Bolt Action British Airborne

I spend far more time building up gaming armies than actually using them on the table.  For Bolt Action I can now field the following armies all at the same time and all at least 1,000 points, fully painted and based.  Dad’s Army (used at Britcon 2015 with predictable failure, I had played the rules twice before the tourney), my 1st Bolt Action army, inspired by and built around the Foundry Home Guard Heroes range.  German, mostly Black Tree models and built up as historical opponents to the Home Guard.  Fallschirmjager (yet to see action), more Black Tree and planned as a more apt opposition to the Home Guard.  Oddly these figures wear the early pattern ‘short shorts’ jump smock but are largely armed with late war assault rifles providing a conundrum as where to best use them.  Soviet Russians, the army that I am most likely to use in a game where I entertain some hope of winning.  British in Jungle Green for Burma (used once), a temptation from the old Ian Allen shop in Manchester that was selling off the figures.  Japanese, my least favoured army (used twice) bought to give the Jungle Green British something to do.

The Airborne (I see them being used as glider troops) were inspired by an eBay auction which I won but the seller then decided to cancel and re-list.  Morally this should be outlawed but it has happened to me twice.  The excuse in this case being that the goods had been listed as ‘buy it now’ but should have been an auction item.  My thoughts had been that the low price might have been due to a falling out with the ‘significant other’.  Anyhow having lit up the mental light bulb up I ordered enough Black Tree airborne to fill out the army.  With the original eBay purchase off the agenda I bought more figures from Artisan/North Star, Warlord and 1st Corps to complete the force.

My basic preparation style is to get the lead on the table looking good enough but not spending too much time on it.  In the past I painted eyes and eyebrows on 15mms, I still have many of those figures, remember painting the detail but cannot see it even with a magnifying glass.  In 25mms (still smaller than modern 28mms) I painted eyes and eyeballs plus shields and heraldic designs.  Now a  painted slit for the eye and and another for the eyebrow is the best figures get except for darker skinned negroes where a black eye on dark brown skin does not work.  They are upgraded to white eyes with black pupils.  One advantage of camouflage colours is that there is no nasty piping or colours and cuffs to slow down the progress.  With fading and limited quality control there are no worries about getting an exact colour match either.

All the manufacturers figures arrived in 1-2 weeks.  I will use these Black Tree figures to outline the preparation process.  I have quite a few Black Tree models, WW2 and Medieval and the pose quality does vary a bit.  These paratroopers are excellent, minimal flash and lovely poses.  The models were painted in a single batch of 20, doing 1 colour or step on all the models in turn then moving on.  Here they are cleaned up and based.  Anything that needs gluing gets done now.  The premise is that sticking metal to metal or plastic will be longer lasting than sticking paint to paint.  The PIAT has been made up with Warlord British bits.  Black Tree don’t do a PIAT nor an Airborne with a bren.


Next it all gets an undercoat.  The paras in brown as that fits well with their battledress.  The tetrarch in black because black spray is cheaper than brown.


The first stage of painting does not worry too much about keeping within the lines.


Hitting with satin floor varnish picks up more detail but does make the minis shine.  The paint needs to be definately dry before hitting with the water based dip.  I leave it 24 hours unless the weather is unusually warm.  As the Basetex takes a while to dry that has been put on at this stage as well.


The dip hides some mistakes but picks up others.  The dip needs another day or so to dry.  The mistakes are then corrected, bits that have become too dark painted over and highlights picked out in the original or a lightened colour.  Details that the dip would block out such as cap badges and rank insignia are also painted on after the dip stage.

After tidying up the figure matt varnish will dull the whole effect.  This image shows miniatures tidied up but before and after the matt varnish.  I have had too many cases of spray varnish giving a frosted or milky effect.  In this case I have gone for Winsor and Newton Galeria Matt Acrylic Varnish carefully brushed on.  Below is a matted and gloss trooper side by side.  The matt was a bit of a mixed bag.  In some cases very little dulling occurred and in others there was some milky pooling that needed painting over.


