Monday, March 2, 2015

Three Shermans, Three Rivers & Three Brothers

Since I'm slowly (oh, sooo slowly) collecting the forces that fought at the battle of Ortona I thought it best to include some of the Canadian Shermans who were tasked to support their fellow infantry in their assault on the town.  These were A and C Squadron's tanks from The Three Rivers Regiment (a regiment that originated from Trois-Rivieres a town between Montreal an Quebec City). One of extraordinary things I discovered while researching the battle was that there were three brothers who all served in A Squadron: Joe, Gord and Bill Turnbull. 

Gord and Joe both served as tank commanders, while Bill, the youngest, was a crewman in another Sherman.

At just eighteen, Bill had been to first to enlist in October 1940. Gord and Joe followed a few weeks later.  Joe, the eldest at twenty-five, had served in the Spanish Civil war in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.  He had first tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but when the recruiters discovered about his past service in Spain, which was seen as an illegal act at best and smacked of Communism at worst, they had rejected him out of hand.  So a few weeks later he tried again, this time with the Army and conveniently neglected to bring up his fighting in Spain and as such was welcomed into the fold.

The three brothers were very devoted to one another and Joe in particular felt a great weight of responsibility to get his two younger brothers through the war alive.  This was quite a tall order especially with all of them serving in the same active tank squadron. In August 19143, in Sicily, eighty-four men in the regiment were killed or wounded and in one battle alone, with ten of the thirty tanks of their squadron being knocked out by enemy fire. 

After Sicily, the three Turnbull brothers participated in the heavy fighting along the Moro River and then were tasked to enter the vicious urban combat of Ortona.

A Three Rivers Sherman at a crossroads in Ortona. Note the commander spotting for the gunner and the ejector port open for the spent shell casings.
Joe wrote to his new wife, Peg, just before entering Ortona, explaining why he had become somewhat distant in his correspondence over the previous few months. ‘We are not fighting Italians now but the Germans, and they are in every sense equal to the toughest and finest soldiers in the world. They will not retire. They have to be killed. And there is only one way we can beat them, Peg, we have to be just a little bit tougher and that means we have to be put aside finer human feelings.’ 

Early in the battle Bill was wounded in the leg and evacuated. A few days later Joe had his tank knocked out in the tight confines of the town’s center.  After helping his crew to bail out of their Sherman Joe became separated from them and was forced to take refuge in a nearby cellar from raking machinegun fire. 

Ortona mural by Gerald Trottier
Joe’s brother, Gord, saw his older sibling’s tank get knocked out and then observed the escaping crew come under heavy fire. He quickly brought his main gun to bear on the machine gun position and silenced it.  Nonetheless, the resulting dust and debris obscured Gord’s vision so he could not spot his brother afterwards. 

It was not until the end of the battle, when Gord was searching the ruined town for his brother that he came upon him sitting in a shellhole, looking off into the distance, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to himself (it was indeed his birthday).  Joe looked up and saw Gord, stopped singing, and the two brothers sat together for awhile in quiet companionship.

In the end, after serving through the rest of the Italian Campaign and then through North West Europe the Three Rivers Regiment and the three Turnbull brothers returned home to Canada.

These three 1/72 scale plastic Shermans are from PSC.  Though I'm a bit of a muppet when it comes to doing-up vehicles I found they were great little kits to work. I built one as a ‘Firefly’ with its signature 17 pounder gun.  This in fact is a bit of cheat as ‘Fireflys’ were not issued in the Italian theatre until quite late in the war, but I've always liked the look of them and I thought I would indulge myself.

I like vehicles that look like they've been lived in, with lots of supplies, parts, etc. So I sourced the extra stowage bits (mostly resin with some white metal) from Milicast Models.  Fairly pricy but well worth it I think.   

When researching the Three Rivers Regiment I came across a great picture of one of their Shermans with a BSA bicycle strapped to the back of the tank.

I assume the crew thought it handy for scooting around when they were halted. I thought this quite neat and so sourced a bicycle from SHQ’s 20mm Volksturm range, trimmed off the base, added some new handlebars and positioned it atop the rear deck of one of the Shermans along with its other stowage.

I painted the trio in a basic British bronze khaki without the black 'Micky Mouse' camo pattern often seen in the Italian theatre. It is argued that the Regiment didn't use it at this time and in fact the vehicles may have been holdovers from the North African campaign.  I then heavily drybrushed and dappled them in dust tones as many of the pictures of Shermans at Ortona shows them as being completely filthy and begrimed from the rubble and clouds of dust.

The decals, as discrete as they are, are correct to the Regiment and are from Milicast as well.

So there you have it folks.  Three Shermans, from the Three Rivers, for three Brothers.

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

28mm Servitors of Nyarlathotep from ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’ and Greyscale Mat from Deep-Cut Studio

This entry sees me return to some pulp adventure figures. This time it's a trio of models from the game where the world of H.P. Lovecraft meets the Second World War: ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’.

Several weeks ago a friend had mentioned that many of the Cthulhu miniatures currently available are not really horrific enough to convey the vision of the literature.  For the most part I tend to agree, but I think there are some exceptions, such as these creepy fellas below. 

These rather disturbing creatures are described as Servitors of Nyarlathotep. They’re beings that use a human host as both an incubator and delivery device.  Lurking until their dark designs are required and then tearing themselves into our reality in order to wreak havoc.  Sort of like tax assessors with a skin condition. ;)

These are 28mm figures from Modiphius Entertainment’s ‘Achtung! Cthulhu’ range.  Nice figures, with very fine features and excellent detail.  They're perhaps a smidge smaller than most other 28mm WWII lines, but not markedly so.

