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Saturday, March 31, 2012

More "Siamese Infantry," Generic Troops

I plan to make lots of "generic" Siamese foot that can, with some allowance, be made to stand for troops from southern/southwestern China (e.g., the Dian people for the Han Dynasty's campaigns to conquer Yunnan) and Southeast Asia (e.g., Siamese, Burmese, Laotian) from the first century A.D. to about middle of the sixteenth century. This is a lazy option that will enable me to bulk out various  miniatures armies quickly.

These troops wear either no armor at all or don a bamboo-type cuirass. I am mainly using 1/72 Caesar Miniatures figures (Philistines, Sea People, Early Arabs) with headswaps and some trimming. This is the first batch...

Dragon Cannons

Here are the Minimi Miniatures Dragon Cannons (L). I tried painting the carriage red to set them apart from the Pirate Cannons (R):

I took the opportunity to weather the Pirate Cannons shown in an earlier post. I think they are beginning to look the part:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Siamese War Elephants

To make a miniature Siamese army is to build some toy war elephants. Even if they did not play a deciding role in most historical battles, war elephants remained the prized symbol of (royal) military might well into the modern age (as seen in the 1866 photograph above) and would similarly feature as the major point of interest for your miniature Siamese army.

The war elephant allowed royalty and generals to engage in battle with each other in Homeric fashion.  The classic arrangement as described in Thai military manuals was to have the high-status warrior sit in the front where we would normally expect the mahout or elephant driver to be. He or she would be helped by two soldiers who could be found further back on the elephant. One would sit on a raised dais that functioned as an open howdah cum armoury where an assortment of pole weapons were kept; the other would be the mahout who directed the elephant's movements from the rear. The difference between this classic arrangement with a 3-man crew and the four-man crew shown in the 1866 photograph above may be the addition of a hand-gunner (possibly the second man from the right in the photo).

The war elephant and its crew was to be protected by an elephant guard of four infantrymen who would take up station near to the side of each elephant leg. This was a practice that can be traced back to c. A.D. 1200 at least, as this artifact shows:

Here are some of the war elephant monuments found in Thailand:

War Elephant monument
Narseuan monument

Not entirely surprisingly, 1/72 or 20mm Siamese war elephants are not available commercially. I will therefore have to make some myself and the current plan is to use the 1/72 HäT Macedonian and Indian elephant sets (both of which feature Asian elephants) as base and build the rest. Should be fun!


Those of you who are interested in colonial gaming may even consider this hybrid option, as seen in a 1900 photo:

Siamese Infantry, First Look

I rushed to put some paint on the first twenty of my converted Siamese figures just so I can see whether my experiment is going to work at all. Here's a peek at the two figures that appear to be furthest along in the painting process. 

I shall tweak the color palette a bit and repaint the red/white belt to a scheme that looks a tad more plausible. I apologize for the slight but annoying sheen as the figures have not received their matte varnish coat yet.

These are the helmets that were made with the eyelets, which make them appear a little too tall perhaps. On the positive side, the "brass bands" are just the eyelet flange and do not need to be put in especially. Maybe okay for mass production purposes? They do seem to paint up nicely, as they say.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Italian Auto-Saharan Company

With Italy's conquest of Libya and Cyrenaica from 1911 on and its attempt to transform them into Italian colonies, the need to protect this region's exposed southern desert flanks, where nomadic raiders and restive Senussi could move free from Italian interference, grew increasingly evident. A string of forts was established across the arid landscape and their controlling presence amplified by desert patrols using first camels and, later on, motorized vehicles. Making Italian presence felt even in the deep desert required that the important oasis and caravan town of Kufra be conquered by an expeditionary force in 1931.

The open desert landscape of Cyrenaica and Libya was the roaming ground of the Compagnia Sahariana, which was first formed to impose order within a colonial context. After the move was made from camels to motorized vehicles, these mechanized companies became known as Companie Auto-Avio Sahariane. With the onset of war in the Western Desert, these units became an important resource for countering the British Long Range Desert Group's efforts to turn the southern flanks of the Italian armies through deep penetrating moves across the desert. One company deploying the AS 37, the most important vehicle used, played a role in the failed Italian effort to defend Kufra against the Free French forces (aided by the LRDG) that came up from Chad in 1941. From 1942-43, a new vehicle custom-designed by Viberti for desert patrolling was introduced and placed into service: the AS 42.

