Before adding the “Solid Water” to the terrain boards, I needed to paint them. I tried to aim for a muddy and slightly corrupted look to the terrain. I added in more green to the painting palette for the shell craters and shell holes surrounding the pillboxes with the aim in mind of representing the slime and horror of the dead pools bisected only by the shell craters and thin duckboard walkways.
The pillboxes were finished in a dull grey, representing the reinforced and prefabricated concrete. Sandbags, covering battle damage on the front face of the pillbox walls were finished in a dull cloth colour, punctured with bullet holes finished in black paint.
I picked out the circulated iron effects on the trench and pillbox walls in dark green or grey paint, with progressive highlighting.
The damaged and exposed steel lattice work in the reinforced concrete was painted at this stage, in a progressively lighter scheme of dark brown, rust, light rust and finally MIG pigment to give some texture. I also painted the trench access work to the rear of each pillbox...
Then came the big decision with the two pillboxes. Simply painting or some additional camouflage (camo-netting, mud, battlefield detritus) or both. I wanted the pillboxes to look realistic, but I also wanted them to catch the eye. There’s been a tension all through making terrain for the Great War between trying to represent something of the actual terrain, and also having a workable and attractive terrain on which players want to wargame on. A flat dark brown board of mud filled with dead figures and destruction would be sadly all to realistic – but I wonder whether anyone (including myself) would be wanting to play on such a terrain after a couple of games.
I mentioned near the start of this Blog about how I’d agonised over the decision to choose green, and not mud brown, as the base colour for the terrain boards. And I came back to that problem with the pill boxes.
Quite a few of the books I had looked through mentioned how difficult the pillboxes in the Ypres Salient had been to spot by the attackers. Although artillery shelling which hit the pillboxes had the effect of exposing fresh white concrete, German defenders were adept at covering the damage by night with mud, earth and tree branches. Although I didn’t come across many examples of pillboxes being painted routinely, I did come across some.
Perhaps equally to the point, as a wargamer I was keen to try some effect which would hopefully attempt to camouflage the pillboxes on the table but also be visually attractive and in keeping with the period. So, here’s what I came up with….
I felt that the colours chosen were in keeping with the German figures I had painted already, while the angular camouflage mimicked the effect on the Law War German stormtroopers’ helmets and even, just perhaps, some of the angular cubist art of the period. Best of all, perhaps, was that I felt I could always add camo-netting later after a few games if my clubmates or me disliked the camouflage effect after living with it for a while.
After the green camouflaging paint was applied, I added a few rust streaks to the pillboxes. This was another of those times when it really helped to be able to turn the pillbox inserts on their end to get a better painting angle….
I added some thinned black oil paint to the gutters of the access trenches by the side of the pill boxes…
… added some rust to the corrugated iron sheeting which had been used in the duckboard walkways between the flooded shell holes…added some of the same rust formula to the exposed barbed wire posts placed in some of the shell holes and also added some shading in very muddy brown paint to the duckboard planks….
Then, I did some light dry-brushing on the pillbox roofs (which broke up the camouflage paint again a little)…
… which left me with this as the finished painted effect across both boards. I was happy that the angular camouflage scheme seemed to blend in with the ground terrain when viewed from above.
This just left me with a little of the detailing on the boards themselves, namely the hand of one of the Fallen.
“There was no chance of getting wounded and getting a blighty one at Passchendaele. You could either get through or die, because if you got wounded and you slipped off the duckboards you just sank into the mud. Each side was a sea of mud. You stumbled and slid along. If you slipped you went up to the waist, not only that but in every pool you fell in there were decomposed bodies of humans and mules. If you were wounded and slipped off, well that was the end of you.” Warrant Officer Richard Tobin, Hood Battalion
I painted the sleeve uniform in the colours of neither side.
Next time, I’ll finish with micro-detailing, and the application of the “Solid Water” to the shell holes and craters.