More Photos of the Battlegroup Diorama

By far the most popular page on this blog is the one about my 1/76th scale Battlegroup diorama.  Probably because very few people have been crazy enough to take on such a massive project.  I’ve gone through the photos that I’ve taken of the beast and have selected a few that you might like to see.

Early days back in 1985

Early days back in 1985

This shows the Battlegroup back in 1985 when it was almost a Squadron of Chieftains, plus a few supporting vehicles.  There’s a scratchbuilt CET, made using some plans that appeared in Airfix magazine, that I now know to have the wrong hull shape and the details of a prototype vehicle, but the plans looked good when I made it.  Next to it is a Spartan which is a resin copy from the master pattern that I made for Cromwell Models.  In this case, it was made using plans that were in a manufacturer’s  sales brochure (from Alvis) that were scaled down to 1/76th.  The Bedford MK end on behind the Spartan was scratchbuilt using plans from Tankette, the MAFVA magazine, and next to that is a 1 ton Land Rover and two Stalwarts that were both made using plans also from Airfix magazine.  These two vehicles featured in articles that had exploded diagrams showing all of the parts of plastic card that you needed, together with some text showing how to put the parts together.  It was these articles that played a major part in getting me to progress from making conversions of a kit to going into scratchbuilding.

All on to one base in 1986

All on to one base in 1986

The following year after the photo at the top I put all of the vehicles on to one base whilst I made up the first four bases of what I now have.  You can see the Bedford MK and 1 ton Land Rover again, and the Centurion ARV that was converted from an Airfix kit using plans from John Church.  A lot of people have criticised the Airfix Centurion as it’s not a model of the mark of tank that they describe it as.  In fact it’s a mish-mash of several different marks, and of course the biggest error is that the hull length is too short.  Having said all of that,  I used this kit to make an Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), an Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE), and an Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB)  which were the first major conversions that I made.  Okay, by my standards of today they were as crude as hell, but I was pleased with all three conversions when I made them, and you have to start somewhere.  I must also give a huge thank you to John Church as I’ve used his plans for many of the converted and scratchbuilt vehicles on the Battlegroup diorama.  I have always found Johns plans to be dimensionally very accurate with a good brief description of the vehicle.

The Infantry Company lined up

The Infantry Company lined up

I took this photo during another alteration from four bases to six.  This shows the Infantry Company lined up with their FV432s, which are mainly so-called “flat tops”and a couple fitted with a Peak Engineering GPMG turret (these turrets were later fitted to Saxons for use in Bosnia).  I later added more Fv432s with GPMG turret to have Platoons of two of each type, with some of the flat tops converted into Royal Engineer vehicles and some into Ambulances.  There’s a bit of a tale behind these models.  The FV434 was the first master pattern model that I made for Gordon Brown of Cromwell Models.  I went along with my wife at the time to The Tank Museum where I gave the model to Gordon who was with a group of other Scottish modellers who had come down for Trucks ‘N’ Tracks (I think it was that show) and called in to The Tank Museum before going back home.  From this model, Dave Rhodes made the FV432 for Gordon, and it’s copies of these that are on the diorama.  I in turn converted one of Dave’s FV432 Mk.2/1s into a Mk.2/2 with the GPMG turret and added an interior to the model.  This model won the Cromwell Models Trophy at the 1987 MAFVA Nationals in Glasgow.

Me out in the garden in Bridgend

Me out in the garden in Bridgend

A good way to photograph a diorama like this is to take it out into the garden on a sunny day.  That way you can get a good exposure setting on your camera that will give you plenty of depth of field, which is the biggest problem when photographing models.  This photo was taken sometime around 1990 at my second house in Bridgend whilst still a married man and still with some colour in my hair, and several pounds lighter than now.  The Armoured Infantry Company is at the bottom, with some of the Field Engineer Troop just below my arm in my shadow.

Using Faller background sheets to put the scene in some sort of context

Using Faller background sheets to put the scene in some sort of context

The only time that I have ever been to Germany was back in the early 1960s for a one day excursion whilst camping with the Scouts on an exchange visit to Spa in Belgium where we went to Aachen for a day.  I have never been anywhere near any of the BAOR training areas, but have made this diorama with much appreciated help from my former Trading Standards Assistant Peter Orpin (and ex-QDG tank driver) who was able to guide me into making this scene, together with many hours spent looking at photos in various magazines.  People who have seen the diorama tell me that it looks very much like the Black Forest area of Germany, which I am told is the correct part of the country.  The background sheets in this photo are from the German model railway company Faller.  I think they are a useful tool in putting the diorama into some sort of context.

Looking at it higher up to the left

Looking at it higher up to the left

Here’s another photo of the diorama slightly higher up than the previous one.  You can see some Sultan Armoured Command Vehicles by the side of the wood sheds, with some of the vehicles of the Regimental Aid Post (RAP) in front of the trees and to the right of it.  The rest of the Battlegroup Headquarters are set up in a circuit in the trees.  The Close Reconnaissance Scimitars of the Battlegroup are just below the Gazelle helicopter to the left.

Looking down on the Battlegroup H/Q

Looking down on the Battlegroup H/Q

Here’s another view of the Battlegroup H/Q, but this time looking down on it as if from a helicopter (well, okay it was just me standing on a step ladder).  This gives some idea of the density of the trees, or perhaps the density of the person who spend ages making them in batches of around 20 at a time.  I feel that is worth all of the effort though as it shows something like a miniature version of the photos that I’ve seen of British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) exercises.   I once displayed this diorama at a show in the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells in Mid Wales.  It was looked at closely by a number of officers and soldiers who were presumably from the School of Infantry at Derring Lines in Brecon.  One person was convinced that I must have been in the Army to make something like this that he thought was quite accurate.  It was a bit of a let-down when I told him that I’d spent all of my working life as a Trading Standards Officer and had never been in the Army.

The Replen scene at the front right of the diorama

The Replen scene at the front right of the diorama

Another photo taken the same time as the one with me lurking next to it.  This shows Chieftains being replenished with fuel, ammunition, and food and water for the crew before going into leaguer positions in the trees.  I originally intended to add another base to the right of this one to increase the distance between the Stalwarts, but I never got around to finishing it.  The Armoured Squadron of Chieftains and Battlegroup H/Q are hidden amongst the trees, with Chieftains of the second Squadron going through the Replen and off to their leaguer positions.  To the left of this is the Armoured Infantry Company.

A Chieftain about to re-load with ammunition

A Chieftain about to re-load with ammunition

Here’s a close-up view of part of the replenishment scene.  I think this is one of the B. W. Models Mk.2 Stalwarts with scratchbuilt Unit Load Containers (ULC) of ammunition.  You can see the trees a bit clearer here.  They were made using two strands of soft iron wire (from a florist’s shop that was in the shopping precinct in Brackla, Bridgend – used for floral displays).  I teased apart sisal from some parcel twine (the old natural product rather than the newer nylon variety) which I put between the strands of wire, and then put one end in a hand vice and the other in a hand drill and twisted the wires together.  The sisal was then un-twisted using a dental probe from Alec Tiranti and trimmed to shape, then sprayed with gloss brown paint and dark green flock sprinkled over the wet paint.  The bare wire trunk was coated with a mix of brown powder paint with some Polyfila and some PVA glue.  This was repeated over 600 times!

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