Some idle soul has done the world a favour by amalgamating wartime newsreel clips from the British Pathé and Japanese NHK archives.
As the running time is quite substantial, what follows is a breakdown of the bits of most interest to wargamers (not that the rest isn’t worth watching, particularly for those wishing to see a leafy Bangkok unsullied by today’s congestion):
00:04 Primary school members of the Yuwachon youth movement participating in irredentist marches.
0:54 Arrival of a Laffly S15R bearing Japanese mediators.
00:59 French troops, including one cheeky-looking chap in a non-regulation beret.
01:42 Thai reservists presenting arms to the Franco-Thai-Japanese armistice commission.
Two “Type 66” (Browning M1917) teams from the wargaming world’s first ever range of WWII Thais. It was my intention to do up the battalion heavy weapons company in one go, but the late arrival of SHQ’s 37mm Bofors meant that these were done first.*
These were originally slated for completion on the heels of the staff officers, but an avalanche of work resulted in their being left to languish in a semi-finished state on the workbench for ages.
Don’t like the basing? Well neither do I! Not only was adding the tufts and clump foliage a right utter pain in the backside, but they ended up ruining the overall look. Basing is definitely a talent all on its own, and I shall henceforth stick to my static grass (I should also point out that some of the greats – Steve Dean, Andrew Taylor, and Kevin Dallimore – similarly eschew such extravagance).
One more reason I’m not too particularly chuffed with these is the fact that whilst Matt is a highly talented sculptor, the machine gunner is light years away from his usual (i.e. high) standards.
Note the unseemly short legs (the deformed shoes on the right figure is a miscast I noticed too late) . But as is the case with the Adrian helmet, when viewed from the side the defect is less glaring.
Well there you have it. Next up are a pair of battalion guns, to be followed by a bunch of tanks and the rest of the infantry. I’m saving the heavy artillery and trucks for last.
*While the Shell Hole Scenics version I first received is a beautiful little kit, I wanted a more curved gun shield and so ended up ordering another from SHQ.
Elhiem’s Thai higher-ups are absolutely stunning sculpts that effectively capture the debonair hauteur inherent to staff officers the world over.
The wargaming world’s first ever release of WWII Thais in any scale (yay!). Alas, my skills as a painter are far too inadequate to do Matt’s sculpting justice! You’ll note that in my haste to get these photographed I paid scant attention to the lighting.
Now I’ve always been a believer in the phrase “credit where credit’s due” and as such would like to mention those who’ve inspired me throughout the years: thanks to Matthew Hingley of Elhiem fame I discovered the 3-layer method of painting way before the “Kevin Dallimore” system became in vogue, while Steve over at the SOGG alerted me to the existence of ‘Cayman Green’ in the Vallejo Game Colour range, thereby putting an end to my extended hunt for a suitable green. The webbing was shamelessly copied from Dominic Goh‘s site. Finally there’s the insanely talented Chevalier de la Tierre, whose incredible painting guides not only taught me about the Non-Metallic Metal way of painting, er, metal, but also showed me the usefulness of VMC US Olive Drab, a colour I had hitherto ignored.
So that’s one company (in RF! terms, that is) done! Countless more to do! Stay tuned for more additions to the force.
Most histories of WWII treat Thailand as being just another part of the Japanese empire, notable for its immediate surrender to the Japanese and for making up one half of the infamous Death Railway.
They are wrong. The South-east Asian kingdom not only managed to safeguard to a considerable degree its sovereignty as a member of the risible Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (for example, the notorious Kempeitai could not operate as freely as it did elsewhere), but her armed forces also took to the field, fighting just about everyone in the neighbourhood – an impressive achievement for a nation which had so loudly trumpeted its commitment to strict neutrality at the start of the war.
As such a Thai wargaming force can be fielded against many opponents. Hysterical irredentism and a firm belief in France’s military weakness paved the way for a short border war with the Vichy French, which began with border skirmishes and culminated in a Thai invasion of Laos and Cambodia. The ground conflict featured river raids, artillery duels, night-time assaults and even, in the case of Poipet, street-fighting.
Elhiem Thais beside a generic Frontline truck.
This forgotten affair was then followed by 8 December 1941, during which the Thais had the distinction of fighting both Axis and Allies on the same day: while the Japanese were landing at various points throughout the length of the country’s southern peninsular, a British column of Universal carriers and truck-borne sepoys crossed the Malayan frontier in a bid to pre-empt the Japanese capture of a strategically important position.
The Thais were unable to repel either invader, however, and by the afternoon had agreed to a ceasefire with the Japanese, who then thundered on south to deal with the British. A few weeks later this armistice turned into an alliance with Imperial Japan, and in early 1942 the Thais, like Mussolini in 1940, thought they had found a winning horse and decided to join in the fun before it became too late. Three divisions proceeded to mount a unilateral invasion of Burma’s eastern Shan States against the nationalist Chinese, who they booted out.
More imaginative gamers may also want to consider a hypothetical what-if scenario based on the planned uprising against the Japanese (a la the Slovaks and Romanians) which was shelved following the Emperor’s broadcast.
Doubtlessly the forthcoming range from Elhiem Figures will be ground-breaking, if only because no one has ever produced Thai figures in any scale before. Thankfully that isn’t the only reason to applaud Elhiem. The figures are well-animated and the sculpting excellent. But they aren’t without their flaws though: the helmet will only look like an Adrian when viewed from the side, while on the accuracy front the figures lack bayonet scabbards. The biggest (no pun intended) drawback, however, are their oversized rifles. That being said, these flaws are only minor, and shouldn’t put people off from buying them.
Painting guide to follow.
Located on the northern outskirts of Bangkok past the city’s domestic airport, the poorly named National Memorial is a museum dedicated to the highlights of Thai military history. Like just about every other military museum in the country it’s obscure and requires visitors to make an appointment beforehand; as a reward for braving red tape there are no entry fees. The only day you can walk in without having to explain yourself at the entrance’s guard post is Children’s Day, which really isn’t the best of days for those harbouring an aversion to kids.
Dotted around the buildings are tanks and field guns, as well as the odd helicopter, patrol boat and airplane. Unfortunately kids were swarming all over the place and climbing onto every turret and gun barrel that I didn’t bother to photograph the LVT and Ha-Go.
Most visitors will start their tour at the Military History Hall, which features life-size mannequins. The first display is dedicated to the Siamese Expeditionary Force that failed to see action on the Western Front but was famously photographed marching down the Champs Elysée as part of the 1918 victory celebrations. Because the Memorial is run by the Armed Forces’ education department I was gobsmacked by the inaccuracy of the uniforms.
For reasons yet to be discerned the museum curators have opted to ignore all photographic and regulatory references in favour of mustard khaki uniforms and dodgy-looking leather boots and webbing equipment.
The next hall features the Franco-Thai War. Naturally the conflict is portrayed as a worthy national struggle, akin to the region’s postwar struggles for independence and self-determination. In addition to the displays pictured there is also a miniature diorama of an irredentist rally being held in front of the Grand Palace.
Continuing on is a room dedicated to the spectacularly disastrous Battle of Koh Chang. Pictured above is a mediocre display of the doomed HTMS Thonburi’s bridge, complete with the dead and dying.
Past this is the WWII hall. The Japanese invasion of 1941 is heavily emphasised while Thailand’s prolonged campaign in the eastern Shan States is downplayed and, to my horror, distorted (the museum’s explanation is that the Japanese forcibly requested us to participate, which is contrary to what had occurred in reality).
First up are the uniforms of the good folks who resisted the Japanese on December 8. From left to right: the army, navy, air force, police, and Yuwachon (Thailand’s answer to the Hitler Youth).
Opposite this group is one of the museum’s better displays, which depicts pilots, sentries and mechanics engaging the invaders in hand-to-hand combat during the siege of the airfield at Prachuap Khirikhan, the air force’s Rorke’s Drift.
From there we progress onto the Korean War: “Some UN members sought political kudos, dispatching bloated headquarters organisations to supervise and command relatively small fighting elements. These had to be diplomatically side-tracked into logistic areas or repatriated as irrelevant. Thailand originally announced that it would send a full regimental combat team… and a huge headquarters staff on top of it. This duly arrived even though the Thai military contribution was in the end no more than a battalion. Three hundred strong, the Thai headquarters boasted judge advocates, medical staff officers (but no field hospital), a director of finance, adjutant-generals’ and quartermasters’ sections and even a Red Cross and welfare staff. All this was under the command of a prince bearing the rank of major-general. It was totally superfluous and sent to the rear to train reinforcements, which it did for a while before returning home.”
On the second floor in the adjacent hall are crude miniature dioramas depicting battles from the medieval period onwards. Again little attention is given to accuracy, as can be seen from the uniformed appearance of the figures.
Two are dedicated to commendable actions of the Franco-Thai War: the defeat of the Foreign Legion at Phum Preav in Cambodia and the gendarme’s hoisting of the flag(!) at Hongsa in Laos.
The defenders of Phum Preav.
A bit more impressive are these two paintings:
The rooms on the top floor are dedicated to uniforms. The following two are meant to represent warriors of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th and 14th Centuries.
The next two are for the Ayutthaya Kingdom that succeeded the above.
Ayutthaya was razed by the Burmese in 1767 and for a short while Siam found itself occupied. Phraya Tak, an accomplished general who managed to leave the capital before it surrendered subsequently liberated the country and had himself crowned as the first sovereign of the Thonburi Kingdom.
King Taksin was executed in the aftermath of coup. The Thonburi Kingdom then gave way to the Rattanakosin (or Bangkok) one. Pictured below are uniforms of the 1870s to the 1890s.
Outside in a corner far removed from the entrance is a small garden dedicated to the Phayap Army, the force that invaded the Shan States in 1942.
So is the museum worth visiting? Unless you’re fascinated by the Thai military’s view of itself, there really isn’t much to see; moreover, its location and lack of attention to accuracy makes it really hard to recommend – wargamers and military history buffs are better off visiting the army and air force museums.
From Hualampong, MBK, the Victory Monument and the Moh Chit skytrain station take bus no.29. Alternatively you can take the air-conditioned bus no.522 from the Victory Monument. The building itself is a bizarre architectural nightmare, and as such you should have no difficulty noticing it.