Monday, July 23, 2012

The Great War in Greyscale - Belgian 'Minerva' Armoured Car


The Belgian army of 1914 was quite ill-prepared for a general European war. Its army was relatively small, indifferently equipped and not well-respected even by its own population. To further compound this general malais the Belgian armed forces had no defined set of war plans to provide a strategic focus in any prospective war. Granted much of this can be explained by the unique political position Belgium held at this time. As being a guaranteed neutral power it had to contend with the possibility that any of its neighbours could be a potential hostile force. (Indeed, some of France's pre-war planning seriously entertained the idea of violating Belgian neutrality in order to deny the Germans that avenue of approach.) So instead of having several plans to meet a variety of contingencies Belgium simply chose to have none. 



Nonetheless as hostilities began, and it became clear that Germany intended to cross Belgium's frontiers as a part of its advance on Paris, many were surprised to discover that the Belgian King was not about to bow to pressure from Berlin.  As a result, the first weeks of the war saw the Belgian army fighting a series of fierce holding actions and rearguard retreats, all in a vain attempt to stem the German onslaught. As it's line of fortifications were systematically reduced and the cities of Brussels and Antwerp abandoned, the Belgian army still managed to confound German efforts to pin and annihilate it. In those furious opening weeks of the war it earned the epithet 'plucky little Belgium' through blood, audacity and sheer stubbornness.

Minerva's were frequently photographed, being considered the 'Humvee' of its day.

One unique aspect of this desperate campaign was Belgium's bold use of armoured cars. These vehicles were employed very effectively in hit and run attacks on advancing German columns, covering troop withdrawals and in forward reconnaissance. One of the most iconic armoured cars of this early period was the 'Minerva'.  The Minervas were originally private passenger cars that were hurriedly modified for military use with the addition of bolt-on steel plating and pintle-mounted machine guns, all in the effort to provide some level of mobile heavy support to the beleaguered infantry


After the 5mm armoured plate was attached, the Hotchiss installed and the various stores and parts tucked away the Minervas tipped in at around 4 tons! As these cars were only rated as having a four cylinder, 40 HP engine I'm amazed that they were even able to move much less conduct armed operations. (For comparison, the current Ford Focus with it's 160 HP engine weighs about 1.2 tons.) Even with this additional weight they could supposedly rattle along at a top speed of 100 kph - 'Brave Little Belgium' indeed!


This is a 28mm kit from 1st Corps which I picked up at Salute this spring. The body is a single piece of resin with only the wheels, armoured visor and machine gun being separate white metal parts. The crew come as a separate pack and fit well within the hull (Though I pinned these in place to aid their survivability on the tabletop). My only quibble with the kit is that they should have provided dual tires for the rear wheels as that was one of the frequently quoted modifications which was made to the civilian chassis.


This little guy will be a good addition to my existing forces which are being built around the Battle of the Yser. Next up will be a little Napoleonic break from this greyscale madness...

47 comments:

  1. Beautifully done and explained Curt....

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    1. Cheers Fran! And happy 2nd Blogiversary!

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  2. This continues to be a brilliant project of yours Curt. Excellent minis and write up.

    It's funny, I was reading the post and thinking I would certainly need a break from time to time if I was doing the same project, then I read your last line... :)

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    1. Thanks! Yes, its good to come up for air and take a break from time to time. When I applied colour to the figure I'll post soon it took a little getting used to!

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  3. The only thing you can say is SUPERB!

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  4. Fascinating info... and a really cute little armoured car!

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    1. Yes, the little blighter does have a certain homely charm about it!

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  5. I'm totally fascinated by this project. Looking forward to see the next installments

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    1. I'm delighted you are enjoying it. It a bit of a grind but each segment seems well worthwhile in the end.

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  6. Top job... this project just keeps on getting better and better!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words - much appreciated.

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  7. I knew the Belgians were quite stubborn at that time, but didn't know they would have bold too.

    Nice info and armored car.

    Cheers

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  8. What a wonderful addition to an already outstanding project; loved this post Curt.

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    1. Cheers Michael, much appreciated!

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  9. I find this whole project to be intriguing and would love to seem them on a table top. Really top notch work

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    1. Thanks Miles. Good to hear that your recuperating from your sterling efforts at Historicon!

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  10. That superbly rendered- well done Curt.

    I have just come across someone doing a Zorro project in greyscale too -

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    1. Cheers Dave! Zorro would be perfectly suited to a greyscale approach - I'll have to track that one down.

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  11. Great stuff once again dude - looks awesome.

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    1. Thanks Greg! Though I think you finished ten tanks to my single armoured car over the same period of time!

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  12. Lovely little model. I look forward to the next installment of this project.

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  13. Awesome Curt, the weathering is superbly done.

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    1. Thanks Michael. I'm thinking of adding some more stowage, tarps etc. to give it more of a 'lived-in' look.

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  14. Curt .. the Zorro Blog is here:-

    http://zorro28mm.blogspot.be/

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    1. Brilliant! Thanks for that Dave.

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  15. A really beautiful model, Curt, and the history of the car is very interesting.

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  16. Fantastic looking, like I have previously said, I am really looking forward to seeing a battle report from this project.

    I am quite curious also on what is on the Napoleonic table.

    John

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    1. Thanks John. The upcoming Napoleonic post is VERY limited but it was nice to get back into those familiar waters again.

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  17. Very nice indeed. I have been looking at getting one of these to assist the infantry I just picked up from Brigade Models.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, it will give your Belgian lads a nice little boost amongst the sea of Germans. Its a nice little model and fairly straightforward to put together.

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  18. Curt, You're a great artist as my good friend Juan Mancheño!!!!

    Saludos
    Rafa "Archiduque"

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  19. Hello Rafa! Well, that is a very kind compliment considering how much I admire your work (especially your recent 'Cazadores a Caballo' that you did for Capitan Miniatures).

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  20. An admirable work in those Cazadores a Caballo. Rafa is a Great Master, and your work in the Greyscale, Curt, is really stunning.

    Besides, I have orderer some things from "Strange Aeons"...

    Cheers.

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  21. Thanks Juan! Which models did you order from 'Strange Aeons'?

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    1. The Fishmen II and the rulebook. It was not my intention but...

      Best regards.

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    2. The Fishmen (Deep Ones) are excellent figures. I think you'll enjoy them. If you have any questions on the rules don't hesitate to drop me a note.

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  22. Wonderful work indeed Curt and the subtle weathering just brill!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher! You'll have to get a couple armoured cars for your excellent new SCW foray.

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  23. pretty cool nice curt #191 follower

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    1. Thanks very much, AguiLeon and welcome to my little corner of nerd-space.

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  24. Ok Curt, I've seen it! And it's a great work! Really!

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