Saturday, 31 January 2015

Lending Support

Recently I have been painting some of the 20mm First World War figures that I had left over from the first few batches of these figures that I painted. One of these was an Early War Miniatures Lewis Gun team. While I was making up this crew I thought I'd also paint a HaT Lewis gun and crew from their WW1 British Heavy Weapons box, just to see the differences or similarities. To be honest, there isn't many, just the detail is clearer on the EWM team (on the left in both pictures).


I also painted these guys using Sidney Roundwood's recommendations (his painting guide can be found on his blog or by clicking HERE). These turned out darker in shade than the previous First World War figures I had painted, but I like the contrast of the shading on the tunics and trousers on these more than my original figures.


I guess I can put the earlier figures down to testers and paint any new additions in this style. I also painted three more HaT figures from the same box set as more crew for the Vickers HMG I already have.


Again, the new painting scheme is quite subtle:


You can see the contrast between the new figures and the old ones when they are grouped together.


I have more new British First World War figures waiting to be painted and they will be done in this scheme rather than the old one, so stay tuned for more updates in that respect. 

Before I go, don't forget that I am selling bags of pre-painted rubble on Ebay, I have three colours, Black, Dark Brown and Brick Red. Please take a look on Ebay HERE if you are interested.


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Unquiet on the Western Front

On Saturday, Ninjasaurus Rex and Dean called over for a game of Through the Mud and the Blood, it was to be our second game of it and I was wanting to try out some of the Germans I have recently painted. This included the heavy flammenwerfer team from Early War Miniatures. As the first game of TtMatB was a German defence against a British attack this one would reverse the roles and have the Germans attacking a British entrenched position augmented by the addition of a pillbox.

The attackers had to attack and capture the pillbox to win the game.The defenders had to prevent this from happening.

The attacking forces (Ninjasaurus Rex and I) consisted of:

HQ 1 x Level IV Big Man (Hauptmann Ulrich Von Beck)
2 x 8 Man Rifle section plus 1 x level 1 Big Man each (Gefreiters Herman Lang and Franz Adler)
1 x 8 Man Grenadier section plus 1 x Level 1 Big Man (Gefreiter Hans Sturmer)
1 x 5 Man Flammenwerfer team plus 1 x Level 3 Big Man (Hauptfeldwebel Kurt Schmidt)

The defending British (Dean) were entrenched with:

HQ 1 x Level III Big Man (Second Lieutenant Henry Millwall)
2 x 8 Man Rifle Section plus 1 x Level 1 Big Man each (Corporals Bert Bromley and Wilfred Hoxton)
1 x 5 Man HMG team plus 1 x Level 2 Big Man (Sergeant Jack Becton)

Everything was deployed on blinds with the Germans spread out trying to take advantage of what little cover there was:


The shattered woods on the German left flank shielded our movement but the flammenwerfer and the rifle group under Lang were spotted on the right hand side.


The British defenders revealed themselves on the parapets and opened a whithering fire against our right flank. Meanwhile the other attacking rifle section led by Adler had got close to the British wire by skirting the edge of the woods. This meant that the grenadiers were still advancing as a blind in the centre.


Dean had placed his HMG on his right flank commanded by Becton and Millwall and a deadly duel began between it and Adler's rifle section threatening that area. He managed to get off a burst of fire, but then the gun jammed!


Unfortunately for us the burst of fire badly injured Gefreiter Adler commanding this section and he had to be helped off the battlefield by two other men! This left us with six men and three points of shock. Thankfully a replacement Big Man was found in the ranks and up stepped the thrusting Jager Hans Swartz to lead the men!


On our right flank the attack had stalled somewhat, the flammenwerfer crew had been killed to a man in the previous round, so Dean had been concentrating his fire on the flanking rifle section. Fortune was smiling on him and a lucky shot hit Gefreiter Lang, injuring him and adding the loss of two more men to help him off the field.


The German men of the match was the rifle section on the left flank who had managed to destroy the HMG and then rush the enemy line capturing the Second Lieutenant Millwall in the process! Swartz was looking at a promotion and an Iron Cross for his part in leading the attack! However, this action had cost them another man who was sent to the rear escorting the captured Millwall.


The rifle section was now able to fire at the pill box, but caused very little damage and were stuck on the wire.


The attack in the centre had failed to materialise even with the accompaniment of Von Beck and Sturmer, the entrenched British had shot down our attackers like fish in a barrel and only seven men remained from an attacking force of twenty five on this flank!


So the game was up, the German push had failed, but in good news we'd managed to capture a British officer. I think the difficulty in this particular scenario was the fact that there was very little cover on the table, so we had to advance in the open. Also, I don't think we are using Big Men to their full advantage, but as this is only our second game, we still have a lot to learn!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Plastic Soldier Company 15mm Panzer 38(t)/Marder III Review

The new Plastic Soldier Company's Panzer 38(t)/Marder III variants was pencilled for a release long before Christmas, but there was a problem with the moulds and apparently the kits didn't go together very well, so there was a bit of a delay in them being released properly until recently. This is one of the good points about PSC, their customer service is second to none and we were kept informed about all the delays and problems they were unfortunately having in getting this kit on the market.

I had pre-ordered a set and had waited patiently ever since, however, the wait was well worth it as my order arrived in the morning post yesterday. The kit comes in one of the larger sized PSC boxes, like the Tiger Tank, because there is so much choice in there! There are options to build the Panzer 38 (t), a Marder Sdkfz 139 or a Marder Sdkfz 138H. For my ongoing Stalingrad project I wanted two of the Marders to be the Sdkfz 139 variant (I know the Marders used at Stalingrad were Marder IIs, but I cannot find any for sale in 15mm anywhere, so these will have to stand in for them!). The other three vehicles will be the Sdkfz 138H variant for my late war forces, as I already have five Panzer 38 (t)s from Zvezda.

Update: I have discovered since writing the previous sentences that In was thinking of the Marder II Sdkfz 132, which isn't available in 15mm, however, the Marder II Sdkfz 131 IS available in 15mm and I actually have three of these vehicles already! So I may paint all of these as 138s... With this in mind, I built one of the 138s as a test and here is a quick review of it.


First of all, with all PSC products, the moulding is clean, the plastic is of good quality and the small detail really shows. In this kit, I noticed that the tracks had the minimum of detail on them, unlike some other PSC tanks, this is because the tracks and wheels are moulded as a single piece to aid construction. It's not a major problem for me, as I'd rather have a quick build than have to fiddle about with a track in several pieces.

It took less than an hour to build, everything fitted exactly where it should and the instructions provided were clear enough to follow. The kit needs minimum construction experience to complete and was a very enjoyable build. One thing I didn't do and should have, was to spray the sprues with an undercoat. There are parts of the model that will be difficult to reach with a brush, like the interior of the hull, which can be seen! My mistake! 

Here is the completed model viewed from the left:


The right:


Rear shot, showing the interior of the fighting compartment and gun detail:


Front view:


And a three-quarters rear view:


The kit comes with quite a few crew men, but I wasn't so keen on them, one chap has an extraordinarily long arm and some of the others are a bit chunky for my liking. I have some Command Decision SP Gun crew that I will probably use or at least mix in with the PSC crew. But there is some great stowage for the vehicles, including some ammo boxes, jerry cans and a wrapped up towing cable! You'll notice I've not added any of that to this kit yet, but don't worry, it will be! I'll finish this off in the late war three tone camo scheme, but that will be later in the week.

There is a lot of unused material in the box, but I am going to use the spare gun barrels and Panzer 38(t) turrets for some concrete fixed defence positions, so the wastage will be minimum.

All in all, the set was well worth waiting for, it has far more positive points than negative points (which centre around the crew men, rather than anything else) and they will be a welcome addition to my Stalingrad and Late war forces!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Greater Crater

Taking a break from the relentless Stalingrad project, I was digging through my lead pile and found that I had a few spare Early War Miniatures vac-formed shell craters kicking about. These come from their sheets of craters and I had used the others for First World War terrain pieces. There was six single craters and a double crater left over so I splashed a bit of paint on and they are perfect for games of Through the Mud and the Blood. I can also use them in Square Bashing for large calibre gun craters.


They were undercoated in grey spray paint, then painted in Vallejo German Camouflage Black Brown, which was then heavily dry brushed with Khaki and finally German Camo Beige. The last stage was to simply inkwash them in Army Painter Dark Shade. I was going to add some sand to the edges to blend them into the table more but I don't think they really need it. Simple and effective and a change from Soviet uniforms...

