On Parade! WW2 French colonial army

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This posting from my On Parade! series, in which I’m slowly reviewing every figure in my wargaming collection, features my WW2 colonial French army. 

When I began researching which army to choose in my first foray into WW2 wargaming with 28mm figures, I was surprised to read about the amount of fighting that took place between the Allies and the Vichy French in North Africa and the Middle East. Often French were even  fighting French. Zut alors, there was my army choice – French who could fight on either side!

And what exotic troops I could take: the Foreign Legion, Moroccan Spahis, Senegalese Tirailleurs … along with weird and wonderful transports and armour.

So let’s review what I have in my colonial French army.

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Starting with my infantry, here we see a squad of Foreign Legionnaires, made up of figures by Perry Miniatures. They more likely would have worn helmets in battle, but I couldn’t resist the famous white kepi! Another uniform feature of the legionnaires was the ‘cheche’ neck-scarf that my troops are all wearing.

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Here’s another squad, including a prone machine gun crew. On the roof of the building are an officer and an artillery spotter.

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The infantry are supported by a mortar and machine gun manned by Tirailleurs recruited from the French colony of Senegal.

On the right is the famous ‘Soixante-Quinze’, the nickname given to France’s 75mm quick-firing field artillery pieces.

All these figures and the gun are by Perry Miniatures.

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To transport carry my legionnaires, I have two Berliet VUDB armoured personnel carriers by Mad Bob Miniatures.

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’.

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Here’s the distinctive boxy shape of a White-Laffly AMD50 armoured car, in this model by Mad Bob Miniatures.

The turret had two guns, a 37mm gun at the front, and a machine gun at the rear.

These armoured cars were predominantly relegated to France’s overseas territories from 1937.

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A Dodge Tanake by Perry Miniatures. These strange vehicles were converted Dodge 3-ton trucks with added armour.

They were armed with a 37mm gun, along with a coaxial light machine gun, as well as a second machine gun on an anti-aircraft stand at the rear left of the gun pit.

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This Heath Robinson-ish contraption is a Conus auto-canon. I’ve manned it with a crew of Moroccan Spahis, recognisable by their distinctive red side-caps. The model is by Perry Miniatures.

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The only tank in my force is this diminutive Renault R35 light tank, a resin model by Neucraft Models.

This was a relatively well-armoured infantry support tank, but slow (only 12mph) and lacking in good antitank-capacity, being fitted with only a low velocity short-barrelled 37mm gun.

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Neucraft also supplied a second turret with this kit, so I can also use this model as a later type R35 with the long-barrelled SA38 37mm gun.

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So that’s my colonial French force for WW2 (or inter-war) battles set in North Africa and the Middle East.

Don’t forget to visit my other On Parade! postings, in which I’m gradually doing inspection parades of every army in my wargaming collection.

Completed my WW2 colonial French army

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Well, that’s it, I’ve finished painting my 28mm WW2 colonial French army  for Bolt Action wargaming (click picture to enlarge).

In the picture above, you can see in the front row:

  • an infantry squad of 6 men (4 rifles, 1 sub-machine gun, 1 VB grenade launcher)
  • a prone 2-man light machine gun crew
  • the commanding officer and his aide
  • an advancing 2-man light machine gun crew
  • another 6-man infantry squad as per the first one.

These are all Perry Miniatures figures.

In the background are:

  • a 75mm artillery piece with four crew (Perry Miniatures)
  • an R35 tank (Neucaft Models)
  • a Laffly AMD50 armoured car (Mad Bob Miniatures)
  • a Dodge Tanake armoured truck (Perry Miniatures)
  • two Berliet VUDB personnel carriers (Mad Bob Miniatures).

At the back is my desert terrain. After buying the wooden 4Ground model on the right, I later bought the two plastic kitsets on the left by Renadra to compare it with, intending to choose one manufacturer and sell off the other.  But I feel they actually go together quite well, so I’ve to decided to keep them all!

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Here’s the commanding officer of my detachment. He’s a brisk looking chap with his dapper beard and jaunty kepi, his neck wrapped in the local scarf favoured by Legionnaires.

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On the left is the advancing light machine gun crew. Beside them is one of the six-man infantry squads, including a Legionnaire firing a sub-machine gun on the far right. One of the obscured men in the back row is armed with a rifle grenade.

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Here’s the other infantry squad. The third man from the left is armed with the VB rifle-grenade launcher, whilst the fifth man carries a sub-machine gun at his hip.

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A closer look at the Perry 75mm artillery piece. I have left four areas of the base clear of texturing, so that I can simply glue-tac the figures on. This means they can be easily removed as casualties. It also allows me to replace the gun crew – for example, some of these gunners wear French helmets for Vichy or pre-war colonial action, but I could replace them with figures wearing British-style helmets for Free French.

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The Dodge Tanake now has a crew. It looks hot work on that open back under the burning desert sun.

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So that’s it – the French are ready for action. No doubt in the best traditions of wargaming, as an newly-painted army they’ll suffer a crashing defeat!

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Review of Neucraft Models Renault R35 tank

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The latest addition to my 28mm WW2 colonial French army is this diminutive Renault R35 light tank. This resin model by Neucraft Models is a little beauty.

