The most common type of German tank towards the end of the war was the Panzer IV Ausf. H. The Germans were still using plenty of earlier variants of the tanks, including short barrelled ones, but in order to be representative, I wanted to be able to field an Ausf. H or two in my wargames.

The Airfix 1/76th scale kit of a Panzer IV Ausf. F is a good accurate kit, and easy to get hold of, and so formed a good basis for the conversion. Other kits by other manufacturers are in 1/72nd scale, and so don't look quite right next to the Airfix ones.

My sources of information were: German Tanks 1939-45 by Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, and John Batchelor (1975) - one of the Purnell's History of the World Wars series; Airfix magazine Guide Number 3: Military Modelling by Gerald Scarborough; and the Fuman/Bandai 1/48th scale kits of the Panzer IV D and H - including not just the kits themselves, but also details taken from the pictures on the boxes and on the instructions.

Panzer IV H top view

Top view. Most of the detail on the hull top is the same as the F variant. The big obvious difference is the addition of side skirting to the turret. This is a thin piece of plastic card bent round and glued into position on the back of the turret bin. Keeping it bent around in this position for the attachment of all the little struts is difficult, and I overcame the problem by noticing what a good storage space the gap between the side skirt and turret made for helmets and packs and such-like personal equipment. I used some "green stuff" two-part putty, which is very sticky indeed, and this did the job admirably. A lump of this each side fixed in some SHQ German equipment, and held the side skirt in position while the green stuff and the glue dried. This also makes the models a fair bit stronger for wargaming purposes. The struts were added later.

From this angle, you can see that the little hole for the starboard headlamp has been ineptly filled with "green stuff". It will be done properly later with Milliput. I found "green stuff" difficult to work with. It was very sticky.

You can also just about see the channel carved into the top of the channel for receiving the aerial, on the starboard side of the tank. Why this was necessary, I don't know, because the tank has an aerial on the rear port corner.

Top view of Panzer IV H and F2 turrets

H turret and F for comparison. This shot shows that you must carve off the rear left circle on the turret top. Both vision ports on the turret front also go, and the port one is replaced by a smaller version. Between this and the gun is a little pressed-in dot, which I think is the gun sight.

Above the side escape hatches is a little strip of thin plastic card. The edge of the card is glued to the turret. This might not be a detail unique the the Ausf. H, and I suspect that the F should have it too.

I spent a while looking at pictures of the commanders cupola (part 61) in various sources, trying to work out what the difference between an F and an H was, if any. In the end I decided that there probably was a difference but that if that amount of scrutiny hadn't revealed it, then it probably didn't matter. The two-part hatch is replaced with a one-part circular one.

The main barrel is a bit longer, by about the depth of the recoil housing. It is difficult to see, because I have used beige sprue, but the barrel has been removed and replaced by a length of sprue. I have glued the muzzle brake on the end of the new barrel, and a short piece of hollow rod has been added, with notches carved in its sides, which forms the second baffle of the barrel brake.

On the front edges of the turret skirt are right-angled triangular bits, sticking inwards. The struts holding the skirt are from thick plastic card, and have definite angles in them, at the edge of the turret top. Each strut joins the skirt where a thin strip of plastic card of the same width runs down full height of the inside of the skirt. You may just be able to make out a horizontal strip added on the inside of the skirt to represent the bar that held together the side doors in the turret skirts when they were shut.

Front of H variant.

Front view. The glacis plate has had an extra strip added to it to make it thicker. This is to represent the extra armour added to the H variant. You can see that this makes the driver's visor and hull MG mount more recessed.

A strip of plastic has been added to represent a bar holding up the spare track on the hull front. This track was not welded on, but was removable.

The hooded lamp on the port mudguard has been replaced by a cylinder of sprue (pale orange) with a slit carved in its front side, representing the new style of lamp.

You also get a fair view of the side brackets that hold up the hull side skirts on the port side.

There were differences in the suspension and wheels for the H, but since I was planning to put side skirts on the model that would obscure these differences, I couldn't be bothered with them, except for a rivet-ringed disc on the front sprocket wheel.

Rear of Panzer IV H

The locating lug for the jerry can has been carved off and the jerry can glued in its proper place.

You can see the small triangular-section piece added to the rear port corner of the hull for the aerial.

Part 84 (port end bracket for exhaust) has been carved down to be narrower, and it no longer cups the end of the exhaust, but is made to be much like the other bracket (85), which is in its usual place. The locating hole for part 84 has been covered over with a square of thin plastic card.

Side of turret of Ausf. H

This shows the external detail on the turret skirts. Scored lines define the edges of the doors. Little rectangles form the hinges, and a strip goes up the centre.

You can see the holding brackets for the side skirts, and their difficult shape which accommodates the aerial channel. Between these brackets is a strange construction which I have discovered was an air-filter system. The good news is that not all Ausf. Hs had this extra filter, so you can do without it. It was something designed for the deserts of North Africa. I have modelled it with two horizontal lengths of beige sprue, with end pieces of plastic card which are like kidney bean shapes with a straight edge on them where they join to the hull sides. What you cannot see from this angle, is that two thin rods of plastic rod represent pipes running from the front ends of the horizontal cylinders (the other side of the far kidney bean end), and joining a small rectangle on the hull side.

The turret side skirt is flush with the top of the rear turret bin, and as tall as it can be without interfering with turret traverse. It is this height, its top and bottom edges parallel, until the front of the side escape doors, at which point the bottom edge carries on as before but the top edge slopes down towards the front a little to end up about as high as the top of the recoil housing at the base of the gun barrel.

Sideshield of Panzer IV H

The side shielding. This was removable, and often fell off the real vehicles. I have made this separately and will add it after most of the painting stage. There are two more struts to be added at that stage for holding on the skirts. It is difficult to see from the unadulterated photograph where the scored lines represent the edges of each of the separate plates, so I have added lines in blue to show these up better.

The beige plastic part you see representing the bar holding up the side skirts and triangular bits where this hooked up under the handles welded to the side plates, is taken from the Revell kit of a Stug IV. This kit gives the modeller the option of making the vehicle with the side skirts in place, or leaving them off, but their supporting bars (the piece you see) still in place. In truth, this part is not exactly the same shape as the one for a Panzer IV H, but it is so similar that I couldn't see the harm in using it.

I have corresponded with a chap who insists that these side shields were not, as commonly supposed, designed for dealing with HEAT weapons like PIATs and bazookas, but were instead originally designed to protect tanks in Russia against anti-tank rifles.


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