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Operation Tractable

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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.

About the Author

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...


Superb job on both the model and the article! Very educating! Cheers! Stefan
DEC 19, 2010 - 10:02 PM
Excellent model! Really appreciate the long, detailed article packed with tips, techniques, and great photos. This is the sort of feature that helps me up my own game (slowly).
DEC 19, 2010 - 10:29 PM
Hi Mike, Congratulations on and excellent build, and a very detailed and useful article to go with it. Enjoyed the project a lot in the blog, Terrific stuff, the kit, fiiguers and dio all look 1st class and the supporting aricle is well though out and presented. Cheers Al
DEC 20, 2010 - 08:05 AM
Mike, Congratulations! An excellent piece if history. You should submit your article to one of the model magazines, especially Scale Military Modeler International or Military Modelcraft International.
DEC 20, 2010 - 08:37 AM
Wow, that feature is a major piece of work. Well done
DEC 20, 2010 - 11:10 AM
Thanks for the kind words everybody! I really do appreciate your thoughts and opinions. I'm sorry that there were not any more in-progress photos, but a full-up how-to article wasn't my original intention when I started to record things. However, I'm glad that the article, such as it is, is at least marginally helpful. I consider it a small payback on my "Karmic modeling debt." What ever little model building talent that I have is the result of the many other generous model builders, past and present, who have taken the time and effort to share their knowledge and techniques, so this article is a contribution to the community in that same spirit. Happy modeling, Mike
DEC 21, 2010 - 01:22 AM
Mike, This is a great piece! Seeing it in person at this past weekend's AMPS Atlanta show was spectacular. A first rate tribute.
FEB 25, 2011 - 10:36 AM
Thanks, Gregg. You Atlanta AMPS guys put on a first class event! Anyone in the region who couldn't make the show certainly missed out and needs to start planning now to attend next year's. A very nice venue with an excellent selection of vendors, smooth, trouble-free registration and a great showing of world-class models made the whole show a pleasure. My hat's off to you and all the other club members who worked so hard to make the contest a success! I know I'm already looking forward to your next year's show. Thanks again for all your hard work! Hope to see you and the other guys again in a few weeks up in Fred'burg at the AMPS International Show!
FEB 27, 2011 - 10:49 AM
The level of craftsmanship in the figures is amazing, let alone the tank and base. This actually makes me, a "I'll never build a Sherman" guy, want to tear into one.
FEB 27, 2011 - 11:05 AM
To all of my Armorama friends, both real-world and “virtual:” It with a heavy heart and much sadness that I must say to you all that as of today I can no longer, in good conscious, remain a member and active participant here on Armorama or any other KitMaker Net site. For many years, I have enjoyed my time here on Armorama. I have spent countless hours sharing my own builds and works with you, my friends. Over many hundreds of hours, I have tried to repay the debt I owe to modeling by sharing my techniques and methods while also answering questions. My intent has always been to try to help others to achieve their own modeling goals and to realize their own modeling potential. Through it all, I have tried to remain civil and respectful – To disagree without being disagreeable and to always be tactful. I think that in the main, I was able to do these things. I have especially enjoyed viewing and commenting on the works that you, my friends, have taken the time to share. It is this interaction and social contact with you that I will miss the most. Unfortunately, two recent incidents here by one of the official staff members have made Armorama a place where I cannot remain. Many of you may be aware of these two threads started by staff member Kevin Brandt, aka: SgtRam: Armorama::Armor/AFV::Ode to Rivet Counters Track_Link::General and Site News::Just Curious Although I was willing to overlook the first of these threads as a momentary lapse of judgement and civility, when Brandt pursued the targets of his vicious personal attack to another forum, I could no longer rationalize nor passively accept and condone his behaviors and actions. As an official member of the staff here on Armorama, Brandt holds a position of responsibility and represents both the site and its publisher. His behaviors are no longer the acts of a lone, anonymous internet voice; they become an extension of Armorama and its publisher. It does not matter that he (or anyone else) performs his functions here as a volunteer. As a staff member, he, his actions and his behaviors are inseparable from Armorama. I sent PMs and emails to some of the staff and the publisher to protest Brandt’s behaviors and to ask that the publisher, Jim Starkweather, aka: staff_jim, take responsibility for Brandt’s actions. Unfortunately, my protests fell on deaf ears. You may read Starkweather’s open reply here: Armorama::Site Talk::staff_jim post We are all judged, to some extent, by the company we keep, and at the time of my protest, it was my intention to simply cease any participation on any threads or topics that Brandt started or posted to. That intention, however, has shown itself to be impractical. I cannot separate the staff member from the site. The real issue here is one of personal and corporate responsibility and civility. As long as the publisher refuses to take responsibility for his staff members, or as long as Brandt refuses to accept and show remorse for his own actions, Armorama is a site that condones and supports such behaviors. To remain here, to continue to participate and contribute to this site’s content, is to effectively lend my own support and endorsement to what Brandt did and said. My personal ethic will not allow me to do so. I suppose the possibility remains that the publisher, Jim Starkweather, and or staff member, Kevin Brandt, will do the right thing. It is possible that one day they might take responsibility for Brandt’s behavior and demonstrate some remorse by publically apologizing to Kurt Laughlin and Christophe Jacquemont for Brandt’s aggressive and viscous personal attacks on them. Accepting responsibility and apologizing would do much to restore this site’s reputation and establish some reasonable boundaries for civil behavior by all. However, unless and until that day happens, I am afraid that I must bid you, my friends, farewell and… Happy modeling! Mike Roof, aka: SdAufKla
MAR 29, 2015 - 06:10 PM