Who would’ve thought it … me, wargaming WW2?! Why, I haven’t collected WW2 since I was a spotty teenager infuriating my club by building up a wildly inaccurate Dutch Marines army converted from plastic Airfix figures! Since then, I’ve been a died-in-the-wool ‘horse and musket’ wargamer, and wouldn’t touch any period with khaki uniforms.
But now something has grabbed me and is pulling me into this period, which I could never have imagined happening. Partly it was a WW2 history paperback I was given for my birthday by a relative who thought that because I was a wargamer, I must enjoy reading about WW2. I felt obliged to at least give it a few pages out of politeness, but much to my surprise I soon found I was totally engrossed in Max Hastings’ All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945.
That book alone, though, wouldn’t have been enough to pull me into wargaming WW2. The next drawcard was finding out that several fellow gamers were getting into the period with 28mm miniatures, using the Bolt Action rules from Warlord Games. I’d seen plenty of Flames of Wars games being played over the years. But 15mm fugures never really do it for me. The beauty of Bolt Action, however, was not only that they were figures in a scale I liked, but also the entry-level armies in this skirmish game aren’t too big. So cost and painting time wouldn’t be too exorbitant.
Of course, having decided to make the jump into WW2, the next question was which army? That Dutch Marines army I had as a teenager denotes one of my gaming peculiarities – I always prefer going for something a bit esoteric whichever period I play, rather than the stock-standard big armies. So I certainly wouldn’t be doing British, German, American or Russian.
Dutch was always a possibility. After all, my father was in the Dutch army in Holland at the start of WW2. But there aren’t any good 28mm figures or vehicles available for this minor player … not yet, anyway. So Dutch has to go on hold till someone produces the figures. Hmm, what else then?
And then I saw one of the latest offerings from the Perry twins: a wonderfully eccentric Dodge ‘Tanake’ armoured truck used by both Vichy French and Free French Forces. And I recalled that when reading Max Hastings’ book, I was surprised at the amount of fighting that took place between the Allies and the Vichy French in North Africa and the Middle East, something I never knew about. Zut alors, there was my army choice – French who could fight on either side!
Of course, having decided to collect French, who could resist going for the famous French Foreign Legion? There was even a personal factor in this choice, in that one of my car-pool buddies is a Kiwi ex-French Foreign Legionnaire (though of course he didn’t fight in WW2, unlike the chap portrayed below!).
I’ve decided to be a little ahistorical with collecting my French desert army. I don’t want to be bound by any specific year or theatre – if it fought for either French side at any point during the desert war, it’s game for my army!
I’ve started by ordering a few miniatures to make up a 1000-point Bolt Action force themed on a mobile column patrolling in the dessert. It’ll have a couple of sections of Legionnaires transported in two boxy Berliet VUDB armoured personnnel carriers. As described by Martin Windrow in Military Modelling March 1981 (see, saving old those old MM magazines from my teenage years has paid off!), the VUDB was ‘a four-wheel drive car bearing a strong resemblance to a hearse … guns could be mounted in any of four ports at front, back and sides. With a crew of three and a box of grenades, these underpowered but reliable old buses proved their worth many times over’.
My two VUDBs will be escorted by the crotchety old AMD White-Laffly armoured car armed with a machine gun and a paltry 37mm cannon. Both this and the two VUDBs wll be models by Mad Bob Miniatures.
I’ve also added one of the ubiquitous French 75mm guns to give at least some relatively effective firepower. To keep costs down, I haven’t got a towing vehicle for it yet – I imagine it won’t move too much in an actual game.
And of course there’ll be that curious Dodge Tanake, also armed with a 37mm cannon.
So, on order tonight:
- 2 x Berliet VUDBs (Mad Bob Miniatures)
- 1 x AMD White-Laffly armoured car (Mad Bob Miniatures)
- 1 x Dodge Tanake armoured truck (Perry Miniatures)
- 1 x 75mm light artillery piece (Perry Miniatures)
- 2 x sections of FFL infantry in kepis, including a couple of light machine guns and some anti-tank grenades (Perry Miniatures)