Tuesday, 15 June 2021

French colonial guns

 French Colonial Guns

 Two scratched up additions to my colonial French gun park

I found i needed an additional AA gun to create a 2-gun battery for my Vichy forces, luckily I had a EWM gun crew in the spares box, so head-swapped them and painted them up to match my other Vichy colons. The twin 13.7mm AA is also EWM, but this do double duty with its original 1940 era crew

37mm trench/infantry gun with a Moroccan crew

The gun is a real Frankenstein creation, the seated Moor was a Force20 Hotchkiss gunner, the other guy is an EWM French gunner with a Raventhorpe head

German Command Car

 German Command Car

Elhiem Danish Tempo car

This was a 3d printed body with white metal wheels, this is the first time I`ve worked with this kind of product - a bit fiddly removing all the excess, but it took the paint really well and looks OK finished. The driver is EWM, the officer by S&S, this vehicle will join my Volksgrenadier HQ.

Aircraft and the Mexican Revolution

 Aircraft and the Mexican Revolution

By Richard Baber

This article was originally published in the SOTCW Journal but was too dry and technical to interest the wargames glossies.

The success of the Wright brothers and other pioneers in the U.S. attracted considerable attention in Mexico. In 1908, Alfredo Robles Domínguez published his Tratado de locomoción aérea (Treatise of Aerial Locomotion). In 1909, the Sociedad Impulsora de la Aviación, (Society for the Promotion of Aviation) was established in Mexico City. On January 8, 1910, Alberto Braniff successfully made Mexico's first flight – all 500 meters of it, in a 60-horsepower Voisin biplane, taking off from the Balbuena field in Mexico City. Alberto Braniff was the son of industrialist and railroad entrepreneur Thomas Braniff. Alberto was sent to study in France, which is where he learned to fly and where he acquired a French built airplane which he subsequently brought back to Mexico when he returned. The family of Mexico's pioneer aviator owned a home in Chapala,

Mexico was the first Latin American country to make use of aircraft in warfare. A single aircraft flown by US mercenary pilot Captain Hector Worden flew observation (there is some sources who claim he flew bombing missions too) for Maderista revolutionaries as early as 1911.

A Beriot XI monoplane was demonstrated to President Porfirio Diaz, shortly before he was overthrown.

In 1911, Francisco I. Madero became Mexican President. He became a visionary supporter of aviation. On November 30, 1911, President Madero took a short historic flight in a Deperdussin airplane, thereby becoming the first Chief of State in the World to have flown in an aircraft. He was inspired by having witnessed, in March 1911, an international air show, the Moisant International Aviators–with its impressive display of flying.

 President Madero took office at a time when the nation was in turmoil, right at the beginning of what would later be known as the Mexican Revolution. Appreciating the potential intelligence gathering role of aircraft, Madero decided to acquire some planes. He sponsored five young Mexicans to travel to Long Island, New York, to train as pilots at the Moisant International Aviators School. The "Famous Five" were Gustavo Salinas Camiña, Alberto Salinas Carranza, Horacio Ruiz Gaviño and two brothers, Juan Pablo and Eduardo Aldasoro Suárez. Gustavo Salinas Camiña (1893 - 1964), who received his first commercial license (number 172) from the Aero Club of America at Flushing Meadows, New York, in 1912, was soon to write his own page in aviation history.

 The five young pilots completed their mission and returned to Mexico. Following a coup d'état in 1913, General Victoriano Huerta claimed power and Madero was assassinated. Huerta planned to send a further 31 pilots to France for training, but these plans were stalled by the outbreak of WW1.

 The famous Five

 The official predecessor of the Air Force was the Army's Auxiliary Aerial Militia Squadron (Escuadrilla Aérea de la Milicia Auxiliar del Ejército), created during the Mexican Revolution in April 1913 by the Secretary of War and Navy General Manuel Mondragón, who authorized pilots Miguel Lebrija and Juan Guillermo Villasana to bomb targets on Campo de Balbuena, in Mexico City.