After the glue has dried (another 24 hours), static grass is attached by soaking the sand base in more dip and sprinking on the  grass.  Having glue sticking the sand down from underneath then later sinking more glue-like varnish from on top encourages the sand and flock to stay put.  If the sand layer is not completely fixed before the dip stage goes down the sand will simply lift off again.

The packages were ordered close to New Years Day and were ready to play with on the 18th January.  Apart from waiting for the figures to arrive the main delay was thorough drying time between paint, dip, more paint, matt varnish, sand then flock on bases.  In dry Summer weather this time delay can be reduced to a few hours each but rushing the job can see one layer pulling the previous layer off as all stages bar the undercoat are water based.  There is little real delay as while 1 batch is waiting to dry another moves into production.  This particular army was handled in 4 batches, the Black Tree infantry (20 figures), Warlord and Artisan infantry (20) figures, Warlord and Artisan guns and crew then finally 1st Corps gun and jeeps.

I have ended up with enough troops for 4 sections of 8 men (2 with brens, the other 2 bren teams must be on the jeeps), a PIAT, 2 flamethrowers, 2 medium mortars, 1 pack howitzer, 1 6 pounder, 2 jeeps with twin Vickers and a Tetrarch. There are also a 5 odd figures for officers’ mates and spotters. This is plenty for 1,000 point Bolt Action lists in the Normandy or Market Garden selectors although not at the same time.  I already have some other British troops such as a sniper and unarmed jeeps that will probably end up in action with the paras.


Here are close ups of the right most squads:


And those to the left of field:


The PIAT is a middling choice as with a range of 12″ it will usually be hitting at 5+ (long range + moved or soft cover).  If it does get that close and misses the target will probably put 6 German MMG shots back at it, moving out of PIAT range first (6 * 4 or 5+, moved with possible cover).  The army has very little anti-tank, the howitzer is good as Bolt Action treats it as a 25 pounder (minus gun shield, 66 points veteran) so it can fire HE (2″) or anti-tank (+4) almost as well as the 6 pounder (90 points veteran, +5 and 1″ HE).  Plus the Howitzer is smaller so may be easier to hide.  Another approach is that for less than the cost of the 6 pounder all the infantry can have Gammon bombs (2 points per man, 64 for all 4 8-man squads).  This is exactly what was used at Pegasus Bridge but that action did begin at night.

The front mortar here is Artisan, the one at the back Warlord.  The Howitzer is Warlord and the 6 pounder 1st Corps.


The Flames of War site has a nice briefing of the 6th Airborne Recce Regiment that highlights some of the historical support available.  Airborne on Universal carriers is a viable option from my existing models as is a Daimler Armoured car (from an integral Belgian unit).  The Daimler (115 points regular) has the same turret as the Tetrarch (120 points regular with Little John adaptor) but has the recce rule that the tank does not.  For a proper tank I should be going for a Cromwell, something that I do not possess.  I am waiting for some more formation transfers to arrive to finally sign off the Tetrarch.


The jeeps are iconic airborne.  The 2 armed jeeps here are 1st Corps with a Matchbox conversion in the middle.  I may yet do some Dremel surgery on the matchbox driver’s head (he is a Warlord American with a plastic bare head and some green stuff work).  The 1st Corps jeeps are the same length as the Matchbox but narrower.


A glider would be handy, Grand Manner do a 28mm Horsa in resin and Fiddlers Green a paper Horsa but that would need to be upscaled from HO.  The major issue of having a glider is that one is not going to be enough and where would I store them?


One thought on “Bolt Action British Airborne

  1. Good work. We use 1/72 Horsas and they look fine crashed on the deck – you can see at least one in one of my site articles for Warlord. We stuck ours on large scenic bases and all of them fit into a modest storage box (tesco) with a couple of layers of bubble wrap.


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