As the sun came out gloriously this afternoon I took these few snaps to put online. This is the finished model of a World War One 'male' Mk. I tank as was used in the first attack mounted by such vehicles against the village of Flers in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. I've placed the model on an appropriately shell-blasted base, depicting the conditions endured by the first men in tanks, which weren't at all pleasant.
These early tanks were designed to pierce the German line, rolling over banks of barbed wire, crossing trenches and generally putting the wind up the German defenders. They did the first well enough when they reached the German lines, but the German soldiers were about as impressed with them as their opposite numbers were in the British lines, which wasn't much. Used in a piecemeal fashion over badly shelled ground, they were prone to breakdowns, and prey to shells, mines and armour-piercing bullets. Even ordinary machine gun fire caused havoc inside the tanks producing clouds of 'splash' - tiny blobs of molten metal that broke off under the impact of the bullets, forcing later tankers to wear chain mail coifs and masks for protection. This was on top of the cramped surroundings and the stifling heat and choking fumes from the engine. No, service in early tanks was not nice.
The Germans took them on with grenades and rifles at close quarters and British infantry loathed fighting alongside them, regarding tanks as 'shell-magnets', as they became instant targets for enemy artillery. For over a year they lumbered on useless and unloved through several appalling battles, notably the morass of Passchendaele, but then the tanks were finally able to show what they could do when they were used successfully at the Battle of Cambrai. Though the tanks pierced the German line the follow up was mishandled by the generals, the German defence stiffened, the advance faltered and gains were lost; but the tanks had finally proven their worth and earned their place in modern warfare.
The tracks were painted a suitably rusty colour as was the anachronistic exhaust pipe, but the tracks would soon vanish under a mixed layer of muddy-coloured Citadel paint. 'Stirland Mud' is one of Citadel's textured paints, impregnated with microscopic plastic beads (paint with grit in it, in other words) which gives a very realistic looking soil effect. Games Workshop and Citadel stuff is pricey, but they supply some good stuff and I'm a definite convert to their washes and technical paints.
The 'Stirland Mud' would also feature heavily in the base. This I again constructed on a blank mains socket base, a double one in this case. This I coated in a heavy layer of filler which I then proceeded to sculpt, poke and generally mess about with until it looked like the German guns had given it a good pounding. I produced the biggest shell crater by using the rounded top of the 'Stirland Mud' container. I then pressed the tank tracks into the soft filler to give me a layer of tracks before finally pressing the tank itself into the filler where it has stayed, no glue required. The base took two days to dry when I started to coat it in the textured paint, plus some 'Lustrian Undergrowth' textured paint. I fashioned a small roll of barbed wire out of some fine grade beading wire bought at a craft shop, which I coiled around a pencil. This I stuck under one of the forward tracks of the tank, giving it a good coating with the textured paint, which helps to give it a 'barbed' look. This I later coated with rust-coloured paint.
The last jobs were simple weathering, dry-brushing a paler brown onto some of the raised soil and the tank itself. I also gave the tank a water or oil-streaked appearance with some thinned Citadel washes. The last job was to paint the white base black and all is done. Easy peasy, a very pleasing, trouble-free model to build. Not normally a vehicle man, I was so chuffed with the results that I have bought myself another 1:76 tank to try my hand with, a WW2 Matilda. Watch this space.