Madero’s supporters and other groups (Pancho Villa in the North; Emilio Zapata in the south West and General Venustiano Carranza in the North east, rebelled against Huerta and his followers, starting the revolution all over again. Three of these Constitutionalist armies had flights of aircraft –

Martin pusher biplane

Obregon`s “Division del Noroesta” had two Glen Martin pusher bi-planes.

Villa’s “Division del Norte” had five Wright “L” bi-planes
Pablo Gonzalez “Division del Este” had two Morane-Saulnier mono-planes

Most of the pilots were mercenaries, mostly American, but some Europeans too.

The various factions mostly used their aircraft for observation and reconnaissance; but simple bomb racks were soon developed and aircraft were used in an offensive role too.

Towards the end of July, 1913, the French aviator Didier Masson flying a Glen Martin pusher launched several bombing raids against Federal gunboats off Guaymas; this incident was reported both in the New York Times and in the logs of both the USS Pittsburg and USS Glacier

In April 1914, one of Obregón's gunships, the Tampico (which incidentally was one of the ships attacked by Masson back in July 1913); was sailing off the coast of Sinaloa, close to the port of Topolobampo (near Los Mochis), when it came under attack from two Huertista warships: the Morelos and the Guerrero. Obregón ordered Gustavo Salinas Camiña (later in the 1940s head of the Mexican Airforce) to do something about it. On April 14, accompanied by his mechanic Teodoro Madariaga, Salinas flew Sonora, his Glenn Martin pusher biplane, overhead and began bombing the Guerrero. The Huertista warships put out to sea, and the Tampico survived to fight another day. 

Gustavo Salinas Camiña with “Sonora

 On February 5, 1915, the leader of the Constitutionalist Army, Venustiano Carranza, founded the Arma de Aviación Militar (Military Aviation Arm), which would become the current air force. Its first commander was Lt. Alberto Salinas Carranza.

Carranza’s government set about the establishment of an Air Arm as an integral part of the new Constitutional Army. And although the war in Europe cut off external sources of supply, both a flying school and central aviation workshop were set up at Balbuena, near Mexico City in November 1915 using all surviving aircraft.

With surprising ingenuity the Talleres Nacionales de Construcciones Aeronauticas set about the development and production from Scratch. In 1916 the TNCA Serie “A” tandem two-seater bi-plane trainer, powered by the Mexican developed Azatl air-cooled six cylinder radial engine, entered production, considering the fractious nature of the country, an air-mail service was started in July 1917 using these aircraft.

A Beliot type mono-plane

 Further developments followed including: the TNCA Serie “B” trainer; the Serie “C” lightweight single-seater fighter; the Serie “D”, “F” and “G” derived from Bleriot and Morane-Saulnier designs; ten examples of the locally designed Serie “E” sesquiplane ( a biplane having one wing of less than half the area of the other) and finally 15 examples of the Serie “H” two-seat parasol monoplane bomber. By the end of the revolution in 1920, Arma Aerea de las Fuerzas Constitcionales had approximately 50 locally built aircraft. 


American aviator and engineer James Dean with some of the aerial bombs he developed for use with the “Sonora

 Pershing’s Expedition into Mexico 1916

Following Pancho Villa’s murderous raid on Columbus, New Mexico on March 9th, President Wilson ordered General Pershing to pursue the bandits into Mexico proper. Pershing’s force was mostly cavalry, for the fist time in US military history they had motorized transport, a few new armoured cars and of course aero planes.

1st Aero squadron had been formed within the Army Signal Corps under the command of 1st Lt. Thomas DeWitt Milling.  Eight aircraft were assigned and a small group of pilots, mechanics, administration and logistics staff and others were brought on.  By December, the formal organizational chart had been defined, dividing the squadron into two companies of four aircraft each, commanded by eight officers and supported by 45 enlisted men.  Initially, the 1st Company of the 1st Aero Squadron had four Burgess Model H biplanes, while the 2nd Company had a mixed collection of Curtiss aircraft — a Model D, Model E, Model G and a fourth Model E that the 2nd Company assembled from spare parts that had been provided to support the other aircraft!

By 1916, the squadron had retired its Burgess and Curtiss planes and acquired newer, better aircraft.  The unit was now flying the new Curtiss JN-3 Jenny, with which they had checked out just four months before after a disastrous attempt to upgrade to the earlier Jenny model, the JN-2.  Even the Curtiss JN-3 Jenny was underpowered with just 90 hp and as a result had trouble climbing higher than 10,000 feet.  Nonetheless, it was a significant upgrade.  Based out of North Island in California, the squadron had been doing work along the Mexican border on a number of short and long term deployments to Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.  It was under-funded, inexperienced and ill-supplied and under the Army Signal Corps, which considered aero-planes to be less interesting than signals, radios and flags.

Curtiss JN3 Jennie

Frankly the aircraft was ill-suited for the climate and riggers of the operation; the first arrived on March 16th, but by April 20th only two were capable of operating and the whole squadron was withdrawn.

 Maj. Gen. Pershing wrote to his superior officer, Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston his complaints about the lack of effectiveness of the planes:

 “[T]he aeroplanes have been of no material benefit so far, either in scouting or as a means of communication.  They have not at all met my expectations.  The further south Villa goes into the mountains the more difficult will be their tasks, and I have no doubt we shall soon be compelled to abandon them for either scouting the enemy or keeping in touch with the advance columns.”

 They did re-equip with better planes – Curtiss N8 and eventually the new R-2 bi-planes and return to help Pershing. But once again the climate proved a huge obstacle to the aircraft reliability and maintenance became a major issue once again. Although the 1st Aero Squadron effectively failed in its mission the lessons learned during the brief campaign were later put to good use once the US entered the war in Europe and it was the 1st Aero Squadron who were the first US Army pilots who went over to France.    

 Wargaming with aircraft in Mexico

As we can see there is some limited scope to include the odd plane over our Mexican wargames table. Planes were few and their effects minimal, but the odd low level bombing run or a circling “eye in the sky” could add something to a game. The commander with access to an aircraft (or two), could in effect watch his opponents movements and be able (with a short delay) move his own forces to counter-act those moves. The pilot could drop messages to out-lying or distant units - don`t forget the limited communications meant units could get lost in a battle, how useful would it be to first find them and then send an order in this way! Early aircraft were vulnerable to weather and this should be taken into consideration during any game; mechanical reliability and maintenance would also be major issues.

I built this "pusher" bi-plane using a Avro Pusher


whilst these early aircraft could not carry any serious bomb loads, simply the noise and a flurry of cast-iron granadas (grenades) or dynamite may well cause panic among a surprised enemy.


Aircraft need maintenance, fuel and spare parts these were usually carried (at least in the revolutionary armies) on trains. The aircraft too were usually transported over long distances on these trains. These incredibly valuable military assets would therefore make excellent objectives for one off games.  


Notes on the Mexican Army 1900-1920 by The South and Central American Military Historians Society
Documents of the Mexican Revolution by J. Hinds

The Incident: The Punitive Expedition by Steve Fruitt

The Mexican Revolution 1910-20 by P. Jowett and A de Quesada

The General & The Jaguar by Eileen Welsome

Battles of the Mexican Revolution by J. Hinds

Chasing Pancho Villa (article on Historicwings.com)

The Hunt for Pancho Villa by Alejandro de Quesada





Wednesday, 9 June 2021


 Australians for Syria/Lebanon

Early War Miniatures figures, these come with both helmet and "Digger" hat head variants, I decided to use the helmet heads, so they can be either Aussies or Brits. Nice details, easy to paint (these started as base undercoat just yesterday).

10-man infantry section

all together

Anti-aircraft Bren team

Garden shots

Sunday, 6 June 2021

A Strange Campaign

 A Strange Campaign

The battle for Madagascar

By Russell Phillips

ISBN 978-1-912680-27-6

First off I should say I know Russell Phillips and have communicated with him via email, etc over quite a few years usually over our mutual connection to the SOTCW, he and his family actually stayed ay our guesthouse in Swansea once too.

All this being said regular readers of this blog know I have a somewhat obsessive interest in all things French and have actively studied the conflict between Britain and her former ally (now Vichy France) after the collapse in 1940; so a new book on one of the lesser know campaigns of WW2 is right up my alley.

