Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Rubicon Models SdKfz 7 8ton Half-track

June already and the prospect of further restrictions being lifted in the near future gives me some hope that the various elements of the Schloss Itter project will finally be reunited.  Both James and I are keen for this to happen, not least so we can see what finishing touches need to made in order to bring it to some form of resolution.  There is no doubt that working from home for the last two months, allowing myself an hour or so a day hobby time, has seen most things on my 'to do' list ticked off, one of those being this rather splendid 'Rubicon Models' Half-track.
James very kindly put this kit together when I was elbow deep in builders' caulk and Sculptamold and then it sat idly for an age waiting for me to paint it.  In my defence the Half-track was only ever going to be for table dressing, an element to hint at how the mighty '88 had managed to be deployed before shelling the castle.  That said it is another fine model with a good number of options and so warranted some love and attention.
Given that it was supposed to have towed the '88 into position, I approached the painting in the same way starting with some bold strokes of colour with the trusty airbrush.  These were then refined with the brush before going to town with the weathering and chipping.  This final stage is still approached with some trepidation as the idea of 'distressing' a perfectly serviceable paint job seems a little counterintuitive, but I feel as if I am becoming more familiar with the techniques and so a little more confident with managing my expectations.
With the painting finished it still felt a little incomplete, possibly as I have chosen not to base this model and so it is without the customary flock and tufts that have adorned the previous models.  Fortunately I had picked up a stowage set from the same company with a view of making some loot markers for the game and a quick review of the sprue threw up a couple of possibilities in the shape of a tool chest and rolled up flag.  
Once again I need to credit he very talented Nick of 'Moiterei's Bunte Welt' fame for the idea of the flag, something I had seen on his amazing blog and was keen to try for myself; the splash of vibrant red really helping to lift the piece.  The final detail was some of my home made camouflage net, stowed in the rear cradle, ready to deploy.  Having been a model that I was struggling to get started on, the half-track has now become one of my favourite pieces and I am thrilled to see it next to the '88, just want to see it on the table now!   

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Friday, 22 May 2020

Stricken Saucer...

... and a thank you.
One of the many joys of working with someone like James is his mischievous sense of humour.  If truth be told we probably share the same trait, which is why when a seemingly preposterous idea is floated it, more often than not, is given serious thought and consideration.  This is how a fully equipped, weird science, laboratory found its way into Schloss Itter's dungeons.  James' April 1st post, detailing the vile evildoings of 'Dachs Werks', was an absolute joy and I loved painting Bob Murch's 'Pulp Miniatures' that he had sourced to be part of it.
With Dachs Werks now a 'thing', my mind was pricked by a memory from the dim and distant past.  Didn't I have a crashed Martian Space Saucer?  Of course I did, part of the long forgotten, Mars Attacks project now hidden in the loft.  After much searching, rummaging and the occasional cross word, I stumbled across my quarry, a large lump of resin representing a stricken saucer!  James, quick to endorse the foolishness of the idea, supplied a base that was the exact same size as that of the crashed Storch, the idea being that we could swap out one for the other when photographing the model or just to simply amuse everyone at 'Salute'.
Once safely attached to its new oval base, I had hoped that this was going to be an easy win, but the sudden realisation that I had left my trusty airbrush at school was a cruel blow, I was going to have to do this by hand!  Mixing some Vallejo Matt Medium with Oily Steel, I carefully covered the bulk of the saucer.  I am not sure that I fully understand the science behind Matt Medium, but have often used it when painting large surface areas with metallic paints.  Not only does it dull the surface sheen allowing washes and glazes to take hold, but also seems to ease the application of the paint, reducing visible brushstrokes.   Slowly but surely the downed disk started to take shape.
This was one of those models that kept wanting more and more attention and my initial thoughts that this was going to be a quick job soon evaporated as I started to find myself keen to try out all sorts of ideas.  Blue became a recurring colour theme and was used for what could be described as the energy cells and running lights, even trying a touch of Object Source Lighting.  On reflection this probably could have gone better and in the case of the running lights not necessary at all given that it had actually crashed, but nonetheless proved an interesting exercise.
Finishing touches included some German crosses, purloined from another plastic kit, and some gloss varnish for the cracked canopy and lights.  I have to say that I am rather pleased with how it turned out.  Total nonsense, but can't wait to see it placed on the lower paddock.  The addition of the little grey men is another tale all together and came about with a chance email exchange with Mark Dixon of 'CP Models'.
Mark had spotted some pictures of Weird West miniatures that I had painted and with 'CP Models' now holding the range, asked if he could use them on his website.  I was flattered to be asked, but as a thank you, Mark asked if there were something from his range that I might find a use for?  The truth of the matter is that there were any number of miniatures that caught my eye, but given the project that was currently on the table I asked if I might have some Grey Aliens, to act as a suitable crew.  The little grey men were duly dispatched and I am thrilled to share them here, thank you Mark.

