About seven or eight years ago I decided that I wanted to build the layout of a generic German city in 1945 for my late war German and American forces.  At the time, that was a pretty big leap given the fact that I had no late war German or American forces.  In the intervening years I have painted about 2000 pieces of German and American late war troops and equipment.  I have also put together a layout for fighting in the bocage in 1944 which included a French village of about 35 buildings (none of which are in this gallery).  That layout was posted on my website about a year ago.  But throughout the years, the plan for the German city in 1945 has remained very much on my mind.  To that end I collected a large number of destroyed buildings as well as a few that were untouched by Allied bombing.  In the last three years I not only completed my late war men and equipment, but built, modified, and painted more than 60 structures for my city.  Although the work on this period was not constant, I devoted about one year of the last three to the German-city project, and when I finished my Medieval Gallery in late June of 2011, I jumped into putting the final touches together for “Germany 1945.”  We shot the photos yesterday, and I made my picture selections this afternoon.  I’m extremely happy with the outcome and hope you will enjoy them as well.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to wargamers that a large number of the structures used in this gallery are by JR Miniatures.  Their range of W.W. II ruins is extensive, and I bought a lot of them: the Reichstag, Casino, four factories, Stalingrad blocks, Arnhem ruins, St. Lo ruins and Normandy ruins.  In fact I bought multiples of the St. Lo and Normandy ruins: about 14 of those.   I did major modifications to the St. Lo and Normandy ruins because I felt they were too small as cast but perfect for conversion to the size I wanted.  Just as I modified some of the JR to be larger, I did modifications to some 20mm ruins by Hovels and Scenic Effects to give them a smaller appearance.  To my collection of ruins I added about 10 HO buildings that I felt had a European look.  I wanted my city to have some structures that had survived Allied bombing.  Most of the HO buildings I purchased off the recycle table at Arnie’s Trains.  They usually needed a lot of work (they were either broken or originally built by less-than-skilled model makers), but they offered the potential for the look I wanted and at very reasonable prices.  I did three practice layouts for this gallery in order to map out what the city would look like and figure out where my building collection left holes/gaps in the city layout that needed to be filled.  Where I found these gaps, I scratch built small ruins to fill the hole or added scratch built parks which offered the city a little color and interest value as well as defensive positions for my German forces.  Arnie’s was also my source for great HO iron fencing for my parks and large government building.  The manufacturer of that fencing is Mouse Models, and it is wonderful stuff.

During the month and a half to two months that preceded the photographing of the city, I devoted myself to the construction of gap fillers (mentioned above), bomb craters, shell craters, lamp posts, signs, an open sewer, and other  general debris.  The large bomb  craters are modification of craters I got from Stonehouse Miniatures.  I added Milliput and broken bricks from Pegasus.  Smaller craters and shell holes were often made by me using Milliput, my thumb or finger tip to form the crater, the brush end of an old tooth brush to texture the Milliput, small bricks from Pegasus, and whatever odds and ends I thought might look good on the streets of a bombed-out city now under attack on the ground.   I purchased the eastern front barricade from Flames of War.  I did some small modifications to it.  For example, I thought the doors were too short so I replaced them with HO doors I purchased at Arnie’s, and on one of the two barricades that come in the box, I shifted some of the pieces from one side to the other to give some variety.  Using Milliput and Pegasus bricks, I eased the slope of the barricade’s base so it would meet the table surface more gradually and be less obviously base-like.  I also bought a late 1960s HO VW Bug from Arnie’s recycle table for a dollar and rounded the front of the roof, cut off the turn signal lights on the front fenders, and used Green Putty to make the front and rear windows smaller and to make the divider for the rear window.  I hid everything else that looked modern under rubble, the Bug becoming part of my barricade.  I made numerous street obstacles and barricades from Evergreen Plastic, Milliput and Pegasus small bricks. (I put the bricks in a baggy and hit them gently with a hammer to give more variety in shape and size.)  I also blocked my streets with trams used as barricades.  Over several months, I was lucky to find six HO scale trams at the swap meet for a dollar each.  I put rubble around the bases of three of these using Milliput and Pegasus bricks, and they became street blockers.  I left three others in “running” condition to be left abandoned on their tracks.  As it turned out I used only two of the barricade trams and two of the abandoned trams.  But I have the other two just in case the need arises. 

Normally the ground cover for my galleries is either a tan or pea green indoor-outdoor carpet that I purchased years ago, but they would not do for this project.  I decided to go to my local hardware store and buy clear plastic rectangles (2’x4’x1/16”) that are used in kitchens and bathrooms to cover ceiling lighting.  One side is bumpy while the other is smooth.  I scored the smooth side to give it a textured look (I hoped) and then bought the cheapest spray primers and flat colors I could find at the hardware store.  I put a base coat of black over the entire area and sprayed gray, red-brown, and bronze-tan randomly over the entire surface of the black.  I’m pretty happy with the way it came out.  

My German and American soldiers are by Command Decision, Flames of War, Peter Pig and Preiser.  My military vehicles are by Command Decision, Flames of War, Peter Pig, QRF, Quality Castings, Preiser, Ricko, Rocco, and Busch.  I wanted to do a couple of unique things in this gallery, and so I did something I seldom do which is make a few pieces (men and equipment) specifically for this gallery as opposed to just using what is available in my general collection for the period.  The two special projects I was particularly excited about undertaking were a German field kitchen using Preiser figures, and a German field repair unit using whatever I could put together.  I’m very happy with the Preiser field kitchen: great cooking unit, and very interesting variety of figures.  The field repair unit took some time to bring together since, to my knowledge, no one actually makes one for either 15mm or HO.  I used a Command Decision Opel Maultier, cut one side out of the rear area, and added a piece of plastic to serve as the new side in the down position.  I found some HO gas station/garage pieces on Arnie’s recycle table to give me a workbench and some interesting and appropriate equipment for the unit, and got lucky in finding the perfect portable crane (again on the recycle table at Arnie’s).  I also found an engine on the recycle table as part of one of the kits by Jordan Products’ Highway Miniatures line.  I had a Stug III that was missing a part or two.  I covered the areas where the parts were missing with Kleenex stiffened with clear enamel to give the appearance of canvas (I hope), and the Stug became my vehicle under repair.  I didn’t attach it permanently to the base in case I find something better or need to repair another vehicle in the future.  The German soldiers who are surrendering are Preiser as are the German general and staff officers walking to the staff car marked with the division commander’s pennant.  I think that car is by Busch, but I’m not sure.  

The gallery opens with a set of pictures of staff cars leaving the city.  I have entitled these pictures “Exit the Elite.”  I included them simply because I wanted to showcase some very expensive and great looking staff cars I purchased at Arnie’s.  Those cars include a 1933 Horch Pullman and a 1938 Horch 930V, both by Ricko and a Mercedes 170V by Busch (in camo).  The Reichsbahn truck and trailer are Roco. The field police directing traffic are by Preiser.

The last picture in this gallery is a photo of the whole layout.  I thought it would offer an interesting insight into the viewing experience.  The twelve pictures that precede that photo are of the city with the soldiers and equipment removed.  I did that because I believe some of you might be interested in pictures that focus on the city rather than the soldiers – something for everyone.

This was far from the largest project I have undertaken in terms of figures, but it is by far the most complex layout I have ever done.  The board is 5’x7’ and held nearly sixty buildings and dozens of pieces of rubble/craters and defensive positions.  I believe I used four boxes of Milliput (yellow gray) on this project and huge amounts of Evergreen and Plastruct Plastic.  Set-up for the photo shoot began at 7:30 am and take-down wasn’t finished until after 3 pm.  Because the day we scheduled for photographing the gallery proved to be very sunny and very hot, we shot the pictures in the garage with the doors open so we would still have the benefit of natural sunlight without the glare of the direct rays.  I think that worked out well.  It certainly attracted visitors from the neighborhood including the mailman.  As always the credit for the photography goes to my daughter.  I give her very little direction as to what pictures to take or how to take them.  If there is something unique like the field mess and field repair unit, I point those out to her, but short of that, I leave it to her eye to photograph what I have put on the board.  I think it is an arrangement that works out well.  As always, I hope you enjoy this gallery.  Putting this one together has been a challenging and exciting experience for me.

Germany 1945 Gallery