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Operation Tractable

Canadian "Fort Gerry Horse" Firefly Mk Vc and "North Nova Scotia Highlanders" Infantry
This project had its origins in my desire to build something in honor of my late father-in-law who served in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders (NNSH) during WWII in Northwest Europe (NWE). What I was looking for was a plausible and historically correct situation where I could display NNSH infantry figures alongside an armor model – preferably a Canadian badged Firefly Mk Vc. During my research into the combat history of the North Novas, I found my "historical circumstances" with the opening stages of Operation "Tractable." This was the Canadian First Army's follow-up operation to its earlier Operation "Totalize." Together, these two operations set the final Commonwealth forces' conditions north of the French town Falaise and allowed the combined US and Commonwealth forces to destroy the German Sixth Army as it tried to escape out of the infamous "Falaise Pocket."

During Operation "Tractable," the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, the parent organization of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade (the NNSH) attacked south along the east side of the Caen-Falaise road with the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (the Fort Gerry Horse - FGH) in support. The attack began on August 14, 1944, and by that afternoon, these units were crossing the Laison (the anglicized spelling of "Laizon") River. So, after a bit of research, I had my historic situation to place the NNSH infantry alongside a Canadian Firefly. Other supporting research led me to the French spelling of the river name (thanks Google Earth!) and to select the features of my Firefly (a later first-batch Sherman Mk Vc without appliqué armor or Houseboat Fittings).

I finally decided to show my FGH Firefly as it approaches the Laizon River and prepares to provide over-watch support as the NNSH "squadies" clear the crossing and far side bank – basically, an illustration of normal tank-infantry cooperation. The tank would need a small amount of spare-track expedient armor on the front (just beginning to appear on Shermans in NWE), Hessian netting, and natural foliage camouflage (which my references showed to be quite common on FGH tanks at this time). A road sign with the river and place names along with properly badged uniforms and vehicle would establish the historic setting for anyone digging deeper to divine the significance of the moment.

The Models and Accessories
  • Tasca, 35-009, British Sherman VC Firefly
  • Aber, 35 L57, 17 PDR. Mk. IV barrel with muzzle brake
  • Voyager Model, PE 35148, Sherman Vc Firefly
  • Panda Plastics, P.N. T-62
  • DML, 6212, British Infantry: Normandy 1944
  • DML, 6065, British Commonwealth Infantry: NW Europe 1944
  • MiniArt, 35069, British Armored Car Crew
  • Hornet Miniatures, Resin heads and hands, Various
  • Bronco, AB-3512, British 25 prd Ammo Box
  • RB, 35P11, 76,2mm OQF 17 pounder projectiles and shells
* The kit and accessory names and numbers are written as they appear on the product packaging.

The Tasca Firefly kit has received rave reviews since its release and was an easy choice for the subject model. I chose to "doll it up" a bit with Voyager PE, an Aber 17 pdr gun barrel, and Panda link-to-link T-62 Sherman track. The basic kit is superb, so I used the aftermarket PE for those few bits that just don't come out well in plastic. I chose the turned gun barrel mostly for its beautiful muzzle break, but the arrow straight aluminium barrel is a nice, if subtle, substitute for the kit's two-part plastic one. The Panda (formerly RHPS) tracks are quite the usual tedious assemblies (for link-to-link tracks), but I like them. They have "press-fit" end connectors which will allow for careful, articulated handling to paint and finish. This is a fragile operation, but with care, it can be done. Also, contrary to common wisdom, Sherman tank tracks usually do show some very slight sagging between the bogies (this is often quite visible), and link-to-link track is the best way to show this. Finally, my initial plans intended to take better advantage of the Tasca kit's articulated suspension. I thought at the time that the Panda tracks would be very useful showing the tank moving over uneven ground. At any rate, the Panda tracks are good kit.

As for the infantry figures, I chose several from DML's line. I like working with plastic figures as I find any needed changes are generally easier than with resin or white metal. I do, as a rule, replace the injection molded heads and hands with well sculpted resin ones. In this case, I used Hornet heads and hands. The tank crew figures started as MiniArt British armored car crewmen. I like to show my crew figures doing their "jobs" when possible, since the machine and the men are inseparable parts of the whole. In this situation, the driver would logically be buttoned up, but a commander directing the action from an open hatch and a loader tidying up his "office space" were logical additions. Unfortunately, no suitable armored crew figures were available, but the MiniArt torsos provided suitable starting points for Canadian tankers wearing the OD tanker's coveralls. Again, Hornet heads and hands were used.
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About Mike Roof (SdAufKla)

I started modeling when I got a 1/72 Dauntless Dive Bomber for my 6th birthday in 1965 and havn't stopped since. Like many, I got my "serious" start when Monogram began putting Sheperd Paine's diorama "how-to" pamphlets in their kits in the early '70's. It was then that I realized that there co...