Monday, 11 November 2019

Canadian War Heroes

Today is Remembrance Day, so a fitting day to remember these two Canadian soldiers from the Second World War.  Both of these figures are from Stoessi's Heroes.

First up we have Sergeant Harold Marshall, of the Calgary Highlanders Scouts and Snipers Platoon, based on this famous photo (this version is from Sgt Marshall's Wikipedia page).

This image was part of a series of photographs made when Lt Bell, a correspondent from 'Army News' stopped by the unit in October 1944 to write an article on the scouts.  More images from the shoot can be found on the website of Library and Archives Canada.

Scout Platoon commander Lt G.H. Seller

Corporal S.Kormendy

Sniper Team of Sgt Marshall and Corporal Kormendy demonstrating sniper and scouting techniques.

Here is my take on Stoessi's figure of Sgt Marshall.

Stoessi has also decided to recognise the One Man Army, Léo Major of Le Régiment de la Chaudière.  Quite an amazing man, and one whose exploits are sadly under-recognized in Canada.  He earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) three times in two different wars, but was only awarded it twice as the first time he was nominated, he refused to accept the medal as it would have been presented by Field Marshall Montgomery.  Major thought Monty was incompetent and he wasn't going to accept an award from him!  He is the only Canadian to be awarded the DCM in two different wars (his second DCM was awarded for his actions in Korea).  

Major was wounded several times, including the injury that cost him his eye.  Where many other soldiers would be grateful for a "blighty" that allowed them to be invalided home, Major insisted on returning to his unit and carried on fighting.  I can't do as much justice to his story, but recommend following the stories at the following links.

There's an hour-long documentary from Radio-Canada, in French here:

A bit more accessible is this short animated feature (although the French pronunciation is sometimes bizarre).

Here is Stoessi's Léo Major.

And here are the three Canadian heroes, including Tommy Prince.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Tommy - updated 2019-11-09 with better photos

November 8th is National Aboriginal Veterans' Day here in Canada, so I'd like to take this opportunity to remember Tommy Prince, one of Canada's most decorated First Nations soldiers.  

This model is from Stoessi's Heroes.  I'm very pleased that Stoessi chose to recognise this extraordinary warrior in his collection, and I am thrilled to have this model in my collection.  You can read Stoessi's blog entry on Sgt Prince here.  The model shows Sgt Prince in moccasins, stealthily hunting Germans.

I apologise for the poor quality of the photos.  I try to use natural light, but with the days so much shorter now we are into November, it's harder to get good lighting, especially as I'm off to work for most of the daylight hours.  Update 2019-11-09 better photos added!

Tommy Prince was a member of the Ojibway nation, from Manitoba.  He joined the Royal Canadian Engineers in June 1940 as a sapper, but soon transferred to what would become the First Special Service Force.  I'd love to write more about Tommy, but I can't add anything to what is more eloquently described elsewhere, such as here, here or here, or in this Heritage Minute here:

Despite being one of Canada's most decorated soldiers, Tommy Prince ended up homeless, suffering from alcoholism and most likely PTSD.  Tommy Prince's story reminds me of Kipling's aptly-named "Tommy":

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all;
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-mans's disgrace.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops but prove it to our face.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it'sTommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't no bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
In the years since Kipling wrote about Tommy Atkins, the services provided for most veterans of both the British and Canadian Armies have improved immensely.  However, Canada's and Canadians' treatment of aboriginal veterans and First Nations people in general still has a long way to go to properly honour these brave warriors who served so nobly.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Red Army Greatcoats

I've been making trips to Seattle for work recently, so on a recent visit I took the opportunity to stop by The Panzer  Depot in the suburb of Kirkland.  It's located in an industrial subdivision, with an unassuming storefront.  Inside is a wargamer's delight with racks and shelves of historical games and miniatures.  The owner was very friendly, and we had a nice chat about different games and products.  I left the shop with a couple of Skirmish Campaigns scenario books (on sale, whoo-hoo!) and some reinforcements for my WWII Red Army.

