Sunday, 30 August 2015

Heliograph team, Egypt and Palestine c1915 - Eureka 15mm British in Sinai conversion

In the BEF signals were dealt with by the Royal Engineers:

In 1914 each infantry Division included a Signals Company with a total strength of 162 men. It was organised into a Company HQ and 4 Sections, of which No 1 Section was responsible for communications with Divisional HQ and Nos 2-4 with the Brigades of the Division.

Among the equipment available to the signallers, was the heliograph which employed a mirror (often mounted on a tripod) that was used to 'flash' Morse Code.

You can see some original footage of a heliograph in action here:

The heliograph was valued for its mobility, being quick to set up. It was a cheap signalling system with an impressive communication range in the right terrain. A 5 inch reflector had a signalling distance of some 50 miles (80 km), whilst the 9 or 12 inch models had a range of up to 80 miles (130 km). Best of all, in the Middle East theatre, there was plenty of sun!

Signals posts play an important role in the command system of If the Lord Spares us (ITLSU) rules by increasing the distance over which Battalion COs can operate effectively from the Brigade Commander-in-Chief.

There are no signals figures among the Eureka 15mm range so some conversion was necessary to obtain some signal posts. I have always liked the iconic images of heliograph teams operating in Egypt and Palestine, so wanted to put together some for my British.
The figures that provided the best conversion opportunity were the British in Sinai Artillery Crew (300HBC84). Here's a few pictures of how I approached the conversion.
The tripod is made of brass wire with a thin section of PVC tube for the mirror frame (white) and a circle of foil for the mirror itself (added after painting). Each 'leg' of the tripod was about 12mm / 0.5 inch.
I made some holes for the tripod using a heated nail. This is a 30mm base (~ 1 1/4 ") and the holes are 6mm (1/4") apart.
The tripod legs are glued in place.
The heliograph operator is made from the Eureka artillery crewman holding a shell. With the shell cut out it leaves his hands in quite a good position - looking like they are operating the Morse key behind the mirror.
The crewman with the coincidence-type range finder is adapted to a signaller holding binoculars. Most heliograph pictures show the spotter using a telescope - in this case I use some poetic license for convenience. It would be possible to scratch build a nice telescope on a tripod and cut away the second binocular lens.

The standing signaller has his base trimmed so the front foot will fit between the tripod legs.
Then, the signallers are ready to go!
For the first team I mounted the upright mirror frame strait on the apex of the tripod which was fiddly. This time I mounted a second piece of tube over the end as a base for the upright mirror. The made it easier, to mount the mirror frame but had the effect of raising the height of the heliograph a little. 
The mirror 'frame' is then glued in place.
The crew are mounted in place.
Heliograph completed. I painted the figures (in this case just the main colours blocked in) before I added the foil 'mirror'
on the front of the PVC tube frame.

Note that this was the first one I made - the above 'how to' pictures are of the second attempt where I used the second piece of PVC tube on top of the apex - you can see this earlier attempt sits a bit lower - I think this original team looks better, but it's quite fiddly getting the mirror frame to stick on the apex of the tripod.
I'm sure there are improvements that can be made to this approach - but this provides a quick and easy heliograph post.

As these teams will be supporting units of the 42nd Division (East Lancashire), I'm designating these as signallers from the 427th Field Company - identified thanks to the excellent resource on the Field Companies of the Royal Engineers on The Long, Long Trail.
A group of men of 527 (2nd Durham) Field Company, a Territorial unit that served under command of 5th Division. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

If the Lord Spares Us - Eureka Miniatures 'British in Sinai' 15mm

It seems the blogging hiatus is over! I'm back at the painting table and have started on a new project based on the Too Fat Lardies rules - If the Lord Spares Us - WW1 in the Middle East!

"Away from the quagmire of the Western Front ITLSU proves that brigade level games the Great War in the Middle East have components of everything; camels, arab war bands, sweeping cavalry attacks, opposed beach landings, massed machine guns, gas attacks, tanks, armoued cars, fighting in the mirage, water shortages, trench assaults, river gunboats - and enough command and control dilemmas to test the most cunning Pasha."

I'd been working on a 6mm (Irregular Miniatures) project for Gallipoli and the Middle East using Great War Spearhead II (and it's not abandoned), but I've wanted an excuse to buy some of Eureka Miniatures very nice WW1 15mm range – who can resist the Imperial Camel Corps, after all?          

To give me a little inspiration, I'm reading The Palestine Campaign by Field Marshal Earl Wavell P.C, G.C.B, G.C.S.I, G.C.I.E, M.C. (3rd Edn. by Constable, London, 1954). 

My intention is to begin with the defence of the Suez and work on slowly from there. 
Actions around the Suez, 1915-1916, from Wavell (1954).
Terrain is something I'll have to get working on, but the main effort will be on painting up a few infantry battalions for the British (and her dominions) and Ottomans, then onto some mounted, artillery, and armoured cars!

I must also thank Mark Hargreaves of the Over Open Sights for his generous provision of painting guides covering the Middle East campaigns - I strayed away from his recommendations (painting with what I had), but the inspiration was very well received. Thanks Mark!

Well, I am unashamedly a 'middle of the road' painter of miniatures - nevertheless, I enjoy it. Here's a few snaps of my first attempt. Two companies (4 bases per company in ITLSU) of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Territorial Division. These stout fellows did it all - defence of the Suez (1915), Cape Helles (May 1915 to January 1916), Egypt and the Sinai Campaign (1916 to 1917), and Western Front (1917 to the Armistice in 1918).

Their battle honours include:
  • Battle of Gallipoli: Second Battle of Krithia; Third Battle of Krithia; Battle of Krithia Vineyard
  • Battle of Romani
  • Third Battle of Ypres
  • First Battle of the Somme (1918): First Battle of Bapaume
  • Second Battle of the Somme (1918): Battle of Albert (1918); Second Battle of Bapaume
  • Battle of the Canal du Nord
  • Battle of the Selle
But, as they say, 'Pictures! Or it didn't happen!'