‘Going Dutch’: Building a Cold War Dutch Battlegroup (Part 1)

With the Danes finished, it’s time for another Cold War army; the Dutch.  While the Cloggies might seem like a fairly esoteric choice compared to the ‘big players’ in 1980s NATO, such as the USA, West Germany and the UK, they then had a sizeable army and fielded an entire corps (1 (NL) Corps) in West Germany, responsible for the left flank of NORTHAG and the British I (Br) Corps.  They also had a very interesting mix of equipment, from ranging from venerable Centurion Mk 5/2 tanks to upgraded Leopard 1-Vs and ultra-modern Leopard 2A4s, alongside reasonably advanced YPR-765 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and slightly odd YP-408 wheeled APCs, all supported by modern M109 155mm artillery systems.

However… Their approach to discipline raised eyebrows among other NATO armies, though it seemed to work for them and Dutch units were generally well-trained and performed well in exercises.  The Dutch Marines in particular were considered by British Royal Marine Commandos (with whom they operated under joint command) to be their equal.

The particular difficulty facing 1 (NL) Corps in any war with the Warsaw Pact was their deployment: Aside from one mechanised brigade and some corps-level support elements, the vast majority of 1 (NL) Corps was based in the Netherlands and would need to deploy to Germany during the build-up to war, with many units having to drive over 200 miles to reach their fighting positions.

To make that problem even more acute, over two-thirds of the corps was made up of reservists who would need to be mobilised before deployment (equating to one whole division, a lot of support units and around one-third of the personnel in all regular units) .  The Dutch demonstrated their ability to deploy the entire corps to fighting positions within 72 hours, but this fell well short of NATO’s target of 48 hours.  While that might have been marginally acceptable during the 1960s, the Warsaw Pact had by the 1980s demonstrated an increasing ability to deploy rapidly from their bases into attack formation, which made 1 (NL) Corps’ position increasingly vulnerable – a vulnerability that the Warsaw Pact would undoubtedly attempt to exploit.  Consequently, the German 3rd Panzer Division and an advance brigade from the US III Corps (the primary REFORGER reinforcement formation) were permanently based within 1 (NL) Corps’ area of responsibility, in an attempt to plug the gap and win time for 1 (NL) Corps to deploy.

A Dutch TOW anti-tank missile launcher mounted on an M38A1 ‘Nekaf’ Jeep (probably from 101st Infantry Brigade)

All of this makes for a very interesting wargames army and if you’re not too fussy about the very fine detail, a lot of the models can be shared with other armies such as Belgium, Canada and West Germany.  If you want to know more about the organisation and order of battle, have a look at Hans Boersma’s superb website here or my wargame orders of battle and TO&Es here.

In terms of models; a Dutch (or Belgian or Canadian) army hasn’t really been possible in 15mm until very recently, due to a lack of suitable infantry figures wearing US M1 helmets and armed with FN FAL rifles, FN MAG machine guns and Carl Gustav 84mm MAWs, as well as a lack of signature vehicles such as Leopard 1-V, M113 C&V, YP-408 and PRTL.  However, our cup suddenly runneth over, with QRF, the Plastic Soldier Company and Team Yankee all now producing suitable infantry and vehicles!

I’ve presently got a lot of Dutch troops and vehicles under the brush, but here’s the first batch of models:

Leopard 1-V Main Battle Tank

As mentioned in my recent article on modelling Leopard 1 tanks, the Leopard 1-V was a Dutch upgrade of the Leopard 1NL (the V standing for Vebetterd or ‘Improved’).  However, the ‘improvement’ proved unreliable and very power-hungry and delivery of 1-Vs was extremely slow.  All Leopard 1NL were theoretically upgraded to 1-V standard during the period 1981-1985, though some upgrades weren’t complete until 1987 and some units even received Leopard 2A4 while waiting for Leopard 1-Vs (a situation that I highly doubt they were too upset about)!  Many sources describe the Leopard 1-V as being equivalent to the German Leopard 1A5 upgrade programme, but that’s not correct, as the 1-V lacked the advanced fire control, laser-rangefinder and thermal-imaging system of the 1A5.  It was actually equivalent to the German Leopard 1A1A1 and shared the same armour upgrade package as that type (which was also used on the 1A5).

Note that the Tank Battalions of the 42nd Armoured Infantry Brigade, 52nd Armoured Infantry Brigade and 53rd Armoured Brigade were equipped with Centurion Mk 5/2 at the start of the 1980s.  The remaining brigades (11th Armoured Infantry, 12th Armoured Infantry, 13th Armoured, 41st Armoured, 43rd Armoured Infantry and 51st Armoured Infantry) were equipped with Leopard 1NL, as were the 102nd, 103rd and 104th Reconnaissance Battalions.

In 1985 the Leopard 1s of the 41st Armoured Brigade, 43rd Armoured Infantry Brigade and 103rd Reconnaissance Battalion, as well as the Centurions of 53rd Armoured Brigade were replaced with Leopard 2A4.  The Centurions of 42nd Armoured Infantry Brigade were similarly replaced with Leopard 2A4 in 1986 and the last Centurions of 52nd Armoured Infantry Brigade were replaced with Leopard 1-V in 1987.

Dutch Armoured Battalions initially had three squadrons apiece, each with 17 tanks, organised as an HQ of two tanks and three platoons, each with five tanks.  The Battalion HQ had two more tanks, for a total of 53 tanks.

This organisation was changed during the mid-1980s (essentially as units upgraded to Leopard 1-V or Leopard 2A4), with slightly different organisations depending on whether the battalion belonged to an Armoured Brigade or an Armoured Infantry Brigade.  In Armoured Brigades, each battalion still had three squadrons, but the Battalion HQ and Squadron HQs now had only one tank apiece and each squadron was organised as four platoons, each of four tanks, for a total of 17 tanks per squadron and 52 tanks in the battalion.  Armoured Battalions of Armoured Infantry Brigades were organised very similarly, though now had a fourth squadron.  However, the 3rd and 4th Squadrons were of reduced strength (13 tanks), with only three platoons apiece, which gave the battalion a total of 61 tanks.

The models pictured are plastic kits by Team Yankee.  These are lovely kits, but if I have one criticism, it’s that the arrangement of stowage bins isn’t quite right for the Leopard 1-V.  QRF also produce specific all-metal Leopard 1NL and Leopard 1-V kits, which are correct in all respects.  The Plastic Soldier Company also produce an excellent and anatomically-correct resin/metal Leopard 1-V.

YPR-765 Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle

During the 1970s the Royal Netherlands Army was looking for a new APC to replace its clapped-out AMX-13 VTT APCs and took the somewhat bold decision of ordering a series of vehicles based on the XM-765 Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle prototype that the US Army had rejected in favour of what was to become the M2 Bradley.  The new vehicle was designated as the YPR-765 and deliveries commenced in 1975.  These quickly replaced the AMX-13 VTT and by the 1980s over 2,000 were in service, with over 800 of these being built in the Netherlands.

The main difference to the XM-765 prototype was that the turret had been shifted off-centre to the right, in order to allow the vehicle commander to sit immediately behind the driver and to the left of the one-man turret.  The YPR-765 proved to be an excellent vehicle and some are still in service with the Royal Netherlands Army today (many up-armoured models seeing considerable action in Afghanistan), as well as being widely exported.  In 1985 the vehicle also entered service with the Belgian Army, where it was known as the AIFV-B.

YPR-765s were initially issued to the Armoured Infantry Battalions of the Armoured Brigades (13th, 41st and 53rd Brigades) and the 43rd Armoured Infantry Brigade.  The remaining Armoured Infantry Brigades (11th, 12th, 42nd, 51st and 52nd Brigades) were equipped with wheeled YP-408 APCs until 1987, when they too were re-equipped with YPR-765.  The 101st Infantry Brigade was partly re-equipped with YPR-765 in 1988 (replacing trucks).

Above: The basic model was the YPR-765 PRI (Pantser-Rups-Infanterie or ‘Armoured Tracked Infantry’), equipped with a single-man turret mounting an Oerlikon KBA-B02 25mm cannon and co-axial 7.62mm FN MAG.  In addition to the three-man crew it could carry seven infantry, though this was something of a squeeze!  Unlike the German Marder or US Army M113, there was no mount for the infantry squad’s ATGM.

Each Armoured Infantry Battalion (YPR-765) had three Armoured Infantry Companies and each such company had three platoons with four YPR-765 PRI apiece (one carrying the platoon HQ and three carrying rifle sections).

In the Belgian Army the YPR-765 PRI was known as the AIFV-B-25.

