What little enthusiasm I had for these figures was destroyed while preparing and painting them, a process I found tedious and frequently infuriating. Why? Where to begin? First, there was far more flash than I had initially realised, some of which I failed to remove with my poor excuse for a modelling knife. I then proceeded to obscure the tiny details (well, they are tiny figures) by slathering on an over-generous helping of PVA glue. This was followed by something much worse – in my impatience to get them finished I had rushed through the basing stage without allowing the glue sufficient time to dry, which meant that when it came time to spray prime the figures five of them were instantly ruined. The surviving five can be seen here.
And thank god for the Army Painter dip! Painting them with my usual layering method would have been a nightmare. And before anyone starts wondering, I do not intend to use these for Bir Hakeim or anywhere else in the desert. They are supposed to represent legionnaires of the 5e REI in Indochina – ignore the Tommy guns – hence the grassy bases.
I’ve been a long-time admirer of Paul Hicks’ terrific sculpting, but have always put off buying his figures because of my aversion to painting anything larger than 20mm. Until now.
When I read that Pontoonier Miniatures offers a Third Burma War range through Newline Designs I immediately looked into it, and to my wallet’s horror discovered pictures of them on the latter’s website. It’s been two weeks since and I’ve just finished painting my first 28mm figure in years.
I’m quite happy with the results, even though the helmet does need a highlight. I might also try some lighter tones that match the illustration below.
As far as I can tell the figures are generally accurate, although some of them are wearing belts, which according to a contemporary observer the Burmese most certainly did not have. This is somewhat contradicted by a plate reproduced in Ian Heath’s Foundry book, which features a turbaned infantryman with a white crossbelt. More confusingly the figures also have ammunition pouches, which appear no where in the illustrations I’ve so far seen (I must admit to finding this slightly irritating as I have no idea what colour to paint it).
And if that isn’t enough, one report notes that Burmese regulars wore uniforms of different colours depending on their individual preferences, while another states that the tunics were all red. I have opted to copy the Rick Scollins plate from Ian Knight’s Queen Victoria’s Enemies (4).
I’ve always had a soft spot for that particularly book, one of the very first Ospreys my father bought me as a kid. Believe it or not, this is probably the best explanation I can come up with for suddenly deciding to delve into the period.
When Stonewall first brought out their Chinese I thought “I have to get these!” even if it meant buying them sight unseen. Sadly the figures turned out to be quite horrible, with some looking like overfed hunchbacks armed with oversized chunks of wood. That they were done by a first-timer speaks volumes about their sculpting quality.
The helmeted nco is actually a figure from Lancashire games.
The officer figure is wearing a kepi which, according to Jowett, was mainly seen worn by troops involved in the Jehol campaign of 1933. It appears to have been completely phased out by the mid-1930s.
For the uniforms I used the Foundry British Blue Grey triad, which turned out more blue than grey. Although the Chinese were notorious for their lack of quality control, and uniform colours varied immensely, I don’t think they came any where close to being this blue. So I guess I won’t be using the paints any time soon. Talk about sunk costs…
The figures are based on a plate from the Osprey Men-at-Arms title on Chinese Civil War armies, and I must admit that the sculptor’s attention to detail should be praised – even the spare shoes can be seen strapped to the riflemen’s backpacks.
I’ve always wanted to wargame the armour battle at the Kunlun Pass, as well as the Stalingrad-style street fights of Shanghai, Changsha and Taierchuang. But until a decent 20mm range comes along, it must sadly remain a dream.