Monday, 8 August 2016

East Africa, 1940

The next project - 20mm East Africa, 1940 - 41 is under way.

When Strelets brought out South African Union Defence Force infantry, this was a signal to start building something I've had in mind awhile -a South African / Kings African Riflles (KAR) force for East Africa. A friend of mine at the club has already built a colonial Italian army, so there is a ready opponent. If anyone is interested in raeding more about this Early War campaign, there is a very good web book by Neil Orpen over here.

Also, the S Africans fought with their solar hats a bit in early North Africa and Madagascar so can be used there, also they look quite a lot like early war British in the Far East, and African troops actually fought in the Far East from 43 to 45 (in some pretty major actions from Imphal on) so they are a decent force to give my Japanese a game - the African troops and Japanese had some major battles, including use of tanks (both sides).

The saga of provisioning the trucks is in this earlier post

Anyway, pix of progress to date

I've used the Strelets figures for the South Africans and Airfix Gurkhas and Australians for the KAR , backed up with a few SHQ heavy weapons figures for mortars, Vickers, HMG and also for Marmon Herrington armoured cars (still to be done).

(Below)- The Army as it stands so far. Two SA Battalions and a KAR one. Whole force is built to Rapid Fire Brigade size, the 2 trucks rear left are the HQ and Pioneer's trucks, still have to make the infantry models for them and get the small Tilly cars for the various Liaision vehicles and artillery spotting jobs that Jeeps took over. Also missing are a squadron of Marmon Herrington armoured cars which are on order, and a Motorcycle Recce Co for which I have no idea where to get models from.

SA Force.JPG

(Below) SA Infantry Battalion - In the 30's SA had based its army on the German motorised battalion model so used that at beginning of WW2. Most HW are done, 2" Mortars still on order. I'm quite proud of my Ford "15cwt" (ahem, prob looks more like a 20cwt SWB) conversion truck (left hand truck)


(Below) Kings African Rifle (KAR) Bn used the Britih organisation. Need to get a 2" mortar and a Boyes AT rifle for them, now that SHQ make them fo Gurhas and Australians.


(Below) Close up SA Infantry with solar hats, they used these in early desert as well (and at 20mm scale, 2 feet away v difficult to tell difference with a Tin Hat ;) )

SA Infantry.JPG

(Below) Close up - KAR with bush hats, used Gurkhas and Australians for them - not quite right but good enough in 20mm. Will build a 2nd battalion in time. Major question for both is what flocking to use so they can also be used in other campaigns (SA in North Africa, KAR in India/Burma).

KAR Infantry.JPG

(Below) The Guns - SA Artillery 18 pdrs with my converted Ford SWB "15cwt" 4x4 Marmon Herringon truck tows- still not sure of the gun colour, I think they were dark green but may have been dark Khaki. Shields were apparently stripped off for weight reasons. Crew are WW1 Brits with Wolsely Helmets, bought some time ago before all the Early WW2 minor Commonwealth countries' stuff was available - now you can buy SA gunners I suppose I will have to replace them with those sometime....


I'm tempted to get a battery of 3.7" Mountain Guns too as I understand it both were used in direct fire mode so can be on table.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Truck for all (WW2) seasons

When Strelets released their box set of South African WW2 Union Defence Force (UDF) 20mm plastic figures, this was the sign to set out on a project I have long wanted to do - the SA and KAR (Kings African Rifles) forces that fought against the Italians in East Africa in 1940/41 (a friend of mine at my club has just such an Italian army....) and they are also good for the early desert war (so long as you add in a decent no. of Men in Tin Hats)  and the little known invasion of Madagascar.

The next problem was to source the trucks. I needed many, the pre WW2 re-arming UDF had based itself on the German motorised divisions as the best solution to move forces fast over large expanses of usually fairly dry terrain,  and so had a LOT of trucks. The main infantry transport trucks were Ford 4x2 30 cwt (1.5 ton) trucks, the UDF commandeered nearly the entire production of trucks in 1940/41. Chevy and Dodge produced most of the 15 cwt trucks for the UDF.

The Great WW2 Truck Conundrum

But while rooting around for a model to use, I noticed something else. Every other country with Ford (and Chevy, Dodge et al) plants in country, started to turn these trucks to military use. This included Germany, who also had Ford plants. Not only that, they were supplied to the Soviets in large numbers.  

But here is the Great WW2 Truck Conundrum. This truck was used by nearly everyone in WW2, yet apart from a few (pretty expensive) resin models and a (very) few LRDG models with cut off cabs, you just cannot get these models in 20mm scale. You'd have thought something that you can use for every darn army in WW2 in every tear and sector would be a popular kit, but no.

The Ubiquitous Truck - The UDF Entering Abyssinia 1941 (above) and (below) in Italy 1944/5 (below)

South African 3-ton truck

(Below) Australian Artillery tractor with 4x4 Marmon Herrington transmission , then Ford in German service, then Russian. The Russian one sports teh 1942 -onwards grill shape, and (to quote) "Together with his civilian ancestor, the 2G8T, from which he differed in the engine type and some minor modifications, the total amount of delivery sums up to 61,000, making the »Ford-6« the second most delivered truck."


