Architecture in 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.*

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sculpted by Silpa Bhirasi, a figure central to the modern Thai state’s nationalistic myth-building efforts, 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.

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.

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.

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.

The Sino-Japanese War, as reported by the Foreign Office (Part II)

[F 7252/1689/10]

Sir H. Seymour (Chungking, September 7, 1942) to Mr. Eden


With reference to my despatch No. 260 of the 4th August, I have the honour to submit the following news summary for the month of August:-

2. Public interest has again centred on Eastern China, in the provinces of Kiangsi and Chekiang, where the first half of the month was comparatively quiet, and further withdrawals of Japanese troops seemed to be in progress. Following their partial withdrawal to Shangjao and Kweichi, there were no important developments until the Chinese suddenly claimed the recapture of the former town on the 19th August followed by Yushan on the 21st August and Chuchow on the 28th August. On the west, Yingtang, until recently the western terminus of the railway, was reoccupied by Chinese troops on the 21st August and Tunghsiang on the 24th August. Although it appeared that Linchuan (Fuchow) was likely to be held by the Japanese as a threat to the east and west communications, this town also fell on the 23rd, so that by the end of the month the Chinese claimed to be back at their original positions, about 15 kilom. south of Nanchang.

3. These rapid advances by the Chinese troops have been widely hailed by the press as an example of Chinese resilience and powers of recovery. But the fact that the enemy voluntarily retreated was acknowledged by the influential Ta Kung Pao in a recent editorial which, it was subsequently learned, was an almost verbatim report of the views of the Director of Military Intelligence. The reasons which prompted the Japanese to make this drive were suggested in my monthly summary for May. Their somewhat precipitate withdrawal is considered to be due to the following factors:

(a) The object was attained, airfields overrun, left damaged and stocks dispersed, destroyed or captured. While the aerodomes have since been evacuated they are likely to be of little use for four to six months, especially as communications will be more difficult now that all rails have been removed and the rolling-stock destroyed (the latter by the Chinese) on the 140 miles of railway previously worked between Yingtang and Chuchow. (Yingtang is 30 miles west of Kweichi, on the south bank of the Kangsi River).

(b) The number of troops required to hold the railway once the Chinese armies reformed, would be out of proportion to its value.

(c) They have seriously disorganised both the tranquil military and business life of the Chinese forces in this area; the efficiency of the latter, never here of a high order, will thus have been further reduced.

(d) The depletion of the forces elsewhere in China (the Japanese used units from eleven divisions and three independent brigades in addition to those on the spot) caused no doubt a strain on their control of other occupied areas.

4. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Japanese withdrawal was voluntary and not brought about by any offensive action on the part of the Chinese armies. Nevertheless, the course of the campaign has been puzzling, and the plans and intentions of the Japanese High Command remain something of a mystery. They also seem to have lost interest in operations on the coast of Chekiang and Fukien, and no more landings have been reported. In South-West Chekiang Japanese columns operated to the westward and north-west from Lishui, occupying Sungyang and Suichang. It would appear that this drive was designed to facilitate the withdrawals. The Japanese withdrew at the end of the month, leaving Lishui in Chinese hands on the 28th, and with it all the mainland in South-West Chekiang free of the enemy.

[F 7411/1689/10]

Sir H. Seymour (Chungking October 5, 1942) to Mr. Eden


With reference to my despatch No. 338 of the 7th September, I have the honour to submit the following news summary for the month of September:-

2. As regards military operations in China, there has been little activity and little change in the position of the opposing Chinese and Japanese forces during the month. In Kiangsi and Chekiang, despite reports early in September of a continuation of Chinese counter-attacks, no ground was gained and by the end of the moth this front was being played down. It seems clear that the Japanese had withdrawn as far as they intended, at any rate for the time being, and that the front had become static, with the Japanese holding Nanchang in Kiangsi and Kienteh-Lanchi-Kinhwa-Iwu-Tungyang in Chekiang.

4. There was an increase in activity in Western Yunnan, but no major attack developed. There are no indications that any large-scale attack is contemplated and it is considered that the Japanese merely intend to conduct local operations to clear the west bank of the Salween of Chinese troops, such operations being now possible owing to the termination of the rainy season. Chinese troops in this area are reported by a reliable eye-witness to be well equipped in small arms and keen, but their efficiency has been lowered by malaria, in spite of having large quantities of quinine. The strength of the Chinese forces on the Yunnan frontier is probably about two armies. The Japanese have a division in North-east Burma-West Yunnan area, about one regiment of which is in the Lungling-Tengyueh neighbourhood, with only a few hundred men at the latter place. They also have been suffering from malaria.

6. Some interesting information was provided by a British war correspondent who recently toured the Kiangsi-Chekiang front. It seems that the Chinese troops in Chekiang put up a very feeble resistance, but that those in Kiangsi showed a much better fighting spirit. His evidence, which supports other and previous reports, makes it clear that, while there was little actual fighting, the countryside through which the Japanese advanced and later retreated has been devastated, towns have been razed to the ground, practically everything movable has been looted and most of the rest destroyed. One example is the once prosperous town of Nanchang, in which the only house left standing was that belonging to the Irish Catholic Mission, members of which remained during the Japanese occupation. They were robbed of all they possessed and were eye-witnesses of the scenes of rape and pillage which seem the normal accompaniment of a Japanese campaign.

[F 1208/254/10]

Sir H. Seymour (Chungking, February 4, 1943) to Mr. Eden


With reference to my despatch No. 24 of the 4th January, I have the honour to submit the following News Summary for the month of January:-

2. As regards military operations, activity on the Chinese front during January was confined to Central China and Yunnan. No serious fighting, however, developed in either locality. In Central China, the Japanese columns operating in Hupeh and Anhwei continued to advance northwards until about the 10th January. They occupied successively Sangcheng, Kushih, Kwangshan, Hwangchuan, Loshan and Sinyang in Southern Honan, and Lihuang, Macheng, Tsienshan and Tungcheng in Anhwei. Thereafter the columns returned to their bases on the Yangtze and on the Peking-Hankow Railway just north of Hankow, and by the 20th January operations in this sector had ceased. Judging by the speed of the Japanese advance, the Chinese apparently put up little resistance, merely retreating before the Japanese and following up as they retired. It would appear, therefore, that if the Japanese aimed at liquidating the Chinese troops in this area they did not succeed. Possibly the expedition combined foraging with devastation, as in the Chekiang-Kiangsi campaign last year, but there are no reports yet on this point.

[F 1676/254/10]

Sir H. Seymour (Chungking, March 5, 1943) to Mr. Eden


With reference to my despatch No. 127 of the 4th February, I have the honour to submit the following news summary for the month of February:-

2. As regards military operations in China, there was increased and widespread activity during February, Japanese attacks being reported in Yunnan, Hunan, Hupeh, Kiangsi, Shantung, Kiangsu, Suiyuan and Kwangtung. The forces employed by the enemy were, however, relatively small, and none of the operations developed into major conflicts.

3. In Yunnan, the Southern Shan States border remained inactive, but on the 8th February two regiments of the Japanese 56th Division commenced an attack from Tengyueh against the Chinese forces west of the Salween. One column advanced north and occupied Mamien Pass on the 18th February. The other advanced north-east to Shuang Lung Chiao, on the Salween, and then north to Mongkang, which they were attacking on the 22nd February. Reports state that fighting is still in progress, but no further details are available. So far there have been no attempts to cross the Salween, and, from the size of the forces employed, it would appear the objective is merely to liquidate the Chinese division west of the Salween.

4. In Central China a number of enemy columns commenced operations on or about the 12th February. Sungtze was occupied by forces from the neighbourhood of Ichang. A column advanced from Shasi to Sinchang and met, at Kienli, another column which advanced from Yoyang. North of the Yangtze, columns advanced south and south-east from Yingcheng and Tsienkiang towards Sientaochen and Mienyang, while a column from the Hankow area advanced on Fengkow. Sinti was also occupied. The total strength employed in these operations was estimated at about one and a half to two divisions by the Chinese General Staff. By the end of the month the enemy had retired from Sungtze to Ichang and, while fighting was still in progress in the Kienli, Mienyang and Fengkow districts, it was believed that the Japanese would shortly retire to their bases.

5. In Kiangsi, on the 12th February, two regiments of the Japanese 34th Division advanced from Anyi, near Nanchang, towards Shangkao, but by the end of the month they were retiring to Anyi. In the Canton area the Japanese advanced to Lupao, north of Samshui, and Kuotai, north-east of Lupao, but evacuated both before the end of the month. On the 18th Feburary the Japanese occupied French leased territory of Kwangchowwan, and landed on the mainland at Luichow. They then advanced north to Yangchen and Suikai. A naval landing party totalling about 3000 men was employed in this area.

6. Further Japanese attacks were reported towards the end of the month in the Paotow area of Suiyuan, the Yishuri area of Shantung, and the Tatsung Lake area of Kiangsu. These attacks were, however, on a small scale.

8. According to the Chinese General Staff, during the operations reported above puppet troops were employed by the Japanese both in Central China and the Kwangchowwan area. They were not, apparently, employed in any actual fighting, but followed up the Japanese troops, presumably for training purposes, and possibly to garrison certain districts after the Japanese withdrawal.

