Flames of War: Fielding the PSC Cromwell and Firefly Tank

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I started out a month ago putting together my British 7th Armoured Divison for my Flames of War gaming with a couple platoons of FOW’s boxes. I wound up with two great looking platoons and a command section, but I really wanted two more platoons of the storied Desert Rats to beef up the company to maximum size in my post-D-Day break through scenarios.

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While I love the detail in the cast resin FOW models, you can’t beat the value of the kits from the Plastic Soldier Company. For about half the cost of the FOW boxes, I’m been able to double the size of my company and field a formidable wall of nimble British armor on the tabletop. Ordering directly from PSC, I was also able to add an extra Cromwell to the five included in the box plus two Firefly models for a total of two additional four-tank platoons.

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Two platoons of the 7th Armoured Division PSC Cromwells and Fireflies

Assembling PSC kits always reminds me of the hours I spent frustrated and thrilled gluing-up Airfix models as a kid. While FOW cast resin and metal tanks go together in a couple simple steps, there’s a particular investment in time and focus needed with boxes from PSC. The FireflyPSC molded turret  is simple to assemble, but the multi-piece tracks are a challenge even though the results with the sagging upper tread is a nice detail. The turrets on the PSC Cromwells have many pieces but fit nicely with patience, and their single-piece tracks are a breeze.

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Close-up of the PSC Cromwell and Firefly models

PSC tank sprues come with multiple modelling options, although there’s no stowage included in PSC offerings. To add a bit of detail, I attached some folded mesh panited as camouflage netting to rear the hulls of a few of my PSC models.

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Members of the 7th Armoured Division with their Firefly in Normandy

Comparing the PSC and FOW models, there are some differences. PSC models tend to be thinner than the chunkier FOW kits, expecially in regards to the main gun barrels. The PSC tanks are also significantly lighter and their turrets require a bit of extra drilling to provided free movement more easily found in the magnet-mounted FOW turrets.

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Firefly model comparison from PSC (left) and FOW (right)

The FOW Cromwells and Fireflies both come draped in camouflage and other cast details, yet when mixed together side-by-side with the more sparely-detailed PSC kits some nice variety across the four platoons is acheived. Separate decals are also needed to complete the PSC tanks which do not include any markings options in the kits.

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 Four platoons and command for the 7th Armoured Division “Desert Rats” from PSC and FOW

Ultimately, the PSC and FOW models come together quite nicely with a consistent paint job and markings. If anything, the slight differences in the models will make tracking cohesive platoons on the table a bit easier when the Desert Rats roll onto the game table in the very near future.

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Flames of War: Fielding the FOW Cromwell and Firefly Tank

dratsBy the time of the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, the British 7th Armoured Division had already seen plenty of war. The division first distinguished itself early in the war in the dusty North African campaign, going brutally head-to-head with General Erwin Rommel’s tough Afrika Korps and earning the nickname “Desert Rats.” In the mid-war invasion of Italy, the division adapted to the southern terrain of Salerno and Naples and helped in securing the Allied push northward.

cromwellA British Cromwell in WWII Europe

fftankSherman Firefly on a street during WWII

Back in the UK following its successes in Africa and Italy, the 7th Armoured rested and retrofitted with new Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks in preparation as a follow-on force in the D-Day landings in mid-1944. Over the next six months, the division’s 75mm-armed Cromwells and 17-pound-gunned Fireflies were present during Operation Perch, Operation Goodwood, the Battle of Villers-Bocage, Operation Spring, Operation Bluecoat, Operation Cobra and the final pushes into the Low Countries and Germany. By the war’s end, the battle-weary Desert Rats had cemented themselves as one of the most celebrated divisions in World War II.

fowcromwellAfter being introduced to British Armoured forces with the excellent plastic Sherman and Firefly models included in Flames of War Open Fire! box set, I’ve recently swung some significant focus on building-out a decent amount of UK late-war forces. Modelling the storied 7th Armoured Division seemed like a logical next step in bringing the UK to my Allied forces on the table.

Through some serendipity, I happened to score a couple of half-price box sets of the FOW Cromwell Armoured Platoon from a fellow club member at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Between the two boxes, I’ve been able to assemble a company command of two Cromwells plus two platoons of three Cromwells and one Firefly each. The models feature individually-cast resin tanks, each with their own detail of stowage and ragged camouflage, along with cast metal treads, gun barrels, crew and other details. Compared to curvaceous US Sherman tanks, I also really enjoy the flatter hull profile and boxy riveted turrets on the Cromwells. Although pricier than alternatives from makes like Plastic Soldier Company and Command Decision from Old Glory Miniatures, official FOW models are generally hard to beat for their heft and historical accuracy.

IMG_2334Primer and base coat on treads and stowage

After assembly, my models were hit with a green armor base coat. Tank treads start with a black coat followed a slight wash of metal. Tools, stowage, ropes and the other stuff on the tanks all get a mix of built-up layers of browns, greens and metallic colors. I especially liked the tiny tennis rackets strapped to a couple of the tanks, a nod to the British gentlemen who came to Europe not only equipped for war but for hopeful yet unlikely leisure pursuits. These details really create a lot of depth, interest and personality among the tanks which can otherwise get very visually redundant en masse on the table. Finally, the exposed crews get a a bit of brown-drab uniform color and some flesh tones to finish off those brave Brits.

IMG_2344Decals being applied (grrrrrr….)

I do have to say, the red-and-white Desert Rats vehicle marking has a really big cool factor for me. The FOW kits conveniently come with appropriate decals for the 7th Armoured Division, making finishing off the tanks one step easier than with competitor model-makers that don’t generally supply decals with their models. That said, I find the FOW decals to be incredibly finicky and fragile, and I found myself re-applying several to get them on just right. Once the decals are dry, all the tanks got splashed with mud here and there with some earthy dry-brushing.

IMG_2350Cromwell command section

IMG_2352One platoon of three Cromwells and one Sherman Firefly

IMG_2354Cromwell close-up

IMG_2356Sherman Firefly close-up

In terms of gameplay, I can’t wait for the 7th Armoured Division to go up against some Germans. The combined one-two punch of the faster-moving Cromwells and the hefty-gunned Fireflies should reinvigorate my games away from the sameness I’ve had in just playing with my large group of US Shermans for a couple years. Already, I want more of these platoons to really get the division bulked-out. I’m thinking a follow-up with Cromwells and Fireflies from the Plastic Soldier Company will supplement the finished FOW models nicely. Until then, the 7thArmoured are ready to roll and there’ll be more to report soon on my post-D-Day British force project.

IMG_2348The Desert Rats ready for action in France and beyond…

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