My latest article in Wargames Illustrated

I’ve been lucky enough to have another article published in ‘Wargames Illustrated’. I submitted a piece for their ‘Quick Fire’ series, and was chuffed to see it appear in Issue 397 (January 2021).

In the short article I describe how when photographing miniatures, there’s a real thrill when every now and then one of the pictures unexpectedly stands out from the rest.

The article is accompanied by some examples of what I call my ‘serendipitous photographs’ – pictures that I think came out particularly well, despite no extra effort on my part.

The limitations of a hard-copy magazine mean the published pictures are quite small. So, for anyone who may be interested, here they are full-size (click on the pics to expand).

I liked the way that the trees in my garden accidently came out looking like a castle on a hill overshadowing this unit of Landsknechts. (Warlord Games)

There’s more info on this unit in my old posting:

This is probably my favourite photo – a recreation of Philippoteaux’s famous painting of the Battle of Fontenoy. (Crann Tara and Minden Miniatures)

There’s more info on the original painting and my diorama version in this posting on my blog:

British and French third-rate ships-of-the-line battle it out, as a Spanish brig circles warily. This photo was taken with a simple hand-painted sky background, and sitting on the paper sea that comes with the Warlord ‘Black Seas’ starter set. (Warlord Games)

You can find out more about these models in this old posting:

A battalion of French light infantry marches forward in the moonlight. (Front Rank)

This is a really old picture. I recall I added in the ‘moon’ using a graphics programme, as the lighting of this photo came out by chance looking just like moonlight (well, I thought so anyway!).

There’s more info on this unit in this old posting:

Māori warriors from the colonial New Zealand Wars perform a fierce haka (war-dance) in the face of the enemy. (Empress Miniatures)

There’s more info on this unit here:

A pre-war colonial French column of Panhard armoured cars arrives in an oasis village. (Mad Bob Miniatures)

Below is the same picture, but with some special effects to make it into an old-fashioned snapshot. 

You can read more about these models here:

Motorised Foreign Legion security patrol in 1930s Morocco


Based in dispersed forts in the southern wilderness of Morocco and Algeria during the 1930s, the French Foreign Legion’s motorised companies ‘maintained an efficient net of surveillance over the tribal inhabitants of hundreds of thousands of square miles of some of the most arid and dangerous country on earth.

‘Patrols were very long and hazardous, being isolated with a few vehicles many hundreds of miles from help for months at a time.’


I recently bought some Mad Bob Miniatures resin models depicting the Panhard armoured cars and trucks that would’ve been used on these long-distance patrols.


I’ve painted them in the distinctive camouflage pattern used in the desert. However, I must admit that my yellow lines are a bit too hard-edged compared to the spray-painted lines on the real vehicles.

I’ve depicted the armoured car’s crew wearing their working dress of blue mécanicien denim, which made them look like any French factory worker. 


The ungainly tall Panhard 165 TOE (Théâtres d’Opérations Extérieurs, or Foreign Theaters of Operation) offered reasonable speed, light-weight armored protection and good off-road performance. It was armed with a short-barreled 37mm gun and a machine gun.

They were designed for use in North Africa, where the first of them saw action against Moroccan insurgents.

That experience led to a modified version, the 175 AMD, with a strengthened suspension and an added station for a rearward-facing driver. These also went to North Africa. During the Second World War, they were in action against the Allies in Morocco and Syria and then the Axis powers in Tunisia.

The 165/175’s most striking visual characteristics were its uneven road-wheels, the rear pair being massive, supported by leaf springs. 


During the Rif War in Morocco, France experimented with combined armoured columns and aviation. A troop carrier was required to quickly transport infantry units to the front of the column whenever the highly mobile and evasive rebel troops were spotted. To simplify maintenance and lower costs, Panhard proposed an adaptation of their 175 chassis.

The resulting Panhard 179 shared its mechanical elements with the Panhard 175. The rear was completely rebuilt as a compartment with doors at the rear and sides. Above the main armored box was a sloped roof with hatches for ventilation. A MAC 31 or FM 24/29 7.5 mm machine gun was placed at the right of the top structure.

It carried ‘in considerable discomfort’ an NCO commander, driver, machine gunner and seven riflemen, with two light machine guns. The soldiers were seated on back-to-back benches facing each wall. ‘Ergonomics was then an unknown science, and men’s physical wellbeing was not given a high priority in this early experiment with mechanised infantry in a desert environment.’

And imagine the sheer heat of driving in an enclosed metal box across the baking desert!


While I was painting these models, I had in mind a small self-contained armoured column on an extended long-distance desert patrol. However, I don’t have (yet!) a tribal enemy for them to fight. So they will probably end up fighting in WW2 battles instead.

I’m a bit hazy about French vehicle markings. After selecting a door-badge for the two 179s, I later found out that the charging horseman insignia was actually used by a reconnaissance unit back in France – but it looks good, and that suits me!


