Already in the First World War the need was there to improve on the old 15cm sFH 13. Two companies stood against each other in the contest of making a new heavy howitzer, Rheinmetall and Krupp, and both sent in several designs of which pretty much all of them were unsatisfactory for several reasons. The German Army eventually decided to combine the good points of both companies' designs and put the Rheinmetall gun on a Krupp Carriage. This resulted in the 15cm sFH 18, nicknamed the “Immergrun” (Evergreen).
The sFH 18 was to become the basic German division-level heavy howitzer during the Second World War and served alongside the smaller 10.5 lFH18. In total 1,933 guns were produced by Krupp, Rheinmetall, Spreewerke, MAN and Skoda. The sFH also saw some modifications being made. These were named sFH 18M which was a modification of sFH-18 with muzzle brake and replaceable barrel liner, the sFH 18/40 which had sFH 40 barrels on sFH 18 carriages, and the sFH 18/43 which was a sFH 18 developed to accept a bag charge with a sliding-block breech. Although outdated at the start of WW2, it was the first artillery piece to be fitted with rocket-assisted projectiles to increase the range of the gun and it was also used on the Schwere Panzerhaubitze 18/1, better known as the Hummel.
The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box measuring approximately 30.3 cm wide, 22 cm deep, and 5 cm high. The wonderful box-art is by Vincent Wai showing the gun being towed by a halftrack, presumably an SdKfz 7, on a dusty road. On the sides you find artist impressions of the side profile of the gun and on several sides there is the kit# and the name of the kit. Inside the box you will find 6 sprues of light grey plastic holding 266 pieces as well as two separate parts of the right and the left trail arm, 4 rubber tires, 2 small, 2 wide, 10cm of chain, 2 metal tubes, and a turned aluminium barrel for a grand total of 274 parts. A nice and clear instruction manual is included along with a sheet which shows schematic drawings in several views of the gun in its panzergrey coat. No PE is provided in the kit and there are no decals.
The sprues are labelled A, B, C, D and F, for some reason they skipped the E. Sprue A, which is available 2 times in the kit, holds the wheels, the underside of the trail arms, the sandshovels and some smaller stuff for the undercarriage. Sprue B holds parts for the undercarriage, the trunnion parts, and again a lot of the smaller stuff for the carriage and the trail arms. This is not much else with Sprue C and Sprue D holds most all the parts for the gun cradle, the recuperator, and the recuperator mount as well as parts for the Portze to tow the sFH18. Sprue F holds all the gun parts including a styrene barrel in 2 parts, the breech parts, and the part that rests the gun on the cradle. The trail arms are slidemolded and are marked L and R, which you can assume indicates the left and the right trail arm.
Looking at the kit for the first time I thought it was pretty well-molded. A little bit of flash here and there but easy to get rid of with a fresh Xacto and the parts look well detailed. However, keeping the reference close by to the kit, it doesn’t hold up very well against the facts and a lot of parts are over-sized. The base part of the carriage for instance where the gun rests on is too wide. This results in the main and more important parts of the carriage also being too large as a result. Also, it has the wrong rivet detail along the sides and is missing a lot of rivets here and there.
The barrel is the correct length and diameter, both in plastic as well as the aluminium barrel which has a basic rifling turned into it. The trail arms are pretty neatly molded with the slide-mold technique giving them crisp detail on all three sides of the arms and no ejector pin marks to be removed. The underside of it is again not correct according to the reference I have of this gun. Looking overall at the parts in the sprues I notice a lot of pin marks. This will certainly mean that a lot of filling and sanding lies ahead when this kit is going to be built. One thing that is also very noticeable is the lack of ammunition in the kit making this primarily an artillery piece in the towed position behind an SdKfz 7 or the SWS which was also used to tow the gun.
The instruction booklet consist of 16 pages clearly showing the gun being assembled in 32 clear steps. This is a point where Trumpeter needs to get some credit. The instructions are all divided up in small steps clearly showing how sub-assemblies are made and where they go to the part they belong. I have not yet found any problems here but the building stage will prove if they got it spot on or if there are any mistakes.
Provided in the kit is also the paint and marking guide and the latter is actually a bit ironic since there are no decals or markings provided. The painting and marking guide of the kit shows the gun in right and left profile, top-view, and front and back view, all in towed position and in the color Panzer Grey. One thing that is very noticeable here is that the barrel is shown in the extended position while for travel the barrel would be in full recoil.
The kit looks very good and it would be a nice one to build. The details of the kit are quite up with today's standard. It has to be said that the references show some big differences in the real thing compared to the kit and these are differences not in favor of the kit. It will build up as a decent model of the sFH 18 but it will not be the most accurate. The lack of ammo makes it quite a limited use of the gun pretty much only showing it in the towed position. All in all I would say that it is a nice kit which will give many a modeller a chance at building the gun.
A Build Log
is available via the Forums to evaluate the fit and assembly of the kit parts.