The WWI Serbian Campaign

A military campaign of any significance takes some considerable logistical organisation and resources. This is also the case with any military modelling ‘campaign’ and my latest venture certainly falls into this category given that it requires the painting of over 100 figures.

Strelets Austrian WWI Infantry

I’ve been asked to help out with a diorama as part of a wider project, the full details of which I must hold back on for the time being. The diorama will feature an encounter between Austrians and Serbians during the First World War. For the Austrians, I am using Strelets WWI Austrian Infantry figures. Unfortunately, this set has been out of production for some time and so I’ve simply made use of the one box I had available. Twenty two of the figures I had painted back in 2018 and the remainder were kept back in storage.

The uniform colour of the Austro-Hungarian troops was known as ‘Pike Grey’, a fairly nebulous shade which I eventually approximated by mixing some of my existing colours together. Thankfully, I kept the tiny pot of my mixed Pike Grey shade aside and had just enough left for these remaining unpainted figures, thereby keeping the shade of the 2018 and 2021 vintage figures very consistent.

Above is the 2021 batch of Strelets Austrian infantry. I just need to add their regimental colour flash to the collars. I’ll be using a source book to help me decide what colour to use for what regiment. The 2018 figures I painted represented the Pucherna infantry regiment of Transylvania with yellow collars.

The original 22 figures were fully based (rather nicely though I say so myself), but the customer of these figures would prefer them pinned for use in the diorama with no bases. For someone as ham-fisted as myself, this presents a logistical and physical challenge. I need Pat from Pat’s 1:72 Military Dioramas here, the expert on pinning small scale figures such as these! Thankfully, he has a post explaining how he does it. He makes it look so easy, but I’m so clumsy at such things that after having a go (to the sound of much of foul cursing) I can confirm that it absolutely is not! Extracting the already based ones will be particularly tricky, I suspect.

The dioramist also queried whether it would be possible to include a flag bearer for both forces. The only figure that might fit the bill for the Austrians as a conversion I think would be an officer. Conversions, never mind pinning, is really stretching my limited model making abilities, I confess, but I’ll have a go!

Aside from the Austrians, I of course need to produce a similar number of Serbian infantry. I’ll be using figures once again from Strelets; their “Serbian Infantry in Winter Uniform” set. The set included both early and late war versions of these troops. As the dioramist requires only the early war figures wearing the famous Serbian šajkača hat, I’ve used two boxes to provide a sufficient number. Good news for the Serbs, as they will now outnumber the invading Austrian K & K army!

Two elderly Serbian men mobilized into World War I (1914). The first soldier (reservist, on the left) is wearing standard soldiers type. The second is wearing the officer’s version. Unknown Serbian photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Serbian troops will also require pinning, of course, so I’ll be getting plenty of much needed experience with my hand drill and work bench. I’ve also ordered some thin wire to create the pins themselves.

Preparation for painting includes initial cleaning with detergent, adding a layer of PVA glue and then adding a coat of paint to act as a primer. The Serb uniform, like the Pike Grey of the Austro-Hungarians, is another with a specific but vague shade to replicate. I posted about my research on the uniform at the time which had the uniform colour variously described by sources as being ‘khaki’, ‘green-grey’ and ‘olive-grey! Unfortunately, I don’t this time have a handy pot of the original ready-mixed paint to hand. I do, however, find that I had left myself some handy instructions all about the mix I used at the time, back in 2018.

“A mix of Vallejo’s “Green-Grey 886” and a little added grey – possibly Neutral Grey 992 (possibly in a 2:1 mix)…”

There is too much use of the word ‘possibly’ in there for confidence, suggesting I couldn’t quite remember what I’d used whenever I wrote it down, but at least it’s a start!

I’ll update on progress on this blog. Given the number of troops involved and the pinning/conversion challenges, it could be a long ‘campaign’!

17 thoughts on “The WWI Serbian Campaign

  1. Sounds like an interesting project and I really like your Austrians! 🙂 I have some early war Austrians in metal by Irregular Miniatures and IT Miniatures and I think I decided to mix Pike Grey from Humbrol RAF Blue Grey with some light grey in it, but your figures look spot on. I’ve also got some Balkan War Serbians to paint at some point (from Lancer Miniatures) so I’ll be interested in your progress – I’m thinking about using Vallejo WW2 Russian khaki for them (and WW1 Russians) since it seems to be more of a grey green version of khaki) but I’m not sure yet!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks John, if you think my Pike Grey looks spot on then that’s good enough for me!

      I corresponded back in 2018 with someone who runs a twitter account – I think called Pike Grey – dedicated to the Austro-Hungarians of WWI. He suggested that industrial challenges securing dye, etc meant that the actual shade of Pike Grey was many things in reality, more varied than perhaps most of the other protagonists of WWI. So don’t sweat on the shade seemed to be his message.

      I look forward to seeing what you do with the Austrians and Serbs from Irregular and Lancer Miniatures!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha ha! Thanks for the mention mate 🤓I feel that one improves there pinning skills after one tires of the pain🥴. I’m not sure if you are interested but there is s guy in Germany that has s set up for sale , he hasn’t any bids yet , it’s starting at 9 euros , his call sign is hhei32 just in case you are. Cheers Pat

    Liked by 3 people

    1. No pain, no gain, Haha! 🙂 Thanks for the tip, Pat mate, but I think I’ve probably done with Austrians for now or I’ll never get on to those Serbs… and there are plenty of those to do!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha Ha ! I’m sure you have enough on your plate matey ! Your mention of having clumsy fingers reminds me of my pommy mate ( grandson of the Captain of the Titanic ) who was given a model vehicle , one that he loved. I asked him some time later how he was going with it to which he replied “my bloody fingers are to big to even try assembling it” to which I replied “we will keep that one to ourselves because maybe your Grandfather was at the helm at the time of the collision!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes! By pinning, does that mean drilling holes in the feet and inserting pins? I would worry about doing that post-painting – I would be afraid that it would destroy your beautiful paint job.
    Regarding thin wire, I have been using guitar wire (unwinding the covering wire) at the recommendation of a modeller friend of mine. Fortunately I have a guitarist friend as well, so old strings aren’t a problem.
    The new figures look great, by the way. I look forward to hearing and seeing more of the diorama when more can be revealed.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Bill!

      Yes, it does mean exactly that! And yes, yikes was my response too – but I’m up for a challenge. If it’s just not happening then I’ll have to quit it. I did attempt it with one and got away with it amazingly, so there’s hope!

      Guitar wire is a good idea but I managed to source some similar gauge wire really cheaply without the wound covering wire, so problem solved.

      Will share more of the ultimate destination of these figures whenever I do get the nod, at the moment it’s for an evolving project that’s not been revealed publicly yet, so I must keep schtum. Not my strongest point!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Strelets early figures can look a bit of a plastic mess off the sprue but a bit of careful brushwork tends to reveal some interesting faces and poses. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have these (a long way off being painted) and they look great in the raw plastic, but wonderful with your superb paint work.
    I was really amused to read about your paint mixing and losing the notes; I have similar experiences if I mix stuff up as I go along (especially with brown colours). I am getting better at keeping notes to aid the memory!
    Regards, James

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi James, thanks for the praise, I really appreciate it.

      I generally don’t make notes about my colour choices, but in this instance I did. Trouble is – it wasn’t even correct and I had to take remedial action to get to the correct shade I wanted!




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