Eventually, I would like to build an Autosahariana platoon using a mix of AS 37 and AS 42 vehicles.

I started this project with two AS 42 Saharianas that I built from the Italeri 1/72 kit a few years back. I converted various 1/76 figures to make a crew for them and also replaced 20mm Breda modello 35 with an Ansaldo-Bohler 47/32 gun taken from the Waterloo 1815 Folgore artillery set. The painting is still a little crude and I do need to go back to clean up, weather more and add details.

There will be more to come later, I hope. You see here a MMS 1/76 Fiat AS37 with a 20mm Breda modello 35 on the bed.

Monday, March 26, 2012

20mm KMT Chinese Nationalist Army

Following the practice of the late Qing government and early warlords, the Chinese Republic relied on imports of foreign arms in the 1920s and 1930s to modernize its armed forces. Purchases from firms in Britain, France, Italy, and Germany introduced a motley group of armaments into the Chinese arsenal.

As Britain and France had been the principal European imperial powers that had sought concession after concession from China, there existed mutual suspicions that created the conditions for a deepening partnership between the Nationalist Chinese government and Germany that was only ended in 1941 with Japanese insistence. After an Anglo-Japanese agreement to take control of its important concession of the Liaotung peninsula and its capital Tsingtao during WWI, Germany sought to re-insert itself into East Asian affairs.

Military advisers and favorable sales of military equipment became the cornerstone of this rapprochement between two countries that had good cause to resent the victors’ peace at the Treaty of Versailles. Sino-German cooperation allowed Chiang Kai-shek to base his military modernization on the creation of several German-trained and -armed divisions. This was to be the Republic’s “New Model Army” that would carry the burden of showcasing a modern China.

These German-trained divisions formed the core of the forces that Chiang Kai-Shek committed to fight in Shanghai in 1937. They acquitted themselves well through dogged resistance although the nature of urban warfare did not allow them to use their dearly-bought mechanization to advantage. Eventually these divisions were ground down by attrition and lost the greater part of their numbers and (German) equipment.

Building some of these German-trained and -equipped KMT Chinese Nationalist troops is another one of my many languishing projects. I hope to get it started up again before too long.

The following infantry figures are made from 1/72 Caesar Miniatures, 1/72 HäT Miniatures (Ottoman infantry with heads swapped), and 20mm Foundry.

28mm NWF Guides Infantry

The Corps of Guides was an elite unit that was celebrated in Kipling's "Ballad of East and West." During the Second Anglo-Afghan War, it formed part of the Punjab Frontier Force. Never a large and numerous formation, it usually fought in detachments in support of other units. Different ethnicities made up the various companies of the Corps: there were 2 companies of Sikhs, 1 company of Punjabi Muslims, 2 companies of Pathans, 1 company of Dogra, 1 company of Ghurkas and 1 mixed company.

A brief history of this distinguished body of troops may be found here:

I am now about 70% done with these nice Foundry Miniatures Guides infantry figures from their Northwest Frontier range. They are all depicted as wearing khaki turbans (albeit still with red kullahs) and poshteens which makes it easier for me to paint them. Their cavalry counterparts will be more challenging on account of their blue-on-white turbans.

They all still need detail painting, washes and shading. But I am getting closer...

Early Russian Fort

You see here an early Russian timber fort, which has been "reconstituted" in the Taltsy Open-Air Museum of Wooden Architecture outside Irkutsk in Siberia. I post some photos which I took on a previous trip in the hope that they will be useful references for anyone who wants to build and paint a model of such a fort. It is a project that I plan to take up eventually and expect that I will be using cocktail sticks (of course) and the 1/72 Zvezda wooden fort as base.

I was really struck by the bright reddish hues of the logs when seen in the early afternoon sunlight of mid-Summer.