Tirailleurs Sénégalais for my WW2 colonial French army

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The Foreign Legion is well known as a force for foreigners fighting for France. But in addition to the legionnaires, the French also made use of ‘tirailleurs’—units made up of troops recruited from their colonies in Africa and Asia.

Tirailleur translates as ‘skirmisher’, ‘rifleman’, or ‘sharpshooter’, and was a designation given to indigenous infantry recruited in the various colonies and overseas possessions of the French Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The first unit of Tirailleurs Sénégalais was raised in 1857. Despite their name, the Senegalese Tirailleurs drew in troops not just from Senegal, but from across West Africa.

The Senegalese Tirailleurs served France in many wars, including World War 2, when 179,000 men were recruited for service both in Africa and Europe. 

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I decided that my WW2 colonial French army needed some of these stalwart soldiers. So when it came to equipping my army with support weapons, I chose tirailleur machine gun and mortar crews from Perry Miniatures’ excellent WW2 French range.

I painted them with their ubiquitous red chechia hats. Yes, I know these colourful hats were more for parade than combat, but, hey, it’s my wargames army, so I can do as I want! 

The Senegalese Tirailleurs saw extensive service during the war, but after the liberation of France, they  were replaced with newly recruited French volunteers in a process known as blanchiment, or ‘bleaching’. This led to several incidents of violence, most notably the Thiaroye massacre in 1944, where French troops killed dozens of tirailleurs after they mutinied against poor conditions and revocation of pay.

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A model Dutch windmill and my great-granddad

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If you’re going to recreate a Dutch village in miniature, what do you just have to have to make it feel really Dutch? A windmill, of course!

This weekend I added a windmill to the village I showed in my last posting. This time, instead of the cardboard buildings that I’ve use so far, I built a MDF kit by 4Ground.

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What a joy this kit was to put together. The design is very cleverly designed to form the rather complex shape of the windmill. But, as with other 4Ground kits I’ve built, it all fitted perfectly. 

I personalised the model slightly, adding brick paper to the ground floor, and painting some parts of the sails and the turning beams. I also painted a small heraldic device where the vanes meet in the centre, as I’ve seen on real windmills in the Netherlands.

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I was worried the model might end up too big for my buildings, but I was happy with the end effect. After all, windmills are big in real life!

Interestingly, having a windmill in my model village is a poignant reminder of my family tree.  My great-grandfather was killed when he was hit by a windmill sail in November 1916.

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‘A sad accident occurred here on Saturday afternoon. Mr Hermans, a tile-maker from here [Swalmen], had a message for the windmill and started making his way up the mound. He probably didn’t notice that the mill was functioning. He was hit by one of the vanes, and thrown down. The physician diagnosed a skull fracture. He was admitted to the clinic in Roermond. His condition is worrying.’

He died a couple of weeks later.

Seeing how the sails sweep so low to the deck on my model, I can see how easily accidents like this could happen.

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Tour of a model Dutch village in 1940

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At first glance, this could be a wartime newspaper photo of Dutch soldiers defending a village during the German invasion in May 1940 … until you spot the figure bases, that is,  and realise this is a wargames table with 28mm figures.

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I’ve recently been adding accessories to my Dutch village, such as latex brick roads from Early War Miniatures, and plastic lamp-posts, power poles and brick walls from Rubicon.

They really bring to life the Gungnir cardboard buildings I’ve previously reported on, as you can see from this picture of Dutch soldiers and a Landsverk armoured car on patrol outside a grocer’s shop.

Let’s take a tour of the village (don’t forget to click on the images to examine them in more detail).

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Soldiers follow the armoured car past a corner cafe, with period advertisements for Phoenix Dortmunder beer on the walls, and ‘3 Hoef Eisen’ beer on each window.  The miniatures and the armoured car, by the way, are all by May ’40 Miniatures.

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Advertisements for van Nelle coffee and Persil washing powder adorn the side of the grocer’s shop in the Hoogstraat (High Street). The street sign comes in the Rubicon lamp-post kit.

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At this intersection you can see how the latex roads give a good impression of brick roads. I painted them a dark brown-red, then dry-brushed them with beige and white paint to bring out the detail.

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The Landsverk proceeds down the Hoogstraat. This photo gives you another view of the beer advertisement on the side wall of the cafe.

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The crew of the Landsverk spot an enemy aircraft. The beauty of cardboard buildings is that once you have bought the file, you can print out as many as you like. Thus here we see three of the same buildings combined to make a row of houses. I varied the windows slightly before printing, but otherwise they are identical.

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Around the corner from the row-houses, these typical hip-roofed buildings on the left certainly shout ‘Dutch’ all over them! On the right is a resin kit of a ruined house, made by Airfix.

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A Böhler 47mm anti-tank gun is emplaced behind the ruined house. I’ve made the Airfix building taller by adding a layer to the bottom of the walls. The rubble is made up of small bits of real brick.

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A team of medics rushes past an ornate farm-house. The brick wall kit by Rubicon is very cleverly designed so that you can take the pieces apart and adjust the corners and gates to suit any location.

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An officer gives orders to the crew of a Carden-Loyd tankette parked outside a large farm-house. This photo gives you a good look at the very nice Rubicon lampposts.

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An NCO urges caution on his troops as they ready themselves to enter the barn attached to the back of the large farmhouse.

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Dutch marines in their dark-blue tunics defend the edge of the village, whilst the Landsverk prowls in the background.

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Here’s the whole village. If you look carefully, you’ll spot an interloper amongst the cardboard buildings – a resin model of La Haye Sainte in the top left corner! I’ll need to make up a couple more card buildings to take its place!

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Let’s finish by going back to black-and-white to show once again how effective the overall effect of the buildings and accessories is.

On parade! Troops of the American Civil War

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I’ve been wargaming since the 1990s, and during that time have amassed many miniatures across a range of periods. However, I’ve never really catalogued them all, and some of them haven’t seen the light of day for many a year. So I’m now parading each army for inspection so as to take stock of what I’ve got.

Some of my earliest wargaming figures were for the American Civil War. My original plan was to paint both sides in 28mm, but by the time I had finished these three units, my interests had moved onto other periods, and that was that! But they’re still beautiful units, and so I’ve kept them all these years for old time’s sake.

 

1st Maryland Infantry at Gettysburg

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At about 10.00am on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 400 men of the 1st Maryland Battalion launched their attack on Culp’s Hill. They charged towards the Federal breastworks, but were eventually repulsed and had to fall back. By that time, they had lost nearly 50% of their number.

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The sacrifice of the 1st Maryland has been immortalised by noted artist Don Troiani in his painting ‘Band of Brothers’. Redoubt Miniatures produce a set of 28mm figures partly based on this picture, which are the basis of the miniature regiment shown in these photos.

Painting Confederate troops was a real pleasure, as they tended to wear a range of uniforms and equipment. The 1st Maryland were dressed somewhat “nattier” than other Confederates, being uniformed mainly in grey, and nearly all wearing the little kepi cap instead of the hodge-podge of hats worn by other units. But they still have a range of different accoutrements (especially the blanket rolls that some of them have slung over their shoulders).

Redoubt also produce some very animated groups of casualty figures. I included six extra wounded men in this unit. The casualty figures didn’t come with rifles, so I glued some spare ones onto the falling figures as though they were in the act of dropping their weapons.

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It is known that a mongrel dog went into action with the 1st Maryland that fateful day (and was shot down). If you look very carefully, you will see it in this picture. It didn’t come in the Redoubt set – I advertised on the internet for a miniature dog, and was kindly sent this miniature. It is probably the wrong sort of dog, looking a bit too lean and thoroughbred!

The flags of my 1st Maryland Battalion were by GMB Flags, who produce stunningly beautiful paper flags for many famous Civil War units. I folded them so that they look as if they are streaming out as the standard bearers run forward.

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The figures were glued in groups onto 4cm wide cardboard bases, about four or five figures to one base. This size of base was not selected to go with any particular set of wargames rules, but rather because 4cms is just wide enough to show off these figures to their best advantage.

 

5th New York State Infantry (Duryea’s Zouaves)

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Some of the most colourful units of the Civil War were those who styled themselves as zouaves, named after the French colonial troops of that time. And one of the most famous zouave units was the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, known after their founder as Duryea’s Zouaves.

Redoubt’s 28mm zoauve figures are beautifully sculpted. This is especially so for the typical baggy trousers, where the folds of cloth look very natural. And of course these are set off by the distinctive red colour worn by Duryea’s Zouaves, giving rise to their nickname, the ‘Red Devils’.