Above: The YPR-765 PRCO-B (Pantser-Rups-COmmando or ‘Armoured Tracked Command’) was a command variant for Armoured Infantry Company Commanders, which looked pretty identical to the YPR-765 PRI, but in the back had a folding map-table and space for only two passengers.  Each Armoured Infantry Company HQ had two of these vehicles.

Above:  The YPR-765 PRI .50 was a simpler, cheaper APC variant, being armed only with a Browning M2 .50 Cal (12.7mm) HMG, which was initially mounted on the same style of cupola as that normally fitted to the M113 APC.  These were normally only found in support roles, but in 1988 the reserve 101st Brigade replaced the trucks in two infantry battalions with these vehicles.  At around this time they started being fitted with US-designed armoured turrets and gun-shield kits of the style that had been fitted to M113 Armoured Cavalry Vehicles (ACAVs) in Vietnam.  Here I’ve used a spare ACAV turret salvaged from a Team Yankee M113 APC kit.  These fit perfectly over the socket for the resin PRI 25mm turret, so you can potentially swap turrets to field the different versions.

In Belgian service, the YPR-765 PRI .50 was known as the AIFV-B-.50.  The Belgians made far more use of the .50 version, often mixing them into platoons alongside the 25s.  They also fitted them with ACAV turrets.  Belgian AIFV-B-.50s were also fitted with firing-posts for MILAN ATGMs, though this seems to have been a post-1989 addition.  During the 1980s there was a dedicated Belgian MILAN variant, the AIFV-B-MIL, which had the simple M113-style cupola and a MILAN mounted on the .50 Cal mount in lieu of the .50 Cal.  Internally it was fitted with MILAN ammo racks.

Above:  The YPR-765 PRCO-C1 was the battalion HQ variant and was fitted with a US M26 Cupola.  This was octagonal, with an armoured vision widow on each face and a .50 Cal mount that allowed the weapon to be aimed and fired remotely from within the vehicle.  The same cupola was fitted to the Canadian M113 C&R Lynx and other vehicles.  The lack of a 25mm turret meant that there was additional internal space, allowing nine people to be carried (including the vehicle crew), plus a folding map-table.

Note that the Team Yankee YPR-765 box set includes one metal M26 Cupola for the ‘Artillery Forward Observer Version’.  This cupola was also used on the YPR-765 PRCO-C2 artillery battery and battalion command vehicle and the YPR-765 PRCO-C3 mortar fire control vehicle.

However, the lads at Team Yankee seem to have got their wires crossed here, as the YPR-765 PRCO-C5 artillery forward observation variant was actually fitted with an M113-stye cupola and not the M26 Cupola!  However, never say never… I’ve seen photos of M26 cupolas fitted to some YPR-765 PRRDR (Pantser-Rups-Radar) radar reconnaissance vehicles, when these vehicles should normally be fitted with the M113-style cupola.

Above: The YPR-765 PRMR (Pantser-Rups-MoRtiertrekker) 120mm mortar tractor was also fitted with the M26 cupola and was therefore near-identical to the YPR-765 PRCO-C1.  It was fitted with a tow-hook with which to tow the French-designed Brandt MO-120-RT mortar and had internal racks for the ammunition.  Note that in latter years, YPR-765 PRMRs were fitted with M113-style cupolas and ACAV turret kits, though this seems to have been a post-1989 development.

The Support Company of an Armoured Infantry Battalion (765) had three Mortar Platoons, each with three 120mm mortars, three YPR-765 PRMR and two YPR-765 PRCO-C3.  Note that the Reconnaissance Battalions and the upgraded Infantry Battalions of 101st Infantry Brigade instead used US M30 107mm mortars and M106 mortar carriers.

Above: As discussed above, the YPR-765 PRCO-C5 artillery forward observation variant actually had an M113-style cupola fitted and not the M26 Cupola.  Here I’ve again used a spare cupola salvaged from a Team Yankee M113 APC kit.

Above: The YPR-765 PRCO-C4 anti-aircraft command vehicle, which provided command and control functions for PRTL flak-tanks and Stinger SAM teams, also used the same type of M113 cupola as the YPR-765 PRCO-C5 and was visually identical.

In Belgian service, the YPR-765 PRCO series was designated as the AIFV-B-PC and seems to have used the M113-style cupola throughout.  They don’t seem to have differentiated roles and they may simply have used the same vehicle design for all these roles.

Above:  The YPR-765 PRAT (Pantser-Rups-Anti-Tank) was fitted with the Emmerson Improved TOW ‘Hammerhead’ launcher, as fitted to the US Army’s M901 Improved TOW Vehicle and US Marine Corps’ LAV-AT.  The cupola was also fitted with a pintle-mounted FN MAG.

The Support Company of each Armoured Infantry Battalion (765) had twelve of these vehicles, organised into three platoons, each of four YPR-765 PRAT.  Each Armoured Infantry Brigade also had a Brigade Anti-Tank Company, equipped with another 24 of these vehicles (six platoons).

Note that when on the move, the cupola would be reversed, the Hammerhead would be lowered and the FN MAG would then be facing the front.

1/2-Ton Land Rover

The ubiquitous Land Rover was used in a variety of roles by the Royal Netherlands Army and in the front line was used for light reconnaissance by the Reconnaissance Platoons of Armoured Infantry Battalions and Armoured Battalions (armed with an FN MAG).  These Reconnaissance Platoons had an HQ with two Land Rovers, four FN MAG-armed recce Land Rovers and three radar recce vehicles (YP-408 PWDR for Armoured Infantry Battalions (408) and YPR-765 PRRDR for Armoured Battalions and Armoured Infantry Battalions (765)).  They were also used to transport Stinger SAM teams and for a 1,001 other ancillary tasks.

Note that most units used long-wheelbase Series 2 Land Rover 109s in the Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon role, while Reservist units generally used the M38A1 ‘Nekaf’ Jeep in lieu of Land Rovers.

Modelling & Painting

As discussed in my last article, the Leopard 1-V is a plastic kit by Team Yankee.  QRF and the Plastic Soldier Company also produce models of the Leopard 1-V, which are actually more accurate than the Team Yankee model, which is utilises a ‘generic’ Leopard 1 hull that lacks the stowage bins seen on the Leopard 1-V.  Having no shame, I’m happy with that and plan to use the same hulls with swappable Dutch, German and Canadian turrets.

The YPR-765s are resin/metal models by Team Yankee.  The box includes five YPR-765 PRI and also includes a single metal M26 Cupola and plastic sprues with ITOW ‘Hammerheads’.  As mentioned above, you can also add parts from Team Yankee plastic M113 sets to expand the range of variants.  I’ve also converted one into a YPR-765 PRRDR – a very simple conversion that will be up here soon.  The Plastic Soldier Company also produce the basic YPR-765 PRI, while QRF and Butlers Printed Models also do a full range of YPR-765 variants.

The Land Rovers are lovely little metal models by QRF.  They also produce open-topped versions, which will be most suitable as recce Rovers.

The overall colour for Dutch vehicles at this time was NATO-standard RAL 6014 ‘Yellow-Olive’, which was also used by Belgium, West Germany and France as their standard vehicle colour.  It was also used on Canadian Leopards.  For this I start with a black undercoat, then a basecoat of Humbrol 75 Bronze Green, followed by a top-coat of Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab and then a subtle highlight with a little white mixed in.  Lastly comes my standard dusty dry-brush of Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.  The Dutch didn’t adopt NATO three-colour camouflage until well into the 1990s.

That’s it for now!  More Cloggies coming soon, including infantry,M113 C&V recce vehicles and the YPR-765 PRRDR radar recce vehicle.  I’ve also finally finished a load of Americans, so those will also be up on here soon.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - NATO Armies, Painted Units | 16 Comments

‘Beware of the Leopard!’ (15mm Plastic Leopard 1 Tanks)

Some reinforcements have arrived for my 15mm NATO armies this week, in the form of some plastic NATO Leopard 1 tanks by Team Yankee/Flames of War/Battlefront Miniatures.  I’ve already got some metal Leopard 1A3/1A4 models by QRF but Team Yankee recently brought out some plastic kits and I’ve been very impressed with the quality of their recent vehicle models, so decided to give them a go.

I have to say that once again, I’m very impressed!  The quality of detail and moulding is superb and the kits fit together extremely well.  According to the blurb on the box, the NATO Leopard 1 set allows you to build five Leopard 1 tanks, with options for the Leopard C1 for Canada, the Leopard 1-V for the Netherlands and the Leopard AS1 for Australia (?!).  Decals are included for these three versions, along with unit data cards for the Team Yankee game if you play that game (I don’t).

In fact, the set allows you to build a lot more than that, as the parts will also allow you to build a West German Leopard 1A1A1, 1A3 and 1A4, a Danish Leopard 1A3 DK a Greek Leopard GR1 or a Turkish Leopard 1A3 straight out of the box.  With minor fettling you can also build all the other Leopard 1 variants used by NATO (and beyond), such as the West German Leopard 1A1, 1A2, 1A2A1, Italian Leopard 1A1, Netherlands Leopard 1A1, Norwegian Leopard 1A1 NO, Belgian Leopard 1BE and the widely-used Leopard 1A5.

I should add that the West German plastic Leopard 1 box contains EXACTLY the same sprues, just with German decals and Team Yankee unit cards.  The box instructions only show the Leopard 1A3/1A4, but all the parts are included to also make the Leopard 1A1A1 (which was the most common version and was identical to the Netherlands Leopard 1-V).

Note that Team Yankee also produced a pack of three resin/metal West German Leopard 1A3/1A4 that can also be used for Canadian, Danish, Australian, Greek or Turkish Leopards with little or no modification (the Canadians used FN MAG pintle MGs, while the rest used MG3s).  These resin/metal kits are no longer produced, but are still widely available while stocks last.

As an added bonus, the box includes enough parts to make TWO complete turrets.  I was only expecting enough parts to make one or the other.  What this means is that where nations used the same paint scheme (e.g. the ‘Yellow-Olive’ (RAL 6014) paint used jointly by West Germany, Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands), you can have different turrets sharing the same hull, which at a stroke halves your expenditure on model tanks! 🙂

L to R: Canadian Leopard C1 turret, Dutch Leopard 1-V turret and German Leopard 1A5 turret on common hull.

The only real snag is that the kit only includes five MG3 machine guns and five FN MAG machine guns, so if you’re building ten turrets it pays to think carefully about which countries used the FN MAG (e.g. the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium) as opposed to the MG3 (i.e. most other Leopard users).  The MG3 is essentially identical to the MG42, so I’m able to deploy my vast stock of spare model MG42s that has been built up over years of modelling WW2 Germans.

L to R: West German Leopard 1A5 with common hull, Dutch Leopard 1-V and Canadian Leopard C1.

Of course, this does mean that national-specific hull-markings need to be left off, though photos of the actual tanks in the field rarely show visible markings in any case – either covered in crud, too small/subtle to see or not applied in the first place.

Netherlands Leopard 1-V

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Leopard 1A1s of the Royal Netherlands Army underwent an upgrade programme, which included a modernised fire control system and an applique armour pack that had been developed by Blöhm & Voss for the German Leopard 1A1A1 upgrade programme.  The upgraded Leopard was designated Leopard 1-V.  The ‘V’ stood for Verbetterd or ‘Improved’, though some uncharitable Dutch crews insisted that it stood for Verworsend as the new fire control system was very power-hungry and quickly depleted the battery.

Some books and websites refer to the Leopard 1-V as being equivalent to the Leopard 1A5, but that’s not correct.  It was actually the equivalent of the Leopard 1A1A1 and was visually identical to that version.  The Leopard 1-V and 1A1A1 lacked the further advancement in fire control and night vision capability of the Leopard 1A5 upgrade.  Note that Dutch Leopards are armed with a FN MAG pintle MG.

Note that the 1980s was a complicated decade for the Royal Dutch Army’s armoured units, what with Leopard 1s being upgraded to 1-V standard, some units persisting with Centurion Mk 5/2 and others being upgraded wholesale to Leopard 2A4.  Have a look at my Dutch TO&Es and Orders of Battle here for information on who had what and when.

Netherlands Leopard 1-V.

All Dutch AFVs were painted in the standard NATO camouflage colour RAL 6014 Yellow-Olive, exactly the same as West Germany, Belgium and France (as well as Canadian Leopards).  Neither the Dutch or the Belgians switched to the NATO three-colour scheme during the 1980s.  Yellow-Olive is a tricky colour to get right, being a very ‘brownish’ shade of green that closely resembles the colour of cow-pats…  It also seems to change from green to brown at will, depending on the light conditions and method of photography and is consequently the cause of much ‘animated discussion’ on modelling discussion groups!

Canadian Leopard C1

For Yellow-Olive I use a base coat of Humbrol 75 Bronze Green and then a coat of Humbrol 155 US Olive Drab and a final highlight with just a touch of white mixed into the US Olive Drab.  The final weathering for all my vehicles is Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.  I find that the Bronze Green basecoat (over a black undercoat) deepens the green hue.  Without it, the Olive Drab straight onto a black undercoat looks rather too grey-brown

Canadian Leopard C1

The Canadian Leopard C1 was basically a Leopard 1A3 upgraded with a laser rangefinder.  It was largely identical to the Leopard 1A3 and 1A4 (recognisable by their rectangular, welded turrets), except for the fact that it was fitted with a FN MAG pintle MG.  All Leopard C1s were factory-painted by the Germans with the standard RAL 6014 Yellow-Olive anti-infrared paint and units were absolutely banned from modifying or touching up this paint-job.  All other Canadian vehicles were painted in their unique three-colour (green, khaki and black) camouflage scheme.  Leopard C1s also had a white outline to their black Maple Leaf badge, whereas all other Canadian AFVs had a black Maple Leaf without outline.  During the late 1980s/early 1990s, Leopard C1s switched to the standard NATO three-colour camouflage scheme in common with West Germany.

A brace of Danish Leopard 1A3 DK.

In the case of the Danish Leopard 1A3 DK, their bespoke banded camouflage scheme makes it impossible to share hulls with other nationalities!  This scheme was very similar to that of the British Army, though with a brighter shade of green.  The Danes always painted the four corners of the vehicle in black, usually with another central band of black going up and over the middle of the vehicle.  The ratio of black to green was roughly 1:1, compared to the British, who stipulated 1:2 black to green.  The Danes use the MG3 as their pintle MG.

Danish Leopard 1A3 DK

I use Humbrol 150 Forest Green for the Danish bright green shade (this is the same shade as the top-coat of my Russian tanks), with a strong highlight (mixed with white).

Danish Leopard 1A3 DK

However, upon reflection this shade of green probably isn’t bright enough.  Humbrol 80 Grass Green would possibly be more accurate.  For the black areas I use Humbrol 67 Tank Grey as a highlight/fading.

Note that while the armoured regiments of LANDJUT Command were equipped with Leopards during the 1980s, the mechanised battalions of LANDJUT Command and all armoured units in LANDZEALAND Command were still equipped with various marks of Centurion.  See my Danish TO&Es and Orders of Battle here for a bit of clarity.

West German Leopard 1A5

The Leopard 1A5 entered service in 1987 and was the last version of Leopard 1 to see service with the Bundeswehr.  In West German service, all Leopard 1A5s were upgraded Leopard 1A1A1s, with the main upgrades being a thermal-imaging night-vision system, a laser-rangefinder, improved ammunition storage and an advanced fire control system.

From the 1990s onward, these were widely exported around the world and the Canadians even took surplus German Leopard 1A5 turrets and fitted them to their existing C1 hulls to produce the Leopard C2.  Some nations such as Belgium and Denmark also upgraded their existing Leopards to ‘1A5 standard’, though the changes were largely internal, leaving the tanks largely unchanged externally (the giveaway being the large thermal-imaging sight-box in front of the commander’s cupola).

West German Leopard 1A5

The Leopard 1A5 only requires a very slight conversion from the basic Leopard 1-V/1A1A1 as supplied in the box: A large thermal sight box needs to be added to the turret-top in front of the commander’s cupola and the protrusions on each side of the turret that housed the lenses for the coincidence rangefinder need to be cut off and filed flat.  Don’t add the night-vision/laser-rangefinder box above the gun mantlet.

Note that only the first batch of Leopard 1A5s was ever painted in the Yellow-Olive scheme as shown here, as the Bundeswehr was by this time transitioning to the new three-colour camouflage scheme.  Note that the Iron Cross badge was larger during the ‘Yellow-Olive Period’ than it became during the later ‘Three-Colour Period’.  Team Yankee kindly supplies both sizes of Iron Cross on their West German decal sheets.

If you want to know exactly which West German units were using which type of tank in any given year, have a look at Max Wünderlich’s superb reference chart here.

More Cold War kit to follow soon: namely Dutch YPR-765 Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - NATO Armies, Painted Units | 2 Comments

Happiness is a Large Busch: Prussian Foot Guard Regiments in 1813 (15mm AB Figures)

The Prussian 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss receives its colours, circa 1808

Over the last couple of years and since getting back into 15mm Napoleonics with our Waterloo Bicentennial Game I’ve been steadily been building up armies that were largely absent from my collection (such as Austria, Portugal and Spain), as well as filling gaps in my existing armies.  One such gap was the Foot Guard Regiments and Grenadier Battalions of the Prussian Army for the 1813 Campaign.

1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss

As it happens, the 1st Foot Guards (1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss) were the very first 15mm Napoleonics I ever painted, being Hertiage Miniatures ‘Napoleonettes’ (remember those…?).  I then did them again some years later using Battle Honours figures, but they have long since died and it was time to do the Gardes zu Fuss for a third time!

The Garde-Regiment zu Fuss was first raised from the remnants of Infanterie-Regiment 6 ‘Garde-Grenadier-Bataillon’ and Infanterie-Regiment 15 ‘Garde’, following the destruction of the Prussian Army in the catastrophic year of 1806.  The regiment was initially numbered as the 8. Infanterie-Regiment (Garde), but in June 1813 it was brought out of the line infantry regiment numbering sequence and was designated as the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss.  This then meant that the infantry regiments numbered 9-12 now became regiments 8-11!

In 1808 the infantry of the Royal Prussian Army was completely reformed and reorganised and was dressed along Russian lines, though in blue instead of green and very little in the way of facings, lace and ornamentation.  However, given their ceremonial role, the uniform of the Garde-Regiment zu Fuss was slightly more ornate than this rather plain standard pattern.  The dark blue, double-breasted coat was of basically the same cut as the line infantry, but had ‘Swedish’ cuffs instead of the ‘Brandenburg’ cuffs worn by the line infantry (Brandenburg cuffs had a vertical slit covered by a dark blue flap and secured by a row of three buttons – Swedish cuffs had no slit or flap and instead had two buttons sewn along the top edge of the cuff).

I. Bataillon, 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss

The facing colour was poppy-red and buttons were pewter/silver instead of the brass/gold worn by the line infantry.  Two bars of white litzen lace (silver for officers and NCOs) were worn horizontally on each side of the colour and vertically from the two buttons on each cuff.  This lace signified Guard status.  NCOs also had lace edging to the cuffs, as well as to the front and lower edges of the collar.  Drummers has red ‘swallows’ nests’ on the shoulders, with white lace.  Legwear normally consisted of dark grey breeches, though white breeches were also retained for parade dress.  Officers also had the option of wearing grey overall trousers, with a red stripe and silver buttons down the outer seam.

Belts were of whitened leather for the 1st & 2nd Battalions of each regiment, while the Fusilier Battalion (which formed each regiment’s light infantry battalion) wore black belts.  The black leather cartouche was decorated with a silver Guard Star badge and was suspended from the left shoulder by a white cross-belt.  There was initially a waist-belt for the short-sword, though by 1813 this had changed to a second cross-belt.  Musket-slings were red leather for all battalions.  Footwear was somewhat ostentatious, tall black leather boots, though these would normally be replaced with shoes and black gaiters when on campaign.

Headgear was a shako, which was decorated with a band of white lace around the top edge (silver for officers and NCOs), a black-within-white pompom/cockade centrally at the upper edge and a silver Guard Star badge on the front.  This was topped off with a bottlebrush-style horsehair plume, which was white for the rank-and-file, tipped black for NCOs and completely red for drummers.  Officers had a falling feather plume, with black feathers at the base.  The Fusilier Battalion wore black plumes, though drummers of the Fusilier Battalion wore red plumes, as for the other battalions.  These plumes were initially narrow (see the top picture), but soon grew to become the enormous busch style previously worn by the Russians (ironically just as the Russians were switching over to tall, thin plumes!

I. Bataillon, 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss

As for flags; as the vast majority of the Royal Prussian Army’s flags were captured in 1806, the army had to make do with what they had left, mainly by reducing the number of flags carried by a regiment, by re-distributing the few that survived and by using what paltry funds they had available to manufacture some new flags.

From 1808 the 1st and 2nd Battalion of each infantry regiment were each issued two flags – an Avancierfahne and a Retirierfahne.  The Avancierfahne of a regiment’s 1st Battalion was also known as the Leibfahne and was usually of a slightly different pattern to the other three flags, which were normally identical to each other.  From 1813 only the Avancierfahne was to be carried by each battalion when in the field and the spare Retirierfahnen were in some cases distributed to other regiments.  The Fusilier Battalion for each regiment did not carry flags.

The Leibfahne was plain white silk, with a silver cloth centre and silver corner-medallions.  Wreaths, crown and cyphers were all painted in silver.  The central black eagle had a silver sword, with gold sword-hilt, crown, beak and claws.  Above the eagle was a blue scroll with ‘PRO GLORIA ET PATRIA’ in silver.  The other three flags were identical, except that the central panel was orange.  Staves were yellow and finials were silver.

Experts on the Prussian Army will no doubt be howling in derision by now, as on campaign the Gardes zu Fuss looked almost identical to any other Prussian line infantry regiment, with black oilskin shako-covers, only one flag per unit and NO PLUMES.  They will also have noticed some errors of equipment details (e.g. a waist-belt in addition to a cross-belt over the right shoulder and when seen from the rear, the knapsack is of the wrong type).  However, I had some spare AB Russian grenadier figures in busch plumes and I really wanted to make my Prussian Guards stand out from the crowd… I know for a fact that I’m far from the first wargamer to have the same idea! 🙂

This spirited print by Carl Röchling, showing the Fusilier Battalion of the 8. Infanterie-Regiment (Garde) at Gross-Görschen, during the Battle of Lützen, gives a very good impression of how the Gardes zu Fuss actually looked on campaign:

The Fusilier Battalion of the 8. Infanterie-Regiment (Garde) at Gross-Görschen, 2nd May 1813

2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss

The 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss was a late addition to the Prussian order of battle, being created during the Summer Armistice of 1813.

The new regiment was built up from a cadre formed by the Normal-Infanterie-Bataillon (which had been originally created as a ‘model’ infantry unit to demonstrate the new organisation, tactics and uniforms of the infantry arm of the reformed Royal Prussian Army) and the 1st Battalion of the 9. Infanterie-Regiment (Colberg), which had performed admirably during the Spring Campaign of that year.

The 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss was uniformed almost identically to the Normal-Infanterie-Bataillon, being a standard blue double-breasted coat with brass/gold buttons.  The collar was identical to that of the 1st Regiment, being poppy-red with two white bars of litzen lace.  The litzen was gold for officers, while NCOs had white litzen plus a gold lace edge to the front and bottom edges of the collar.  Shoulder-straps were poppy-red, indicating the 2nd Regiment.  Cuffs were poppy-red and cut in the ‘Brandenburg’ style, with a vertical opening, covered by a blue flap and buttoned with three brass/gold buttons.  There was no cuff litzen.  NCOs cuffs had a gold lace edge.  Turnbacks were poppy-red.

The 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss

Headgear was very similar to that of the  1st Regiment, being a shako with a white lace band around the top edge and a black & white national cockade/pomp0m.  Officers and NCOs had gold shako-lace.  The front of the shakos were decorated with brass/gold Guards Star badges and officers’ shakos were additionally decorated with gold chains.  Plumes were plain black for the rank and file of all three battalions.  NCOs’ plumes had a white base, while drummers’ plumes were plain red, as for the 1st Regiment.  Officers wore plain black feather plumes in panache style.

All other details of uniform and equipment were the same as for the 1st Regiment, except that the 2nd Regiment had brass/gold Guards Star cartouche-badges.

The 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss

As for flags; the 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss was only issued with two flags – one each for the 1st and 2nd Battalions.  The 1st Battalion carried the regiment’s Leibfahne, which was actually a hand-me-down Retirierfahne from the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss, exactly as described above (namely a white flag with orange centre, silver detailing, silver finial and yellow stave).

The Avancierfahne of the 2nd Battalion was actually the former Leibfahne of the Colberg Regiment, which had a black field superimposed with a white ‘Iron Cross’.  The centre was orange and was superimposed with a black eagle of the new style, being depicted looking back over its shoulder, with the sword held at a slant.  Above the eagle was a blue scroll with ‘PRO GLORIA ET PATRIA’ in gold.  Below the central panel was a blue oval, edged in gold and bearing the battle honour ‘COLBERG 1809’ in gold.  All wreaths, cyphers, etc were painted in gold.  The stave was white with a gold finial.  I’m at a loss as to what the 1st Battalion of the Colberg Regiment carried after this date.  Presumably one of their two spare Retirierfahnen?

The observant will notice that I’ve depicted this unit with both flags in the same unit, which is clearly wrong, as the battalions of the 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss only ever had one flag apiece… I freely admit to taking some liberties with historical accuracy here… That said, in Napoleon’s Battles, each unit represents a whole brigade/regiment rather than an individual battalion, so it’s up to the individual as to how that brigade/unit is depicted.  I’ll normally pick one battalion from the brigade and paint that, though I do occasionally take liberties, as here… 😉

Guard Freiwillige-Jäger Detachments and the Garde-Jäger-Bataillon

An officer of the Garde-Jäger-Bataillon in full (and slightly non-standard) dress

Although I haven’t painted any Jäger yet, it’s probably worth mentioning them for the sake of completeness.  As with the infantry regiments of the line, each of the two regiments of the Gardes zu Fuss had a contingent of Freiwillige (i.e. Volunteer) Jäger, who provided a rifle-armed boost to the regiment’s skirmish screen. 

Volunteers were largely expected to equip themselves, with the payoff being that they automatically became NCO and officer candidates.  Fashionable regiments therefore attracted a greater number of Volunteers and the two Garde zu Fuss regiments at their height in 1813 each had around 300-400 Freiwillige-Jäger (i.e. two companies per regiment).

Uniforms for the Freiwillige-Jäger largely mirrored those of the parent regiment, except that the coat was now dark green instead of blue.  Facing colours, buttons and litzen lace were exactly the same as the parent regiment.  Belts were black leather and the plumes were plain black and much narrower (being in any case removed on campaign and the shako covered with a black oilskin cover).

An NCO of the Garde-Jäger-Bataillon in full dress

The Garde-Jäger-Bataillon was an independent Jäger battalion of four companies, numbering some 800 men.  In 1813 this battalion was frequently divided into two separate half-battalions; at Leipzig, one half-battalion served with Alvensleben’s Foot Guard Brigade while the other served with Yorck’s I Army Corps.

The uniform was essentially the same as that of the Freiwillige-Jäger, being a dark-green double-breasted coat and grey breeches.  Collar, cuffs, shoulder-straps and turnbacks were all poppy red and buttons were brass/gold.  The collar had two bars of metallic gold litzen lace and another two bars of litzen on each cuff, which were of ‘Swedish’ style, as for the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss.

Jäger battalions did not carry flags.

 

Models

As mentioned above, the majority of the models used are AB Figures 15mm Russian Grenadiers, taken from their ‘1805-1811’ Russian range.  However, the officers are taken from the Jäger/Fusilier Command Pack in their 1813-1815 Prussian range, one of whom is handily wearing a full dress shako with feather plume.  Flags are by Fighting 15s, who are the UK distributor for AB Figures.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic Prussian Army, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units | 7 Comments

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday!

Right that’s it!  I’m off to Malta for a week! 🙂

More silliness when I get back!

In the meantime I must apologies to those who will be unable to sleep until this guaranteed cure for insomnia returns…

Posted in 28mm Figures, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Royalist | Leave a comment

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: The Battle of Titley Junction

Hello.  This is Huw Puw reporting for The Fish Guardian.  Much to my surprise, I’ve survived the march and I now find myself in the land of the Saes!

As previously reported in the Fish Guardian here, here, here and here, I have had the ‘honour’ of being attached to the ‘Twm Carnabwth’ Regiment of the Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes, who have today been in action for the first time.  I have therefore been witness to a remarkable military spectacle and demonstration of the military art; the likes of which have probably not been seen since Isandhlwana, Majuba Hill or Spion Kop.

For reasons only known to themselves, Cantref Cemaes agreed to supply a regiment as part of a Welsh offensive into Herefordshire and after a week’s march we found ourselves crossing the border near Presteigne.  Our objective was the vital railway junction at Titley (stop sniggering at the back).  To reach the junction, Welsh forces had to capture a pair of hills, (known as ‘Y Pen Crwn Fawr’ and ‘Y Pen Crwn Fach’), divided by a deep railway cutting and road-bridge.

Our Allies were apparently fellow Welsh Nationalists and allied Reds, though we couldn’t understand a word they said. We’re guessing that they were ‘Gogs’ from North Wales, as nobody understands them – least of all South Walian speakers of God’s Own Language.  In between bestial grunts, gargling phlegm and sentences ended in the baffling expression “No, Yeah?”, Lt Col Sharp eventually worked out that they wanted us to take the right flank, assaulting the southern slopes of Y Pen Crwn Fawr.  the Gogs would take the centre and the Reds would take the left flank, assaulting Y Pen Crwn Fach.

It also became clear that nobody had thought to bring any artillery… But no matter! We had Mansel Davies’ armoured wonder-weapons…

Our photographer (he’s not good but he is cheap) took some photos of the action:

Y Gatrawd ‘Twm Carnabwth’ forms up. The flags of Cantref Cemaes make a gay display.

Speaking of which… Y Merched Beca; The Daughters of Rebecca, Cemaes’ feared shock-troops, bring up the rear.

With strange, pith-helmeted loons formed on their left, Shemi Roberts’ 2nd (Mynachlog-Ddu) Section leads the assault with Mansel Davies’ Llanfyrnach Armoured Company in close support.

A heavy machine gun and armoured car deploy, ready to provide covering fire.

In front of them looms the forbidding silhouette of Y Pen Crwn Fawr.

The Gogs’ objectives are clearly in sight… But behind the sheep, the Herefordshire Territorials lie in wait along the hedgerows.

Behind the hill, the hamlet and railway station of Titley is prepared for defence.

Even the station staff arm themselves, ready to defend the ticket office.

Royalist artillery deploys next to Titley Farm. This unit was to be instrumental in the coming battle.

A band of foreign ruffians calling themselves the King’s Own Colonials deploy on Y Pen Crwn Fach.

Titley still looks peaceful as the battle opens beyond the hills.

Forward Observers near the bridge open the battle by directing artillery fire onto the advancing Gogs and Socialists.

The Territorials shout insults from the bridge parapet.

The Gogs return the compliment with dog-hauled heavy machine gun fire, though first blood goes to the Royalists, as artillery rounds land among the advancing Gogs.

As the Territorials wait for the range to close, a sniper opens up – somewhat ineffectually. On their left, the Titley LDV move up to the crest, opposite the men from Cemaes.

The Cemaes men reach the foot of Y Pen Crwn Fawr without incident and cross the hedge to begin climbing the slope.

The 2nd Section and an armoured car lead the way up the hill.

On their left, the Gogs and Socialists continue the advance under heavy artillery fire.

The clatter of hooves through Titley announces the arrival of the Herefordshire Hunt Hussars.

A hotch-potch of Royalist transport passes through Titley.

Unnoticed by the Royalists, a group of Welsh infiltrators has inserted itself into Titley, disguised as livestock. Good fortune is with the Welsh as the Hereford men completely fail to notice the clear differences between the Welsh Black and Hereford breeds…

The North Wales Constabulary Rifles take a direct hit from Royalist artillery.

The clatter of the Hussars’ hooves is matched by the clatter of militia boots, as the Titley LDV make their first retreat of the day.

As the Cemaes boys climb the slopes, shots ring out, as an anti-tank rifle engages the armour!  Mansel Davies’ engineering skills are proved worthy as the armour shrugs off the armour-piercing rounds.  Machine guns rattle in reply and the anti-tank rifle team is eliminated.

However, the Territorials now open up on the advancing infantry and 2nd Section suffers the first casualties of the day. Undaunted, the green 3rd (Llangolman) Section moves up on the right and engages the Titley LDV.

Shrieks of “I’ve lost a nail!” and “I’ve laddered my stockings on that gate!” announce the arrival of Y Merched Beca

In the centre, things are going badly for the Gogs, as an entire Section is wiped out, save for the Plaid Cymru political officer, who seems to have nine lives!  The sheep remain nonplussed.

The Cemaes 2nd & 3rd Sections meanwhile pour fire into the Territorials, giving as good as they get.

To their rear, the Cemaes armour and heavy weapons are now fully engaged. The 1st (Capel Rhydwilym) Section awaits orders to move forward from the hedgerow.  Dark rumours suddenly arrive of Socialist-back-stabbing, but without a Socialist in sight, the Cemaes men carry on with their mission.

On the far left, the Socialists advance up the river bank while being subjected to long-range artillery fire.

The KOC’s Sikh Detachment prepares to defend the river bridge on the extreme right flank of the Royalist position.

The Gogs continue their advance, horrified at the destruction of their lead section.

The Cemaes mood meanwhile, is buoyant. Victory is scented as the 2nd Section reaches the hedgerow and lobs its sole grenade into the heart of the Territorials.  On the right flank meanwhile, the 3rd Section is once again engaged with the Titley LDV, who have returned to the sunken road.

Y Merched Beca move in for the kill, keen to scratch the Royalists’ eyes out and give withering put-downs regarding their dress-sense (“Khaki webbing with black boots is SO 1918…”).

The Titley LDV and the Cemaes 3rd Section continue to duke it out on the flank, while the Hereford Hunt Hussars move up, ready to take advantage of an opportunity to charge to glory, tea and medals.

In the centre, the Gogs renew their advance on Y Pen Crwn Fawr.

But disaster strikes the Cemaes men!  Unseen by the Welshmen, the Royalist forward observer, having overseen the destruction of the leading Gog unit, has shifted position to the right.  Deadly-accurate artillery now begins landing among the Cemaes men!  The first round lands smack in the middle of Colonel Sharp’s HQ group, killing the Medical Officer and several men from the 1st & 2nd Sections, as well as the Merched Beca!  It also succeeds in destroying the tank!

But the pain isn’t over. The Territorials have also moved a Vickers MG team over to their left, which now proceeds to scythe down the Cemaes 2nd Section!  Further casualties are suffered by the 3rd Section and the whole attack quickly stalls.  [The road-signs are very nice morale markers by JP]

The Welshmen determinedly return fire, continuing to thin the Royalist ranks, though suddenly the pendulum of battle seems to be swinging back to the Royalists.

Nevertheless, the Royalists are worried by developments on their left. Men are pulled from the railway cutting to reinforce the left against the determined Welsh attack.

The Sikh Section, duty done, is pulled back through other KOC elements to reinforce the centre. The river bridge soon falls to the Socialists, though the KOC continue to lay down a heavy fire on to the Reds.

As the Cemaes 2nd Section sacrifices itself in the hedgerow, Y Merched Beca launch a desperate attack, lobbing their grenades across the road. Most of the machine-gunners are killed, along with one of the forward observer team and a number of riflemen, but the survivors continue to take a heavy toll on the cross-dressing Welsh lunatics!  However, on their left, the Gogs are breaking through!

On the right flank, the Cemaes 1st Section and the survivors of the 3rd Section finally push back the Titley LDV and secure the road.

At the crest of Y Pen Crwn Fawr, the last defenders are put to flight as a Gog armoured car bursts through the hedgerow into the lane.

The remainder of the Gog force, still very strong, swarms up the slope behind the armoured car.

As the surviving Cemaes infantry secure the lane, their heavy weapons and armour move forward, ready to defend against a Royalist counter-attack.

The Hereford Hunt Hussars demonstrate truly amazing qualities of horsemanship as they walk their horse backwards, along the lane to Titley. The Welsh infiltrators continue to observe…

The KOC dig in for the final defence of Y Pen Crwn Fach.

A self-appointed ‘morale officer’ is summarily shot by Royalist military police for Playing the Banjo in a Built Up Area With Intent to Cause a Breach of the Peace, while leaning on a lamp-post.

The Hereford Hunt Hussars are determined to defend a vital area… a very long way from the actual fighting…

The victorious Gog infantry secure the lane at the crest of Y Pen Crwn Fawr!

Cheers erupt around the Welsh and Socialist positions, as they see allied flags being waved from the heights! They’re not sure whose flag it is, but it’s not the King’s flag!  “Hurrah!”  “Cymru am Byth!” “Bydd gen I beint!” “Pwy yw cot yw siaced yma?!”  “Nid oes defaid yn ddiogel heno!”

However, the Gogs are soon engaged in a sharp but indecisive firefight across the railway cutting.

On the right, the exhausted but victorious Cemaes men dig in along the crest of Y Pen Crwn Fawr.

Mr Thomas Williams from Gelli hasn’t had a chance to fire his SMG all day and is itching for a glimpse of a Royalist… But no such luck.

Iorwerth Davies from Clunderwen meanwhile, lobs mortar bombs in the general direction of England.

There is traffic chaos in Titley as the Royalist rear echelons get mixed up with retreating units.

The Herefordshire Territorials’ Medical Officer examines a magnificent cock.

With the situation failing, the King’s forces stoop to dastardly means in an attempt to win the battle.  Here we see foreign ruffian mercenaries forcing a brave British soldier to attack alone up the hill.  This is the sort of imported evil with which we (and even the King’s own followers) have to contend!

At the end, the King’s forces were even employing CHILDREN to fight the battle, thus proving the righteousness and justice of our cause in fighting the King!

This is Huw Puw, reporting from the field of battle for the Fish Guardian and still alive!

[This game was actually played four years ago at one of many such Great Hereford VBCW Campaign Games in October 2014.  My thanks once again to all!  Especially to my victorious allies Genial Jim (Socialists) and Captain Bigglesmay (Gogs) and to our fine opponents JP (Hereford Territorials) and Roo (King’s Own Colonials).  Thanks also to Roo for his superb terrain-building skills and to Giles and JP for their excellent organising skills in bringing the three games together.  Since 2014 they have had an unerring knack of planning games that coincide with my holidays and this October is no exception, as I’m about to jet off to Malta… I think it must be me…]

 

Posted in 28mm Figures, Games, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Welsh Nationalist | 3 Comments

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: Huw Puw Gets His Marching Orders

Hello.  This is Huw Puw, reporting once again from the Republic of Cantref Cemaes for The Fish Guardian.

Despite ample woolly distractions, the military build-up continues unabated in the Republic of Cantref Cemaes.  In particular, Major Mansel Davies’ workshops have been working day and night to produce armoured fighting vehicles the likes of which (and I am absolutely confident in this) the world has never seen before!

I can now exclusively reveal that the Army of the Repbulic of Cantref Cemaes has agreed to take part in a joint Welsh Nationalist expedition to the English-Welsh border and the Catrawd ‘Twm Carnabwth’ has been selected to fly the flag for Cemaes.  The Daughters of Rebecca are of course overjoyed at the prospect of action; they’ve done nothing but shop for new outfits and get their hair done ever since the warning order was received.

The mood of the men is jubilant and all across the camp can be heard the stirring Battle-Hymn of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes, sung lustily by tough men, raised in the Welsh Baptist choral tradition (sung to the tune of ‘Oh When The Saints Go Marching In’):

Defaid Blewog!
Defaid Blewog!
O mae defaid blewog yn wych!
Eu bod yn wyn, Cymraeg a blewog,
O mae defaid blewog yn wych!

Yes, it can truly be said that the King’s Army REALLY has no idea what’s about to hit them!  I look forward to seeing the Catrawd ‘Twm Carnabwth’ in action… If only to see what they’ll do next…

Our photographer has taken some more pictures of the regiment training and showing off their newly-acquired vehicles and heavy weapons.  Here we see the Buddig Mk I armoured lorry, suitably festooned in patriotic slogans:

The Buddig (named for the ancient British warrior-queen Boudica) has a crew of two and can carry a full section of infantry in extreme discomfort.

Here we see the Corgi Mk I armoured car, which has apparently been named for the tenacious Pembrokeshire breed of cattle-dog.  I presume there must be some other sort of Corgi, as ‘tenacious’ doesn’t accurately describe my aunties’ overweight, malodorous, self-propelled furry draught-excluders:

The Corgi has a crew of two and cargo-space for four men or eight sheep and is armed with a Vickers machine gun.

Here we see Mansel Davies’ Llanfyrnach Armoured Company on exercise:

Mansel Davies’ workshops have also been producing heavy weapons for the Army of Cantref Cemaes, including this 2-inch calibre light mortar.  This remarkable weapon acts as the platoon commander’s own ‘pocket artillery’, though has a poor reputation for safety.  I have it on good authority that one round in every box of six detonates in the barrel…  The crews have therefore been ordered not to fire every sixth round, which I’m sure you will agree, is a sensible precaution.  The mortar crewman here, assigned to the Daughters of Rebecca, is apparently wearing one of his Mam’s aprons.

As the regiment will be operating in concert (well not so much a concert, more of a drunken sing-song down at the pub (but not on a Sunday, obviously)) with other Welsh Nationalist units who might not recognise the flag of Cantref Cemaes, they have been issued with a flag displaying Y Draig Goch (The Red Dragon), to emphasise the common cause of all Welsh Nationalist factions on this mission.  They seem to like it, but to be honest, the dragon looks a bit like he’s woken up in the dark and is looking for the tŷ bach

Some machine-gunners zero the sights on their newly-issued Lewis Gun:

Mansel Davies’ workshops have been set to work copying captured weapons and manufacturing them locally.  These men have been equipped with a locally-produced ‘Boyos’ Anti-Tank Rifle:

So that’s it.  We march tomorrow.  My letters to the editor requesting a recall to Fishguard have gone unanswered and so this is it.  This is Huw Puw, for the Fish Guardian, signing off for probably the last time.

[Models by Empress Miniatures and Musketeer Miniatures, painted by me]

Posted in 28mm Figures, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Welsh Nationalist | 1 Comment

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: ‘Panzers y Cwm’…

Hello.  This is Huw Puw reporting from Somewhere in Darkest Carmarthenshire for The Fish Guardian.

Today I can exclusively reveal the latest wonder-weapon to roll out of Welsh workshops.  At long last, the Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 19th Century!

This terrifying beast, allegedly the first of many, was wrought in the engineering workshops of Mansel Davies & Sons Transport Ltd at Llanfyrnach.  The design is said to be Spanish and some observers suspected that the agents of Cantref Cemaes had somehow smuggled the plans in from Spain…

Sadly, it seems that Mansel simply saw it in a book and made something that looked similar…

When this mighty beast of war rolled off the production line (well, not so much a ‘line’ as a ‘point’) it was observed that it looked just like a rubber duck in profile – rather like the cartoon duck Matilda, in fact! So ‘Matilda’ it was! Hurrah!

Two days later the Cease & Desist Order arrived from Vickers and they had to find another cartoon duck…

With the copyright wrangles resolved, we can now present the Jemima Mk I Light Tank (seen here on exercise with the Daughters of Rebecca):


The designers confidently assure us that the Jemima’s armour can resist even the stiffest air-rifle fire and even mis-thrown pub darts.  The Jemima’s armament of two Lewis machine guns meanwhile can penetrate the hide of even the toughest cavalry horse.  However, not everyone is happy with the new technology and there are complaints that these new machines scare off the sheep and make them harder to sneak up on…

Here we see Mansel Davies, now commissioned to the rank of Major and appointed to command the Llanfyrnach Independent Armoured Company.

I’m assured by my assigned military liaison officer that ‘nothing and nobody can now stand before the might of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes…’  Well indeed.  I’d run a mile as well…  I asked him what he thought of the rumour that Lord Rhys’ Kingdom of Dyfed was experimenting with magnetic mines strapped to sheep, who are then trained to find food beneath tanks…?  He replied that any sheep would immediately flee from the soldiery of Cantref Cemaes…

On that at least, we can agree.

That’s it for now from the Cemaes Front.  Huw Puw signing off.

Help me.

[The tank is a Trubia Light Tank by Empress Miniatures]

 

 

Posted in 28mm Figures, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Welsh Nationalist | 1 Comment

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: The Warfare That Dares Not Speak Its Name

Hello.  This is Huw Puw reporting from Christ Knows Where for The Fish Guardian.

As reported in my last dispatch, I find myself posted to the ramshackle hullabaloo that is the Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes, as they prepare for a fresh offensive.

However, things have taken an alarming turn for the surreal with the arrival of the regiment’s ‘Special Company’ – ‘Merched Beca’ or ‘Rebecca’s Daughters’.  The Colonel tells me that ‘Special’ in this instance means Special Duties such as reconnaissance, raiding, patrolling, assaulting, etc.  However, having seen them, I have to say that the expression “My Mam says I’m ‘Special'” springs immediately to mind.

As reported previously, the ‘Twm Carnabwth’ Regiment and the Republic of Cantref Cemaes generally, places great store in the history of the local people and these chapel-proud, salt-of-the-earth folk do like to carry forward the traditions and arbitrary grudges of their ancestors.  However, much as I like history, some things can be taken a little too far and in the case of Rebecca’s Daughters, I think they might be using ‘tradition’ as an excuse to express some personal issues…

To recap; it is now almost 100 years to the day when in 1839, the men of Cemaes took up Bibles, axes, cudgels and the contents of their Mam’s knicker-drawer and led by the semi-mythical ‘Rebecca’, marched to smash the toll-gates (and in some cases, the skulls) of the rich.

Insurrection is all very well, but why the transvestism?!  Once again, the excuse for all this cross-dressing lies in tradition.

The original ‘Rebecca’, Twm Carnabwth, was known to be a keen advocate of the tradition of ‘Y Ceffyl Pren’ or ‘The Wooden Horse’.  This was an ancient ritual of vigilante punishment and humiliation, exacted upon adulterers, wife-beaters, nagging wives, petty criminals, Cardis* who failed to buy their round and those who ‘looked at my sheep in a funny way’.  This tradition also has parallels across Britain, such as the ‘Rough Music’ of Western England.

Those carrying out Y Ceffyl Pren would always dress in women’s clothing and would blacken their faces as a means of concealing their identity. However, there are always those who carry things too far and Twm Carnabwth probably had a whole wardrobe of outfits for all occasions. It is rumoured that Twm Carnabwth was almost late for the first riot at Efailwen due to being unable to choose which handbag and shoes to wear.

Nevertheless, the ‘Rebecca Riots’ spread like wildfire across Wales and were only eventually stopped by the combined forces of the Yeomanry, regular Army and the newly-raised Fashion Police.

So here were are 99 years later, with the modern-day equivalent of Rebecca and her Daughters. Some of them have gone for the traditional look – Welsh ladies’ stovepipe-hats and bonnets with shawls, while others have simply raided their Mam’s wardrobe.  I don’t know what they do to the enemy, but by God they frighten me…  In fact, I CAN imagine what they do to the enemy and that frightens me even more!

Here are a few photos of them taken during training. I was told to photograph their good sides, or they’d scratch my eyes out…

Here are Rebecca and her Daughters in full battle-array.  The flag of the company is based on the famous London Illustrated News woodcut of the first Rebecca Riot:
(Right) The modern-day ‘Rebecca’ is well-known raconteur and descendant of Twm Carnabwth from Mynachlog-Ddu, otherwise known as Eurfryn Plasymeibion.  ‘Rebecca’ wears a very smart mink coat, as befitting of an officer:

 

 

 

 

(Left) The ‘Daughters’ all prefer to be known by noms de guerre. The unit standard-bearer goes by the name of ‘Blodwen’:

 

 

(Right) ‘Dilys’ Mam was kind enough to give ‘her’ a very fashionable (for the 1920s) lilac ‘flapper’ dress, cloche hat and string of pearls:

 

 

 

 

(Left) ‘Cicely’ has kept things traditional, with a grey flannel skirt and stovepipe hat:

 

 

 

(Right) ‘Eilir’, the company machine-gunner, has gone even more traditional with the full Welsh ladies’ outfit of stovepipe hat, bonnet, skirt and red flannel shawl:

 

 

 

(Left) ‘Elsie’ presents a terrifying spectacle in ‘her’ baby-blue Victorian bonnet:

 

 

 

 

(Right) ‘Megan’ again favours the stovepipe hat, topped off with ‘her’ Mam’s pink housecoat (just in case the camp needs dusting):

 

 

(Left) ‘Bronwen’ has opted for a simple ensemble of skirt and headscarf:

 

 

 

 

(Right) ‘Lilian’ has gone for a bonnet and headscarf:

 

 

(Left) Finally, ‘Gwenda’ has opted for the shawl-with-apron look:

Be Afraid.  Be Very Afraid.

This is Huw Puw signing off.

*  Readers from benighted lands might not be aware, but Cardis are gentlemen from Cardiganshire, who are renowned the length and breadth of Wales for being ‘careful’ with their money.  The expressions “Careful as a duck’s arse” and “Like Scotsmen with the generous streak removed” are commonly used in the same sentence as Cardi.

[Models are all Musketeer/Footsore Miniatures, designed by Paul Hicks, converted by the lunatic Martin Small and painted by me]

Posted in 28mm Figures, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Welsh Nationalist | 4 Comments

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: A Dispatch From Somewhere Near The Back Of The Front

Hello. This is Huw Puw reporting from the front-line (wherever the hell it is – buggered if I know) for The Fish Guardian.

My editor last week asked me to ’embed’ myself with the ‘Twm Carnabwth’ Regiment of the Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes.  Needless to say, I was shocked at such a suggestion.  God knows I’ve prostituted myself for a story before, but never with an entire regiment!  In any case, my bara-brith isn’t buttered on that side (and for that matter, neither is that of the Cemaes soldiery, as many a jealous Preseli hill-farmer can attest)…

I suggested Lady Gladys-Emmanuel Picton, as she’s probably got through the Bishop of St David’s army by now and is probably looking for a fresh challenge…

“No, you pillock! ‘Embed’, not ‘Bed’!  You’re to attach yourself to the Army of Cemaes and report on their forthcoming campaign!  Rumour has it that they’re marching on Hereford in support of the Welsh Republican Army and the Anglican League.  I’ve taken the liberty of packing your case.  No need to thank me, Huw.  Think of this as an opportunity, not as certain horrible death in a far-flung Herefordshire field armed with nothing more than a camera and typewriter…  Bye!”

So without further ado, I was bundled into a waiting car and whisked away out of Fishguard, with the sound of my colleagues cheering me on my way.  At least I think they were cheering me on my way…

So now I find myself at a secret training camp in darkest Carmarthenshire.  The countryside, as yet untouched by war, is quiet.  Only the sound of banjos, the occasional, surprised “BaaaAAAAA!” and the shouting of angry farmers breaks the silence.

I’m not permitted to reveal identities, but I was permitted to take a few photographs of the Twm Carnabwth Regiment in training:

As can be seen, the regiment is a fairly ragged spectacle, though they like their flags.  The main flag seems to be the old arms of Cemaes (two red stripes on white), with a green stripe for a Free Wales.  The 1st Regiment (‘Catrawd 1af’) is named for ‘Twm Carnabwth’, properly known as Thomas Rees, who was ‘Rebecca’ at the very first ‘Rebecca Riot’ in the Cemaes village of Efailwen, almost 100 years ago in 1839. The ‘Spirit of 1839’ runs deep in the memory of these people and many see the present war as simply a renewal of old grudges. Indeed, the elite ‘Cwmni Merched Beca’ (‘Daughters of Rebecca Company’) is said to dress in women’s clothing, as Rebecca and her sisters did in 1839.

The motto of the Twm Carnabwth Regiment, ‘Ac Maent Yn Bendithio Beca’ means ‘And They Blessed Rebecca’; a biblical reference which again harks back to their cross-dressing glory days.

Aside from occasional cross-dressing lunatics, the officers, NCOs and better-equipped soldiery wear Army-surplus uniforms dyed the typical bottle-green of the Welsh Nationalists.  However, the majority wear civilian clothes or uniforms from a variety of sources – often with a green item such as a jacket, hat or scarf.  Armbands in the Cemaes colours are fairly universal and those lucky enough to have helmets often paint them with a green band to aid recognition in the field.

Here we see a medic (right).  Specialised medical services are almost non-existent in this partisan army, though the Cemaes is supplied with a surplus of Mams, who will mother the wounded back to good health with lashings of tea and cawl.

As with uniforms, modern weapons are also in short supply. However, farmers’ shotguns are plentiful and ammunition is easy to manufacture.

One of the great strengths of the Cemaes is its core of young countrymen. With skills honed by a lifetime of sneaking up on unsuspecting livestock, these men make superb guerrillas and snipers.

That’s all for now. Rumour has it that those terrifying transvestites, the Daughters of Rebecca, will be joining us in the camp later this week.  Hereford won’t have seen anything like it since Lord Byron’s visit of 1808!

Until then, this is Huw Puw, for ‘Look Out Wales’, signing off.

[All models by Musketeer Miniatures, except for the sniper, which is by Great War Models. All painted by me.]

 

 

Posted in 28mm Figures, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Welsh Nationalist | 2 Comments

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: The Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes

With the Second British Civil War now 80 years in the past, its incredibly complicated history is rapidly being lost from our collective memory and many of the smaller factions of the war are largely forgotten.  One such faction was the heroic, but ultimately doomed tiny ‘Republic of Cantref Cemaes’, which grew out of the hills, valleys and chapels of the Pembrokeshire-Carmarthenshire borderlands.  Sir Richard Fenton, in his seminal work ‘With Thomson and Mills-Bomb to Little England Beyond Wales: The Civil War in Pembrokeshire’ had this to say:

The Republic of Cantref Cemaes – Y Gweriniaeth o Cantref Cemaes

Straddling the border of north-west Pembrokeshire and north-east Carmarthenshire, the Republic of Cantref Cemaes has grown out of a number of independent-leaning local defence associations north of the ‘Landsker’ (the border between the English-speaking south and the Welsh-speaking north of Pembrokeshire) that have banded together to form a joint front against the King.

Centred on the windswept Preseli market-town of Crymych, the Cantref Cemaes was originally a province of the pre-Norman Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth (‘Cantref’ meaning ‘100 towns). Following the Norman Conquest, Cemaes became a Norman Barony and in the 17th Century became the birthplace of the non-conformist Welsh Baptist Movement.

Growing religious dissent, resentment of the land-owning classes, poverty and hunger during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries festered and came to a head in 1839, in the form of the ‘Rebecca Riots’. Led by the legendary ‘Rebecca’ (actually a man named Twm Carnabwth), bands of cross-dressing Welshmen rose up to smash the hated toll-gates. These riots started in the Cemaes village of Efailwen and quickly spread across Wales, requiring military intervention and the formation of a national civil police force.

With dissent in the blood, the people of Cemaes also hold little truck with the other Welsh Nationalist movements (particularly the more militaristic elements, such as the FWA and the Kingdom of Dyfed) and generally just want to be left alone. However, they do send non-voting representatives to the Senedd at Macynlleth.

The Republic is firmly based in the deeply-rooted Welsh non-conformist chapel tradition. Each chapel is therefore responsible for electing its own assembly representative and for forming its own militia, as well as raising funds for the Republic. Chapel militias from the same district are then banded together to form regiments (‘Catrawdau‘) which generally serve within, or close to, their home district. The Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes is therefore just a very large LDV force. This has its advantages in defence, as every soldier knows his own territory intimately and can function extremely well in the guerrilla role. However, this organisational structure does stymie offensive capability and to mitigate this, each chapel recruits a quota of ‘volunteers’ to serve in the standing ‘Hedfan Colofn’ (‘Flying Column’), which is a regimental-sized rapid-reaction force, being well-equipped by the standards of the Republic, with motor transport and a very small amount of captured and home-built armour, as well as artillery.

However, the Republic is presently land-locked and therefore has little access to modern weaponry, ammunition and supplies other than what it manages to capture or trade at extortionate prices with neighbouring Welsh Nationalist factions. The Republic is therefore involved in a three-way race (with the FWA north of the Preselis and the Welsh Republic north of the River Teifi) to take the Royalist enclave of Cardigan and thus have access to seaborne trade and foreign support. Thus far, the three sides have maintained a united (though disorganised) front against the Royalists at Cardigan, though the situation has the potential to lead to conflict between these three Welsh Nationalist factions.

Another potential flashpoint is along the River Cynin, which runs north from the town of St Clear’s and marks the Republic’s eastern border, which extends up as far as the market town of Newcastle Emlyn, on the River Teifi. There, Lord Rhys’ Army of the Kingdom of Dyfed has become increasingly belligerent in attempting to impose his authority on the Republic’s eastern communities.

Among all this are continual raids and skirmishes with Loyalist forces along the Landsker, combined with the continual problems caused by refugees trickling north to Crymych from that ravaged country.

The two advantages enjoyed by the Republic of Cemaes are the determined and belligerent people and the hilly terrain, broken by moors, woodland, rivers, deep valleys, narrow sunken roads and densely-hedged fields. As in Ireland, this creates a perfect environment in which to fight a guerrilla war and the Republic’s armed forces have performed superbly in that role. One outstanding guerrilla unit are the ‘Daughters of Rebecca’ (‘Merched Beca’), a terrifying regiment of fighters from the Landsker who blacken their faces and dress like old Welsh ladies, aping the legendary Rebecca rioters of a century earlier. This proud heritage of dissent is commemorated in other unit titles, such as the Gatrawd (Regiment) ‘Twm Carnabwth’, named for the local man who became the original ‘Rebecca’, and the Gatrawd ‘Twm Siôn Cati’, named after the legendary Welsh equivalent of ‘Robin Hood’. Other units have titles drawing from a rich local seam of Welsh legend.

Aside from some British Army surplus, uniforms and proper military equipment remain rare and those uniforms that do exist are frequently home-made. As in other Welsh Nationalist forces, green remains a popular colour for uniforms and civilian dress alike, though the Army of Cantref Cemaes presents a very ragged spectacle. Nevertheless, armbands are universally worn as a field-sign, being in the traditional colours of Cantref-Cemaes; two horizontal red stripes on white. Some armbands have also been seen with a green stripe inserted between the two red stripes, representing their Welsh Nationalist affiliation. Flags are in the same colours.

[Figures are by Musketeer Miniatures (now Footsore Miniatures), sculpted by Paul Hicks and painted by me, with superb conversions by Martin Small.]

Posted in 28mm Figures, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Welsh Nationalist | 5 Comments