A few people out there might know that I’ve been working on adapting the “Winter Sports” article which Richard Clarke wrote for “Through the Mud and the Blood” into a larger mini-campaign in which the player, or players, take command of a platoon or company in the trenches on the Western Front. One of the aspects I’d like to include are the smaller missions and actions which an almost daily occurrence for the troops in the front line. Within that group I’m hoping to include a mission or two focusing on sniping.
I wasn’t previously aware that (like so much of the action in the War) sniping, and counter-sniping, evolved its own complex patterns and tactics. Sniping could disrupt formations under fire, inflict casualties and wreck any chance of an easy truce evolving between the front lines.
As one soldier wrote “The sniper is a very necessary person. He serves to remind us we are at war. Wherever a head, or anything resembling a head, shows itself, he fires. Were it not for his enthusiasm, both sides would be sitting upon their respective parapets regarding each other with frank curiosity, and that would never do” (“Trench Warfare: The Live and Let Live System”, page 57).
So, I felt I needed some snipers. There are some fine ones available from Great War Miniatures – four very nice German snipers and a British counterpart (which I’ve not yet painted). I also really like the British sniper set available from 1st Corps (which paint up well as snipers of any nationality). At first, I thought that the figures looked a little bit contemporary. However, a lot of the photos in the books mentioned below show that the art of camouflage was well understood by Great War snipers, with “ghillie suits” and loose hessian robes sewn with grass and tufts of green and brown material being worn by both snipers on both sides.
Here’s the 1st Corps snipers in unpainted form:
And here's two finished 1st Corps snipers painted as Germans with the Great War Miniatures German sniper set:
And here's the British snipers to balance up the numbers:
I tried to make sure that the snipers were painted in some random early camouflage pattern but, reasoning that there probably was no “pattern” as such, I just made it up.
I found the most useful and interesting book about sniping and sniper tactics to be Major H Hesketh-Pritchard’s “Sniping in France”, an auto-biographical account of establishing British sniping schools. Peter Senich’s “The German Sniper 1914-1945” was also good, but with far more material on the Second World War than the First. The Osprey “Military Sniper since 1914” by Martin Pegler is a handsome book, but his “Sniping in the Great War” adds much more detail, especially about the Commonwealth snipers.
“Through the Mud and the Blood” covers snipers and their weapons in a fairly abstract way, which I do not suggest anyone changes. But the individual art of sniping, although fascinating, is just part of a wider story of how snipers were deployed, and countered. I hope to offer more about that wider story in future blog posts.