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Sunday, September 4, 2022

Artillery Support

Latest Edit: Added Afrika Korps 88mm gun from Waltersons 

Artillery plays a crucial role in a military operation. It can be the critical difference between getting overrun and being able to fend off an attack multiple times. Or, similarly, artillery can rain hell on a defensive position and soften it up for the ground troops to attack and over run it. In the toy soldier world, it is not just a matter of having the howitzers, but you also need the crews to operate them and the observers to direct the fire. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas that is often neglected a bit in our hobby. It seems like there aren't enough guns to go around and often, when there are guns, they come without crews to operate them. However when you really look around there are actually some guns and crews to support your ground troops, although some of those crews have only become available in recent years. Admittedly the support is a bit uneven. Some countries have greater representation than others. For instance, the Japanese are really under-represented, even though they did make a good use of artillery to defend their islands against the Marine landings. Anyhow, this is a compilation of the artillery pieces and ground crews that we have available just in case you are looking for some support for your infantry units.

German Artillery

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Towed
Forces of Valor produced a very nice version of this gun. As you might be aware of, the 88 could be used in multiple ways besides its originally intended AA role. It could be used as regular artillery or as a direct Anti Tank weapon. Here we see it attached to the 8 Ton prime mover that would tow it. The factory paint job gives it a weathered look, and as usual, the fact that it's mostly made out of metal gives it a nice feel.

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Rear View
As you can see from this angle, the attention to detail is substantial. The gun can rotate 360 degrees around the vertical axis and the gun can be elevated up to a vertical position, allowing it to fire virtually in every direction.

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Artillery Mode
Here we see it already deployed as traditional artillery. There is a scene in Band of Brothers in which the screaming eagles are being shelled with 88mm HE shells while in a forest, causing shrapnel and wood splinters to rain down on them with nasty consequences. Also note that the carriage is actually made of two separate sections. The front and rear wheel axles can be attached and removed independently. It also comes with a nice ground crew to operate it.

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Anti Tank Mode
Here we see it deployed the way it would be used to fight against tanks. The air and land 'kills' on the shield add a nice touch of realism. FOV also manufactured this gun in a tan color scheme however I did not get around to buying that one.

21st Century Toys 88 Flak - Afrika Korps
21C Toys also produced a very nice 88mm gun. Not quite at the level of the one from FOV but far superior to anything that had come before in plastic. Here we see it ready to be deployed to fight the British in the deserts of North Africa.

21st Century Toys 88 Flak
Deployed in an anti-tank role. The wheel axles are also detachable. Note how the level of paint detail is not quite the same as the one from FOV, both for the carriage and the gun itself. The crew consists of just 2 figures.

21st Century Toys 88 Flak - side view
This gun also moves 360 degrees around and from horizontal to vertical, so it is just as functional as the one from FOV. And from this angle it looks just as lethal.

Dinky Toys 88 Flak - Part I
Here is an earlier model of an 88 courtesy of Dinky Toys. Not as detailed as the newer versions from FOV and 21C, but still fairly nice. Made in metal, it has a good, solid feel to it. The round knob/gear visible on the side, allows you to lower and raise the barrel. It comes with three crew members. The crew is made in some very light, stiff plastic, so you get the feeling that they might easily break. 

Dinky Toys 88 Flak - Part II
The gun also comes with its carriages to allow it to be towed. And it also happens to have a few shells that you can fire using a spring mechanism. The sticker on the barrel may or may not be present, as the glue loses its binding power over time. All in all a nice item to add to the collection. Unfortunately there are not many complete sets left, so getting one of these can get a bit pricey or you must settle for an incomplete set. I actually got lucky and managed to get the complete set for the price of what you usually pay for the gun by itself.

