More Vichy French

Very chuffed with how fast I was able to churn this second unit out. They may not hold up well in the face of the camera’s unforgiving glare, though at arm’s length on the tabletop they do look quite passable. Honest!

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Funnily enough, it was only thanks to these photos that I came to realise that the helmet badges still need to be painted. I am already looking forward to rectifying this with the next batch.

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Vichy infantry

These chaps can double as both foreign legion and colonials, the Indochina garrison having undertaken to standardise its combat troops’ appearance during the mid-1930s (to the extent that even the Vietnamese tirailleurs’ iconic salacco hat was replaced by the Model 1931 sun helmet).

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The wargaming world’s first-ever range of such troops (predating the Perrys’ own 28mm offerings by several years), Elhiem Figures’ WWII French in tropical uniform can also be used to defend France’s honour in places as far apart as Madagascar, Gabon, and the Levant – a very versatile bunch if you ask me!

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The painting pretty much follows the recipe outlined in the previous post, though the bread bags have been given a 50:50 mix of VMC Iraqi Sand and Foundry Boneyard C as a mid-tone to offset the jarring near-whiteness of Foundry Boneyard C on its own.

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Water bottles were done using an improvised VMC British Uniform – VMC Khaki Grey – VMC Khaki Grey + VMC Iraqi Sand triad which I would like to think came out rather well.

Vichy officers

Some chaps to lead the defence of Indochina.

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Though the uniforms have turned out a tad bit too yellow, I’m quite pleased with the overall result and will be sticking to the following recipe:

Uniform and helmet: Foundry Boneyard A – Foundry Boneyard B
Leather kit and shoes: GW Scorched Brown – VMC Saddle Brown
Bread bag: VMC Khaki Grey – VMC Iraqi Sand – Foundry Boneyard C
Puttees: VMC – US Drab – VMC English Uniform – VMC Khaki Grey

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The three helmeted figures are all from Elhiem pack FT04. The odd man out is from Shell Hole Scenics. Anoraks will likely note the sculptor’s attention to detail (particularly the extra canvas belt and shoulder aiguillette) as well as my completely ahistorical rendering of his kepi – because the right colours for colonial infantry are just abysmally dull, I instead went with those belonging to the Saharan companies, which meant that the band was given an undercoat of VMC Prussian Blue and highlighted with VMC Deep Sky Blue, while the crown was painted a bright VGC Bloody Red. And yes, I did omit the collar tabs. So shoot me.

National Museum, Bangkok

The Bangkok National Museum’s new war room features a stunning, glass-encased diorama of an Ayutthaya-era army laid manoeuvering in one of the battle formations prescribed by the Treatise on Victorious Warfare, a military handbook first compiled in 1518 (for an excellent little primer on renaissance Siamese warfare, look no further than Cambridge University Press’s A History of Ayutthaya).

The rest of the hall featured actual weapons spanning the 16th to 19th centuries, plus a

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Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Back in 2015 I made an unplanned trip to Taipei, during which I managed to squeeze in the briefest of visits to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. As luck would have it, my presence coincided with the hosting of a modest exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII.

On display were paintings of the sort favoured by Asian military museums (which is to say their inattention to historical accuracy and general shoddiness would in all likelihood preclude their inclusion in Osprey books) highlighting some of the Sino-Japanese War’s greatest hits:

Of greater interest to wargamers such as us were the smattering of 1/35 afv kits the organisers had very kindly commissioned:

My favourite, though, were the even smaller batch of action figures on show:

And to end it all, a bloody big diorama of the China theatre of operations. Funnily enough I didn’t feel all that bothered about capturing the thing in its entirety.

National Museum of Thailand

The main hall of the National Museum in Bangkok has undergone a revamp that, whilst much needed, has deprived it of the scale dioramas modellers and wargamers alike would have waxed lyrical about. Thankfully the Fine Arts Department has had the foresight to preserve the old displays  for posterity in a virtual tour available on the world wide web – though I’d like to think that my own pictures will be of use to the more eagle-eyed of readers.

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These miniature reenactments of the medieval monarchy’s greatest hits began with the 1238 ascension of Si Inthrathit, a petty warlord who rebelled against Khmer suzerainty to establish the first independent Siamese kingdom at Sukhothai (whose troop types are available in 15mm from Khurasan Miniatures, in case anyone is wondering).

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This staid scene setter quickly gives way to a rip-roaring elephant duel, the first of many such vignettes, between his 19-year-old son, Ramkhamhaeng, and the local Khmer governor in 1257.

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Ramkhamhaeng’s own reign is believed to have ushered in a golden age of peace and enlightened kingship. The monarch was said to be an approachable sort, and accepted petitions from his subjects in person.

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The king even had the time to devise a new alphabet, which was inscribed on stones for distribution amongst the public. That this ever happened is a matter of dispute, with many a left-leaning academic attributing the stone’s progeny to a 19th century king desperate to convince the encroaching colonial powers that Siam needn’t any further civilising.

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Equally idyllic was the reign of Ramkhamhaeng’s grandson, Mahathammaracha I, whose piety is reflected not only in his regnal name (“Great King of Dharma”) but in the many temples and Buddhas he had commissioned.

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Commoners, on the other hand, had pottery to busy themselves with.

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The Sukhothai Kingdom was quickly overshadowed by its rival to the south, Ayutthaya, which became one of the region’s great mandalas throughout the centuries that followed. Depicted here is the city’s founding along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, overseen by King U-Thong.

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A city of resplendent temples and high stilted houses, Ayutthaya was a very cosmopolitan place, attracting all sorts of characters, from Persian traders and Japanese ronins to Portuguese missionaries and Dutch soldiers of fortune.

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Ayutthaya had its ups and downs, and at one point was subjugated by the Burmese. This state of vassalage was upended in 1583 when a young Siamese prince, Naresuan, declared independence in a quasi-religious ceremony.

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The museum’s remaining dioramas are all devoted to Naresuan’s various derring-dos. These included a decidedly ungentlemanly long-distance sniping of a Burmese viceroy, an incident that ranks as one of the most celebrated feats in Siamese military lore.

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The warrior king also wasn’t adverse to taking on turbaned baddies on horseback.

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It all culminated in a 1592 elephant duel between Naresuan and the Burmese heir-apparent Mingyi Swa at Nong Sarai in modern-day Suphanburi, an event that is commemorated in the province’s seal.

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Elhiem Thais

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