Many of the paint schemes I’ve seen online for these figures depict the emerging creatures' bodies as a single uniform colour/texture.  As the figures' design reminded me of the art of H.R. Giger (famous for his conceptual art of the first Alien movie) I chose to portray them as something almost quasi-sexual, with a nasty pink pseudopod emerging from a carapace.  Ewww, yeah, sorry about that.

Okaaay, so to help take your mind away from that disturbing image I’d like to point out to you the wonderful cobblestone mat that I've used in my photos. Yes, if you look closely you’ll see that the mat is in greyscale. Now, how neat is that!

You see, when I approached the good people from Deep-Cut Studio about the possibility of them being a Challenge sponsor they recollected my Great War greyscale work and so offered to do up a cobblestone PVC mat in a similar motif.  Very flattered, I happily accepted and am extremely delighted with how it turned out.  


Georges Boillot and his Renault 'Taxi de la Marne'
As you can see it works very well with my greyscale collection and building facades.  The original coloured mat had a few manhole covers as part of the design, but I did not want to have to work around them in laying out my buildings so I asked to have them removed.  No problem, the designers quickly made the necessary adjustments and I now have a wonderful 4x4 cobblestone layout for my Great War and Pulp gaming. Thank you very much Deep-Cut Studio - you did a brilliant job!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

28mm Retiarii Gladiators (Retiarius) armed with Trident and Net

Here are a couple more gladiators to add to my existing Ludus.  This time it is two Retiarii ('net-men') which were gladiators whose fighting style focused on the use of the trident and throwing net.  From historical evidence it seems these fellows were often set against two Secutors ('chasers'), with the Retiarius placed on an elevated platform, sometimes over water, and the Secutorii set to assault him.  Sounds like pretty harrowing stuff - it would seem that gladiators didn't have a very good Workplace Health & Safety policy...

These two 28mm figures are from Brigade Games (It would seem that I'm on a bit of a tear with Brigade's stuff lately). Great sculpts and very easy to work with. Similar to my previous gladiators, I’ve done the groundwork with a gratuitous amount of gore so it better blends with the ‘Spartacus’ game-board.

The last shot is of the Ludus as it stands now, with all seven gladiators arrayed for the arena.

‘Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant.’

Friday, February 20, 2015

28mm Napoleonic Spanish Guerrillas

Cripes, I started these figures back in December and have been slowly nudging them along in fits and starts. It’s funny; I find that when I’m not following a common uniform ‘template’ it can take me forever to come up with the goods. I’ll hum and haw over how to paint every item of clothing, every strap, every hat, almost paralyzing myself with indecision. It’s quite silly really. I know I could have probably done-up the majority of these figures in simple browns, greens and blacks, but that seemed pretty uninteresting and frankly a bit of a cop out for such fine figures. So I painfully plodded through them, model-by-model, and I’m have to say I'm happy to finally see the backs of them. 

These fifteen 28mm castings are from Brigade Games. Most are listed as ‘Napoleonic Guerrilla’ figures, but a few are actually Napoleonic naval crew, nonetheless, I found they blended together relatively well. By the looks of them I would say that Paul Hicks was the sculptor, but I’m not sure on this. No matter, they are excellent models – requiring little in the way of preparation and were a real joy to work on. 

From my understanding many of these guerrilla units were composed of Spaniards from all walks of life so I decided to paint them in a motley assortment of civilian garb and re-purposed bits of uniform, both Spanish and French. (And, yes, you apparently have to have a fierce priest and armed monk with any Spanish guerrilla unit.)

I stuck to my standard method of basing for these. For ease of identification the force commander is based on a hex base, while the lower level leaders are on squares and the troops are on rounds. 

The roadside shrine below is from Grand Manner. It’s quite a nice hunk of resin. I often find a small characterful terrain piece can speak volumes to a setting than a bunch of nondescript models. When I put this on the tabletop it immediately says to me, ‘We’re in the Iberian Peninsula. Genuflect, put on your wide-brimmed hat and enjoy some hot chocolate and churros.'

I picked up this shrine along with a few other pieces from Grand Manner this past Christmas during a promotion. It was the only way I could rationalize getting them, as with shipping they’re quite expensive. Nonetheless, while some of their range has been around for quite awhile, I still find Grand Manner offers some of the best terrain available, so it's nice to be able to treat oneself from time to time. 

Next up for this little project will be some dismounted French dragoons for these Guerrillas to tangle with…

Saturday, February 14, 2015

'Bring up the Guns. The British are Landing' - Egypt, 1801

In the early spring of 1801 General Friant, commanding approximately 2000 French along with 10 guns, obstructed the British amphibious landing at Abukir, near the Nile Delta, causing serious casualties amongst the Redcoats assembling on the beach. 

Under the hot Mediterranean sun, enduring a fierce bombardment, the British managed to gather enough men, send them forward with the bayonet and force the French away from the heights commanding the landing area. This campaign ultimately led to the French surrender at Alexandria on September 2nd and their ejection from Egypt (and, as part of the spoils, securing the Rosetta Stone for the British). 

This small 28mm vignette is from Brigade Games. The palm tree is home-made: wire wrapped with medical gauze, painted and then topped with hot-glued artificial leaves (my thanks to Brian H for the recipe for this).

The group  images show some mounted troopers from the French Dromedary Corps which I painted last year. The obelisks are from Scotia Grendel the desert mat is from the good folks over at Barrage Miniatures.