This was a relatively well-armoured infantry support tank, but slow (only 12mph) and lacking in good antitank-capacity, being fitted with only a low velocity short-barrelled 37 mm gun.

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The model is really crisp and detailed, as you can see in the picture. I chose to paint it in camouflage scheme of ‘milky coffee’ and two shades of green. The decals are by Gaso-Line.

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The model is made up of several parts, including the body, separate track units, turret and about a dozen small detail pieces, which all fit together absolutely perfectly.

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The hatch at the back of the turret can be opened and closed.  I added a French tank crewman by Warlord Games.

Comparing the size of this figure with the vehicle, you can see how small the two-man R35 really was – not that much bigger than a modern four-wheel-drive!

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The model comes with two interchangeable turrets, so you also use it as the later type R35 with the long-barrelled SA38 37mm gun.

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So that completes the vehicle fleet for my army. Next task – painting the French Foreign Legion infantry to accompany them into battle on the table-top.

WW2 colonial French vehicles under way

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I’ve finally started work on the vehicles for my WW2 colonial French army. These are resin and metal models by Perry Miniatures, Mad Bob Miniatures and Neucraft Models, designed to go with 28mm figures.

I’m relatively new to resin tank models. So my first problem was how to go about prepping resin kits before assembling and painting. I  had read somewhere that the usual wash with soapy water that I give my metal models isn’t enough to remove the release agent used in the resin-casting process. And that to prevent paint peeling off resin, you need to use white spirits or similar.

However, asking around on several forums, I found that most people do in fact just use a soapy wash and a good scrub with a toothbrush, followed by automotive primer. In other words, the exact same technique I use for all my miniatures anyway.  So that’s going to be easy!

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First step was assembly.  In some cases, I had to look closely at pictures of the real thing on the internet to find out how the models go together. The Perry Miniatures 75mm gun was a particular puzzle, but I think it came out OK. Full marks to Mad Bob Miniatures for having excellent assembly instructions on their website. And the Mad Bob Models were a cinch, having a minimal numbers of parts.

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I added some miscellaneous baggage items onto some of the vehicles. I also added figures, using the French tank commanders set by Warlord Games. It’s a shame that one figure in this set is pretty well useless (a full figure lounging awkwardly and waving a bottle in his hand). However, the other three figures were perfect, albeit some needed cutting down to fit into the hatches of one of the Berliet VUDB armoured personnel carriers and the Laffly AM50 armoured car. Neucraft Models again get good marks for having an opening hatch on their R35 tank, in which the commander figure sits perfectly!

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Once assembled, the automotive primer was applied. This needed two coats to ensure both the top and underneath of each model was completely covered. I always use black, which gives good depth to the final model. When sprayed, all the metal and resin components come together, and the models start looking complete.

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The next step is one I use on all my miniatures, whether figures or vehicles.  I find a straight black undercoat makes it difficult to see the detail when painting. So I dry-brush the black undercoat with light grey.  This is one of favourite steps in painting miniatures, as it makes the detail really pop (click on the above photo to enlarge it and see what I mean). It also adds another level of highlighting when it is covered by the final paint colours, as the grey background is more translucent than the black.

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Actually, I love the final effect of this dry-brushing so much, that I sometimes think I shouldn’t bother painting the models any further at all, they look so good! But of course, I do intend to paint them further … that’s in my next posting.

 

 

 

 

WW2 Colonial French force for Bolt Action

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As I mentioned a fortnight ago, I’m making my first foray into WW2 gaming, with a French Colonial force for use with the Bolt Action rules.

Over the last few days, the troops and vehicles from various manufacturers have been dropping into my mailbox.  They’ve now all arrived.  So, with my last horse-and-musket era project completed yesterday, I’m all set to go.

So here they are, lined up and ready for cleaning, assembly and painting. Having never done WW2 vehicles (well, since I was a teenager, which is close enough to never!), this will be a learn-as-I-go project. You can enlarge the pic to see them better.

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And here’s a close-up of the vehicles (though minus a lot of the details that have to be glued on, such as guns and hatches). From left to right, they are the Dodge Tanake, the R35 tank, one of my two Berliet VUDBs, and the AMD-Laffly 50AM armoured car.  In front is the 75mm gun.

All the vehicles are resin, which will be a challenge to my modelling skills. The only resin vehicle I’ve done up till now was a Napoleonic supply wagon!

To whet my appetite for the period, I’ve been reading Tomorrow to be Brave the biography of Susan Travers, an Englishwoman who served with the French Foreign Legion during WW2. 9780743200028

Travers signed up with the Free French in 1940 and sailed to Africa where she traveled the country fighting the war, eventually becoming a driver to General Marie-Pierre Koenig of the Foreign Legion. He was to become her lover and the man for whom she would risk everything. He was also the man who helped change the face of Rommel’s North African campaign.

At the great siege of Bir Hakeim , the general’s troops were surrounded for fifteen days by Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Susan refused to leave the general’s side and eventually, at the wheel of his car, led the convoy of vehicles and men across the minefields as part of a daring mass breakout. When the column entered British lines, Travers’ vehicle had been hit by eleven bullets. Hailed as the heroine of the night, Susan was rewarded with the love and loyalty of the Legion.

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