Wednesday 30 March 2022

France 1940

Hello again, folks. Back after a few weeks when my head has been in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This culminated in a re-fight of the Battle of Wissembourg, that was more notable for research of the scenario than the quality of its terrain, I regret to say. We made do with some fairly old scenic items that were not of the standard you expect from HBH! Later in the year I hope to address that, but for now we have photos from the next-but-one showdown between France and Germany, that of May 1940.

Six-ten years ago we played a lot of Chain of Command WWII skirmish. It's great set of rules, though I have one or two reservations, being a picky sort of chap. The gallant French army of 1940 is my favourite WWII force, so I built up a platoon with strong support, some of which was scratch-built and will be featured on here soon. The figures are by Crusader: easy to paint though awful chunky in their build ( a bit like me these days).

The house is a laser-MDF job from 4Ground, plain but a decent model. Strangely this company has gone bust now, after taking a lot of money in via Kickstarter, I am told! Anyway, the scene is brightened here  by the typically French painted advertisement on the gable wall. The road is from a batch I made out of sand and felt, which I'll explain properly another time. Roofs are always the worst part of laser-cut kits as the technology is incapable of anything like a realistic texture. So I replaced the roof with the trusty Wills plastic sheets.

The two tanks are Hotchkiss 39's. I can't remember the manufacturer but there are better ones available from Rubicon nowadays anyway. At first the H 39 tank was built with a short 37mm gun (SA 18) and later with the longer SA 38. Commonly the commander of each platoon would have this better version. The camouflage pattern is different on the hulls and the turrets, as was common for French tanks at this time. The reason was they were built in different factories, each of which had their own ideas on the subject of camouflage. Many tanks had individual names, sometimes with a theme across the unit; here we have the Ajax and the Alexandre.

A tricolour and a registration number were universal on French tanks, although painted in different patterns. The famous playing card symbols indicated the company, by the colour used: blue, white and red in that order of course!. The card suite symbol then shows which of the four platoons of the company the tank belonged to. I subscribe to a French magazine GBM, which is the most authoritative source for the army of 1914- 1940.

The 4Ground buildings are good for skirmish games because they come apart floor by floor to allow figures to be moved within. 

I resurfaced the whole outside of house, using decorator's filler to give a more realistic texture. You stipple it on with a big brush and sandpaper it a bit when dry. Pick off any filler that's attached itself to the features you want to leave, using a scalpel point.

These building kits have interiors that are good enough for gaming purposes with no extra work.

The posters are common ones from the "phoney war" period in France, equating to "Buy war bonds", "General Mobilisation", the equivalent of "Walls have ears" and my favourite "We shall win because we are the strongest". It shows the French and British colonies as globe-spanning empires: how could the little black spot of Germany hope to take them on? Whoops.

I painted the Dubonnet ad more or less by hand. I made a crude stencil to help by printing off the text on a sheet of paper and then laboriously cutting out the letters with a scalpel. After painting the blue background I taped the stencil to the wall and brushed white paint through it. It needed some tidying up by eye, but it's near enough. More sophisticated methods exist nowadays!


  1. Excellent work and your sign is exquisite. I saw a building of similar architecture with a huge mural on a visit to Echmuhl.

  2. Lovely work once again John and I wholeheartedly concur with Jon - the Dubonnet advert is fantastic and if there are any slight discrepancies, that only adds to the authenticity, as I am sure the real life, full size ones were hand painted too, and might have had the odd imperfection as a consequence!

  3. Lovely work there John! Nice to see some time and effort going into upgrading what are OK and basic kits. From shows most are left in their bought state as it were. The whole 4Ground business is a tad dodgy, to say the least:(.

    I never could get on with the CoC rules, especially the scenarios and playing down the table, leaving little, if any room for manouevre. Shame as they promised so much.

    The hand painted sign is a delight. Have you seen the work of the following chap?:

    Pretty amazing stuff and focused on dioramas, but some useful tips in there for making stuff in 28mm.

  4. Excellent! This really shows how to get the best out of a basic MDF kit. The mural looks great.
    I am planning to try to put together a WWII project later this year (Russia 1941-2 - then France 1940 eventually) so this is all useful inspiration.
    Planning to try CoC rules, also Disposable Heroes. There is also a reasonable player base for Bolt Action where I live, the rules look terrible but I am prepared to try them if that's what others are playing!

  5. Thanks for your comments as ever. Steve, I have already got that exact page bookmarked! There is some lovely work there, and on some similar American sites, and I agree there are techniques which could carry over to 28mm scale.

    I am very choosy fellow when it comes to wargames rules. So is my regular opponent Garry Broom, who has never written any rules in his life, but can spot bad ones at 200 yards range! We have our criticisms of CoC, especially the fact that you can't really do Fire and Movement, despite what it claims. But it does a lot of things well. The set-up is abstract and a bit weird, but it then pitches you straight into the action without further ado.

    1. If you do have any better suggestions for rules, please do let us know! :)

    2. Not for WWII skirmish, no. I think CoC is pretty good. And as I say, we are very choosy here! I agree with you about Bolt Action. It has deeply silly things like a platoon being supported by a single medium mortar, which they can magically call down on anyone they bump into. It's popular because it's easy for wargamers to understand, plus Warlord games dominate the market to a degree.

    3. Thanks, yes I can't really understand Bolt Action except maybe market power and people just want to put toys on the table instead of having an actual wargame (which is ok I guess if you're honest about it). Thanks for your thoughts anyway, CoC seems the way to go and it seems to have a lot of support online with resources and groups.