Tuesday, 28 April 2009

DML's sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B (“Bison I”)

Manufacturer: Dragon Models Ltd
Item Code: 6259
Medium: Plastic Injection
Review Publication Date: April 28th 2009

This was my first plastic injection mould vehicle review, and boy did I find this difficult. Despite being comfortable with figure subjects and reviews, I found writing this review quite challenging. It was almost losing my review writing virginity all over again. The sheer number of parts, unfamiliar genre and subject, and being all too aware of the pressure to write a fair and objective review for a difficult audience really took me out of my element. All in all though, the Armorama Reviews Editor was very happy with the review - which means I'm happy. Time will tell how readers perceive the value of the review. I hope it's well received.

The ‘Bison’ and ‘Grille’ are generally accepted names for Germany’s self-propelled 15cm schwere Infanteriegeschütz 33 (sIG33) vehicles from World War II. One of Germany’s chief weapons manufacturers, Rheinmetall, introduced the schwere Infanteriegeschütz 33 (sIG33) in 1927. With a firing range of 4.7km it was the most powerful support weapon for the German infantry, and in Januray 1940 the first attempts were made to adapt it to a tracked vehicle. The entire gun carriage, complete with wheels, was mounted on the Panzer I Ausf. B Chassis, with tall shields of armour plate added to protect the front and sides. Six companies of these vehicles were deployed on the Western Front, with each company having six self-propelled guns. The sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B (“Bison I”) stayed in service until 1943. Thirty-eight examples of this vehicle were built.

Until recently, January 2009 to be precise, modellers wanting to reproduce one of Germany’s first self-propelled support vehicles (to be produced during the war) in 1/35 scale were limited to the plastic injection mould Alan kit, resin conversion kits, or to a combination of these together with a better, more accurate Panzer I Ausf. B hull and suspension by another manufacturer. Enter Dragon Models Limited with kit 6259 “15cm s.IG. 33 (Sf) auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B”.

Readers will note that I have elected not to discuss the subject of accuracy. Accuracy of kits tends to be a contentious issue, and I am by no means an expert of this subject, the sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B. Thus I will leave it to others more knowledgeable than I to discuss this. What I will say is that with my limited research and reference material (noted below) the kit appears to be an excellent depiction of the vehicle – and DML’s PzKpfw I Ausf. B, of which many sprues are included in the kit, is considered by many to be the definitive kit of the Panzer I Ausf. B.

It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to review a DML plastic scale model kit, and having been very critical of DML in the past, this kit has left me thoroughly impressed. The subject is unique; DML have offered two options regarding the superstructure and corrected the previous Pz. I Ausf. B idler wheel; the sIG33 is a thing of beauty; and the casting is excellent with barely a cast seam in sight.

I highly recommend this kit to modellers interested in the Early War period, vehicles based on the Panzer I chassis, self-propelled artillery, or even those simply looking for something different to build.

Click here for my full review on Armorama

Friday, 24 April 2009

God Save South Africa...

... because it looks unlikely anyone else will.

I am not prone to (public) political rambling, but I feel compelled to as an uneducated thug stands ready to assume the South African throne - officially now, because let's face it, he took the crown last year after overthrowing Thabo and reaffirmed it earlier this year through his political meddling managed to make his corruption charges impossible to process.

My concern for the land of my birth has nothing to do with race, but as Jacob Zuma celebrates his (yet to be confirmed) victory by dancing and singing of his AK(47) I see SA standing on the edge of a precipice, about to lurch forward into the darkness. The same darkness Zimbabwe fell into some 20 odd years ago. As I watch the impending doom unfold, as my concern for my family grows, I am reminded of this story by an unknown author (I apologise for the paragraph formatting - it is mine and not the author's):

And Mugabe awoke with a hoof on his throat and he struggled and howled to be free,
Tripped on the racks of his English shoes and clawed at his English suits,
And crashed down the unlit corridors where his wife has collected her loot,
Screaming "You may not condemn me - there are by-laws and statutes and  fines"
But the Devil replied "God's law trumps that, and by his law you're mine."
Come, see what you've done to your people, see what you've done to your land,
And then I'll haul you back into the light, and see if you understand.

Then the Devil seized him by his neck and dragged him up into the night
And Bob hung limp, for one against one was not his idea of a fight
They spiralled down to a wasteland, and Mugabe sprawled on his face,
"Spare me, spare me" he whimpered, "spare me this terrible place",
For he saw charred beams and scattered bricks, filth and ruin and weeds,
And through the dawn came children, sifting the dust for seeds.

"Eight years ago" said the Devil, "this place was heavy with maize,
There was fruit on the trees and crops in the earth and grass for the cows to  graze;
It was farmed by those who loved the soil, who knew it and tended it well,
And now it's farmed by Cellphone, from the Monomotapa hotel."
"Racist" screamed Mugabe, "Imperialist, Colonist, Queer!
These people are free, that's down to me and that's why I rule here!"

"Free to do what?" asked the Devil, "to cower and cringe to survive?
The farms are going, the work is gone, now only your thugs can thrive,
Preying on women and children, feeding on horror and fear,
Flying flags of hate and despair that had no business here;
Look at your mindless militias, look in each alien face,
Condemned by their own insanity, exiled for life from the race,
Watch them go into action, cheer as they take up the fight,
Beating up Zimbabweans for the crime of being  white,
Red-eyed from drink, thick-tongued from drugs, watch them go off on a spree
Burning the homes of Africans who dared to be honestly free."

Mugabe licked his lips and whispered, "All freedom comes at a price,"
"Indeed?" said the Devil "And for the record - what was your sacrifice?
Did you give blood to the struggle? How many times were you mortared?
Or did you play politics in a hotel, and wait  till your rivals were slaughtered?
If ever you tasted honour or pain those tastes were long since forgotten,
Eclipsed by the flavours of power and greed, the aromas of all that is rotten.

"Come, Mugabe" and up they flew and soared over country and town
And each time they swooped, hunger and horror reached up to pull them down,
And the souls of children streamed past them, and on and up into the light
And Mugabe whimpered and twisted, to shield his eyes from the sight
"Sons of despair," said the Devil "and daughters of desolate selves,
It's the West that gives food to your people, while your cronies are stuffing themselves.
The West you despise and prosecute is the innocent's sponsor and friend.

But when your young 'veterans' seize the supplies, these fragile lives have to  end;"
"I did not know," croaked Mugabe and the Devil applauded with glee:
"Save your lies for Mbeki, they make no impression on me.
Now, look at the shuttered factories, look at the overnight queues."
"Blame the British," Bob stammered, "the whites, the Norwegians, the Jews."

But the streets sent up a whisper, a whisper as loud as a roar:
"The old man who stole three elections - it's time  that we showed him the door!"
A scream rose up from the city, a scream rose up from a cell,
And the Devil plunged them into the earth and to a cameo from hell
Of shadowed figures with smiling lips that shone with delight and disdain,
Of a body convulsing and wrenching, shaking apart from the pain;
"Applaud your police," said the Devil, "corrupted beyond repair;
And caress the electrodes, the batons and guns, and the innocent tied to the chair."

But as Mugabe stretched out his hand the scene was gone in a flash,
And he stared instead at a drive full of Mercs and a house full of money and trash,
And then at the gloom of an upstairs room, heavy with malice and lies,
Where fat men sat and talked poison, avoiding each others' eyes:
"Here are your generals," the Devil hissed, "your ministers, judges and  hacks,
They have fortunes and forex and farms they can't farm, it's only a future they lack,
Do they flee for Malaysia , Libya , France with their women and all they can pack?
Or do they just turn and remove you, and claim dispensation for that?

Look at the wealth that seeps from them, and then hold your nose at the stench
Of the paltry crew that cleave to you, the cowards, the fools and the French;
See them plotting and scheming; hear your folly despised,
Even your reptiles want you gone - you made them, are you surprised?
Now do you know what you are Mugabe, now do you understand?
You're the Lord of the bloated thousand, and King of an empty land.

What gave you most pleasure Mugabe? Which wickedness tasted most sweet?
The mass murder of the Ndebele?
The children with nothing to eat?
The whites you had casually butchered?
The election results that you changed?
Or the war that you fought in the Congo , for diamond commissions arranged?
The perversion of the system?
The enrichment of those you despise?
The limos, money and power?
The lies and the lies and the lies?

I ought to admire you Mugabe; you've certainly earned your hellfire,
And all for small motives; self interest and fear, that aspect I have to admire;
Better by far that you never had lived Robert Gabriel!
The world will heal the wounds you've left, but I cannot heal you in hell!"

Then the Devil's right hand grabbed Mugabe, and Mugabe screamed in his fright,
And he scrabbled and pleaded and whimpered and begged
And awoke to an African night,
And sweated and panted and shuddered, calling his aides to his side.
Reconstituting his ego, his vanity, his evil and pride.
But then he screamed again, recoiling from that he could not bear to see:
The slogans burning his eyes from the walls and the words we want to be  free!

Enough is enough! Zvakwana!! Sokwanele!!
The Devil meandered down Second Ave , strolled up Samora Machel Blvd,
"The brave will inherit," he murmured, "when I have Mugabe in hell.
And the dawn will return to Zimbabwe, and children will learn how to smile,
Zimbabwe is one of God's countries but at least it was mine for a while...

Let's pray this is not the future of South Africa. God save South Africa from the AK47 toting shepherd from KwaZulu-Natal.

Friday, 17 April 2009

All is quiet on the modelling front...

Or is it?
I came to the shock realisation earlier this week that it has been more than a few weeks since I last gave an update on the Tamiya M8 HMC, indeed the last update was the 24th of February 2009. I do apologise for this, but I do assure you that I have not been quietly plugging away at the project and not updating the SBS. No, unfortunately I have not been doing any work on it.
So just where the hell have I been? What the hell have I been up to? Well, a lot I guess! Some of it scale modelling related, and other just life really. So this blog post contains a bit of everything really, but mostly it is an explanation of what has stalled the M8 HMC build and an insight into what I will be working on in the forthcoming weeks.
Let's start on a more personal explanation: what has been going on in my life these past (almost) two months? As everyone (the press, our clients, my bosses) keep reminding us, we are amidst a "Global Financial Crisis", which has lead to a slow down in work for the company I work for resulting in quite a few people being laid off. Fortunately I was not one of them, but I do think if I had not been sent out to a client a few weeks ago I might have been one of those unhappy souls. I am now doing some process documentation and analysis for Australia's largest telco. What started as a week-long "freebie" in February has led to a longer contract. It really is interesting, but somewhat of a challenge as it is quite technical and really takes me back to my days as a network/systems administrator. Most importantly, I am off the bench, out the office, earning revenue for the bosses, and (hopefully) out of the firing line. A further plus to this is that I generally do not work more that 8 hours a day while on a client site, which means that when I work through my lunch-break, which is most days, I can be home before 17.00 if I hop on the train.
Something else that has been going on is that The Missus and I have been house-shopping. The buying process certainly is different here in Australia. I will not attempt to explain it, as I will probably just get it wrong. The long and short of it is that we have seen two houses we really liked. The first one we lost out on due to our offer being too low. In retrospect we could have afforded more and put in a higher offer, but we did not due to our own ignorance of our lending capacity at the time. More recently we put in an offer on a townhouse which we really liked as well. The offer was accepted, but we heard yesterday that the bank valuation of the property was about 10% less than we offered. This despite the fact that the offer was below the area median price for similar properties. We have instructed out mortgage originator to apply through another institution. If they also undervalue the property, we will probably cancel the deal and perhaps offer the vendor a lower price. If they do not accept then we know it is not meant to be. It will be a pity though, because I really like this house.
So what else has been keeping me from the project? I seems to me that I have more time after work.
To be honest I had become a bit unmotivated with the project. The photo-etch instructions were becoming annoying to say the least. I would sit down at the desk, look at the parts, try to decipher the Eduard instructions, get annoyed, and then get up and watch TV or surf the 'net instead.
And that is when it happened. I saw a post on Armorama asking for review volunteers for a range of products, including DML's new Bison I SPG. How could I resist not putting my paw up? Yes, I have volunteered to review an armour model! When I received the box from Jim Starkweather, the Kitmaker publisher, he had also included quite a few more interesting kits for review. Just prior to this though, Neograde had also sent me a few resin accessory/conversion sets. As did Pat McGrath, a fellow Kitmaker staff member, albeit figures. But let's face it: I love writing modelling reviews, and I am really grateful to all who indulge me by supplying samples.
So you ask why I am not at the workbench? It is because I am reviewing again. That is not a bad thing: someone around here needs to write decent, objective (I hope) reviews.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Ufficiale R.E. 1940-43

Manufacturer: Allarmi!
Item Code: 35035
Medium: Resin
Sculptor: Nino Pizzichemi
Review Publication Date: April 14th 2009

The basic uniform worn by the Italian soldier from 1940 to 1943 saw only a few minor changes during this period. An ordinary soldier of 1943, be it rank and file or officer, would to most observers appear exactly the same as he had when Italy entered the war in June 1940.

35035 – “Ufficiale R.E. 1940-43” is a 1/35th scale resin figure sculpted by Nino Pizzichemi. The Ufficiale Regio Esercito (Italian Royal Army Officer), typically attired for Italy’s early war European engagements, is portrayed twisted slightly to his right holding a pair of binoculars in his left hand. The box-art is unadorned and shows only unpainted resin figure.

While no doubt some may find the pose featured in this figure set inanimate, I must admit to being rather fond of such poses. I find such figures rather versatile whether part of a diorama, vignette or on their own.

The casting, aforementioned flaw notwithstanding, and sculpting is very good. That said, the size of the figure in comparison to other “true 1/35 scale” figures is a negative as it does not appear the figure is merely small in stature due to the size of equipment such as the holster and binoculars. The absence of rank insignia and breech stripes and piping is another point against the figure, but should be reasonably easy to correct for most modellers. The lack of rank and insignia may indeed be seen as an opportunity by some to assign their own rank and division to this figure thus increasing its versatility.

This is the first figure I have had the opportunity to review from Allarmi! , and I must admit to being suitably satisfied by it in spite of the above.

Click here for my full review on Armorama

Friday, 10 April 2009

British Armoured Crew Set

Manufacturer: Alpine Miniatures
Item Code: 35078, 35079, 35080
Medium: Resin
Sculptor: Taesung Harmms
Box Artist: Calvin Tan
Review Publication Date: April 10th 2009
The extremes of climate encountered by British troops in the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of battle saw the use of a diverse mix of uniform items; wool Battledress and greatcoats were often worn in colder weather, and various mixtures of BD, KD items and the issue woollen pullover were commonplace. This set of figures from Alpine Miniatures illustrates just two of the many variations of uniform seen worn by British troops during the desert fighting. This set of figures, depicting two British Armoured crewmen during a halt, is an excellent example of the mix of clothing worn during a change in temperature – be it Spring or Autumn, or a cool desert morning or evening.
35080 – “British Armoured Crew Set” is set of two 1/35th scale resin figures (and a puppy) sculpted by Alpine Miniatures owner, Taesung Harmms. The two British Armoured Crewmen, both wearing a mixture of tropical and Battledress clothing, are portrayed in fairly comfortable stances: the one stands with left hand in his shorts pocket while shielding his eyes from the sun with the other; while the crewman poses seated with his hands resting on his thighs. Released during February 2009, the box-art is painted by regular Alpine box-art painter Calvin Tan.
Both figures are also available individually as figures 35078 British Armoured Crew #1 and 35079 British Armoured Crew #2.
While no doubt some may find the poses featured in this figure set inanimate, I must admit to being extremely fond of them. I find the figures rather versatile given the poses which will suit virtually any British or Commonwealth vehicle placed in the Mediterranean and Middle East theatres of battle, be it tank, armoured car, lorry, or even simply seated on a wall as portrayed by Calvin Tan’s box-art.
With magnificent casting and Taesung Harmm’s eye for detail, this figure set by Alpine Miniatures is a terrific example of the various aspects of the Khaki Drill and Battle Dress uniforms and the manners in which it was worn by British and Commonwealth troops. Furthermore, given that armour personnel were issued with the same uniforms as infantry and other Army branches of service, this set need not only be portrayed as the former.
Alpine Miniatures’ first set of British troops wearing KD dress, or rather the unique manner in which KD and BD were worn together during the war in the Mediterranean and Middle East, is bound to be a popular release. Even more so given the recent resurgence of 1/35 scale British armour releases. These figures will be the perfect accessory to any British or Commonwealth vehicle – or will the vehicle be accessorising these highly recommended figures?
Click here for my full review on Armorama