I have begun work on my third diorama. It will illustrate a street scene in Paris when the City of Light was liberated – by French armored forces – in August 1944.
The centerpiece of the diorama is to be a Citroen Traction 11CV sedan. After France fell in 1940 the Germans captured all manner of British and French tanks, trucks, and automobiles, which they put to use in their service. The need for these resources rocketed during the invasion of the Soviet Union: Germany couldn’t produce enough new vehicles to replace battle losses, or parts to repair those damaged while traveling the ramshackle Russian road network.
The Citroen I’ll be assembling represents one such captured French civilian car. Generally speaking, all that was done to refit autos like it was to repaint it in the appropriate German service colors; I will also be making several modifications to the model, as it came from the box.
The illustrations above show the biggest modification I intend to make to the sedan. Let me explain it to you. The Allies knew that petroleum, which was soon rationed in all combatant countries, was the life’s blood of any modern nation’s armed forces. Great efforts were made to choke the German’s access to oil, through aerial bombing campaigns and the destruction of railroad lines and tanker cars.
Early on the tightening fuel situation led the Third Reich to seek alternatives that would enable its vehicles to continue operating. Plants for manufacturing synthetic fuels were developed but demand far outstripped the supply. Another, more rudimentary, though effective method that became popular for powering vehicles was called holzgas, i.e., wood gas.
Wood gas can be used in furnaces, stoves, and vehicles. It is produced by a gasifier into which wood chips, sawdust, charcoal, coal, rubber and similar materials are placed. These burn incompletely in a fire box, producing wood gas, ash and soot. The gas, having been filtered to remove tars and soot or ash particles, can be cooled, stored in tanks, and subsequently directed to an engine. By the middle of the war hundreds of thousands of military and civilian vehicles across Europe and in Great Britain relied on holzgas. Gassifier towers and supplies of chips were a common sight.
Scratch-building a holzgas system for the Citroen will be challenging but I am confident that it is within my capabilities. Stay tuned for further developments!