[F 2174/254/10]

Sir H. Seymour (Chungking, April 5, 1943) to Mr. Eden


With reference to my despatch No. 230 of the 5th March, I have the honour to submit the following news summary for the month of Month:-

3. In Yunnan, the Japanese employed six columns on the operations which commenced in February. One column advanced from Myitkyina north-east to Hpimaw (Pienma), while a second advanced north from Tengyueh via the Mamien Pass and also reached Hpimaw. Another column based on Tengyueh went north-east to Shuanglungchiao, while further columns based on Lunghling, Mangshi and Kunlung advanced to the Salween. Early in March the Japanese appeared to have attained their objectives and commenced retiring to their bases. By the end of the month the Chinese Director of Military Intelligence reported the Salween front to be quiet. Chinese reports claimed that the Japanese employed two full divisions in these operations, but it would appear unlikely that they actually employed more than the two regiments which were first reported to be engaged.

4. Foreign reports from Yunnan indicate that little or no actual fighting took place, the Japanese advance and withdrawal being to a great extent unhindered. Villages were burnt and supplies pillaged or destroyed by the Japanese, so that it would appear that their objective, in addition to liquidating any Chinese troops west of the Salween, was to create a “scorched earth” belt along the west bank of the river.

5. In Central China the Japanese operations north of the Yangtse in the Ichang-Yoyang-Hankow triangle, which were commenced in February, were concluded early in March, the enemy columns withdrawing to their bases. On the 8th March, however, an advance was made south of the Yangtse towards the Tung Ting Lake area. Several columns were engaged, operating from a number of points between Hoshueh and Yoyang. The towns of Shihshow and Huajung were occupied and still in Japanese hands at the end of the month. Fighting had virtually ceased, however, and the enemy showed no signs of any desire to advance further. These operations north and south of the Yangtse appear designed to consolidate and protect the Yangtse line of communication to Ichang.

[F 2894/254/10]

Sir H. Seymour (Chungking, 7th May, 1943) to Mr. Eden


With reference to my despatch No. 338 of the 5th April, I have the honour to enclose herewith a news summary for the month of April:-

As regards military opeartions during the month, despite Chinese press reports of widespread enemy attacks in as many as ten provinces, the only serious fighting was that which commenced on the 18th April in the Tai Heng Shan area along the Shansi-Honan border. The Japanese, employing about a dozen columns estimated by the Chinese General Staff to number some 20,000 men, closed in on the Tai Heng Shan area from all sides. They made rapid progress and, by the end of the month, had occupied Linhsien, Linchi, Hui Hsien, Wu Chia Wan, Hunshui, Lingchuan, Hukwan, Pingshun, thus forming a rough circle round the mountainous area in which the Chinese troops were established. Within the encircled area the enemy columns were endeavouring to mop up the Chinese troops and, according to their own broadcasts, they were achieving a large measure of success. They claimed the virtual annihilation of the Chinese 24th Group Army, including the capture of its commander, Wu Sui-ting, as well as the capture of the commanders of the 5th (New) Army and the commanders of the 3rd (temporary) and 4th (temporary) Divisions. All these formations were components of the 24th Group Army. In addition they claimed that the 40th Army of the 24th Group Army had been scattered and its 100th Division encircled, while Hu Chuang-ching, commander of the 45th Division of the 27th Army, was alleged to have been killed.

2. The Chinese Director of Military Intelligence confirms the capture of Sun Tien-ying, GOC, 5th (New) Army, but states that he has no news of the other enemy claims, which he discounts. His confirms that the situation was serious about the 25th April in that the Chinese troops had scattered into the mountains and lost touch with each other and with Chungking. He states that the situation is now much improved, communication has been restored and the Chinese are resisting strongly. It would appear that the Chinese have adopted their usual tactics of retreating without offering much opposition, and doubtless isolated units have been captured or liquidated. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Japanese will be content with their present measure of success of will attempt to stamp out the last vestige of Chinese resistance in this district. The Chinese pin their faith to their intimate knowledge of the very difficult country and to the scarcity of water which, they feel, will prevent the Japanese conducting a long campaign.

3. In south-west Shansi the enemy conducted minor operations against Chinese irregulars in the Fen River district, and similar attacks were made against the Chinese forces north of Lini in Shantung. So far as can be ascertained, these operations met with but little success. In Central China the situation in the Tung Ting Lake area became stabilised with the enemy continuing to hold Shihshow and Huajung.

16. Disquieting reports have also been received of the growth of banditry and civil and military unrest in other parts of Free China more remote from the actual war zones. Minor military revolts or mutinies have been reported from Hunan, Kweichow, Kansu, and even Szechuan.