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Final Soviet Battalion For Stalingrad

This week I finished off the second battalion of the 650th Rifle Regiment, this is the last big block of Soviet infantry I need, but the whole unit is still not completed! It feels like it will never end!

This unit comprises of three companies each of eight men with a HQ unit of a CO plus three men (two of which are an AT Rifle crew, that have not been finished yet).


The figures come from my usual mix of Plastic Soldier Company and Peter Pig; that box of PSC Soviets is still serving me well for this project!


As I said, this is the last big block of figures that I need to paint, but I still have quite a lot of support weapons to paint, including AT Rifles, Mortars and MMGs.


I don't have the support weapons for the Rifle Regiment and the 308th Division yet, I am still waiting for my mate to send me some spares through, so this project will take a bit of a slow down until they arrive. When they are finished I'll post some pictures of the complete formations. However, in total, the project is still only about halfway through, as I haven't even begun work on vehicles and guns yet!

But with a holiday in San Francisco looming and me looking at £170 worth of tanks, guns and vehicles still to buy for the project, it is quite a way off (any donations are gratefully received!!). This is a list of the stuff that I still need to gather together:

1 x Soviet Quad AA MMG
2 x Soviet 45mm AT Gun
1 x Soviet 76.2mm AT Gun
3 x Soviet T34/76 Mod 43
1 x Soviet T-70
1 x German StuG IIIb
1 x German Panzer III K Command
3 x German Panzer III J
2 x German Panzer IV F1
1 x German Panzer IV F2/G
1 x German Sdkfz 251/17C
1 x German Sdkfz 251/1C
2 x German Opel Blitz
1 x German 150mm SIG 33
7 x German Horse towed wagons
3 x German 105mm Howitzer
2 x German 150mm Howitzer
15 x German Rifle infantry
6 x German LMG crew
3 x German SMG

So, as you can see I still have quite a mountain to climb!

Speaking of raising money, I am selling bags of the rubble that you can see on the bases of the figures. I have three colours, Black, Dark Brown and Brick Red. Please take a look on Ebay HERE if you are interested.


Thanks for looking!!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bits and Pieces

This is a quick update of the few bits and pieces that I have added to the Soviet defending forces of Stalingrad. First up are these two artillery observers of the Guards Mortar Battalion. These two guys control the offboard Katyushas and AA battery, so they'd better stay in cover. One figure is from Peter Pig, the other a Command Decision mini.


Also finished are the support elements of the second battalion of the 650 Rifle Regiment. It's a 50mm mortar and a Maxim MMG. The mortar is from Peter Pig, whilst two of the Maxim crew come from Peter Pig, the third one comes from Command Decision. The MMG itself is also from Command Decision, with a converted Peter Pig 50mm mortar crew figure. I am nothing if not inventive with the usefulness of my spare figures...


And finally for this post, the heavy 120mm mortar that is attached to the 308th Rifle Division mortar battalion. This unit needs two 82mm mortars adding, and they will be on order soon. Again, this is a mix of Peter Pig and Command Decision.


I am still in need of a few more support weapons to finish off the Soviet infantry and a very kindly chum is going to send me some of his spare figures to bulk up what I have, so I can't wait until they arrive!
 
Also the rubble mix that I used on the figures is available for sale on ebay, please have a look HERE. There's three colours: Dark Grey/Black, Dark Brown and Brick Red:


Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Send Three and Four Pence, We're Going to a Dance

Like the Russian bear advancing across eastern Europe in 1944, my Stalingrad project slowly grinds itself along. The latest additions are more Plastic Soldier Company and Peter Pig figures in the shape of the 650th Rifle Regiment, who are relief forces for the initial 308th Rifle Division defending forces. These are actually the last big block of figures to paint and no one is more relieved than me... 


This is the 1st battalion of the regiment (minus the AT rifle and 82mm mortar, which will be coming as soon as I have ordered them!) and consists of a HQ and three companies, each of eight men, plus support from a Maxim MMG and a 50mm mortar.


The previous Soviet units have been depleted battalions of about eleven or twelve figures, but this one has a full strength of three companies each of eight figures:


The main bulk are a mix of Plastic Soldier Company and Peter Pig, but the support weapons are all from Peter Pig (with an ammo box from Command Decision!).



