Sunday, 29 January 2012

Callan Reports

'So Callan, what do you have for me?'

'Shannon left on the midday flight to Paris sir, he had a busy few days. As you instructed, I arranged for him to be kept under surveillance. I also took the opportunity to meet him.'

'You did what? That wasn't part of the plan - why on earth did you do that?'

'Well sir, I reckon that if someone is recruiting mercenaries and we want to know all about that the best approach is to be a prospective recruit isn't it?'

'Go on Callan'

'I called on of his partners mentioned in the file, the South African Dupree. I explained that I'd served in the Paras and that I was experiencing some difficulties in my personal life and an opportunity to earn some money abroad would be most welcome. Dupree was a little suspicious at first but I said I'd called the Camberly number that Banks was using and he struck me as a dreamer, but that he'd mentioned Dupree was in London. I told Dupree I'd got his number from an old comrade. Dupree didn't give me Shannon's name or number, just told me to meet him in a cafe in Kensington. I met them both. Dupree just introduced Shannon as his employer - no names, no pack drill. I explained I was looking for work and they told me they might have some in Africa.'

'Anything else?'

'Shannon called me yesterday. He said that he may have some work for me in about four weeks and was my passport up to date. I've also got some information from the surveillance - it's in my report sir. I reckon he met 30 blokes like me last week. If he takes on half of that lot and he's doing the same in Paris that's starting to be a nice little private army.'

'Hmmm...yes. Good work Callan. I'm going to have to think about this'

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Good Link

A very concise and even handed summary of the fighting in 1975-76 here:

Map showing the area some 200km south of Luanda, in which the Cubans managed to finally stop the South African advance, in December 1975. (Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003 software)

The accent is on the air war but the summary of events is very useful - as are the illustrations.

I have a MiG 21 and a Mirage to assemble and paint over the next couple of weeks so I'll be exploring this site in detail.

Training to Win

Cuban Instructors Training MPLA Cadre
'The training is going well Comrade Colonel, but I fear that time is not a luxury we have'

'Elaborate Major'

'We have small arms and equipment to train enough cadres to wage a guerilla war on a scale sufficient to successfully take on the FNLA and UNITA. My fear though is that, because our strength is in urban areas like Luanda, we'll end up fighting a conventional war. For that we need heavy weapons, armour and artillery. Even if we get them we aren't going to have enough time to train the men to fight with those weapons. UNITA is getting stronger and the FNLA is starting to probe in the north. If the South Africans move on Benguela we'll be fighting a war on three fronts. It looks bleak.'

'There is no prospect of heavier weapons being supplied. Things will have to get much worse before we commit to anything drastic. Your comments are helpful though. Write me a report - I particularly want hard information about UNITA. Where they are active and some assessment of numbers. In the meantime, keep running the programme - the more trained men we have the better.'

'Yes Comrade Colonel'

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Dirty Little Job

'This appeared in several of the national dailies in June'

'"Ex-Commandos, paratroopers, SAS troops wanted for interesting work abroad. Ring Camberly 3356". So what's it all about sir?'

'Apparently an ex-paratrooper by the name of Banks is recruting mercenaries for work in Africa Callan - he doesn't appear to have a contract but is offering his services to sundry African politicians. Special Branch have checked him out but they're not too concerned with him - they think he's a bit of a dreamer. This man, however, is a different beast altogether...'

'"Carlo Shannon, ex-Royal Marines, fought in the Congo and Biafra...intelligence indicates he was involved in an abortive coup planned to topple the government of Zangaro in 1972...may be active in Paris, recruiting mercenaries for employment in Northern Angola"...I don't get it sir, what's our interest?'

'Angola is going to be the next war in Africa Callan - the Portuguese are about to get out, the South Africans have already deployed troops across the Namibian border, there are rumours of Cuban  training camps operating in support of the Marxist so-called "liberation movement"...we're keeping an eye on any British nationals that get involved. The Americans are sending money and weapons, HMG wants to be sure that none of our people get in the way.'

'So what do you want me to do Sir?'

'Special Branch are handing over Shannon to us. I want you to keep an eye on him while he's London Callan.'

'Oh charming sir, you want me to tail an ex-commando whose a recruiting sergeant for some tinpot African wannabe?'

'Exactly Callan, Shannon lands this afternoon on a scheduled flight from Paris, Liz has all the details. He's booked in the Clarence Hotel in Kensington for a week. Watch him Callan...'

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Progress Report

I've finished painting the SADF/32 Battalion/Portuguese mercenary weapons & crews - HMGs, RRs and mortars. I'll post some pictures over the weekend. I'm particularly pleased with the camouflage uniforms and will note the colours I used here before I forget. Undercoat was black, then a base coat of Vajello Khaki, then patches and 'swirls' of Vajello  Camouflage Dark Green, then the same of Vajello Flat Earth. I painted the webbing olive green.

All I have to paint now are 16 'dead markers' i.e. figures and base up this week's work.

I've ordered some objective markers from Peter Pig - a destroyed T34, T55 and a Mercedes saloon as well as a few buildings from their AK47 Scenery Range. These should arrive in the next week or so.


