Tuesday, 9 April 2013

28mm South African Infantry: Italy 1944

I had a very clear goal when I first (re)started WW2 skirmish wargaming: to create a South African force for gaming the East African Campaign of 1940-41. I soon discovered that while suitable models were available to represent British, Italian, Indian, Eritrean, Somali and Ethiopian forces of the conflict, no (or few) miniatures existed that could represent Union Defence Force soldiers of that period. Realising that my initial choice would need conversion and sculpting skills way beyond what I could handle, I turned my attention to my second choice: a force representing part of the SA 6th Armoured Division in Italy 1944.

Its been an great introduction to the hobby. Being mostly equipped with British, Canadian and American kit, its a force that can be easily built from a huge selection of miniatures from various suppliers. Yet its a force that has not attracted the attention of many (any?) wargaming publishers, and getting an understanding of their campaign has meant delving into the history books. Along the way it has challenged me to research way deeper than I had expected before I started, and my enthusiasm for the project continues to grow.

My original intention was to restrict my collection to literally one squad and a few supports, for use with skirmish rules. But currently I am working towards expanding the force to fit into  "Platoon Plus" sized games: Victory Decision, Bolt Action, Disposable Heroes and the like. The force is very much a Work in Progress.

By way of introduction, shown here are the first two squads of infantry, and a few supports. I have attempted to represent units of the First City/Cape Town Highlanders, a temporary amalgamation of the two regiments that existed only for the Italian campaign as part of the 12th Motorised Brigade. (One company of the Southern Rhodesian Defence Force also served as part of the combined unit.) The Vickers MG team would more likely have been a Royal Durban Light Infantry unit, as they provided the heavy weapon support company for the FC/CTH, despite my modelling the NCO wearing the tam-o-shater.

Officers and NCO's

Rifle Section

Bren Section
Vickers MG Team
Platoon specialist and supports

6-pdr QF antitank gun of the 1st/11th, South African Artillery

Artillery HQ jeep, with Cape Corp driver

I have added a project page here, which I will use to collate references and resources associated with the project. By way of making a start, I have included some uniform reference pix, which tend to suggest that uniform regulations were, at best, "mere guidelines".

All figures are either Warlord Games/Bolt Action or Artizan Designs. 6-pdr crew are a mashup of Warlord Zulu torsos and British Infantry heads/legs.


  1. My grandfather was a tank gunner with the 6th Armoured in North Africa and Italy.I must see if I can find his old pics.

  2. Would be great to see those, Mike! The generation of South Africans that fought in Italy is fading fast, and we need to preserve their record where we can.

  3. Enjoyed reading about all your work on the 6th SA, I built it as my 20mm Allied force many years ago, its a great combo of Commonwealth, US (and Indian) troops & kit - but info was very sparse back then so I made quite a few errors in depicting them!

    Anyway I have just started a 28mm project for Bolt Action and was motivated by your work (and all the reference material around these days) to do the 6th SA for this - as you say, the camo is very different.

    As to the halftracks, I have 3 models in use by my platoon of ILH/KR so of course they had them :)

    One thing I did read many years back is that they used the Dodge 3/4 tonner (the "Beep") and the Marmon Herringon Mk IV armoured car, dunno if you have sen anything on those

    1. Hiya. Thanks very much for the kind comments. There are a few pix of the SA 6th using Beeps (WC-52) , but they dont appear to have been very common. The ambulance variation proved vary popular with the Saffa medical teams, but Marshall indicates only 8 of those were issued. Lots of other Dodge truck variants in use (D-60 especially numerous - over 1200 issued. As for the Marmon-Herrington IV, I dont think they made it to Italy - certainly no photographic evidence I have seen. Saffas did use Greyhounds (and the M20 variant), Staghounds, Humbers, Daimlers, and White Scout Cars.