Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Let Us All Rise Up and Protect the Motherland!"

"All hail the glorious Soviet Union, and join in the Crusade against the Fascist Hitlerite horde, blah blah blah..."

I have always had a fascination for the Soviet army in WWII (or the Great Patriotic War, as it is known in Russia) ever since watching the "Stalingrad" episode on the old 1960's
World At War TV series when I was a kid. Not only that, but one of the first wargames I remember seeing was an Eastern Front WWII game at a cousin's house in Vancouver, where he had a huge collection of what I now realize would have been Roco Minitanks. I was no more than nine at the time, and it must have made an impression- I've been hooked on wargaming & military history ever since.

Back in the 1970's when I started collecting, the only scale then available for gaming WWII was 1/76 or HO/OO scale. Plastic figures and models by
Airfix and Fujimi.

Back then the Soviets were a real challenge to collect, though. Over the years just about every German vehicle that ever saw the light of day- or so much as a blueprint- seemed to get the attention of the model kit producers. From uber-tank prototypes, all the way down to the lowliest field kitchen and bicycles, just about every German machine on wheels was reproduced in just about every scale out there.

Who DID win the war anyway?

With the Soviets it was "make do with what you could get". Some
Airfix and Esci infantry, a few models of T-34's, a KV-1 and KV-2 by Fujimi, and that was about it. No trucks, guns or any other tanks available.
The western allies did somewhat better- at least they had trucks.

If I am good at plastic modelling and converting, it is because I had to be! Airfix Magazine used to have some good articles on scratch building and converting- projects that my teenage hands really didn't have the skill or patience for.

I could never understand why the lack of interest in a nation that had taken part- successfully- in such a titanic struggle, but I suppose Cold War sensibilities, along with the over-secretiveness on the part of the (then) Soviet Union itself, both played their part.

Anyway, things have changed for the better. In the last ten years or so there has been an explosion in the number of models available in all scales for the
RKKA- or the People's Red Army. Recently, the success of the Flames of War miniature and rules has led to a lot of interest in 15mm scale gaming, but with having so much over the years invested in 1/76 and 20mm scale miniatures, I am not about to change course now!

My collection is eclectic, with a mix of figures from a number of manufacturers, in metal, resin and plastic. Infantry are
SHQ, Platoon 20, Britannia, FAA, and Dixon. More recently I have been picking up some stuff by Fantassin. While there are some differences in style and sculpting, 20mm is pretty forgiving when it comes to mixing manufacturers, and they look good together- a consistent paint job ties them all together quite nicely.

are from Fujimi, Skytrex, and SHQ. Being in Japan has it's benefits- I was able to get access at a reasonable price to all those Fujimi kits, and could negotiate for an entire brigade of T-35-85's for less than 500 yen a kit at a hobby shop here, and later was able to special-order a regiment of IS-2m's!

So over the years, my Red Army collection has been able to grow in strength- and lethality!- as did the original in those brutal years from 1941 to 1945.

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