Through the 19th Century and into the 20th, artillery was horse-drawn, a gun and limber, a limber and ammo wagon (caisson). In the British Army, the gun would wheel into position, the limber would be placed to the left side, and the crew would go into action. Replenishment came from the ammo wagon, and that was replenished from general supply wagons coming from the rear. Rate of fire was not all that much, and guns didn't stay in place all that long anyway. WW1 changed all that.
After the Boer War, the British Army undertook a major revamp of their artillery organization, doctrine, and equipment. The quick-firing (fixed ammunition) 18-pounder was one of the new pieces, introduced in 1904. The gun became the standard, and possibly the most important, field gun of the Royal Field Artillery during World War One, serving at many echelons in all theaters.
Massive extended barrages required days and days of near continuous firing. Ammo had to be stockpiled at the gun itself to maintain that rate. Guns had to be protected from observation and from counter battery fire. By the end of WW1, 18-pdrs had fired some 99.3 million rounds on the Western Front alone, out of a total of 113 million rounds produced. If I did the arithmetic right, that means on average over 2600 18-pdr shells were in the air on the Western Front every hour of the entire war - sobering.
GBS is a branch of Resicast, devoted to a new range of accessories and bases. This diorama base is made for their 18-pdr Field Gun, which I reviewed here. It portrays a gun position, sandbagged in, and stocked with ammo -- the new world of the Great War.
The “box art” isn’t particularly inspiring nor does the end piece convey much info. Here is one of the pictures from the Resicast website that is more illustrative. But note it shows far more terrain detail, rubble, etc, than comes with the kit - and a paint job better than mine.
Even a cursory look through WW1 photos will show they have captured a field gun set-up well, and will convince you they have not over-represented the amount of ammunition that might be present in one gun position. The base is "tight", there really is no room to put a limber or many more figures than a normal crew. For a larger scene, the base will need to be expanded.
Inside the box is plenty of bubble wrap to protect the parts.
Here is the base, 8-1/4 inches wide by 6-1/4 inches deep. One small line of sandbags, behind which the gun sits, is cast in. There are three “holes”, in which to place the major cast details, and about a dozen empty shell cases lying about. The ground itself appears dry and hard with some rocks and roughness to it. It is not a muddy Western Front diorama. It could even be Sinai or Mesopotamia. The rough ground looks like small dirt clods, shale, rocks, and rubble. Some of the rocks/rubble look a bit too much like balls of resin, but paint may fix that up. There are no signs of movement - wheel tracks, footprints, worn paths, etc, and for a muddy Western Front, there is a lot of work to do.
Here are the three main pieces – a wall of sandbags, a row of ready rounds, and a pile of empty shell cases. The base has gently rolling terrain whereas the main pieces are somewhat flat - this is especially noticeable with the pile of shell cases. OTOH, in the pile of shell cases there are only two that I don't think look natural. I also spotted a small membrane under one that will have to come out, or be painted like a spider web …
Lastly, some additional detail comes in three small bags. There are nine loose rounds and a couple dozen empty shell cases. There are five boxes, one of which is open to show some fuze caps and cartridge base clips pulled off the last few rounds fired. Oddly enough there is no top for the open box to place around nearby. But note the rope handles on the boxes, very nice.
There is a single piece representing two boxes with five kit bags on top, and four SMLE. Here is the only breakage in the kit, but all the parts are there so they can be easily repaired. The crew for an 18-pdr is ten, with six manning the gun and four back with the limbers, wagons, and ammo. One would think there would be six packs on the box, not five, and one would think there would be more than four SMLE – maybe the #1 and #2 have pistols.
There are no instructions at all, but none are needed although a brief set of sanding and fitting tips might have been nice.
The resin is well cast – great detail, the empty shell case walls are thin, very little flash/membrane (I had done no clean-up of these parts when I took the pictures).
I think the added detail a bit sparse, but hopefully the Great War Centenary will lead to lots of good stuff coming out shortly. Which also brings up the lack of gunner figures in this scale -- I’m tempted to try some 1/32 from Tommy’s War, but hopefully Resicast will announce some very shortly. (I did get the Resicast WW2 25-pdr crew and a couple spares but haven't gotten around to attempting to modify them yet).
I am surprised at how inexpensive this diorama base is and believe more detailing pieces could have been added and the increased cost thereof would still be reasonable.
I should lead off with a confession - I love the smell of Resicast resin, fresh from the box. It must be unique like Belgian chocolates or beer. I usually delay washing the parts as long as I can. SWMBO thinks me strange. Nonetheless, the wash in warm water with a mild doze of Dawn, is necessary. I tend to do detail inspection of the parts at this time and an inventory against the instructions (if any). One word of warning, be careful of the pile of empty cartridge cases - the walls are quite thin and can be damaged while washing, even with a soft toothbrush.
