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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.

Siamese Leather Helmets

Suriyothai, queen of Ayutthaya, from the film of the same name

I made the leather helmets featured in these photos (the one just above taken from this blog: by using the following steps.

(1) Punch out styrene discs of the right size (1/4" or 5/16", depending) using a punch set.

(2) Give the styrene discs a roundish shape with a jeweler's tool for making round shapes. Drill a 1/32" hole in the center using a pin vise (don't drill the hole before rounding it out as it weakens the disc too much and the disc may crack).

(3) Slice the top half of a figure's head. Drill a 1/32" hole *perpendicularly* down the head using  a pin vise.

(4) Glue a length of 1/32" brass rod into the head using crazy glue, keeping the length long (you trim it to size later). Put a small glob of Green Stuff or other putty on the head, apply a little more glue over it and thread the rounded styrene disc (concave-side down) down the brass rod.

(5) To build up the top half of the helmet use either the 1/8" eyelets used for scrapbooking or just apply a small ball of Green Stuff or putty. Mould the putty around the brass rod and contour it with shaping tools such as your wetted fingers, round toothpicks, silicone clay formers and the like.

(6) Once glue/putty is dry snip off the brass rod about 1.5mm from the top of the helmet and quickly sand the tip to shape.

(7) Add leather neck and side flaps with putty. You can also add decorations on the helmet as well as a thin metal ring (if not using the eyelets) at this point.

These eyelets are not exactly the right shape for the helmet tops and only work well with the larger 1/72 figures (not Caesar ones which are close to 1/76). They are somewhat useful though since, if you glue them to the styrene disc (a.k.a. hat brim) with the flanged or widened part facing down, the flange itself resembles the metal ring on the leather hats. Finally, you can fill the open top of the glued-down eyelet with putty and smooth it out while ensuring that the protruding helmet spike remains more or less centered.

Siamese Army (16-17th centuries)

King Naresuan monument, Thailand

I have begun bulding a 1/72 Ayutthaya (Siamese) army for the wars with Burma (Tounghoo Dynasty) in the 16th to 17th century. Naturally this means converting existing lines and finding easy ones to do at that since I will need to make lots.

Below are my first jabs at making basic infantry. Most of the originals (in dark tan plastic) come from the 1/72 HäT Miniatures set of Sea Peoples; the only exception (in blue plastic) is from the Caesar Miniatures Sea Peoples set. HäT's Sea Peoples are not the best sculpts to begin with but are rather versatile and easy to convert. But they are also bigger and taller than the Caesar figures, which have the advantage of finer details and proportions, so I will have to deploy the converted minis in their separate respective units.

I added some leather helmets (see next post for how I made them) and will rely on painting to achieve the rest of the desired results.

Tunnel Warfare Diorama

This is a diorama at the Beijing Military Museum that depicts "tunnel warfare" (地道戰) in the Second Sino-Japanese war. It shows a Japanese patrol attempting to control a Chinese village and partisans falling back on a carefully laid-out system of tunnels and rooftop passages to defend and snipe at the enemy. It includes an interesting vignette that shows Japanese chemical troops poisoning a well. I cannot be certain about the scale as I took these pictures two years ago but I believe it to be 1:35 or slightly larger.

A Hazmat team at work? An interesting depiction of the use of chemical warfare at the small, local level.

 A life-size representation of the partisans.

Tunnel warfare was a well-known feature of partisan tactics during the second Sino-Japanese war. As a form of armed "peasant resistance" against foreign aggression, it also conformed well to the political ideology of the CCP, which after 1949 did much to glorify it through the commissioning of monumental art, films and even the building of "tunnel museums" wholly devoted to its commemoration.

There is a 1966 PLA "propaganda film" about this facet of the war that is well worth finding and watching. I have the DVD but also found it online. The entire black-and-white film is being hosted here:

If you just want to hear the rousing patriotic song: 

There is a more recent remake of "tunnel war" in the form of a 2010 TV series in 40 episodes!  I believe this version follows a soap-operatic format so may be too much to bear for the majority of us who are mainly interested in the military and modeling aspects. The full series is available on this Chinese site: 

You can also try YouTube, as the first part is there at least: