I am a wargamer, not really a model-maker, but sometimes I do get a bit carried away.

Modelling Churchill tanks Modelling Hanomag 251 half-tracks Fun with Shermans WWII British paratroop jeeps LCM landing craft Converting Airfix Panzer IV F to D Converting Airfix Panzer IV F to H Painting weathering effects on vehicles


All these models are 1/76th scale. I'll start with the Airfix Sherman. I was going to just improve a load of old childhood Sherman models, quickly, while waiting for information which would allow me to continue with my interminable Hanomag project. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

Improved Airfix Sherman with applique armour

An improved Airfix Sherman. The basic kit is of a  very basic tank, with no trimmings at all. In no particular order, here are the changes I have made.

Towing shackles have been added at the front of the hull.

Mudguards have been added at the front. These little mudguards are pretty much the minimum mudguard you see in photographs. I'm not sure I've seen a picture of a Sherman with no mudguards at all. Many had full-length mudguards, which appear to have been added to, rather than instead of, these little triangular ones. The further one is green because it is carved from the removed mudguard of a Churchill. You can see a little strip on the hull, and a little triangular strut connecting this to the mudguard. There is a raised ridge running along the top of the guard. I have made this by painting on some particularly thick acrylic paint (my silver paint has gone very thick, and is useful for this sort of thing).

In the front sprocket wheel, extra detail has been carved - lots of radial triangular notches.

Around the hull MG I have added a very thin hoop of Milliput . This represents the raised seal to which the waterproof cover for the MG fitted when in transit.

The lifting lugs are represented on the kit by little bumps on the front of the hull. I have carved these off, and replaced them with half-circles cut from hollow plastic rod. These are glued slightly further up the hull than the bumps of the kit. More lifting lugs are added to the back of the turret, and another replaces the bump/line between the top of the gun mantlet and the circular air vent on the top of the turret.

Pieces of thickish plastic card have been added to represent appliqué armour. Shermans were found to be very vulnerable to enemy anti-tank fire, and many were given this extra armour over vital spots. Fortunately, this version of the Sherman does not have the curved hull sides, so the pieces are easy to make and glue on. The two pieces on the hull front, protecting the two hull crewmen, are flat, and have gaps underneath them, which is authentic. Those on the turret sides curve around the turret. The plates on the turret front form a new mantlet, and this is two pieces of plastic card, the rear, larger, one being thinner. Holes are burned through the thinner part immediately next to the thicker central part, for the gun sight and co-axial MG. Two pieces of hollow rod clutch the barrel at the base, from either side (they don't meet top and bottom), sculpted to glue flush to the curving mantlet.

One tiny detail you can't really make out from the scan is that the round bump just visible under the bustle of the turret, has four recesses poked into it with a spike, one in each "corner" - not that a round thing has corners.

The protective bars which in reality stuck up above the headlamps, are represented on the kit by little ridges. I have left these as they are. Modelling such details is difficult, and such tiny things break off during wargames.

Improved Airfix Sherman, rear view

Here you can see the two aerials, of different lengths. The shorter one sticks up from a stalk which has a flared-out top (done with heated pin). I used artificial Christmas tree needles for the aerials, and glued these in to holes burned with a hot pin, using super-glue. This is much stronger than stretched sprue glued on with polystyrene cement.

In the MG mount on the ring which surrounds the commander's hatch, I have mounted an American MG, with a big box magazine added. British Shermans usually didn't bother with these, but it looks nice. The mount was attached to a ring which was ran on bearings, so that it could be rotated all the way round, so you are free to glue this piece on at any angle. All the photographs I have seen of British Shermans with turret-top MGs show them at the front, mind.

On the rear of the turret, is a storage bin. These tended to be square, like this one. Many were like the one on the back of the Airfix Crusader kit turret.

On the hull rear, I have made a shelf. It is L-shaped in section, with triangular end pieces. It is not glued directly to the hull, but to three vertical strips of plastic card, which in turn are glued to the hull. On this, I have placed a crate, some jerry-cans, and some gubbins. Either side of it, I have glued on more boxes.

Sherman with sandbag armour

This is something else you can do with a Sherman: cover it in sandbags. The sandbags themselves are made by rolling Milliput putty into long sausages, then cutting it into lengths with scissors. The scissors pinch the putty into bag-like ends as they cut.

Those Shermans with full-length mudguards built up the side cages from those. The Airfix model lacks these, so you need to add a shelf along the bottom of each side. Above this, apply your sandbags, then put on your vertical cage bars, then glue the horizontal bars to the vertical, which stick to the putty. You need to add another shelf on the hull front, and around the turret. Many pictures show the sand-bagged tanks with few or no bars across the front of the vehicle. I'd have thought that a sudden halt would throw off some sandbags, so I have put just a couple across. Make sure that you don't block all the headlamps, nor the hull MG, nor the vision ports in the hull-top hatches. You can just see a (tan-coloured) headlamp I have added, sticking up.

The plastic strip I have used for some parts of the cage is L-shaped in section, which matches some photographs I have seen. Photographs also show that the sandbags were often painted in the camouflage scheme of the tank. I have seen a few pictures of sand-bag covered tanks with "Mickey Mouse" pattern - big black blobs over standard base colour.

I have opened the turret and hull hatches on this model, and added some internal detail. This consists of handles, and periscopes. The periscopes are glued on at an angle to the hatches, but are otherwise just rectangular slabs.

This low-angle shot shows quite nicely the "track skids" added to the top of the suspension bogeys. For some reason, the kit misses these off. They are simply ribbons of thin plastic card, bent round and glued on.

Poking their heads from the front hatches, are two crewmen. These were a pig to glue in, and if some ham-fisted git pushes them inside the tank, then I may get a touch upset. They are much-cut-down Airfix German paratroopers, who wore a very similar helmet to the British tank helmet. Most crews seem to have worn a simple black beret. Some photographs even show crews with the standard infantry "battle bowler", which must have made getting in and out of the tank awkward.

Modified Shermans

This is a better view of a rear shelf. The tank on the right has a length of fine chain on the back, representing some hefty towing chain. It also has a Culin hedge-cutter on the front, by Skytrex. These were for dealing with hedges, especially in the Normandy "bocage" area which the allies had to fight through to break out from the beach head in 1944. They have horizontal blades which are designed to cut the lower parts of the hedge, breaking a gap through the hedgerow.

Diesel Sherman with early suspension

This is a diesel-engined Sherman. The old Airfix book of military modelling insists that this was a typical British type, but chaps writing on the web these days suggest otherwise. You can tell that it is a diesel by the revised engine deck. Much of the kit's detail has been carved flat, and replaced. The little bump I mentioned earlier, to the rear right of the turret, has been removed. A large flat grille has been added. This is a flat piece of plastic card with a border scored on it round the edge, and many parallel lines scored going from front to back within this border. Sorry, but the scan doesn't pick up that sort of detail. Around this, there are five new filler caps made from Milliput. These are round shallow domes with two little hinge-like bits on either side, much like the other filler caps moulded on the kit. A couple of lines have been scored on the rear deck also.

Not content with making it a diesel, I also made it an earlier model, by replacing the suspension with that from the Lee/Grant kit, which has the return rollers on the tops of the bogeys instead of to one side. The silver paint on the wheels is a childhood mistake, and will be put right.

On the hull front, is a camouflage net, made from an old bandage dyed green with Citadel ink. I have been careful to leave gaps for a headlamp, the hull MG, and I have not blocked the vision ports of the hull crewmen. It is glued on with lots of PVA, and is quite solid now that it has set. I have since dry-brushed over the top with duller green paint, and it looks great.

The turret has a new hatch, with better modelled periscope, an MG, aerial, and the turret-side stowage from a Churchill kit. Some photographs show Shermans with this sort of stowage too.

Sherman Firefly with disguised barrel

This unfinished model shows the way many Sherman Firefly barrels were disguised. The Firefly was a British modification to the American Sherman, which mounted a 17-pounder gun, which was perhaps the best anti-tank gun of the war. The Germans soon learned that it could penetrate anything they had, and so they were trained to destroy Fireflies before engaging other Shermans in a formation. British crews therefore tried to disguise the Firefly to look like an ordinary Sherman, and here is one way it was done. A false barrel-brake has been added, to emphasise the false end of the barrel, and the remaining barrel length has had white paint painted on its underside, and brown on the top, with a wavy border. This is very effective. Painting the underside of something a paler colour than the top is a good way to disguise its shape. A barrel painted plain green would be darker on the underside, as you can see in this picture. Sometimes the false barrel brake was omitted, and sometimes foliage was used to emphasise the false "end".

In this picture you can also see some bullet holes in one mudguard, a failed penetration on the side of the turret, and lots of Churchill track attached to the front, for extra protection. I used to think that it is necessary to model some means of holding this extra armour on, but in fact the track was usually just welded straight onto the hull, so you can just glue the model track on. The track would then be painted with camouflage paint to match the tank roughly.

Finished Shermans

Finished Shermans. In the background is the tank named "Amazon". A good thing about painting British tanks is that you get to paint individual names on them all. It has the "Mickey Mouse" pattern of dark blobs on it, a liberal splattering of mud, and a turret marking showing that it is one of the fourth troop of its squadron. In the foreground is the finished sand-bagged tank, commanded by Saddam Hussein, wearing a black beret, as befits a British tank crewman. The arial recognition symbol is on the rear engine decking, where it often was. The T-number (individual to the tank) is painted on the side of the gun barrel, as I have seen in photographs of sand-bagged tanks, which had bags covering all the other places where the number might be painted. The tracks have mud in the crevices between the blocks, and the blocks themselves are black, as they were coated with black rubber, and were not steel, as you might have thought.


Another modelling project of mine involved finishing off my force of World War Two British paratroops. I bought a Hinchcliffe/Skytrex parajeep some while ago, and thought I'd give it some company. Later, I bought an SHQ parajeep, and this came with a sheet of detailed information about these vehicles, including notes on stowage, historical use, radios, and carrying stretchers (they had enough for 10% of a unit's personnel). This sheet is my main source, though I have also looked at photographs in museums and books. There is a danger that this page might turn into an advert for SHQ, but bear in mind that only one of the four jeeps on this page is by that company. I also bought a pack of 6pdr artillery ammunition crates, and some drop baskets, from SHQ, as well as some seated figures.

Two parajeeps, with drop crates.

Here you see the SHQ basic jeep at the top right, converted into an airborne recce jeep. Working with the SAS in Italy, the paras got the idea of mounting Vickers K-guns on their jeeps. The gun you see was scratch built from plastic card and rod. I bought two Matchbox Long Range Desert Group kits, which included a jeep with Vickers K-guns on it. My idea was to do little work on these kits to convert them into European SAS or para jeeps. When it came to it though, I thought that these rare and beautiful kits would be wasted used in this way. I used the K-guns in the LRDG kit as a source for the scratch building. Some parajeeps had twin K-guns, most of these were with the 6th Airborne Division, while the 1st had mainly single K-guns.

Para recce units consisted of 8-10 men in two jeeps. The first jeep had an officer, a No.22 Radio, and a bren gun; the second had a sergeant and 2" mortar.

The airborne jeep has most of the external fittings stripped off. They did not strap jerry cans and the like to the outside of the jeeps, but instead had everything inboard. My guess is that this was for getting in and out of the gliders easily. You can see a red dot on the rear of the side of these jeeps. This is a light. All the handles and strap attachment points are removed, as are the rails around the back end of the jeep. Some, but few of these jeeps had windscreens. Typically, they had one jerry can between the front seats, and two behind. You can just about see them in the jeeps here. On the bonnet, you can see a load of .303" ammunition boxes.

The recce jeep has a spare tyre at the front, between the front bumper and the radiator. At the back, it has a cradle for carrying drop baskets. These baskets might get scattered in the drop, and so it was useful to have a fast vehicle that could go round and collect them. I made this cradle from plastic struts. These are super-glued to the metal body of the jeep. It hasn't broken yet, but it would win few prizes for strength. This jeep has no "tandem tow hitch" (see below).

The other jeep is a cheap Chinese copy of a Hasegawa American jeep, converted. On top of the front bumper is a crate of 6pdr ammunition, and on the bonnet are two strips of plastic card, and between these, a row of "cloverleaf packs". You see here four, but five were commonly carried. Each tube of the cloverleaf packs had one shell in it, and each pack had three tubes. The box carried only 6 rounds, it seems. Ammunition carrying jeeps such as this were also often used to carry stretchers, but because of the ammunition on board, were not permitted to display the Red Cross sign. Jeeps had spades and pickaxes tied around the front bumper very often, but this was not the case when carrying ammunition boxes there.

Four airbourne jeeps.

In the background, you can see the Hinchcliffe/Skytrex jeep, slightly out of focus. I bothered to paint all the insignia on the crewmen, with corporal stripes, Pegasus badges and all the rest, but since these men wear blotchy camouflaged uniforms, these details are lost when viewed at any distance, so I haven't bothered since.

On the left, you see the SHQ jeep, with drop crate on the carrying pannier. The magazine of the K-gun is painted more silvery than the body of the gun, and the leather strap on top of the magazine is painted brown. The guns were rapid-firing MGs used in aircraft. British infantry units were on occasion issued with them, but they were not favoured, as they used ammunition up so rapidly that either half the men in the force were busy carrying bullets, or else they ran out. In effect, they were like the German MG42.

In the middle, you see an Airfix jeep. It is the one that comes with the Buffalo amphibious vehicle. The driver wears a beret, and so is easy to paint up as a para. On the bonnet are two 6pdr crates. At the rear, you can see a tandem towing hitch. It is modelled in the folded-up position. When lowered, it stuck out backwards, with a vertical hook at its point. This would engage with the front bumper of another jeep, so that two of them could pull together to pull a particularly heavy load. These were very common on jeeps that did not have some other fitting on the back that would obstruct one (such as the drop basket cradle).

Airborne jeeps, with machine gun position.

Another view of the jeeps. One tows a trailer. These trailers were very common indeed, and since these jeeps were the paras' main source of transport, they would very often be seen towing something. I have seen photographs of these and the jeeps with Mickey Mouse camouflage, as seen here (black cloud shapes against green background), so I know this is authentic. The trailers were waterproofed, so that they could be floated across rivers.

