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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bolt Action - Pacific Native Irregulars

By Bryan & Patch

The Empires in flames campaign book for the Pacific and Far East introduced some new and interesting units for the Allied and Japanese armies. One available to all armies is the 'Native Irregulars' infantry squad. This unit is deliberately designed to cover all manner of locally recruited forces throughout the Pacific and Far East. One such unit I have decided to paint up for my Australian army is the Papuan Infantry Battalion.

Empires in Flames additional unit

In Bolt Action terms this unit (on page 79) has several options and some very cool special rules. It is an infantry squad of 3-10 men, and can be taken as inexperienced, regular or veteran. All models are armed with rifles, with the leader having the option of taking an SMG. That's it equipment wise, but now come the special rules that offer Allied and Japanese armies something tactically different.

The Native Irregulars have three special rules; Forward Deployment, Field craft and Infiltration. This allows the unit to forward deploy like snipers and observers, so they will be deploying up to the halfway line on a table and starting the game Hidden. Add to this they will ignore movement penalties from terrain in turn one if they move, don't suffer the -1 when outflanking and they can begin the game in Ambush if so desired. This unit really adds a valuable unit option to British (and the Commonwealth), Chinese and Japanese players. One point I might add is these special abilities seem to cost the unit no additional points. They cost the same as normal inexperienced, regular or veteran riflemen. I think this is a mistake, as a similar unit in the Chinese list with the same abilities costs +2pts more per man. If you are feeling gentlemanly than I would add this in as Warlord Games have stated they won't be errata'ing the theatre books.

Australians in the Pacific

My first Bolt Action army was the 'Diggers' of the Australian 9th Division in New Guinea. You can see the initial platoon here. So with this new unit now available as an option I had the perfect unit in mind to represent it, the Papuan Infantry Battalion. The Australians fought alongside their local comrades in arms all through the various campaigns against the Japanese in Papua, New Guinea and Bougainville from 1942-45.

The Australian army organised and led the Papuan troops as you see above, an Australian NCO leading 'A' Company of the 1st Papuan Infantry Battalion on a patrol.

The Papuan Infantry Battalion 1940-46

This unit was formed in 1940 by the Australian administrators of New Guinea (New Guinea had been a protectorate of Australian after it was taken from the Germans in WW1). Recruitment and training was sped up after the entry of Imperial Japan into the war. After Singapore fell it was not long before New Guinea was invaded and Japanese troops landed on her north coast, establishing fortified beach heads before pushing inland toward vital airfields and the capital, Port Moresby.

The Papuan Infantry Battalion proved to be excellent scouts, and were very hard for the Japanese to catch in an ambush. Many of it's members were in close contact with the enemy from the beginning of the New Guinea campaign. The Battalion had a somewhat shaky start which saw many 'take to the bush' and scatter after the first battles with the Japanese task force, which vastly outnumbered the tiny and spread out Allied forces in their path. But as the unit gained experience and resources it quickly became masters of jungle warfare, with a formidable reputation of ferociousness and tenacity amongst their Japanese enemy. 

Take for example 'A' Company, 1st Papuan Battalion, which had an impressive tally of 500 Japanese troops killed in it's operations. Corporal Sala (left) accounting for 36 of the enemy himself. William Matpi (right) had 110 Japanese to his credit, and was recommended for the DCM for courage and initiative in a series of actions. They are armed with the rather unique looking Australian-made SMG, the Owen gun. This weapon had a reputation of working even if full of mud and was simple and robust, a very reliable jungle fighting weapon that stayed in service with the Australian Army up until Vietnam in the 1960's.

Miniature option 1 - Brigade Games pacific Island natives

It is time to bring this little known Allied unit of the war to life in miniature. Currently there are two options for miniatures available to the Bolt Action player in 28mm. First is the Brigade Games range 'Diggers in the Pacific'. They offer various packs of Pacific Island Native Infantry. One has a pack of 4 with rifles. Another offers 4 with SMG, which includes a mix of two Owen guns and two Thompsons. These are the packs you want to make your squads. The sections were often led by Australian NCO's so you can also pick these up in the same range.

These are miniatures I used for my 2 sections of the Papuan Infantry Battalion. I did add a few extra ammo pouches and remove some bayonets to create a but more variety as there are only 4 rifle poses.

I found the Brigade Games miniatures to be fairly good castes with minimal flash and clean up. I like how the unit turned out despite the limited variety of poses.

Miniature option 2 - Pulp figures Islander Provisional fighters

Your second option for Papuan troops is the Pulp Figures 'Savage Seas' range which features the Islander provisional fighters pack. Here you see Patch's first squad of Papuans ready to take the fight to the Japanese.

These miniatures from the Pulp range are heroic 28mm scale so will seamlessly mix in with most other manufacturers such as Warlord Games. They are very clean, well sculpted and easy to paint. In these examples I have used a dark flesh tone on a white base, highlighted up with tan. They come in a pack of five with four rifles and a shotgun so the only downside is that there is a limited range

Additional miniatures

The Brigade Games range also covers the other, arguably more vital, role the local Papuan men played in fighting the war. Medical evacuation and supply. Thousands of Australian lives were saved by the hard labour of these men. With no roads to allow vehicles to travel, all wounded had to be carried out by stretcher to the field hospitals. The remote battlefields in mountain ranges often meant long, arduous journeys to get medical care, sometimes as much as a week in the case of the Kokoda battles.

Brigade Games range includes this great stretcher bearer set you see below, as well as a set of porters carrying supplies. With no vehicles, all ammunition, medical supplies and food had to be carried in on the backs of men or air dropped. The Allied campaigns in New Guinea owe much to the efforts of these men.

I found it very rewarding to recreate this almost unknown unit from history in miniature. I am also looking forward to trying out these infiltrating scouts in my games of Bolt Action. Are you running this new unit in your army? Maybe as Burmese scouts? post them on the forum below:


Kevin Kortekaas said...

Masterfully done.

Josh said...

Great work. I have most of the same mini's. I love my Native Irregulars. As regulars they do a damn fine job of holding ground while in cover and they can really disrupt an opponents strategy w/ the forward deployment. It's also great to see the "unsung" heroes and people of color being represented on the table top. Cheers!

Bryza said...

Yes exactly Josh! I was really lucky to find that there was a range of figures out there for them. I trekked some of the battelefields in New Guinea and even met one of these veterans, amazing people. Thought this would be interesting corner of history and gaming to shine a light on.

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