The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma (Part 4 – Royal Artillery)

Here’s the last of my Burma stuff for the time being; namely some elements of the Royal Artillery.

You might be wondering why I need to have model artillery, as the artillery will ordinarily be flippin’ miles away and only represented on table by Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) and by the effects of fire (unless you’re playing the frankly odd Flames of War, of course).  That’s certainly the case with my usual rules, Battlefront: WWII, though I must confess to having built up quite a large collection of artillery pieces, due in part to having inherited a large number of such models from a friend’s collection, but also due to us putting on some bloody enormous games that encompassed the artillery gun positions on table!

Part of the Bishenpur ‘Gun Box’ at our Bovington 2011 game

For Burma I have the perfect excuse to collect artillery, as it was often the case during that campaign that artillery units would find themselves directly in the front line, defending fortified ‘boxes’ against enemy attack.  One such example was the ‘Gun Box’ at Bishenpur, during the Battle of Imphal.  This contained a 25pdr Field Regiment, a 3.7-inch Mountain Battery, a 40mm Light AA Battery, a 6pdr Anti-Tank Battery, a 5.5-inch Medium Artillery Section and a 3.7-inch Heavy AA Section and came under repeated close infantry attack during the battle.  Part of this featured in our 1st Battle of Bishenpur game at The Tank Museum, Bovington in 2011 and there are numerous other examples of Gunners having to directly defend their guns during the war against Japan, so the models do come in handy.

Although it’s not remotely my cup of tea, the fact that the Flames of War game-system requires you to have artillery on table does mean that they produce a lot of interesting artillery and gun-tractor models that might not otherwise be available.  Bless ’em…

Above:  A Field Battery of 25pdr guns deployed and ready to fire.  At full-scale, a Field Battery would consist of eight guns, divided into two Troops of four guns.  However, I wargame at a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio, so each gun model here represents 2 real guns and the battery therefore consists of four gun models.

Each Troop Commander would typically deploy forward as a Forward Observation Officer (FOO), leaving a Troop Gun Position Officer (GPO) behind to command the Troop’s gun detachments.  Similarly, the Battery Commander would typically deploy forward to liaise with the CO of the infantry battalion they were supporting, leaving a Battery GPO behind to command the Battery.

Units with a full scale of motor transport would typically use Universal Carriers as Observation Post (OP) vehicles for the FOOs, but units on a light scale of transport might use Jeeps or even mules to carry the necessary radios, batteries, field-telephones and cable-spools.  Many Field Regiments became ‘Jungle Field’ Regiments (consisting of 3.7-inch Mountain Howitzers and 3-inch Mortars) while the campaign was fought in the dense, mountainous jungle of the Burma-India border.  However, they transitioned back to a heavier scale of motor transport following the defeat of the Japanese offensive at the Battle of Imphal in 1944, in anticipation for the Operation CAPITAL counter-offensive into central Burma, where the road network was far more extensive and where the terrain was far more suited to mechanised warfare.

The vehicles here are marked for the 136th (1st West Lancashire) Field Regiment RA, which was the senior Field Artillery Regiment of the 7th Indian Infantry Division (‘Golden Arrow’), as indicated by the ’42’ serial on the red-over-blue RA Arm-of-Service Sign.  The divisional badge for 7th Indian Division was a golden arrow on a black disc.  Note that Field Artillery and Anti-Tank units did not apply markings to their guns.  The reason you see marked guns in museums is because this did become common practice AFTER the war.  AA units by contrast, commonly applied the full array of markings to their guns.

The battery is indicated by the smaller blue square marking, which has one quadrant (here the lower-left quadrant) coloured red.  The position of the red quadrant shows the seniority of the battery within the regiment – 1st Bty top-right, 2nd Bty bottom-right, 3rd Bty bottom-left and 4th Bty top-left, so this is the regiment’s 3rd Battery.  The white letter indicates the Troop (in this case ‘F’ Troop – the 3rd battery of a Field Regiment would have ‘E’ & ‘F’ Troops, so the other Troop will have the same marking with ‘E’ instead of ‘F’).  The Carrier has ‘RF’, which indicates the Troop Commander’s OP Vehicle for ‘F’ Troop.

The chaps at the back, huddled around a map-table and signaller, wearing red cap-bands and collar-tabs came with the Flames of War 25pdr Battery set as an ‘Artillery Staff Group’.  I’ve actually painted them as an infantry brigade tactical headquarters, hence the red staff officer bands and tabs.

An OP Carrier of an unknown Field Artillery unit in Burma, 1945. Note the radio antenna bracket and the cable-spool mounted at the rear. Note also the very large Allied Star that was applied to XIVth Army vehicles in 1945.

These models are all by Flames of War and the Carriers are lovely little models of the OP Carrier variant, with a radio in the back, radio-antenna mount on the side and a telephone cable-spool on the front (my apologies for being lazy and not sticking an antenna on them!).  Note that the Flames of War come usefully supplied with two gun-barrels, enabling them to be modelled either as the Mk I without muzzle-brake or the Mk II with muzzle-brake.  The vast majority of 25pdrs in Burma had the Mk I barrel, so I’ve used these here.  Note also that the Quad tractors in Burma were far more likely to be Canadian-built CMP types, rather than the Morris C8 Quads shown here, but I’m not aware of anyone making a CMP Quad in 15mm.