My intent in building a Red Army is to have a force suitable for Operation Barbarossa. Russian uniforms didn't change too much during the war (there were changes, but for most purposes a wargamers' squint will allow me to use some of the infantry throughout the war).  So my PSC figures are good for the whole conflict.  Where I have a bit of a problem is where equipment changed as newer and better weapons were introduced.  At the start of the war, nearly all the soldiers in an infantry platoon were armed with rifles, whereas I've got a pretty high ratio of submachineguns in my PSC platoon.  That's perfectly suitable for 1942 on, but I need more riflemen for 1941.  Plus, the famous maxim, "quantity has a quality all its own" means that one can never have too many Russian soldiers!

These figures are from Crusader Miniatures.  They are beautiful, clean casts and those greatcoats were easy to paint, especially after mucking around with the camo smocks on those fallschirmjäger!  I chose troops in greatcoats so I'd have the option of fielding them ready for winter, but I've based them with grass flocking so they are consistent with the soldiers I've already painted.  I can always add some snow later if necessary 8^)

Here is the group, 20 figures in total.


Riflemen, half with their bayonets folded back.  This of course marks them as the 1944 version of the Mosin-Nagant carbine, so renders them anachronistic for Barbarossa, but note my earlier comment about wargamer's squint ;^)

Here are the SMG troops.

And finally the LMG teams, with their DP-27 light machine guns.

Here are some comparison shots with the PSC plastic figures.  As you can see, the Crusaders and the PSC figures are about the same height, and the slightly greater bulk of the Crusaders can be handwaved away because the of the greatcoats.  

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Quick and dirty barbed wire obstacles

Here is the result of a quick and easy terrain project.  Given a chance, soldiers will enhance their defensive positions any way they can, and installing barbed wire is a fast and easy way to slow an attacker.  These four little emplacements are each 2" x 6", and can be easily dropped onto the game table.  The base is cork board, which unfortunately warped a bit when painted, along with toothpicks for posts and what I believe is called 'sealing wire' by industry users, except that I paid far more than its worth because it was repackaged as 'battlefield razorwire' for 28mm gaming. 

I'll take another go at these over the weekend to see if I can reduce the warping.

Fallschirmjäger for Sicily

I've moved on to the next stage of my Operation Husky project:  opposition forces to face the Hasty Ps.  I decided to start with a Fallschirmjäger Zug (or platoon).  1st Canadian Division faced fallschirmjäger of the German 3rd Parachute Regiment in several engagements on Sicily during Operation Husky, although as my appreciation of the campaign is growing, I might have been better off collecting Panzergrenadiers.  I didn't appreciate at first that the Hermann Göring Division didn't wear fallschirmjäger uniforms.  At any rate, these troops will be excellent opponents for my Canadians.

Here they are so far.

The zug is a little under strength.  There should be 3 squads of 12 men each, with 2 MG teams, at least according to the Chain of Command army list that I found!  Don't worry, reinforcements are on the way.  These are from Perry Miniatures.  

There are some support weapon teams, including a tripod-mounted MG42.

The two "extra" crew have their role painted on their bases.

In addition, the zug has access to some other support, including an anti-tank rifle team, a 50mm mortar team and a sniper team.

Here are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Squads.  Under-strength, as mentioned, but not for too long!

And the platoon command, including leutnant (platoon commander), feldwebel (assistant platoon commander), and Sanitäter (medic), with his nice white pinny with bold red crosses for identification.

One of the radio operators is identified as a 'FOO', or 'forward observation officer' for the artillery, in case the fallschirmjäger commander chooses an off-table artillery support.  The sniper's spotter (with the binoculars) can work with the radio man in this case, assuming that the sniper isn't being used. 

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Can't see the forest until you have trees!

Christmas is coming, or so it would seem based on what I see in the shops.  I picked up a bag of 21 snow-covered evergreen trees from Michaels, plus a tube of green paint.

I don't do much winter gaming, so a small forest of trees with white frosting and white bases are going to look out of place when the rest of the scene has green grass and a very noticeable lack of snow.  So I dry-brushed green paint on the trees, painted the bases brown and added some static grass, and voilà, trees for my wargaming table!

You can still see some white peaking through the branches,but I'm not too fussed about that.  A quick and dirty project has given me a big boost to my supply of terrain.