Saturday, 2 April 2016

French Indochina (The Dirty War) - Groupement Amphibie LVT's

During the French Indochina conflict Tonkin, the northernmost of the five subdivisions that comprised French Indochina, became the main battlefield of the conflict, but there was fighting at other places as well. 
One of the most difficult battlefields was the large boggy plain south of Saigon and the Plain of Reeds, where the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment (1er Régiment Etrangers de Cavalerie) was used. Its units, the 1st and 2nd Escadrons, were the first to recieve the American M-29C Weasel amphibeans in 1947 (the French referred to them as “Crabe”). 
These vehicles were equipped either with the French Chaterrault M1924/29 light machine gun or the American Browning M1919 machineguns along with 57mm recoilless guns for some of the vehicles. At first, their deployment was unsuccessful, they were crewed by untrained men, they used wrong tactics and were deployed without infantry support. Their losses were heavy and the the French high command reported that “their burnt-out husks covered the entire plain”. 

In the end however, the legionnaires managed to use and master them after several months of fighting, but the most effective deployment of forces in these boggy areas was possible only when the French recieved the American heavy amphibeans – LVT-4 Alligator and LVT(A)-4 with a 75mm howitzer, in 1950. Through them, it was possible to move stronger infantry units around. 

In September 1951, first mixed unit (1er Groupement Autonome) was estabilished, consisting of two escadrons of Weasels (33 each), three escadrons of LVT-4 (11 each) and one fire support platoon of 6 LVT(A)-4 75mm self-propelled howitzers. Even the Weasels were heavily armed – in one platoon, five had machineguns, two were equipped with 57mm M18A1 recoilless guns and one had a 60mm mortar. Each Alligator carried four machineguns – two .50cals and two .30cals. Some even had improvised mounts for recoilless guns.

Later on, second such group was created in Tonkin – this one had several LVT-4, rebuilt in the navy repair yards in Haiphong to carry a 40mm Bofors gun and two machineguns. Both these groups also participated in Mekong and Red River delta operations and in landing operations on Vietnam shores.

For me the French Indochina war is somewhat of a passion project. I don't expect to game with anybody for some time to come as I am the only person I have ever met (in the person) who has any interest in the French conflict. For me, at the moment this is a project that is all about painting stuff I haven't had the chance to explore before and use it as an opportunity to try new painting techniques to see what I can get from them.

The painting techniques that I used for these vehicles were shamelessly appropriated from Ruben Torregrosa at Heresy Brush ( who is quite frankly one of the best miniature painters on the planet to my eye... and he uses an airbrush for a lot of techniques which I have learnt a lot from so far.

These vehicles were done in three main blocks. The Hull painting, the transfers and finally the Track painting. The track painting methods are really shown to fine effect on wider tracks such as those found on the late war German tanks but works fine on LVT's as well.

To paint the hull these are the steps I went through:

Steps 1-4 is airbrushed and then hand painted from then on.
1) Airbush a basecoat all over the miniature of Tamiya XF58 Olive Green
2) 1st Highlight of Lifecolor UA221 Khaki Olive Drab in a panel highlighting technique. Panel highlighting is lightening each panel area of the vehicle at the centre leaving it to darken towards the panel edges. This assumes numerous sources of lighting which isn't realistic BUT I do think is the most attractive. Zenithal highlighting is one that assumes one lighting source which is probably the most accurate if realism is what you are chasing.
3) 2nd Highlight Lifecolor UA224 Faded Olive Drab (a)
4) 3rd Highlight Lifecolor UA224 Faded Olive Drab (b) + white.
5) Apply decals at this point (see below)
6) Apply a satin varnish
7) Apply AK Interactives Filter for Nato Vehicles all over the vehicle
8) Apply AK Interactives Wash for Nato Camo Vehicles on the areas that need detail profiling
9) Allow the Filter and Wash to dry and then remove the excess using cotton buds/ brushes with White Spirits.
10) Apply Vallejo's Chipping Colour using a sponge along the edges of the vehicles with dabs applied sparingly to the flat panels as well.
11) Accentuate some of the larger chipped areas with a brush also using Vallejo Chipping Colour
12) Profile some of the chipped areas using Vallejo Iraqi Sand and painting fine lines along some of the larger areas edges.
13) Using a very watered down Vallejo Light Rust paint streaks downwards from areas where rust will gather, and allow some to pool around bolts and hinges etc.
14) Apply your matt varnish.

Applying your decals:

Finding decals for use with the French Indochina conflict is simply impossible at 15mm so I found it necessary to make my own decals

the important thing to remember if you are using homemade decals is to firstly paint the area where the decal will be applied with Micro Set which is a solution that will help decals bind to the surface they are being applied to.

Once the decal has been applied and has dried thoroughly the area should also have a drop of Micro Sol applied to it which will allow the decal to form to the surface architecture avoiding raised areas on decals.

Painting the Armoured Vehicle Tracks

The method I use of painting the vehicle tracks is a little long winded BUT with tanks that have wider tracks it really shows why its the method of choice. I use it, quite simply because I am a creature of habit!

1) Paint the tracks with Vallejo Panzer Aces 304 Track Primer
2) Drybrush the tracks with Vallejo 863 Gunmetal Grey
3) Apply AK Interactive 083 Track Wash and allow to dry
4) Use AK Interactive 065 Afrika Korps Filter to the areas that you think need dust
5) Apply deep profiling to the bogies and tracks using AK Interactive 075 Wash for Nato Camo Vehicles
6) Apply AK Interactive 086 Track Rust Pigment to the tracks and use a Pigment Fixer
7) Apply Matt Varnish

...and there you have it. Super realistic tracks

The last step in the modelling process for me is the application of the bases. I like my vehicles on bases because I think it protects them from the occasional knock that could have been avoided.

I use exactly the same process on these as I used on my Commando Francois jungle bases without the excess sculpting on the bases using Green Stuff, garden twigs and brass etched foliage.  I just made sure that the scatter and the clumps were dense enough to imply what they were meant for . Job done!

So there you have it. If you have a close look you will notice that I haven't heavily weathered my vehicles with environmental mud or anything like that which I used on my Polish vehicles because I think the distressing that I have done on these already looks attractive enough to carry the vehicle image and I didn't apply any track pigments either as the available surface areas on the tracks just isn't big enough to carry enough pigment to create an effect so I had to settle with what they look like now....

On the whole though Im happy with what Ive got here... and my Groupement Amphibie is well underway!


  1. Hey that is Great Work:) I to have been working on a 20mm Indochina game. Hey where would I find Weasels? Thanks

  2. Hey Greyson, glad you like it. Im really passionate about the French Indochina war myself. Its going to be one of my big projects for 2018.

    Personally I like gaming in 15mm due to the space saving over 20mm. I bought all of my M29C's from QRF but they are in 15mm and they are the only ones that produce them... and they need some serious nip and tuck to bring them up to scratch.

    In 20mm there dont seem to be many that do them BUT Extratech (EXM 7244) and Hauler (HLP 72010) both do them. You could start there.

    Bon Chance mon brave! :D