撃ちてし止まむ! Malaya 1942 (Type 95 Ha Go) Diorama

 Have you ever had one of those ideas that pop into your head and won’t go away?  That happened to me back in 2007.  I was in Iraq out on a mission where it was our responsibility to interdict enemy infiltration routes along some irrigation canals. 
An Iraqi irrigation canal.

To read it now, this it sounds like it was adventurous and exhilarating.  Trust me though; it was mostly dirty, sweaty and boring.  Anyway, at the particular time of year we were there most of the canals in the area were dry and were essentially empty trenches out in the farmland.  A lot of them were fairly deep and from time to time we used them to change location out of sight of locals who would have reported our presence to the people upon whom we were trying to sneak up (i.e. the bad guys). 
Moving in and around Iraqi irrigation canals.

One day as I sat in the bottom of one of these canals as I looked up several of our guys jumped over the trench from one side to another.  Hmmm… “Now that would make a cool diorama.” I thought; troops (and maybe a vehicle) crossing over a trench with enemy troops still down inside a position that was being overrun.  I took out the little green notebook that I always carried with me and jotted down a sketch for future reference.
The original sketch done on my notebook in an irrigation ditch in Iraq.  It smelled of feces and there were flies everywhere.
Fast forward a few years and I am finally getting around to trying the idea out.  As I searched my stash of kits and figures for suitable subjects the scene eventually took shape in the form of Imperial Japanese soldiers overrunning a British trench in Malaya or some similar location early in the war when things weren’t going all that well for the Allies.

This still from a Japanese newsreel helped me firm up the trench idea.
This wartime poster was another inspiration for the diorama, at least the title - 撃ちてし止まむ!(Shoot and don't stop!)
The Figures
This was an ambitious undertaking for me since I’m not what one would call and “expert” figure painter.  The figures are the real focus of the scene so this diorama was going to require more than just a simple tank commander sticking his head halfway out of a tank cupola like I normally do.

I was going to need at least three or four charging Japanese soldiers.  I found just what I needed in the Master Box “Bloody Atoll” figure series.   

The figures are already in fairly aggressive poses and required only slight modifications to get them looking just the way I needed.

Figures tend to look most convincing when they are at the extremes of ranges of motion.  They rarely come out of the box this way so sometimes a little cutting and repositioning of the limbs is necessary to put them in a convincing pose.  It helps to have live examples to reference when performing corrective surgery to the stock pose. 

I took the figure which out of the box was simply standing with a very wide fighting stance and by extending his leg and bending his knees was able to make look like he was landing after a big jump.


also used one kneeling figure from the very, very, very, very, very old Tamiya Japanese Army Infantry set.  For all its age this is actually one of the better sets of Japanese soldiers.  The detail is not on the same level as the newer figure sets but the poses are very natural looking and convincing.
The British soldier abandoning his untenable position was a gift from heaven.  The attacking Bren machine gunner in the Master Box “British Infantry in action” set looks just as convincing running away as he does attacking.  Aside from taking the weapon out of his hand I didn’t have to alter him one bit.

I painted the figures with a combination of Valejo acrylics and oils.  The final step in painting the figures was to blend them into the base weathering with pastels.

The straps are made from sheet lead and the flag is a sheet of Apoxie Sculpt rolled very thin and trimmed to size. 

I used a decal for the flag from Kit number 1 in the Master Box Imperial Japanese Marines figure set.  I rolled out a ball of Apoxie Sculpt putty paper thin and trimmed it to the proper size for the flag.  Once it was dry I set the flag decal in place and slathered it with Micro Sol.  The flag decal was very thick and brittle.  I actually had to use super thin cyano glue to get it to finally adhere to the Apoxie Sculpt at one of the corners where it stubbornly kept curling up.  Once done though I think it adds a nice splash of color to the scene.

The Tank
I chose the Fine Molds Type 95 Ha Go for several reasons.  First, it was Japanese and appropriate for the scene.  Second, I had one in my stash already and it’s a pretty good kit.  It builds up nicely right out of the box with minimal fuss.  Third, since my shelf space is limited I wanted to keep the footprint of the diorama small.  The Type 95 will literally fit in the palm of one’s hand so it filled that bill.  

Since I was already intending to spend a lot of time and effort on the rest of the scene, I intended to build this kit right out of the box.  The Fine Molds Type 95 is a fairly old kit (it was first issued in the 1990’s) and isn’t without problems but is still a fine kit.  This version comes with a small photo etch fret and some nice white metal pieces as well.  The only problem is the tracks.  They are the rubber band type and which detracts considerably from the kit when it’s all put together.  I opted for a set of Model Kasten individual link tracks which cost more than the model itself, but were well worth the price.  They are able to show the proper track sag and they have excellent detail.

It went together with only a few fit issues, the most prominent being where the fenders meet the final drive housing in the front.  This was fixed with some sheet styrene with minimal fuss.

The housing on the 37mm main gun barrel was also a bit of a problem.  It had some fit issues and sink marks which required a general rebuild.  After fixing this some rivets needed to be replaced using a sub-micro punch and die set.