Now I don`t game the Far East, so even though I was aware of the invasion of Madagascar it hasn`t really been on my radar as a possible wargames project. In fact apart from Chris Buckley`s "Five Ventures" and Colin Smith`s "England`s Last War Against the French" and a very good mini-campaign about the seizing of Diego Suarez which was publish in the SOTCW Journal I`m not sure I`d ever read anything else about it!

The book is well written in an easy, not too technical style. 
It explains the reasoning and planning behind the operation, and in the appendix gives excellent orders of battle for the units involved on both sides. The various stages of the different operations are covered in reasonable depth and some quite interesting tabletop actions could be developed from the text. There are a few B/W images, but some excellent maps. 

The author also covers the political discussions and the actions of SOE on the island pointing towards these brave undercover operatives and their gathered intelligence being a huge part in the campaigns overall success.

The campaign saw several innovations which the Allies would later use in the far larger amphibious operations to come during the war. It also saw some quite interesting and varied British and Allied units involved - King African Rifles, South African armoured cars, Commandos and the only use of the Tetrarch light tank by the British in its original intended role as a light tank Vs French colonial troops including locally raised irregulars - loads of scope for the modeler and wargamer.

Overall if you have an interest in WW2 outside the usual well trodden trails I recommend this book to you. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Secure The Flank - game 2

Secure the flank - game 2

This a re-write of a scenario I wrote which was published in Miniature Wargames 242, way back in June 2003.

It is mid November 1944, elements of the US 12th Armoured Division are attempting to force passage through one of the narrow valleys through the High Vosges Mountains.

Intelligence thinks the Germans still have armoured reserves in the area of Blamont and have pointed to the village of Raon-l`Etape with its solid stone bridge over fast flowing Meurthe River as a possible direction for a German spoiling counter-attack!

Game 2 - German counter-attack

German orders

You are a captain in 2nd Panzer Recon Battalion, you have orders to lead a mixed battle-group from your division to disrupt the potential American build up around St. Benoit. Unfortunately infantry protecting the vital river crossing at Raon-l`Etape were over run and the Americans now occupy the village and will have to be cleared first before your attack can proceed. To assist you in this extra operation some elements of 553rd Infantry have been allocated to support you.

German forces

Elements of Panzergruppe Schwein, 2nd Panzer Division 


CO, 2IC, NCO, 2 RTO (Sdkfz 250/3) 

Armd cars

Sdkfz222, Sdkfz 232

2 platoons of Panzer grenadiers each with:

10 men (LMG, Panzerfaust) in Sdkfz251

2 x Panzer IVH


Elements of 553rd Infantry Regiment


CO, NCO, 3 runners, FOO team

3 platoons each with:

10 men (LMG, Panzerfaust)

Assault pioneer platoon

10 men (flamethrower, 10kg demo charge)

IG75 plus crew & tow

Remains of the original defenders from game one reorganised by the company commander.

2 composite platoons each with:

officer & 8 men (LMG, panzerfaust), one platoon also contains a sniper & panzershreck team  

Off table support

4 turns of 120mm mortar fire (2 tubes) can be directed by either the 2nd Panzer HQ or infantry FOO 

American orders

You are the commander of "A" Company,  I Battalion 397th Infantry Regiment. You have been given command of a mixed unit. Your orders are to proceed to Raon-l`Etape and dig-in, in order to protect the flank of CCB 12th Armoured Division`s advance.

American forces


CO, NCO, RTO, driver

3 rifle platoons each with:

10 men (BAR)

Support weapons platoon

60mm mortar team, .30cal team, Bazooka team, 2 ammo bearers, a rifle grenadier, platoon leader

AT section (from battalion)

57mm AT gun + crew & tow

1st platoon "C" company 196th Combat Engineer Battalion

10 men (flamethrower) + truck and trailer with engineer supplies*

Off table support

81mm mortar (2 tubes) from battalion

* the engineers have equipment to lay 2 off 6 x 2 inch mixed low density mine fields and dig up to four 2-3 man emplacements before the German attack begins.

