Corporal Joshua Smith kept low as he made his way through the blasted tree stumps and muddy ditches he’d been calling home for the past few weeks, his Sten gun held in his left hand as the other worked to steady him. The mud underfoot was trying it’s best to throw him on the face, bringing back memories of helping his father on the farm in the hills above Middlesbrough, pulling sheep out of the sucking mess.
He wasn’t sure what part of the European Winter he hated more; when the ground was too cold to dig into properly, when the snow was coming down hard enough you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, or days like this when the sun heated the ground up just enough to turn walking to and from the Platoon HQ into an adventure all of itself. What was worse, he could feel the icy chill of the mud sneaking in, finding a gap in the leather of his boots. He cursed the RQMS again, and made a mental note to go try talking to the lads in the next trench line over, see if some trades could be made.
Eventually, after a few more slips and slides, he made his into the dugout. Huddled in the corner, Private Williams was trying to snatch an attempt at sleep, huddled under his rain cape for that extra layer. Above him, Private Campbell stood facing out across the valley at the woods beyond, keeping an eye open for Germans attempting to probe the lines and a hand on the grip of the Bren gun. He seemed unblinking, ever watchful – quite different from the loud brawler personality that came out in the thick of it. Before Smith could even open his mouth to check on the dark-skinned soldier, a mug of warm tea was thrust into his own gloved hand, a shadow following after it.
“So, Corporal,” his 2IC asked, his tall, gaunt frame wrapped in greatcoat and looming out of the darkness like Boris Karloff in a picture show. The only light on him seemed to be the cigarette between his lips, the orange glow revealing a face creased with dirt and camo paint, the balaclava around his face shrouding it. “Anything interesting from the Mother’s Union meeting?”
Smith smiled, wrapping his hands around the metal cup. “Well, Lance Corporal Caines, we’re not part of any big push, at least as far as beloved Rupert knows.” He sat down upon an upturned wooden crate they had borrowed from the Logistics boys, looking around at the assembled men. “Looks like we’ll be in reserve for it instead. The Yorks and Scots will be having a first go at those new positions, the poor bastards.”
“Thank Jesus for that,” Campbell’s deep voice boomed in response, before leaning forward on the Bren gun to keep watch into the darkness beyond.
Ironically, the first section finished for Project WW2 is not from my main platoon. The bulk of my force is pulled from the Empress range by Paul Hicks, and features troops in the latest gear for combat at the end of the war in Europe – waterproof smocks and leather jerkins, helmets covered in scrim netting all while laden down with entrenching tools. They look like the guys geared up for the task of pushing across the Rhine and into Germany.
The Winter British from Warlord do not look they have properly equipped for the advance. They look like the guys who have been fighting since June, have been on the line for most of it, and are now stuck in a trenchline somewhere near Germany, sitting in frozen mud during the awful winter of 1945, wondering why the Germans haven’t just given up so everyone can just go home. They are wrapped up in scarves and greatcoats (replaced by the smock to improve their mobility in combat) with only their faces exposed to the cold. For this reason, I decided that they will probably end up being a support section, one pulled from the support list when more bodies are needed. This is why they are from the (fictional) 10th (Teesside) Regiment of Rifles, rather than the (fictional) 25th (Scots and Yorks) Regiment of Rifles.
There are 10 figures in the box, giving you two figures with Sten guns (a classic of Bolt Action squad setups), a Bren gunner and the rest with Lee Enfield rifles. There is some variation between the figures – some are in greatcoats, others in battle dress in leather jerkins while one has a rain cape over his gear, including covering up the backpack. Helmets also have some variety, with some using them uncovered while other have added helmet covers or scrim netting.
In terms of painting overall, I cover the basics in my first sitrep on them. Having now done the whole section, the scheme I’ve worked out is very easy to paint and I’m very happy with the final effect. Using the textured mud on both the base and the bottom edge of the clothing really helps to make them look suitably gritty. I’m not 100% finished when them yet though – I’m going to add a little bit of fake snow to them, just a tiny bit of white to offset the brown.
With these guys as a test bed, I’m very happy with the process and can now begin working on the bulk of the platoon. Of course, there will be some differences so the first Empress squad will also be a little bit of a testbed.