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Nice, Normal Nazis

2014-05-04 07.56.53With my Soviets nearly complete I have been turning my attention to some of the supports which will be available to the Germans for our late war campaign, and in particular stuff that is very late war specific. Some years ago when we were planning a Danzig 1945 game for Salute, I’d picked up an interesting book published by Helion called “In a Raging Inferno” about combat units of the Hitler Youth. More recently I’d got hold of a companion volume called Hitler’s Last Levy which covered the Volkssturm from 1944 onwards. Both of these are beautifully illustrated and well researched (Helion are an exceptional publisher, so this is only to be expected) but they are also rather sad volumes in that one is seeing children and elderly men being sent to their death to support a morally bankrupt regime who failed to distinguish the self-interest of their political creed from the good of the nation and its people. As a result the battles of 1945 in particular were nothing more than a pointless and cruel sacrifice.

Having said that, simply feeling uncomfortable about a subject is no reason to ignore it. Whilst I abhor National Socialism I see the banning of the swastika in a wargaming context as inherently foolish. To suggest that by not seeing something it ceases to exist, or that by showing a specific historical symbol suggests support for the policies associated with that is not just wrong, it insults the intelligence of the population at large. 99.999% of us are more than capable of distinguishing between a military modeler or wargamer who paints a swastika on the tail fin of an ME109 and a rabid lunatic who marches up and down the street under such a banner hurling racist abuse at those different to him. One deserves the full disapproval of the law, the other, in my opinion, does not. So, whilst I might find the idea of fielding old men and children it is foolish to pretend they did not exist. Indeed it is my hope that fielding such units will oblige the players to consider the moral imperatives of war as well as the military ones, and the campaign is being constructed with one eye firmly on that.

Of course there are Volkssturm figures available on the market, but frankly none that take my eye. I wanted something looking normal as opposed to caricature bad guys from a cartoon, so I had a quick rummage through my unpainted figures box. Pretty quickly I found some very nice figures which I believe are for the Irish Civil War. I was only looking for a single squad of Volkssturm, so I fished out some of the most suitable ones. These are lovely figures, I can’t remember who did them or who sculpted them. The only issue was that they are all armed with British WWI weapons. On a few models I was able to use a sharp knife to trim away a few bits to give them more of a Mauser look, but I realised pretty quickly that this would not work for all of the figures, especially those with shotguns instead of rifles.

I had another rummage and found some spare sprues of the Perry Afrika Korps plastic figures and hit upon a wizzard idea. With a set of nail clippers I cut off the gun barrels from the point where each man’s right hand was holding the stock and on the trigger guard. You can see a few here with the removed barrels below them.2014-05-03 07.51.30I have also removed the left hand completely where it was supporting the barrel. With the plastic Perry stuff I found some rifles suitable and snipped them off at the breach, matching the slope of the right hand with the plastic at that point. I then superglued this into position. On this figure you can see that I will need to rebuild the left hand with Milliput.
2014-05-03 08.15.24On the figures below the left hands are the plastic ones which are moulded onto the rifles in the Perry set. These fitted superbly, so all I had to do was remove the back of the hand, file the plastic flat and glue it into place.
2014-05-03 08.15.13Some models needed some other attention as they had what was clearly British kit on. This I filed off with a mini file and then replaced the British kit with the German ones in the Perry DAK set. Like this bloke here. I have photo edited this so the plastic German kit stands out – the light wasn’t great for photos.

2014-05-03 08.15.47The MG was going to be a tougher nut to crack, but I bit the bullet and weighed in. Here I chopped off the bloke’s right fore-arm and removed the left hand at the cuff as normal. I then trimmed up a Perry MG34 and stuck that across the figure in the right position.
2014-05-03 08.15.35I let that dry, slowly, you can’t use an oven to accelerate the process with plastic stuff. If I were a sculptor (but then again, no) I’d drill into what remained of the right arm, add a wire to serve as the base of the new arm. I am not, so I just slapped on a roll of Milliput, trimmed it with a knife and added a few creases with a cocktail stick. I let that dry over night and then sculpted a hand from more Milliput. As an aside, if you’re looking for a desirable property in St Albans, this cottage is a snip at a mere £925,000.
2014-05-03 19.47.40Here’s a look in more detail. As you can see, I haven’t started on the left hand yet. You need to let each stage dry before you start the next. I prefer Milliput to green stuff for jobs like this as you can carve and file it when set.
2014-05-03 19.47.52Here’s the final figure with both hands and some of his mates. It is not perfect. The bloke looks a bit odd from some angles, but with the right paint job he’ll look absolutely fine.
2014-05-04 07.56.59And here are a few more of his mates in detail. I have sculpted on armbands which will say Volkssturn, but these are the early late 1944 levy in the eastern provinces of Germany, so I really want them to look “normal” – the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker as opposed to some rabid cartoon fascists.
2014-05-04 07.57.14Finally found these figures among a bunch my old chum Tricky Dickie Ansell gave me years ago. I’m not sure of the make, but they are in peaked caps and will be fine for older HJ lads as a tank killer team with Teller mines as opposed to fausts.
2014-05-04 07.57.52I did finish these off with some Milliput thumbs for the left hands and some odd additions such as removing a wound badge from one figure’s tunic whilst adding some Hitler Jugend badges to make what had been a standard German infantryman into an ad hoc schoolboy in an oversized tunic. I even gave one bloke a Kaiser Wilhelm moustache, but this is all ancillary crap that I fancied with a spare bit of Milliput.

So, there are my normal Nazis waiting for the brush. Sadly it’ll not happen until next week when I return from the Czech Republic and the battlefields of 1866.

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14 Responses

  1. Siyuan Xu says:

    Great Idea and nice conversion. But I think warlordgames has just announced the “last levy” box. Anyway, thanks.

  2. chris says:

    these will be uniquley different and I really look forward to the finished product. Have a fun trip.

  3. Won’t go into that discussion why us silly Krauts have banished Nazi symbols from public use; been there, done that, and it’s obviously a concept hardly understood by anyone who hasn’t attended post-1968 German school – as well as quite a few Germans, to be honest. Bear in mind, though, that playing ‘Kriegsspiele’ has a bad taste here as well, hence there’s not necessarily a distinction between military modellers and Nazi fanboys (admittedly, there are dickheads exploiting that somewhat blurred difference anyway).

    Nevertheless, I do second your thoughts on the inclusion of child soldiers and other unpleasant aspects of war into gaming. I’m curious and would want to know more about how you depict ‘morality’ (or rather the lack thereof) in wargaming. Important topic.

    And, last but not least, there is some serious modelling going on, I like it! Especially since you haven’t gone for the average cartoony figs available. Some figures look a lot like Paul Hicks’ work, maybe Musketeer? If I remember correctly, Musketeer has a few Résistance fighters as well that might be converted into Volkssturm troopers (before somebody laughs, no pun intended).

    Cheers,
    Tilman

  4. Big Rich says:

    Tilman, I reckon they are Paul Hicks’ work from Musketeer. That certainly rings a big bell.

    I think that coming from Britain where freedom of speech and expression has never really been seriously threatened and where parliamentary democracy is so deeply embedded in our national psyche, it is difficult for me to comprehend the banning of symbols as a way of air-brushing unpleasant facts from history.

    I actually first came across this as a teenager in Germany when a German friend was making a model ME109 but the transfer set didn’t have a swastika for the tail fin as it was banned. It struck me then as bonkers and I haven’t changed my opinion since.

    I saw a bloke in a supermarket in York last week with a swastika T-Shirt on. Everyone was treating him with utter contempt. I told him very clearly what I thought of him in very few words. I’m glad he was wearing the badge as he marked himself out as the arse he is.

  5. Rich, thanks for your reply and insights. Like said, I’m not going to try to discuss this or even dare to doubt your honest opinion on that matter. Let’s just agree to disagree and stand by the fact that modern-day, i.e. dyed-in-the-wool democratic Germans are yet divided from other democratic nations by the common language of democracy. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Tilman

  6. Laffe says:

    They look the business! Much better than the cartoonish Warlord figures anyway.