Alongside the battalions of the regiment is the SMG company, a small but deadly unit:


And the Regimental HQ (led by Major Pechenyuk), with a mix of Plastic Soldier Company figures and Command Decision. This was also a chance to add a female figure to the mix, from the PSC Russian Infantry set:


This unit still needs its second battalion, plus the various AT rifles and 82mm mortars (these are also needed for fleshing out some other units as well), but we are definitely a step closer to finishing painting all the figures that I need.

Also the rubble mix that I used on the figures is available for sale on ebay, please have a look HERE. There's three colours: Dark Grey/Black, Dark Brown and Brick Red:


Thanks for looking!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The King In the Car Park

In August 2012 the high profile archaeological discovery of the remains of Richard III in Leicester prompted Perry Miniatures to produce a commemorative figure of the King on horseback rising through the tarmac surface of a car park. I was going through my lead pile and found that I had bought the figure when it was released in 2013, so, in one sense you could say that the King had been discovered twice in two years...


I spent a weekend afternoon painting Good King Dick and the figure was a pleasure to paint, although I'm not too happy with the face and could have done the flesh shading better. The red and blue colour scheme was taken from Richard's livery, as superbly painted by Graham Turner.


Don't believe the Tudor-inspired Shakespeare propaganda that he was a child murdering hunchback; as a fellow Yorkshireman, I can vouch for his decency. The poor lad was de-horsed and stabbed up by a Welsh halberd wielding lord at the Battle of Bosworth. This act brought the War of the Roses to an end and put the Tudor dynasty on the throne of England. I, for one, have never forgotten this treachery and am willing to go to war against Lancashire again in an instant.


It's a really nice figure, with a lot of humour; the King is rising from a disabled parking spot, perhaps a nod to his supposed hunch-back, or the fact he was disabled in battle after the loss of his horse? Plus it shows off the sculpting skills of the Perrys perfectly, I don't game in 28mm, so this was the first time I have really seen their work up close. Sculpt lines are clean, the pose is dynamic and everything is proportioned well.


This is the first War of the Roses figure I have ever painted, but maybe not the last as I have been looking longingly at the Bloody Barons rule set for a few years now..

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Truce: The Day The War Stopped; a Book Review

One of my Christmas presents was the very timely The Truce: The day the War Stopped by Chris Baker. The book was released to coincide with the anniversary of the infamous 'Christmas Truce' that occurred on the Western Front in 1914 and is the perfect antidote to the vast amount of mawkish sentimental mythologising of the event that has been building in strength over the last few months.This post is a review of the book as I read it very quickly and found it difficult to put down.


(Image from: http://www.1914-1918.net/thetruce.html)

First things first, it's a relatively short book, with 170 pages of text, plus a bibliography and several well produced maps in the appendix, the latter are very useful for comparing places mentioned in the text. There is also a short section of photographic plates in the centre section with some interesting modern views of the places mentioned in the text. Chris Baker's writing is good and flows well, however, there are a number of jarring typos throughout the book, which makes me wonder if an editor or proofreader was employed in the publishing? But, to be honest, that is the only negative thing about the work, from my point of view. 

What the book attempts to do, which a lot of the recent commentary on the truce event has failed to do, is to actually put Christmas 1914 into its historical context. With this in mind, the work is divided into two parts, events in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day are covered in part one and the actual Christmas Truce is covered in part two. Part one provides the historical context of several British (and Indian) attacks on the German lines (and counter attacks) which demonstrate that the BEF of late 1914 was at the very beginning of the learning process which would see it in the vanguard of victory in 1918. The devolution of command, which was partially responsible for success in 1918, was at a very early stage and although the pre-war 1909 Field Service Regulations espoused that battlefield command should favour 'the man on the spot', this was written with forces much smaller than the BEF in mind. What was needed in late 1914 was a rigid hierarchy of command that would avoid the piecemeal attacks with little artillery support that were the mainstay of this period. Hindsight is a great thing, but the 1914 GHQ were not blessed with it and these shortcomings are examined in part one of The Truce, but without judgement.


