Road to Beirut Diorama
"Road to Beirut"
1:35 Scale Diorama by Terry Ashley

The date of June 6 holds a significant place in modern history as the beginning of the largest seaborne invasion, which culminated in the defeat of the Germany in WWII. It was also the date chosen 38 years later for the state born from the ashes of that conflict to launch a major invasion of its own.

Code named 'Peace for Galilee' the invasion of Lebanon by Israel on the morning of June 6, 1982 was to rid Lebanon of the large PLO presence which had been continually mounting raids and bombarded Israeli border settlements for many years.

Syria had a large military force stationed in Lebanon as a supposed peace keeping force. This consisted of the 1st Armoured Division with T-62 Tanks plus one Mechanised Brigade, two or three Commando Battalions and 19 SAM Batteries.

Although no declaration of ''WAR'' between Israel and Syria was made, contact with opposing forces was inevitable.
In just six days of fighting, the Israeli forces had swept aside the PLO and Syrian opposition and were poised on the outskirts of Beirut.
The Syrians suffered heavy losses in both tanks and aircraft. but despite the at times fierce fighting, both sides were keen not to let the situation develop into all out war. The Israeli aim was the destruction of the PLO and Syria was only drawn into the fray by their support for that organisation.

It has been reported that Israeli Merkava's, using locally developed armour piercing rounds, easily destroyed the T-62's 'like a hot knife through butter' and a few T-72s were also destroyed late in the fighting.

The Diorama:

The diorama was inspired by a photograph in the Born in Battle publication 'The Lebanon War 1982' by D Eshel which shows a disabled T-62 parked against an embankment wall in the Ein Zhalta area of the Baruk Mountains.

This was built in 1987 or there about, long before the days of etched/resin update sets with all the added details from thin plastic card and wire along with other items mentioned below. There are now extensive etched update sets, resin interiors and the like to make detailing the kit a little easier but doing it all yourself does add a fair amount of satisfaction to the finished model.

Detailing The Tamiya Merkava I. Kit #35127:

The kit is an excellent representation of a Merkava I and to the standard we have come to expect from Tamiya. It is modelled as it appeared early in the campaign before the lessons of urban fighting which resulted in the addition of chains around the rear turret to defeat RPG’s.

Changes were minimal, Firstly, lightening holes were added to the drive sprockets and the mudflaps were replaced with thin plastic strip, All the air intakes and exhausts were blanked off from inside the hull with card, and the fire extinguisher recess cut into the hull side.

A detailed M2 Cal.50 machine gun and mount was added to the mantlet and a mortar bracket added to the turret side. (The 60mm mortar was found to be useless in combat and most crews removed them, although they were later refitted in a roof mounting where it could be fired from within the vehicle). The kit tow ropes were replaced with lengths of fishing tracer wire. which had been drawn through a candle flame to remove the springiness. It could then be easily bent to any shape.

The personal storage on the rear turret consists of tissue soaked in diluted white glue for the bedroll, tarps, and the air recognition flag, while the ammo boxes and other small items are from various kits.

The model was airbrushed using Testors Modelmaster Sand FS 30277 and the markings are Verlinden rub on decals. After a final coat of matt varnish had dried (to protect the paintwork and decals during weathering) the model was given various washes and dry brushings to arrive at the desired finish. The tank crew are Verlinden's Israeli Tank Crew 1980s, modified with the addition of heads with the later style helmet from the Verlinden Head set. (The crew figures are incorrect in that they do not wear flak jackets as all Israeli tank crews used in Lebanon).

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Detailing the Tamiya T-62 kit #35108:

Interior Detail
The drivers position was built up with plastic card bulkheads, seat, gear shift lever, brake pedals and steering levers. Periscopes from card and sprue were added inside the hull top. The turret interior was detailed with scratchbuilt gun breech and shell ejection system, turret traverse unit, seats and various small details again from plastic card and sprue. The Commander's periscope sight was also added inside the hatch. All this detail must be completed and painted before the hull and turret halves are glued together. Unfortunately, much of this detail is hard to see through the small hatches but the satisfaction is knowing it is there.

