A splendid box of Italian Desert Infantry arrived from Old Glory Miniatures UK this week. Very lively castings they are too, with much arm waving, shouting and gesticulating. Their jaunty hats and solar topees are most stylish, as are the scarves wrapped around their necks. We shall see if these theatrically martial descendents of the Roman Legions fight as well as did their forefathers.
Stage I : Involved a good deal of sorting out and parading on the divisional grid square to see where everyone should go. There is usually a lot of shuffling about and raiding of my bits box before ‘eyes front’ and calling the parade to attention. Some redundant Japanese and Dutch Piggies from a previous order were put into the 3rd rank to fill the 45mm mortar slots. The Dutch thought they were being shipped to the Far East!
Stage II : Fill in the missing bits. You can see the scratchbuilt grey-painted 81mm mortars filling a shortfall in the orbat in the front and back. Not OG’s fault – they sent what I asked for, but when the alternative to ordering a pack of 5 mortars is 50, then my razor saw and aluminium rod came out instead.
Stage III : Adjust headgear. This meant filing the ‘Jap hats’ to remove peaks and sun flaps, then filing a groove to turn them into ‘chip bag hats’. A couple of head swaps added pith helmets. Cork is my favourite basing material at present. It cuts and sands easily, is reasonably dimensionally stable and will accept pins stuck directly into it.
Stage IV : Undercoat. In this case, with a khaki Humbrol spray. I can now relax with a clear conscience that this division is no longer on the ‘lead pile’ and could, at a pinch, fight as a green formation tomorrow if called upon. The metropolitan division is now formed up, so the next step will be to finish the Bersaglieri and Blackshirt Legion regiments.
In the Good Old Days, I used to treat undercoated troops as green, upgrading them gradually as they fought battles, acquiring more paint detail until they eventually became veteran. It provided an incentive to finish stuff.
A couple of boxes of goodies arrived in the post this week. Peter Pig was the quickest, followed shortly by a box of Zvezda from Wonderland Models in Edinburgh. What I should have done this weekend, is get the plastics made up and onto bases for spray painting. What I actually did was to reorganise my existing Italian infantry bases in anticipation of a Command Decision order.
For anyone who is wondering, quite legitimately, why the author of umpire guidelines that specify no base sizes, is rebasing his toys, the following explanation may help : Real estate and manpower.
My Billy Bookshelf Boxes are of a size that is a fraction too small for most armies’ early war divisions at full orbat. Now that I am modelling mid war divisions, tactical units (platoons and companies) are usually smaller than they were at the beginning of the war. Whereas 30-plus sized platoons were common, now they are more like 20-25 men strong. I use roughly 30mm square (or round) bases a lot, but now 25mm is becoming more common with two figures per base; so smaller base sizes and a bit of judicious thinning of the orbat is enough to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.
A quick Excel template was useful for making sure that slots in the Orbat were not missed inadvertently, but my orbats are not usually full anyway. Italian XX Corps is coming along nicely. Modelling two armoured divisions, a motorised division, and an infantry division with both colonial and metropolitan troops in it, should suffice. I may be able to get away with just one Besaglieri and one Blackshirt Legion regiment each, as I don’t expect that both armoured divisions will be dismounting their infantry and attacking at the same time. I may well be wrong. A few quick conversions of LMGs into 45mm mortars were required to balance the orbat.
More senior viewers could be forgiven for not spotting in this scale the elegant conversion, with brass rod, of the two prone crew in the front row and the two chaps in the second row behind the MMGs! This qualifies as a ‘not-pointless project‘, defined by Phil Steele, as Peter Pig makes a perfectly good 45mm mortar. However, I have an excess of LMGs, for which NQM doesn’t differentiate, and more 45mm mortars are needed. So that’s that!
* This translation was just plugged into Google translate, so if anyone knows the correct Italian, I would be grateful to hear it.