Sunday, 13 September 2015

British 5.5" medium artillery battery

I have been working on this for the last couple of weeks and ended up doing two batteries as I decided whether to use the Arrowhead or Pithead model for the gun. I got the Arrowhead model when it first came out, or four of them anyway, but had not got round to starting them. Around Easter 2015 Pithead brought out the 5.5 inch gun and as I mainly use their artillery I got a full battery of eight. I normally get different makes to try out which model I prefer if the options are not clear cut and then sell off the one I decide not to go with - don't normally do a whole unit when deciding though!

I have decided to show the finished unit first  - the version I am keeping - this has the Arrowhead model. Then after that I will discuss and compare the two makes later in the post as well as detailed tutorial for making the Arrowhead gun.

Here is the finished battery. Two troops of 4 guns each with Matador trucks, 15 cwt trucks and command and observer stands.

Matador trucks are Pithead, another recent release. The cab and rear are resin and the chassis and wheels are metal - Pithead are mostly all metal but the odd truck is resin or part resin.

First troop command with 15 cwt truck. Truck is Pithead and command figures are Arrowhead - I like the guy with the hat which I presume is from a Scottish regiment, but British officers seemed to keep bits of equipment they liked when moving regiments so just adds some nice variety.

Other command.

Observer stand which is a Pendraken radio operator and an Arrowhead infantry man. The Bren Carrier FOO is a Pithead model.

The other observer team.

Close up of a gun, the gun is Arrowhead and crew are Pendraken. The stack of shells came from a Pithead model and the crates are Perfect Six (see my review).

The battery command. Figures are Arrowhead although the staff team are earlier Wargames South figures. Click on the photos to see an enlarged view and you can then see the improvement in the faces in later Wargames South/ Arrowhead figures. I also like the commander in the duffel coat.

Comparing the Arrowhead and Pithead models

The unmade models as they arrive. The Pithead version has three pieces - a gun barrel, the wheels and trail together, and the  hydro-pneumatic recoil system. The Arrow head version has eleven pieces.

A closer view of the multi-part Arrowhead kit. Separate trail and the spade pieces are separate too, individual wheels with a central piece for it all to fit in, a gun mount with two individual hydro-pneumatic recoil system  pieces and the barrel.

Making the Pithead version is very straightforward, just a bit of trimming of cast lines and filing so the piece with the hydro-pneumatic recoil system can fit flush on the front.

Arrowhead have next to no or very light cast lines so cleaning up is easy. Making it is something more of a chore although gets easier when you have a system - my first one involved some swearing until I worked out the best approach. So what I did was:

  • glue the spade pieces on to each of the trails; 
  • Glue one wheel on to the central axle piece and stand with the wheel flat on the table;
  • put the barrel in the mounting (not glued - it slots in rather than having to manoeuvre rods into holes which some artillery models do PS don't like this as easy to damage, so pleased about the slot approach here);
  • take one of the hydro-pneumatic recoil units - I always did the left one but don't think it matters - and put some super glue on the bottom and on the little rod half way up on the side that goes into the gun. The barrel can only go in one position so put the rod into the hole in the barrel and lower the barrel so the bottom of the hydro-pneumatic recoil sits on the piece extending out of the central axle piece. Take care to get the right one on the right side - a bit sticks out at the height of the little rod and that needs to point forward;
  • glue the other wheel on the axle;
  • if you are doing more than one gun a good point to clean the pieces up for the next one while the glue sets (I would not recommend doing a load at once as it is fiddly and best to give your full attention);
  • glue the trails on to the axle unit with the angle you want - partly look and feel but partly what base sizes you are using;
  • do the second hydro-pneumatic recoil in a similar way to the first except the barrel is already in position - you can bend the little tabs coming out of the axle unit to make sure both hydro-pneumatic recoil units sit properly;
  • I then put some small drops of super glue where the barrel slotted into the mounting to keep it all in position;
  • glue the mounting complete with gun and hydro-pneumatic recoil units to the axle piece (there is a hole that slots over a bump on the axle unit.
The above all worked nice and smoothly except for a couple of times where I ended up with the hydro-pneumatic recoil piece super glued to my finger! The first one was not so systematic and as I mentioned above accompanied by a fair amount of cursing. But if you do it all in a sensible way it is not difficult. After doing the first one though I decided I was not going through that effort and then sell off the Arrowhead ones so I got 4 more to do a full battery.

Made and painted guns for both makes below to show how they compare. Arrowhead make detailed models for collectors rather than wargamers so it is not surprising it is a much more finely detailed model. From the rear they don't look much different, more so from the side or front. One observation is that the trails for the Pithead gun look slightly too short; otherwise it is a nice model but just not as detailed.

A better comparison is when they are based up for gaming. The differences are far less obvious when based up with crew. Both look a very nice wargames unit.

All 16 guns with Pithead at the back and Arrowhead at the front - gives an idea about how full units look on the table (click on photos to enlarge).


So I went with the Arrowhead models. Yes they are nicely detailed but to be honest if I had bought a battery of Pithead models then saw a picture of the Arrowhead model I would not have been tempted to get it - I would be perfectly satisfied with the Pithead version. However, having to make a minimum of 4 Arrowhead models I was always going to keep them having put in the effort (I have other Arrowhead artillery and none are quite so fiddly to make even though they all have many parts).

The Pithead model costs £2.80 and comes with crew - I use Pendraken crew for all my guns but this is a value for money point so you can forget my particular foibles (to note I use Pendraken as I can get as many figures as I want of any type plus they have plenty of creases in the uniform casting which suits my painting style better than the smoother Pithead figures, which do have a nice range of poses by the way).

The Arrowhead model costs £3.95 with no crew.

So really it is down to individual choice as both will give you a nice wargames unit. If value for money is important then Pithead is definitely the way to go. If you want a good representation of the gun then Pithead is fine but if you want super detail and are happy with the extra cost (about double when taking into account crew) as well as the effort needed to make then Arrowhead is the way to go.

For an easy way to see all my WW2 posts check out the WW2 Summary page.

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