Saturday, 25 February 2012

Latest Additions

I finally succumbed to the temptation and bought my very first World War One figure the other day. It is a very delightful figure from Thomas Gunn depicting a German storm trooper wielding a rather terrifying looking flame thrower

He was purchased from Maison Militaire along with two more WW2 figure sets from the same maker showing German troops in summer camo gingerly going about their business of clearing enemy mines!

I don't actually have any firm plans for these guys in terms of a diorama to slot them into but I simply had to have them, partly because of the unusual nature of the subject matter and partly because they are priced at a little over £41 a set, making them remarkably good value for money

The mine detecting sensor comes as a separate piece placed in a thin pre-cut slot in the top of the foam packaging and fits easily into pre-drilled holes in the soldiers' hands
The WW1 figure is the first of a series I am planning to buy, all depicting storm troopers towards the end of the war. The next purchase is currently en route to these shores from Canada as I type this post and will appear in the next LA missive!

WW1 Flamethrower

The flamethrower was invented in 1901 by a German engineer named Richard Fiedler

The German army tested two models of flamethrower, one large and one small. The smaller, lighter Flammenwerfer (the Kleinflammenwerfer) was designed for portable use, carried by a single man.  Using pressurised air and carbon dioxide or nitrogen it belched forth a stream of burning oil for as much as 18 metres. Fielder's second, larger model (the Grossflammenwerfer), worked along the same lines but was not suitable for transport by a single person, however its maximum range was twice that of the smaller model; it could also sustain flames for a (then) impressive forty seconds, although it was decidedly expensive in its use of fuel

Having tested the Flammenwerfer in 1900 the German army deployed it for use in three specialist battalions from 1911 onwards. They were first used in combat against the French trenches at Malancourt north of Verdun Feb. 26, 1915 but their use was sporadic and unremarkable. The first notable use of the Flammenwerfer came in a surprise attack launched by the Germans upon the British at Hooge in Flanders where the opposing trenches were as little as 4 or 5 metres apart. Springing forward at 0315 on 30 July 1915 the Germans made effective use of the portable Flammenwerfer

German flamethrowers during the First World War on the Western Front, 1917

The surprise attack proved terrifying to the British opposition, although their line, initially pushed back, was stabilised later that same night. In two days of severe fighting the British lost 31 officers and 751 other ranks, most of whom were shot having been flushed out of their defensive positions by the flamethrowers
The weapon consisted of a 4 foot long, vertically positioned steel cylinder, horizontally divided in two, with pressurized gas in the lower section and flammable oil in the upper section. On depressing a lever the propellant gas forced the flammable oil into and through a rubber tube and over a simple igniting wick device in a steel nozzle projecting a jet of fire along with enormous clouds of choking black smoke 

With the success of the Hooge attack, at least so far as the Flammenwerfer was concerned, the German army adopted the device on a widespread basis across all fronts deployed in groups of six with each machine being worked by two men. Their main role was to clear forward defenders at the start of a German attack in advance of a larger infantry assault

They were undeniably useful when used at short-range, but were of limited wider effectiveness, especially once the British and French had overcome their initial alarm at their use. The operators of Flammenwerfer equipment also lived a most dangerous existence

Quite aside from the worries of handling the device - it was entirely feasible that the cylinder carrying the fuel might unexpectedly explode - they were marked men; the British and French poured rifle-fire into the area of attack where Flammenwerfers were used, and their operators could expect no mercy should they be taken prisoner. Their life expectancy was therefore short

A French propaganda cartoon giving a clear indication of how the flamethrower was perceived

The flamethrower had other limitations: it was cumbersome and difficult to operate and could only be safely fired from a trench, so limiting its use to areas where the opposing trenches were closer than the maximum range of the weapon, which was not a common situation. They also used up fuel rather rapidly

Nevertheless, the German army continued developing the weapon and used it in more than 300 battles launching in excess of 650 attacks

Until next time, happy hunting!

No comments: