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75th Anniversary of Battle of Monte Cassino and Northern Italy (Army Build)

75th Anniversary of Battle of Monte Cassino and Northern Italy (Army Build)

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Project Blog by redvers

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About the Project

This is the parallel project to my Terrain build for the Monte Cassino and Northern Italy. Here I will be painting up the miniatures to represent some of the troops that fought in the battles.

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Commonwealth Infantry - Getting the base coat down

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While I have a couple of platoons of Gurkha, having seen the size of the German infantry I think that the allies need some additional boots on the ground. So I’ve started some Commonwealth infantry. I’m hoping these should be a little quicker to paint given that there is no cammo pattern to paint on.

These platoons will cover my use of British, NZ, Canadian, South African and Polish forces in the coming Italian campaign. (They’ll probably also cover for some Americans as well as I’m not going to get US army painted up in time!)

In this wave, I have 150 men making up,

1st and 2nd in command plus two sniper stands

3 full platoons of infantry

1 Pioneer engineering platoon

1 Hvy machine gun platoon

Let’s get started!

Having clipped and stuck the models to wooden sticks, they’ve all been given a prime. I then tried airbrushing on the main base colour, British Battledress but I don’t have an airbrush version. I tried diluting it, got a very watery consistency and gave up and painted it on.

Next I’ve gone through and painted the boots with a black/brown.

Clipped, stuck and primedClipped, stuck and primed
British Battledress base coat appliedBritish Battledress base coat applied
Boots painted. Boots painted.

Next step will be the flesh and then probably the webbing/backpacks etc. I’ll leave the helmets to last.

Fallschirmjager on Parade

Tutoring 2
Skill 2
Idea 2
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It’s been a marathon but I’ve now finished a company sized force of Fallschirmjager. They’re all based and packed away in their boxes, ready for the defence of Monte Cassino.

In total, the company has a bayonet strength of 201 and is made up of 45 bases. In it, we have;

1st and 2nd in command

a pioneer platoon

3 infantry platoons

1 heavy mortar platoon and 1 standard mortar platoon

1 heavy MG platoon

and a light infantry gun platoon.

This should prove a tough nut for the Allies to crack at Cassino.

Here's the entire army before I put them all away in their storage boxesHere's the entire army before I put them all away in their storage boxes
A full Infantry PlatoonA full Infantry Platoon
Fallschirmjager on Parade
Fallschirmjager on Parade
Fallschirmjager on Parade
Fallschirmjager on Parade

Now that I’ve completed the Fallschirmjager company, they will need a little heavier support, especially for their battles further North on the Gothic Line. So I will be looking to add some vehicles to their back them up.

I also need to expand the British Commonwealth forces, so this will probably be the next thing to work on – some more infantry platoons!

Fallschirmjager - Flocked and done

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Skill 1
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It’s been a while and I’ve been busy completing the basing on both the infantry and the heavy weapon teams.

I’ve got myself a flock box to apply some static grass – I wasn’t happy with just flock as it didn’t look right. I’ve mixed up a lovely green grass with a browner one to try and recreate a winter turning to spring look – fitting with when the Battles of Cassino were fought. I’ve applied this in random patches and once complete, added some clump foliage soaked in watered down PVA.

I’ve tried two approaches, one just using static grass and another using flock with static grass applied over the top. I think I like the latter approach.

Here's a base with flock and then static grassHere's a base with flock and then static grass
And a base with just static grassAnd a base with just static grass

Fallschirmjager - Painting the bases

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This project is overdue an update although this is more to do with the length of time this step has taken. I’ve completed the painting of 49 bases of Fallschirmjager and this is the method I’ve used,

I’ve started with a base layer of a cheap, dark brown paint mixed with watered down PVA. This is to seal in the sand that was applied at the end of the last update while creating a base colour. As the paint is quite watery, it acts a bit like a wash and leaves the higher areas coloured but quite light. This will help with the shading.

First paint step dryFirst paint step dry

I’ve then applied an over brush of flat earth. This helps take down the reddish tint that the higher areas have following the last step.

I’m basing these models in spring at Monte Cassino. This is after the heavy rains and while the warm sun is now shining down. This has the effect of drying the top layers of earth and lightening them up considerably. To create this effect, I’ve applied a dry brush of Stone Grey

Fallschirmjager - Painting the bases

Finally, I’ve applied a very light dry brush of a light grey. This really adds some contrast to the bases. The rocks have been a thin stone grey layer.

I then complete the bases by painting around the very bottom with a flat earth and applying a platoon colour patch the back side of the base. This makes table top identification much easier. I also go the pointless extra step of numbering the squads in the platoon as well.

Once dry, I’ll give the whole base a quick spray of matt varnish.

The next step will be to add some flora to the bases, at which point, they will be finished and ready for battle!

The infantry platoons ready for their varnishThe infantry platoons ready for their varnish
Blue platoon, squad 1Blue platoon, squad 1
Front side of Blue Platoon, Squad 1Front side of Blue Platoon, Squad 1

Fallschirmjager - Basing 7 Platoons

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Skill 3
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With all the painting done across the infantry, pioneer and heavy weapons platoons, it’s now time to base them all up. This won’t be quick but here’s how I base my FoW minis.

I use polyfilla for my basing for a number of reasons. It adds extra weight to the mini, is semi-sculptable so you can create mounds etc, really sticks the mini to the base and allows you to make the mini look as if it is ‘in the terrain’ rather than ‘on the terrain’ (if that makes any sense!).

I’d also point out that this approach needs to be done one base at a time, otherwise the polyfilla starts to dry and becomes unworkable.

Starting with the standard FoW base, I need to score the surface with a sharp knife. You need to be careful here as, like an idiot, I’ve cut myself several times!

Fallschirmjager - Basing 7 Platoons

Next smear on some polyfilla. I try to put around 2 to 3mm depth in the middle and shape it so that it contours down toward the edge of the base.

Fallschirmjager - Basing 7 Platoons

Now shove your FoW minis into the polyfilla in a suitable formation. I try to make each base look slightly different to break up the uniformity by changing positions of the models, putting more on one side of the base, sculpting mounds etc.

Fallschirmjager - Basing 7 Platoons

Now for the careful and time consuming bit. With a cocktail stick, some little extra bits of polyfilla and water, you can begin encouraging the polyfilla over the circular bases and up to the boots of the models. This takes time and care.

You can also sculpt extra features at this stage as well. For example, for the MG42 teams, I’ve created small fox holes for the models to be positioned in.

The delicate 'encouraging' process in actionThe delicate 'encouraging' process in action

Finally, once the polyfilla has been manipulated into position and any excess removed, I sprinkle some sand over the top for added texture. This all then gets left to dry for a good 24 hours.

Fallschirmjager - Basing 7 Platoons

Fallschirmjager Heavy Weapons

Tutoring 2
Skill 3
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I’ve now finished the Heavy Weapon teams. In this batch we have:

4 MG42 teams

4 Heavy Mortar teams

4 Light Mortar teams

4 Infantry gun teams

These have all been painted in exactly the same way as the Infantry platoons I posted here previously. I’ve put some pictures of the MG and mortar teams below.

I now need to base all of the Platoons (that’s 8 platoons in total and I make it something like 50 bases). I’ll post up the method I use to do my bases in the next update.

MG and Mortar teamsMG and Mortar teams
Closer shot of the MG teamsCloser shot of the MG teams

Fallschirmjager - Finishing the Painting

Tutoring 5
Skill 8
Idea 7
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A big thank you to all who gave advice on the issues I had with the matt varnish. I tested a couple of the options and while the olive oil created a slightly better solution, it wasn’t particularly noticeable, especially at 15mm. So I painted a gloss varnish over everything and then re-coated with a matt varnish. This seems to have corrected all of the problems you can see with the naked eye.

Following the extra work, I liked the dulled end results. At Cassino, the Fallschirmjager were shelled and bombed numerous times, so the dirty, dusty look fits. I wasn’t keen on the dulled metal work though so went back in and highlighted the gunmetal areas. I also added a brass to where the bullets would be in the MG belts.

Finally, I felt it needed just a little contrast, so I added little highlights of chrome to parts of the metal work where they might catch the light.

I now think that these are finished and ready for basing!

The completed 'hoard'The completed 'hoard'
This is the model that was badly affected by the matt varnish in the previous post. While there is still a little speckling, it's much improved (and you actually can't see it with the naked eye!)This is the model that was badly affected by the matt varnish in the previous post. While there is still a little speckling, it's much improved (and you actually can't see it with the naked eye!)
One of the squadsOne of the squads
Fallschirmjager - Finishing the Painting
MG CrewMG Crew
Fallschirmjager - Finishing the Painting
Command teamCommand team
Rear of the command team. Rear of the command team.

I have bought a box of Heavy Weapon squads to add some additional fire power. These include MG42 teams, light and heavy mortar team and a recoiless infantry gun.

I will paint these squads up before basing the whole lot in one go. I’ll paint these squads in exactly the same way as those I’ve just completed so will update this project when they are done.

Fallshirmjager - Shading

Tutoring 4
Skill 6
Idea 1
4 Comments

I’ve applied the Army Painter Quickshade strong tone to all of the models. This was put on with a brush rather than dipping as I think this gives a better result. The one problem I have with the dip is the end result has a very high gloss due to the varnish that makes up the product. Once the dip is dry, I prefer to apply some matt varnish as it is easier to see the detail and where to paint next. This is where I have hit a problem.

I used my usual spray matt varnish and, I can only think it was related to the heat/humidity here in Sussex, it has dried leaving a dusty, snowy look on some of the models. Not all are affected as you can see below but some are quite bad.

One of the largely unaffected modelsOne of the largely unaffected models
One of the badly affected modelsOne of the badly affected models

So I now need to figure out what to do – any suggestions welcome.

I don’t want to apply more dip as I think this will shade the miniature too much. I could apply some thin washes of the same colour as the underlying base colour in the hope that this will conceal the speckled varnish? Or I could just repaint them (but would prefer not to). Any other ideas????

Fallschirmjager- Base colours done

Tutoring 6
Skill 7
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I’ve now gone through the entire 4 platoons and applied the base colours. I’ve not taken pictures of each step as it is after all just applying some colour. However, for reference, these are the colours applied,

  • Flat flesh for the skin
  • Gunmetal for guns, metal canisters and the like
  • German Camo Dark Green for the helmets. Apparently leaving them as Dunkelgelb was also valid but I think the green looks better
  • Flat earth for all of the leather work

The flat flesh isn’t completely uniform as I had thinned it but given the scale, the need for the shading to be applied later and my lack of enthusiasm to apply another layer, I’ve left it as is. I honestly don’t think it will make much of a difference when completed.

My next step is to apply the shading. I’ll probably go with the quickshade mid tone and paint this on rather than dipping. I’m not a fan of dipping models

A selection of riflemenA selection of riflemen
Close up - note the lack of consistent coverage of the flat flesh (I'm sure it won't be an issue!)Close up - note the lack of consistent coverage of the flat flesh (I'm sure it won't be an issue!)
Some more troopsSome more troops
Fallschirmjager- Base colours done
Junior OfficerJunior Officer

Fallschirmjager - Brief update

Tutoring 6
Skill 6
Idea 3
2 Comments

The ammo pouches and shoulder strapping is now complete. These have been painted in Luftwaffe uniform.

I’ve also started on the rest of the base colours for the remainder of the model. I’ll post an update when that’s completed, hopefully very soon!

Painted strapping and a close up of my fingerPainted strapping and a close up of my finger
A junior officerA junior officer
And a senior officerAnd a senior officer

Fallschirmjager - Camo part 2

Tutoring 6
Skill 8
Idea 6
2 Comments

Having added the reflective green blobs across all of the tunics, I now need to add the brown. I’ve used Camo Beige for this.

Having looked at a few reference pictures, it appears that the brown in the camo pattern runs more in lines and so I have tried to apply it in short ‘slashes’ with the brush. Given the scale here, it was inevitable that these slashes would cover some of the green, which was why I applied the green first. Again, from the reference images, the green is very much secondary to the brown. I’ve also ignored all of the pouches, belts and ammo packs as these will get painted next so it doesn’t matter if these get camo pattern over them!

One of the Officers showing the brown 'slash' patternOne of the Officers showing the brown 'slash' pattern
A riflemanA rifleman
A chap with a toilet plungerA chap with a toilet plunger

Fallschirmjager- Starting the Camo

Tutoring 5
Skill 7
Idea 5
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Fallschirmjager camouflage is a base of Camo Beige with a Camo Medium Brown splinter pattern over the top, interspersed with patches of Reflective Green. I’ve primed my models with Dunkelgelb which is lighter than Camo Beige but as I plan to put a wash over the top, this should darken it down to roughly the right colour.

In 15mm, I’m going to start with the Reflective Green patches. If I were painting this in 28mm, I would do the green last as, at that scale, it would be easier to get the patches in the right spot. However, as the green in the pattern is the least prevalent colour, I’m going to put it on first and then apply the Camo Beige as this will cover some of the green. In short, given the number I need to paint and my limited skill, carefully applying the green over the brown won’t be an option, hence why green first in this project.

As you can hopefully see in the photos above, I’ve ‘blobbed’ the green over just the tunic. I’m not bothered whether I get it over the ammo pouches or elsewhere as these will get painted over later, so as long as it is only going on the tunic, I should be good here!

Fallschirmjager - First paint

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Skill 5
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I’ve started with painting the bases beige brown, ready for when they get based. I’ve also painted all of the rifles and other wooden bits the same brown. I then went for the boots using a mix of black and dark grey. This lifts the colour off of the black and, in my view, looks a little more realistic.

Fallschirmjager - First paint

Next step was to apply a Luftwaffe uniform grey to the trousers and the officer’s hats.

My next step will be to start on the camouflage patterns, probably with a reflective green.

Fallschirmjager - Ready to start painting

Tutoring 5
Skill 1
Idea 6
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It took the best part of an evening to cut out all of the models from the sprues and stick them to wooden sticks ready for priming. I will use the PSC Dunkelgelb spray primer for getting the first colour down as this should significantly speed up the process. Normally I would have used my airbrush, but I didn’t fancy that.

Fallschirmjager - Ready to start painting

Seeing them all laid out like that, I can see this being a bit of a grind. I thought about taking it a platoon at a time but I think I may just bite the bullet and do them all in one go in a production line approach.

Fallschirmjager - Starting the marathon

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I need an HQ and a number of rifle platoons to flesh out my 1st Fall. army. To this end, I’ve picked up the Fallschirmjager platoon box and the heavy weapon box from Plastic Soldier Company. I’ll start with the rifle platoons.

Fallschirmjager - Starting the marathon

This box has enough for an HQ, Panzerschreck team and then three full platoons of Command base and 9 bases of 4 men each. I’ve also gone through the heavy weapon box and there are some spare models that I can make into a small pioneer platoon as well. In total, I’ve got around 145 models to paint up.

The Forces

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As much as I would like to paint everything, I need to focus on specific forces. I’ve already painted some up and I will post pictures of these first before looking at what else is needed to complete each company.

For the Battle of Monte Cassino, the Germans had in position the 1st Fallschirmjager and while there were other divisions present, it was the 1st Fall. that doggedly defended the heights of Monte Cassino during the battles. So I will base my force around the 1st Fallschirmjager.

For the Allies, several nationalities were involved in the battles but I will look to create 2nd NZ Armoured and infantry from the 4th British Indian, most likely some Gurkhas.

For the battles in Northern Italy, I will focus upon the 26th Panzer. For the Allies, I will draw from the British 8th Army and focus in on the North Irish Horse tank regiment who used the Churchill tanks while reusing the Gurkha and other British Indian troops

The Background Blurb

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I’d like to briefly explain why I’m looking at Monte Cassino and Northern Italy. I was first drawn into WW2 through some of the BoW Flames of War vlogs. Previous to this, I had not gamed historical battles and had mainly been interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy gaming. After spending some time looking at FoW and WW2 I decided to take the plunge and found myself particularly enjoying the history and geo-political background to the gaming. This was all helped by some of the excellent History articles penned by @Oriskany et al.

I felt that Northern Europe and the Eastern Front had been covered extensively and I wanted to consider some other theatres of WW2 without getting too obscure. Italy looked an interesting bet, particularly as the Royal Sussex Regiment (I live in Sussex) and the Royal Essex Regiment (my home county were involved). My wife is South African and I also found that there were several SA divisions involved in the fighting. So, even with such tenuous connections, it seemed a good choice.

Italy also provides a great representation of the effort the Commonwealth and the world in general committed to supporting the Allies. The British Army alone contained Polish, Canadians, New Zealanders, Indians and South Africans. The Free French also fought and included forces from Morocco and Tunisia. The US were well represented on the Italian peninsula and part of the US forces also included the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

Monte Cassino was a particularly hard fought series of battles starting 12th January 1944 and German resistance lasted until their eventual retreat on 17th May. The efforts and heroic actions on both sides defy my comprehension and during the course of the battles, the British army handed out five Victoria Crosses. Following the capture of Monte Cassino, the Allied forces were able to break through the Gustav defensive line and push North to meet up with the US VI Corp who had landed at Anzio on 22nd January and had been hard pushed to hold their positions. The link up of the two groups opened the road to Rome and Northern Italy.

My terrain build project can be found here:

https://www.beastsofwar.com/project/1222955/#snav