PS: Quoted text in this posting comes from books and magazine articles by renowned Foreign Legion expert, Martin Windrow.

On Parade! WW2 French colonial army


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.


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.


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


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.


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’.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Forthcoming new WW2 Dutch releases


May ’40 Miniatures have released pictures of some of their forthcoming WW2 Dutch models, including two anti-tank guns, an armoured car, and a massive building.

The first model is the Böhler 47mm anti-tank gun (above). Böhler guns would prove effective during the intensive fighting in 1940. The 9th Panzer Division lost about 25 tanks, including Pz.III and Pz.IV medium tanks, due to Dutch anti-tank guns at Rotterdam and Dordrecht. 2


Next is the Solothurn S18-1000 20mm anti-tank rifle (above). It was a variant of the Solothurn S-18/100, featuring a larger cartridge and higher muzzle velocity for better armour penetration. Its firepower was adequate against light tanks and other soft-skinned vehicles when it was first introduced, but it was insufficient to deal with newer and heavier tanks by 1940.


willemsbrug w Maas Hotel ann

In collaboration with Paul Deeming from WOW Buildings comes the National Life Insurance building in Rotterdam.

During the attack on Rotterdam in May 1940 this building was occupied by 40-50 Germans who had become isolated from the rest of the German forces. All Dutch attempts to seize the building failed, but so did all German attempts to resupply or reinforce the occupants.

The model measures 27x17x40 centimetres, not including the chimneys. So, as Trump would say, it’s huge!



Finally, there is the Landsverk armoured car, which I’ve described more fully in this previous posting. I understand that Mad Bob Miniatures will be moulding the resin parts and doing the initial casting run.

Sources for info in this article: War Over Holland and ASL BattleSchool SitRep.

Completed my WW2 colonial French army


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!



A business shirt for a Laffly AMD 50 armoured car


Desert patrol! The boxy shape of my newly painted Laffly AMD 50 armoured car leads a couple of Berliet VUDB personnel carriers into the far reaches of Morocco.

Doing justice to Mad Bob Miniatures’ wonderful model of the Laffly, was (as I thought it was going to be) quite a challenge, as I’ve never pained a camouflage pattern before. This is only the third-ever ‘modern’ vehicle I’ve even painted, generally being a dyed in the wool horse-and-musket wargamer.


I had quite a number of different real-life colour-schemes to select from. I liked this particular one, not only because of the complex pattern of wavy lines, but also the colourful insignia.

I painted the model overall dark green first, then added the black and tan camouflage colours. This was followed with an ink wash, then numerous dabs of paint with some foam packing material.

I used an AK-Interactive WW1 French paint set, but must say I was pretty disappointed with the poor coverage of these paints, even if shaken for ages. On a black background, it took many coats for the colour to really show, and on a light background even multiple coats still looked translucent.


I wanted my finished armoured car to look faded and battered, as if it had done many long patrols under the harsh desert sun and biting sandstorms of North Africa. Hopefully I’ve succeeded – though I’m not 100% sure if it does actually look like a real care-worn  vehicle, or just like a badly painted model?!


Also, I learned a valuable lesson – never squeeze an AK-Interactive bottle too hard if the paint won’t come out … because eventually it will, explosively! My armoured car’s paint job might have cost me a good business shirt!




WW2 colonial French Berliet VUDBs


As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve started painting my WW2 colonial French vehicles.  Over the weekend, I got all the prep work completed. So today after work, I couldn’t resist getting out my paint-brushes and finishing two of the models – the two Berliet VUDB armoured personnel carriers by Mad Bob Miniatures (click on the pictures to see them larger).

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’.


I’ve never painted WW2 vehicles before, so this was a novel exercise for me. I checked out some painting sites on the internet, and in the end went for a technique which uses old foam packing sponge to dab different colours on top of each other. Combined with ink washes, this worked out really well for these rather plain drab-coloured vehicles (though I wonder if it’ll work as well when I get more ambitious with my next vehicles and paint them with camouflage patterns).


I painted the commander with the colourful sky-blue and red kepi of the 1er Chasseurs d’Afrique. The badges on the sides of the VUDBs aren’t actually from this unit, as the French decal set I bought from Gaso-line didn’t include them – but the 16e Dragoons ‘pegasus’ isn’t too far from the Chasseurs d’Afrique centaur, so will have to do for now.

I just can’t decide if I’ll attach my vehicles onto desert-terrained bases.  There are advantages of durability to do so, and off the table I think vehicles look good on bases.  But on the wargaming table, they can look a bit silly, especially if the bases don’t match the terrain being fought over.  Anyway, that’s a decision that can wait for now …


By the way, the apparent desert ‘terrain’ in these photos isn’t.  It’s just my kitchen bench!



WW2 colonial French vehicles under way


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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.



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.




Sacré bleu, a horse-and-musket gamer goes WW2

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)