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  1. Hummel Early Production (BT-032) 15cm s.FH 18/1 Hummel Sd.Kfz.165 1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys Hummel means Bumblebee in German, although why is anyone’s guess, and it seems Hitler wasn’t keen on it either, as he ordered the name dropped in 1944, as he felt it was inappropriate for a fighting vehicle. For once he was right, but I like the name. It was based on a Geschützwagen III/IV chassis, removing any turret or casemate and mounting a 15 cm sFH 18/1 L/30 howitzer in an open-topped splinter-shield that protected the crew from small-arms fire whilst operating their weapon. The chassis combined the steering and driving systems of a Panzer III with the running gear of a Panzer IV, moving the engine to the centre front to accommodate the gun, and crew in the rear, giving it a very different look from its progenitors. Around 700 were built in total, some of which were created as convertible munition carriers that could ferry additional stores to the vehicles in the field, as the Hummel was always short of ammunition due its comparatively small size, and the big gun that it carried. The conversion could be done in the field, removing the gun and plating over the opening at the front with a piece of 10mm armour to keep the crew safe. The vehicle would then be racked out to maximise carriage of fresh rounds to their companions, with just one Munitionsträger Hummel allocated to service a battery. The reason behind creating numerous self-propelled guns in the early war was to accompany the invading forces of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Soviet Russia in 1941. Transporting artillery, plus extended set-up and knock-down periods would slow their progress into Soviet territory, making Blitzkrieg a lightning war in name only. They served at the pivotal Battle of Kursk, and after the change of fortunes of Nazi forces, many were later seen under new ownership with the Soviet star replacing the Balkenkreuz. After the war, some remaining vehicles were taken into service by other nations, some in Eastern Europe using them into the early 50s, with others finding their way into Syrian hands via the French in their fight against the nascent Israeli nation. The Kit This is a new tooling from Border, who seem to be filling any the holes in their repertoire just as fast as they can. This kit arrives in a satin-finished top-opening box, and inside are thirteen sprues in grey styrene plus the lower hull, a clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass parts, a turned aluminium barrel, plus two brass sleeves for the compensators, which are noted as being copper, probably due to an issue with translation. A small decal sheet and the instruction booklet complete the package, the latter printed on glossy paper with spot colour throughout, and colour profiles of the markings options on the rear pages. Detail is everything we expect from Border Model’s output, with link-and-length tracks, the gun structure and crew compartment, augmented by the PE parts that are included, and of course the turned metal barrel, saving any seam-sanding and ensuring the barrel is properly cylindrical, with rifling grooves visible near the muzzle. Construction begins with the lower hull, fitting the various suspension components, plus the final drive housings to the sides, with the idler axles to the rear on the very corners of the vehicle. The drive-sprockets and spoked road wheels are made in pairs, plus eight bogies that each have two pairs of wheels attached, handed for each side of the tank. Four return rollers are mounted on each side, and once the glue has fully cured, the tracks can be assembled around the drive train. The long runs at the top and bottom are moulded as single lengths, with short diagonal lengths joined to them by individual links, which should achieve the correct sag to the top run, as well as the faceted look of the highly curved sections. This is carried out on both sides, and oddly, the accessories in this boxing as shown being built now, in the form of two buckets with PE handles, two pairs of spare road wheels without tyres, a pair of jerry cans with separate triple handles and filler cap, and finally a length of ten track links for stowage around the vehicle as spares or appliqué armour. Two more pairs of road wheels shod with rubber tyres are put together with a curved carrier, and are glued to the rear bulkhead along with a Notek convoy light and bracket, adding armoured webs to the edges, and towing hooks beneath them. Exhausts are fitted under the sponsons with an armoured exit bend, running backwards to the rear of the vehicle. Flipping the model over, the front sponsons with tread-plating are slotted into the hull sides, drilling two holes in the right part, then installing the crew compartment floor in the rear of the hull, which also has tread-plate moulded-in, plus other mounting points for the equipment to come. The sides are strengthened by adding a pair of beams with brackets glued into them during installation, but without gluing the beams in at this stage. Two large triangular supports are slotted into place on the sponson sides to the edges of the crew compartment, with additional end parts, a PE corner stiffener inside the cab, and a towing point under the rear of the bulkhead. The gun platform is above and behind the driver’s position, and is moulded into the deck plate, fitting lifting-eyes, blocks, spare ammo cans, and other small parts to it as it is lowered into position in the centre of the vehicle, with two large armoured louvres to the sides. The glacis plate is a long, sloped panel with the driver’s hatch and vision panel, both of which are separate parts, and are joined by another identical circular hatch for the co-driver, along with vision ports and small parts that include a bullet-splash guard for the driver’s hatch. The panel is then fixed in place, hiding away the last major portion of the visible lower hull interior, and another area to the rear that is filled with a pair of shell boxes, made from a four-part base that has seven shells inserted along with stabilising brackets, then the optional two-part lid. As these two are put into the rear of the cabin, a wheel jack is made from six parts plus two tie-down brackets, and a headlamp assembly for each sponson, jack block, PE drip-catcher strip above the co-driver’s hatch, and a bracket under the lower glacis that can accept the spare track links if you wish. A deflector strip is pinned to the deck behind the forward crew as the first part of the superstructure. The 15cm howitzer is a large gun, and it is begun by affixing the two-part breech around the aft end of the turned metal barrel, adding the breech block, lever, and other detail parts, followed by the sled and the support, which forms a long slender open-topped box with a two-part end that is clamped between the two halves of the stanchions that support the top recuperator tube, making up a central recoil mechanism on a square plate, and two supports for the front splinter shield, bringing the assemblies together under and to the sides of the barrel, then fitting the tube to the top on both sides of the stanchion. The barrel is then slipped into position on the support, building two balancing pistons using styrene parts and the brass tubes that are pre-cut for use. Additional sighting and elevation gear is fitted over the next few steps, using PE parts where appropriate, and once complete, the curved splinter-shield is slotted into position on its supports before it is mounted on the pivot-point, with a travel-lock frame made from nine parts to hold the barrel in position, or you could lay it on the deck unused if you prefer. So far, the crew don’t have much protection, but this is soon rectified by the addition of the fixed front section of the splinter-shield, which has PE channels mounted inside after adding four latches along their length. The shields are slotted into the side of the hull, and the two side walls are prepared by installing barrel cleaning gear, plus additional stiffening braces on one side, stowage boxes with stiffening lines moulded-in, and a triangular support with a fire-extinguisher to the other. The left side has a choice of a full styrene shovel, or a shovel with PE tie-downs on the exterior, both glued into position on the sides of the vehicle, joined by the rear that has twin access doors in the centre, a set of stakes strapped across the bottom, and a trio of MP40s stowed next to triangular supports on either side of the doors. The last stage involves making up another ammunition storage box, which has ten charges and a back-plate fitted, adding extra details to the front and top, including a PE surround to a small box on top, which is glued onto the right sponson inside the fighting compartment under a small triangular stiffening plate between the side and rear. Markings There are three decal options on the tiny sheet, all wearing a base coat of Dunkelgelb with green or green and red-brown camouflage over it. From the box you can build one of the following, about which we know very little: The decals are printed anonymously, and are suitable for purpose with good register between the blacks and whites. Conclusion The Hummel doesn’t perhaps get the attention it deserves, but this kit gives a well-detailed rendition that would look good in your stash or better yet on your display shelves. Highly recommended. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
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