By Rob Morgan
The review of the BTR-40 model, which is now to be found in some numbers at branches of The Works bookshop in the UK, leads me to think about the models I’ve found in this remarkable and intriguing range.
All-metal, perfect scale, and made for a Russian outlet by a company in China — none of my colleagues in Kyiv or L’viv or in Poland have encountered them. The value of these models is immense to the 20th-century wargamer. On the three separate occasions when baskets of them have appeared in these shops since the turn of the year, I’ve had the chance to pick up a number of them. My research takes me close to 10 branches of The Works across South Wales, and since I first found the afv’s I’ve tried not to miss any, though my interest is in the WWII vehicles and not the post-war or contemporary.
Not all models were Soviet. Challenger, Merkava and Adams tanks cropped up as immense value in the first ‘drop’ of the range, sharing a bin with the T-80. They sold like hot cakes, but in the small shop in Haverfordwest, I came upon a solitary T-28, so I bought it. Another turned up in Cardiff, but the bulk of the second ‘issue’ by the shop were JSII’s, though in Newport I bought an SU-122, the only one I ever saw, and another T-28 came my way. The SU-100, which didn’t stir the blood of the previous reviewer proved to be a perfect model, in complete Winter camouflage, and stood out among the others. So three of these powerful mobile guns came my way for about the current cost of an Airfix T-34 plastic kit! Value? I should say so!
All along the way, I have come upon modern models, including the BTR-40, but didn’t buy any. I was concentrating on the OstFront in the Great Patriotic War. A disappointment is that a couple of blogs in other society’s domains have mentioned the massive and vulnerable T-35 having appeared, but not in this parish. I’ve hunted in vain — at times it’s been a bit like collecting World Cup football stickers, and the T-35, the Pele of the set eludes me still!
For me the icing on the cake came when I called in on the off chance to the small Works shop in Llanelli. There I found plenty of JSII’s, a large number of T-34 76’s, and four FA-2 armoured cars, the little pre-war single mg types. I bought three, and a day or two later, regretting my decision not to follow the old Welsh rule of the renowned Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, that is, ’Buy it when you see it, not when you desperately need it.’ It had gone. The JSII’s are still around in some number, but the bins are now filled with BTR-40’s and with the low sleek-turreted BTR-60’s. They are attractive models, and I have seen, in Neath, a couple of BTR-152’s. I do recall, in the second wave of these models, about two or three months back, a very large late Soviet-era lorry, completely covered in, dark green and with four, possibly five axles — outside my period and so I can’t make a better description or guess. These I found in four or five shops and so they may well have been common enough.
This must surely have been a substantial range of models. What’s turned up is a wide ranging and often very unusual selection. Since neither the T-28 nor the T-35 was a success in battle, they would normally be overlooked in the Russian way of things, I believe. Big, but of little practical value, nor was the tiny Ford-based armoured scout car. Plenty of these were around pre-war and at the outset of Barbarossa, but …! Yes, I agree a collectors series, but the intriguing thing is where were they sold and when, and what about the obvious, or the seemingly obvious omissions, the afv’s we haven’t yet seen in The Works — and I do mean yet, of course. Lots come to mind. If the two bug T’s the T-28 and T-35 were issued, why not the T-10? Not to mention the KV’s. The KVI and the KVII would be very interesting models, of course.
As the T-80, Abrams, etc. appeared, was there a Leopard 2? Why only one heavy truck? The wartime armoured cars too haven’t yet turned up, the BA’s. I keep getting this image of a gold mine of Red Army afv’s and softskins sitting somewhere in a warehouse outside Nantong, waiting for delivery.
A list, of course, would tell us everything.