With the uncertainty of what will happen with regards to work, particularly from the start of June, I am keen to get as much finished as I can whilst at home.  That said it is evident that there is a degree of mission creep starting to pervade my my best laid plans, something which I intend to embrace wholeheartedly. 




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Saturday, 16 May 2020

Final Flight of the Storch

Regular readers to this most humble of weblogs might remember the Storch diversion?  'The Flight of the Storch' detailed the creative genius of James in designing and building a 1/56 scale Fieseler Storch in response to my whim of having something littering the lower paddock of the castle.  James, always true to his side of a bargain, successfully completed the design and built several prototypes, but then project was rather buried, with boards and miniatures taking priority.  It was never truly forgotten, however, and I am delighted to finally present its realisation for your delectation. 
The concept, whilst fanciful and indulgent, centred around a crashed German plane, possibly looking to escape from the advancing Allied forces, overloaded with Nazi gold.  I should stress that this was a complete fabrication and that there is no evidence, whatsoever, that a certain Austrian Schloss holds the secret to the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant!  Utilising a particularly arduous Head of Departments meeting the final design was sketched out and construction began in earnest.   
The project took a massive leap forward when James, very kindly, donated one of the prototypes that he had been working on.  The fuselage was already complete and so it really was just a matter of 'crashing' it into a base of Sculptamold.  Cocktail sticks, plastic rod and scraps of blue foam were all employed to good effect and I left a tea light shaped space so that a re-worked blast marker could be incorporated for good measure.

The final flourish, so to speak, were the disgorged looted treasures.  A quick rummage of the bits box unearthed some suitable packing creates along with the Ark itself, a 'Crooked Dice' Maguffin.  I used some coffee stirrers to represent the splintered remains of the treasured relic's box and then it was on to the painting.
A relatively straightforward paint job in the end and although a little small I used some of the transfers that had been left over from the vehicle kits that we had built, there were even some German Afrika Korps logos to emblazon the scattered cargo, a nod to the adventures of a certain Dr. Jones perhaps?
So pleased to finish this and can't thank James enough for his contributions to make it happen.  This is another one of those elements that I am really looking forward to seeing on the completed boards when we finally get a chance to have everything assembled and in one place. 
A final atmospheric shot of the Storch still burning at night, showing the fibre optic elements of the blast markers, thank you again Dave Docherty for the inspirational idea! 

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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Castle Defenders

Taking a wholly pragmatic approach to the current restrictions, I have established a routine that helps manage the days of isolation.  This is greatly helped by the working timetable imposed by the school and the interaction with my pupils, but because there is no commute or boarding duties in the evening, I have managed to build in a modicum of hobby time.  Just an hour a day has seen a number of flights of fancy brought to a conclusion, but with this post I am delighted to report that I have finally completed the miniatures required to represent the castle defenders.
These amazing sculpts are, again, from 'Empress Miniatures' and have been goading me into painting them for some time now.  I seem to struggle when it comes to painting units of troops, in this case my lack of knowledge of the period and the masses of detail, not to mention the prospect of yet more camouflage had conspired to relegate these to the bottom of the 'to do' list.
Having completed the character set, as seen in the 'Cross of Iron' post,  I had a smidge more confidence to revisit these and armed with yet another outstanding painting guide from Nick of 'Moiterei's Bunte Welt' fame, this time detailing the intricacies of the splinter pattern camouflage, I endeavoured to move them forward.

I was feeling rather pleased with myself when they were complete, but having taken the photographs and seen them a little closer, as it were, I see that they look a little rushed in places and my ever  failing eyesight is definitely missing one or two details.  That said they seem to do the job from arm's length and look rather splendid when seen as a complete unit.

When checking the numbers for the game, I noticed that I was a couple of G.I.s short and so quickly remedied that oversight with a 'Warlord Games' plastic (left) and an 'Artizan Designs' metal (right) miniature as seen below, finally completing the roster for the game.  
Completing these has definitely given me a bit of a boost and have been beavering away with the SS Troops that I had left to do, but have also finished some scenic elements which I am looking forward to sharing soon.  With what we hope is the end of the restrictions in sight, I can't wait to see these elements all brought together on the finished boards.


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Friday, 8 May 2020

VE DAY 75

It would seem remiss not to mark today with a post of some description and although many of the wonderful events planned to mark this anniversary have had to be cancelled, I for one will be taking some time to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we do today. It is also important to remember that whilst the guns may have fallen silent in Europe on this day, the conflict continued until 15th August when it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.

In looking for some small way to show my appreciation, I stumbled across the following on the official VE Day 75 Celebration site, which may be of interest to others.  From Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR, Pageantmaster VE Day 75:

My sincere thanks to the many thousands who registered their involvement and events and were looking forward to celebrating VE Day 75 is the ways planned. I know how disappointed you will be that these cannot go ahead as planned. However we are sill encouraging solo buglers/trumpeters/cornet players to play the Last Post at 2.55pm from the safety of their homes, along with the Pipers undertaking Battle’s O’er and VE 75 years at 3pm local time in the country they are in, as well as Town Criers, Crying out for Peace at 6.55pm in a similar way too on the 8th May 2020.

We are also encouraging all those taking part to undertake the ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2’ at 3pm on the 8th May, from the safety of their own home by standing up and raise a glass of refreshment of their choice and undertake the following ‘Toast’ – 
 “To those who gave so much, we thank you” 
using this unique opportunity to pay tribute to the many millions at home and abroad that gave so much to ensure we all enjoy and share the freedom we have today.

In addition, The Royal British Legion is calling on people across the UK to join in a moment of reflection and Remembrance at 11am on Friday 8th May, the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, and pause for a Two Minute Silence.  

I shall be dusting off the bunting and bedecking the front of 'Awdry Towers' this morning and, as all good posts should have a miniature of some description, leave you with this 'Warlord Games' Winston Churchill, armed with his Tommy Gun, painted to commemorate the day.  Who knows, perhaps he will be found hiding in one of the rooms of the castle?


 “To those who gave so much, we thank you” 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

75 years ago today...

...a celebration
Today would have been the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Schloss Itter and it seems only appropriate to mark the day with a suitable post.  As colossal an undertaking as this has been, the project remains one of the most enjoyable and rewarding enterprises, one we are committed to seeing through to its end, whenever that may be?  We have learnt a great deal in terms of our own abilities and along the way we have been buoyed and supported by the many positive comments left on the various posts, blown away by the generosity of individuals wanting to contribute in some small way.
There was, however, a most unexpected outcome that we thought we would share with you today, that of our introduction to Glenn E. Sherman and the role he played in the battle for Schloss Itter.  Back in early December an otherwise nondescript work in progress update to James' Instagram yielded a most unexpected outcome.  In addition to the usual kindly 'likes' offered by myself and his daughters, there was a favourable comment too!  Far be it from me to suggest that a positive comment on James's Instagram is a rare thing, but on this occasion it really was a most welcome surprise - being as it came from over the pond from a Mr. John G. Sherman.
Introductions aside, it became clear that John Sherman was the grandson of Glenn E. Sherman, a name that was strikingly familiar not least because we had come across it in Stephen Harding's, The Last Battle, the book we were using as our primary source of information.  The book makes reference of the decisive action of Boche Buster, the tank that led the reinforcements to the castle, disappointing though, Harding does not fully recognise Glenn's accomplishments as he does for some of the other personalities at the battle.
Therefore, to mark the events that took place seventy five years ago this day, and as part of the wider VE Day75 celebrations, we would like to take a moment to honour Glenn E. Sherman, and thank his grandson John for reaching-out and getting in touch with us. 
Part of the original column that had set out to liberate the castle with Capt. Jack Lee, Glenn and Tech. Sgt. William E. Elliot remained in their tank, nicknamed Boche Buster to defend the bridge serving as an escape route.  However no sooner had Lee arrived at Schloss Itter when the probing assaults of the SS Troops started, culminating with an artillery bombardment of the medieval structure the following day.
Fortunately Glen had navigated his way across enemy held territory, at night, to arrive in true U. S. cavalry style and literally save the day!  The attacking SS soldiers, realising they were no match for Boche Buster’s firepower, immediately retreated, the battle was over.   Glenn was awarded the Silver Star, for gallantry in action with the 12th Armoured Division, near Worgel, Austria, his citation reads as follows: 
“Technician Fourth Grade Sherman, whose regular duty is a tank mechanic, volunteered, although his company had been relieved to drive a tank on a mission during the hours of darkness over ten miles of roads lined with enemy armour.  The following day he drove his tank in the lead of all troops to liberate his company commander and members of the old French Government who were surrounded by an undetermined number of SS troops.  Technician Fourth Grade Sherman's actions were one of the most important elements that [brought] success to such a bold venture.”
James and I have pondered over how best to honour Glenn, and really there is no better way than to allow his Grandson John to do the talking.  The following words, written by John Sherman give a fascinating insight into the life of Glenn, his personality and achievements.

