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Contest winning, Emhar British Artillary 18pdr 155th RFA Diorama.

Updated: May 20, 2022

Family History Diorama

This WW1 historical diorama is dedicated to my late Great uncle, Charles Abram Butler who ran away at 15 and became a gunner for the 155th Royal Field Artillery. He, unfortunately, died in the last month of WW1 in Oct 1918 in the Battle of Canal Du Nord. You can read his full family history story here

This is how I built an 18pdr scale model that won a contest!

Kit used is the Emhar British Artillery model 1:35 scale 18pdr. The kit was very basic with the figures coming complete and the gun itself not having much detail. My goal was to make it as detailed and as accurate as possible. So following reference images are very important.

Here is a list of modifications:

· Added range scale – kitbashing

· Added Breach – Green stuff

· Added gunner seats with Green Stuff

· Added storage bags with Green Stuff

· Repositioned handspike to point backward

· Wrapped recoil barrel to create heat shield with string and super glue.

· Added gunner seats with Green Stuff

· Added storage bags with Green Stuff

· Bangalore ammo belt added with Green Stuff

· Figures bases were removed with plyers

· Plough handles - made from bent staples

Everything was primed black and then highlighted with white paint sprayed at an angle to represent the sun. Thin water-downed base coat color was airbrushed on. The key is many thin layers, allowing the white and black base coat created the highlight and shadows. Vallejo Black and German Uniform was the base coat for the 18pdr artillery cannon.


· They Shall Not Grow Old movie on Amazon

· 1917 movie Amazon

· Many more on google!

Making a WW1 shell

Originally I wanted to create a tight diorama to sit on top of an 18pdr Shell with RFA cap badge applied to the front. However, I struggled to find the right 18pdr shell until someone on Facebook was able to help me. The shell took 2 months to ship from the UK to the USA. In the meanwhile, I created a DIY 1:35 shell similar in size to an 18pdr shell from a mosquito candle pot.

· Sprayed Black

· Spayed Gold

· Dark brown wax paste applied with a paper towel

· Sealed with Matt spray varnish

Now how to make ww1 artillery 1:35 shells. After doing the calculations I found that a cocktail straw and a nail head were the closes to scale of an 18pdr shell. I cut the nail and hot glued it into the cut piece of the straw. Once assembled they were then painted with Brass Vallejo paint. Hard to see it was a DIY shell.

Creating wet muddy diorama terrain

  1. The foundation of the base is made from insulation foam from your local DIY store. The foam was shaped by using a retractable utility knife, using the long blade to cut pieces out. The foam was added to raise the back of the diorama and applied with wood glue.

  2. Sculptamold – put it out in the sun to dry then sand if needed.

  3. Press figures and canon in place to create recesses.

  4. Glue, fine sand, and craft paint mix to apply texture.

  5. Dry brush a lighter color brown.

  6. Static grass was applied using the Woodland scenic grass applicator

  7. Created a shell stack from tooth pics and super glued the shells on

  8. Added a DIY tarp made out of paper soaked in diluted PVA glue

The end result

Placing the terrain ontop of my home made ww1 shell.

The diorama composition looked good but overall the final piece didn’t blow me away. So I asked others on Facebook for their advice they were very kind and supportive but I needed constructive criticism to help improve and this is what they said:

  • You cannot see all the extra pieces inside of the artillery canon due to the figures blocking the view and the main viewing angle.

  • The sand is too large for this scale.

  • The canon has wet mud on it yet the base looks dry

  • Add more colors using washes and pigments

New and improved Diorama

So with that feedback, I went to work:

To create a wet mud effect for this diorama my ingredients were:

· Lots of tile grout powder, lots of it

· Fine Ballast sand, small amount.

· Grass flock, mixed in two lengths.

· Lots of Brown and Black craft paint.

· Actual potting dirt – fine

An added touch was a broke tree in the background to give the diorama some Hight. I simply pushed a twig from the yard into the wet mud mix and then applied more mud up the tree. Added a little bit of thinned black acrylic paint.

Once the DIY wet mud had dried, I applied a homemade wash all over including the grass, made from artist oil, Burnt Umber, and black mixed with odorless thinner. This dark wash helped mute the color and desaturated it making it more gloomy.

Diorama puddles were applied in thin layers of AK Still water. Be careful pouring as bubbles seem to be impossible to pop. In the second layer to replicate standing dirty water, I added a drop of AK Olive Drab acrylic paint to give the puddles a dirty green look. Then I added another layer of AK Still water. Other wet spots were applied with Gloss Modge Podge.

The final touch was adding some dry vines or dead foliage to the embankment and spreading a little bit around the rest of the base.

Hard work paid off

I came 2nd!!! In the Diorama category at the SCMA Uptown competition in Greenville SC.

I couldn’t be happier with the result. I think the changes made transformed the look of this diorama achieving a very realistic look. It became more gloomy, wet, tiring, and intense. Oh and the WW1 shell arrived just in time to place the diorama on top. This was a cool History touch but next time I will keep it on my homemade shell and place the real one next to it as I want other people to pick it up and feel the weight and read the markings.

The takeaway is that a model is never done, you can always add or do more to it!

Just a reminder you can read my Uncle's story by clicking here.

Please comment and share your family history stories, would love to work with you on creating new dioramas.

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