Siege of Tobruk Diorama Complete

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Australian troops occupy a front line position at Tobruk

The Siege of Tobruk lasted for 241 days in 1941, after Axis forces advanced through Cyrenaica from El Agheila in Operation Sonnenblume against the British Western Desert Force (WDF) in Libya, during theWestern Desert Campaign (1940–1943) of the Second World War. In late 1940, the Australians had defeated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941) and trapped the remnants at Beda Fomm. German troops and Italian reinforcements reached Libya, while much of the WDF was sent to Greece and replaced by a skeleton force, short of equipment and supplies.

Operation Sonnenblume (6 February – 25 May 1941), forced the British into a retreat to the Egyptian border. A garrison of mainly Australians was left behind at Tobruk, to deny the port to the Axis, while the WDF reorganised and prepared a counter-offensive. The Axis siege of Tobruk began on 10 April, when the port was attacked by a force under Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel and continued during three relief attempts, Operation Brevity(15–16 May), Operation Battleaxe (15–17 June) and Operation Crusader (18 November – 30 December). The occupation of Tobruk deprived the Axis of a supply port closer to the Egypt-Libya border than Benghazi, 1,400 km west of the Egyptian frontier, which was within the range of RAF bombers; Tripoli was 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) to the west in Tripolitania.

The siege diverted Axis troops from the frontier and the Tobruk garrison repulsed several attacks. The port was frequently bombarded by artillery, dive-bombers and medium bombers, as the RAF and RAAF flew defensive sorties from airfields far away in Egypt. British Mediterranean Fleet and Inshore Squadron ships ran the blockade, to carry reinforcements and supplies in and wounded and prisoners out. On 27 November, Tobruk was relieved by the 8th Army (the name of British, Commonwealth, Imperial and Allied forces in the Western Desert since September 1941), during Operation Crusader.

The Rats of Tobruk

The Rats of Tobruk was the name given to the soldiers of the garrison who held the Libyan port of Tobruk against the Afrika Corps, during the Siege of Tobruk in World War II.

For eight long months, surrounded by German and Italian forces, the men of the Tobruk garrison, mostly Australians, withstood tank attacks, artillery barrages, and daily bombings. They endured the desert’s searing heat, the bitterly cold nights, and hellish dust storms. They lived in dug-outs, caves, and crevasses.

The defenders of Tobruk did not surrender, they did not retreat. Their determination, bravery, and humour, combined with the aggressive tactics of their commanders, became a source of inspiration during some of the war’s darkest days. In so doing, they achieved lasting fame as the “Rats of Tobruk”.

The Build

Every part of this build was done from deep research into the siege of Tobruk.  So every model built was part of the siege.  I tried to copy the landscape as best I could, and incorporate tank traps, made by the diggers out of old railway tracks, barbed wire and sand bags. Oil drums, tools and packs were also common items.

The Aussies

Included – the P=40 with Australian RAAF markings, a Universal (Bren Gun) Carrier, two diggers in slouch hats and assorted outpost equipment.

The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier from the light machine gun armament, is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong and other companies.

The first carriers – the Bren Carrier and the Scout Carrier with specific roles – entered service before the war, but a single improved design that could replace these, the Universal, was introduced in 1940.

The vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built by 1960 in the United Kingdom and abroad, it is the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history.

The Germans

Included – the Messerschmitt BF-109F-4 TROP with markings of Hans-Joachim Marseille, along with his personal Volkswagen Kübelwagen Type 82.  He reached the zenith of his fighter pilot career on 1 September 1942, when during the course of three combat sorties he claimed 17 enemy fighters shot down, earning him the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten (Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds). Only 29 days later, Marseille was killed in a flying accident, when he was forced to abandon his fighter due to engine failure. After he exited the smoke-filled cockpit, Marseille’s chest struck the vertical stabiliser of his aircraft. The blow either killed him instantly or incapacitated him so that he was unable to open his parachute.

Also included is the 8ton Sd.Kfz.7 KMm.11 gun tractor, with the deadly 88mm Flak Gun.  The 88 was the most feared weapon during the siege.  Its original use was as an anti-aircraft flak gun, but during the African campaign, a German gun battery was being overrun by British tanks.  So they loaded armour piercing shells, lowered the barrel, and the rest is history.  The 88 could take out, with one shot, ANY Allied armored vehicle up to a range of 2000 meters.  The Allies had no defence, and no equal weapon.  It was the one thing that scared the bejesus out of tank crews.  Because it could be fired from so far away, you didn’t hear anything until you were blown up.  Spooky!  Eventually, the Germans incorporated the deadly 88mm gun into their Tiger tank, making that the most feared and deadly tank of World War II, but like most of their super weapons, it was too little, too late.

In the diorama is Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944), popularly known as the Desert Fox.  Here is talking with his Battery Commanders about gun placements.  Around the fire base we can see the usual items including a tent.  In front of the gun emplacement is Rommel’s personal transport, the Sd.Kfz.250-3 (German: Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250; ‘special motor vehicle’) half track known as “Grief”, which is German for Griffin.

My Display

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Messerschmitt BF-109F-4 TROP

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Background

Due to the Messerschmitt Bf 109‘s versatility and time in service with both the Luftwaffe and other foreign air forces, numerous variants were produced over the eight years of service with the Luftwaffeand even more were produced by its foreign users.

