On at least one of the summer Bank Holidays; we at the Brighton Warlords like to get a large Flames of War game of some sort in. Mike threw together a plan for D-Day and I offered up my Airlanding Infantry to the fight. Given it’s a large friendly game, I quickly figured that I’d drop some 6pdrs to put the Tetrarchs on, but I then thought about going one step further. I’ve been meaning to do a Centaur Battery for a while, and recently picked up a box of the Battlefront plastic Cromwell, notionally to provide some CS tanks for my planned Comet force. Now seemed as good as ever to get the often delayed project done!
Could I get a five tank platoon painted in 2 weeks given my predilection for faffing and needing to work around a 1 year old baby? Let’s find out!
A bit of background, the Centaur was an odd beast, being a Cromwell chassis with a Crusader’s Liberty engine (a WWI aircraft design and showing its age!). It more expedient to use these than building more of the the excellent Meteor tank engine (Rolls Royce being otherwise busy, Leyland were initially to do it but faffed over cooling issue. Eventually Rover picked up the slack in exchange for giving Rolls its jet engine work). Most Centaurs were upgraded to Cromwell standard as engines became available. While a few hung around as a specialist chassis.
A handful of Centaurs were taken up by the Royal Marines with the intention as being used as ‘wheel on’ gun turrets for landing craft to provide extra fire support to the beaches. There was an original intent to remove the engines to allow for additional ammo storage but it was eventually decided to keep them as proper gun tanks to allow them to support the drive in-land. Fitted with water proofing, deep wading exhausts and, most distinctively, bearing numbers (1°-360°) around the turret to assist aligning multiple turrets on targets; the tanks were prepared for D-Day. They would give sterling support, soldiering on until the August break outs and being operated by at least three different units!
With the wading and waterproofing removed, a Centaur CS would be hard to distinguish from a Cromwell CS. The main distinctions are:
- Absence of a hull MG (largely useless for a standoff fire-support role)
- Compass markings
- RM markings (dark blue square with a yellow/green/red band and a large number 2).
The Cromwell kit comes with a replacement front hull plate to allow for the blanking plate on the hull MG position so that sorted that one out. A quick google search found a few reference photos of the tanks to work from to, as well as some suitably impressive larger scale models (always a handy source of ideas). The Centaur CS doesn’t ever appear to have a spotlight fitted but the turret side has a large hole to locate it and it seemed easier to fit it than fill the hole!
Assembly was relatively painless and accomplished in an evening, once Matilda was down for sleep. I had bought a large quantity of 0.5mm rare earth magnets so dispensed with the pegs. I applied some stowage from the Cromwell kit, Open Fire plastics and the ever useful Skytrex “General Stowage” set.
The biggest issue was the Sherman that acts as the Platoon HQ. I had a large quantity of Open Fire Sherman Vs, but, sadly, all are the early rubbish ‘first stab’ plastics. Clearly a turd was going to need to be polished. I assembled one up and green stuffed the gaps in the upper hull and side as best as I could, using the left over green stuff to knock up some canvas covers and rolls for the Cromwells. I foresee the eventual Sherman army having a lot of green stuff Hessian camo…
Annoyingly, the Open Fire Sherman has the appliqué armour fitted that the Battery HQ did not use however there was not much I could do about that. I used a Cromwell turret side stowage bin for the Sherman, only later realising that the battery HQ did not have one of these either. Never seen a British Sherman without one before!
I used steel clump nails to hold models whilst I am painting. The turret stick directly to them thanks for the magnets but the hulls get hot glued. It gives a decent ‘spinnable’ hand grip that works well when painting or airbrushable to keep the fingers off the model.
Magnets – not just for mystifying small children
These days I use Vallejo surface primer for the basecoats of my model. It goes out of the airbrush nicely and does the job. Annoyingly there is no SCC15 base coat, just “UK Bronze Green” – a colour not really used at all in WWII.
I applied an even base coat of this and then a few coats of “Russian Uniform” (thinned for the airbrush) to set the base. Once that was dry, I dry brushed the tank in “Green Grey” to pick out the highlights and called it a day.
Bronze Green – not especially Bronze
Russian Uniform on a British Tank. Does anyone actually paint Russian Uniforms with it?
Next evening, I set about the tracks and road wheels. Road wheels got picked out in Black Grey. The tracks then got painted in “German Camo Medium Brown” (along with the commander on the Sherman V and the wooden stowage boxes and tool handles elsewhere).
Clump Nail coming into full use at this point.
I then picked out the rubber track pads on the Sherman in “Black Grey”, like the road wheels, before applying a wash of GW “Nuln Oil” (about the only GW paint still have in my inventory, I find the Vallejo washes go chalky when they dry so avoid them) over the whole lower hull to add some shading and give a dirty look. It was at this point I noticed that I had missed a mould line on the Sherman’s transmission cover; not much I could do that that point.
Whilst that dried, I got on with the tank commander. No great deviation from the standard way of painting Brit Infantry here. I had already applied the “German Camo Medium Brown” undercoat and then layered “English Uniform”, then “Green Brown” to highlight.
The Beret was picked out in “Luftwaffe Camo Green” then “German Camo Bright Green” added to highlight.
Berets – the quintessential tank headgear
I later realised that the beret probably should be Dark Blue as the Royal Marines crewing the tanks were unlikely to be Commandos but put it down to artistic licence! The face and hands got undercoated in “Beige Brown”, base coated in “Beige Red” and highlighted in “Basic Fleshtone”. I took the gamble on painting the eyes and it paid off this time. The ‘stache and hair were painted in old GW Chestnut Brown wash to give a suitable auburn tinge.
Now ready to find some bosche to bash
The wash still wasn’t dry and I had an hour or so of working time left in the evening, so I set about doing the markings on the turrets. I thinned down some white paint and painted a line around the middle of the Sherman turret and the top of the Cromwell turret. I then painted vertical lines down from the horizontal line at even spacing, consulting the reference material I had. I then painted on the numbers. 0° seems to be at the back of the turret with 90°/270° on the sides and 180° at the hull front. 10° degree increments are numbered with 5° degree increments marked with a smaller vertical line. Trying to achieve a perfect alignment seemed a full errand at this scale for my limited talents so I opted to get the four major points right and the rest roughly correct.
Fun with angles
I then painted “Hunter” on one MG blanking plate and “Seawolf” on another based on names in the photos. The other two hulls got some scrawls to denote a name as I couldn’t find a historical record of it. The HQ Sherman got “Fox” plus a mid-war esq red/white/red recognition flash on the transmission cover and hull sides, again based off the photos. I then hand painted T numbers on the Sherman sides and Cromwell lower hull and the unit insignia on the hull front and back.
No “my other tank is just as flammable” bumper sticks though
I next painted the search and driving lights. I had marked out the circle of the lights with “Black Grey” earlier, whilst painting the road wheels. I now painted a broad arc of the lower half of the circle in “London Grey”, then a thinner arc in “Sky Grey”, before finally adding a pair of dots of white on the top. Simple but effective! I also used “Luftwaffe Blue” to pick out the periscopes and spotted some white paint on the corner for a reflection.
At least that sheds some light on it…
The wash had finally dried so I dry brushed on “Gunmetal” to the tracks and called it a night – a productive night!
All that was left now was the stowage, washes, weathering and sealing.
Metal boxes had been painted at the same time as the hull in my interpretation of the ever nebulous SCC15.
Wooden boxes were base coated in “German Camo Medium Brown” as mentioned earlier and then layered with “Flat Earth” before being highlighted in “Light Brown”, rope handles being picked out in “Stone Grey”.
Canvas was based coated “Brown Violet”, layered in “Khaki” and highlighted in “German Camo Beige”. Straps were painted in “Green Grey” and highlighted “Stone Grey”.
All tool heads and BESA barrels were base coated “German Grey”, layered in a 50:50 mix of the latter with “Gunmetal” “then highlighted in “Gunmetal”.
Finally I got some old blister foam, ripped off a corner, and stipled “German Camo Black Brown” on any edges or flate areas that may see some wear for some simple but effective weathering.
Picnic and other travel essentials for a short stay in Northern France
Next, I loaded the airbrush with Acrylic floor polish and applied a good few coats all over.
Once that was dry, I got some MIG Dark Enamel Wash and started pin washing the models’ crevices. It’s a new technique that I am trying and it’s starting to give a good result. A turps moistened cotton bud and brush clean up any major deviations from the lines of the tank.
The next evening, I sealed the surface again with floor polish and then used the old FoW (presumably re-badged MIG) “European Dust” pigments. Again, a new technique that still needs work but is functional at the moment. I loaded an old dry-brushing brush with pigments and applied it liberally on the lower hull and track guards. I blew off the excess with the airbrush then applied one last coat of polish to seal.
Finally, I applied two good coats of Vallejo Matt Varnish via the airbrush, applying a light all-over drybrush of Iraqi Sand between coats to tie the model together.
Centaur CS ready to provide S up C!
The boss’ ride
Royal Marine Centaur Battery complete!
Job done! Probably should have added some Allied Stars at some point (none obvious in the photos though) but more than happy with the end result.