The flags were again products of GMB Flags. These flags are absolutely exquisite! I also added Front Rank finials and cords to the top of each flag pole.

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The officer figure wears a frock-coat and trousers which are not quite so baggy as those of his men. He is running forward, holding his pistol out in front of him. I purposely made my bases quite deep so that I could have the officer running in front of the double line of men.

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The bases were textured with real sand and small stones, static grass, and clumps of long model railway grass, to give the effect of rough ground – perhaps the field of Gaines Mill, where in 1862 the Red Devils first made their reputation.

 

Major Pelham’s Artillery Battery

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Redoubt don’t specifically say so in their advertisement, but I suspect they were modelling the moment at the battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, when ‘the gallant Pelham‘ used two guns (a Napoleon and a Blakeley rifle) to great effect against the Federal flank. Certainly the models and the poses of the figures lend themselves to recreating this event.

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Back when I bought these figures, miniature artillery units were often sculpted with gunners in very static poses, or in a mix of action poses that are not coordinated together to show a particular part of the gun drill. These Redoubt teams, however, all appeared to be working together. One team is positioning their Napoleon 6-pounder ready to fire, while the other team is lifting a 3″ ordnance rifle gun by the trail, ready to swing it around to a new firing angle. Note that the latter should have an iron rather than bronze barrel – I must correct it one of these days!

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The figures include:

  • Major Pelham himself. He wears tall riding boots, and is standing with his arm held up behind him, as if to say “hold it there, guys!”. His shell jacket is secured only by the top button. On his belt is a pistol holster and a cartridge pouch.
  • Two men holding the trail of one of the guns. Very cleverly animated – you can just feel them heaving the weight of the gun. One is in a shell jacket, while the other is stripped down to his shirt and braces.
  • Two figures pushing the wheels. One is really exerting himself. He is wearing a shell jacket and long baggy trousers. The other is a bit more subdued in his efforts, pushing with one hand on top of the other. His shell jacket is nicely cast falling open.
  • One figure levering the gun round with a bar. He is leaning forwards very realistically. Once again, he is wearing a shell jacket and baggy trousers.
  • A gunner standing with his hands down by his sides. This fellow adds a bit of variety, as he is wearing a waistcoat and trousers. I wasn’t really too sure what he was supposed to be doing, but he looks OK just standing there, waiting to do whatever he has to. He could also be a gun-corporal, ordering his men to push harder.
  • Another gunner sighting along the barrel of his gun, with his hand out behind him, indicating to his men “this way a bit more!”.

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Next time in On Parade! we’ll move to a totally different army from my wargaming collection. I haven’t decided which period yet, but it could perhaps be samurai, pirates, WW2 French or Dutch, the Wild West … or something else. Who knows! 

Colonial NZ Wars table at The Winterdale Tavern

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At yesterday’s open day at New Zealand’s newest wargaming venue – The Winterdale Tavern on the Kāpiti Coast – I put on a colonial New Zealand Wars game.

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Well, I say ‘game’, but in fact because of it’s location right by the front door, we decided to make it an eye-catcher for visitors, so it was really just a static display. I actually love doing static displays, as it lets my imagination run wild in setting up a feast of lovely terrain, as well as providing an excuse to jam-pack the table with as many of my models as I can!

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Working from the back of the table, the first thing to capture the eye was a Māori pā, which was 3D-printed for me by Printable Scenery  

A pā was a fortified settlement or position with palisades and defensive terraces. The pā was constructed of rows of strong log palisades. Behind the palisades there was usually a trench, so that the defending warriors were fully protected as they fired through loopholes at ground level. 

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Inside the pā is a captured carronade with which the warriors fire on the British, using any old iron as ammunition. The gun is mounted on a wooden slide, secured with blocks and tackle to a couple of handy tree stumps.

In the background is an impressive Māori meeting house and two accompanying huts, all products of Printable Scenery.

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Up the mighty Waikato River (truncated to just a little stream on my small table!) chugs the paddle steamer ‘Avon’. This model is based on a real gunboat that started life as a pleasure boat on the River Avon in Christchurch, but was later fitted with sheet metal armour to become one of New Zealand’s earliest warships.

‘Avon’ mounted a 12-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun on her bow. At the stern was a wooden shed-like structure with loopholes from which troops could fire.