I usually save heavy duty resin projects for summer – I have a large sanding board that fits comfortably on the arms of an Adirondack chair so I can work out on my deck and keep the house dust free. And sure enough, with the winter we had, even here, it was days, then weeks, until I could get outside and do some heavy duty sanding of the bottom of the base and to fit the three main pieces -- the sandbag wall, the row of shells, and the shell case pile -- into the base because none are just drop-ins. It is necessary to take off the bottom of each, then for the sandbag wall and shell row, some on the corners and also open up the holes on the base. It's a matter of fitting, sanding, fitting, and sanding until satisfied.
The big sandbag wall didn't fit neatly. The row of shells fit very well after only a little work. It is possible to cover some of the holes with boxes, but I decided after a while that I could simply shove some "dirt" under them and all would be OK.
The empty shell case piece does not fit tightly in the hole provided and the terrain on one side is higher than the other, making for a fit issue.
And lastly, the base doesn't show any marks from the gun being there - it just sits on top of the ground - so I decided where I wanted it, considering proximity to the sandbag wall and ready shells on the left and the pile of empties on the right (it's a tight fit actually).
I marked where the wheels and spade would sit ….
I dove in with my Dremel ….
and now I have a gun sitting a bit more naturally.
Sounds easy, and it was, if the warm days and my calendar had allowed me to get outside for the heavy duty fitting, sanding, and Dremeling. But finally, that part was out of the way. I regret that a few pictures seem to have gone astray, bear with me.
After fitting, I glued the sandbag wall and the shell case pile into the base, leaving the row of ready shells for later because they fit neatly into place. I decided to try something new to me, Vallejo's 26.218 Dark Earth Stone Texture Paste, as a filler for the gaps around the pieces. It is pretty nifty, goes on with spatula or brush, is quite workable, and fully dry in 24 hours. It took several layers to hide the hard lines around the shell pile and to fill the gaps under the sandbag wall.
I then started painting sandbags, shells, piece-parts, and ground work -- there is no set sequence to this because I was feeling my way along. I am (slowly) weaning myself off enamels and I used this project to immerse myself in Vallejo. The only non-Vallejo paint I used was Model Master Brass, an enamel, for the shell cases.
I decided to simply "paint" the rest of the base with the same paste because it seemed to have a slightly rough texture like dirt/ground might. The Dark Earth paste had one drawback -- it looks like mud, which would be fine for the Western Front, except, as I noted, the base as supplied looks like pretty dry ground. To portray drier ground, I used 4-5 browns, all Model Air, and stippled them all around using a dry brush to build up the colors.
I made no effort to create wheel marks, footprints, worn paths, or anything else -- it's not very realistic in that regard.
Sand bags were done in a half-dozen different greens, Model Color and Model Air, and several washes. I wanted some subtle variety in colors. Same with the boxes, only I used different browns and washes.
The empty shell pile was a challenge because it needs to be brassy and there's a lot to paint, but also the insides need a black or smoke and the ends need similar markings as on the shells. Then there is the problem of washing deeply into the pile to create shadows and such. As with ready rounds, I found a heavy gray wash where shells touched helped with definition.
Next came all the detail parts and the row of ready ammo. I followed my references and made a stab at painting the rounds. I decided that most would be shrapnel (black), some HE (yellow), and the ones in the sandbag wall would be smoke (green). I made an effort to do marking bands, and to emulate markings on the bottom of the rounds, and caps on the nose, and all that - just assume I'm in my impressionist stage. I used gray washes for definition of individual shells.
The row of ready ammo fits right in.
And the details can be scattered about as desired. I used the dozen empty shell cases to extend the pile toward the right front corner to cover some of the blank space. I "glued" the boxes on by putting a heavy glob of the Dark Earth paste on the bottom and letting it ooze out to hide the uneven terrain underneath. When dry (next day), I touched it up with various browns just as I painted the ground earlier.
And that is it.
And now with the gun ….
I consider the right side to be the most interesting view, followed by the right rear and then right front. The sandbag wall pretty well kills the "all-around" viewing, which is unfortunate as all the modifications I made to the gun are on the left side.
This provides a good base for the 18-pdr Field Gun and, with a little extra effort and a gun crew, a nice vignette. To be more than that -- to provide more signs of activity such as foot prints and paths, to extend the scope such as to include a limber -- will require significant modifications of the kit resin.
At that point, depending on your skills and goals, doing the base from scratch may be easier. I believe GBS/Resicast is offering the detail pieces separately and that would cover sandbags, shell piles, etc.
Regardless, this is a low-cost but highly detailed option as a base for the 18-pdr. I caution all modelers that a lot of resin dust is generated.
Highly Recommended for experienced modelers.
I’d like to sincerely thank
for providing AMPS the review sample.
The Half Point
References: really just for ammunition color and markings and general "flavor".
1. British Artillery 1914-1919 Field Army Artillery, Dale Clarke, Osprey New Vanguard, 2004, ISBN 1-84176-688-7.
2. British Artillery Weapons and Ammunition 1914-1918, I.V. Hogg & L.F. Thurston, Ian Allan Ltd, 1972, SBN 7110 0381 5.
3. Handbook of the 18-PR. Q.F. Gun Land Service, HMSO, 1913 (updated to 1914).
4. Ordnance QF 18-pounder, Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordnance_QF_18-pounder.