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Lark Force 1942: A Bolt Action Project

Lark Force 1942: A Bolt Action Project

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Project Blog by firelock22

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About the Project

In January 1942 the 1500 defenders of Rabaul, New Guinea, faced 5000 experienced Japanese troops of the South Seas Force.. if they don't stop the tidal wave of Imperial Japan, is Australia next? Based on an actual Platoon that fought in the Battle of Rabaul and with notes and details from Bruce Gamble's excellent series of books on the New Guinea Campaign this is a very personal project as one of my relatives was involved. Captured by the Japanese, he was transported to Japan onboard the 'Montevideo Maru' which was tragically torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon with the loss off all prisoners onboard.

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80 Years ago Today

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80 years ago today, the Japanese prisoner transport ship, Montevideo Maru, was steaming toward Hainan. Onboard were 1054 prisoners of war. The majority were the survivors of Lark Force, the Australian garrison of Rabaul, New Britain who had been over run and captured earlier that year. Among the prisoners were also 209 civilians who had been interned by the Japanese on New Britain.
Unknown to the crew, guards and POWs they were being followed by the American submarine USS Sturgeon. Not knowing the nature of the ships mission and without identification to indicate that POWs were onboard, the Americans fired four torpedoes at Montevideo Maru just before dawn. The ship sank in just 11 minutes. One Japanese survivor, Yoshiaki Yamaji, recalled that the Australians sang Auld Lang Syne, as the ship went down. There were no survivors from the POWs or interned civilians.
The sinking of Montevideo Maru is considered to be the worst maritime disaster in Australian history. One of those lost that terrible morning was my cousin, Rueben Hanning a Private in 2/22nd Battalion Australian Infantry which formed the greater part of Lark Force.

Lest We Forget

Test mini and 1st Section construction

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Liquid Green Stuff is your friend! Also the supplied Bren Gun arm converted via an eBay 3rd party maker of 28mm scale ww2 weapons, in this case a nice sculpt of a Lewis gun that fitted nicely into the stock of the Bren sculpt..

First unit

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Perry Miniatures ‘Desert Rats’ plastic multipart. Larger p37 pouches sliced off and remodelled as p08 webbing. Small packs added as 2/22nd Battalion were noted as having marched out of their camp towards their prepared positions with small packs only (rather than Full FSMO).

This represents Cpl Hale’s Section 1 of 7 Platoon, A.Company and the 4 members of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles are represented here in the iconic slouch hat and p03 Bandolier leather equipment issued to them (again a little converting and liquid green stuff!).

My own relative Rueben Hanning is the young Anzac working the bolt on his rifle..

Some original images

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In training in Australia.  Note the earlier WW1 era p08 Webbing and pouches as well as the No.1 mkiii SMLE manufactured in Lithgow, NSW.

Now this is tricky as not many manufacturers make 28mm troops with KD tunics/shorts AND 08 webbing…    Perrys do the best plastic multipart so there must be a way to adapt . .  ?

Archive Research

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The Australian Archives are an amazing source of information.  ALL Battalion and unit war diaries that survive are available for free as pdf files encompassing every unit that fought in both WW1 and WW2 as well as Korea and Vietnam and back as far as the Boer War!  The Documents relating to 2/22nd Battalion that made up the main Infantry component of ‘Lark Force’ also contains page after page of documents regarding enquiries into the actions at Rabaul with eyewitness testimony.  From this I spotted a typed statement from a Sergeant of A.Company who was able to name the Officers and Enlisted men of 3 sections of his platoon.  By an amazing stroke of luck it happened to feature the only Hanning in the battalion, my own lost relative (on my Mum’s side.. they’re all Aussies)!  Not only that but the structure demonstrated how the Bolt Action force building rules would work perfectly to recreate this platoon Man for Man on the tabletop! . .

 

and so it began