Part one takes us through each of the attacks performed by the BEF in December with thorough research from the National Archives and even demonstrates that other truces had occurred in early December when men from the 2nd Essex and 181st Saxon Regiment had met in No-Man's-Land, so the precedent was already set for Christmas Day. Part one also covers the fact that there were a lot of dead left out in no-man's-land as a result of these attacks and one of the reasons for the truce was to allow the opposing soldiers to bury their casualties. This is a point that is very rarely commented on in contemporary media articles and the truce is seen as some form of protest against the war. This was not the case and the real reasons behind it were far more prosaic, including the desire to see the enemy in the flesh, boredom, the desire to get out of filthy trenches (they were dug into the water table rather than the later breastworks, in 1914) and the need to deal with the dead.


(Image from: http://www.1914-1918.net/truce.htm)

Part two of the book studies the truce itself by taking a detailed look at the war diaries of the individual British units that formed the BEF line on 25 December 1914. Again, this is something that is woefully missing from contemporary media articles on the truce and highlights that it was not an occurrence along the entire front line; some British soldiers climbed out into no-man's-land to meet their German counterparts, but others, such as the Grenadier Guards continued hostilities throughout the day. Along with the unit diaries, Baker has also pulled in other contemporary sources, such as letters, personal diaries, recollections of veterans and newspaper publications. The second section has attempted to corroborate some of these sources in a proper historical sense, rather than just relying on one letter or diary entry as empirical evidence, which some other commentators on the truce have done.


This is where some of the interesting aspects of the book shine through. It is notable that some of the letters that were published in newspapers in 1914/5 speak of the Germans as being 'fed up' of the war, almost as though this is providing a morale boost for the readers. The use of contemporary evidence also challenges the much mythologised football 'match'. This 'match' was the centrepiece of the recent high profile Sainsbury's Christmas advert (I'm not providing a link to it, cos I hate it...) and a UEFA event that commemorated the truce (ditto).


The 'evidence' for such a match appears to hinge on the recollections of a few veterans, conducted 50 years after the events. Historical scrutiny shows that some of the units mentioned by them were not even in the same place as described and one had even lied about the rank he had achieved! Veterans recollections are notoriously difficult to use as a historical tool, as interviews are generally conducted some time after the events, which leads to misremembering, influences from exterior sources and even interviewer bias. This is not to say that recollections are useful, they just have to be checked against other historical sources for their accuracy. The Truce perfectly sums up these problems in the final section on football in the trenches.


*misremembers

There undoubtedly were football matches between men in British units and even the Germans kicking a ball across no-man's-land is mentioned, but none of this adds up to a 'match' between the opposing armies by any means. Several pages of The Truce specifically debunk this myth that appears to have taken hold in the public's shared knowledge of the First World War. The fact that the British diaries barely mention football in a period when the game was at a peak of interest at home and in the army says a lot about the myth!


All in all, this is an excellent book, full of good rigorous revisionist historical work on a largely mythologised subject and all proceeds go towards up keep of the Long, Long Trail website, so is worth the cover price for that alone. Now, all I need to see is a sister publication that examines in detail the German unit diaries that were opposite the BEF on Christmas Day 1914.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Final Battalion of the 308th Rifle Division

The fourth and final depleted battalion of the 308th Soviet Rifle Division was completed the other day before the introductory Stalingrad Christmas game we had, but I present them here to complete my postings of the entire unit.. It is another small formation of seven riflemen and supporting arms; that box of Russian infantry from the Plastic Soldier Company is serving my purposes very well!



This battalion has a 5cm Mortar and an anti-tank rifle for the support, the mortar is another Peter Pig set and the AT Rifle is from Command Decision.


The whole 308th Rifle Division has pretty much been cannibalised from my lead pile, so it just shows the usefulness of these mountains of metal... However, I am getting to the point where I will have to actually start spending money on figures again...


I know I keep saying it, but this unit is now nearly done, especially with the addition of the sub-machine gunners company. This is six men armed with the PPSH41 SMG, the figures come from both Plastic Soldier Company and Peter Pig (the ones in the greatcoats). These get a +1 bonus when firing, but can only fire at short range, so they are good in the close up fighting of the Stalingrad environment.



These six men add to the 308th, but we are not finished yet! There is still the mortar company to finish along with a Quad AA MMG, and the support guns. All those will have to wait a little while longer as I have spent loads on the festivities and the war chest is rather sparse at the moment!

Also the rubble mix that I used on the figures is available for sale on ebay, please have a look HERE. There's three colours: Dark Grey/Black, Dark Brown and Brick Red:


Thanks for looking!
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