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French 40mm Bofors Mounted

GMC 2 1/2 Ton "Gun Truck"

Model Photos

 

Model and Photos Courtesy of George "Dus" Adele - England

 

 

    

 

                   

 

GMC 40mm Bofors (Armoured) in Indochina

History

The 22nd Colonial Group was formed at Temara in Morocco around a core of officers who originally served with the 3rd Colonial artillery battery in Chad, which was of course part of general Leclerc’s Free French forces in North Africa. Starting with old equipment they began to train and develop their own self-propelled weapons, the 40mm Bofors on the CCKW 353 chassis being one of the results.

 

The 22nd Colonial Group was attached to the 2nd (French) Armoured Division and first saw action in France on 7th August 1944. Though lacking in armour, the advantage of their superior mobility as compared to towed guns meant there was more flexibility and greater speed in taking up or changing defensive positions. During a deployment to the Alencon region in Normandy (13th August) they shot their first plane down.The Group continued to provide air defence for the Division, losing three guns from No3 battery during the advance on Paris. After providing Anti-aircraft cover for the Capital Paris, they continued on towards the Strasbourg area, their enemy aircraft tally by the end of the war was 17 shot down and 6 damaged.

 

Armour Protection for Indochina

When elements of the 2nd Armoured Division were sent to Indochina in March 1946, the 22nd Colonial group and their 40mm Bofors/GMC’s were amongst them.  Given that there was no air threat from the Vietnamese ‘resistance’ they were employed in convoy escort duties. The lack of armour soon became a telling factor, the Vietnamese being experts in using their countries terrain to their advantage, began to exact a heavy toll on French vehicles.  The French SAS jeeps and their crews also carried out convoy escort duties and took heavy casualties in their unarmoured jeeps.

The French answer was to fit an open topped armoured body onto the GMC’s which would afford the crews protection from small arms fire whilst still enabling them to use the Bofors offensively. In practice this improvement in protection overloaded the vehicle and whilst this was not to much of a problem on metalled roads, the extra weight would bog the trucks down on the waterlogged and muddy roads ‘up country’.

Some other units converted the standard GMC with an armoured body (which incidentally were not identical, being fabricated by hand) by fitting a Bofors directly onto the back of the truck. These suffered from the recoil forces of the Bofors when firing and did not last long in action, ending their times as static defence vehicles.

I found these conversions particularly interesting as they are clearly the fore-runners of the Gun Trucks used by U.S. forces in the Vietnam war, which are more well known. I only had a couple photos of these trucks, however these allowed me to work out dimensions in relation to certain parts of the truck and so proceed with the armour.  I have drawn some plans for the armoured body.

The spare barrel was moved to the front right side, and a new spare wheel mounting was made from some plasticard and one of the spare hubs supplied in the Tamiya kit.  The nuts were sliced off (oooer!) and glued onto the spare wheel. This needs to be mounted onto the rear of the body, making sure that the tyre does not stand proud of the top edge. A stowage box (donated by a Italeri Bedford QL portee kit) was fitted under the body on the right in place of the spare wheels original position. Stowage was from Verlinden, Armo and Tamiya sets.

 

Kit/Masters Productions Conversion

The Masters Productions conversion kit is well packaged with clearly drawn instructions and well cast resin parts sealed in clear bags.  There is also a small etched fret included with the gun sights. I was especially impressed by the mould pour plugs, these were mostly thin and very easy to remove without causing damage to the parts.  Well done Masters Productions!

The base kit used was the Tamiya version of the GMC, although the open topped Italeri version can also be used with slight surgery to the chassis (this is shown in the instructions). The chassis and the cab can be built up and put to one side (I didn’t fit the cab until the resin parts had been assembled just so I could be sure they would line up). I also left the wheels off to aid painting.

The platforms that make up the rear body are built as sub-assemblies and can be checked for fit before putting aside for painting. The stabilisers can be assembled retracted or down. All you will need to do is drill through the mounting and fit a piece of plastic rod through to mount the wheel on-top. Incidentally, make sure you glue these with the handles outermost as the gun base plate fouls them if rotated. The gun is a lovely piece of work and is finely detailed, though by virtue of the subject it is a bit fiddly.

The kit comes with the ‘Stiffkey’ sight arrangement which when fitted looks rather impressive. However, between my friend Nik and myself this gun was dropped three times, and by the third time this assembly was well and truly ruined! ( the photo’s I have seen of these trucks in Indochina don’t have the ‘Stiffkey’ sight). I also lost the front sights and had to scavenge some from a Lead Sled Bofors I had' Doh!

If you would like to model the gun barrel elevated, I would suggest drilling the two recuperator cylinders with a drill the same diameter as the rods that connect to them.  They can then be slid into the position you want.  Spare ammo boxes and a beautifully cast spare barrel are provided and fit well.

If you are modelling the WW2 era truck you are ready to start painting.  I had by this time decided to depict my model as one used in French Indochina post war with some ‘modification’.

 

Painting

I sprayed the subassemblies in a black acrylic undercoat first.  When dry, thin coats of olive drab were sprayed on each sub assembly, lightened with yellow green and sprayed on in bands to give some variety to the finish. The gun was painted straight olive drab. The seats were painted in Khaki and the stowage in various shades of Buff. The registration markings are from the Italeri LVT4, not precise, but actually only about 100 or so away from the truck in the photo I was working from.

At the same time as I was painting the model I started to make the base and I used some of the plaster under the mudguards front and back to depict dirt/mud build-up. I then tried a different technique for weathering the truck. I wanted to recreate a dusty and streaked finish in the characteristic red ground colour.  In order to do that, I used pastels sprayed by airbrush mixed with white spirit.  In a couple of places the pastels went on too heavily and I had to remove them and then reapply them by hand.

Black pastel powder was rubbed over the tyre treads with my finger.  The lower parts of the truck were dusted with a mix of Red Brown and Earth colour which was the same mix used to paint the base.  Areas of wear were rubbed with pencil graphite and localised washes of black oil paint were used to define areas of detail.

 

The Diorama Base

This was built up with pieces of polystyrene and then covered in plaster tinted with brown poster paint. Before it was dry a piece of Clingfilm was laid on top and track and wheel marks where pressed in.  The truck was also pressed in to make sure all the wheels would be on the ground. I originally wanted to add just a couple of plants to add interest.  However, I remembered an article on building palm trees by Marcus Nicholls in a back issue of Tamiya Model magazine (number 77), and suitably inspired I obtained the magazine issue and followed the instructions.

Basically the trunks were made from bundles of wooden tooth picks wrapped in garden twine and then covered in plaster. The leaves were cut from paper and had a ‘branch’ added from fuse wire, then the fronds were cut with a scalpel. These were stuck into a ball of Miliput mounted on top of each trunk and short lengths of twine were chopped and sprinkled onto the visible Milliput. The plants were also made from paper. I inserted pieces of fuse wire in places to replicate roots and tea leaves were sprinkled on to reproduce ground vegetation.

The trees were first sprayed black and then in thin coats of Yellow to build up the green. The tree trunks were painted Earth in bands to give some variation and various greens for the ground ‘vegetation’. Once everything was ready to be fitted I decided to give a black oil paint wash to the track, I was a bit heavy with the wash and it soaked through the plaster and started melting the polystyrene causing potholes. A lesson to me for the future!

With all the items fixed on and the damage repaired, a light spray of Red Brown was used to tie everything in. The Legionnaire is from the Warriors range (nicely detailed) with a negro ‘Kepi’d’ head from the new Academy French Foreign Legion set (also a good set). What isn’t generally known is that men from all over the French ‘Empire’ fought in Indochina, often suffering very high losses whilst nationalist elements in their homelands were embarking upon self determination agendas similar to the Vietnamese that they were fighting!

 

Conclusion

The Masters Productions Bofors conversion set is excellent in my opinion and I recommend it. The company now has the etched brass mask set for the distinctive Free French markings used on these trucks in 1944/45 in Europe and they also look outstanding. Anybody with a couple of resin conversions under their belt will find this a good next step.

 

References

 

Thank You’s

I would like to thank:

  • Gary Norris: for the loan of the book that gave me the idea for the armoured version of the truck.

  • Paul at ‘Just Bases’: for the base.

  • Keith Goldsworthy: for the photographs of the model.

  • Lastly, Marcus Nicholls: for his advice on the palm trees.

Ta chaps.

 
Copyright: George "Dus" Adele - July 2006