Not a Moment to Lose... Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes, December 1944

Well, I’m back! Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated, etc…

Looking back I can see that it was November 21 that I finished my last project:

Sorry it has been so long. It’s all the usual excuses: work, family, life, etc. I haven’t even been much of a lurker…

But I have not been entirely idle!

So I guess I started this project over a year ago and it’s something of a swerve from the last one and the one before - which can still be found in the archive for the old site:

When I was in my first modelling phase as a teenager back in the early 80s I had always wanted to build a Battle of the Bulge diorama. I can still recall the rush of excitement when I finally bought this huge book (published in 1984):

It was a HUGE inspiration. It also wasn’t cheap! As a comprehensive work of scholarship accompanied by all those maps and photos (many in the classic Then and Now format) I still don’t think it has really been surpassed, although there have been many excellent works published since.

Of course, there has been a lot more written about the history of this particular conflict since then, with the ‘Duel in the Mist’ series of books being a particular highlight.

We are all familiar with many of the images of the Ardennes offensive, such as a King Tiger crowded with Fallschirmjäger, or heavily armed Panzer Grenadiers posing in front of knocked out American vehicles at Poteau. Then there are the cine films showing the advance of Kampfgruppe Peiper advancing on Stavelot.

It is worth noting that most of these come from the German side, taken during the early phase of the campaign. Ironically, many of these images survive today because they were captured by the Americans quite early on during the battle and then used in newsreels.

Then there are many more photographs taken later in the battle, mostly from the Allied perspective, usually showing destroyed German equipment and shattered buildings - often covered in snow (we will come back to that in due course).

Of course, there have also been a lot of dioramas inspired by these events - so many, in fact, that it might be said that the whole idea of depicting a scene from the Battle of the Bulge (a title that itself now seems somewhat dated) in model form has become something of a cliché.

So what to do? Well I am not going to lay claim to trying anything totally new here - but I am going to try and give it a slightly fresh spin. I am also going to avoid tanks, although, as you will already have spotted from the first picture, there is going to be an Sdkfz 250 Neu halftrack and a Schwimmwagen - plus a Jeep.

More to follow shortly…


Welcome back, looking forward to seeing your BotB build as it develops.

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Hiya Tim2 , long time .
Looking forward to your talents on this !!!

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Happy to see you back at work… I am anxious to see what you will be creating this time around…


Glad that I checked this out.

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Thanks. I’m glad to be back too! Better get a move on…


Thanks Cheyenne,

Sorry to have been a stranger. Glad to back in the saddle!

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Thanks Golikell. Less vegetation and more buildings this time around!

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Thanks Dan. On with the show…


Thanks guys. I really did mean to follow up a little more quickly… anyway, on with the project.

So the setting here is a moment during the first days of the German offensive - most likely the 17th or 18th December. Unlike my last diorama, this one is not based on any particular event, but a possible scenario. Elements of a German Reconnaissance Unit from 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler have pulled up in front of a farmhouse during the advance through American lines. Despite the breakthrough and the initial euphoria that many of the soldiers may have felt, the commanders already know that things were not going to plan and progress has been too slow.

The Recce group have arrived in a Schwimmwagen and 250 halftrack and troops dismount. An officer studies his map and checks his watch. Meanwhile, out of sight behind the building, an escaping Jeep has broken down. Realising that the enemy has just arrived, the GIs abandon their vehicle and beat a hasty retreat away from the farm and up the hill. Hearing the noise, some of the German troops move to investigate.

So the title is supposed to reflect the predicament of both sides at a brief moment in time when the Germans seemed to have the advantage and the Allies appeared to be losing - and yet we all know how things were to turn out!

Here are few shots showing my early attempts to work out the composition.

Part of the challenge I faced was to position the farmhouse so that it screened the abandoned Jeep from the advancing Germans without cutting the whole diorama in half…

Once I had the general idea I laid out the vehicles (or at least their shells) and decided what size and shape the base should be. All my previous dioramas have been rectangular, but I felt it was time to try something a little more daring - so I drew a shape that had curved ends but a straight middle section (rhomboid rectangle?)

On the plus side this means that I will have less corners to fill. On the downside, making the edging is going to be a nightmare!

I also started to construct a mock-up of the building. As you can see, this is just a rough cut from cardboard off-cuts held together with masking tape - but this was enough to convince me that the shape and dimensions of the base were more or less correct.

Having worked out the dimensions of the base I then cut out two pieces of card and used double-sided tape to attach these to both sides of a piece of low-density foam (the sort used for ceiling insulation which can be picked up for free from most building sites).

I have used this foam for both my previous projects because it is a) very cheap (i.e. free) and b) very easy to carve. However, it is also very messy. First I used a saw to carve the block into the approximate shape and then sanding blocks to refine it.

It is at this point that I find myself getting excited - and scared. Basically, you have everything you need in front of you, but you also have to get rid of what you don’t!

After an hour or so of sawing, sanding, chiseling (and goodness knows what else) I ended up with this:

There is still a long way to go, but at this point I could see the whole thing beginning to take shape. You will also notice that the 250, Schwim and Jeep are also starting to take shape.

More to come…


Hi Tim great to see you back! Interesting – it’s a well-trodden path theme-wise but I like the narrative you’re injecting, and the base shape. As the foam is suggesting, presumably there will be much snow/slush?

By all means ignore this, but I was musing on the fact the German advance depended on capturing Allied fuel dumps to continue (ultimately) to Antwerp. Just wondering whether the jeep might have been rescuing a bunch of jerry/fuel cans…maybe overloaded…from behind the barn/building? With some discarded empties lying around which is what caught the Germans’ interest? Sorry sometimes I can’t help myself, it’s your baby.

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Thanks Tim,

Now why does’t it surprise me that you are suggesting more drama!

Because this will be set during the first two days of the offensive there will be no call for snow… which is a shame in a way, because I quite fancy that. So just cold and a bit damp.

As for the fuel, the Allies had so much fuel that I’m not sure they would bother trying to rescue it. When the Germans got too close to some of the dumps they simply set fire to it!


:rofl: Now that would be a novelty :fire: :fire: :fire:


Now that’s an unfair quote! Now I’m starting to think of that ridiculous ending to the Battle of the Bulge film where the Americans roll the fuel drums down the hill at the advancing panzers…


I will come back to the vehicles a little bit later because they are still works in progress, but here are the basic kits I am using - each with plenty of extras.

First up the Dragon Sdkfz. 250 neu / late. Although this one is the Stummel version, it will be built as the standard troop-carrying variant.

Next up is the Tamiya Schwim…

Lastly the venerable Jeep, also from Tamiya.

So what have a gone and done? I’ve not only have I avoided tanks, I have also chosen three open-topped vehicles, thus creating several rods for my own back. Lots of scope for interior detail - plus I am planning to leave the Jeep’s bonnet open, exposing the engine.


Hey, TFTM, this is already looking good, Ruck On, I’m in!


Thanks Steve.

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A bit more historical context before I get on with the build.

Some of the most famous images of the Ardennes Offensive come from cine film and stills taken by the Germans around the Kaiserbarracke crossroads. The footage was later captured by the Allies and still images have appeared in many books and all over the internet ever since.

The complete film sequence can be found here:

The date quoted for the footage is 18th December 1944. This appears correct because the crossroads were captured at around 5pm on the 17th (by which time it would have been dark) and the well known ‘Ambush at Poteau’ (after which more famous images were taken, including that iconic shot of a smoking Panzergrenadier) actually occurred at around 7am on the 18th December.

Poteau was only a few miles West of the crossroads and various sources say that this engagement (in which several US vehicles were left abandoned and burning on the road) involved Kampfgruppe Hansen, one of three other Kampfgruppes (along with Knittel and Sandig) that were following in the wake of the spearhead of Kampfgruppe Peiper.

So it looks as if the some of the vehicles shown in the footage (all those travelling from right to left past the signpost and tree) were heading in roughly the same direction - but presumably after that battle was already over.