  7. Jonathan Yuengling says:

    The converstions look great.

    As for this discussion I feel it is thoughtful and well reasoned. Here in the US we think that the freedoms and rights we have are the goals the entire would should have. Luckly for most in this country we do not have the baggage that other countries have gone through.

  8. Simon says:

    I really like the conversions. I was watching Downfall, last week, and they look like they would really hit the spot.

  9. Ken says:

    They look like Musketeer IRA figures – which are pretty good for Volksturm as they tend to have Mauser rifles not SMLEs.

  10. Helen says:

    Nice work Rich. Don’t forget that Matchlock Miniatures from Dave Ryan’s Caliver Books has a nice set of figures that would be very compatible.

    Cheers,

    Helen

  11. Goulven says:

    Hello.

    I was very surprised to see this post.

    This book is the one I am reading today ^^

    This subject is very interesting IMHO. Even if I can understand it is a bit contreversial.

    Actually I plan to build a full wolksturm force for Coc, and I collect miniatures, having only 25 painted minies at this time.

    I will suggest you to look at great escape games webstore, their Hj squad is very nice.

    Empress miniatures sell a 88mm manned by civilians in their spanish war range. I just received mine, as I have not build it yet, I will not review it today even if it look good.

    As soon as possible, I will post some pictures on the Coc forum and propose a few rules to play an entire volkssturm force.

    I apologize for my weird english, froggies schools forced me to learn your language alone with wargames rules ^^.

    Goulven.

  12. Sigur says:

    Yeah, the debate about the law here in Austria which covers the banning of Nazi symbols (amongst other, more important things) is coming up every few years. Personally I think that the ban is justified but that’s beside the point.

    Very nice posting, rich, and cool conversions. It’s great to see how you’re really enthusiastic about every aspect of wargaming, including writing rules of course. Very inspirational. In fact, just two weeks ago, one of your postings about the Salute preparations inspired me to make a little turnip field late at night, using the hot glue gun method. Worked well.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. While Volkssturm certainly makes for an interesting support choice I appreciate that, by the looks of it, there won’t be a whole Volkssturm list. It wouldn’t make much sense in my opinion too because there hardly was much command and control in these formations I think.

    I would like to second Sire Godefroy’s comment on wargaming in Germany and Austria. Like with many good things, and beyond the horrible crimes that come to mind first, the Nazis spoilt a LOT of things in society. WW2 basically ended with a massive rupture in life, cultures and societies in Germany and Austria, with it of course (certainly along with WW1) any military tradition and of course society’s views on war changed massively. Not that I think that German or Austrian people were any more warlike than other people in Europe, but especially though the civil movements of 1968 any sort of war toy was abhorred. I was born in 1983 and my parents were rather cautious about not getting me any toy guns. Early on at least.

    Anyway, ww2 wargaming in German speaking areas still is a topic of its very own. There still are incidents of people getting outraged at gaming stores if they’ve got any Flames of War German stuff on display too prominently for example. Of course these people usually are of the rather uninformed kind who get into moral outrage mode rather easily but it still does happen. It’s just this or the upcoming generation that’s getting more “comfortable” with wargaming as such.

    It’s one of those very central topics to wargaming, and a fascinating one too. But it’s also one of those things everybody has to decide for himself. I absoultely get your point, Rich, and Volkssturm does make for a great modelling project. There are tons of things I’d like to do before I plan to do any Volkssturm though. 🙂 Your article is greatly enjoyed though, thanks.

  13. Peter says:

    Great modelling, thought-provoking ideas AND estate agency? You don’t fight crime and leap tall buildings in a single bound as well do you? Seriously, very interesting post and I also am sure that the figures are Musketeer Miniatures IRA, which can be found via the Gripping Beast site in their Inter War/ AVBCW range.

  14. PatG says:

    Late to the party as usual. 😉

    This is an excellent project. One of the reasons for historical gaming is to explore and understand the actual history. Putting Volkssturm on the table illustrates that the German warmachine wasn’t all Tigers and Stormtroopers.

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