Some more Royal Artillery for Burma, but this time it’s a Troop of 40mm Bofors Guns from the 7th Indian Infantry Division.  In reality a Troop consisted of six guns and there were three Troops per LAA Battery, for a total of 18 guns per Battery and 54 guns per Regiment.  However, many batteries were reduced in strength to 12 guns; either by removing a Troop from each Battery or by reducing each Troop in the Battery to four guns.  My two models here represent a reduced-strength Troop of 4 guns at 2:1 ratio.

I should also mention that many AA guns in Burma were 20mm Hispano, Polsten or Oerlikon types, rather than 40mm Bofors.

As with most things in XIVth Army, the organisation of Light AA and Anti-Tank units changed quite dramatically as the war progressed, based on the nature of the terrain, enemy tactics and the ability of XIVth Army’s strained logistical system to supply units in the field.  At the start of the war, the 7th Indian Division had the standard organisation of separate LAA and AT Regiments; namely the 122nd LAA Regt RA (with three LAA Batteries) and the 6th Indian AT Regt IA (with four AT Batteries).  In August 1943 these units were replaced by the combined 24th LAA/AT Regt RA, which had two batteries each of LAA and AT.

This move to condensed and combined LAA/AT Regts was repeated right across XIVth Army.  Their flexibility was increased even further by the AT gun detachments adding a 3-inch mortar to their weapon-load on a semi-official/unofficial basis, thus turning them into AT/Mortar Batteries.  In most cases these regiments were split into separate units again in preparation for the advance into Burma and 24th LAA/AT Regt RA therefore became 24th AT Regt RA in September 1944 (being replaced in May 1945 by 8th Indian AT Regt IA) and was joined by 3rd Indian LAA Regt IA.

In terms of markings, note that unlike Field Artillery and AT units, LAA units tended to paint the markings on their guns.  I’ve absolutely no idea what the Arm-of-Service serial was for an LAA/AT Regt, so I’ve simply given them ’47’, which was the serial for an infantry division’s LAA Regt (the AT Regt used ’46’).  The Battery markings were much the same as the Field Battery markings mentioned above (note that the upper-right quadrant here is red, indicating the 1st Battery of a regiment), except that they had three Troops per battery, so the 1st Battery would have A, B & C, the 2nd Battery D, E & F and so on.  AT Batteries also had three Troops (of four guns each).

The Troop is served by a pair of Morris CDSW 6×4 Field Artillery Tractors.  These vehicles were introduced during the 1930s to tow the 18pdr Mk IV Field Gun and 4.5-inch Howitzer then standard in the British Army.  However, they were steadily replaced by the Morris C8 Quad in the Field Artillery role and were then relegated to tow the 40mm Bofors Gun, before being replaced by the Bedford QLB or CMP 3-Ton Trucks.  In Burma they tended to be replaced by lighter CMP 4×4 15cwt Trucks or Dodge Weapons Carriers, but I’ve stuck with the CDSW here, simply because I like the models.

Markings are the same as the guns, except for the yellow weight-class disc.  The split number indicates a tractor (either towing a gun or a trailer) – the top number (10) is the weight class when towing and the lower number (6) is the weight class when ‘travelling light’.  Engineers would place a similar disc on the approach to a bridge.  A vehicle could only then cross the bridge if the weight class displayed on their disc was equal to or lower than that of the bridge.  This simple system is still used by NATO today.

The Bofors Guns and tractors are again by Flames of War.

Anyway, that’s enough Burma for now!

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: WW2, Painted Units, World War 2, World War 2 - British Commonwealth Armies, World War 2 - Burma Campaign. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Forgotten Wargames Army: XIVth Army in Burma (Part 4 – Royal Artillery)

  1. Ian Dury says:

    Those are absolutely wonderful models and figures! A really superb looking game.
    Which models did you sue for the 3.7 inch howitzers?

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Ian! I used the QRF ones. They come with both steel wheels with pneumatic tyres (for Light Artillery and Jungle Artillery) and wooden wheels (for Mountain Artillery). The crew are pretty awful though…

  2. Tim Drewett says:

    Hi,

    This is all really useful information on the 14th Army.

    One question though, for those 6pdr A/T guns that were used, what vehicle would be used to tow them? Wikipedia implies that the Loyd Carrier was only used in NWE, so would a bog standard carrier be used or would it be a jeep/15CWT truck?

    Cheers

    Tim

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks for the kind comment. They invariably used 15cwt trucks as AT gun-tractors – either CMP or Dodge Weapons Carriers. They also frequently did double-duty as AT/Mortar Batteries, carrying a 3-inch mortar and ammo in the back of the truck, along with the 2pdr/6pdr ammo. It made them a very flexible and useful asset. In 1945 a few of them received 4.2-inch mortars.

  3. Tim Drewett says:

    Thanks Mark,

    I guess I’ll need to order some more CMPs! 😁

    Although I like the idea of the Dodges. Adds a bit of variety..

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Yeah I like them and they’re always useful! 🙂

      There were stacks of both types in Burma and they did most of the heavy lifting in XIVth Army. Oh and Chevy pickups to a lesser extent (the sort popular with the LRDG).

    • jemima_fawr says:

      In fact the 25pdr and Bofors tractors would also be far more likely to be CMPs than Morrises by 1944!

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