Colonial architecture of Malaya (part II)

Housed in a magnificent printing house built in 1899, the recently-opened Kuala Lumpur City Gallery offers an impressive diorama showing what the city centre would have looked like back in the day.

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Thai Machine Guns

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.*

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thai Command Group

Elhiem’s Thai higher-ups are absolutely stunning sculpts that effectively capture the debonair hauteur inherent to staff officers the world over.

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Elhiem WWII Thai Infantry

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.

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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.

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So that’s one company (in RF! terms, that is) done! Countless more to do! Stay tuned for more additions to the force.

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Panorama 1453

A short tram ride away from Istanbul’s hectic centre is the stunning Panorama 1453, a small underground museum dedicated to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. While it’s let down by a distinct lack of English language captions and some decidedly boring displays, the central panorama featuring the sort of artwork you’d expect from an Osprey book (and Peter Dennis in particular) is nothing short of spectacular.

As we didn’t go for the English audio guides I can’t comment on the official narrative’s balance and accuracy. Not too sure about the portrayals of the Byzantine defenders either; one fellow even looks like a Roman legionnaire from the 1st Century!

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Thao Suranari Museum

Commanding pride of place in the hectic concrete jungle that is Khorat is the statue of Thao Suranari,  more popularly known as Grandma Mo, a woman warrior equally revered for imparting miracles and good luck as she is for saving her city.

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Sculpted by Silpa Bhirasi, a figure central to the modern Thai state’s nationalistic myth-making, it’s not just stately, but also perpetually surrounded by worshipers, tourist touts, and instant photographers. Much more impressive, however, is the monument dedicated to her ragtag army of angry townsfolk:

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Even more impressive is a small museum, inside which is a panoramic diorama that recounts the events of 1826, the year that Chao Anou, ruler of the Lao kingdom of Vientiane, rebelled against his Siamese overlords and marched on Bangkok. Having spent years as a hostage at the Bangkok court, Anou apparently enjoyed the patronage of the scholarly Rama II, but after the latter’s death relations between vassal and suzerain rapidly soured.

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Along the way he took Khorat, then Siam’s most important city in the country’s northeast, and in accord with time-honoured traditions of Southeast Asian warfare proceeded to forcibly remove and resettle the city’s population.

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According to popular belief the aforementioned wife of the (absent) deputy governor managed to get the invaders drunk before massacring them, after which she rallied every Siamese man, woman and child to victory.

A rapid succession of misfortunes soon befell Chao Anou: his allies soon deserted him, and his forces were routed in battle after battle. Facing looming defeat he fled to Vietnam, Siam’s rival for control of Laos and Cambodia. Anou bid his time, and two years later raised another army, which was promptly smashed by Sing Singhasena (the future Chao Phraya Bodindecha), an all-round badass who had Vientiane and its environs put to the torch, thereby completely wiping the city off the map, until its eventual resurrection by the French.

Although incredibly obscure in western eyes, in Laos special centrality has been given to Chao Anouvong by the current communist regime, which promotes him as a martyred freedom fighter; there the conflict itself has taken on the hues of a popular people’s war of liberation. Across the border the rebellion is no less a contentious historiographical issue, with academics questioning the very existence of Lady Mo herself.

For a more detailed yet disarmingly straightforward account I recommend picking up a copy of The Kingdoms of Laos by Peter and Sanda Simms.

Malayan architecture

All wargames-related activity have ironically been suspended ever since my moving to the Holy Land of wargaming; that being said, this blog still warrants a long-overdue update. So here are a bunch of pictures I took last year in various museums in Melaka.

But because Melaka’s something of a time capsule (not unlike Luang Prabang and Hoi An) equally inspiring examples can be found outside on the streets: