Monday, 12 January 2015

From Curt - 20mm Canadian WWII Infantry in Italy (62 points)


A few months ago I started up a project to collect and paint the forces which were involved in the 1943 Battle for Ortona. To most, this battle, if known at all, is regarded as nothing but a tiny sideshow within the larger Italian campaign, but for Canada it is our ‘little Stalingrad’, the battle that brought us out from the shadow of Dieppe and re-established our reputation as a battle-winning partner of the Allied 'family'.



The struggle for Ortona was known for its vicious, grinding and intense urban combat. Fighting which the Canadians earned a hard-earned reputation for effective house-clearing during those last weeks of 1943. Their opponents were tough veteran Fallshirmjaegers from the 1st Parachute Division and as such the fighting was ferocious, often with no quarter given or received. In the end the Canadians drove the German paratroopers from the town but at a fearsome cost. Almost 1,400 men from the Canadian 1st Division (the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Seaforth Highlanders and the Three Rivers Regiment specifically in Ortona) lost their lives during this campaign.


The models you see here are 20mm castings from AB Miniatures. These figures are, in my opinion, the best models available for this period, in this scale (and arguably most 28mm ranges as well). They are quite lanky and have a wonderful sense of animation. Many of the figures do a great job in telling a story by how they're posed. For example, I love the figure of the soldier about to throw a grenade. He is leaning back, probably meant to have his back against a wall, finger-to-pin, waiting for the signal from his section to throw his Mills bomb into an enemy-held room. There is also a figure of a rifleman on his knees firing up to an upper story. You get a sense that he has just come up from a prone position to get a quick shot before dropping back to cover again. Amazing sculpting in any scale.

This is the last section of my Canadian platoon, which also has the command team and some special weapons teams. (The other two sections, and a bit more background, can be seen here and here.)

Okay, in more detail, we have:

The Command Team, made up of the CO accompanied by his radioman, his senior sergeant waving the boys forward and a corporal charging forward with Sten SMG at the ready (the presence of the Stens are a bit anachronistic as the Canadians typically hated them and exchanged them for Thompsons at every  opportunity). The base shapes is what I use for all my skirmish gaming. Hexes for officers, squares for NCOs, rounds for troopers, octagons for special weapons, oblongs for weapon teams.






Next is an artillery Forward Observer with his radioman. At Ortona the Fallshirmjaegers specifically targeted radio operators and the brigade went through a murderous amount of them.



Here are the dogface infantry. Nothing too sexy, just the trusty SMLE rifle, loads of ammunition and a bunch of grenades. As I mentioned previously there is some brilliant animation here, specifically with the man with the grenade and the kneeling rifleman. 


Finally, here is an assortment of heavy weapon teams. 


First up a set of PIAT teams. One pair legging it and the other deployed prone for firing. The Candadians reportedly loved the PIAT and even used the weapon for 'mouseholing' during their house-to-house fighting (something that seems suicidally dangerous to me, but I suppose when the situation demands...). 


The next duo is a 2" mortar team. They used these to try to mask movement as men dashed across streets. 


Concluding the special weapons is this Bren gun team. I like the third man hollering back telling others from the section to bring up some more ammunition.



Another debut in this post are three MDF buildings, the designs of which I had commissioned from Byron at SG2 Creations (who, I must add, is also one of our generous prize sponsors). The need for region-specific buildings came about when I noticed that there were not many retailers who were providing buildings for the Italian campaign in 20mm. Byron and I poured over period photographs of the buildings at Ortona and have come up with a base ‘recipe’ to represent the narrow multi-story structures that were typical to the town. 


MDF buildings are great but one thing that they have a hard time at conveying is the wonderful bodged randomness of older architecture. We all know that any pre-20th century building is a conceit to straight walls and level floors. As such I decided to roughen up the flat, perfect face of these buildings by giving them a rough skim coat of Liquitex gel medium. Once dry, I drybrushed them in khaki and tan to give them that quasi-Mediterranean look.

While the stucco is a bit dour, Ortona was (and still is) a vibrant seaside resort town and so I thought I’d paint the shutters and doors in somewhat brighter, more festive colours. I used thinned-down ink to give them bit of a sun-bleached, care-worn look. (I have to apologize for the roofs as I haven't figured out how I want to replicate the tile. In the meantime I've just painted them a reddish terracotta so they don't look so 'MDF-ish'.)


These three buildings seen here are separate structures so they can be swapped around, but I’m also having Byron make up some 3 and 4-unit row house sections that will have common walls but irregular roofs and facades. We’re also doing a bunch of wrecked structures (as, sadly, most of Ortona was destroyed) that will use these structures as a basic template. It should provide for a tabletop that is thematically closer to the actual location. I have a couple ideas for special one-off buildings that were notable during the campaign but I’ll post on that when things get more clear on how they're coming along.

Of course, if you're looking for an excellent and economical set of Italian Campaign buildings you now know Byron is the man to talk to. :)

Okaaay, the scoring. Hmm, I make that eleven standing/kneeling figures and nine prone so, that comes to... (sticks tongue out and counts on his fingers and toes...) 

62 points!

Thanks for visiting folks!

44 comments:

  1. Flipping heck they're nice.. I really struggle to achieve good contrast with WWII figures in a way that doesn't look too stylised, but you've really nailed it! The rubble dust sets them off beautifully.

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    1. Thanks Dux. To be honest I probably spent too much time on these guys but I really wanted to try to convey the dust and rubble-filled urban setting. Now I have to do it all over again for the Fallshirmjaegers!

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    2. "I really wanted to try to convey the dust and rubble-filled urban setting."

      You've done that in spades. Beautiful work!

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  2. Lovely work on these Curt, especially on the basing. :)

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    1. Thanks Tamsin, I knew in order to set them in context I had to get the bases close to what I was seeing in the photos. I'm glad you like them.

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  3. Very nice work! AB really does make some nice minis and your paintwork only enhances the fact.

    Nice to see 20mm minis popping up from different people in the challenge too. It's a bit weird that it is so badly neglected in wargaming.

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    1. Yes, 20mm seems to be having a bit of a renaissance which is great as its such a wonderful scale to work in.

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  4. Great stuff. These are very nice.. I must have a good look at the AB stuff I fancy doing some small WW2 stuff and these look jus the job

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy working on them Dave. They are cracking little sculpts.

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  5. Nice work AB I heard of them years ago but haven't really seen them before. These look great I will have to see if I can find them if i do anything in this scale

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    1. Yes, do check them out. To me they are the reference standard in this scale.

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  6. Really a terrific job Curt, they look great, as do the buildings. I would be great to get in a game of CoC with them. You should design a campaign, I just finished my first and it was a lot of fun.......a different game.

    John

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    1. Yes! I'm definitely hoping to get a game of CoC with these guys. Love that system.

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  7. AB figures are great! And you have done a top notch job on bringing these to life. Excellent work.

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  8. With all my affection, Curt, I HATE you :). The figures from AB are, in my opinion, some of the best WWII figures you can find in any scale (have you seen the new models Paul Hicks is making for "Empress Miniatures"?) and for a long time I have been thinking about to make my WWII period in the ETO with these figures.
    Fantastic painting work, full of love; I like a lot your full of rubles bases, (something I´m going to copy without delay).
    Of course, I´m going to look for those British paratroops I have in my painting cave...
    Great buildings too!

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    1. Haha! Always happy to help Juan. :) Thanks for the kind words.

      No, I did not know that PH was doing 1/72 for Empress. That is brilliant news. I've been wanting one of their 6pdr but they've been out of stock. ;(

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  9. Awesome. Love how this project has progressed. Really good work on these exquisite looking figures. Cheers

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  10. Fantastic work Curt! I really like your work on these guys and the rubble on the bases is just ace. AB figures really seem to have some outstanding miniatures on sale. I've seldom seen so highly animated figures for wargaming. I never really got why I should go 20mm for it beeing a scale just between 15mm and 28mm but looking at your stuff I should give it a look at least... must.resist....

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    1. Thanks Nick! Yes, I really like the 20mm scale as it has all the benefits of 28mm without the cost and space requirements (and you have a HUGE catalogue of plastic kits and die-cast to draw from).

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  11. Those AB figures do look great. I really like how you did the buildings as well.

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  12. These look ace. the bespoke buildings are a great idea and should really set it all off.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, I find if you don't have the proper setting it's difficult to set the theme on the tabletop.

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  13. Wonderful. Could have got away with saying they were 28's

    Ian

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    1. I know, they are such great castings.

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  14. Great work! The basing is perfect and fits them right in with those lovely buildings.

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  15. Very Nice!
    The laid out miniatures remind me of when I was doing WW2 re-enactment and the time I dropped to the floor to take cover, the wind being knocked out of me as the equipment in my chest webbing crashed into my chest and left me not "Down. Crawl. Observe. Sight. Fire." -ing.

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    1. Yeah, I can't imaging lugging around all this crap, being cold/hot AND having people wanting to kill you.

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  16. Great work dude - excellent stuff. This project is marvellous.

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    1. Thanks Greg! I hope to treat you to a game sometime.

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  17. Beautiful work on these pieces and the history is a nice addition. Also that building is a stellar bit of work. Byron's company obviously knows what they are doing.

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    1. Byron has been a saint! I'm a bit picky (understatement) and he's been very, very accomodating. The range, when done, will be a real treat for people wanting to game this theatre of the war.

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  18. Excellent work on these figures. AB produced some of the best IMHO WW2 Brits/Allied figures in their scale. I have a sections worth somewhere in the loft, they might just make an appearance in the challenge!

    Cheers, Ross

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    1. You're right Ross, I think these are some of the best WWII figures in any scale. I'd love to see your lads this Challenge so get them dusted off and painted!

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  19. Splendid stuff Curt! To look at them you'd think they were 28s you've done such a good job.

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    1. Cheers Millsy, very kind of you!

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  20. Very fine work, Curt. Ortona is an oddly overlooked battle by many Canadians, overshadowed by Vimy Ridge, Normandy, etc, but it was the coming of age of the Army in Italy. The bases really convey the B&W photos very well, and the red 1 Can Div patches are a nice bit of colour. It's interesting, as the CAF currently plays Back to the Future, to see Div patches coming back into use, even if they're only worn on the dress uniform.
    Again, great work.

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    1. You're absolutely right Mike, Ortona is largely unknown now (though at the time it claimed a lot of headlines in the news). I think it's great that the Forces are bringing back the divisional markings - I love the sense of continuity in that. Thanks very much for the comment.

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    2. The continuity thing sometimes looks like change by another name, I have mixed feelings about it. When I finish school this spring and go back to the army, I'll be putting on rank insignia that was in use when my dad was in the army from the 40s to the 60s, pre unification. No serving officers remember those days, so I'm not sure who will appreciate the continuity, but crowns and pips do look damned cool.

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  21. I have a few 28's for WW2, but nothing near as slick as what you have! The troopers look very good and the builings are really nice. I like the prone weapon teams and the unit flashings on the sleeves. The rubble is very well done too!

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    1. Cheers David! The unit shoulder flashings were a bit fiddly but in retrospect I'm quite glad I took the time to do them.

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