The 109F-4 TROP (for “tropical”) included a special modified, “elbow”-shaped supercharger air-intake, and a deeper oil cooler bath beneath the cowling.  The 109F-4 was also fitted with new, semi-elliptical wingtips, becoming the standard wing planform for all future Bf 109 combat versions.

The armament of the Bf 109 F was revised and now consisted of the two synchronized 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s with 500 rpg above the engine plus a Motorkanone cannon firing through the propeller hub. The pilot’s opinion on the new armament was mixed:Oberst Adolf Galland criticised the light armament as inadequate for the average pilot, while Major Walter Oesau preferred to fly a Bf 109 E, and Oberst Werner Mölders saw the single centreline Motorkanone gun as an improvement.

With the early tail unit problems out of the way, pilots generally agreed that the F series was the best-handling of all the Bf 109 series.

Hans-Joachim Marseille

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Hans-Joachim Marseille (13 December 1919 – 30 September 1942 was a Luftwaffe fighter pilot andflying ace during World War II. He is noted for his aerial battles during the North African Campaign and his Bohemian lifestyle. One of the most successful fighter pilots, he was nicknamed the “Star of Africa“. Marseille claimed all but seven of his “official” 158 victories against the British Commonwealth’s Desert Air Force over North Africa, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter for his entire combat career. No other pilot claimed as many Western Allied aircraft as Marseille.

Marseille had celebrity status in Germany, and even got his own VW type 82 “Kübelwagen” which he nicknamed “Otto”.

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The Kit

1/48 scale Revell / ICM Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4

This kit was without doubt the worse kit I have ever built!  The dubious fit of parts was the worse I have ever experienced.. In particular the forward area of the fuselage cannot be built without intense trimming, sanding and a serious amount of putty.  In order to have the engine cowlings closed, I had to remove about 60% of the engine.

This kit was my first major build after a long time off, and it took every skill I have just to finish it – even the decals were terrible which caused me all sorts of troubles!

The Build

I built a replica of Hans-Joachim Marseille’s plane complete with camouflage paint and decals.  The paint job on this BF109 was a novelty for me because all other BF109’s are done in the standard German grey and black.

Tomahawk IIB “Ace of Africa”

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No 3 Squadron RAAF based Sidi Barrani, Western Desert Egypt circa October-November 1941

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk is an American single-engined, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground-attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36 Hawk which reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational service. The Warhawk was used by most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in frontline service until the end of the war.

P-40 Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps and after June 1941, USAAF-adopted name for all models, making it the official name in the United States for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces used the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants.

P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force in the Middle East and North African campaigns. No 3 Squadron RAAF based Sidi Barrani, Western Desert Egypt circa October-November 1941, was among the first to operate Tomahawks in North Africa and the unit was the first Allied military aviation unit to feature the “shark mouth” logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters.

The P-40’s lack of a two-speed supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in high-altitude combat and it was rarely used in operations in Northwest Europe. However, between 1941 and 1944, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in three major theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific, and China. The P-40’s performance at high altitudes was not as important in those theaters, where it served as an air superiority fighter, bomber escort and fighter-bomber. Although it gained a postwar reputation as a mediocre design, suitable only for close air support, recent research including scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons indicates that this was not the case: the P-40 performed surprisingly well as an air superiority fighter, at times suffering severe losses but also taking a very heavy toll of enemy aircraft.The P-40 offered the additional advantage of low cost, which kept it in production as a ground-attack aircraft long after it was obsolete as a fighter. In 2008, 29 P-40s were airworthy.

The Kit

This is the 1/48 Scale Tomahawk IIb “Ace of African Front” Plastic Model Kit from Academy.

It went together very well and there were no real issues or problems. I experimented with the seatbelts. I used folded Tamiya tape, and painted it to look like seat belts and buckles. Not a bad outcome, but I would not use this method when they could be easily seen.

The Build

Focke-Wulf Fw 190D

Background

Development of the FW 190 series began in the Autumn of 1937, under a contract issued by the Reichsluftministerium (Air Ministry) for a single seat fighter to supplement the Messerschmitt Bf109. Two proposals were submitted by Kurt Tank, the technical director of the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau (aircraft factory). The proposal using the then BMW 801 air cooled radial engine was chosen. This tough and powerful engine was placed in a robust airframe and provided superb handling, well balanced control, and brisk acceleration. It entered service in 1941, flying alongside the Messerschmitt Bf109 and it soon took air superiority over the English Channel. Establishing itself as a mainstay fighter of the Luftwaffe, it outperformed the contemporary Spitfire Mk. V’s in almost every respect and maintained this advantage until the arrival of the Spitfire Mk. IX in July 1942. British pilots nicknamed it the “Butcher Bird”.

The FW190 fighter underwent constant improvement throughout its life.. The A-3 version used the improved BMW 801Dg engine that produced 1,700hp. Armament was increased from four to six guns, consisting of two rapid firing MG 151’s in the wing roots; two MG FF’s outboard of the landing gear and two fuselage mounted MG 17 machine guns. Throughout WW2 , many Luftwaffe squadrons allowed personal pilot markings and distinctive squadron insignia to be used, plus lower cowl, wing tip and rudder colour additions to the original paint schemes.

Here is a fully restored and flying Focke Wulf Fw190 A-5: http://youtu.be/bzoEs2VtVYI

Here is my completed build: