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On returning to modelling several years ago, I soon realised that rather than the more common battlefield scenes, and tank-next-to-ruined-building scenario (and yes I have done one those recently!) my interests lay in maintenance situation dioramas. I find that they offer great scope for detailed work, unusual subjects, and scratch building opportunities.

One of my references, Die Panzer – Instandsetzung der Wehrmacht, offers the following insight from a surviving veteran:

No one can possibly attain a complete comprehension of the tank war itself without an understanding of the time devoted to the recovery and maintenance of the combat vehicles because: one hour of tank operation required ten hours of technical service (Alfred Rubbel, s.Pz.Abt. 503)

This fascinated me as I found that in subject popularity, available modelling kits, materials, and figures the reverse ratio is true. For example, all veteran accounts I have read say that the first thing tankers did if they needed to work on their vehicles was to pull on a set of overalls to protect their uniforms. Yet I know of only about five good figure sets of German mechanics in overalls – compare that to the vast array of ‘action’ based figures. Why is this market so under-subscribed?

All of the above meant that I would have to get inventive in building the scene that I had in mind.

Starting out.
The diorama was inspired by the dog from Andrea Miniatures, as soon as I saw it the idea was formed and the rest of the scene fell into place. I already had the PlusModel and Italeri workshops, all I had to do was find a main focus for the scene. The new Panther D from Dragon fit the bill nicely. I decided on a forward temporary maintenance area, with the tank recently arrived from the factory, and having just been sprayed with green camouflage. This gave me the opportunity to build the tank ‘clean’, without weathering.

From the ground up
I wanted a base that would highlight the items placed on it, and to this end decided on concrete slabs located somewhere at the edge of a yard. I made half a dozen matching moulds from 1mm styrene sheet, filled them with premixed crack filler from a tube, levelled them with a steel ruler and left them to dry overnight. Placed and cut in the base holder, with some Magi-Sculpt along one edge for a dirt area, it was pretty much done. Once primed they were sprayed with complex mix I can only call ‘concrete’, washed with burnt umber, and dusted with MMP powers and Mig pigments.

Panther D
The newly tooled Premium kit is an excellent OOB build. It comes with a comprehensive PE fret, metal barrel, aluminium schurzen, rear screens, and smoke launchers. Detail is crisp, and the slide molding ensures very accurate fit across the board. As I was making this an early D, I scratched the wooden side storage box and added some foil hinges. In addition I added the wiring to the smoke launchers and replaced the PE chains on the spare track links with real chain and rod. Chains were also added to the equipment tube and towing hooks. The schurzen take some careful fitting as they overlap, and need to be put on starting from the rear and progressing to the front. I did not fix these in place until after all spraying had been done, as they prevent access to the area behind them. There is an option to have the pistol ports open, which I did, attaching them via chain to the inner turret.

To paint I always start with a coat of Photo Etch Primer which I find dries very thin and tight to all detail. Then I used the new Lifecolor WW2 German Armour set. These are odourless acrylic, can be thinned with water, and produce an ultra thin, satin smooth finish. In addition the Dunkelgelb is the closest match I have seen to a wartime colour shot of a newly painted Jadgtiger. These paints work at low pressure, and need several coats to build up the required colour, but dry within minutes, and once done are well worth the extra effort.

As the scene depicts a vehicle that has just been sprayed, the green areas are carried down the side plates and over the wheels. Metal items were sprayed with MrMetalColor (Iron) and then polished with a Q-tip. As I tend to be rubbish at applying decals I usually spray turret numbers on, and in this case used the excellent Eduard adhesive vinyl stencils. They adhere perfectly, and with a bit of care can be re-used a number of times.

As this was to be a temporary maintenance area, I need to supply power for the workshop. I therefore needed a small generator, but to my horror found that the only one available cost over £40. I don’t mind paying for kit, but in this case it probably had about a dozen parts and I felt this was excessive. Help was at hand in the form of Vinnie Branigan at Armorama who told me that Italeri made a supply trailer for £5 that could easily be modified. He did in fact have two spare which he sent me, for which I was extremely grateful. An inexpensive publication on German WW2 trailers gave me a good idea of what I needed to do, and I set about converting both trailers – one to a generator and one to a compressor. It was only after I built the compressor that I realised I already had the correct mini-compressor in the Italeri workshop kit. Doh.

The base and running gear of each trailer stayed the same, with the modifications being added to the top. Each received a rectangular box with doors and handles, one of the doors being open to show control panels and dials. Exhausts were roof mounted, with a different design for each. The generator has a radio fascia and power plug sockets from the Aber FuG set, with other dials made from spare frets and Brassmasters range of etched flanges.

The compressor air tank was made by cutting the ends from two plastic pipettes, filling with milliput, then removing the plastic and joining when dry. The valves were made from rod with two wing nuts from a Panther D sprue. The hose is PlusModel lead wire (this range is an absolute must), and the nozzle is a cut down Modelpoint brass MG32 barrel.

Both were then painted with Tamiya differing mixes of Field Grey and Olive Green, and the tyres with Nato Black. When painting equipment I tend to vary the mix so that no two pieces have exactly the same colour. The exhausts were sprayed with Alclad Steel and treated with Mig Rust pigments, and the trailers weathered with MMP powders and Mig pigments. Worn areas were highlighted with 3b pencil.

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About the Author

About Brian Steven Balkwill (dsotm)

Spent time in specialised sales to militay, non-destructive testing, risk engineering, engineering underwriting surveys on mines and mineral processing plants. Modelling from Airfix days, I took a 25yr break and came back to the hobby 18month ago. Currently working on a Sturmtiger with fully detaile...


That poor dog! It must have hurt like the devil to pass something as big as that! Very nice dio.
OCT 31, 2006 - 10:02 PM
Very interesting dio. Pretty simple Layout but that shows that it does not have to be complicated to tell a good story. Really good looking Aber set. Congratulations Claude
OCT 31, 2006 - 11:15 PM
Very nice work on the composition and details Brian, the tools and work areas have a lot of details to draw and hold the attention, very impressive.
NOV 01, 2006 - 12:57 AM
awsome dio there,i also like the drill press very relastic n the trailors r awssome for scratchbuilt . the figures look great even tho u said its not your strongest skill good dio all round i think u deserve a after that
NOV 01, 2006 - 01:27 PM
I am more impressed each time I take a closer look at the details, and I was very impressed to start with!
NOV 01, 2006 - 08:10 PM
Thanks for all the comments guys, this was a real fun build.
NOV 08, 2006 - 12:05 AM
Very nice diorama.
NOV 08, 2006 - 12:43 AM
A very original diorama and very well executed. Only thing that bugs me is the name, Achdung. Is this an intended pun or....?
NOV 15, 2006 - 02:03 AM
Thanks Herbert - yes the title is a poor pun as in "What did the German Paratrooper say when he landed in a cow flop.....?" Regards Brian
NOV 29, 2006 - 01:46 PM
LOL I had a good laugh! Great dio!
DEC 07, 2006 - 02:56 AM