Waltersons FOV 88 mm Flak Afrika Korps with crew
Waltersons (formerly FOV) 88mm Flak - Afrika Korps - Part I
This is hands down the most detailed 88mm Flak gun made by any manufacturer. What I mean by that is that when you move the gun vertically or rotate the gun around, there are gears that turn, transferring the movement all the way to the handwheels use to set the gun's position. Super realistic. The only thing that was a bit hard to attach was the gun shield. It's very tricky to slide it into the proper position. But if the gun is not exciting enough for you, the fact that it comes with a crew of 8 should be a nice plus.

Waltersons FOV 88 mm Flak Afrika Korps with crew
Waltersons (formerly FOV) 88mm Flak - Afrika Korps - Part II
Here's a better angle of the crew. There's an observer and a commander. My commander is missing his binoculars, but I should be able to replace those with one of the Airfix multi-pose parts. Then there's a loader, an ammo box carrier, two men sitting operating the gun, another one adjusting the handwheels, and one more fetching the next ammo round from the side of the gun. This is jut a minor detail, but it also comes with about 6 rounds of ammo that you want to make sure you don't drop and lose. Compared to the 21C version of the AK 88, which came without any crew figures, this model is quite superior and detailed.  

Classic Toy Soldiers Artillery Crew
CTS recently provided us with an artillery crew. They are not made for any specific gun, but the size of the shell might be more in line with an 88.

21st Century Toys PAK 40
This is a nice gun. It comes factory painted and has several moving parts. The muzzle can be elevated/lowered and the carriage can be fully deployed or collapsed together and locked in place so that it can be towed. The downside of this gun is that it was not sold individually, but you had to buy it as part of a set. Luckily, I was able to find several at Toy Solider shows from collectors that no longer needed them.

21st Century Toys PAK 40 with CTS crew
This is the recently released artillery crew from CTS. The set contains an observer/officer and two loaders. They are a welcome arrival to staff the many PAKs that I have without crews.

21st Century Toys PAK 40 with 21C crew
These are some nice figures to staff your PAK or most other small caliber artillery pieces in your armies. The sculpting is of the same quality as the later 21C sets, which means that they are well proportioned and detailed. In terms of the poses, I definitely like the guy holding the shell, but the other two are very similar. It would have been good if one of them was posed as if more actively operating the equipment. Anyhow, I am still glad I came across them. I did not know they existed back when 21C was in production. 

Britains Deetail PAK40 with CTS crew
This is another nice model from Britains Deetail. Unfortunately I do not have the crew to go with it, so I had to enlist some of the new CTS guys to man the gun. One nice feature of this PAK is that it can actually fire. It has a small lever that you can pull to compress a spring and when released it could fire a round. I don't have the ammo that came with it either, but it should not be hard to improvise some rounds. 

21st Century Toys PAK 40 - Afrika Korps
This is actually the same model as the 21C model in grey, except that this one was painted by a fellow collector. It is one of those that I picked up at a local toy soldier show. He did a very good job on the painting. So much that it is hard to tell that it did not come this way out of the box.

Italeri PAK 40 AT gun with 'servants'
The Italeri gun offers what the 21C gun lacks. A good crew. As you can see, it comes with 6 figures. Most of them are ammo handlers. But it does have a man operating the gun and an officer directing the action.  The gun itself offers fewer moving parts and degrees of movement. But once it is setup it looks just as good. Probably a good combination will be the painted Italeri crew with the 21C PAK. One thing that I do find very amusing about this set is that Italeri translated crew as 'servants'.

Forces of Valor PAK 36 (with CTS crew) - Part 1
This PAK came with the kfz 70 truck which was used to tow it. The PAK 36 was a 3.7 cm caliber weapon. It was the main anti-tank gun in the German Army until mid 1941, when given its inability to deal with the soviet medium tanks liek the T34, it was replaced by the PAK 38 which fired a 5cm shell. The PAK 36 was initially issued in 1928 and first saw combat in 1936 during the Spanish civil war. It was also used by the Chinese against the Japanese where it was a lot more effective neutralizing the lightly armored Chi-Ha tanks.


Forces of Valor PAK 36 (with Italeri crew) - Part 2
Here's a better picture of it. The CTS gunners were holding ammo that was too big for it. These Italeri crew guys are better fitted for this smaller gun, and the picture does show a bit more detail.

21st Century Toys 7.5cm IG 18 cannon and crew
In German this is called the 7,5 leichtes Infanteriegeschütz 18, or 75mm light infantry howitzer. In addition to the version used by the regular infantry, a couple other variations were made for Mountain Troops and Paratroopers, both of which could be disassembled into multiple pieces that could be carried/dropped into battle to be reassembled on the spot. Weighing close to 400kg, it could be dragged/pulled into position by 3or 4 men. It could fire a 6 kg shell, up to 3.5 km away. This particular set from 21C toys is a nice addition to the collection, although the gun feels a bit brittle. The range of movement is not great and it feels like you might break it if you press too hard. The figures are versatile enough that they could be reassigned to operate other German guns.

15 cm NbW 41 - Unknown manufacturer
Approximately 6,000 of these were manufactured along with 5.5 million rockets. It had a range of close to 7km. Another popular variation was the 5-barrel 21 cm NbW 42, which had a range of almost 8km. I got this one along with a batch of toy soldiers that I purchased on eBay. I have no idea who made it and it is the only one I have. For a plastic toy it has decent level of realism. The pivoting stabilizer at the bottom/front can be elevated to put it in the towing position. It came with a couple stickers on the side which you can still see. Maybe someday I will paint it to give it a more realistic look. The figures in this picture are FOV artillery crewmen.

Britains Deetail - Heavy Mortar Set
This is where we get into a grey area. Can heavy mortars also be considered artillery? This mortar can actually 'fire' shells. Unfortunately I do not have any of the shells that came with it, but you can improvise your own kind of shells and have some fun lobbing some shells at the opposing army.

Dragon Karl Mortar 'Loki' Part I
This model, manufactured by Dragon (in 1:35) is called 'Loki'. Here I've used some 1:32 Forces of Valor figures to operate it. Despite the difference in scale I think they still look acceptable. Loki is firing from a prepared position to afford it some protection as you can imagine that the enemy is desperately trying to neutralize it with some aggressive artillery counter-fire.

Dragon Karl Mortar 'Loki' Part II
This is a slight variation of the previous picture, with the gun in a depressed position, illustrating the degree of gun's movement.

Dragon Karl Mortar 'Thor'
This is Loki's brother 'Thor'. Note that the gun can be elevated from the horizontal position up to a 45 degree angle approximately. These mortars also come with one piece of ammo, which is as big as a man. No wonder they had to be loaded with a crane.

US Artillery

21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Also known as the 155 mm Gun M1 or M2, this field gun was designed and developed during the inter-war period and by 1938 it was officially adopted. It had a barrel length just shy of 7 m, and could fire a round up to 23km. Its size and weight (almost 14 tons) required a carriage with 8 tires in the back and two in the front. The barrel could be elevated from -2 degrees all the way up to 65 degrees, which means that if necessary the Long Tom was also able to engage targets such as tanks in direct fire mode. The Long Tom was operated by a crew of 14 and saw action in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. This gun comes to us from 21C Toys. Even though it is all plastic, it is still a really nice model with lots of moving parts. The carriage is detachable -and a bit hard to assemble-, and the gun can be deployed into firing position. The paint job shows a small amount of wear for added realism. 21C did a good job filling this previously ignored model niche.

21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Here is the gun in its deployed position. Unfortunately, 21C did not provide any crew figures to go with it. Classic Toy Soldiers recently released some artillery crew figures which I have pressed to service the Long Tom, but with a crew of 14, it looks like I am still 11 men short...

Classic Toy Soldiers US Artillery Crew
These three poses are what made me get a couple of these sets. I had several Long Tom artillery pieces from 21st Century Toys, but I did not have crews for them. There is a loader, a guy on the phone, and another one that seems to be ready to fire the gun. The caliber of the ammo looks small for this gun, but I guess it's going to have to be good enough for it.

21st Century Toys M115 8 Inch Howitzer
Also known as 8 inch Howitzer M1 or M115 203 mm howitzer, it was designed and developed prior to WW II as a replacement for the 8-inch British howitzer that the US Army had been using since WW I. Even though it was developed independently of the Long Tom, it was mounted on the same M1 Carriage. That's probably why it was an obvious choice for 21C Toys to produce this variant. It really looks like all they did was shorten the barrel of the Long Tom. Curiously, this gun was about 700 kg heavier than the Long Tom, even though the barrel was 2 meters shorter. The firing range was also 7km shorter, or about 17km in total. It was also operated by a crew of 14. 

21C Toys US Artillery Crew
This set is actually sold by Four Star Military. I have a feeling it was one of the last sets made by 21C before they went out of business, but you can clearly see that the style and sculpting is the same. This is a five man crew to operate a big gun, like the Long Tom in this picture. It comes with a few extras, such as shells and casings. The one odd pose is the guy who has his foot high up. I had a hard time finding a place to put him where he would look like he was doing something that made sense. Overall a pretty nice set, that will help man quite a few guns.

Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer
Also known as the 105 mm M2A1 (M101A1) howitzer, this gun was the standard light howitzer used by the US military during WWII. It weighed only 5000 lbs, yet it had a range of 7 miles (11 km), making it an effective infantry support weapon. It was widely used in all theaters. It's been so successful that it is still in service in some countries today. Forces of Valor has delivered this nice model to us. It is partly made of metal, and it comes with a crew of 3. The barrel can be elevated and the trails can be separated so that the spades can dig into the ground when firing. Another nice piece of equipment from FOV.

Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer
Another view of the crew and the gun from behind. Note that the figures come without a base, which makes them a bit wobbly at times, but still remarkably stable for not having a base.

Dinky M101 105mm Howitzer - Part I
Here is another version of the 105mm howitzer, made by Dinky Toys. In this picture I have set it up with a crew from 21C toys. I believe it originally came with its own crew, but unfortunately, this one came without them. The howitzer has several moving parts, allowing the firing angle to be adjusted and the trails can also be spread apart when deployed.

Dinky M101 105mm Howitzer - Part II
So here it is with the original crew. I was happy to get the figures because they are not so easy to find, but I must say that they are not the greatest. The plastic feels hard and light. The kind that might break easily. And the detail is a bit rough in some parts, lke the face of the main pointing. Anyhow, all in all, I am still happy to have checked this set off the list. 

Dinky M101 105mm Howitzer - Part III
On this pic you can see that the trails can also be collapsed and hooked to the back of a Jeep, also made by Dinky. Interestingly enough, I bought a second Dinky howitzer and it turned out that it has a different set of rubber wheels, with finer thread design on them, similar to the tires on the jeep. 

21st Century Toys US M7 Priest
The Priest, also known as the 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7 was a self-propelled gun carrying the 105 mm howitzer. This Priest was made by 21st Century Toys, and even though the box was branded as 'die cast', it is pretty much made out of plastic. Even so, it is a nice vehicle. I've actually seen it in a different paint scheme with slightly smaller stars that have a circle around them, and the name Annamae written on the side. This vehicle comes with two figures: a driver and a gunner.

New Ray Howitzer
This howitzer came with some New Ray set. I don't even remember which one. I don't know if it represents an actual gun or some fictional model. And if it represents a real model, whether it is from the WWII period. In any case, given the limited availability of artillery pieces I have chosen to keep it and even feature it here. If you are not picky, they might come in handy as extra fire power, plus they are cheaper than those from 21C or FOV. As you can see, it blends well with the FOV crew figures.

Atlantic US Artillery - Part I
This is a set that includes the gun and 3 figures. I don't know if it represents an actual artillery piece that existed in reality or not. It could be an anti-aircraft gun as there is something that looks like a sight for the operator to aim through, but the barrel does not offer much elevation. The gun comes in multiple parts and needs to be assembled together. Everything snaps into place but you need to be careful when putting the barrel into its mount. I pressed a little too hard and snapped the mount in two. In terms of the figures, the gunner who gets to sit at the gun could have been given a more realistic pose. He really looks like he is just sitting there doing nothing. All in all it's one of those sets from Atlantic that are appealing to have for sake of having a 'complete' collection, and not so much for its poses or realism.

Atlantic US Artillery - Part II
Not sure it these guys were meant to be US troops or Italians, but since I already classified the guys in the previous picture as GIs I'll do the same with these. I found them as part of a larger batch of Atlantic figures. It is hard to tell what exact set(s) they were released with. From what I have seen, some of these figures were released as part of multiple sets. For instance, the guys with the radio were released with the rocket launcher, but also with an artillery set. The other two guys are more easily associated with an artillery crew. And I even got a small ammo stack to go with them.

Atlantic US Artillery - Part III
Same thing with these guys. Not sure what country they represent, but I have classified them as GIs for now, and they will help man the gun above. As is often the case with some of the other Atlantic sets, the figures are very straight and show little action. Not the most exciting figures, but they are rare enough that they deserve a place in the collection.

British Artillery

Crescent 25 pounder Field Gun
Also known as Ordnance QF 25 pounder, this was a 87.6mm caliber gun. Introduced shortly before the war, it was the main howitzer in the British Army during the War and many years thereafter. Its maximum range was 13,400 yards with a HE shell of 25 pounds (hence the name). This is another nice model by Crescent. The rivets on the gun shield make it look very real. Like the 5.5 gun, it also has a lever that allows it to shoot rounds. 

Crescent 25 pounder Field Gun - from above
This picture shows the circular platform that these guns used to have which enabled them to be rotated to point in the right direction more easily. When the gun was deployed, the platform would be placed underneath the wheels of the gun. Unfortunately, most of the models that you find today are missing this part, as it is relatively easy to detach it.

Crescent 5.5 inch Medium Gun
The 5.5 inch (or 140mm) gun went into service in 1941 and first saw action in North Africa. It was operated by a crew of 10. Its firing range was between 16,000 to 18,000 yards. Each shell weighed 100lbs. The firing angle went from -5 to 45 degrees. This model by Crescent has a wheel on the side that can be loosened/tightened to adjust the firing angle. It also comes with a lever on top that controls a spring and it allows it to shoot actual rounds. Unfortunately none came with the gun, so I will need to improvise some ammo.

Lone Star Anti Tank Gun
This is an under-scale gun by Lone Star. Rather than 1/32 it seems to be 1/40 or 1/43. Based on its size it can probably be used as a 6 pounder or even the 2 pounder anti-tank guns. Like the Crescent guns, it also comes with a lever-controlled spring that allows you to shoot rounds with it. 

Lone Star Anti Tank Gun - Desert Version
This is the same gun as the previous one. I don't know if Lone Star released it in this color scheme, or if a prior owner spray painted it this color. In any case, I just got three of them in this style and they provide much needed artillery support for the B8A guys. 

Lone Star 25 Pounder - Front
Here is another under-scale model by Lone Star. Given their 1/32 figure range, I just wish they had manufactured these sets to match those figures. BTW, this one also lets you shoot with it. 

Lone Star 25 Pounder - Back
Here you get a good idea of the size of the gun relative to some actual 54mm figures. I guess it could be used to represent a smaller caliber gun. But definitely, if you are undecided between the Crescent 25 pounder and this one, the Crescent one is head and shoulders a much better choice. 

Crescent 18 Pounder
As you might suspect, perhaps from the wooden wheels, this is a WWI gun. At the beginning of WWII some British units were still equipped with them. Anecdotally, I have also heard -although I have not verified- that they were also used at the outset of the war by the Soviet Army, hence I staffed the gun with a Soviet crew for this picture. This model comes in metal and as other Crescent guns, has a spring-based firing mechanism. The only thing to criticize is that it is a bit underscale. This particular model is well used, so the gun barrel drops below horizontal, which is why I had to place a small twig to support it.

Britains Deetail L6 'Wombat' 120mm recoilles Antitank gun
The Wombat is actually a weapon developed in the1950's. I suppose this is why it looks so much like a WWII artillery piece. At any rate, since I don't have many other British anti tank guns, I have decided to accept it in my WWII collection. Plus it has a nice, heavy caliber!

Britains Deetail British Heavy Mortar Set
A really nice heavy mortar team. The mortar can actually fire shells enabled by a spring mechanism inside the tube. There is a small lever in the back of the mortar which can be pulled and released to eject the shells. A pretty fun set.

Soviet Artillery

Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun - Part I
This is a nice artillery piece introduced by Italeri. This set was released a couple of years back and it filled a huge gap in the WWII 1/32 plastic toy soldier world. In addition to the gun itself, the set contains a crew in a good variety of poses. The Soviets produced these guns from 1942 onwards in massive quantities (over 100,000) and with a 76mm round, they were capable of piercing any German Tank prior to the Tiger I and the Panther.

Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun - Part II
The gunner and the leader prepare to fire another round as the rest of the crew works hard to keep the ammunition supply flowing. The Soviets were known for deploying large belts of anti tank defensive positions in depth which would wear down the German armored offensive capabilities and would leave them ripe for T-34 counterattacks, which is how they managed to stop the largest ever tank offensive at Kursk. These pictures depict this gun in a street fighting scenario, as the Red Army pushed west and retook its cities.

Engineer Bassevich Soviet Artillery Crew
These three poses came in one of the Engineer Bassevish Infantry sets, but they actually represent an artillery crew. Here I am showing them manning the Italeri ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun, however that gun comes with its own crew, so now I am thinking that perhaps I will use them to man a captured German PAK of which I have several who are still lacking a crew. 

Italian Artillery

Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division Light Artillery 1942
These other guys are the crew for the small howitzer. I am not sure about the caliber of the gun. I thought it might be a 37mm which is what was often issued to the paratroopers as it was easier to drop along with them during an airborne operation. However a reader recently commented that it's likely a 47mm Bohler gun. Apparently the wheels were detachable and it could be mounted on a tripod. It might not be clear from the picture, but all these figures come without a base, but they still manage to stand well on their own. One thing I don't quite like about the gun is that you can't change the elevation without messing around with the peg that inserts into the wheel carriage. All in all a good addition to the Folgore infantry.

Britains Deetail 105 mm Pack Howitzer - Part I
From what I have researched, this looks like the Post-WWII Oto Melara 105 mm Pack Howitzer. Developed in the mid 1950's for the Italian Alpine troops. It could be disassembled into 12 separate components which could then be put on mules capable of dealing with the mountainous terrain. This version of the Deetail Howitzer comes with a movable trail which can be pulled apart when deployed.

Britains Deetail 105 mm Pack Howitzer - Part II
Here is another version of the 105 Pack Howitzer. This one comes with a collapsed, non-movable trail. It also has a spring-based firing mechanism. This howitzer could also be transported by having a small vehicle tow it. The Oto Melara became quite popular, being used by over 30 countries, with 20+  nations still using it today.  

Japanese Artillery 

Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilles Rifle
Aside from the infantrymen, Britains produced extra sets with heavy weapons. They were part of their special Combat Weapons series. Not sure if the Japanese Army actually had this weapon in the field, but nonetheless it makes a good addition to the army and provides some welcome firepower if you are war-gaming with these figures. I just wish there were other artillery pieces to complement them.

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