by Rob Morgan,
This small wooden boat, an oil tanker shape, intended for a small child’s play set, is about 8 inches (35cm) long, sturdy, and with a lovely empty deck. I bought it for a little less than 3 pounds. A little work provided me with this in 20/25mm scale.
It’s intended to be a river, lake or canal gunboat, of the auxiliary sort- roughly 1942/3. Could be a Soviet boat, or of course could acquire a swastika, a Kriegsmarine ensign, or a Finnish, Hungarian, or any Axis flag, to serve somewhere up the Volga or Dnieper or on a lake.
The superstructure aft is original, but has a few add-ons, a couple of ventilators, the steam pipe, as well as a door on the starboard side. A short mast is optional.
So, the boat hull, being two inches wide, I cut a strip of deep plasticard, the type that’s an open oblong shape, about half an inch wide, a quarter of an inch deep, (you could use a solid piece of wood at a pinch). I cut enough to reach most of the way to the bow, and cemented it on, having cut a slight curve at the front end. There I cemented a thick plastic ring, about the same depth, though it doesn’t matter if that stands above the strip. That, along with a couple of hatches, from redundant figure bases, and spare tyres, to stop it bumping into bigger craft and jetties, is it.
I also wanted the gunboat to have a couple of decent weapons.
The main armament is an old 1/72nd Airfix T-34 turret, the 76mm gun one – you get two in the kit as you’ll know, the other’s an 85mm, too big for a small riverine craft. I based it on a big round counter and it will turn almost 360 degrees. If you are considering a German version, then maybe a Mk III Panzer turret, the short gun version, or the same ‘captured’ T-34 turret splashed with crosses will do.
Behind the turret, about halfway along, is an mg turret, the sort you’d find on an early Soviet light tank, constructed from a pen top.
It’s sprayed overall with Humbrol Matt Dark Earth, with added black splashes for vision slits, handles etc. The overall dusting of snow camouflage is, of course, essential for my own Ostfront scenario. An Axis version might be dark grey or camouflaged.
As a warship of course, she’s fairly slow, as small river barges would be, and maybe prone to breakdowns? The armour on the two turrets, and perhaps the deck house, will slow her down.
The ‘Winter’ camouflage scheme adds a further idea in a wargame: small ice floes in the river, or on the lake, which need to be steered around or may sink the vessel, or the possibility of the vessel being held fast in the ice and attacked by shore forces. Remember cavalry captured a fleet of warships by charging across the ice in Holland during Bonaparte’s wars.