It’s been gloriously sunny here this week while on lock-down from the ‘Flu Manchu’, so I decided a photograph a stack of models. At the top of the stack were some boxes of XIVth Army British and Indian troops for Burma, so let’s start with those…
I’ll start with an Indian Army battalion of Sikhs. These were originally painted to represent the 4th (Sikh) Battalion of the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, for our 1st Battle of Bishenpur game at Battlegroup South 2011, in The Tank Museum, Bovington. However, they could represent any all-Sikh battalion in the Indian Army. The beards and turbans mark them out as Sikh, as they are a requirement of their faith. Other races/religions would wear turbans of a different style in full dress uniform, but these were not worn in the field (except in the case of a few garrison units caught up in the Japanese invasion early in the war and by Military Policemen). Instead they would wear standard British headgear of helmets, bush-hats, cap-comforters (cloth tubes – similar to a balaclava) or GS Caps (large floppy beret-type-things).
After the Indian Mutiny of 1857-59 all Indian Army units were segregated by race/religion. In the case of infantry battalions, these would either be 100% from one race/religion or they would be segregated by company. For example, the 1st to 4th Battalions of the 12th Frontier Force Regiment were 100% Sikh, as were all battalions of the 11th Sikh Regiment. Battalions of some other regiments (particularly the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 14th, 15th & 16th Punjab Regiments and 13th Frontier Force Rifles Regiment) would also often have one or two, maybe more Sikh companies. For example, the 7th Battalion 16th Punjab Regiment had A (Dogra) Company, B (Sikh) Company, C (‘Punjabi Mussulmen’ or ‘PM’ – i.e. Muslim) Company and D (Mahratta – i.e. Hindu) Company.
These are painted for the latter half of the Burma Campaign (late 1943 to 1945), so are all painted in Jungle Green, often known as ‘JG’. Earlier in the war the standard tropical uniform was Khaki Drill, known as ‘KD’ and these Sikhs still have their turbans in KD. They would often cover their turbans with helmet scrim-net and later in the war they were often supplied with JG turbans. From late 1942 onwards units started dying their own uniforms in various shades of green, leading to a very patchwork appearance until factory-produced JG items started being delivered. Units newly-arrived in Burma often had to wait a while for JG uniforms to be delivered. for example, the 81st (West African) Division didn’t get its first JG uniform until they were delivered by air-drop halfway through their first campaign in Dec 1943/Jan 1944.
For JG I use Humbrol 116 (US Dark Green), highlighted with quite a lot of white mixed in. Factory-supplied JG usually faced to a light blueish-greyish-green, but would look very dark when wet. For the KD turbans I use Humbrol 72 (Khaki Drill).
Webbing was a light ochre-khaki colour in its natural state that tended to fade to a very pale shade when exposed to sun for long periods. It was meant to be covered with Blanco (a boot-polish-type substance that came in various colours) to provide camouflage and waterproofing, but supplies were often not available at the front line and it and in any case, Blancoing was a detested activity that was normally abandoned immediately upon contact with the enemy! Later in the war, webbing was dyed JG at the factory. According to my mate Skippy’s father (a veteran of 7th Indian Division and the ‘Admin Box’), they would often paint their webbing with green or black vehicle paint. However, photos of Indian infantry often show very pale webbing (see above), suggesting scrubbed and sun-bleached bare canvas. For ‘scrubbed’ webbing I use Humbrol 83 (Ochre), again highlighted with quite a lot of white mixed in. This unit has mostly ‘scrubbed’ webbing, with occasional soldiers wearing JG webbing.
In terms of organisation, Infantry Battalions by this stage of the war in Burma typically had four rifle companies, each of three rifle platoons. There was no Support Company organisation, but there was always a Mortar Platoon of six 3-inch Mortars and a Carrier Platoon of four sections. In many cases, the Carrier Platoon lost its Carriers and either got Jeeps or went on foot as a very strong infantry platoon with 12x Bren Guns, used as recce and/or fire support. There was also usually a Sniper Section and an Assault Pioneer Platoon. Anti-Tank Platoons were universally disbanded and turned into other uses such as additional Jeep or Mule Transport Platoons. Battalions might also get a Vickers MG Platoon of four guns if the division had no MG Battalion.
Some uniquely Burma oddities were ‘Commando Platoons’ and ‘Assault Platoons’. Details are scant, but these seem to have often been re-purposed Carrier or Assault Pioneer Platoons, plus Sniper Section and these terms could either mean a long-range patrol unit or a unit equipped for assaulting bunkers and other fortifications.
Above: Here’s the battalion ‘on parade’ and organised for Battlefront: WWII rules: At the back are four Rifle Companies, each consisting of a Company Commander stand, a 2-inch Mortar stand and 9x Infantry stands (one of them equipped with PIAT). At the front is the Battalion HQ, Mortar Platoon of three sections and Bren-heavy Carrier Platoon of four sections. The sharp-eyed will spot that there are a couple of British officers in there. It was typical for Battalion COs and Company OCs to be British King’s Commissioned Officers (KCOs), backed up by Indian Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers (VCOs – a sort of Indian liaison officer between the British KCOs and Indian NCOs). Platoons were typically commanded by VCOs (as were companies on occasion, where the KCO had become a casualty). However, the process of ‘Indianisation’ had begun before the start of the war, with many company commanders being Indian KCOs and a handful of battalions having 100% Indian KCOs. This process accelerated as the war went on.
I’ve not added any transport to these, as I’ve already got quite a lot of generic Carrier, motor and mule transport and the scenario didn’t require any.
The figures are all by Flames of War. These were originally produced for their North Africa/Italy range, but are perfect for Burma. However, I don’t think they’re in production any more. I’ve also got another (unpainted) battalion that I intend to paint in KD uniforms. This will do double-duty as an Early War (1941-1943) unit, with the option to use it as a Late-War Indian National Army (INA) unit, fighting alongside the Japanese (known to the Allies as ‘JIFs’ – Japanese-Indian Forces).