On the bench #4

“German tank guy” going WWI?

Amidst all the fighting with Post Nord about getting their shit together, talking to sellers to resend the lost kits to me and preparing for winter I’ve managed to do some modelling as well. WWI modelling to be more precise!

I’m really into German WWII tanks, paper panzers and pure fictional “what if” contraptions. They appeal to me through their engineering – not for any political wishful thinking things had gone the other way. I seldom research tank commanders etc but I will research tank designers and their construction. That’s where my interests are and so far I’ve never really looked at WWI, which I right now wonder why?

The engineering feats of WWI with the first secret construction, and deployment, of Little Willie which lead to the Mk.I being developed, and which spawned the German A7V and the French FT-17. These are perhaps even bigger engineering feats simply because they had nothing to base their designs on. No influence from other countries (initially), no statistics from battles and no real plan how to progress the war by building tanks apart from being able to cross the German trenches and to protect their own. This was however critical and a brilliant way to break the stalemate that was the case with trench warfare. The Germans experimented with chemical warfare but the Brits made the first secret tank – which have ever since changed the whole battlefield and how we fight wars today! This thanks to William Ashbee Tritton, director of the agricultural machinery company William Foster & Company of Lincoln, and Lieutenant Walter Gordon Wilson as the two of them worked out how to design the track links for Little Willie (or actually Number 1 Lincoln Machine) and this design for the track links/plates were kept up to the Mk.VIII, but later had to be redesigned since it had a limited speed where it could operate.

By Andrew Skudder – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3250684

I had previously bought the Takom Mk.IV Male and Female 2 in 1 #2076 and I now opened the box, inspected the contents and started the construction.
WWI tanks have a very different design to WWII tanks so instead of building a tub type hull and then add torsion bar suspension etc I started to assemble armour plates into a rhomboid shape. The further I got with the build the more fascinated I became with this Mk.IV tank and how they must’ve thought when they designed it – and how it could’ve been trying to operate it? It must’ve been loud and full of fumes, but better that than risk getting killed by bullets!

The build was somewhat tricky since it was a bit like a 3D puzzle, although all pieces were straight with no locating features. If one panel got assembled slightly off it would cause major problems down the line so I carefully dry fitted as much as possible and hoped for the best!

I didn’t get much sleep the two first nights because I was modelling and having a lot of fun, and finally it was built – my first WWI tank!

The next step was paint and weathering. Just like the rest of you modellers I’ve got quite a lot of paint. Tamiya, AMMO by Mig and Vallejo. I didn’t have any WWI specific colours though simply because I’ve never needed them before so I started reading up my non-existing knowledge about the Mk.IV trying to find out what primer they used and what colour the tanks were painted in, but I found no concrete source for this. Photos weren’t useful because all WWI photos are black & white as we all know, but I found the information I was looking for and Tamiya XF-49 Khaki was close enough to run with.

The kit comes with a unditching log but I also wanted a fascine because some of the reference photos I was using had these and they brought life to the model I thought. I’ve built a fascine out of dried grass cut to length and made into a bundle, with the ends sealed with putty and then painted brown to look like hazel. The grass is slightly too thick to fit the scale so I haven’t decided if I’m going to find something thinner or not yet, we’ll see.

Here’s the current work in progress.

I’m not going to quit WWII modelling anytime soon, but I am going to build more WWI tanks – that’s for sure, and I’ve already got a Meng 1/35 Mk ‘A’ Whippet British Medium Tank #TS-021 on its way and I’m looking at a No-1 Lincoln Machine “Little Willie” from Accurate Armour, but before going that deep into WWI tanks I will build a Mk.I, a Mk.IV Tadpole, a Mk.V, the A7V, the FT-17 and the Char since they are more readily available. Little Willie can be the final tank of that WWI lineup perhaps?!

So if you’re like me, “just another German tank guy”, have a look at the WWI tanks! They are very different. Much simpler in most areas but still very complex in some. Road wheels are very different and it must’ve been really painful to drive over even small obstacles since there was no suspension – but on the other hand most of the crew in these tanks were standing up during operation. Well, I say “standing up”… It wasn’t so much standing up as lack of any seating unless you were a driver. That’s the case in the Mk.IV for sure and most other WWI tanks. Like I said they are different to build but they have loads in character and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of building this Mk.IV! (ok, I didn’t enjoy trying to mate the two sides and lining up the road wheels… I didn’t cheat with glue either because I want my tanks to have running tracks, but apart from this it was only fun! 😉 )

Please let me know if you would like to see the whole build process – including a pretty major disaster with cheap hairspray that went… well… really bad, and how I recovered, and I’ll include all 22 pictures I took throughout the project and some comments on these pictures.

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