Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Marine Commando Francois - French Indochina "The Dirty War" - part 2

Modelling the Marine Commandos of the Indochina war was problematic to say the least! There is very little written in the English language at all, and certainly nothing that relates to organisational breakdowns from a war that has been, for all intents and purposes, brushed under the carpet by the French. My French is passable but sadly nowhere near competent enough to be able to competently translate military acronyms and such like.

However, this is where Google came to the rescue... and by that I mean Google Translate. I found a photo library dedicated to all of the Marine Commandos and there was so much photographic record in there that I was able to piece together an accurate OrBat for the Commando on the day of the battle.

The complete Commando Francois

Around this I structured a Flames of War based Commando company with the following organisation:

78 Combat Effectives (76 European & 2 Vietnamese Suppletifs) 
Commandant L.V Labbens in overall command

Command Group
1x Group Chief
1x Radio Operator
1x Mechanic/ Engineer
1x Medic

Protection Group
1x Group Chief
3x Riflemen
2x Vietnamese Suppletifs

Mortar Group 
1x Group Chief
6x Riflemen (Ive only found a photo of one Mortar Operator but would 6 Riflemen imply 2x 60mm mortars being used or only 1?)

One of the two 60mm Mortars held in the mortar group

Assault Group
1x Group Chief
6x Riflemen

The company 57mm Recoilless Rifle, held in the Assault Group

1st Section
Groupe A
1x Group Chief
13x Riflemen

Some of the members of Section 1: Group A

Groupe B
1x Group Chief
13x Riflemen

Some of the members of Section 1: Group B

2nd Section
Groupe C
1x Group Chief
11x Riflemen

Some of the members of Section 2: Group C

Group D
1x Group Chief
8x Riflemen

Some of the members of Section 2: Group D

This amounts to a total of 74 with 4 Europeans unaccounted for.

So that was the organisation, now what about uniforms and weapons? There are no miniature manufacturers anywhere in the world that produce Marine Commandos from the Indochina conflict so I had to rig them myself.

After much searching around I decided to settle on using Battlefronts British Commando figures with a serious amount of adjusting.

In my favour was the fact that the smock that was designed for the Marine Commandos was pretty close to the design of the British Commando Smock and they also wore British style berets and trousers... and at this scale the boots, puttees and packs would barely register a difference. 

Alternate headwear such as a naval beret and the French Chapeau needed headswaps... to which I went to Peter Pig and ordered some heads for Scottish Tam O'Shanter berets and Chindit heads.

Weapons were a ball ache with this project. The majority of Marine Commandos were armed with ex-German MP40 Schmeissers, well there just isnt anybody who manufactures these in 15mm. I did however find a company that makes 15mm US M3 Grease Guns which, if the sides were filed down would make pretty good approximations of both the MP40 and/or the Mat49 depending on how the paint scheme was done. The Mortars were perfect and the Brens needed only the slightest modifications to appear to be FM 24/29's

There were a lot of Commandos armed with the Thompson Sub Machine Gun on the Battlefront figures so I decided to get rid of most of them although I did carve away the foregrip on some of them so that they appeared to be Mas 38 Machine pistol... and of course I actually left a few holding the Thompson as well. I figured that there will come a time when I want to use Francois as Jaubert or Montfort so a bit of diversity wouldn't hurt.

A French Union Marine Commando
The French Marine Commando's of this era were one of the first armed forces in Indochina to receive bespoke uniform elements and in their case this took the form of jackets. These required some painting techniques that were a little unorthodox.

A detail guide for the Commando jacket
Because of the painting technique that was used the jackets had all of the base colours painted first.
A Vallejo Khaki (988) base coat was applied followed by Vallejo Luftwaffe Camo Green (823) and Beige Brown (875) was stippled over the khaki using small lumps of sponge.

The trousers were painted a Khaki Drab (Tamiya XF51) and then highlighted with Vallejo Khaki (988) mixed with the Khaki Drab.

The entire figure was then washed with an AK Interactive Filter (AK075) Filter for Nato Camo Vehicles.

The remaining elements were painted as follows:

Element           Basecoat                                  Highlight                 Extra

Jacket              Khaki (V988)                                                           Filter for Nato Camo Veh. (AK075)
                        Luft Cam Green (V823)
                        Beige Brown (V875)

Trousers          Khaki Drab (Tam XF51)        +Khaki (V988)        Filter for Nato Camo Veh. (AK075) 

Puttees            Graveyard Earth (GW)           +Khaki (V988)
Boots              German Camo Black (V822)
Packs&Webb: English Uniform (V921)        Green Grey (V886)
Rifle Body:     German Camo Med Brown    Beige Brown (V875)
Frapeau Hat:   Khaki (V988)                         Dark Sand (V847)     Filter for Nato Camo Veh. (AK075)
Beret:              Black Green (V980)               Medium Olive (V850)
Beret Badge:  White (V951)
Skin:               Snakebite Leather (GW)        Elf Flesh (GW)           + White (V951)
Lips:               Red (V957)  
Metal:             Gunmetal Grey (V863)   

So there you have it! That is how I painted the first of my Indochina troops.

The bases were a complex procedure that took me a while to arrive at and took enough work that they will warrant their own blog post about...

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