Posts have been few and far between lately I’m afraid! I had a couple of posts planned, but realised that the next post published (i.e. this one) would be my 100th, so it maybe needed to be special. Since it’s the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending the Western Front fighting in World War 1, I thought a post related to that would be worth a go, so I’ve opted to include some of the 20mm WW1 figures and equipment that I haven’t had the chance to feature here before. I suppose that the 20+ years I’ve spent researching and painting my WW1 figures is a small tribute to generations that served their countries in darker times, so that has to be time well spent for me.
It’s maybe worth emphasising that not all of WW1 combat involved endless lines of trenches and barbed wire. On the Western Front the opening three months in 1914, and the final six months in 1918, saw a lot of mobile warfare and the Eastern Front was just too massive to bog down in positional warfare along its entire length.
I started wargaming WW1 a couple of years after I got married – my wife bought me some painted early war Britannia Miniatures Brits and Germans and it all took off from there. Since Britannia made some Highland Light Infantry figures (shown above), I bought some of them because my great grandfather served in that regiment.
I also managed to get some Raventhorpe Miniatures early war Belgians (shown above), along with a dog-drawn machine gun cart, although my wife made it quite clear that no animals were to be harmed in any wargames . . . or else! I scratchbuilt myself a Minerva armoured car from card, using some spare PaK 40 anti-tank gun wheels and a Raventhorpe crewman (this model is about 25 years old now and due a tidy up, since one of the mudguards has come loose)! When I looked at the model closely when setting it up to photograph I realised I’d hand painted “MINERVA” on the bonnet front in 1mm high white letters, something that I wouldn’t even think about being able to do these days!
Moving away from WW1, I painted some Russian Civil War figures, both Russians and Interventionists (Allied forces on Russian soil), and realised that I could use these for WW1 games as well. My first French troops were painted in khaki (as opposed to the more common horizon blue) to represent a Foreign Legion battalion, since the Legion fought on both the Western Front and in North Russia (there aren’t many places the Legion hasn’t fought in). Figures were by IT Miniatures, with some old plastic Airfix guys chucked in for good measure, along with an Irregular Miniatures 37mm gun team (see the picture above). I eventually added units in horizon blue along with some Strelets plastic figures in gas masks and some Liberation Miniatures Poles (see picture below), the latter representing the Blue Army fighting on French soil and against Trotsky’s Red Army in 1920. The Poles also used Renault FT tanks in the fighting against the Russians, so I’ve included a bunch of them in the picture as well.
Having done late war British Highlanders (known as Hell’s Ladies to the Germans), French, Americans and Germans, I decided to add some Eastern Front units to take on the Russians I’d got. Painted up some Irregular Miniatures Austrians, who also got a dog cart to pull a machine gun, a scratchbuilt 75mm mountain gun and, a first for me, a completely scratchbuilt armoured train (shown below)!
In 1916 Romania entered the war on the Allied side, spurred on by the success of the Russian Brusilov Offensive, but this faltered, Russia fell apart and the Central Powers forced the Romanians to sue for peace! I used Lancashire Games WW2 French for some of the Romanians, filing down steel helmets and adding peaks from Milliput to make the distinctive field cap. Added some SHQ and HaT WW2 Romanians and an old Airfix WW1 French flag bearer and bugler, mixing and matching caps, steel helmets and different uniforms (shown in the picture below).
For good measure I also scratchbuilt a Romanian Danube monitor (shown below – it’s about 280mm long) from card – some of the deck hatchways can be moved to allow the turret configuration to be changed to represent an Austrian vessel, or different guns can be added to make a more generic gunboat.
Bulgarian and Ottoman Turkish forces also fought in Romania, so I painted some of them as well (using WW1 Russians painted in brown uniforms for the Bulgarians, shown in the picture below – never struck me until now how much the machine gun crew look like the Thompson twins from the Tintin books). More recently this lot have been expanded to let me fight the Balkan Wars of 1912 – 13.
As well as having figures, I’ve actually amassed a reasonably sized collection of WW1 vehicles and tanks. I think my French forces have the most tanks – they’ve got three Early War Miniatures Schneiders, five various Renault FTs and two scratchbuilt Saint Chamonds (the latter shown in the picture below, nearest the camera).
My Brits are next best off for armour, having two EWM Mark V*s (pronounced Mark Five Star, shown in the picture below), three Frontline Wargames Mark IVs, two Emhar Medium A Whippets and an Austin armoured car.
Having found some plans of the small Autocar armoured machine gun carrier, I decided to scratchbuild one from card (see photo below). Wheels were spare resin items, gun crew were IT Miniatures WW1 US machine gun crewmen and the guns were scratchbuilt from plastic rod and scrap (the driver and gunners come out of the vehicle and let me put a canvas canopy in place). These vehicles were used by the Canadian Army and are reported to have played an important role in resisting the German 1918 Spring offensives. I think I based the colour scheme and markings on a restored vehicle – it’s a bit quirky, but I like it!
I also have two German A7V tanks (shown below), one plastic kit by Emhar and one Frontline Wargames resin model, along with a nice Erhardt armoured car by (I think) Shellhole Scenics!
And, in that peculiar way in which things tend to turn full circle, after doing late war stuff and tanks I went back to paint some early war French in blue greatcoats and red kepis, along with an armoured car and M1897 field gun. In theory, French troops wore blue-grey kepi covers, but by painting the kepis red it lets me use them as Franco-Prussian War French Republican troops as well. I got these figures painted during the summer of 2014 in time to play a couple of centenary games set against the background of the battles of Mons and the Marne, so it was worth getting them done!
Since some of my figures are up in the loft in a safe place I’m not sure exactly how many WW1 figures I’ve got, but I think it’s over 500 and, surprisingly, about 50 vehicles and artillery pieces! In theory, I’ve finished all my WW1 stuff, but I think more will get done at some point in the future.
WW1 was a truly titanic struggle and we should never forget that millions lost their lives in that conflict. Consequences of the war and its aftermath affect us today and I sincerely hope that I can learn from history’s mistakes and not repeat them!