12 turns after the German attack begins the Americans can dice for the arrival of a flying column from 12th Armd, which will arrive in 1D6 

Team James


CO, NCO, RTO, driver in Jeep

2 x M4 Sherman ("B" Coy, 500th Tank Battalion)

2 platoons ("E" Coy, 66th Armd Infantry) each with:

10 men (Bazooka, BAR)

Off table support

Battery SP 105mm artillery 

The table remains as it was for the first game, except for a wrecked US halftrack and destroyed Pak97/38. I would have liked to extend the table to give the Germans a better deployment zone - ah well....

The US company commander deployed his company as follows -

1st platoon, reinforced by a 30cal and some engineers to Abbe`d Raon-l`Etape, the mortar FOO climbed into the tower for a commanding view also. The engineers laid one of their mine fields across the front of the Abbe.

2nd platoon, reinforced with the 57mm, bazooka team and all the rest of the engineers occupied the village.

3rd platoon plus a rife grenadier dug-in around the ruined farm on the US right, the second mine field also protected this flank

The 60mm mortar team was dug-in by the bridge, its spotted in the nearby cafe

Coy HQ dug-in on the south side of the river


The German deployment was simple, the infantry were to advance up the hill and take the Abbe from where their FOO could dominate the battlefield.

One tank plus the dismounted grenadiers would move along the road directly into the village.

The other panzer and Stug followed by the recce armoured cars would work their way down the German left and flank the village 

In hindsight I should have held the armoured cars back to use to exploit the road and their speed once cleared

The remains of the village defenders from game 1 enter the table along the river bank on the American right and move towards the village. 

Turn 1-2 Germans deploy on table, both sides FOOs call for mortar support (successfully).

German infantry and pioneers advance up the hill

First Panzer on the road

Infantry along the river

Turn 3 the advance continues, US mortars cause some odd casualties, German 120mm mortars bracket the abbe!!

Turn 4 The Panzer on the road targets a BAR team which had been firing on its grenadiers

German mortars continue to bracket the abbe

Turn 5 the centre German platoon walks into the US minefield - we use a basic system 5-6 on 1D6 = casualty, the first five Germans rolled - Ouch!!

As you can imagine this caused a morale check!! What was left of that platoon just froze in place, the company CO was forced to go to them and reorganise them himself on turn 6.

Turn 6 saw the German mortars again plaster the abbe, finally taking out the pesky FOO too. Cumulative casualties among the US 1st platoon also caused a morale test (which they failed)

Turns 7 & 8 saw the German infantry and pioneers reach the abbe, the platoon on the German left became pinned by the US 30cal. The pioneers on the right of the abbe were confronted by some dug-in US engineers but quickly disposed of them with a rifle grenade.

One the road the 2nd Panzer grenadier platoon followed the first

On the German far left the other Panzer and Stug make their appearance on table.

Turn 9 the US 30cal plus a few infantry and engineers now holds up the entire infantry attack. The lead panzer moves off the road to engage it, the German pioneers have worked their way around the abbe and are moving against it from the opposite flank.

On the US right the combined tank infantry assault is wearing down the US 3rd platoon

Turn 10 lots of nasty shock for the Germans, the lead panzer exposes itself to the 57mm which doesn`t miss its opportunity

The 1st panzergrenadier platoon discovers a house occupied by US engineers and some of them get burnt!

Also this turn the German infantry over-run the 30cal position and now control Abbe hill.

Turn 11-12 the panzergrenadiers fight a protracted battle with various US infantry/engineers among the houses. The German pioneer launches and assault against another occupied house using its flamethrower to drive out the defenders.

On turn 12 the US 3rd platoon breaks and runs too, it should be noted the US Bazooka team missed the panzer IV twice!! if this hadn`t happened things may have not gone so badly on this side of the table!

A frantic radio call reveals a task force from 12th armoured will be here soon (arrive on table turn 14)

Turn 13 sees the Germans in full control of the hill and most of the village, and the remains of the US defenders in full bug-out mode

Turn 14 sees the arrival of the 12th armoured task force

But the Germans have regained the village

The game ends here, the Germans don`t have the strength to carry out their spoiling attack. The American infantry sacrificed themselves preventing this and now 12th Armoured have units in position to block any further German attacks.