The ‘Avon’ also had a novel self-defence system, with her boiler connected to a pipe running right around the hull, so that scalding water could be sprayed upon anyone attempting to board.

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Moving to the middle of the tale, the first thing viewers cud see was this huge naval 32- trying to pound the Māori pā into submission.

Naval guns were really used during the early New Zealand Wars, dragged miles through the rugged bush, for example at the Battle of Ruapekapeka. The crews would then build wooden platforms from which to fire these great guns.

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Beside the gun, you can see the commander and his two mounted aides. This photo makes the blue of these rather plain uniforms look lighter than it actually is – in fact, my paint job is almost black, which I’ve achieved by washing the finished figures with black ink.

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Emerging from the bush is a ‘taua’, or war-party, of warriors. Half of them are armed with muskets, whilst the others have the double-barreled shotguns that were very popular with Māori warriors. They called the shotguns ‘tupara’, based on the Māori pronunciation of the English words  ‘two-barrel’.

I don’t try to paint the intricate tattoos with which Māori warriors customarily adorned their faces and other parts of their bodies. I did try once, but the results looked too clunky and crude. So I think it is better to ignore them, as the skin is quite dark anyway.

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The warriors are skirmishing with a firing line of British infantry. The soldiers aren’t in their traditional red coats, but are  dressed in the distinctive blue uniforms worn by the British in New Zealand during the 1860s. The officer running out front is wearing a patrol jacket with ornate black braiding. 

The unit is being led by a man carrying a flag, even though standards weren’t as a rule carried during the colonial NZ Wars. But there is some evidence that occasionally a plain Union Jack was used.

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Right at the front of the table is another line of infantry running forward in support. They’re the grenadier company, as distinguished by the white touries on their caps.

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Cavalry didn’t play such a significant part in the larger battles of the New Zealand Wars, but they did take part in a lot of minor engagements. I’ve painted these horsemen as members of the Military Train (i.e. the supply column), who sometimes had to fight as cavalry because the British never brought any actual cavalry units to New Zealand.

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Here’s a colonial militia unit dressed in a rag-tag collection of civilian clothes and part uniforms. They represent a hastily-recruited militia or Civic Guard unit.

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One little vignette that attracted a lot of attention was this civilian group defending their cottage. Mr Atkinson is still bandaged from a wound in an earlier clash, Mrs Atkinson doles out the gunpowder from a small barrel, daughter Amelia flinches as she fires her father’s pistol, and little Annie brings up a haversack of  spare ammunition.

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In the field on the right you can see a small Royal Navy shore party. Sailors took a major role in many of the battles of the colonial New Zealand Wars.

Overall, the table attracted a lot of attention, with many people surprised that there are  figures and terrain commercially available to recreate the wars that took place on our own doorstep.

 

 

Amazing open day at The Winterdale Tavern

This is a live post from the first open day of Kapiti’s (New Zealand) newest wargaming venue, The Winterdale Tavern.

The Winterdale Tavern brings together the hobbies of wargaming, board gaming and role playing into one friendly place to hang out and play.

Facilities include lots of tables, tons of exquisite terrain from Printable Scenery (whose premises provide the venue), a boardgame library, hobby shop, a bar for special events, piped music, indoor/ outdoor seating areas … wow!

What an amazing turnout the open day has had. The place has been jam-packed with gamers, visiting hobbyists and walk-ins. The club has signed up so many new members.

Here are a few pics from the day:

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The colonial New Zealand Wars at Kāpiti’s newest wargaming venue

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Next Saturday I am planning to bring out my colonial New Zealand Wars figures and terrain to put on a display game at the open day of Kāpiti’s newest wargaming venue of choice, the Winterdale Tavern.

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The aim of the open day is to attract new wargamers, boardgamers and RPG players to help build up Winterdale Tavern’s community.

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The Winterdale Tavern, brainchild of Printable Scenery’s Matt Barker, is a dedicated venue for gamers, situated in the Lindale complex off the old State Highway 1 just north of Paraparaumu. 

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Obviously, a centrepiece of my table at the open day will have to be Printable Scenery’s magnificent Māori pā.

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There’ll be lots of other games happening too, both fantasy and historical. So if you’re in the Paraparaumu region on Saturday, why not take this opportunity to take a look round at this cool new gaming venue, not too mention the chance of seeing so many of Printable Scenery’s amazing 3D-printed offerings in real life.

 

 

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