Anyway, I happened to notice that a Russian kit manufacturer, PST, makes the Long Wheelbase Ford in Soviet service with exactly the right shape but has the the 1942-onwards grill, and for a reasonable price. I decided that (given the entire lack of these very common trucks in any wargames army, and thus the total lack of demand) that only the most rivet-counter wargamers would notice the difference between the '41 and '42 grills, or tell the difference between a '42 Ford or early war Chevy, and brought PST trucks on board in big numbers for my UDF army.
Converting from 30cwt to 15-20 cwt truck

Its just a matter of changing wheelbase length and back of truck, and the PST kit lends itself to an easy conversion - bringing the back wheelset forward, chopping the flatbed off at the 3rd stanchion, and ditto the side boards and tarp cover is a very simple operation 

Conversion from 30cwt LWB (left) to SWB (right), the SWB model can also be used for 1 tonner (20 cwt) that can (ahem) proxy for 15 cwt trucks without looking too out of place. More of the UDF truck park being built is in rear of photo...)  
The Truck for all seasons 

Having now built a bunch of these trucks, and looking at the meagre collection of trucks in my collection of US, later Commonwealth and Soviet 20mm armies it also became clear that, if painted with a suitable brown-green-dusty paint scheme all of them could use it as well. (Germans a bit harder as Ford Germany was cut off and never upped to the '43 grill, but hey who cares - could be captured ones right?)

As to colouring, this a picture of a South African truck in Italy 1944/5 (Dodge, as it happens - Chevies & Dodge's had a similar experience to Fords) - generic green-brown + dust s probably OK for all Allied armies at any rate, Jerry will just have to have captured ones when I play them :)

Thus I now have the Truck for All Seasons, for all my armies, (albeit with a little bit of licence....) 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Saxe-Märchen's forces take Honours of War

We were trying out the new Osprey Honours of War 7YW rules, using one of the scenarios in the book, and using my armies - so Saxe-Märchen's forces were one side and my French the other, and one of the other club members took some pics of the game - so here are some pix of my Imagi-nation in action:

Regiments Wahlheim and Driebrucken advancing

Sarkozy Hussars (still being re-based but sent into action anyway) backed up by the Malthus Dragoons

 Here comes trouble - French Horse en avance! 

The French hold the high ground - on the right is a French "Imagi-Regiment", the Swiss Regiment Valaise  (all my French army units come from wine producing regions, so I made up a Swiss one from the Valais as the French seemed not to have one from that area)

The assault on the heights - The Duchess' Own Fusiliers (magnificent in their pink mitres) supported by a  light brigade formed of the Grimmwald jagers and Feeland Freikorps, the English regiment in the rear is proxying the Regiment Schonberg, I just haven't finished painting it yet....) advance into the firestorm of the French regiments Champagne, Medoc and Beaujolais. Ouch! See the losses (pennies) dropping!

It was an extremely balanced scenario, the Saxe-Märchen troops were attacking and took the crossroad objective but were unable to shift the French from the heights controlling the main road so a stalemate occurred, both sides exhausted (both would break on another loss or 2).
As to the rules - they play fairly fast, it's not a complex ruleset, be interesting now to push it to the size of forces we play in Black Powder, typically c 6-8 brigades a side, double the size of the forces on table. This ruleset gets very bloody at close range, clearly aim is to get to a decision fast which bodes well for bigger games. Also cavalry combat is brutish and short, and the side with the last reserves won.

We thought the artillery and skirmishers were a bit overpowered, but everything else seemed more or less accurate. Will check with the rules forum on those.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A side project - WW2 SA 6th Armoured Division

Got diverted by another hobby horse of mine - the 6th (South African) Armoured Division that fought in Italy 1944/5. I had wanted to do a small Bolt Action 28mm force and decided to get it done over the Xmas break (One can only paint so much 7YW lace before simple khaki is required for a break... )

Why the 6th SA? Well, I had built it as my "main" Allied WW2 force in 20mm quite a few years ago for Rapid Fire gaming, to fight my son's Germans. There were a bunch of reasons for that:

(i)  I'm South African....
(ii) The Allies and especially the Axis powers in Italy used a huge range of equipment (ie whatever they could get their hands on), so we (especially my son) could use a wide range of toys in our games if we played Italy
(iii) The 6th is a fascinating unit in its own right for gaming with, as it is quite a mix of interesting things - consider that:
- It fought under both the British 8th and US 5th Armies, no other Commonwealth force did that.
- It used an interesting mix of Commonwealth, US and SA equipment, for e.g. combining 76mm and 17pdr Shermans, Dodge 3/4 tonners ("Beeps") not British gun-tows, and their own armoured cars and trucks
 - At various times British, Indian and US troops fought under its command, so you can "legally" mix Commonwealth and US forces on a tabletop.
- "Uniform" was at best a style guide, they mixed British battledress, SA summer gear, US gear (and anything they could find on campaign) so mixing British 8th army and later figures with a few bush hats, US helmets etc is de rigeur
- It had a fairly unique camo scheme well into its time in Italy, blue/black splodges on a light mud brown hull.
- Finally, its final battle in the campaign was the battle of Finale!
(BTW the Flames of War website has a decent writeup on the 6th)

Anyway, I decided to do it in 28mm as well for Bolt Action et al , so built a platoon of the Imperial Light Horse/Kimberly Regiment, the Motorised Battalion that was part of 11th Armoured Brigade. This unit had halftracks, not trucks (The 6th used SA made trucks that you can't get models of in 28mm/1:48 in its Motorised Brigades, so a halftrack unit it had to be ) .

Of course, the infantry was often operating in conjunction with its tanks so a Sherman was an essential addition. I also read they used their M10s (called the "Grouse" ) in close support too for bunker busting and battlefield artillery as well as TD duties so I added one of those too.

The project so far has completed:
- two infantry sections, (last one on the way)
- halftracks for all 3 sections
- the armour
- 2 jeeps, to be allocated to various ancillaries as required

Still to be built are a 2" Mortar section, 3" Mortar section, PIAT team, Sniper Team and the impedimenta of the platoon HQ.