Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Zvezda peasants painted for 1/72 DBA

One of my current armies in progress is a 1/72 Saxon army for DBA. I thought the horde element would look really cool, so I bought a box of Zvezda's Peasant Army (see sprue scan). These guys are meant to be a 9th century Saxon fyrd.

The cows in the background come from Imex's American Pioneer box. That set also has some nice pigs, which I have yet to paint. The paper buildings come from an excellent series of 1/72 scale Dark Age and Medieval building kit books. These particular buildings come from Usborne's Viking Settlement.

(click images to see larger versions)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1/72 DBA orc army in progress

Several years ago I came across fan-made army lists for the tabletop wargame De Bellis Antiquitatis. On his site David Kuijt hosts eleven Lord of the Rings DBA armies. For me DBA is all about 1/72 scale. At the time I found his site there weren't any fantasy models in that scale. Now there are a several sets to choose from.

The above photo shows the models that will appear on the Wb general element of my Misty Mountains army. I want as much variety in models as I can, so I am using a mix of Caesar orcs and goblins, Zvezda Medieval peasants (the grey plastic), Strelets Franks (the copper color plastic), and Rebel Minis Bag o' Orcs (the metal guy). Some of the human models are getting head swaps (see the horn-blower above), while the beardless ones will simply be painted with green skin. The Strelets models are perfect because the sculpts are pretty gnarly and they have unusual armor. The white paper flag is made from a piece of an adhesive mailing label.

The Misty Mountain army is meant to be just made up of goblins (no big orcs). However, I am using this list as a mixed orc/goblin army.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WWII History magazine reviews my book

Usually I'm the one offering book reviews, but today I am happy to share a review of my recent book that appeared in the January 2011 issue of WWII History magazine, p78-79.

"People often forget that it takes 10 men in the rear areas to support one infantryman on the front line. However, for the men of the port battalions, there were no front lines on June 6, 1944, and at times, they found themselves under heavy fire as well.

The author is the grandson of one such soldier, Cortland "Corty" Hopkins, from Schenectady, New York. Hopkins had a difficult time getting into the service because his job was considered essential by the War Department. However, after many attempts, he was successfully inducted into the Army in 1943.

Brozyna does a good job in describing the duties and experiences of his grandfather's unit during the D-Day landings, the fighting in Belgium, and the Ardennes Offensive. Without a doubt, the port battalions made numerous contributions in supporting the soldiers in the field."

If you are interested in learning more, please visit my book blog I regularly post new articles and photographs relating to WWII supply work and wartime Normandy, Antwerp, England, and Schenectady, NY.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Medieval Village Books

I'm keenly interested in ancient and Medieval daily life. Last month I grabbed a bunch of books to read my daughters for bedtime. I thought I'd share them here as they make excellent references for dioramas, tabletop wargame scenarios, or rpg settings.

Life in a Medieval Village is a classic on the subject. It's a scholarly, yet approachable text discussing the lives of the lord, clergy, and all the various peasants found in a feudal English village.

The Luttrel Village by Sheila Sancha is meant for children, but is equally illuminating for adults. In the 14th century the lord of an English village, Geoffrey Luttrell, commissioned an illustrated prayer book, now known as the Luttrell Psalter. It offers a rare visual depiction of ordinary Medieval people. The author studied the psalter's images, the village site's modern landscape, and referenced current (as of the 1980s) archaeology. She combined these sources into her own artwork and text. There are 64 pages of greyscale maps and illustrated scenes of the annual work and life in the village called Gerneham in Lincolnshire.

Recently a documentary film was produced, recreating the village of the psalter: Luttrell Psalter Facebook page. They made the video viewable for free online

Growing up in Viking Times was a happy discovery. The text is maybe at an 8-yr-old reading level, but the illustrations are by the esteemed military history illustrator Angus McBride. So, the book is basically eye-candy. There are 32 pages of color viking scenes: exploring, farming, and trading.

I've got a bunch of 28mm villager minis painted up along with 28mm animals. Right now I'm working on Zvezda's 1/72 Medieval Peasant Army models (see sprue scan). I'm using them to build a 9th century Saxon fyrd, but a few poses could be used as villagers at work on the farm. If you're in need of 1/72 livestock, check out this sprue scan of Pegasus Farm Animals.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1/72 Supply Operations on Utah Beach

"I didn't mind moving the ammo. It was the gas that worried me I didn't want to burn to death [if a Germans hit the DUKW]" —Cortland Hopkins, p 79 in Longshore Soldiers.

In WWII my grandfather served in a US Army port battalion. Port company stevedores unloaded supply ships. This was ordinarily done on the docks of a port, but for the Normandy invasion they needed to load DUKWs (amphibious trucks) and drive the cargo to shore. On Utah Beach and Omaha Beach this was done under weeks of German shelling and aerial bombing.

This year I published a history book of my grandfather's port battalion, Longshore Soldiers. It charts their service from enlistment to Boston, England, Utah Beach, and Antwerp. After all that research I was also inspired to paint-up some port company models. Finding a DUKW was easy. I bought a plastic 1/72 Italeri model. This was the first model I built in about 15 years. Naturally I lost a tiny piece, glued my fingers together, and stabbed myself in the leg with an X-Acto blade. My DUKW had rear view mirrors for a time, but after taking these pictures I noticed that they had snapped off without me noticing. (click any of these photos to view a larger version)

The 1/72 scale oil drums, jerry cans, and block of supplies came from Sgt's Mess.

Finding suitable stevedore models in 1/72 was slightly more difficult. Really the only choice was a box of Airfix's U.S.A.F. Personnel (see the full sprue scan on PlasticSoldierReview). The working poses lacked helmets, so I chopped off the head of the MP model and glued them on the worker bodies.

Pictured above is my grandfather Cortland on D-Day (on left). His jacket showed no marks of rank. He's carrying an M1 Garand he picked up from a fallen soldier, because his carbine jammed during the fight. On the right is Donald H. on guard duty. One of the veterans I interviewed, Don served in the 284th Port Company, attached to the 5th Engineer Special Brigade on Omaha Beach. He carries the standard firearm for port company troops, an M-1 carbine. These are Italeri models.

The helmet markings worn by the port battalion troops are especially interesting. For the D-Day invasion my grandfather's unit was attached to the 1st Engineer Special Brigade. All attached troops received a blue arc. Below is a color photo of some 1st ESB men on Utah Beach in 1944. Port battalion helmets on Omah Beach received the marking of the 5th and 6th Engineer Special Brigades. There's was a white arc with a blue & yellow amphibious training command insignia underneath. This insignia is visible as a shoulder patch in the photo below.

My Book Blog has articles and photographs to supplement my book. Since publishing I have broadened my research to include port battalions and supply operations outside my grandfather's unit.