Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale ?39-?45 Series Kit No. 6206; Sd.Kfz. 251/6 Ausf. C Command Vehicle; 568 parts (546 in grey styrene, 14 in PVC vinyl, 7 in etched nickel, 1 in etched brass); price estimated at US $32-34
Advantages: Bright, new kit of a variant only available in an obsolete kit; great job of rendering details
Disadvantage: PVC figures will not be popular with figure modelers
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all German and radio equipment fans
Why, in the very early days of the Second World War, were the Germans successful? This is an old question, and one rarely given realistic discussion. It was not due to their "great" tanks, as most other nations in 1939-40 had superior tanks to the German efforts. It was not that their tactics were so brilliant, as many other nations had similar plans. But it was due to one word ? communications ? where the Germans excelled over every other force on the battlefield, or did until the Americans showed up with better radios and command vehicles.
The Germans had conceived a complete family of vehicles that were fitted with communications to deal with every contingency and cover every echelon from mechanized infantry squad up to army and theater command levels. Each had precisely matched radio sets for a specific purpose. Commanders in France, up against French armor and artillery, simply made direct calls to artillery units or roving Stukas to deal with the obstacles. The French, unable to respond at the same rate of speed, were soon blasted off the battlefield. Ditto the Soviets and the British in North Africa.
Nearly all of the German communications at the time were medium- or high-frequency amplitude modulated (MF or HF AM) signals, produced by a networked system of communications. The radios varied in power from five watts for low level (infantry regimental internal communications) through 20 watt tank radios, 30 watt divisional command radios, 80 watt Panzer division command radios, and finally high-power sets of 100 to 1,500 watts for higher level command.
Command vehicles were created for specific purposes, and the first major armored command vehicles were the Sd.Kfz. 251/3 series and Sd.Kfz. 251/6. Most of the first series produced used the Ausf. A chassis, as few were built and they were seen as not quite as suitable for combat as the later B and C models. Production/conversion of these vehicles ran up until 1943.
Each vehicle was provided with a suite of radios matched to its purpose and echelon, and as a result the crew could maintain communications for the supported commander and his staff with both subordinate and superior headquarters. The /6 series was designated for divisional level command and above (corps, army and army group) use.
The Sd.Kfz. 251/6 came with a large number of communications sets:1 x Funk f (low-power HF AM set from 20-21.475 Mhz for inter-vehicle communications) 1 x Fu 6 (medium-power HF/VHF AM set from 27.200-33.300 Mhz for communications with tanks) 1 x Fu 11 (high-power MF AM set from 0.200-1.200 Mhz for corps and above communications) 1 x Fu 12 (high-power MF AM set from 1.200-3.000 Mhz for division level combined arms command and control) 1 x Fu 19 (an auxiliary command radio set)
Some vehicles, at higher echelons, also were provided with an "Engima" three-rotor cryptographic machine (whose broken messages were classified ULTRA by the Allies) for use by senior commanders for direct communications with theater commands such as OKW or OKH. There is a famous photo of General Heinz Guderian in his Sd.Kfz. 251/6 command vehicle watching two radio operators break out an "Enigma" message.
For years, anyone wishing to build a model of the command variant (or convert one to the lower echelon /3 models) was stuck with the ancient Nitto Sd.Kfz.251/6 Ausf. B model, which dated to the early 1970s. This was a dog ? motorized, with rubber band tracks (the motor went in the engine compartment and the two AA batteries were fitted to a "trailer" that followed it around) and with no details to speak of inside. The "radios" consisted of a simple two-piece component that fitted in the back of the right side of the hull. Up until now, no other company had offered one of these variants, but now DML has created a really decent model of it.
The new kit is based on DML's recent C model ? making it somewhat later than the early campaign vehicles, most of which as noted were A conversions ? but is a gem. Two new sprues with a total of 83 parts are provided for the interior details and the radio sets, as well as the "clothes rail" antenna and a mast antenna provided on the later variants. This latter item comes with an etched brass "crow's foot" antenna head for it, making it relatively easy (if fragile!) to replicate.
The kit retains the A, B. C. D. and E sprue sets from the earlier /1 kit intact, but adds the new F and G sprues with the radio and interior bits. They also include a driver (Z) and a set of two radio operators. These latter will no doubt cause a bit of unhappiness, as they are made from PVC vinyl and while the directions indicate they can be assembled with ACC cement, they are going to be hard to clean up and harder to paint. This is a shame, as they come with three distinctive heads each (two with sidecaps and different headsets, one wearing what looks to be a leather Luftwaffe helmet) and would be great if they were styrene.
The rest of the kit is the same, EXCEPT that the model does not come with the internal water tank. Comments indicate that fans who are really into the German halftracks found out that this was only used in the ambulance versions of the251 (Sd.Kfz. 251/8.I and 8.II), and photos seem to bear this out. DML has therefore corrected the kit ? the /6 comes with what appears to be a manpack radio for short-range communications in that position. The actual command radio console goes from the wimpy two-piece Nitto effort to some 45 parts, and can be intimidating! (Note: I do not have a wiring diagram for these sets, but can assure you that they will look better if "plumbed" with connecting cables, antenna leads, headsets, telegraph keys, or microphones.)
The rest of the kit is verbatim /1 and has the two-piece track links for the track runs. The directions are not real helpful with these (they are installed per the directions in Step 13 as a "stick here" with parts E1 and E11 called out, but no numbers and only an arrow indicating where they go; it does not call out how many or which way they face, either.)
Note that not all of the Sd.Kfz. 251/6 vehicles mounted the extendable mast unit at the right rear of the hull, so if you can get research photos of a specific vehicle it would help. At least one photo exists of what is reported to be a /6 (note the /3 looks alike externally with the same "clothes rail" antenna) with no mast and a 2.8 cm Gerlich gun fitted at the front of the roof!
There are two decals sheets included in the kit (!), one for the suggested finishing options and one which is a set of license plates and "number jungles" as model railroaders call them to make up your own plates. The kit provided ones are for command vehicles from the 11th Panzer Division, 9th Panzer Division, 4th Panzer Division, 24th Panzer Division, 39th Panzer Division, and one unknown unit. They range from grey (of the "Barbarossa" 1941 period) to three-color schemes from later in the war, but no estimated dates or locations are given.
Overall, while I wish it had provided a bit more history and locations for the recommended marking options, the kit itself is amazing and it should be popular. Unless, of course, you hate wiring and consider anything with radios "wiggly amps things..."
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.