I realise now as I write this that I never got a shot of the pickaxes and spades tied to the front bumpers of any of the jeeps. Be assured that they are there.

Even though these jeeps were used by British units, they were not converted to have the steering wheels on the right side. The driver sits on the left. I have seen pictures of jeeps with words stencilled on the back warning other drivers that the steering wheel is on the wrong side.

The Vickers machine gun we see here dug in has a pile of spent cartridges underneath it. This is the correct place for such a pile to be, as the brass was dropped out of a hole in the bottom of the gun. To the left of the gun is an empty canvas ammunition belt. This is where such a belt would end up. Behind the MG you see an open drop canister. This one is by SHQ, but the paratroop figures by Revell and Airfix also have these. The far (rounded) end has four deep holes in it.

The strange glossy mass in the background of these shots is a lump of rubberised playground flooring material I found once. It looks great as a length of bocage/ragged hedge. It is designed to stop kids who fall of swings and slides from killing themselves.


I had two old Airfix landing craft, made in my childhood. This was a common kit, that came with a Sherman tank. It wasn't very useful on the wargame table, though, because it was not a waterline model, and the LCMs (Landing Craft, Medium) looked a bit daft sitting beached with their rudders and propellers waving in the air. Then one fine day I was standing in a shop called Everything's a Pound, in which I saw mastic guns and their ammunition for an unsurprisingly cheap price, and I had an idea. Just in case you don't know what these things are, here is a picture:

Mastic gun, with tube of mastic loaded.

They had both brown and white mastic. Brown I had already used when making roads and craters (see scenery section), but now a use for white occurred to me. Note that the particular sort of mastic is acrylic, because this takes paint, and not silicone mastic, which doesn't. I would supe-up my LCMs.

Two Airfix LCMs

This is the result. The two landing craft are based on thick card, with rounded corners. The bases are covered with enough mastic to give the illusion that the craft have arrived in the shallows, and are ready to disembark their cargoes. First, I removed the propellers and rudders, and carved away all the detail on the bottoms of the models, and with a rasp flattened the bottoms as much as I could. I then got the mastic gun ready and used the mastic to glue the craft in place, and then squidged out lots more mastic all around it, and then with a small lollipop stick I sculpted the mastic into waves.

Rear wash of the LCMs.

I read that landing craft often had to keep their propellers powering them forwards, in order to stop them from drifting back off the beach with each receding wave. This gave me an excuse to model deep ridges of mastic at the rear of the craft. This was useful because here the back of the model lifts high off the base, so took a lot of hiding. From memories of propeller washes, I modelled the parts of the sea immediately behind the two propellers as dips, and either side of these dips I raised round ridges of mastic, which I painted hardly at all. The dips I painted in a very pale wash of navy blue.

This picture also shows that the LCM is flying the white ensign, which I think is correct.

Close up of LCM door.

I wanted the doors to be hinged. Alas, childhood hamfistedness had rendered the original hinges inoperable, so I had to scratch build new hinges (which adult hamfistedness has already broken once). To make it possible to hold the doors in the up position, I added two little mushroom-shaped (a small disc on top of a small rod) bits on the tops of the sides of the craft, around which I could hook the threads of the door cables. This is not an authentic arrangement, but one which is not too fiddley to use on the wargame table.

Plan view of the bay with two LCMs.

Plan view of the bay and the two LCMs. The bay is made from a piece of leatherette (fake leather) which was navy blue to start with. I painted white waves on it, and a wash of sand to indicate the shallow strip along the edge where the waves met the beach. I made the waves on the bay match the waves on the bases of the LCMs, so that when in place, the LCMs fitted in happily. I had a rectangle of leatherette, and cut this bay from it. The other half of the leatherette was then painted in much the same manner to form the sea space around a promontory. The finished thing was gloss varnished, and has ever since proven a magnet for dust and hairs.

Close-up of an explosion.

On the right, a close up of the big explosion. The base is a piece of card, onto which I have a stuck a wire skeleton of the explosion, which was bulked out with expanded polystyrene packing material. Over this I lavished lots of white acrylic mastic, which I flicked up into spikes with my mini-lollipop stick. Once set, I painted it with various dilutions of navy blue paint, and then gloss varnished.

Five diminishing splashes.

Below, you see five diminishing splashes, to represent the effect of a burst from something like a Bofors gun. Again, the base is just card, and the splashes are mastic. Only the largest couple of splashes have anything to make up a core (a blob of cork). The others are just pure mastic.


The Panzer IV was the workhorse of the German army. It was the only tank to remain in front line service right throughout World War Two. It started as a support tank for firing high explosive shells in support of infantry, while the Panzer III was the main battle tank for engaging enemy tanks with armour-piercing shells. Later, the two tanks swapped roles.

The Airfix 1/76th scale kit of a Panzer IV is a good accurate kit. The version Airfix chose to make was the F. This was a fair choice, as it was a middle-period variant of the tank, and saw plenty of action in the deserts of North Africa and in Russia. However, I wanted a Panzer IV for use against my 1940 French in France. Thus was I motivated to do this conversion.

My sources of information were: German Tanks 1939-45 by Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, and John Batchelor (1975) - one of the Purnell's History of the World Wars series; Airfix magazine Guide Number 3: Military Modelling by Gerald Scarborough; and the Fuman/Bandai 1/48th scale kits of the Panzer IV D and H - including not just the kits themselves, but also details taken from the pictures on the boxes and on the instructions.

Top view of Panzer IV Ausf.D next to Panzer IV F2

Top view showing my unpainted Panzer IV D conversion, next to a made-up-as-standard Panzer IV F2. You can see that you must carve off the grilles on the rear engine decking, leaving all the hinges and other details where they are. On the turret top, carve off the front circular air vent top. Carve some detail into the top of the barrel's base (the wide bit which houses the recoil mechanism - part number 63). This consists of a line encircling the recoil housing, two lines going back from that to the base of the barrel, and four dots either side outside of these lines. Note too that the front corners of the recoil mechanism have been cut off on the diagonal. This will show better in other pictures, perhaps.

You can also see in this shot how the later F variant had the top hatch for the hull machine gunner in the same place as the older D - slightly rearward. This means that you can leave the hatch where it is on the model. Cut back the hull front to just in front of it.

Next, you need to build a new ventilator cover for the turret top. This is a disc of plastic card with a smaller one on top of it, with a small square of plastic card, with a smaller square on top of it, placed behind it. Between this new construction and the similar little cover on the left hand side of the turret, goes a scratch-built rectangular hatch. This I made out of a simple rectangle of plastic card, with a couple of tiny rectangles for the hinges, and around the front three sides of this a square C-shaped piece cut from thicker plastic card, such that it stands taller on the turret than the hatch it surrounds. The gap between the hatch and its surround is a little too large for perfect authenticity here.

Front of F variant. Front of Panzer IV D

Front views of as-kit and converted Panzer IVs. Perhaps I should say now that I didn't make the F. From this angle, you can see that the bit added to the circular moulded detail on the turret top is actually quite tall. It is a bit of plastic rod with the top rounded off. Other turret detail includes that the end of the gun barrel has been drilled out; the vision port cover on the port side has been cut smaller; and a tiny rectangular hole has been cut between this and the barrel.

Part number 89 (the spare track) has had the length of track removed, but the towing brackets kept and glued on in the usual places. The locating lugs for the track section have been carved off.

The hinges and bulges (ventilator cowlings) have been carved off the two symmetrical covers either side of the front of the hull top (the final drive access panels, in case you need to know). New hinges have been made with little strips of plastic card, and two tiny discs of plastic rod have replaced the bulges, each with a dot pressed into its centre.

Part 90 (driver's visor) has been omitted and replaced with three right-angled-triangle in cross-section lengths of plastic. All three have one side of the right angle glued to the hull. The top two sections have the other half of the right angle on the lower side, and the bottom one has it on the upper. the actual width of the hole through which the driver saw was wider than the hole in the front of part 78, so this will be represented by black paint. Perhaps I should have cut a wider hole.

Part 91 (hull machine gun) is omitted. The hull has been cut back on this side. One piece of plastic card forms the new hull top, another the glacis plate further back, and another the little diagonal joining piece, which has a disc added to its centre (the cover of a vision port, I think). A new hull machine gun surround has been made out of a rectangle of plastic card with the corners rounded off, a rectangular hold cut in its centre, and four dots pressed into it at each corner. The MG itself is thin plastic rod.

The small headlamp on the starboard mudguard has been moved to the port side and replaced by a normal full sized head lamp (grey). Another headlamp has been added next to and slightly in front of the small one on the port side (green), and the covered lamp has been carved down a bit to a more realistic width, and placed on the far port side of the mudguard.

Suspension of Panzer IV D compared with F

Here we see the suspensions of the converted and unconverted models. the rear idler wheel has been heavily modified. The roundness of the outer part of the wheel has been filed and carved flatter and more square in cross-section. Rectangular struts of plastic card have been added between each of the main spokes. these struts go the full width of the wheel, connecting parts 29 and 58 to parts 28 and 57.

A new centre section to the front sprocket wheel has been added, with a ring of dots to represent the nuts holding it on.

Two little circular hatches with little rectangular hinges have been made and added to the sides of the body, just behind the middle two return rollers. The Airfix model has a few slightly-raised discs moulded onto the sides of the body (parts 9 and 38) which I see nowhere on any pictures of panzer IVs, so I have carved these off. I think that they are there as part of the moulding process, rather than to represent anything on the actual vehicle. I would recommend that they be removed even if you are making the kits up as F variants. Between the rearmost two return rollers is a vertical line. I can find no source showing this, and fear that it may be a bit of spurious detail.

As the Panzer IV was upgraded during the war, it was asked to carry more and more weight. Pictures of late Panzer IVs show them sitting very low on their suspensions. You will notice that the main bogey wheels of the tank are mounted in pairs. Each pair has a lamination of leaf springs which bends under the load of the vehicle, and with each jolt as the tank goes over rough terrain. There was a danger that these leaf springs would bend too much, and to prevent this, there were "suspension stops" added. On the Airfix model, you can see two of these either side of the rearmost suspension springs, and one in front of each of the others. You need to remove all but the most forward and the most rearward.

This photograph also shows the spade in its correct storage position (later, putty straps will be added for holding it there), the little aerial mount, and the channel for holding the aerial in the down-position, which is a strip of thick plastic card, with a line scored deeply into its top surface.

Side of turret of Panzer IV D

The side of the turret. An entirely new hatch has been made (to replace part number 72). A thin rectangle of card has been cut out. The corners of this have been rounded off (more so at the back than the front corners), and this has formed the main part of the hatch. Little rectangles have been used to form the hinges at the front edge. In the middle, a vision port has been made out of a rectangle of thicker plastic card, left full thickness in its centre, but with the top and bottom edge cut thinner. Beneath this, is a dot put there with a spike. Above the hatch, a thin line of plastic card arches over the top. A tiny triangle forms the rear catch on the door.

At the front corner of the turret another tiny triangle represents a lifting point, and another is at the front top corner of the curved rear part of the turret.

In front of the rectangle moulded on the side of the turret is a vertical line of card the same height as that rectangle. Above this, three dots in the formation of a "therefore" symbol. Just beneath the main side hatch are three more dots pressed in with a spike.

On the rear curved surface of the turret is a small circle of plastic, cut from the end of some plastic rod. There is one dot above it, and two below. In this picture, you can see the square notch on the turret rear, which is where the rear turret bin (part number 71, omitted) of the F variant would locate. This notch will have to be filled in with putty.

This picture also shows how I have carved up the commander's cupola (part 61). I have shaved off the slight prominences around it, and carved new notches into the top half of the cupola.

On the top of the mudguard, I have glued some metal mouldings of German helmets and packs (by SHQ). These hide the holes left unfilled by the holder for the spare wheels (part number 80, omitted). Behind this, out of bent wire, I have created the step that would help men to climb onto the tank. It is usually pictured in the folded-down position, but I thought that this would be a bit delicate for a wargaming model, so I have modelled it in the up-position. Little rectangles of plastic card represent the hinges. It is glued on with super-glue.

At the far bottom right of the picture, you can see not quite the whole of a small rectangle of thick plastic card, glued onto the top of the mudguard to represent the little formation of four lights that most German military vehicles had. If the driver following the vehicle at night could see all four lights distinctly, he was too close. If he could see just two lights, he was the right distance. If he saw all four lights as a single dot, he was too far away. Strictly speaking, the box should be on a little stalk, but for strength I have glued the box straight onto the mudguard.

Aerial deflector on Panzer IV D

Here you see the aerial deflector which goes under the barrel. It is an awkward thing to have to make. It is an A-shape with an extra bit sticking forwards and another sticking back. I made it by gluing strips of plastic card to each other as they lay on the taut surface of polythene stretched over a new unopened video-tape box. Once dry, the whole construction could be lifted off the polythene with a scalpel, because nothing sticks to polythene. The function of this thing was to knock the radio aerial out of the way as the turret turned, otherwise there was a risk that the gun could blow the aerial off. With the later longer barrelled versions of the tank, this wasn't needed.

You can also see in this picture a sign of my laziness. The scored line encircling the recoil housing of the gun does not traverse the underside fully. I didn't think many people would scrutinise this bit.

Rear of Pz. IV D and F models

The back end of the beastie. The jerry-can has been omitted and its locating lug carved off. The little light on the end of the rear left mudguard has been removed.

A towing pin has been added, as have little details, like Spock's eyebrows, on the little prominences inside of the rear wheel axles. These details are common to all Panzer variants, not just the D.

Part number 83 has been omitted. In case you are interested, this is the exhaust for the motor that drives the turret traverse. Parts 84-87 are also omitted (the main exhaust). You can see two square holes in the rear of the conversion, where the brackets for the Panzer IV F's exhaust would locate. These will be filled in with putty.

You have to make a new exhaust. It is bigger than the F variant's exhaust. The main body of it I made from some round-section sprue, with the ends rounded off with a file. The brackets holding it up are cut from hollow plastic rod. The bands surrounding it, which you see here have little green stripes on them, are cut from a drinking straw. On top of the main cylinder, is a smaller one of plastic rod, and this has a little hose connecting it to the prominence on the far left of part number 82; and a little stub of rod on its other end. The main cylinder also has a little stub of plastic rod sticking out towards its left-hand end.

This picture also shows how the struts in the rear idlers go the full width of those wheels.


The most common type of German tank towards the end of the war was the Panzer IV Ausf. H. The Germans were still using plenty of earlier variants of the tanks, including short barrelled ones, but in order to be representative, I wanted to be able to field an Ausf. H or two in my wargames.

The Airfix 1/76th scale kit of a Panzer IV Ausf. F is a good accurate kit, and easy to get hold of, and so formed a good basis for the conversion. Other kits by other manufacturers are in 1/72nd scale, and so don't look quite right next to the Airfix ones.

My sources of information were: German Tanks 1939-45 by Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, and John Batchelor (1975) - one of the Purnell's History of the World Wars series; Airfix magazine Guide Number 3: Military Modelling by Gerald Scarborough; and the Fuman/Bandai 1/48th scale kits of the Panzer IV D and H - including not just the kits themselves, but also details taken from the pictures on the boxes and on the instructions.

Panzer IV H top view

Top view. Most of the detail on the hull top is the same as the F variant. The big obvious difference is the addition of side skirting to the turret. This is a thin piece of plastic card bent round and glued into position on the back of the turret bin. Keeping it bent around in this position for the attachment of all the little struts is difficult, and I overcame the problem by noticing what a good storage space the gap between the side skirt and turret made for helmets and packs and such-like personal equipment. I used some "green stuff" two-part putty, which is very sticky indeed, and this did the job admirably. A lump of this each side fixed in some SHQ German equipment, and held the side skirt in position while the green stuff and the glue dried. This also makes the models a fair bit stronger for wargaming purposes. The struts were added later.

From this angle, you can see that the little hole for the starboard headlamp has been ineptly filled with "green stuff". It will be done properly later with Milliput. I found "green stuff" difficult to work with. It was very sticky.

You can also just about see the channel carved into the top of the channel for receiving the aerial, on the starboard side of the tank. Why this was necessary, I don't know, because the tank has an aerial on the rear port corner.

Top view of Panzer IV H and F2 turrets

H turret and F for comparison. This shot shows that you must carve off the rear left circle on the turret top. Both vision ports on the turret front also go, and the port one is replaced by a smaller version. Between this and the gun is a little pressed-in dot, which I think is the gun sight.

Above the side escape hatches is a little strip of thin plastic card. The edge of the card is glued to the turret. This might not be a detail unique the the Ausf. H, and I suspect that the F should have it too.

I spent a while looking at pictures of the commanders cupola (part 61) in various sources, trying to work out what the difference between an F and an H was, if any. In the end I decided that there probably was a difference but that if that amount of scrutiny hadn't revealed it, then it probably didn't matter. The two-part hatch is replaced with a one-part circular one.

The main barrel is a bit longer, by about the depth of the recoil housing. It is difficult to see, because I have used beige sprue, but the barrel has been removed and replaced by a length of sprue. I have glued the muzzle brake on the end of the new barrel, and a short piece of hollow rod has been added, with notches carved in its sides, which forms the second baffle of the barrel brake.

On the front edges of the turret skirt are right-angled triangular bits, sticking inwards. The struts holding the skirt are from thick plastic card, and have definite angles in them, at the edge of the turret top. Each strut joins the skirt where a thin strip of plastic card of the same width runs down full height of the inside of the skirt. You may just be able to make out a horizontal strip added on the inside of the skirt to represent the bar that held together the side doors in the turret skirts when they were shut.

Front of H variant.

Front view. The glacis plate has had an extra strip added to it to make it thicker. This is to represent the extra armour added to the H variant. You can see that this makes the driver's visor and hull MG mount more recessed.

A strip of plastic has been added to represent a bar holding up the spare track on the hull front. This track was not welded on, but was removable.

The hooded lamp on the port mudguard has been replaced by a cylinder of sprue (pale orange) with a slit carved in its front side, representing the new style of lamp.

You also get a fair view of the side brackets that hold up the hull side skirts on the port side.

There were differences in the suspension and wheels for the H, but since I was planning to put side skirts on the model that would obscure these differences, I couldn't be bothered with them, except for a rivet-ringed disc on the front sprocket wheel.

Rear of Panzer IV H

The locating lug for the jerry can has been carved off and the jerry can glued in its proper place.

You can see the small triangular-section piece added to the rear port corner of the hull for the aerial.

Part 84 (port end bracket for exhaust) has been carved down to be narrower, and it no longer cups the end of the exhaust, but is made to be much like the other bracket (85), which is in its usual place. The locating hole for part 84 has been covered over with a square of thin plastic card.

Side of turret of Ausf. H

This shows the external detail on the turret skirts. Scored lines define the edges of the doors. Little rectangles form the hinges, and a strip goes up the centre.

You can see the holding brackets for the side skirts, and their difficult shape which accommodates the aerial channel. Between these brackets is a strange construction which I have discovered was an air-filter system. The good news is that not all Ausf. Hs had this extra filter, so you can do without it. It was something designed for the deserts of North Africa. I have modelled it with two horizontal lengths of beige sprue, with end pieces of plastic card which are like kidney bean shapes with a straight edge on them where they join to the hull sides. What you cannot see from this angle, is that two thin rods of plastic rod represent pipes running from the front ends of the horizontal cylinders (the other side of the far kidney bean end), and joining a small rectangle on the hull side.

The turret side skirt is flush with the top of the rear turret bin, and as tall as it can be without interfering with turret traverse. It is this height, its top and bottom edges parallel, until the front of the side escape doors, at which point the bottom edge carries on as before but the top edge slopes down towards the front a little to end up about as high as the top of the recoil housing at the base of the gun barrel.

Sideshield of Panzer IV H

The side shielding. This was removable, and often fell off the real vehicles. I have made this separately and will add it after most of the painting stage. There are two more struts to be added at that stage for holding on the skirts. It is difficult to see from the unadulterated photograph where the scored lines represent the edges of each of the separate plates, so I have added lines in blue to show these up better.

The beige plastic part you see representing the bar holding up the side skirts and triangular bits where this hooked up under the handles welded to the side plates, is taken from the Revell kit of a Stug IV. This kit gives the modeller the option of making the vehicle with the side skirts in place, or leaving them off, but their supporting bars (the piece you see) still in place. In truth, this part is not exactly the same shape as the one for a Panzer IV H, but it is so similar that I couldn't see the harm in using it.

I have corresponded with a chap who insists that these side shields were not, as commonly supposed, designed for dealing with HEAT weapons like PIATs and bazookas, but were instead originally designed to protect tanks in Russia against anti-tank rifles.


Here are ten tips to start you off.

  1. Paint some dull red areas on the tank - that sort of Chinese red used as a rust primer. When you paint the tank's main colour over the top, leave little bits of the red showing through, to look like places where the paint has scraped off to leave the primer coat showing through.
  2. Paint the main colour of the tank on, then dry-brush with a much lighter shade to pick out the detail. Some people dry brush with a few different shades, each one lighter than the last, but I find that one or two shades are usually enough for 1/72nd-scale models. The dry brushing both picks out detail and makes the paint look faded or dusty.
  3. For late WW2 German tanks, with several colours of camouflage, I dry brush with light sand. This bleaches out the stronger colours, picks up detail, and looks like the camo paint has worn through to the main coat (dunkelgelb sand). The tanks left the factory painted sand all over. If you don't dry-brush a well-camouflaged vehicle, then the model will appear to be a bit shapeless from a distance.

  4. Mix in pigment with the varnish. I use black for grey vehicles, and a  mix of black and brown for other colours. The best I find is enamel paint. Acrylic gives a softer look, and ink a harsher look. The pigment will settle in the hollows and be held there by the viscosity of the varnish. This is a very quick way to get a subtle shading effect.
  5. Dry brush sharp edges/corners lightly with a metal colour, to look like places where the paint has worn off right down to the metal.
  6. Mud: mix Tetrion/plaster filler powder with very dark brown paint (it will dry much lighter than it looks when wet), a bit of PVA glue, water, and some static grass flock. Shove this under the mudguards, on wheels, tracks, and up the sides and rear of the tank to mimic splattered mud with caked-on grass.
  7. Heat a pin in a candle and poke holes in thin things like mudguards, to mimic bullet holes. Set the pin in a cork first, or be prepared for scorched fingers.
  8. Paint a different base colour where the decals will go, to look as though the vehicle has been repainted, with the old markings left as they were (so a late WW2 German tank might have grey backgrounds around the markings). You can also paint the places where markings might have been, with a base colour slightly different from the main colour, to simulate the crew having painted out conspicuous markings. Crews often painted over markings, especially those on the front of the vehicle. Areas on a vehicle painted with a slightly different main colour serve to give a vehicle the battered-and-repaired look.
  9. Paint black blobs and wiggly lines around engine access hatches etc., to look like dirty oil leaks and splatters.
  10. Paint the area of the tank next to the exhaust pipe outlet with dry-brushed black, to look like exhaust stains.
  11. Dry brush on rust colour where metal has been exposed, and on the baffle around the exhaust pipe (these almost always went rusty). A thin wash of rust colour running down from some exposed iron can look good too, to simulate where rain has washed the rust down the vehicle.

I hope these help.