"My Grandpa Glenn Sherman seldom spoke about his experiences in World War II. On the rare occasions he did I was too young to understand; what I do remember vividly are his actions. Over and over again he provided a shining example of someone who worked hard, loved his family, and gave back to his community. 
 From letting his grandkids ride on the fire truck during the 4th of July parade, or taking one fishing, to patiently listening to a fellow farmer’s tale, to letting me explore the attic for the thousandth time,  Grandpa Sherman could always find time to serve his family and friends in his seemingly endless days of carrying mail, farming, and the occasional call to put out a fire.  
After the war, Glenn returned to Cameron to raise a family with his wife Doris and to work on the family farm. He continued to serve the community in many ways; as a member of the Cameron Volunteer Fire Department for 40 years and as a Cameron Postal employee for over 30 years.  
 I will always remember Grandpa Sherman for his gentle smile and quick wit; his tireless days of working without complaint, and his constant willingness to help those in need."
He would often shovel snow for someone not able, or fix a broken down car at a moment’s notice. He even built a house for a son and his young family. 

John G Sherman
It seems unnecessary to add anymore, may the post serve to honour the memory of this community spirited hero, and all who suffered, as we reflect upon the 75th anniversary of VE day.


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Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Bounding Basque

By their very nature the French V.I.P. Prisoners at the castle were high profile citizens, they were considered honour prisoners whose fame or importance was deemed useful to the German High Command; amongst them one truly exceptional individual was Jean Borotra.  Borotra had been a prominent French tennis player of the 1920s.   A Grand Slam champion on nineteen separate occasions, including Wimbledon twice, he was also part of the French National Team, known as The Four Musketeers, which included the likes of RenĂ© Lacoste who in 1927 helped France win the Davis Cup for the first time.
As a tennis player Borotra was a genuine crowd pleaser, always resplendent in his blue beret, famed for his sharp volleys and powerful overhead smashes which were to win him the nickname the Bounding Basque.  It was, however, his dalliance with politics that would see him imprisoned at Schloss Itter.  Borotra was a hugely patriotic man and had enlisted in the French army of World War I shortly after his eighteenth birthday.  He would would see extensive action, winning the Croix de Guerre and ending the war as a Battery Commander.  He remained a reserve officer at the outbreak of World War II and was involved in the fighting on the Lorraine front before his unit was completely surrounded.  Following France's capitulation, Borotra had initially sort to flee to England with his wife and son, but decided to stay in France to serve the country and was persuaded to join the Vichy Party as a Sports Commissioner, with the mandate to "morally re-educate" France's young people.  It was a post that he clearly enjoyed, political misgivings aside, but with the initial round up of Parisian Jews in 1941, Borotra banned all French sporting associations from competing against German Teams.  This was a stand that saw him fired from his position and during his bid to flee the country was arrested by the Gestapo and subsequently imprisoned. 
On his arrival at the castle, Borotra worked hard on maintaining his physical fitness by running laps around the courtyard, in preparation for three escape attempts!  Each time he was recaptured and sent to his room for a period of isolation.  During the battle itself, when it looked as though the defenders, who were perilously short of ammunition, were about to be overrun, Borotra made one final leap of the castle's walls.
The plan was to locate and guide the American relief column to the castle by the quickest route and was potentially a suicide mission.  Unperturbed Borotra, disguised as an Austrian refugee, avoided capture and duly completed his mission delivering the message, before returning at the head of the column, now armed and in American uniform.  It would, of course, have been the simplest thing to have allocated one of the G.I.s to represent this hero of France, but I felt the man deserved something a little more creative and so began the search for a 1920s tennis player.
After an exhaustive search, I stumbled across a potential candidate in the form of an armed cricketer from 'Sloppy Jalopy'.  A 'Warlord Games' Polish paratrooper's head, minus the cap badge, was swapped in to represent the Bounding Basque with the final flourish being the tennis racquet from yet another 'Warlord Games' sprue, this time the female apocalypse survivors frame.  

I am not suggesting for one moment that Jean Borotra leapt to the defence of Schloss Itter in his tennis flannels, but this was too good an opportunity to have some fun and still represent a genuine hero of the hour. 

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