Since wargaming involves probability and dice throwing, you’d think I’d be at least half decent at sums, but apparently not! While deciding how many figures I needed to complete my next WW2 infantry battalion, I couldn’t decide whether to choose an early Pacific War US battalion or a Russian naval infantry unit, since both needed another 11 figures. So it’s just as well that another browse through the storage boxes indicated that the unit to go for was . . . a Chinese infantry battalion, since it only needed eight figures to finish it!
I’d built up some 1920s Chinese Warlord troops over the years and gradually got more uniformity in their appearance, so adding figures to make some WW2 units was relatively simple. Most of the figures were 20mm metal Chinese infantry from Stonewall Miniatures, with some plastic figures from Caesar Miniatures to make the numbers up.
As far as organisation goes (more of that later), Chinese infantry battalions were smaller than European or Japanese units, and the issue of support weapons was lower. So with my usual 1 figure = 20 soldiers ratio for WW2 units, my Chinese battalion comes out with a two-man HQ, three six-man rifle companies (each with an NCO and five riflemen) and a support company. The latter originally only had two LMG teams, but I belatedly added a grenade discharger team after reading that the Chinese were so impressed with Japanese weapons that they decided to introduce them themselves! Since I didn’t have a suitable Chinese figure with a grenade discharger, I used a spare plastic Japanese infantryman with one (Chinese troops did wear captured Japanese helmets, so he fits in fine, he’s at the bottom right in the photo below).
As far as uniforms go, the Osprey book on The Chinese Army 1937 – 49 is a good concise guide, although I think a lack of uniformity is not out of place in Chinese armies. This book also has info on weapons, but I think it’s the Kangzhan book that provides the most data as far as weapons and organisations are concerned.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this book, by Leland Ness, doesn’t become the definitive English language guide to the Chinese Army in WW2, if it isn’t already! It has a summary of China’s involvement in WW2 (effectively from 1937) and extensive details on the organisation of the Chinese Army. The latter is complicated, but the book explains it well (but you have to be prepared to read through it)! It also includes a lot of detail on the weapons employed by the Chinese, and since some of them date back to the 1920s it’s suitable for Warlord armies as well. The same author has written an excellent two-volume work on the Japanese Army in WW2 and that is equally useful!
I’m a big fan of Osprey’s Campaign series books and the latest, on the 1937 Shanghai and Nanjing (Nanking, if you’re used to the older Wade-Giles rendering of the Chinese language) has just been released. There’s a lot to get in a book this size and I got a bit confused, some of that not being helped by the notes to the maps, which involved having to turn the book through 90° to read them. The list of units involved seems very comprehensive, probably due to the small text size needed to cram everything in!
I’d also bought the Shanghai 1937 book by Peter Harmsen and, with hindsight, I should have read this first (I’m almost halfway through)! Because this is a thicker book, the author has more room to describe the campaign, the background and the combat and the account flows quite well. I think if I go back to the Osprey book after this one, it’ll all make more sense! To some extent the Shanghai campaign is quite different to others in WW2, since the city contained a large international settlement inhabited by foreigners, and the latter basically had front row seats to the vicious fighting between the Chinese and Japanese armies!
Only problem with Chinese infantry battalions is that I need another one because they’re smaller than Japanese units! So just another 26 figures to go! Told you my maths was bad!