I am planning a diorama where Hans Ulrich Rudel in his Stuka just has blown up a Russian tank. He flies so low that he is flying through the explosion
and touches the top of a nearby tree. This is not an entirely unknown maneuver of a “Kanonenvoegel” on the Eastern Front. These machines had to fly low.
The plan of the diorama
Each of the two aircraft cannons hold only six grenades and every shot had to count. Rudel managed once to destroy six Russian tanks in one raid. It was not unusual that he flew ten or fifteen raids per day.
His record was 17 destroyed Russian tanks in a day. Sometimes the Stukas landed with scorched fuselages with a lot of splinters after flying through exploding tanks. Just as often, they came home with branches stuck in the Under carriage and wings. Such events were called “a pilot’s birthday” by the German pilots. I also want to have some Russian soldiers in the diorama. They will fire at the Stuka with everything they have as the aircraft passes over them.
The first thing to do is find a suitable base for the diorama. A plate from an old kitchen drawer (40 x 50cm) will do nicely. A little joint compound helps me forming the landscape. A couple of brass tubes drilled down and glued to the baseplate are good starting points for the trees. I also make a number of tank tracks in the wet filler (it is always difficult
to make these tracks later) I will install an electric motor in the Stuka so the propeller can spin.
I thought first to put the electrical cables through the brass tube, but the rod that holds the plane is going in there, so I have to place the wires up along the trunk. The wires go through the bottom of the base.
The next task is to make the brass tubes become trees. The inside of an ordinary lamp cord is ideal for making a tree. By twisting the thin brass wires and split them up into smaller “branches” can I make the tree exactly the way I want. It is advisable to fasten the brass threads with CA glue when they are laid on the stem. The brass tubes are bent slightly to make trees more realistic.
Finally, I use Elmer’s Clear Glue, to which I have added sawdust, on the tree trunks. In this way the trunks will be roughly like a real tree with bark. Then, the trees need to be painted. The best way to add color to all the little brass threads that make up the branches, is to use an airbrush.
Then there is the ground
It should be part sand, soil and mud where tanks have run. I paint soil color directly on the filler. In addition, i sprinkle a little sand to create a bit more “life” into the ground. Using artificial grass from Woodland Scenics I create grass and bushes around the trees. This is a battlefield, so I also make a couple carters after grenades or bombs, and place some burnt and bent parts around to illustrate exploded vehicles. For longer grass, I cut some of the bristles from a paintbrush and paste the “straws” on the ground.
It’s time for the Stuka
To make the diorama as realistic as possible I will place an electric motor in the Stuka so the propeller can run. I plan to attach the Stuka I to the treetop so it looks like it flies very low. I have decided to make the diorama in 1:48 scale.
To find a model of the Stuka in 1:48 is not difficult. I chose to use the Hasegawa Ju78G-2. It is not only the correct model, but it also has the correct decals to create a good
replica of Rudel’s “Kanonenvoegel». The first to be made is the cockpit, where both Hans Ulrich Rudel and his gunner are to be placed. The cockpit is painted in a dark gray
color (RLM 66). The electric motor (from Airfix) is fitted in the nose
It requires some changes in the kit to adapt the engine, but finally it’s glued on with CA-glue. To attach the plane to the tree, I am using a brass rod that fits into the brass tube that has been used as a tree. Thus, I can stick
the plane into the top of the tree.
The brass rod is glued firmly to the inside of the plane. The wires from the electric motor are moved backwards and will become part of the branches. Having glued the wings and ailerons and put together both cannons and
wheels, the plane begins to take shape.. A part the Stuka legacy is the infamous sirens which was used during dive bombing. The sirens were driven by propeller attached to the wheels.
The G model, however, was no dive-bomber and needed neither siren or air brakes. The sirens had therefore to be removed. After finished the wheels and cannons, the model ready for priming. After each layer of paint, I apply a coat of Johnson Future. This makes it easier to work with the different colors. Before the camouflage is painted, I trace the all panel lines (preshading) with black paint. The aim is that these lines should be visible through the camouflage paint if it is not put on too thick. Then camouflage is laid on with airbrush
The Stuka was painted with so-called splinter camouflage with dark green (RLM 70) and gray-green (RLM 71), while the underside was painted light blue (RLM 65). Wingtips and a band on the tail were painted yellow. The yellow sections on the wings made it easier for the German anti-aircraft crews to recognize their own aircraft. The next step is decals. To prevent silvering, I applied Future to the whole aircraft before decals. I use Micro SOL when I put the decals on and Micro Sol when decals are dry. Then a new coat of Future before the model is covered in a semi-gloss finish. Now the plane ready for weathering, ie making the Stuka so tired, dusty, dirty and dented as it was in reality. The antenna wire is an elastic strap attached with CA-glue.
The Russian tank
I have choosen a KV-1 which was a heavy Russian tank at 44 tons and with a crew of 4-5. The model I am building is from Tamyia (1/48). The model is straightforward to put together, and that is good because I am going to blow it to pieces. It will be hit armorpiercing shells in the tank’s weak point: The engine compartment behind the tower.
This is where Rudel always try to hit because the armor thickness is at its minimum here. If possible, Rudel always attacked the tanks from the rear. In the diorama, the tank ammunition explodes after been hit by the Stuka and the tower is thrown away.
The inner hull of the model is made of metal, which is good because I want to mount a 3W 220V LED light inside the tank. This will impose as explosion light. I could have chosen a low power LED, but I want a strong light as possible and I think that a 3W is what I need.
The LED lamp is connected directly to the 220V mains and even if the LED light is not particularly hot, the circuits on the LED board produces heat. I therefore drill a series of
holes in the bottom of the tank’s metal case to obtain a better cooling.
The tower will be blown away, which means the hot air can escape more easily. However, it is important that the LED light is not on for too long (preferably no more than a minute at a time).
The wires are led out through the bottom of the tank and through the diorama base. Just to be sure, I also drill a number of holes in the board under the tank to increase the air flow.
To build the explosion, I create a skeleton of metal mesh. I then drill holes in the top of the tank so I can fasten the wires to the tank. I then take pure cotton and put in the metal mesh while I make sure that there are a large cavity as possible inside the “explosion”.
This is both for the light effect, but also for hot air to escape. And then it’s time for the airbrush. First yellow, then a little red and finally a dash of black on the cotton. And suddenly, the whole turns into an explosive cloud. The lower tank frame is screwed into the diorama board and the LED is tested. The upper part of the tank is loose so it can easily be removed if I have to arrange something with LED light, or if it gets too hot I’d like to have some Russian soldiers in the diorama to literally give it some life.
Of course the soldiers use all their weapons against the Stuka when it passes over.
A few blasted tree trunks and a couple of dead soldiers are also included. The diorama happened in the fall of 1944 and the trees have greenyellow autumn leaves.
Much of the leaves are however blown away by explosions nearby. I attach leaves by spraying the trees with hairspray and then sprinkle some Woodland Scenics “grass” over the trees. This adheres to the hairspray and gives an illusion of leaves. Then I glued the tank tower on to the wires inside the cotton. It will now look like it blasted away from the tank. The text of the tower means
“fatherland”. The tank is basically painted green and then applied dents and “weathered” with sand, soil, dirt and rust as it probably was in reality. I have installed two power switches, one for the Stuka and one for the tank. The current to the electric motor in the Stuka is 1.5V from a couple AA batteries.
The LED is connected to 220V. I’ve put a dimmer on LED light so I can reduce the brightness (and heat) if desired. I fixed blocks of wood in each corner under the base so I can place the wires and batteries in a safe manner.
The Stuka in the treetop
It was easy to place the Stuka at the top of the tree. The brass rod from the a/c went nicely into the brass tube in the tree and a little glue sealed everything in place. The wires from the engine were connected to the wires coming out of the tree and everything was twisted like branches. A few leafs was added to make it all look part of the tree. And then the best of it all: Pressing the switch
and the Stuka was “flying”. I have given the Stuka some dents after scratches after collision with trees. It is important to remember that Stuka was a large and robust machine that could take a lot of beating without hitting the ground. It was almost 11m long, had a 1.300hk engine
and weighed 17 tons.
For the diorama to be as realistic and natural as possible it needs a background to the models. I have therefore cut a cardboard plate and painted a war scenario that I think fits the diorama.
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By Bjørn Jacobsen
Translated by George Roumbos