Great Aunt’s Glider: Women’s Day 2019

Thought I’d post on International Women’s Day by featuring an image that I came across a few years ago of my late Great Aunt. Hilda passed away suddenly in hospital a few years ago at the age of 99. Found in her pocket at the time was a ticket for another solo trip away on holiday, which perhaps gives an idea of just how astonishingly active, vigorously alert and fiercely independent she was right up to the very end of her long life.

After the early death of her husband, she lived alone for many years until her death in late 2014 and when we took steps to clear her house, the photo shown below was discovered.

A small cross has been etched on the photo right in front of a lady sitting far left.

I now believe it shows Hilda with other employees at Boulton-Paul Aircraft Ltd in front of a large glider, possibly an Airspeed AS.51 Horsa, of the kind employed in Operations Overlord and Market Garden. From the diagram below, the similarity to the aircraft seen in Hilda’s photo is clear.

My mother informed me at the time that she knew Great Aunt Hilda was an inspector at a war time glider factory, and was sending the original photo to the Royal Air Force museum in London who had no photos of Melton Mowbray’s aircraft war work and were very pleased to add this to the collection.

Hilda’s side of my family are from Melton Mowbray. I found the following account from Melton resident Ray Lucas, a schoolboy during the war;

When I started work, I went to the Boulton and Paul works in the town [Melton Mowbray] as an apprentice carpenter. We were making the front end of Horsa gliders like the ones used in the D-Day landings. (From “A Boy in Melton Mowbray” by actexplorer).

Paratroops leaving a Horsa glider. By Official British Government Photographer – This is photograph TR 1046 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6881959

It’s easy to overlook the huge and varied contribution of women to the war effort in WWII, from military roles (see my FEMbruary WRNS), to Land Girls (see Man of Tin’s FEMbruary figures) and munition or aircraft factory workers or inspectors like Hilda.

From this old photo, Hilda appears to be the only one looking away from the birdie, adjusting her shoe! Fiercely independent, at her funeral, Hilda was rightly described by my mother as a ‘proper lady’. On International Women’s Day this blog pays tribute to her, and others like her, who contributed so much to the war effort in the Second World War.


‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

FEMbruary 2019: Soviet Sniper Sisters in the Snow

For my final submission for FEMbruary, I’ve been tackling Bad Squiddo Games’ WWII female snipers. Bad Squiddo do an amazing range of soviet soldier women including all-women infantry squads with rifles or SMGs, scouts, medics, tank riders, heavy machine gun teams, mortar teams and even flame throwers.

My second FEMbruary 2019 submission – a female soviet sniper squad!

Bad Squiddo also do sniper teams like mine, including other non-winter duos. Coincidentally, Mark at Man of Tin blog has been tackling Bad Squiddo’s female soviet command set for FEMbruary too, whilst also setting himself a FEMbruary challenge read that resonates perfectly with my sniper women figures – The Unwomanly Face of War, an oral history of Russian women in WW2.

The two figures fit well together, with one lady calling out and pointing, while her comrade stands poised ready to act on her advice.

Svetlana the Spotter:

Individually, I like this figure’s face with her hair falling out from under her fur hat. She holds a pair of binoculars by which she has clearly identified a target. I painted the eyeglass parts for these in silver, in a rare use of bright colour.

Over her shoulder is a sub-machine gun, which I’ll tentatively identify as a PPSh-41 (aka “pepesha”) with a drum magazine.

Lyudmila the Sniper:

Lyudmila is depicted holding her weapon as if in readiness to select a target. The rifle could be anything under that wrapping so I’ll randomly call it a Tokarev SVT-40 (aka the “Sveta”), which I know the female soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko once used.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the most successful female sniper in history. Her memoirs entitled “Lady Death” have been very recently published in English for the first time by Greenhill Books. A well-educated lady who later became an historian, Pavlichenko was eventually withdrawn from combat because of her growing status. She was subsequently fêted by the allies (touring both the US and Great Britain) as well as being honoured by her mother country.

Lyudmila’s SVT-40 rifle appears to be smothered by some covering which may have acted as some sort of sound suppressor, or at the very least I would have thought, camouflage.

These two sculpts are so good that even a guy not at all used to painting WWII figures, never mind female snipers in 28mm metal, finds himself terribly tempted to build up my collection of these soviet women even more. As I’ve already got a huge army of unpainted figures – I don’t need more temptation, dammit!

And with those completed figures, I bow out out of FEMbruary 2019. I must say that I’m very pleased with my submission of figures; the locally made M.J. Mode 54mm Wrens and these fabulously sculpted Bad Squiddo snipers. Imperial Rebel Ork and Man of Tin have been busy also and I urge you to keep an eye out for more updates on Alex at Leadballoony blog for his and other submissions!

Dutch Infantry Cyclists

Well, this has been a challenge! My contribution to the Bennos Figures Forum group build has seen me well out of my comfort zone. Metal figures, the WWII era, civilians, never mind those bicycles, none of these are something I’m used to painting!

I’m finding that metal figures at 1/72 scale don’t enjoy the same level of detail as plastic figures. My usual approach to painting is to reveal the detail that the sculptor has provided his model with by a careful application of shading. With the same high-level of detail as plastic figures being unavoidably absent for metal ones, I’ve come to the realisation that a slightly different approach is needed. It’s the kind of painting development which takes time to develop through experience, but I don’t have the time as I’m on a deadline for the Group Build!

Dutch 9

So, I’ve just had to go with what I’ve got. I hope I’ve not done Early War Miniatures an injustice as I send them over to Europe to join the other figures in the project. Here they are as they get close to completion. Amongst other things, I’ve still got to paint and glue on their rifles, but I’ll do them last as they look a little fragile.

The Cyclists:

The Civilians:

Dutch 6

The scene: One cyclist dismounts to speak to the young blond lady that’s caught his eye…

I’m hoping that group build ‘project lead’ Jan will provide the diorama itself, using my figures in something like the set up shown above. Once these are finished, I’ll send them over to Germany for him to work his magic!

The Road to Arnhem!

At last! My figures from Early War Miniatures have finally arrived. These are metal 1/72 scale Dutch infantry cyclists from (as the manufacturer’s name suggests) the early period of WWII, prior to the German invasion of the low countries.

They are going to be my contribution to the latest Benno’s Figures Forum group build project for 2016. Last year featured a build to commemorate the 200th anniersary of the Battle of Waterloo and inspired my subsequent Nappy Cavalry Project. This year, project lead Mabo has come up with the following idea which he’s called “The Road to Arnhem”.

My idea is to create a special diorama, that features an ideal of a street leading to Arnhem, the home of the FIGZ, throughout all time periods. So in the end we will have parts that are 10 square centimetre and [are put] together in a long row sorted into time periods.

Think about scenes that could have happened: Stone age people hunting, Celts riding, Romans, exploring, Franks travelling, Knights fighting, medival people discussing, Bandit waiting for a treasurer, Landsknechts resting, civilians farming, British troops travelling to Hannover, Nappies running around everywhere, the Great War, A Bridge to far and finally the modern times…

So, with that in mind, here is my idea… The year is 1940, it is during the period of the so-called ‘phoney war’ and in these uneasy times a small Dutch infantry platoon of cyclists is out on manoeuvres near Arnhem…

You’ll see a couple of ‘stunt cyclists’ in the above pictures which, ah, probably won’t be included. I’m now waiting for some paints to come through to help me with the Dutch army uniform (for which great advice I must thank my Dutch friend Michael from Benno’s Forum). I’ve also ordered some civilian figures which I hope might act as bystanders and which will hopefully help me provide some sort of narrative. Perhaps one of the cyclists dismounts and speaks to a young lady who catches his eye?

And in other news… I’ve been asked to produce some painted figures for the young son of a friend. Not sure what to paint at the moment, though something Napoleonic seems to be the brief. With so much on here at Suburban Militarism, I’m going to be hard pushed to find time, though of course I’m very happy to make this a priority. After all, I could be encouraging a modeller or wargamer of the future!