Defense of Lodz
by Walter Sullivan
The diorama depicted here is a representation of a scene that might have occurred in Poland in those dark days of the first week of September 1939. Polish defensive strategy was based on a series of fortified towns with defenses in depth. This is a strategy begun in the Crimean War, developed in the American Civil War, perfected in the Great War, shattered in the Second World War, and laid to rest in Viet Nam (we called it a firebase). I was inspired by the Osprey Men-at-Arms series #117 The Polish Army 1939-45.
The base is built on a picture frame from Michael’s with thin sheet plywood fitted into the picture area. The sides and rear were Bass wood strips cut at the front for the contour. This made a series of boxes into which I placed small wads of newspaper. The newspaper wads and the outside sheet basswood was covered with Woodland Scenics pre-coated plaster mat cut into 2 1/2 inch strips. Wet and laid over the base according to their prescribed method. I’ll tell you don’t be intimidated by the Woodland Scenics system because it really is simple if you just trust the directions. This was my very first attempt at using their system and you can see the results. Not bad for a first try. When dry, I used the Woodland Scenic coloring kit to color the base, which looks like real mud. Woodland Scenics glue in a spray bottle was used to attach a mixture of their turf and lichen products.
Having covered the base for the most part, we come to the inside of the artillery position where things really get interesting. The idea came from many such sights I have seen as a Civil War reenactor. Construction methods haven’t changed much from that time. All of the logs and posts are real wood. I had to trim our Crepe Myrtle tree last year and dig up a dead Azalea plant. One look at the size, contour and straightness of those branches and immediately recognized their scale appearance. I set about cutting the heavier twigs for the side logs and vertical posts. I used white glue to glue the side logs to the Bass wood sheets and then set the vertical posts. The narrow poles in the corner will hold up a scale camouflage net not yet fitted. This completes the construction of the base.
The 75mm Gun:
The artillery piece is the Polish 75mm, a license built copy of the WWI French 75 by RPM. The kit is straight out of the box and was of sufficient detail for the process. It’s a nice kit. I painted it with Tamiya olive green and weathered it with pastel chalk to give it that “used” appearance. A touch of pencil lead here and there and it’s done. Oh yes I almost forgot, when I fixed it to the base I punched a hole to slip the spade on the gun trail into so it would sit right.
The figures are all modified Tamiya figures, most from the artillery set. In 1939 Poland adopted a new helmet. These were issued to infantry units only. Other branches artillery and cavalry continued to use the Adrian pattern helmet . The exception to this rule was the mechanized infantry, which used the German model m1916 pattern sthalhelm. The first thing I did was to remove the heads on all of the figures except the officer pointing and the bear headed officer giving last minute instructions to his men. I then used a Dremmel tool to grind down the inside of the collar where the head had been. Amazingly it also made it easier to detail the collars of the figures green for artillery and dark blue for the infantry with appropriate silver zigzag on the border.
Polish uniforms were a greenish shade of khaki colored wool. I used Tamiya khaki highlighted with green to depict this. Puttees were made by wrapping the legs with narrow strips of masking tape and painted khaki. Shoes and boots were black. I added the distinctive shoulder boards cut from strips of business card and painted. The field packs were scratch built from bass strip covered with Kleenex tissue soaked in white glue. Blanket rolls were made by rolling strips of Kleenex soaked in white glue, then draped over the packs with masking tape strips for the attachment straps. The rest of the equipment was of German origin, which was used by Poland. The equipment straps were made from masking tape strips and painted. Infantry weapons are of interest.
Two of the infantrymen carry Mauser K98 rifles, standard issue in the Polish army. One figure carries a Browning BAR also used by Poland. He has scratch built pouches for extra magazines. The other infantryman carries a scratch built Manlicher hunting rifleused as a sniper rifle. The Polish Army found itself short of such weapons and purchased a number of large caliber hunting rifles from Manlicher of Austria. The infantry officer carries a scratch built Blyskawica sub machinegun, called the scorpion. I began with a Dragon Sten mk5 from their allied weapons set. I removed the stock and replaced it with one from a mk3. Next the magazine was placed in the bottom as opposed to the side for the Sten. Derived from the Sten, it is said to have had all of the problems of the Sten with none of the virtues. The heads on the infantry figures are resin castings from Hornet Figures kit HT HWH01 Polish heads 1939 helmets.
The artillery figures heads were replaced with a mix of HT HFH01 French heads with WWI helmets and HT HFH01 French heads with WW2 helmets also by Hornet. These were obtained from the VLS website. The artillery officer pointing is wearing a czapla made from a German officer’s peaked cap from the spares box filed down with a brim of business card. All of the artillerymen were finished in the same manner as the infantry except for the green collar of the artillery. Each was posed in a functioning position about the piece. As a final touch, Bandai 1/48th scale 88mm spent shell casings and wicker ammo boxes were scattered in the position to represent an on-going preliminary bombardment fire mission.
My goal was to tell the story of these heroic men desperately defending their homeland in the first days of the Second World War in Europe. Unfortunately a scene destined to be repeated countless times across the length and breadth of Europe.
Photos by Phil Novak