Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Many, Many Tanks

Whew! This week in Tanktober I finished my Company + Platoon of T-26s for Battle Group Barbarossa. That's a total of 20 tanks along with a OT-26 flame thrower tank thrown in.

The T-26 (1933)s are from Minairons, the ones with the 1939 turret and the OT-26 are from Zvezda.

Now some BT-7s, I think...

Looking Good in Tanktober

Yeah baby!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tanktober, Los!

It has been a busy week in Tanktober...

Firstly, I think we can agree that I'm looking pretty stylish.

The Tanktober film festival (aka me on the sofa while the kids are going to sleep)rolls on with a look at Beyyi Tigr (The White Tiger) (2012, dir. Karen Shakhnazarov).

This is a very interesting and odd film. During WWII, a Soviet tank driver is burned in his tank during a battle with a ghostly white German Tiger tank. He survives, miraculously, without a mark on him, but having lost his memory. With no name or past, he instead becomes something of a Tank Whisperer. Tanks speak to him, and he prays to the god of tanks. He is his instrument to bring vengeance against the White Tiger, a tank perhaps even without a crew, that appears in battle to wreak havoc on the Soviet tank men, and which even the Germans speak of in hushed tones. For the tank spotters amongst us, the movie features the (unconvincing below the turret) Tiger, T34-76s and 85s, ISU-152s, SU-100s, BT7s, Pz IVs and even a couple of Lend Lease Matilda IIs and M3 Lees. For the contemplative amongst us the film offers a metaphor for the forces called into being through violence that Thucydides might have appreciated, and which probably resonates more deeply with an appreciation of the Russian fascination with and fetishisation of their tanks of the Great Patriotic War.

But on to cake! The highlight of the week has without a doubt been my wonderful colleague Sian's decision to humour me by making some tank cupcakes. She arrived at school with these yesterday, and I think you'll agree that they are an amazing example of Blitzkrieg baking.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Hate Google+

Apologies if you have attempted to comment on my blog over the last week and have been unsuccessful. I briefly enabled Google+ Comments until I realised that it meant that only visitors with Google+ would be able to comment. I then attempted to disable Google+ Comments and cocked it up, leaving the Blog in some Kafkaesque limbo where Google+ was disabled but still controlling my Comments. I've just managed to sort it out, but I think it means that if you do have Google+ and have commented on my blog your comment has now been lost. Normal programming should now have resumed. A pox on Google+. I suggest the read the fine print more carefully than I did should you be considering linking your blog to it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

T-26s for Tanktober

Today I finished off my first 12 T-26s for Battle Group Barbarossa. That still leaves me 5 short of a Company, and I have about another 8 in the assembly line. I haven't done much with extra stowage etc. Partly because I'm painting about 20 of the things, but looking at photos from 1941 they don't often seem to have carried much extra gear, so I don't think they look too bad.

Kits are a mix of Zvezda T-26 (1939)s and Minairons T-26 (1936)s.

Tanks, Art and Subversion

This week in Tanktober I’ve been thinking about tanks that have been used as subversive pieces of art. A tank is such a powerful militaristic symbol that painting it in some incongruous colour scheme instantly creates a great juxtaposition of images. Here are a couple of repainted Soviet tanks from Kiev that demonstrate my point.

One of the most famous an influential examples of this was the monument to WWII Soviet tank crews in Prague. The memorial displayed a IS-2 tank bearing the turret number 23. Apparently after the Prague Spring of 1968 Czechs saw meaning in this number. In 1945 the Soviets liberated the Czechs from the Nazis, then in 1968 (1945+23) the Soviets used tanks to suppress democracy in Czechoslovakia. The monument therefore acquired the double meaning of liberation and occupation.

In 1991, the Czech artist David Černý painted the tank pink, and added a large extended middle finger on the top of it. He was arrested, the tank was repainted green, but then rapidly painted pink again by members of the newly elected Czech parliament in protest against Černý's arrest. It was then repainted green and pink again several times until the monument was finally removed, and the much abused IS-2 relocated to a military museum. Where it is still pink.

Černý is also responsible for another installation of the rear portion of a T34-85 buried in the ground, also painted in pink. It is probably due to him that the idea of juxtaposing the colour pink with the menacing shape of a tank has been so often emulated since, as in the Mandela Way tank.

The Mandela Way T34-85 is a former Czech Army tank improbably situated on a street in Bermondsey, London, with its gun trained on the local Southwark Council Chambers. It was a former movie prop, and you can see it in action crashing through a wall in the (great) 1995 movie of Richard III.

The Mandela Way tank has been repainted a number of times. Here are some of my favourites.

The subversive image of a pink tank has been made good use of in the UK by Amnesty International. This Abbott self-propelled howitzer (although I suppose you can call it a tank) appeared in a Brighton gay pride march in 2005, a great bit of PR that practically invited newspaper headlines like 'Amnesty brings Out the Big Guns in Support of Gay Rights'. Nice to see something called Abbott standing up for human rights. Which is an observation that might resonate if you live in Australia.

I'm also a huge fan of guerrilla knitting, or yarn bombing if you prefer. Bringing together a tank and yarn bombing, as here in Denmark...well that's just brilliant.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tanktober Film Festival: Lebanon (2009)

The Tanktober film festival continues with a look at Lebanon (2009), directed by Samuel Maoz, and the first Israeli movie to win the Leone d'Oro at the Venice Film Festival. The movie follows a crew of young Israeli tank crewman during the first day of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The action focuses particularly on the gun aimer Schmulik, and draws heavily on the experiences of Samuel Maoz himself as an army conscript in 1982. Schmulik's tank (a Sh'ot, or Israeli Centurion) is operating in support of a unit of paratroopers during the film as they work their way through a heavily bombed Lebanese town. Perhaps uniquely, the entire film is set inside the tank, which becomes steadily more grimy and claustrophobic as the story progresses. The only time we ever see what is going on outside is through Schmulik's gunsight, with every pan or zoom being accompanied by the hydraulic whine of the tank turret rotating.

Often harrowing, the movie doesn't really add much to the well worn themes of the impact of war on the young men who have to wage it, and the terrible things they do. On the other hand, Maoz said of the film that 'I'm trying to explain that war cannot open for you the option to be moral.' Pondering this central idea preserves Lebanon's relevance.