Monday 4 December 2023

Finished: 15mm CMP Oerlikon SPAA

Hi folks,

I've continued to work on the bits and bobs of my lead mountain that have sat untended and grey for many years - completing some of the units that seemed like a good idea but that I've never gotten round to. 

Back at the end of 3rd Ed Flames of War Battlefront had a sale, and I picked up a set of four 15mm scale Battlefront resin and metal "20mm Oerlikon Self-propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (BR181)". Mainly because I liked the models and also as I was planning a foray into more D-day related stuff. 

These vehicles seem to have been far more common in the initial months in Normandy than you would expect. Prior allied invasions in Sicily and the likes had shown that the Luftwaffe would respond strongly to any invasion, and a massive aerial response was expected for the landings in France. When planning for Operation Overlord was being done (late 1943 - early 1944) the Luftwaffe remained a strong and dangerous opponent. The fall in strength from late 1943 until the landings was unexpected and a result of concentrated effort by various allied bomber offensives. 

As such, the AA component of the landings was planned to be far higher than you might think. British and Commonwealth anti-air units were pretty massive, and adding to this size was the late spring 1944 addition of extra batteries of SPAA 20mm guns. If you look at the air defences for the British Mulberry harbour as an example, hundreds of 40mm Bofors guns and whole regiments of 3.7" guns were deployed. 

Different units seem to have incorporated these 20mm additions in different ways, and they were gone from around August 1944. The 20mm AA was unpopular due to it's limited impact on enemy aircraft and crucially it's limited deployability in the packed Normandy beachhead. The 20mm rounds would not self destruct, and as what goes up must come down, they posed a threat to other surrounding units and ships. This meant that they could only really be used in positions where there was no risk of friendly fire due to AA fire returning to the ground - with such places being lacking in the beachhead. 

Having looked at some of the Canadian AA units war diaries, it seems like the 40mm Bofors guns far outperformed these smaller autocannons, however the 'heavy' AA units (with 3.7" guns) appear to have been most effective at shooting down enemy aircraft. 

As the campaign progressed and the feared Luftwaffe presence did not appear, the AA units were reduced in size - from 54 to 36 guns. 'Gunners in Normandy' states that this reorganisation freed up 234 officers and 6,660 other ranks for retraining as infantry or replacements for other artillery units. 

Anyway - onto the models. These kits were nice and simple to build, and look pretty cool in my opinion. Two crew per vehicle, and I avoided stowage as places to place it seemed limited. 

As usual, decals are a mix of Doms Decals, Skytrex and Battlefront. These vehicles are marked up as being part of 4th Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (from 3rd Canadian Infantry Division). 

Stay tuned for more (likely pointless) allied AA units!

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