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Hull Details
Firstly, 10 bolt heads were added around each drive sprocket. This could easily be done by slicing up a length of stretched sprue and adding the heads with a small daub of liquid cement. The exposed idler wheel bearing has added detail. Damage to the rubber road wheels is simulated with an #11 blade.

The rear hull has the fuel drum supports rebuilt from plastic card, using the kit parts as a guide (these drums are not connected to the tank, the fuel is transferred to the main fuel tanks by hand pump when needed). The log support brackets were added, again from card, and the rear lights repositioned with added wiring.

The storage boxes were detailed with handles from thin wire, and securing latches and hull attachment points were added from card strip. The external fuel cells also have handles and hull attachments added along with the fuel lines, all from thin wire.

The hull front had the position keeping lights repositioned on card strip brackets, and the headlight guards were replaced with wire after first filling in the locating holes in the hull as the guards on the real thing were welded onto the glacis plate. The headlight wiring was then added, again using thin wire. The driver's periscopes were detailed with heater wiring and a small cut out in the glacis just in front of the periscopes was added. (This is shown on the box art but not present on the kit).

Fender release bars, hinge detail, and small brackets were added to the front fenders, and the damage to both front and rear fenders simulated. This was done by carefully heating the plastic with a candle flame and bending to the required shape (this MUST be done slowly and carefully or you will end up with just a blob of melted plastic; hold the candle a few inches away and let the plastic warm slowly). Snorkel attachment holes were drilled around the exhaust outlet and the tow ropes were replaced with fishing tracer.

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Turret Details
The barrel was detailed with a new tip of correct diameter from plastic rod and bolt heads and weld seams were added to fume extractor.

The kit turret was too shallow, and this was altered by adding sections of 2mm Tamiya plastic beam between the two turret halves.
The rough cast finish to the turret was added by brushing on liquid cement and daubing with a finger as the cement dries (a small section at a time). The shell ejection port was cut out and details added to the open hatch. The Commander's and Loader's hatches were also detailed with periscopes and internal latches and handles. The search light bracket on the Tank Commander's hatch was rebuilt from card strip. The grab rails round the turret were replaced with thin wire and a third lifting hook was added to the rear turret (this was omitted from the kit as a result of the turret height problem).

The main searchlight mount was detailed and the wiring added, along with the linkage to the supporting ring around the barrel, this being made from thin card with added bolt heads. The machine gun mount has small details added and the ammo box attachments were added to the turret sides (these must be present if the A/A MG is carried).

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Various small fittings and handles were added to the top and rear of the turret along with details to the barrel cleaning rod container. Finally, the mantlet dust cover was replaced with tissue soaked in white glue. The model was airbrushed with Humbrol paints with the Arabic letters on the turret and rear plate hand painted, a coat of matt varnish was then sprayed overall and when dry the model was weathered using washes and drybrushing.

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The Base:

The embankment wall was cast in 'Plaster of Paris' with the blocks scribed in and the texture added using Dremel Tool.

The remaining ground work, also plaster, was then laid and the various stones, trees, tank tracks etc, added while drying. The power pole was later added to a pre-drilled hole after the base had been airbrushed with various earth colours and, finally, darker washes to highlight and add contrast to the groundwork.

The tanks and other small details were firmly glued to the base.

The Diorama took about 200 enjoyable hours to build.

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  • Born in battle 'The Lebanon War 1982' D.Eshel
  • Born in Battle 'War Data No.14' (T-62)
  • War Data No.10 & 17' (Merkava)
  • Osprey Vanguard 37 'Modern Soviet Combat Tanks' S.Zaloga
  • Tamiya Photo Album No.6 'T-62'
  • AFV G2 Magazine, Volume 5 No.s 9, 10 & 11
  • Tank Magazine 3/86, 10/88
  • Panzer Magazine 9/86

Diorama built around 1987