Monday, February 22, 2021

Canadian 6 pounder with Sniper Team

Gosh, I've had these minis primed, waiting on pill containers, for years! Time to get them done up.

Being easily entertained, I often collect and paint stuff inspired from books, movies or graphic novels. So this group of miniatures follows suit. 

I sought out these models after reading Mark Zuehlke's 'Ortona', which provides a great history of the 'Little Stalingrad' Canadians fought in order to take the Italian coastal town of Ortona in December, 1943.

The house-to-house fighting experienced in Ortona was so fierce that the Canadians brought forward their 6-pounder anti-tank guns to help reduce Fallshirmjager strong-points. The guns were positioned in a flanking position on the town's pier and coastal mole, allowing them to have a clear line-of-sight to enemy positions in Ortona. 

A 6-Pounder in action in Ortona, December 1943

The downside to this was that, with very little cover, the gun's crews were terribly exposed to German artillery fire. The Canadian gunners found that they had to scamper from their 6-pounders as enemy shells whistled in, and then dash back to quickly re-lay their guns and fire off a few shots before, once again, running back for cover.

Into this story comes Private Howard Mabley.  A country boy from Peace River, Alberta. Mabley was one of those recruits who, no matter how hard his drill instructors tried, could not learn the fundamentals of being an infantryman. It wasn't that he was disrespectful, he just couldn't retain the skills. Finally his officers gave up in frustration and sent Mabley to the regiment's kitchens to help there. 

So it came somewhat as a surprise that an officer found Mabley, under fire, happily loading one of the anti-tank guns. The officer upbraided the sergeant commanding the gun for having a cook there, but was told that Mabley could not be deterred, desperately wanting to help his mates in the fighting. The gunner went on to say that he never saw loading done so quickly and without mishap. 'Eight hundred rounds when through that gun and every shell was loaded by Mabley.' He served as loader for the rest of the battle, permanently loosing his hearing from the firing of the gun. 

These are 20mm figures from AB Miniatures. All of them, exquisite castings. The 6-pounder is from Empress Miniatures and fits perfectly with the gunners. 

As an interesting side-note, the Canadian version of the 6-pounder had it's gun manufactured in Longueuil, Quebec, whereas the carriages were made right here in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Finally, to finish off, I'm including a prone Canadian sniper team, searching for targets in the rubble. 

Another set from AB. Not as crisply realized as their usual fair, but still more than serviceable.

- Curt