I used custom mixed colors on this project.  Japanese tanks during this time period and theater were usually painted with a combination of three colors; 枯草色 (karekusairo) or Parched Grass (a greenish khaki), 草色 (kusairo) or Grass Green (a medium green) and 土地色 (tochiiro) or Earth (a medium somewhat reddish brown).  I mixed these using Tamiya acrylics.  The base color for Parched Grass was XF-49 Khaki.  Grass Green was XF-58 Olive Green and Earth was XF-64 Red Brown.  I added various colors to get the exact shade I wanted.  I kept no record of what I mixed and in what ratio.

I masked the camouflage pattern with yellow Tamiya tape.  The pattern was fairly complicated and the many rivets and irregular surfaced didn’t help any.

The decals are those supplied with the kit.  The only surface preparation I used was to buff the area where the decal was to be applied lightly with a shop wipe to smooth the surface slightly.  The decals all nestled down nicely with liberal applications of Micro Sol. 

I painted the tracks with a mixture of XF-1 Flat Black and XF-56 Metallic Grey, then dry brushed the face of each link with straight Metallic Grey.

The Base
Throughout the process of building the figures and vehicle I build up the base and fit each piece in place as it developed.  The composition of the diorama is always the most important part so I wanted to make sure each part fit together and complemented one another.  This required frequent posing and reposing of vehicle, figures and adjusting the terrain as needed.

The base itself is a Walmart picture frame.  I sketched out where the major components were supposed to go and built up a containing wall of Evergreen sheet styrene.  The filler for the terrain was made from Styrofoam insulation.  I made sure to trim the Styrofoam so that there was room for the groundwork material to fit without oozing over the sides when it was applied.

Once it was in place and trimmed I covered the Styrofoam with Elmer’s Wood Putty.  This has become my favorite material for groundwork.  It adheres well to almost any surface, dries relatively quickly, does not shrink when it dries and cleans up with water.

Since the scene was supposed to be in somewhere in Southeast Asia and I didn’t plan on constructing any major vegetation , I reasoned that tall grass would be an appropriate ground cover.  I’ve always had real trouble getting long static grass to look convincing though.  I’ve even tried the vaunted (and outrageously expensive) Noch “Static Master” applicator to no avail.  I’ve used commercially produced tufts with good success but I had a pretty large area to cover.  Using store bought tufts would make it a pretty expensive undertaking. 

I ended up solving the problem by making my own tufts by hand.  One style of long tufts produced by Noch comes in a sheet of clear plastic vacuform tubs.  By placing a dab of glue in the tub I was able to take a little pinch of 12mm static grass and stick it in the tub.  It worked like a charm.  I was able to fill the ground space with calf high grass with no problem.

The resulting grass was very stiff so I left some empty spots so the tank would sit “in” the grass and not “on” the grass.

I painted the grassy areas varying shades of olive and green and followed this with dry brushing of successively lighter shades of beige and yellow.  I did the final dry brush with XF-4 Yellow Green. I used various shades of flat brown on the bare dirt trench and followed this with a glaze of Future floor polish to make it seem wet and “muddy”.

I wanted there to be some sort of barrier in front of the trench.  I first considered using barbed wire, but that would have necessitated some sort of action by the Japanese soldiers to breach the obstacle.  This, I felt, would have detracted from the speed I wanted to convey by having the figures quickly overrunning the position. Then I found a reference that described the heavy use of punji sticks by the British during their retreat down the Malay Peninsula.  This would be perfect I thought, but no material I tried (plastic tubing, rolled paper, copper tubing, yada, yada, yada…) looked anything like real bamboo.

Luck smiles on the persistent and the obsessed however.  One day while parking my car in a shopping center parking lot I happened to notice tall stalks of ornamental grass planted by the curbing.  Hmmm.  It was dry and parched in its dormant winter state and was the exact color of bamboo stalks.  I picked some and the stalks were the perfect diameter and texture.  The only thing that was lacking was the ridges formed by the joints you find on real bamboo.  Oh well.  I guess we can’t have everything.  Still, when placed in the grass and on the trench floor they couldn’t have looked better.

The items on the trench floor are wood boxes from GC Laser’s line of excellent products.  Actually, it’s just one box.  I didn’t have one that fit in the trench so I cut one half which was too big, put compo ration markings from Archer Fine Transfers on each end and covered the other with a tarp made from tissue hardened with diluted white glue.  The other items are mostly from the spares box.  The spent cartridge casings are stretched sprue painted copper and glued in place.

The final touch was the bit of vegetation in the form of palm fronds, ferns and various leaves used as camouflage on the tank.  These are the paper jungle vegetation from J’s Work excellent line of paper products.  I repainted them so that they matched the grass I had set earlier and fixed them to the buttoned up tank with white glue, taking care to not obscure any of the vision ports on the tank.

1 comment:

    This really is a work of love and very inspiring for me. You are a true artist! I'm a prof. modeler myself and your work makes me feel like a beginner all over again....LOL

    I bookmarked your page and will visit very so often because I'm a big fan of Japanese military kits,and your work only makes me want to get more ;)