Thursday, December 26, 2013

From KaweWZ: 28mm Crusader-Era Muslim Infantry & Command Stand (80 points)

Kawe, one of our generous benefactors and the owner of Westfalia Miniatures, kicks off his Challenge with this fine set of Muslim cavalry and infantry from the Crusader era (I believe).

From Kawe:
I have no clue where these come from. The mounted group is from Foundry and so is the single Zanzibari on the command-stand. 
The rest might well be old-glory or something, but the miniatures are really nice indeed.

Well, no matter, they look wonderful Kawe. Those cavalry are very nice and I really like how you've based them up as well - very spiffing.

This entry will give Kawe 80 points to start his climb on the roster. Great job Mein Herr.

From JamesB: 28mm North-West Frontier Infantry & Cavalry (320 points)

James enters our paint-spattered melee with these lovely North-West Frontier figures.

From James:
Here is my first non-bonus entry. I have the first of what will be several lots of NWF figures. 
These are all from the very fine Foundry Miniatures range and most were purchased during last years Challenge with a view to this year. 

I have a unit of 15 Sikh Infantry a unit of 20 Guide Infantry, a Screw Gun and crew and my favourite unit so far, the Bengal Hussars. 

These are all based individually on round 2p bases so we can use them for skirmish games but I have loads of movement trays from Warbase so I can also play Black Powder for bigger games.

Beautiful work James! They are all wonderful figures but I have to agree with you on the Hussars, they are gorgeous.

These great NWF figures will give James an impressive 320 points. Good to see you in with the heavy-hitters, James!

From Curt: 28mm French Paratroopers in Indochina, 1954 (55 points)

Back when the earth was still cooling I wrote a large portion of my graduate thesis on the Vietnam War.  At that time my studies largely focused on the later American entanglement and I had only a rudimentary knowledge of France's earlier involvement in the region. Nonetheless, as I grew older and became a 'reluctant Francophile', I began to read more on the First Indochina War to see if I could gain a deeper understanding of it.

A French Legionnaire advancing along an elevated track with a M24 Chaffee in the background.
The Fist Indochina War lasted from 1946 through to 1954. In simple terms it was fought because of France's desire to reassert its colonial dominance in a region which it had ruled since the mid 19th century. For them to retake control, the French had to bring to heel a growing nationalist movement which was eager to secure independence from any foreign influence. So, political partition grew into insurgency and insurgency escalated to full-scale war with more and more French (and later American) resources being committed to the conflict. Ultimately over 190,000 French Union troops would be involved in Indochine with over 75,000 being killed over 8 years of fighting (a sobering statistic when compared to the 58,000 Americans killed during their 18 years in Vietnam). Not surprisingly, to the French, the war in Indochina (also known as 'the dirty war') is a very painful chapter in their country's history and it has only been in the past decade or so that they have been able to re-examine these events with some level of dispassionate introspection.

A tragedy in the making: French paratroop in reinforcements at Dien Bien Phu, 1954.

Though it has been largely overlooked by the anglophone wargaming community, the First Indochina War offers a rich selection of interesting uniforms, weapons, armour, aircraft and most importantly ferocious scenarios for gaming.  For example, the French conducted literally hundreds of paratroop drops during the war, from tiny squad-level deployments to full divisional drops. They made extensive use of WWII era armour in their heavily armed Mobile Groups, to which the Viet Mihn took particular relish in engaging with ambushes and pitched wave assaults. They conducted complex amphibious operations with armoured assault boats and specialized riverine craft. Also, 'The de Lattre Line', composed of scores of concrete pillboxes stretched across Indochina, was continually assaulted by Viet Mihn detachments, with many being over-run in savage night assaults. So as you can imagine there is much grist for the wargaming mill.

In terms of equipment, French paratroops used several unique weapons during the conflict. For example, both the MAT49 sub-machinegun and the MAS36 rifle could be folded-down to make them more compact for paradrop drops.

The efficient MAT49
The MAT SMG with collapsed foregrip and wire stock.

The MAS36/CR39 with its characteristic folding aluminum stock.

The French utilized a wide variety of WWII armour during their war in Indochina. M3 Stuarts, M3 Halftracks, M24 Chaffees, M8 Howitzers, M36 Jacksons were common, and even captured Japanese tanks from WWII were utilized. So, lots of interesting gear for the discerning Tread-head!

Chaffee in a flooded rice field
M8 Howitzer and M3 Halftracks.

M5A Stuarts and their Legionnaire crews.
So with all this in the back of my mind I was delighted to see Red Star Miniatures release the beginnings of a new range of miniatures focusing on this conflict. These are beautifully crisp 28mm castings sculpted by the very talented (and incredibly prolific) Paul Hicks. 

So here is my stab at painting this period. In this ten-man group there is a potpourri of troop types. Like my other figures used for skirmish games I've based these on various shaped bases to help identify their roles. (I decided to go a bit overboard on the greenery to reflect the verdant setting.) 

The two chaps on the square bases below are junior NCO's. These fellows would typically be armed with MAT SMGs or M1 Carbines.

Figures on round bases will be the core troops, the rankers, typically armed with the shortened MAS36/CR39 rifle with its distinctive aluminum stock. (I will have some of these ready for a future post.) The figure on the octagonal base denotes a ranker with a special weapon, this one is armed with a MAT49 SMG. 

The two man teams on the pill-shaped bases featured here are a LMG team firing their FM24/29 while on the move and a 60mm mortar team hustling to a new firing position.

The large circular unit is a 60mm mortar team deployed with a handheld radio operator who's receiving coordinates for a fire mission.

I have an officer base which is hexagonal in shape but it's not quite done yet - again, that will have to be for a later post.

So yet another period to delve into. Since I'm planning to use them for skirmish-level gaming (probably adapting 'Chain of Command') I'm not expecting to collect too many of these models. Right, famous last words...

These ten figures should give me a base of 50 points, nonetheless I hope nobody will begrudge me as I'm adding another 5 since the mortar was a complete swine to put together.

As my attention span is like a dog's in a squirrel-filled park I will move onto something COMPLETELY different for my next entry...

A wonderful photo by Robert Capa of a French Mobile Group driving past a young Vietnamese woman.