed to get all the netting done for a troop in one evening seating so its not all that time consuming.
On to painting.
There isn’t a lot to mention with painting. I’d recommending priming and basing the tank with the netting done so the tank colour shows under the net; I panel painted the tank using the airbrush so the modulation still worked on the netted areas.
Once the tank was largely painted, I dry brushed Green Ochre to pick out the netting, then a lighter drybrush of Buff. The Hessian Strips could be natural Hessian (beige colour), brown or green, usually mix of all three. On teh Churchills I had experimented with having all three and it didn’t look great so I decided to stick with a mono-colour approach.
I picked out the Hessian strips in Khaki followed by Stone Grey but it seemed to merge in with the tanks so I switched to Green Ochre with buff highlights for the strips too and this looked much better.
The basic method can be applied in a variety of way. One thing I saw in the photos was a Comet with its turret netting rolled up.
I had noticed the end of the sheet had rolled over and wondered if cutting it off would work for simulating the rolled netting. I fixed it with superglue, soaked it and added a few shortened and normal length strips.
Anyway, hopefully that answers the exam question and provides some food for thought for the community.
I also did a conversion for my CO, adding a loader with an SMG for close protection vs Panzerfaust ambushes. Maybe I’ll cover that in a future article. Here’s some photos of the painted Comets.
I’ve got all the Comets to do the rest of the squadron so, as soon as I get this commission done, I’ll be back on the project.