Above - the emergence of an Imagi-Nation - see text for forces used and why
Some years ago I sketched out Byzantium re-emerging, as a Mandate state after WW1 (see here for the back story). I started building a force for project this in 28mm using Greek Evzone models from Eureka miniatures (and Disney Atlantic tanks of course) but it never really went that far. (Interestingly these Evzones, used as Real Greeks, turned into one of my most played armies because the Evzones look much the same in Balkan Wars, WW1, Russian Civil War and WW2 - and so I have gamed with them across all these periods.)
But now....post Lockdown.one of my clubmates and his son have built 1930's Imagi-Nations in 15mm, so it is time to restart my own project, albeit in 15mm scale. The benefit I am finding is that its cheaper, armies are bigger, and less detail = less work = faster gaming.
In the 1920's there was little appetite for war and most armies had huge
stocks of WW1 equipment to work through before there was any
justification for bringing in new weaponry. But by the early 1930's the
delayed technical advances were coming quickly, and drove a lot of debate and change (and also rate of change meant systems that were a
few years old were almost obsolescent and constantly forced new thinking).
However despite the changes there were some standard trends, vehicle types etc that
emerged in this period, and general principles in how they are to be used:
The Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Amoured cars - there were "Light" and "Heavy" cars, usually grouped together in Reconnaisance Units
- Light were mainly for scouting and typically caried a machine gun or (later) a heavy machine gun or anti-tank rifle level main gun. One sub-type of light armoured car is the Scout car, which can also carry a few troops.
- Heavy tended to be better armoured ans carried heavier weapons
Tanks - in this era theer were quite a few tank types. As well as Light, Medium and Heavy tanaks there were also Infantry and Cavalry tanks.
- Light were "scouting" tanks and were typically lightly armed and armoured
- "Cavalry" or cruiser tanks - were fast light tanks, used to outmanouvre eemies and and pursue after the breakthrough, so they should have longer range and carry more fuel and so were bigger than most light tanks
- Medium were the "battle" tank, they were to destroy any enemy formations. Oddly in the early days they often have general purpose medium calibre howitzers guns but over time they inceasingly have anti ank main guns.
- Heavy tanks are attached to the infantry and help with breaking through enemy formations. They start with carrying large (typically 75mm) howitzers. In WW2 they also start to sport larger anti tanks guns (often repurposed anti aircraft guns)
- "Infantry" tanks' role is to support infanry. Speed is not an issue, so these are typically slow. They are mobile pillboxes. As infantry anti tank capability increases the need for better armour becomes clear.
One interestng feature of the 1930's is the multi turret tank. There is an idea that tanks (especially infanty tanks) are "landships" and must carry weapons in different turrets. The French Char 2c, British Independet Tank and Russian T-28 and T-35 are the most over the top examples
Two other AFV systems emerged in this period - tankettes and tank destroyers.
- Tankettes were very popular in the early part of this period, they were seen as either tracked scouting vehicles or infantry supporting mobile MG nests (or both) - is smaller, faster (and cheaper) lower versions of an Infantry tank. They died out as they were typically too lightly armoured when infantry anti tank improved, but the Britsh "Bren carrier" became very succesful in WW2 as it also had a transport capability.(Many tankettes were re-used as trailer or artillery tows)
- Tank Destroyers were lightly armoured tanks, armoured cars and even trucks with larger anti tank guns.
Also, from WW1 days Anti Aircraft trucks were built, and in the 1930's anti aircraft AFVs emerge. built These were mainly based on existing armoured car or tank hulls. The armoured ones could be used in combat.
Trucks are increasingly being used to transport troops and supplies over this period, and some unts have dedicated truck transport. Various fully tracked vehicles are used as artillery tows.
The Kegresse and "Halftrack" emerge in this period, and are quite popular for a while. The aim is to get tracked vehicle cross country performamce and wheeled vehicle ease/speed of travel. It turns out they also had the maintenance problems of tanks. Some halftracks are also used as armoured cars.
Horses are still fairly common in rear echelon transport and artillery tows.
WW1 saw a number of weapons appear (machine guns, mortars, rifle grenades, light machine guns, submacine guns) that had to be worked into infantry formations. Over time the increasing use of tanks forced the emergence of anti tank infantry weapons (initially large calibre rifles) and anti tank (higher muzzle velocity) guns.