Having watched this many times and taken some screen shots I have found many interesting details which I will be incorporating into this diorama. However, my scene will be showing a moment in the advance which followed.

Taking timings from the clip above:

00:45 - we see the well-known signpost to Malmendy and St Vith. Note that the upper sign is crooked and the US Ordnance Depot sign is still there at the top.

01:02 - after several 251 halftracks (all heavily camouflaged with conifer branches) roar past, the camera pans left and you can just see a Schwimm parked facing the camera on the left. I suspect this belonged to the SS photographers.

01:03 - this clip shows a Schimm parked in front of the sign (still crooked) whilst an Obersturmführer studies his map. Note that he is wearing a grey M43 field cap, camo smock and leather gloves. His rather young looking driver appears to wear a greatcoat and sidecap (and gloves). What I find interesting is the fact that they are not dressed for immediate combat (no helmets for instance), although the officer is wearing full webbing.

The officer has been identified in various sources as either Obersturmführer Leidreiter, commander of the 3. Kompanie, or Obersturmführer Goltz, commander of the staff company of the reconnaissance battalion. I believe that both were part of Kampfgruppe Knittel, so perhaps it matters not. Obersturmführer, by the way, is the rank equivalent to a 1st Lieutenant (US) or Lieutenant (UK).

01:14 - as they drive off you can just see a Panzerfaust secured in the rifle rack on the left side of the vehicle. The Schwimm is also covered in conifer branches.

01:17 - one of the cameramen then straightens the sign with a rifle and discards the US one at the top. From now on the sign remains in this state. As he does so a heavily camouflaged 250 halftrack passes by.

01:35 - a Stoewer 1500a then passes towing a 12cm heavy mortar, turning left (to our right) - presumably in the direction of St Vith (which lay to the South). In the background we can see two 250 halftracks.

01:43 - at this point we can see another Schwimm coming along the road. If we look closely we can see that this is the one which we have all seen many times, with a driver wearing a flying helmet. Note that there appear to be two panzerfausts in the rifle racks.

The next sequence shows Tiger 222 trundling past with a load of Fallschirmjäger aboard.

This is probably where some of the confusion has arisen as to which Kampfgruppe is being shown here, because that Tiger was part of Kampfgruppe Peiper and ultimately ended up being knocked out near the bridge in Stavelot on the 19th December. However, when it was spotted passing through the Kaiserbaracke crossroads it was simply in the process of catching up!

For my purposes, however, I am far more interested in what is going on in the background…

01:53 - just after the Tiger passes we can see a 250 parked on the other side of the road. This is seen again in the sequence showing two officers walking past at (02:02) with a beaming soldier wearing a field cap and greatcoat.

Draped in conifer leaves, this is going to be the basis for the 250 in my diorama, along with a composite of the Schwimmwagens seen at the same time.

02:04 - the sequence that follows shows the well-known Schwimm with the cigar-chomping NCO and driver wearing a flying helmet.

Of note are the fact that this vehicle has already ‘been through the wars’ (it has a broken windscreen for a start) and is covered with mud (as are the crew) - but not with any foliage. Also, like the officer we saw earlier, these soldiers are wearing camo smocks and webbing - but no helmet.

Interestingly, for years this man was consistently mis-identified as Joachim Peiper. In fact, his rank patches show that he was an Unterscharführer (or Sergeant) and he has never been identified as far as I know.

It is aso worth noting that on both Schimmwagen there is no MG mounted either fore or aft and no visible camo paint. It also seems to have been common practice for these vehicles to have a two-man crew at this point in the battle.

Finally, there is no sign of any snow at this point: the terrain is muddy, but not water-logged and it appears to be ‘chilly’ rather than freezing.

Many of these details (and more) are going to form the basis for my LSSAH recce group plunging into enemy-held territory!


Well done history lesson Tim !!!
Love it !!!


I’ve driven across the Kaiser Baracke (nowadays am big roundabout) dozens of times, and you wouldn’t recognise it, if you didn’t know the name…
In the beginning of the Ardennes offensive, there indeed was no snow. Only freezing mist with in the night temperatures just below freezing, and during daytime just above.

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