I've also ordered some buildings from Timecast - shanties from their SE Asia range which look like they'll do equally well for Africa. This should give me more than enough buildings to represent a small town in rural Angola. As an experiment I've ordered a 15mm village of 'round grass huts' from Paper Terrain:

Round Grass Huts
This should provide all the buildings I'll need for the short term. I may have a go at making some generic damaged modern city blocks should the campaign move into Luanda - the South Africans or FNLA might get there in late '75 or early '76.
As far as figures and vehicles are concerned I have more than enough to play some test games. I have a few odds and ends of terrain to get but I'm on track to play my first game in mid February.
I'm tossing up whether to buy a few T34s for my Cuban/FAPLA army - I know these featured in some of the early battles and I'm definitely buying some SADF Ratel ICVs from QRF  for when I start gaming the '80s. Aside from that I fancy getting some odds and ends from Peter Pig like the Mr Arms Dealer, Media Crew and civilians (both rioting and peaceable) as I can use these for some scenarios I have in mind.
Back to work next week so progress on this project will inevitably slow but it's been a productive month.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

SADF Build Up

I've spent the last week painting dozens of SADF infantry and vehicles and here are some of the results:

Full marks to Peter Pig - these are lovely figures. I'm really pleased with the results. All figures were spayed matt black as an undercoat and after painting in the faces, hands and arms with Vajello Dark Flesh and dry brushing the hardware with Vajello Gunmetal Grey I painted the trousers and jackets/blouses Vajello English Uniform (which I reckon passes for SADF 'nutria') and the webbing Vajello Khaki. The helmeted figures had their battle bonnets dry brushed khki as well. A 25% brown acrylic ink wash did wonders to shade the figures and after varnishing with matte acrylic the job was done.

This week I'll do command figures, weapon crews (HMGs, mortars and RRs) an vehicles and crews.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Angola September 1975

Dear Jose,

Thank you for the postcard and telephone call.

Your Mother is delighted you are coming home.

Stay safe my son, we are all looking forward to seeing you soon.

Your Father,


Somewhere in Southern Angola September 1975

'Rhino, this is Streetgang, radio check- over'

'Steetgang, this is Rhino, copy- over'

Progress Report

Over the last couple of weeks I've completed all the Cuban/FAPLA infantry together with Mortars, Command and Recoiless Rifles. I've also painted all the South African infantry and started on the armoured support and soft skins.

I need to finish off the lattter and make some headway with the South African heavy weapons and paint up some odds and ends like 32 Battalion/Potuguese mercenaries.

Pictures to follwo in a couple of days.

August 1975 Moscow

'Castro wants us to do what?'

'Provide airlift facilities for 450 Special Forces troops to fly from Havana to Luanda Comrade General'

'The Central Committee will have a fit - they're obsessed with detente. Why now? What's the hurry?'

'The Cubans allege the South African move into Angola won't stop at the Cunene river, they believe South Africa is getting covert assistance from the Americans. They also believe the CIA has sent money and weapons to UNITA and the FNLA'

'And what's the MPLA doing?'

'They are holding the cities, Comrade General but appear to be losing ground in the south. The northern border is under the control of FNLA troops. There are unconfirmed rumours that Mobutu has sent a couple of battalions to the border with the Cabinda exclave.'

'Can Neto hang on?'

'We don't know Comrade General. He may be exaggerating his difficulties...'

'And Castro wants to play at being his saviour...using our'

'Quite possibly Comrade General'

'Recommendation to Central Committee Anatoly, refuse the Cuban request. If Castro wants to go on a crusade in Africa he can get there by himself.'

'Yes Comrade General'

August 1975 Havana

From: Dirección de Inteligencia

1. MPLA sources report elements of SADF 2nd Infantry Division have crossed Angola-Namibia border near the Cunene River HEP Project STOP

2. SWAPO sources  have confirmed South African troops are in the area STOP

3. Moscow reports their sources in Lisbon have reported Portugese Government is about to lodge formal diplomatic protest STOP


Monday, 2 January 2012

Good Resources...with a Caveat

Came across this whilst browsing a couple of days ago:

It's a really valuable site with orginal documents, links to some great video footage and documentaries and lots of other good source material.

It comes with a health warning however. There's plenty of material on the web that is partisan and this site is no exception - it's sympathies are right wing and anti communist. That said, the links to BBC documentaries, National Security Council minutes and Cuban Government papers mean the reader can ignore the commentary and go straight to the original material. And it's great to have the links in one handy place.

Another handy site is - it's stuffed with a wealth of information. Sadly, the bias of the publishers is strongly pro South Africa/UNITA. Reading some of the commentary is creepy, it reminds me of those interviews and books written by Nazi generals who rewrote the history of the war on the Eastern Front but couldn't avoid the glaring fact they lost.

That said there is much on both these sites that we can use for The War for Slow Readers as the events of 1975-89 unfold in our alternative history.

Progress Report

A busy week and a half over Christmas and the New Year with 6 x T55s, 6 x BTR 60s, 6 x GAZ 69 Jeeps 'Technicals' and 6 x Toyota Pick Up 'Technicals' painted and based. I've also finished off 20 stands of Cuban Infantry and have made progress painting 10 stands of Cuban RPGs.

The T55s and BTR 60s will obviously be Cuban/FAPLA, as will the GAZ 69 Technicals. The Toyotas could be FNLA/UNITA or FAPLA.

T55s and a BTR 60

GAZ 69 Jeeps and a Toyota Technical

Toyota Technical with 23mm AA Gun

The Cuban/FAPLA army is almost complete. I have to paint some mortars, URAL trucks, a couple of helicopters and MiG 21 (although I'll probably leave the air support until after I've completed the FNLA/UNITA/SADF ground forces). UNITA and FNLA infantry are just about finished- the big job is going to be the SADF vehicles and infantry together with some trucks and Landrovers that will be also used by UNITA and FNLA. I have another couple of weeks off work so should be able make a dent in that lot...we'll see.