Structure wise, there was also debate about the traditional "Square" unit (4 platoons, companies etc) vs the triangular (3 platoons, companies etc). Cavalry was still a thing in this period, they had proven very useful in
the Russian Civil War, and a horse was still a very effcetive way of
moving men or materiel fast in this era. A major problem was how to structure units to integrate tanks
(of all sorts), with infantry, cavalry, motor and horse transport. Many counries at this time had structures where the tank units were only integrated with infantry units at a high (typically divisional) level. Some countries just dumped them all in the same Division.
Those that fought in the Spanish Civil War start to understand that integration needs to happen at a lower level, and the Germans had the radical concept of infantry in hafltracks working with the tanks - but this was still not common in 1939
Special forces didn't really exist yet, Mountain Infantry, Marines and the new fangled
Parachute troops are the main major specialist formations with their own
(typically lighter) equipment.
Bicycles are used to move infantry and don't require huge logistics effort (fuel/repair), reserve infantry battalions in foot formations were often bicycle troops so they could move fast to where they were needed. Downside is troops are tired after cycling long distances.
Cavalry arguably fight more like mounted infantry so is in effect a type of mobile infantry.
Recconnaisance troops were a specialism, they were usually kept at brigade and divisional level. Non armoured cars, lightly armoured Scout cars and motorcycles are often used by these troops and they are often combined with armoured cars and/or light tanks/tankettes.
Building a Force
We are using O Group battalion level rules for this project, so for my Battalion structure I went for the compromise "3+1" battalion
- 3 Infantry Companies and a Heavy Weapons Company with mortar, machine
gun and anti tank gun platoons. The rules also are designed for "Reinforced battalions" with a few vehicles etc.
(Note also these levels of forces can easily step up a level to the Brigade level action using Fistful of ToWs rules for example)
There are 3 cases where a Reinforced Battalion occurs as far as I can see:
(i) "Recce in strength - Infantry company plus some of the Divisional Recce units
(ii) Armour and Infantry working together (oddly enough, in a lot of the 1930's TO&E structures armour and infantry were separated, the German integrated approach was relatively radical.)
(iii) "Reinforced" means having divisional infantry heavy weapons (artillery, anti-tank, machine guns etc added)
So all that remains is to choose the equipment that you fancy modelling. Rule 1 is they have to have been available pre 1939. Rule 2 is the nation making them had to want to sell them. Rule 3 is they had to be weird /cool looking/weird/interesting:
Update - I have changed the equipment allocation from when I started the project, as I have bought more tanls :D The Russian gear initially cited is now used by Byzantium's hostile Balkan neighbour Borduria (see this post) - this is the New History;
Byzantium is assumed to have mainly bought what was available on the export market. By the late 1930's the major powers are using everything new they build for themselves.
So I scoured the equipment of other similar smaller nations, and this list below is what Byzantium could arguably have obtained (apart from WW1 and 1920's kit) - whether bought, built (I assume they have some level of technical ability like say Hungary or Rumania) or otherwise attained:
Light Scout car - The Citroen Kegresse halftrack line was around cince c 1934 and the US White M2A1 scout car came out in 1935 and either could arguably have been copied by a country that wanted something like it. The Czech OA vz. 30 6-wheel light armoured car found its way to a few countries.
Armoured car - The French tried to export the Citroen P-16 halftrack armoured car, and the Swedes exported the Landswerk L-180. A Byzantine own design - based on designs by the Hungarian designer Nicholas Straussner for Hungary (39m Csaba), or maybe designing something like South Africa's Marmon Herrington would be very possible.
Tankettes ; Everyone bought or modified the British Carden Lloyd, and the Czech AH-1V and Italian L3/33 were exported.
Light tank - Swedish Landsverk L-60 tank (also modified into a Tank Destroyer), Czech LT 35 and Lt 38 (both used by Germans as Pz 35t and Pz 38t respectively) and Soviet T-26 were exported. The UK 6-ton tank was exported widely, Mk VI is a maybe (exported but only to Commonwealth).
Medium Tank - The"light medium" Hotchkiss H-35 or a "true medium" from Czech designs (e.g. Hungarian Turan )
Infantry Tank - Some countries obtained Renault R-35s. I assume Byzantium like many countries could buy WW1 Renault FT tanks that it could upgrade, these were still used as mobile infantry support into WW2.
Heavy Tank- No really heavy infantry tank was exported in this era. Arguably Byzantium could have modified WW1 tanks like the State of Hatay did, or maybe The Old Gang would have been amenable....
A few countries used tankettes or developed them (eg Renault UE Chenillette tractor-tankette) to pull battalion heavy weapons (AT guns etc).
Also some poweful anti tank guns were available to uparmour tanks or use as towed guns (or in tank destroyers) for example the French 25mm, Czech 37mm and 47mm guns were all exported.